Irish Colcannon with Wild Greens

5 from 5 votes
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Icelandic venison with blueberry sauce recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

It isn’t often that I mark holidays on this site. For years, I’ve let Christmas, Independence Day, Valentine’s Day, Purim, etc. pass without note. So why should I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a recipe? Because this one is so good, and so perfect for the season. Now I enjoy a hunk of corned venison as much as anyone, it really needs an accompaniment. My choice? Irish colcannon.

Ever had colcannon, the Irish mixture of potatoes, green things and onions? It is to regular mashed potatoes what truffles are to button mushrooms. What’s more, the idea of colcannon is infinitely malleable. Traditionally the green thing is cabbage or kale, and, for the most part, green onions or scallions are added to make it colcannon.

There is a similar dish called champ that omits the kale or cabbage. But after reading several dozen recipes, there appears to be no hard or fast rule even in Ireland.

Take this concept into wild food and you’re in business. Any spring green onion — ramps in the East, three-cornered leek in the West, lawn onions everywhere — to any spring green and you have a wild colcannon. Which greens? Your possibilities are wide: nettles, mustard greens, miner’s lettuce, young dandelion leaves, curly dock leaves, wood sorrel… or cow parsnip.

Yes, cow parsnip. Don’t know the plant? It is the giant, smelly oaf of the carrot family, the one who fills up a room and not always in a good way. Know Heracleum maximum by its huge leaves and giant white flower umbels.

This size makes it tough to confuse with anything but the invasive, non-native giant hogweed. But cow parsnip’s aroma will always give it away. Think celery, with lovage, a touch of spiciness, and, um, a little bit o’skunk. The smell of cow parsnip is unmistakable, and strong. It filled the cab of my truck on my drive home yesterday. And like cilantro, it is polarizing: You either like it, or not.

I like it, but mixed with something milder. Cow parsnip by itself is too funky, too skunky for me. But the addition of lots of mashed potatoes and butter cuts the harsh edge off so well I would choose no other green for my spring colcannon. And cow parsnip is at its young-and-healthy stage all over the Pacific Coast right now.

Cow parsnip grows from sea level to 9000 feet or more pretty much everywhere in the United States except the Deep South. They seem to be especially common in the Rockies, and my friend Erica has lots of recipes for them. I have some other plans for cow parsnip I will write about soon.

As for the colcannon itself, if you can boil water and make mashed potatoes, you can make colcannon. It’s one of the easiest recipes you will ever find on this site. It also settles your stomach for a long night of drinking Guinness…

Venison tenderloin with Icelandic blueberry sauce
5 from 5 votes

Irish Colcannon with Wild Greens

While I give you amounts for a normal-sized recipe, you can scale this up or down as much as you want. Basically colcannon is 3 parts potato (or other root veggie, like parsnip or turnip) to 1 part green thing and 1/2 part green onion. Butter and cream or milk you add to taste. If you want a store-bought, traditional version of colcannon, use potatoes and kale and scallions. If you are a forager, use any green thing -- cow parsnip, nettles, dandelions, etc -- and any wild onion. I used cow parsnip and three-cornered leeks, which grow wild all over Northern California.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Irish
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 2 pounds waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Salt
  • 3 cups of chopped greens, loosely packed
  • 1 cup chopped green onions, scallions, ramps, etc.
  • 1 cup half-and-half or milk
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided


  • Put the potatoes in salty water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. When the potatoes are done, pour them into a colander and return the pot to the heat.
  • Add 2 tablespoons butter and the greens and onions. Saute, stirring constantly, until the greens wilt. Sprinkle some salt over the greens as they cook. Add the half-and-half and another tablespoon of butter and bring this to a simmer. Return the potatoes to the pot, turn off the heat and mash well. Add salt to taste.
  • To serve, put some colcannon on everyone's plate and make a little well in the center. Add a dot of butter to the well. When it melts, serve immediately.


Calories: 389kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 103mg | Potassium: 1343mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 5108IU | Vitamin C: 39mg | Calcium: 186mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

5 from 5 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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  1. A go-to recipe at my house. Really adds flavor and color (and the illusion of healthiness) to our usual 1:1 potato:butter staple. 😉

  2. This recipe is so easy and tasty, our Irish-roots family has made this the go-to side dish for Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as a standard primary meal throughout the year.

  3. I have absolutely no idea what cow parsley is… but this dish looks fabulous. I am sure I can make mashed potato, green things and onion with what’s available at the wet markets here in Chiang Mai. And just in time for St Pat’s Day, too.
    Thank you Hank!

  4. This is a perfect St Patrick’s Day dish. I would never have thought of cow parsley, but the idea of using whatever fresh greens are to hand for colcannon is in exactly the right spirit. I’ve just done a two-week wet cure of a couple of shoulders of pork for what we perversely call “bacon”, it has juniper and long pepper in it because why not. I should make a parsley sauce, but maybe cow parsley would be better.

  5. Sorry, I have just realised that my last comment looks mean-spirited. Of course the Irish from Boston are Irish if that is what they want to be. It’s a broad church and the diaspora are always welcome in it. Happy St Patrick’s Day!

  6. I am Irish (as in born and reared in Ireland, not Boston Mass.) and had a mother who was a great country cook but have never had either colcannon or champ. This recipe and picture make me want to try it. Thanks, Hank!

  7. Steve: Yep, you are correct. I did not intend this post to be a full guide to cow parsnip, but you raise a good point. In my experience the juice gives what is essentially a sunburn, but others might have a nastier reaction. And regardless, I do my best to not get the juice on my skin.

  8. Just a ‘heads up’ note – cow parsnip is said to have photo-toxic juice. Road workers who routinely cut the stiff in ditches know not to get the juice on your skin – it will leave a pretty bad chemical burn if exposed to strong light.