Tuesday, 22 March 2011
ThriftWitch: The Pleasures of Foraging - Spring Herb Salad
What could be more pleasurable on a mild spring day than wandering out in the garden to find something yummy to eat? The veggie patch may not yet have much to offer this early in the year, but it is still possible to put together a delicious salad by foraging for ingredients not only in the vegetable beds but also the herb garden, flower beds and the wild places.
Today's lunch consisted of mushroom, onion & cheese omelette (home produced eggs and onions) and a foraged Spring Herb Salad. The ingredients of this salad change every time I make it, because it all depends on what I can find. Today it consisted mostly of lamb's lettuce (aka corn salad) from the veggie patch, supplemented with tender young garlic mustard leaves (wild foraged), primrose and lungwort flowers (flower beds) and tender young sprigs of oregano, lemon balm and lemon thyme (herb garden). Other excellent ingredients used in previous salads have included chickweed, hairy bittercress (much nicer than it sounds - a bit like rocket), violet flowers and leaves, oriental salad leaves, fennel leaves, blanched dandelion leaves, cowslip flowers, ramsons, sorrel leaves - you get the picture. Of course later in the year, Summer Herb Salads have a far greater range of ingredients available, and it is lovely to experiment with flowers like day lilies, nasturtiums and calendula.
If you are sure of your plant knowledge, go ahead and experiment! If you are a little uncertain, a good book is Richard Mabey's classic 'Food for Free' which is enough to inspire even novice foragers with confidence, or Ken Fern's adventurous 'Plants for a Future'.
The key to a great Herb Salad is to ensure the bulk of the salad is composed of the milder flavoured leaves like lambs lettuce, chickweed, and violet leaves, and the stronger flavours like fennel, oregano, lemon balm and sorrel are used sparingly. Most flowers are bland in taste, but they do make it look pretty!
You can either serve the salad as is or add your favourite dressing. This is my favourite salad dressing:
Moonroot's Sesame and Garlic Salad Dressing
Mix 2 tbspn sesame oil with 1 tbspn balsamic vinegar. Add a pinch of sugar, a dash of soy sauce, a finely minced garlic clove and about quarter of a teaspoon of your favourite mustard. Stir until the mixture has emulsified, spoon it over your salad leaves and toss them in the mixture. Serve immediately.