Common Name: Garlic Mustard
This herb is culinarily intriguing; boasting a lovely truffle aroma and edible leaves, shoots, flowers, roots, and seeds. However, it is an ambitious Edge Species that loves to challenge weed-haters everywhere. Pick with reckless abandon while keeping eyes open for herbicide use. In BC it is required for municipal works to post warning signs, but private property is anyone's guess but the owner.
Winter Shoots: Beautiful dark green little hearts with scalloped edges
Winter Roots: Often with a pretty, purple hue. Can be grated like horseradish with a similar peppery bite.
Spring Leaf Shoots: Delicate, light green and tender. Primary leaves are a different shape than the following scalloped hearts.
Spring Stem Shoots: tender, can be sautéed with oil, salt and garlic like Chinese mustard greens.
Flowering Heads: beautiful garnish, garlic and yummy
Leaves: great for salads and salad rolls, salsa verde, pesto, etc
Seeds and Seed pods: young pods are like little green beans but they quickly become stringy and tough. Dried seeds resemble black sesame seeds (or mouse turds!) and taste like wasabi. Sprout them or use as a garnish on sushi.
These morsels are absolutely sinful and pillowy. Beyond gnocchi, they are little love dumplings stuffed with protein and iron from cheese, eggs and stinging nettle. Best of all, for people who don't eat wheat, they can be made gluten-free with minimal sacrifice.
I originally posted a recipe for these sinpillows on my old blog but I think they have evolved into something much more nutritious and tasty.
STINGING NETTLE GNOCCHI
1 tub (about a pound) fresh ricotta
1/2 cup packed, grated parmesan cheese
1 1/3 cups flour*
2 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup blanched, chopped nettles - in the winter I usually have a store of pre-portioned, blanched nettles in my freezer
1 tsp lemon rind
1 green onion, minced
*I used unbleached white wheat flour but I think many kinds will do- simply substitute with 1 cup of GF blended flour if you're gluten intolerant OR 1 baked russet potato, grated)
To intensify the cheesey flavour and to enrich the texture of your gnocchi you may wish to drain your ricotta by hanging it in a cheese cloth overnight. I generally use full-fat Saputo ricotta and don't drain, but once in awhile I substitute with homemade ricotta and find it's more delicious when I get rid of the excess moisture. For a fool-proof, easier version just buy the full-fat Saputo ricotta.
Combine the ricotta, 1 cup of wheat flour (or 3/4 gluten free flour), parmesan, the beaten egg, salt, lemon rind, nettles, and green onion. Using your hands, mix until the dough forms a ball. Sprinkle the rest of the flour on a cutting board and knead the dough into it until it is no longer sticky. If you are using gluten-free flour it may still be a little sticky after it has absorbed all the flour; if this happens, give it 10 minutes to rest in the fridge before attempting to work it.
Divide the dough into small balls and roll into strips as shown in the first picture of the series above. Cut the strips into bite-sized pieces and press into a gnocchi board if desired (see picture). If you're ok with a more rustic look, simply cut into 1-inch pieces (it will still taste fucking delicious).
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Gently drop the dumplings into the water and cook a total of 3 1/2 minutes. Portion as you like - two handfuls for a main dish suits me, but everyone has their own appetite ;-)
I like to fry my gnocchi in some butter before adding components for a sauce or medley. If you do this, the pasta gets a golden brown crust from the cheese caramelizing. However, if you like an gooey-gooey pillow-soft dumpling, simply boil and toss in butter and lemon.
For a rosé sauce you could add 1/4 cup of cream, some of the leftover water from boiling the gnocchi, a handful of parmesan cheese, and 1 tbsp of tomato sauce. For Alfredo, omit tomato sauce and add some fresh ground black pepper. Top with zesty green herbs like basil or chopped chives. I like to serve it with some bitter salad like my winter greens recipe to cut through the salt and dairy fat.
Common Name: Oxeye Daisy
This is a prolific and easy-to-identify flowering herb listed as an invasive weed in BC. Because it is so prolific you shouldn't have a hard time finding it, especially during its flowering season through late spring and early summer. However, because it is perceived as a threat to local biodiversity, municipal governments have made a habit of spraying it with cyanogenic glyphosates like RoundUP. So! Your enemy when harvesting this plant is not the toxicity of the plant, but rather, the toxicity of chemicals that may have been applied. That's why it's important to steward the places you attend. Keep your eyes open for pollution and abuse, and get involved when you notice harmful activity. Write letters to your local government and engage in friendly discussion and connection with other users of the spaces you dwell.
My other favourite edible features:
-Flower buds can be pickled like capers before they open.
-Honey from oxeye daisies is DELICIOUS.
-odd-Smelling flowers can be dried for teas, as can the leaves
-Short infusions in gin are impressive. I've used it to flavour vermouth as well.
-Petals and flowers are pretty, edible garnishes
-My friend Kris likes to grill the stem shoots in the late spring
This is a tea which reflects terroir: time, place, season, emotion, experience.... everything. It is so because every single ingredient I harvest with my own hands either from the garden, the edges, or the wild. It is blended to suit what I'm feeling when I crave it, and gives me the nutrition and medicine I need for whatever ails me.
So, my 'Wild Woman Tea' changes. I'll list the ingredients I put in the cup pictured above and why I chose them, but remember that every cup is different and if you want to make your own, according to your tastes, desires, and needs, know that you absolutely should.
Wild Woman Tea
- 1 tbsp dried labrador tea (cramps)
- 1 tbsp dried blackberry leaf (cramps, flavour)
- 2 tbsp dried mugwort (cramps)
- 1 tsp dried sumac (vitamin C)
- 1 tsp dried chamomile flowers (relaxation)
- 1 tsp dried pineapple weed (relaxation)
- 1 tsp devil's club (mood enhancement)
I harvested each of these ingredients fresh then dried them either in the sun or my dehydrator. I keep them in jars in my witch's cabinet and blend/crush teas immediately before steeping for optimum taste and health benefit.
Steep 3 minutes in very hot water and drink immediately or leave it to cool and steep overnight for extra sweetness from the blackberry leaves (thanks Lori Snyder for this trick).