Looking for a little something different to cook this Spring? Then look no further! Below are some of our favourite recipes using Spring wild plants. So while you weed you can plan your meal!
This plant is loaded with vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C; in fact a serving of dandelion greens contains the same amount of calcium as half a cup of milk!
All parts of the plant are edible raw but be aware this plant can be bitter, especially the older leaves; the young leaves or those growing where there is less/no sunlight are the least bitter. We gather the young dandelion leaves in the early spring and they can be used as a spinach substitute in cooking.
Dandelion Flower & Quinoa Burgers
1 cup packed dandelion petals (no greens)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour or gluten free flour
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
2 Tbsp. bread crumbs or ground almonds
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (or nut butter for vegan option)
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 large clove garlic, finally minced
1/3 cup finely grated carrot
1 egg, beaten (or chia or flax egg replacer)
1/4 cup milk (or milk substitute –try coconut cream, it makes this recipe have a delicious twist)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried or 1 tsp. fresh basil
1/4 tsp. dried or 1 tsp. fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1/8 tsp. pepper
Cayenne pepper flakes, to taste
Oil or butter, for pan-frying
Directions: In a frying pan cook the onion, garlic and carrots over low heat until onions are translucent, cool for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, mix the dandelion petals, flour, quinoa, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and all the dry spices and set aside. Stir the onion mixture into the dandelion and flour mixture. Add the egg and milk, stirring until completely combined. The batter will be sticky. Form into 5-6 patties (dusting hands with flour can help with this process) and pan fry in oil or butter on medium heat until crisp, about 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and serve on a bun, with condiments, like a regular burger or on its own with a salad. Adapted from a recipe by Sarah Umm Yusuf at Nature’s Nurture.
Several young dandelion leaves, torn (tearing preserves the flavour)
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, cut in thin strips
1 stick celery, cut in thin strips
A few broccoli pieces
1 red pepper, sliced
2 Tbsp. chopped mixed nuts
½ tin chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp. tomato puree
2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. turmeric powder
¼ tsp. chili powder
Salt/black pepper to taste
Directions: Prepare the vegetables and have them ready on separate plates. Crush the cumin and coriander seeds, add the turmeric powder, chili powder, salt and pepper and put to one side. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a wok. When hot, add the onion and stir-fry for a minute. Add the carrot, stir fry for another minute. Add the celery and broccoli, stir-fry for another minute. Add the spices, garlic and dandelion leaves and stir around for another minute. Finally add the nuts, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and stir until piping hot. Serve with rice. Serves 2.
This plant can be used as a green in cooking, smoothies and juices and is rich in nutrients, especially vitamin C. Cleavers is wonderful for facilitating the cleansing process and helping remove waste material from the body via the lymphatic system. The young sprouts may be steamed a minute or two and mixed with other vegetables or added to soup. They may be served uncooked with similar “salad” herbs like Dandelion leaf and Chickweed. It has a spinachy taste. Cleaver is also referred to as Goosegrass in many recipes.
Cleavers and Red Pepper Soup
100 g bundle of cleavers tops (about 2 cups when chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
2 medium sized onions (finely chopped)
2 red peppers
1 red chili pepper (finely chopped)
1 x 400 g can plum tomatoes
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1 Tbsp. toasted seaweed (nori or dulse), optional
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. good quality olive oil
1.5 litres hot water or vegetable broth
Directions: Rinse the bundle of cleavers and trim off the roots. If you have picked it carefully, you’ll have all the roots end to end and can cut them all off with one pass of the scissors. If not, it may take you a while!
Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped garlic and onions. Sweat for 5 minutes until starting to soften. Add the roughly chopped red peppers and stir. Hold the bunch of cleavers over the pan and using scissors, cut them into the pan in 1-2 cm lengths. This prevents the stems wrapping themselves around your stick blender later on. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Add 1.5 litres of hot water and all the seasonings. Simmer for 25 -30 minutes until the peppers are tender. Take off the heat and cool. Adjust the seasoning. When cool, use a stick blender to fully liquidize the soup. Or pour into a blender, liquidize and then return to the pan. Reheat and serve. Finely chop some wild garlic or chives as a garnish. For a special treat you might like to add a little crème fraiche or crumbled feta cheese but it’s still delicious without it!
Potato Salad with Cleavers
1 lb. new potatoes
4 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. young cleavers leaves and tips, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Directions: Scrub the new potatoes without peeling them and cook until tender in boiling salted water. Drain and cut, while still hot, into cubes. While still warm, stir in the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Leave to cool, then stir in the cleavers. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary.
One of our earliest Spring weeds, chickweed is full of Vitamins A, B and C, flavonoids, rutin, iron, protein, and fatty acids. It has a mild flavour and can be added to most dishes to give a nutritional boost to the meal (great in smoothies as well!)
Lemony Chickweed Feta Salad
5 cups tender chickweed greens
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper (lemon pepper is best)
Directions: Toss Chickweed greens and feta cheese together. Mix up the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a separate cup or bowl. Add dressing just before serving.
Note: This salad does not keep well at all, so make only what you are going to eat when serving.
3 cups chopped chickweed
1 cup diced slab bacon
½ cup finely chopped onion
3 large eggs
1½ cups sour cream
1 Tbsp. flour
½ tsp. grated nutmeg
Pie crust (premade or your favourite recipe)
Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 10-inch pie dish with crust and make a raised border around the rim to prevent filling from overflowing during baking.
To prepare chickweed, remove all leaves, twigs and root ends, reserving only the greenest, leafiest parts. Rinse thoroughly in a colander and gently dry with paper towels. Bunch the chickweed together into a ball and chop it with a sharp knife until reduced to a confetti texture. Measure, then put chickweed in a large bowl. Fry diced bacon in a skillet until it begins to brown, then add onion. Cook about 3 minutes, or until onion wilts. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon and onions to bowl with chickweed. Discard drippings from pan.
In a separate bowl, beat eggs until lemon coloured, then add sour cream, flour and nutmeg. Add egg mixture to chickweed, onions and bacon. Spread filling evenly in the pie shell and pat down firmly with a spoon. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until pie has set in centre and top looks golden (it is best hot and it will keep one to two days in the refrigerator).
Creamy Chickweed Salad Dressing or Dip
This recipe is truly yummy (and healthy)!
½ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (or vinegar)
1 tsp. honey
2 cups fresh chickweed greens
¼ tsp. salt
1 garlic clove
dash of pepper
½ cup yogurt
Directions: In blender or food processor, blend all ingredients except the yogurt thoroughly. Add yogurt, and blend gently until smooth.
This stinging plant requires a bit of effort to harvest but it is worth it! The young leaves can be lightly blanched and then used as a green in any of your cooking. We use them as a spinach substitute in lasagna, spanakopita, pasta sauces and much, much more. They are extremely rich in vitamins and minerals and are nutritionally best when picked before it goes to flower (between 6 – 8 inches high).
8 ounces fresh nettle leaves (spinach can be substituted if nettles not available)
1 whole head garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
(If don’t want to use cheese you can add 1/4 cup ground nuts)
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toss garlic in olive oil and in aluminum foil (or covered oven proof dish) and bake for 45 minutes, or until soft. Bring 3 inches of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add nettle, cover, and cook for about 2 minutes, just until wilted and soggy. Remove from heat and drain. Mix the garlic, nettle, olive oil, and cheese or nuts. In small batches, use a food processor to process to your desired consistency. Pour into a small loaf pan or casserole and chill until firm (if you want a firmer texture omit olive oil and increase butter by 1 Tbsp).
Nettle Pesto Spread
4 cups (packed) fresh nettle leaves
1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
4 ½ Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp. capers, (with juices)
1 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (unsalted)
2 Tbsp. chopped shallots
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
Directions: Steam nettles for 3 minutes (until just tender and sting is gone) and pat as dry as possible. In a food processor, process nettles, basil, lemon juice and capers with juices until nettles and basil are coarsely chopped. Add pumpkin seeds, shallots, garlic and mustard. Process until finely chopped. With machine running, add oil gradually, until completely incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate for 2 hours, with plastic wrap covering surface of spread. Great on French bread!
Creamy Nettle Soup
¼ cup butter
8 cups nettles, tops or young leaves
1 large or 2 medium onions, finely sliced
1 large carrot, chopped (optional)
2 celery sticks, chopped (optional)
1 large garlic clove, crushed (optional)
1 litre good chicken, fish or vegetable stock
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
3 Tbsp. cooked rice
2 Tbsp. thick cream or crème fraiche
salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little extra cream or crème fraiche
A small bunch of chives, chopped
A few sprigs of chervil or parsley, chopped
Directions: Pick over the nettles and wash them thoroughly. Discard only the tougher stalks, as the soup will be liquidized. Melt the butter in a large pan and sweat the onion, plus the carrot, celery and garlic if using, until soft but not brown. Add the stock and pile in the nettles. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the nettles are tender. Season with salt and pepper, and with nutmeg if you wish. Puree the soup in a liquidizer with the cooked rice (you will probably have to do this in 2 batches). Return to a clean pan, stir in the cream and reheat, but do not let it boil. Check the seasoning, then serve, garnishing each bowl with a swirl of cream and a generous sprinkling of chopped herbs.
Carrot Nettle Cake
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. fresh ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups shredded carrots
2/3 cup steamed and chopped nettles
1 14 oz. can drained pineapple pieces
1/2 cup nuts (pecans or walnuts)
2/3 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup softened butter
1 1/3 cup icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Directions: Steam about 6 cups of nettles for 5 minutes, until wilted. Drain and let cool. When cool to touch, chop finely. In a large bowl sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt. In a separate bowl beat eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla until smooth. Mix wet and dry ingredients until moistened. Mix carrots, nettles, pineapple and nuts so well mixed. Fold in carrots, pineapple, nettles and pecans in wet ingredients. Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out dry. Let cool.
Beat all icing ingredients until smooth. When cool to the touch spread icing over cake.
Nutritionally, plantain is related to spinach, and the leaves are rich in iron and vitamins A and C. Plantain may be eaten uncooked, but adult leaves tend to be stringy. Both the round leaf and the ribwort (long leaved) plantain can be used to cook with.
Preparation is as simple as boiling washed plants until tender, then serving the leaves as you would spinach. A little apple cider vinegar helps enliven the taste of cooked leaves, and I personally like them served hot with butter, salt and pepper.
Plantago Chips Recipe
I didn’t call these “plantain chips” because that would be too reminiscent of the banana-like fried plantain that has nothing to do with this recipe. Here the otherwise stringy veins of Plantago species are transformed into extra crunch in a tasty snack. These chips are all about texture, I have to admit: the leaves themselves are somewhat bland. But they are a perfectly crisp vehicle for whatever seasoning you put on them. Amounts here are flexible – you can change the number of leaves, amount of salt, etc.
24 large leaves of any Plantago (plantain) species
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoning (try garlic powder, nutritional yeast, or Tilia’s spices and rubs such as Smokey Cajun spice, Indian Curry Rub, Jamaican Jerk rub, etc.)
Directions: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Wash the plantain leaves and dry them well in a salad spinner or by rolling them up in a clean dishtowel.
In a large bowl, toss the leaves with the oil until they are each well coated. Spread the leaves in a single layer on baking sheets. Depending on the size of the leaves you gathered, you may need more than one baking sheet. Sprinkle the leaves with the salt and seasoning.
Bake until crisp but not burnt, which may take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size of the leaves. Remember that they will continue to crisp up a bit as they cool, just like cookies do after you take them out of the oven. If you aren’t sure if they’re done, err on the side of underdone. Take them out, let them cool for just a minute, and if they’re not crunchy enough put them back in the oven.
Once they are completely cooled, you can store your Plantago chips in an airtight container for several weeks. If the container is not airtight the chips may absorb some humidity from the air and lose their crispness. Not a problem: simply put them back into a 250 degrees F oven for 3 – 5 minutes.
4 Tbsp. butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups vegetable broth
Sea salt and nutmeg to taste
1 cup minced ribwort or round leaf plantain
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
Juice of half a lemon
Directions: In a saucepan, slowly melt the butter, whisk in the flour, and stir until it bubbles (do not let it brown or burn). Stirring constantly, carefully add the milk and vegetable broth; whisk in the spices. Add the plantain and parsley and simmer the mixture over low heat until the plantain is soft and the soup thickens. Remove the soup from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and serve with a crusty loaf of fresh bread or toasted croutons.
Chicken and Plantain Cream
8 oz. young plantain leaves
2 oz. butter
1 ½ lb. raw chicken, diced in small pieces
2 oz. walnuts
salt and ground black pepper
½ pint double cream
Directions: Wash the plantain leaves, having discarded any tough stems, put in boiling salted water and cook until tender. Drain well and chop. Melt the butter in a frying pan and toss the chicken in it until it begins to colour. Roughly chop the walnuts and add them with the plantain leaves to the pan and cook together for a further 5 to 8 minutes. Season, then add the double cream, scraping up and amalgamating it with the buttery juices. Stir for 5 minutes or so until the cream thickens. Serve with plain boiled potatoes or rice and a green vegetable.
Plantain with Baked Eggs
For each serving allow 2 oz. plantain leaves, 1 Tbsp. double cream, a knob of butter, salt, pepper, a little nutmeg and an egg. Boil the chopped plantain leaves until tender, drain well and mix with a very little butter, half the cream, salt and pepper. Put in the bottom of a lightly- buttered ramekin. Break an egg on top of the plantain, spoon over the rest of the cream and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake in a moderate oven until the eggs are set to your liking. Serve with fingers of hot brown toast.
Rich in vitamins and minerals and especially flavonoids, the tops of these spring flowers are a good addition to many dishes. Raw clover flowers are not easily digestible, especially when eaten in any quantity, but their sweet crunch is a nice addition to salad. They are excellent in salads, where it is worth picking the florets off individually to get the best flavour. Scatter them raw over a salad or vegetable dish just before serving or add them later in the cooking of cheese, egg, rice and vegetable dishes and in soups and stews.
Red Clover Soup
2 cups red clover blossoms
1 Tbsp. chive flowers, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (Yukon gold work well)
¼ cup tahini
1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
¼ cup sesame seeds, toasted
Directions: In a heavy saucepan, sauté the clover blossoms in the chive flower butter. Do not let the blossoms brown. Add the potatoes and tahini and sauté for several minutes more. Add the water, cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. For a thicker soup, puree half of the soup in a food processor or blender, then return to the pot. Garnish with clover florets and toasted sesame seeds.
Clover Corn Bread
3 Tbsp. white wine or apple cider vinegar
½ cup light oil (such as sunflower, safflower etc.)
1 ½ cups apple juice
1 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup finely chopped red clover flowers (no leaves)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cream of tartar
2 ½ tsp. baking soda
Directions: Mix the vinegar, oil, eggs, juice and honey together. In a bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, clover, salt, cream of tartar, and baking salt. Add the liquid. Place in an oiled 8 inch baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Green and Yellow Squash with Red Clover Flowers
2 green zucchini
2 yellow squash
1 tsp. olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed and chopped finely
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. clover flowers separated into florets
Directions: Wash the squash and top and tail them. Put them into a large pan of boiling water and boil for four minutes. Remove from the heat, drain and slice. In a saucepan heat the olive oil, add the garlic and sauté until the garlic is starting to just change colour (about a minute) add in the squash, and toss gently, continue sautéing for 2 -3 minutes until squash is just starting to lightly brown. Season to taste. Arrange in a serving dish, scatter with the clover florets and serve.
Extra Fun Recipes
We recently feature these recipes in our “Harvesting With the Seasons” classes
and thought we would share them too!
Spring Herb Pesto
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup unblanched almonds or walnuts (pine nuts can be used if desired, but are costly!)
2 cups fresh spring herbs – chickweed, young dandelion leaves, cleavers, young plantain leaves etc.
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (this is optional, add if you still want a bit of a traditional pesto taste)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup olive oil
Directions: In a food processor or blender, mince garlic until fine. Add nuts; process until coarsely chopped. Add herbs and cheese; process until minced. With motor running, add olive oil in a steady stream. Process or blend until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper if desired. Transfer mixture to a jar or storage container. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
Nettle Cupcakes with Balsam Fir Tip Icing
2 cups, packed raw young nettle leaves (use the top 4-6 leaves)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Zest and juice of 1⁄2 lemon
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1⁄2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1⁄2 cups powdered icing sugar
2 Tbsp. Douglas fir infused simple syrup
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh Douglas fir tips
Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a muffin tin with liners. Using rubber gloves, carefully wash the stinging nettle leaves and remove any stems. Place in a pan of boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes. The sting will be removed with the boiling. Refresh by running under cold water, drain, pat dry with paper towel and then puree well with a hand held stick blender or in a food processor. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the nettles, vanilla, zest and lemon juice. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and stir to gently combine. Spoon the mixture into the liners to fill 3⁄4 full, then bake for 15 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the tins and move to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
For the icing, cream the butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add in the icing sugar, simple syrup and fir tips and beat.
Balsam Fir Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup fir tips, finely chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
Bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring to make sure all the sugar is absorbed. When it hits a boil, reduce the heat so it is on a slow boil. Allow it to gently boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the fir tips and lemon juice, cover the pot and leave to cool. The longer you steep the syrup, the stronger the fir flavour you’ll get. From 3 to 8 hours is best (overnight is even better!). Strain the syrup through cheesecloth or very fine sieve and pour into a sterile bottle or jar.
Lilac Flower Scones
2 cups flour, unbleached
1/3 cup sugar (if possible use lilac infused sugar)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter, chilled
1/2 cup buttermilk (gently shake carton before use)
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup lilac flowers (no leaf or stems)
Lilac Glaze or Raw Sugar, optional
Directions: Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk the ingredients together. Cut the chilled butter into small cubes and toss into the dry mixture. Using your fingers and hands, work the butter into the flour mixture, until pea-sized lumps of butter are present. In a separate bowl whisk the buttermilk, egg, vanilla and lilac flowers to combine. Create a well in the centre of the flour blend and pour the buttermilk mixture into this. Fold together in the bowl to form a ball (if mixture is too sticky sprinkle another tablespoon of flour onto the ball; if it is too dry add a small amount more of the buttermilk until it comes together and forms a ball). Very gently knead the dough by hand, making sure to not over-work (about 8 to 10 strokes is good). Gather and roll the dough back into a ball. Lightly flour the ball of dough and flatten it out, by hand, into a 1/2 inch thick disk. Cut the dough into triangles and place onto a greased baking sheet. At this point you can lightly dust with sugar, preferably the lilac infused sugar but raw sugar is fine (flower infused sugar directions below).
Arrange scones on an ungreased baking sheet so that they don’t touch. Bake 12 to 16 minutes, until lightly golden. Allow scones to cool for 5 minutes then drizzle tops with glaze. If glazing the scones, omit sugar topping.
To make glaze: Steep 1 Tbsp. fresh lilac blossoms in a 1/3 cup of boiling water. Cover and allow to cool. Strain out liquid and reserve. Discard flowers. To 1 cup icing sugar add enough of the lilac infusion to make a glaze that can be drizzled on scones.
Flower Infused Sugar
Many common herbs and spices can be used to create a subtly flavoured sugar. Flavoured sugars can be used to sweeten hot and iced teas and in cookie, pie, cake and pudding recipes in place of plain granulated sugar. Examples of herbs and spices that can be used to flavour sugar include (but are certainly not limited to) lavender, lilac, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, fennel seeds, lemon or orange peel, vanilla beans, clove pinks, roses, mint, and lemon verbena. To make you will need 2 cups granulated or raw sugar, 1 cup fresh herbs (or 1/2 cup dried), and a pint canning jar or similar size container. Alternate layers of herbs and flower petals in the jar. Make sure to start and end with a layer of sugar so that all the petals are completely covered with the sugar. Close the lid on the jar. Shake the container once a day to help the aroma and flavour of the herbs to permeate throughout the sugar. At the end of 2 weeks, place a sieve over a bowl and pour the sugar through the sieve to separate out the herbs. Throw out the herbs and place the infused sugar back into the jar.