Wild Greens and Herbs

Most people know me as a meat and fish guy, but I love working with wild greens and herby things every bit as much — especially in springtime. What follows are my favorite recipes for greens like nettles, wild green onions, wild mustards, etc. Not all are vegetarian, but all can be made so easily.

Dandelion greens
Photo by Hank Shaw

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Cooking Basics

Here’s my go-to method for cooking most wild greens:

  • Wash and chop.
  • Sauté in olive oil (or bacon fat) with salt, garlic, chile and maybe a little broth or wine.
  • Cook over high heat and toss around until the greens are wilted by still vivid. Serve at once.

Use that basic recipe for dandelions, wild lettuces and chicories, amaranth, lamb’s quarters, pigweed, New Zealand spinach, sea rocket, orache and basically any other edible leafy green you find in the wild.

Not that there is a special category of wild greens in Mexico known as quelites. Here’s a primer on what are quelites and how to use them.

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California wild onions

How to Harvest Wild Onions

How to responsibly harvest wild onions of any type — ramps, etc. — and how to clean and store them.

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Foraging for Wild Greens: Dandelions, Wild Lettuces, Chicories

How to identify, harvest and eat some of our most common edible “weeds,” including dandelion greens, chicory, wild lettuce and their cousins.

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Mountain pennyroyal leaves

Wild Herbs: Monardella Villosa

If you live in the West, you can find yourself some truly wonderful wild mints. These are the monardellas, the coyote mints and mountain pennyroyals. Here’s how to find, store and use them.

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Dried wild fennel seeds on the plant.

Harvesting Fennel Seeds

Harvesting fennel seeds isn’t hard, but there are a few tips to it. Here they are.

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cooked curly dock

Gathering Curly Dock

How to identify and cook with curly dock or Western dock, common weeds that are like tangy spinach.

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Pasta with Wild Greens

wild rapini recipe

Rapini with Orecchiette and Garlic

Wild mustard flower buds, tossed with pasta, garlic and a little salami.

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A traditional ravioli from Liguria, in the northwest of Italy. Borage tastes a little like cucumbers, and it’s a great match with ricotta cheese.

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Finished nettle ravioli on the plate

Nettle Ravioli

Another classic Italian pasta, this one is from the northeast of Italy. It uses the nettle pasta in the next recipe.

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nettle pasta recipe

Nettle Pasta

This is strettine, a nettle linguine from Emilia Romagna. The vivid green is pretty cool.

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ramp pasta with morels on a plate.

Ramp Pasta with Morels

Yes, you can make pasta with the green leaves of ramps or other wild onions. Served with a simple saute of morels with a little broth and you are good to go. A plate of springtime!

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Other Starchy Dishes

Italian spinach dumplings

Italian Ricotta Spinach Dumplings

A Northern Italian dumpling of bread and green things, spinach or wild greens. Easy to make, tasty — and thrifty. Serve with fresh garlic and good butter.

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A stack of Chinese scallion pancakes

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

Chinese savory flatbreads that are an addicting snack. Make more than you think you can eat. They are made of awesome.

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colcannon recipe with cow parsnips

Irish Colcannon with Wild Greens

Colcannon is an Irish mix of mashed potatoes with green things. In this case, cow parsnip. Any greens work, though.

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cow parsnip gnocchi

Carrot Consomme with Gnocchi

Soft, pillowy gnocchi made with ricotta and cow parsnip leaves (you can use any green herb), served with an elegant-yet-easy carrot broth.

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nettle risotto

Nettle Risotto

One of my all-time favorite things to make with nettles. So green!

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Two bowls of ramp risotto

Spring Ramp Risotto

A fresh, light rice dish made with spring greens and wild onions.

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Stuffed mallow leaves.

Foraging Mallow – Hiding in Plain Sight

Also known as dolmades, these are stuffed grape leaves or mallow leaves filled with rice and herbs

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Ramp Pesto Recipe

Ramp Pesto

Ramp pesto with pine nuts, walnuts or pecans, a little garlic and parmesan or pecorino cheese.

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Nettle pesto with pasta

Nettle Pesto

Nettle pesto, made in the classic way with pine nuts and garlic.

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Parsley pesto in a bowl

Parsley Pesto

Classic Northern Italian parsley and walnut (or pecan) pesto. Great with salads or pasta.

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Other Dishes

Mint leaf ice cream recipe

Fresh Mint Ice Cream

A wild mint ice cream made by steeping fresh mint leaves in cream overnight, giving the ice cream a fuller, more herby mint flavor you can’t get with extract.

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Candied angelica stems in a glass jar.

Candied Angelica

Angelica, lovage or fennel stems are hollow, so when you candy them, they make great straws, or zippy notes as a dessert garnish.

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A bowl of nettle soup.

Scandinavian Nettle Soup

This is nasselsoppa, a traditional Scandinavian soup of nettles and fish. My version is just about the greenest thing you’ve ever seen.

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Another green soup with the cooling flavor of borage. Other greens work, too.

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pickled mustard greens in a bowl

Pickled Mustard Greens

I make these every year when our wild mustard greens come ready. It’s a little like kimchi meets sauerkraut, and it’s a common ingredient in Chinese cooking – also good on a bun with sausage.

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A bunch of ramps ready to cook.

13 Ramps Recipes to Try This Spring

Ramps, sauteed and tossed in a sweet, vinegary sauce.

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