By Carie Birkmeier EBS STAFF
After a long winter of potatoes, squash and other resilient root vegetables, signs of spring have many looking forward to fresh, seasonal additions to their table. Aside from the spinach and kale we’ve all grown accustomed to—and sometimes sick of—there’s a bounty of early spring greens to grab at the farmers’ market, or add to your garden.
A “love it or hate it” flavor, arugula is a pungent, bold but not bitter green that lends itself to raw or cooked applications. If you’re not sure whether or not you like it, start with a baby variety, which has a more mild flavor, or mix it with an assortment of more mellow greens. Although its season starts in early spring, arugula grows through the summer and into early fall.
Given its lemony, tart flavor, it’s no surprise that this green is closely related to rhubarb. Sorrel packs a punch that can brighten up your favorite spring dishes. Use it in moderation, similarly as you might an herb, or it could overpower your dish. Use sorrel early in the spring, as its flavors become more bitter as the plant grows.
This tall, leafy green produces white, yellow or bright-red stalks. The stalks can be eaten when the vegetable is young, but will become more fibrous and less palatable as it grows. The leaves are also more tender when young, and are better eaten raw at this stage. As chard matures, consider eating it wilted or cooked. The vegetable as a whole takes on a mildly earthy, beet-like flavor.
This small, round-leafed green grows wildly near springs and streams, or can be grown in your garden. Its fresh, peppery flavor profile works well in salads, as a steamed vegetable, or wilted into soups. It also makes a great, more flavorful substitute for lettuce on your favorite sandwich. After purchasing or harvesting, be sure to store the plant with its stems in a container of water to extend its shelf life.
Mixed Green Pesto
4 cups packed greens of your choice
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts (optional)
2 garlic cloves
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
The zest of ½ of a lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are just combined. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while the food processor is running to emulsify.
To preserve the mixture, I like to divide the pesto into an ice cube tray, freeze, and then store in a freezer bag. Use a cube or two as desired – the pesto mixture keeps much longer this way, up to six months!
This is a great way to use up your greens when they get overgrown, and to preserve them to use throughout the fall and winter months.