On Easter Sunday my dad and I were hanging out in our yard shootin’ the breeze when suddenly we remembered that Sheep’s Sorrel (Scientific name: Rumex acetosella) grows in our yard. My father has a degree in botany and a master’s in soil chemistry, and he has taught me all I know about edible plants. Sheep’s sorrel was always my favorite. When I was younger, I would hunt for it with my friends on the playground.
Sheep sorrel has a delicious sour, lemony taste that you wouldn’t expect from a common weed. I expect it would be quite good as a garnish or in a salad. It also has a high level of antioxidants. Where I live (in Rhode Island) it usually grows wherever grass does, primarily on the edge. Look for oblong leaves with short projections on the end, right above the stem. They always grow in bunches. Try some next time you spot them growing.
My father and I never did find any that Easter Sunday (I think it was too early in the spring) but what we did find were wild chives and dandelions, both of which are edible. We had also just bought some Narragnasett Bay quahogs and mussels from our friend Mason at the Costal Grower’s farmer’s market, so we were ready to concoct a meal.
First we took the heads of dandelion flowers and fried them by dipping them in a simple milk,egg and flour batter, frying them in vegetable oil and salting them. I first tried dandelions prepared this way by an awesome lady named Wendy Rappaport, a wild foods enthusiast who teaches foraging classes, at a local food festival last year. They are delicious and again, something you would NOT expect from a common weed.
Next we made a dandelion leaf salad with crumbled goat cheese, toasted pecans, wild chives and apples, tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. The dandelion leaves can be rather bitter (think a strong arugula) so you usually want something fruity or creamy to balance them out. Bread is the Rustic Italian Loaf from Village Hearth up the street.
We made an awesome butter-garlic sauce for the mussels and quahogs and they were the best part of the meal. I think next time we get a craving for them we are going to try to find some ourselves.
We desire a culture in our food, a connectedness to it. A connectedness and culture that we usually lose a sense of in this so very modern world. I guess that’s what real food is folks. Food that grows in your very own backyard.