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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Wild Greens Are up and Thriving in My Yard This Week

I planted watercress in my garden, once, almost 20 years ago. And now, it has seeded itself all over that portion of my yard. Every spring -- I feel so blessed.

The weather has been dry this week. So, I've been working outside while I can. I'm pruning fruit trees and cleaning vegetable beds. While outside, I noticed lots and lots of watercress plants popping up all over. It's a use-them-or-lose-them sort of thing in March. By the end of the month they'll have begun to go to seed and won't be so tender.

I picked a basket full on Monday and made a nice salad to go with our dinner that night. I'll be picking another basket full this afternoon.

My daughters have grown up eating watercress salads every spring. It's kind of funny -- I don't think they realize that watercress is one of those "fancy" greens that sells for a couple of dollars a bunch in the grocery store. I think they see our watercress salads as something "odd" that their mom picks from the yard, like a throw-back to a hunter-gatherer civilization. I'll be peeling bark off our trees for tea next.

Watercress has a peppery flavor, which I find very appealing this time of year. It's super healthy -- one of the most nutrient-dense leafy greens. And for me, it's free. I'll be making the most of our watercress riches in the next several weeks.

Have you ever eaten foraged greens? We don't get very many dandelions, but I've wanted to try those, too. Have you ever tried dandelion greens? Would you recommend them?


  1. We don't eat foraged greens but I did notice that there was arugula that overwintered. I was given a plant last year that promptly went to seed before it grew much. However, those seeds sprouted and produced a fresh crop. Arugula is usually too bitter for me, but I think I'll pick some anyway. I'll have to see if the cold makes it sweeter like it does for turnips. They're both in the cruciferous family, so maybe.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I know that kale (also a cruciferous veggie) has less bite after a frost. So maybe your post-winter arugula will be milder. Let us know.

  2. Cool! I don't think watercress grows here, but sounds like a welcome addition to your diet in March!

    I do pick the lamb's quarters that come up in our yard, and often freeze a few extra bags of them for adding to soups later. They are a prolific weed, but healthy like spinach and absolutely free. And I figure that the ones that try to grow in my well-amended garden are extra nutritious!

    1. Hi Cat,
      I tried growing lamb's quarters from seed but didn't have much luck. I didn't know they could be wild or naturalized. I may try planting those again and see if they do any better for me. The absolutely free part is a big part of the draw for me to use up our watercress.

  3. I've tried dandelion greens but I don't love them. You might, though--I don't care for bitter or peppery flavors in my greens but you might tolerate that better. Last spring my husband added the flower of violets that grow wild in our yard to our salads and as a garnish on top of food and they have a mild taste (and a pretty color).

    On a related non-edible note, our crocuses are blooming!

    1. Hi Kris,
      How exciting with the crocuses!
      I love that adding flower petals from the yard make your salads and meals so gourmet-sounding!One of our local stores carries a gourmet salad blend that has blossom petals mixed in with the baby greens. I think it's several dollars for an 8 oz clamshell. Look at all of that money you're saving by adding the violet petals to your salads!

  4. I have never foraged for greens in my yard. I'm a little picky that way. I don't like prickly, peppery things. My parents used to make dandelion wine when I was a kid. They only did it once and that stuff was so strong. I don't think they knew enough about wine making that it probably was dangerous to drink.

    1. Hi Alice,
      I've heard about people making dandelion wine. I've also read of folks in the Depression roasting the roots of dandelion plants, grinding and making a coffee substitute. I may even be daring enough to try that, if I find a few dandelions in our yard this spring.

  5. I have foraged arugula and really like it. My husband doesn't like the peppery taste either. I think there are different types of arugula and I did have a strong one - a little goes a long way. I just tell him that I like flavor (as opposed to the non-flavor of his favorite - iceberg lettuce)

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      I bought iceberg lettuce this winter for the first time in years, as it was on sale for so cheap at Walmart all winter. Iceberg is not just mild, but I also thought it was sweet-tasting. Maybe especially so in comparison to home grown lettuce. Well, if your husband doesn't like the taste of the arugula, all the more for you!

  6. I wish we had water cress growing here, it doesn't do well at all here. But (I've probably told this before) I forage a lot during spring, summer and autunm. It starts with nettles in early spring, then fireweed sprouts (like asparagus spears), ground elder... sometimes my kids hate me. But I'm also that crazy woman who forages wild plants for tea, like rowan, rasperry, black currant, meadowsweet (I also pick meadowsweet flowers to make flavoured sugar, just like vanilla sugar). I try to get birch sap every spring, it's not as sweet as maple sap but it makes delicious mead.
    BUT I live in the middle of nowhere, it is easier for me to go in to the woods to pick something than to go shopping.

    1. Have you read Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons? My husband has the book. Sort of a primer in foraging food. I have a bit of fascination with the idea of foraging, and I enjoy reading books about native Americans and the food they ate, but I think my interest is more theoretical. I enjoyed reading your comment and am curious to the general area where you live. I don't think we get a lot of the same food where I am.

    2. Hi Ulvmor,
      wow, your life sounds so interesting. Another PNW favorite for foraging is fiddlehead ferns. People here say that they're like asparagus. I love the idea of using flowers to make flavored sugar. Herbs like mints might make nice flavored sugar as well.

  7. I live in Skandinavia, in northern Europe. We have strong, long and still living tradition of foraging in all countries, it is even written in laws. Most people pick wild berries and mushrooms, which doesn't require any permission. But for harvesting leaves/sap from living trees you need permission from land owner. I have my own tiny forest, so I'm free to do what ever I want.
    Of course many people do not forage, but many do.


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