After an unnatural cold snap that would not go away, my first visit to the community garden last week was pretty bleak. Even my kale leaves had been destroyed by day after day of below freezing temperatures. It’s not what we’re used to here in the Pacific Northwest. There was nothing to pick. Most years I am a year-round harvester, gleaner and forager, so this was depressing.
Accepting harsh reality, the extent of today’s plan was to do some bed cleaning and put up Jim’s hoop house to speed the soil warming. But spring had been hard at work and I came home with unanticipated blessings, a hint and promise of the abundance to come.
Last year I had high hopes for fall rutabaga but very few of the darlings reached full size. I left them in the ground, because you never know, right?
Today, that bed was getting sorted, so the midget rutabagas had to go. I expected them to be soft or even rotten, but every single root was firm and usable. Later at home when I tested the flavour, I found them to be sweet and delicious. For scale, the one on the top right is about the size of a baseball. Well, I should say “was.” For dinner it was delectible.
Dandelion Hearts and Roots
I was digging out a very healthy clump of dandelions. They had made their home in that bed for several years, but it was time for a change of plan. The roots were hearty and worth a look for drying, but what really caught my eye was the beautiful crop of dandelion hearts I had pulled up.
This is a delicacy that I usually get all to myself. I don’t know why. In my opinion, when cooked for ten or fifteen minutes in a few inches of water, then salted, peppered and buttered, these taste like artichoke hearts. This time, I think I might use them in my Vegan Spinach Artichoke dip. Actually, make that Nettle Dandelion Dip. What a great spring tonic – we all need more bitters in our diet, and I bet no one will know the difference!
I met dandelion root coffee a few years ago and enjoy it very much. I haven’t gone through the whole process myself – dig, wash, chop, dry, roast – although one year I came close. Anyway, this small batch of roots is destined for clear mind kombucha. So delicious.
My plot neighbour is eastern European and as we worked alongside each other, she told me how her grandmother always dug parsley roots, mainly to use in soup. So I saved the roots from the parsley I was digging out. Two years ago, I let my parsley go to seed and volunteer wherever it liked. So much parsley! This year, I’m asking for a little more restraint.
Cooking parsley root will be a new experience. I will try it on it’s own first to find out how it tastes.
The first picking of young nettles marks the beginning of spring foraging. I didn’t expect to see them this soon because of the harsh February and March. Most years they would be up earlier. With delight, we carefully picked a grocery bag full. It’s a two person job if you don’t want to get stung.
There will be plenty to write about the incredible nutritional and health value of nettles as the spring goes on. For now, let’s just say they are one of my favourites.