Wild Edible Greens to Grow or Gather

| February/March 2008


This heirloom recipe for Chickweed Pie, a Pennsylvania Dutch country version of quiche, makes a delicious lunch or light supper dish.

Photo courtesy W.W. Weaver

While reading a 17th-century book on gardening, I was struck by the way modern gardeners and cooks have lost touch with the world of wild edible greens all around us.

Spring Green Recipes:

Chickweed Pie
Dandelion Greens with Cowpeas 

In former times, wild greens were not looked down upon as weeds, but instead were gathered up as potherbs for good eating and health. In the Old World and in early America, wild greens gathered from woodlots, pasturelands and meadows were an important part of the daily diet. But when 19th-century industrialization shifted eating habits toward beef, white bread and processed foods, attitudes toward plants like chickweed and dandelion changed. These wild potherbs, once relished even by the wealthy, became branded as poverty food.

The truth is, edible wild plants still are treasure troves of good flavor and health. You simply need to know when to gather them and how to prepare them to bring out their best qualities.

Flavor Factors

Throughout much of Europe, particularly parts of the eastern Mediterranean, farm markets still sell wild plants during their brief season of availability. Plants like bladder campion and white mustard are appreciated as much as new wine or freshly pressed olive oil.

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