Green Wonder of May
Ahh, the lovely Month of May. Images of children dancing around maypoles, Mother’s day and the sudden burst of verdant green all come to mind. I look back on parenting my boys when they were small and realize that some of our best moments of wonder occurred during May when the earth seems to turn into a lush green carpet over night and trees go from brown sticks of wood to lush green hideaways equally as fast. Everywhere you look life looks green. And it feels green. Feels green? Yes, feels green. Fresh, new, hopeful and exciting. In this issue, I will explore several ways to get some of that fabulous green into your family’s diet.
While May represents the beginning of the growing season and is lacking the rich diversity of the full harvest, it conveys hope for all that is coming. It also gives us some of my very favorite and most anticipated foods – asparagus, chives, baby spinach, and a plethora of wild edibles like ramps (wild leeks), fiddleheads and the first tender dandelion greens.
I am a huge fan of gardening with children. The value in planting a seed and tending to it lovingly and carefully makes even the pickiest eater tantalized into trying a farmer bite once it is harvested. I will never forget when my oldest son’s Kindergarten teacher showed the children how to snip the chives they had grown. They were not called chives however; that would have been entirely lacking in imagination. They were called Dragon’s Breath. Each previously picky eater came forward with both excitement and apprehension to put this green magical substance carefully into their mouths waiting for the moment where they too could breath fire. As they breathed in their own breath and smelled the strong smell, they all became very eager eaters of this green plant and ran around the playground delighted in their new found skill. That day was the turning point for putting anything green in my son’s food. To this day he calls it Dragon’s Breath and will walk past the garden and happily munch on some.
This was a wonderful example of how to put the magic into everyday experiences of parenting. This was so much nicer than the common reprimanded to “eat your vegetables” that was so prevalent when I grew up. So we started looking at our food with a sense of exploration – a sense of wonder. While my sons now range in age from 10 – 15, I still try to bring this quality of exploration and curiosity to our eating. I know of no better way to do this than to go foraging for wild edibles.
I am far from an expert in wild edibles, but this is an area where it is worth knowing at least a few edibles that are easy to identify and to share them with your children. Part of the excitement is the unpredictability involved. Has it been warmer than usual? Wetter than usual? Since the exact dates that ramps sprout from the forest floor is an unknown, exploring is the only way to find them.
If you are uncertain of what wild edibles can be found near you, I recommend doing a web search for wild edibles and then enter the region that you live in to find list of what grows indigenously where you live. For me, living in Vermont, ramps are the treasured jackpot at this time of year (although the far more elusive morel is like winning the lottery). I love them so much that I used a picture of them in my logo for my business. They represent eating in union with nature – they are wild, green, organic and oh so delicious. They are commonly referred to as “spring tonic” for their outstanding health giving benefits.
Nutritionally speaking, many of the plants that grow indigenously, or naturally, we call a weed because we didn’t plant it. Hmmm. By virtue of their nature as strong species that propagate themselves, we have somehow relegated them as being not worthy. Let’s take a closer look. Greens are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. In order to survive without a caring hand of a human to tend to and water them, they have developed very long and strong root systems pulling nutrients from far deeper in the soil. The result is more nutrient dense greens than their cultivated counterparts.
Lambsquarters, for example, are routinely plucked from garden beds to make room for vegetables with less nutrition. How much sense does that make? While kale is regarded as one of the healthiest of vegetables (and is a delicious and very healthy part of one’s diet), Lambsquarters have even more vitamins and minerals. Learning this has totally changed how I look at my raised beds. I leave one for mother earth to determine what to grow and enjoy the benefit of dandelion greens and lambsquaters each spring with a new found sense of magic.
To support you getting out there and eating up more fabulous springtime greens, I will close with several recipes, a video and links to help you along.
Just this morning I stumbled upon a web app for portable devices that I am definitely going to get. Check out www.wildmanstevebrill.com There you can scroll down the page and see a link to his news apps that serve as a guide to 165 major edibles including 52 of their look alikes.
I plan to check out what I have my hand on before any more pulling of “weeds”. By the way, he has recipes for wild edibles on the site. I add a bit of bitter greens, like dandelion, to other greens that I am cooking so they enhance the nutritional profile without over taking the flavor.
Green smoothies are the perfect way to introduce greens to picky eaters. You can begin with higher fruit concentrations and gradually add more greens and less fruit.
Here is a link to a green smoothie demo that I did last fall. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVDLLcbitc
You can find fantastic recipes for green smoothies here using both wild and cultivated greens. http://www.rawfamily.com/recipes
And last, but not least, here are a few recipes to honor the bounty of this precious time of year. Bon Appetit!
- 1/2 lb pound asparagus (about 1 cup) – trimmed
- 1/2 lb morels, cleaned and sliced
- 1 cup chopped ramps (roots trimmed off)
- 1Tbsp butter
- 4 oz chevre
- 8 large egg
- 1/3 cup half and half or cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon or chervil
- 4 teaspoons butter
In a medium sauce pan, bring asparagus and 2 cups of water to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and allow asparagus to cook until tender. Drain and rinse asparagus in warm water. Cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces.
In a sauté pan, melt 1 Tbsp butter and sauté mushrooms til they begin to release their moisture. Then add the asparagus and chopped ramps to the mix. Saute for 1 minute. Sprinkle lightly with salt & pepper
In a medium bowl, beat eggs with salt, herb of choice and cream.
For each omelet:
1) Melt 1 teaspoon of melted butter in a medium skillet on medium heat.
2) Pour 1/2 cup of the egg mixture into the pan.
3) Cook until egg is set, occasionally lifting the edges of the omelet to allow more egg to cook.
4) Sprinkle 2 ozs of chevre broken into small dabs.
5) Top chevre with ¼ of vegetable mix.
6) Fold the omelet over. Allow to cook 1 more minute.
7) Slide omelet onto serving plate. Bon appétit!
6 cups (about 1.5 lbs.) fresh rhubarb, ends trimmed and cut into 6-inch lengths
1 generous tsp freshly grated ginger
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2/3 cup honey
choice of high quality full fat plain yogurt
Homemade whipped cream:
1 tablespoon sugar
a pinch of salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1. Soak the rhubarb in 8 cups of cold water for 20 minutes. Drain the rhubarb and pat dry. Cut crosswise into 1/2″ slices.
2. In a medium saucepan combine the orange juice, honey, and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil.
3. Add the prepared rhubarb to the saucepan. Bring mixture back to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer gently (only stirring a couple of times) for 8 to 10 minutes–just until the rhubarb is tender and starts to break apart. You want some rhubarb pieces remaining–not a total puree.
4. Transfer the rhubarb to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture is cold, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
5. When ready to assemble the fools, if using whipped cream: beat the whipping cream and 1 tablespoon of sugar together until the cream forms soft peaks.
6. To assemble, spoon about 1/4 cup of the rhubarb mixture in 8-ounce glasses. Top with about 1/4 cup of the whipped cream or yogurt. Repeat with another layer of rhubarb and whipped cream or yogurt.
7. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 6 hours.
For more detailed information on how you can assess your current bio-individual needs or add more greens to your diet, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maureen Wheeler is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and owns It’s All Connected Natural Health & Living. She received her training at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in NYC. Maureen coaches individuals and families looking to improve their health and well being through whole food nutrition, cooking classes and natural lifestyles. She lives in Charlotte, Vermont with her chef husband David and their sons, Ian in the 9th grade, Ross in the 7th grade and Finn in the 4th grade at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School.