Spring on the urban homestead is so beautiful and bountiful that I can hardly believe it, and I spend more time than I care to admit just wandering around dazed with the wonder and joy of it all. But there is a practical aspect to my trance, because while giving thanks to the cosmos for the life that surrounds me, I am noting what can go in the salad bowl that evening.
The salad shown above is a pretty typical urban homestead salad. It contains a handful of lettuce, some early arugula, and a lot of biennials and perennials that wintered over and got an early start. Tiny leaves of curly kale that began to leaf out as soon as the weather got warm are good salad material, still sweet from night frosts, although I don’t like older kale in salads. There is a little chervil because I threw the seeds around in warm spots last fall.
So here’s the species list for tonight:
Siberian elm samaras
mustard (one Southern Giant plant overwintered somehow)
Green perennial onions
A few further notes on the ingredients: in the past I had tried cooking scorzonera greens and thought they were fairly uninteresting, but for some reason I never tried them as salad material until this year. They are very mild in flavor and have a nice slightly substantial and tender texture, and I am using them a lot now. They make a good base for some more flavorful greens like dandelion and mustard and arugula. I have written in the past about how much I love the elongating flower stalks when pan grilled in olive oil, so this is a very good dual purpose vegetable. I plan to plant more of it.
In the past I have mostly used Siberian elm samaras as a “hand salad” eaten spontaneously on walks when they presented themselves. They are too mild to be of much interest cooked, although I do use them in greens mixtures sometimes, but I have found that I like them in salads in rather substantial amounts, probably a cup of washed samaras in a salad for two. There is something about the texture that I enjoy, provided you pick them at the right stage, when they are about the size of a dime and the edges are still fresh green and have not yet grown at all papery. They need a little bit of cleaning, but most of the debris can be floated off once you have broken up the clumps with your fingers, and 15 minutes of preparation is not too much for a vegetable that cost you no effort or money whatsoever in the growing.
Have a look at what’s available to you in field and forest and in your own yard. Learn how to make a really good vinaigrette. Use common sense, and don’t eat plants unless you are completely sure that they are edible.