After the long months of winter our bodies are craving fresh, local greens. One of the first wild edibles to appear in late winter and early spring is rich in vitamins A, D and B complex, vitamin C, rutin, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, sodium, copper, and silica. This abundant wild green is called chickweed (Stellaria Media, Stellaria pubera) and now is the time to harvest and relish the crunchy, fresh taste of this nutritious plant, while filling your body with vitamins offered straight from the earth.
At Wild Abundance, a permaculture and primitive skills school in Barnardsville, North Carolina, chickweed is even grown in the raised garden beds. “I willed chickweed into my garden,” says Natalie Bogwalker, the founder and director of Wild Abundance and the Firefly Gathering, “and now it comes up with my winter cover crops without fail, and flourishes under my row cover with my kale and in my paths, which are protected by raised beds to their sides.”
Eyeing her bright green chickweed patch, she continues, “It is a funny thing to desire a weed in a garden so very much, but chickweed is a very well-behaved and generous weed. It doesn't seem to compete with my cultivated plants, and it yields a tremendous amount of healthy food.”
Juliet Blankespoor, the founder and director of The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in Weaverville, North Carolina, adds that chickweed is also a valuable medicinal. Chickweed is “considered a blood cleanser and a tonic, [a] strengthening herb, especially after a long convalescence.” Plus, “chickweed’s nutritional profile is a boon to any diet. The fiber is a welcome addition to most Americans’ diet and, like all leafy greens, chickweed bulks up a meal and provides plenty of vitamins and minerals, while adding few calories.”
Since early spring is the best time to harvest this delectable wild edible, we at Wild Abundance want to share two of our favorite chickweed recipes. The first is for a fresh chickweed salad and the other is a preservation technique. Harvest, feast, preserve and enjoy the first crunch of spring!
Chickweed-Autumn Olive Salad
• 6 cups leafy (as opposed to stemmy) chickweed, rinsed, and chopped very finely (1/4 inch lengths) across the stem
• 1-2 cups sweetly ripe autumn olives, redbud flowers, locust flowers, or dried cranberries
• 1/2 cup queso fresco or soft goat cheese
• 1/4-3/4 cup black walnut pieces, roasted sunflower seeds, or soaked and roasted pecans
• 1/3 cup fresh basil or monarda spp (bee balm, horsemint) leaves (just coming up in the spring in the wild or in the flower garden)
• 1 cup olive oil
• 1/8 cup honey
• 1/2 tsp salt
Chickweed Pesto RecipeIngredients:
• 6 cups fresh chickweed
• 5-20 cloves garlic (depending on size and intensity of garlic clove and your personal taste)
• 1 cup olive oil
• 1 tbsp sea salt
• 1 cup toasted black walnuts, sunflower seeds, English walnuts, or pecans
• Zest from 1 lemon (make sure it is organic because you are using the skin)
1. Harvest chickweed with knife to avoid dirt, rinse and swing to dry.
2. Make pesto in batches; add half of olive oil first to food processor or blender, then add garlic, then salt, and finally the greens.
3. Eat fresh, store at room temperature for up to a week, or freeze for up to 4 months.
4. Freeze in ice-cube trays, and empty into zip-lock bags so that you can defrost just the right amount of pesto.
Wild Abundance offers an array of homesteading and permaculture courses throughout the spring, summer and fall including, the Essentials of Homesteading and Permaculture, a Garden School, a Wild Edibles Foraging Adventure, a three-day festival on primitive skills called The Firefly Gathering, a Women's Basic Carpentry workshop, an Advanced Women's Carpentry workshop, a Tiny House & Natural Building Workshop, a Permaculture Design Course, the Cycles of Life: Humane Butchering & Slaughtering weekend workshop, Hide Tanning, and an Ancestral Foods Cooking Class and more!
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