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Tuesday July 11, 2006 5:09 am

Wild Salad Greens Found in Your Supermarket

French PurslaneMost wild salad greens are just pesky weeds to most people. Yet, many upscale supermarkets carry wild greens, and fine dining establishments use dandelion greens, a variety of watercresses, lambs quarters, and even French purslane in their creations. These weeds are really nutritious and very tasty. Wash them well, and chop or tear them into very small pieces to distribute their unique flavors. Use singly in a salad or mix them with other wild greens and domestic lettuces. Dress lightly so you don’t mask their flavors.  Besides eating them raw, these greens can be wilted or steamed and served with a vinaigrette dressing or a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), the much maligned green, has been a favorite among European chefs. It is high in vitamin A and C, potassium, iron, and calcium. Picked very young, before the flowers appear, the greens are sweet and lovely in salads, alone, with sliced mushrooms, or mixed with butterhead lettuce. Dandelion greens have been a staple for spring tonics.

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a good source of copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.  It has a delicate taste, but can have a colonic effect if you eat too much.

Plantain (Plantago spp.) is a good source of iron and vitamins A, C, and K, but can be bitter if picked when it is very mature. This green is excellent, chopped finely, and mixed with other greens and lettuces. It can also be cooked with other greens.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) has paddle-shaped leaves which are rich in iron and good sources of calcium and vitamin A and C.

Lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album), sometimes called pigweed,  is one of the most popular wild greens. It is richer than spinach in calcium and vitamin A and C. It is used as a salad ingredient or as lettuce on a sandwich.

Cress has several species. Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is a wonderful sandwich green, much favored at high tea. Upland cress (Barbarea verna) packs a mustard-like punch in salads. Upland cress can also be steamed with other wild greens.
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa), also called sour dock or sour grass, has a tart, citrus taste that makes it a good addition to salads.
Dock (Rumex crispus) has many different varieties. It is best mixed with other greens and steamed because of its strong flavor.
Sweet Cecily (Myrrhis odorata) adds an anise flavor to salads and also makes a lovely tea.

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