Wild greens to forage for indigenous recipes

dandelion greens on a basket

This post is inspired by the book “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Sherman 

Many people don’t know that wild greens such as dandelion greens, purslane and plantain can be used in various recipes. These plants are typically picked from lawns and considered nuisances, but many wild greens are packed with healthful vitamins and minerals.Take a walk around your lawn or in a local forest or meadow and you could end up with the perfect mix for a salad! 

Here is a guide to get you started on your search for edible wild greens.  

Amaranth – The entire amaranth plant is edible, including its tiny shoots, leaves, stems seeds and roots. Amaranth is rich in fiber and protein, and is a great source of magnesium and iron. Amaranth can be added to salads or makes a great garnish for soups. 

Chickweed – Chickweed is best used earlier in the season when the entire plant is tender and mild tasting. As the months progress, the leaves grow more bitter. Chickweed contains large amounts of vitamin C, iron, calcium and potassium. It can be used to liven up salads and pesto.

Clover – Clover is also best when eaten early in the spring, as it becomes bitter over time. Clover can be chopped for salads or soups or sauteed and added to dishes for a green accent. Clover can also be dried for tea. 

Dandelion – Shawn Sherman calls this his favorite spring green. Dandelion greens can be added to salads, pesto, soups and stews. The entire plant is edible, so even the yellow flower can be used as a mild and sweet garnish. 

Dock – Dock has a “lemony spinach” taste and has been known to aid in the digestion of fats and absorption of nutrients in the body. Dock is a great addition to pastas, soups and stews, omelettes and as a garnish. 

Knotweed – Best eaten early in the season, the greens and stems of Knotweed are great diced in salads, with a peppery and grassy taste. Knotweed greens and stems can also be steamed and eaten like asparagus or chilled and served with a dressing. 

Lamb’s Quarters – Lamb’s Quarters absorbs minerals from the soil it grows in, making it a healthy addition to salads or pesto. With a salty taste, the leaves can also be used like spinach, lightly sauteed or added to soups and stews in the final cooking stage.

Mallow – Mallow is one of the last greens of the harvest and one of the first to return in the spring. With a mild taste, the entire plant can be diced and used as a thickening agent in soups and stews. 

Mustard – Mustard greens add spice to salads and pestos, and the seeds can be harvested for spices and homemade mustard. 

Plantain – Plantain leaves are best in salad mixes. Sherman recommends tossing them with berries and apples. 

Purslane – Purslane is highly nutritious, containing more vitamin E than spinach, more beta-carotene than carrots, and high amounts of protein. It is packed with omega-3 fatty acids that help boost the immune system and support brain function. Purslane has a taste similar to watercress and is great in salads or sandwiches.

Watercress – Watercress is one of the first greens to appear in the spring. The taste is bright and peppery and makes a great addition to salads and pairs perfectly with trout.