My Yard is a Salad!
I just came in from the garden, and even though my salad greens are not ready, I have a lovely looking salad ready to eat! There are many wonderful plants that grow without being asked, and although some call them weeds, I call them salad! Spring is an abundant time of year for dainty, edible greens, just what our bodies crave after a long winter of heavy foods and limited fresh vegetables.
Today, my salad has a greens mix you would be hard pressed to find in a grocery store. It contains sheep sorrel, chickweed, miners lettuce, ox eye daisy, cleavers, dandelions and braised nettle tops.
Sheep sorrel (rumex acetosella) is a tart, lemony flavored green that adds a nice zing to a salad. The great thing about sheep sorrel is that it is also amazingly high in vitamin C and A, and as a result, it is an ingredient in the traditional Essiac Formula used as a preventative and treatment for cancer. Some of the many traditional uses of the leaves are to help heal sores in the mouth, as poultices for drawing out toxins and are important for removing heavy metals from the body.
Although favorite food for our chickens, we also are happy to eat chickweed (stelleria media), stem and all, before it flowers in the spring. It has a refreshing taste, similar to spinach, with some of the same compounds and vitamin C and A content. Chickweed is also a commonly used herb, especially in first aid applications. The leaves chewed or mashed up are a cooling poultice to sun burns, burns, bites and stings. For hot eczema and dry psoriasis a salve or cream with chickweed are unbeatable both for its soothing and healing qualities. Chickweed is a great plant to introduce to children as a snack they can munch while playing out doors and to help their bumps, bites or burns. Miner’s lettuce (claytonia sibirica) has a similar flavour and coolness to chickweed and it’s larger leaves make it an accessible green to add to salads.
Ox eye daisy (leucanthemum vulgare) is a commonly recognized summer flower, but its edible leaves with a slight vanilla flavour are often forgotten as a green in the spring. You can also add finally chopped early shoots and stalks to your salads. When the flowers are out, you can sprinkle the white petals on the salad to add some finery. The flowers can also be used in a tea as a gentle nervine similar to chamomile and are helpful for reducing inflammation and stomachaches.
Also called Bedstraw, Cleavers (gallium spp.) are better as a medicine then a salad green because of their Velcro like stems, but are fine to eat if chopped finely. Again, this green is high in vitamin C, and helpful for “spring cleaning”in the body. Cleavers also assists with lymph cleansing, there bye strengthening the bodies ability to cleanse the blood. Cleavers can be used similarly as chickweed for its cooling healing properties. As a slight diuretic, cleavers can help to clear out urinary and kidney infections, lower blood pressure and reduce weight gain and edema.
Dandelion (taraxacum offinale) was originally brought to North America from Europe as a salad green and what started as one persons garden has become one of the best known “weeds”of our time. The leaves are not very bitter when they are young and tender and even when they do grow a little bigger, they still offer a nice flavour in salads. We have taken to making dandelion Ceaser salads, as tasty way to have our medicine. The bitterness in the leaves helps activate the liver, which then aids in fat absorption, blood cleansing and hormone regulation. The leaves are also an effective diuretic, stronger then cleavers in its action on the kidneys and in reducing edema and swelling. Unlike many pharmaceutical dietetics that rob the body of potassium, dandelion leaves are actually a good source of potassium, along with vitamins C, A, E and B-complex, iron and calcium!
While a whole book could be written about the wonders of stinging nettle (urtica diotica), I will mention them briefly as an addition to salad. Because they contain formic acid, the same compound that gives ants their bite, nettles are difficult to eat raw. Difficult, but not impossible. If the stinging hairs are crushed, bent, or heated they loose their sting. So, to eat them raw, you can roll them with a rolling pin (which is a little labour intensive), blend them in a juicer or blender, or rub them vigorously between clean tea towels. Or, you can lightly steam them and add them chopped into a salad. Nettles are %10 protein and are high in iron, calcium, vitamin C and a whole host of minerals!
So although picking these greens may seem tedious, they are worth the time to give your body a super nutrient packed salad like none you will find in the grocery store!