Spring has to be the best possible time of the year to be a cook. After a long cold winter filled with root vegetables and endless bowls of stew, spring rolls in with a mass of amazing tender greens. You can find them in abundance at your local grocery store or if you are really lucky at the nearest farmer’s market.
Most people are familiar with common greens including lettuce and spinach. But how many of you know what sorrel is, or what nettle leaves and watercress are, let alone how to use them? Here are three of the more unusual spring greens and how you can use them to add more depth to your meals.
This green is a member of the knotweed family, which also includes rhubarb. With this in mind it is easy to see why sorrel might have a tart, lemony flavor. As long as you use sorrel sparingly, it makes a great addition to salads. Although there are a number of varieties, the most commonly found one is garden sorrel.
Prickly or Stinging Nettles
These can be found growing in almost every part of the world. They are well-known for their high levels of vitamin C, iron, and protein. When raw they must be handled with tongs or gloves to avoid being stung by the formic acid secreted by the leaves. Once the leaves are cooked, the acid can no longer cause problems. Nettles can be pureed and used in pasta fillings, soups, and sauces. In England they are also used to brew beer.
Watercress is a part of the brassica family, the same family as cabbage and kale. With such a family, it is easy to see how the tiny watercress shoots pack such a flavorful punch. While it does grow wild in streams, you can’t always be certain that the water is safe to drink and as such the plants are safe to eat. However, you can usually buy plenty of watercress in your local grocery store. The British serve watercress and butter sandwiches, while French chefs add it to soups. In China this savory plant is often added to stir-fries.