While farmers are still tending seeds and starts in their greenhouses, forager David Siller is watching the forests and fields for the earliest wild edibles. One of the first is PATIENCE DOCK, and we’re getting a harvest of this plentiful green this week. It looks a little bit like Swiss chard, with wider, softer leaves, and has a slightly tart taste. It’s not at its best raw, but there are plenty of culinary uses for this plant: Blanch the leaves for a few seconds (holding a bunch by the stem with tongs, then carefully dipping and removing them from boiling water is a good method) and then use them to wrap a cooked mixture of ground lamb, onion, and spices. That’s what they do in Romania, where stuffed patience dock leaves are a traditional spring dish. Check out this recipe for more details. Or just cook as you would other hardy greens – steamed and finished with a dab of butter and a sprinkling of lemon juice, or chopped and sautéed with garlic and a little cider vinegar. David’s work as a forager involves finding food in places where there doesn’t seem to be any, and then convincing contemporary eaters that these plants are good to eat. He pitched the idea of eating CHICKWEED, a familiar garden green that the area chefs for whom he sources are already serving up in their restaurants. You may recognize chickweed from your garden plot , or even your yard. Pale green leaves and tiny, white star-shaped flowers grow close to the ground in mats; it tastes sweet like cornsilk when raw in salads and like spinach when steamed. In addition to these preparations, David recommends tossing raw chickweed into your food processor along with garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pine nuts or walnuts for a subtly sweet springtime pesto. Look for ¼-lb bags of chickweed in our produce cooler this week.
For more on foraging, visit David Sill at the Philly Farm & Food Fest on Sunday, April 14th where he is an exhibitor or stop by the Fair Food Farmstand table at Reading Terminal Market’s Forgotten Foods Fest on April 20. Also, stay tuned for more details on an upcoming mini-lecture on foraging at the Farmstand in late April.