Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Escapees and Sidewalk Salad

The weedy garlic patch shown above is now clean, after I spent part of yesterday morning scooting, crawling and crutching it through the garden. I also managed to harvest a large basketful of nettles. Some are in the refrigerator waiting to be cooked, some are in a paper bag in one of our vehicles that sits outside so they will dry down as the sun heats the interior, and some became yesterday's lunch.

Lime mint growing among a potentilla ground cover.
A while back, friends brought a dish to a get-together, that they call "sidewalk salad." It contained a variety of baby greens that they picked from their garden and from between the stones of their pathways, hence the name sidewalk salad.

They tend to garden in a haphazard, semi-wild sort of way that fits their setting in the middle of second-growth woods. They deal with deer, rabbits, raccoons, deer, squirrels, oppossums and... did I mention deer? They also have few precious spaces that can be called "full sun," so their challenges are many. But they manage to do a few things, like garlic and sidewalk salad.

Lemon balm, one of many mint relatives.
A few garden plants will do quite well at spreading and propagating with no intervention. They escape the garden borders, moving into lawns and pathways, or persist in garden beds where you thought they had all been harvested. Some potential foods also are simply plants that you thought you put in just for show.

Arugula, cilantro, dill, even collards and kale... to mention just a few... will set seed and readily scatter it about, taking up as much real estate as you allow. This is cheap (well, Free!) and easy food and seasonings. The prior plants are annuals or biennials, which we usually slave to plant but which do not need our help. Of the perennials, mints and all of their relatives (such as the nettle) spread by runners and move where they will.

 Garlic also is perennial if you don't quite get all of the bulbs dug, and the bulbs continue to expand. You can use young garlic leaves, as well as their bulbs. Chives, especially the garlic chives, will self propagate if you let them flower and set seed. Then there are the wild things, dandelion greens and chickweed, and many others.

My friends enjoy strongly flavored salad greens, and have lots of arugula and another species called "wild" arugula, sprouting everywhere. A bit of bitterness from young dandelion greens is welcome, and their salads contain various leaves you wouldn't normally consider, such as mint leaves.

Chives and the blooms that will appear in a few weeks. The
clumps of chives in my garden are seriously reduced in size
after the dry, dry summer, fall and winter.
So, taking their example, when I harvested nettles yesterday, I also picked a handful of yarrow leaves (once also called "poor man's pepper") to add to salads. Today, my lunch salad not only contained the spicy-bitter yarrow leaves, but some lime mint, lemon balm and chive leaves. They provided a refreshing and delicious flavor. Later, when the chives bloom, I will add their pungent blossoms to salads, as well.

These salad greens didn't come from my sidewalk, but yesterday I did dig a few young, non-blooming dandelions from garden paths and added them to the stir-fried veggies and nettles I had for lunch. Free AND nutritious.

1 comment:

Gwyneth the Feral Flute said...

The redbuds have been making the sidewalk salad bright and colorful but today may have been the last for those little treats. Red perilla will be adding anise flavor soon which goes wonderfully with the garlic greens, thyme and mint. Keeping the garden arugula and spinach from bolting is the next challenge.