Gathering the Greens

By , July 22, 2014

High summer is definitely our green season. We’ve been enjoying green salads, braises, and stirfries drawn both from garden and beach.

While cultivated lettuces, spinach, and kale provide the basis for our vegetable meals, we rely heavily on wild greens to round these out. Each green dish includes about 50% wild greens, particularly dandelions, goose foot, chickweed, and lovage. Many evenings, Michelle arrives home carrying a bouquet of leaves she’s foraged on her walk home. These may get added to a dinner salad I’d already assembled from our own foliage, or it’ll end up in the next morning’s breakfast.

Goosefoot, a.k.a. strawberry spinach (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Goosefoot, a.k.a. strawberry spinach (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Michelle has focused on braising vegetables for breakfast. I’m a little less enthusiastic, but I’m trying to shift my thinking to this sort of morning meals. It helps when we make eggs as the main dish, but slowly I’m learning to enjoy a green breakfast, even on its own.

We aren’t vegetarians as such, but in this season, when edible plants grow so abundantly, it makes sense to adjust our diets to exploit the bounty as much as possible. Our favorite dish, “bumbleweed pesto,” relies almost entirely on wild greens these days, particularly chickweed, which threatens to take over the garden and the dooryard if we’re not careful.

We also gather greens for the compost pile. Every few days I’ll wander the beach, cutting up beach grass. We add this to the compost while we can. Our kitchen compost accumulates very little green material, which is essential to proper composting, since so much of it is edible. Adding grass helps keep the pile cooking in the warmer months.

Beach pea makes excellent biofilter for the top of the pile, so I gather large handsful of the leafy tendrils. It has a lovely, spicy aroma that counteracts the slight barnyard odor the compost pile emits sometimes. I see that later this year I should go to the bay and gather the plant’s seed pods to sow on our beach margins. A few years of cutting our plants has reduced their availability on our property.

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