“Quack grass can grow on a bowling ball in an airless room. There is no known way to kill it that does not involve a nuclear weapon.” — D. Barry
Spring is one of the best times to forage for edible plants. Two that are blooming now are the dandelion and the common blue violet. The young leaves of the violet are edible from early through mid-spring. The flower is also edible into mid-spring. The roots are not edible. Violets have a mild, quite enjoyable flavor with a little bite as an aftertaste. They are great steamed with olive oil, salt, and pepper or in any dish that calls for greens.
A story about violets in mythology is that Zeus took up with a beautiful wood nymph named Violet in the forest. He hid her from his jealous wife by turning her into a cow. Later, she got hungry and tried to eat rough grass blades. This hurt her mouth and made her cry. Zeus felt sorry for her and turned all of her tears into violets.
Yesterday my daughter and I picked fiddleheads. Fiddleheads are the very top of woodland ferns before they completely unfurl. These fern heads taste great if you boil them for 10 minutes then saute them in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper with a little squeeze of lemon juice. They taste a little like asparagus. Fresh fronds are very high in vitamin A and carotenes. Their sweet taste comes from vitamin C. They also have a good source of minerals and electrolytes, especially potassium, iron, manganese, and copper. Eating fiddleheads is very popular on the East coast and they are served in gourmet restaurants around the world. There is only about one week of the year you are able to collect these fiddleheads before they unfurl into full-grown ferns.
In Europe, garlic mustard is loved and used by many rural people but in the United States, it is a weed in every state overrun by it. It is a biennial plant that forms a rosette the first year and flowers the second year. Foraging for garlic mustard is important to help control it. It is good for you. The plant is one of the most nutritious leafy greens. There are few other greens that are higher in vitamins C and E, fiber, beta-carotene, and zinc.
Garlic mustard is an acquired taste. It is strong and a little bitter so a little goes a long way. Do not eat the bitter stems. Eat the leaves, flower heads and buds. The bitterness can be cut by sautéing them in butter and adding a little lemon juice and salt.
To register for the Sauk County Fair, visit saukcountyfair.com from May 15 to June 7 or call 608-356-8707.