Mmmmm…Yard Salad: As Local As It Gets

The Salad, before dressing was added

Yesterday I created a salad made from ingredients that are as local as they get. Each of the ingredients originated on my property – either our month-old garden, or from wild plants.

I was able to harvest a cup full of arugula from the garden, and a few marigold flowers. For the bulk of the salad, though, I turned to the wild plants in my yard.

My newly discovered favorite, garlic mustard (Alliaria Petiolata), provided a very nice mustard-green-and-garlic flavor to the salad. I included both the heart-shaped leaves and the petite white flowers in the salad.

garlic mustard - a very yummy weed

It is a highly invasive plant, which can be harvested throughout the year. It grew in abundance on my property in Connecticut – if only I had known then how delicious it is!  In my area of the country, garlic mustard will flower from April to June. After that, the plant goes to seed.

Besides being delicious, renowned ethnobotanist Jim Duke (in his book, Handbook of Edible Weeds) points out that it is a highly nutritious plant, containing twice the betacarotene of spinach, as well as the cancer preventive constituents of both garlic and mustard.

I also included some young dandelion leaves. I have long avoided eating dandelion because I disliked the bitter taste, but I found that including a small amount of young leaves added a nice bite to the salad, along with plenty of nutritional value. Euell Gibbons, in his book Stalking the Wild Asparagus, recommends using leaves from dandelions before they have produced flower stalks.

Garden herbs

I topped off the salad with a delicious vinaigrette, made with a blend of fresh herbs from my herb garden, and a few violets for color. Here is the vinaigrette recipe:
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano and parsley)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon of prepared mustard
2 garlic cloves, crushed
a pinch of sea salt
a dash of freshly ground pepper

Whisk all of the ingredients together, then pour over salad. It tastes best if prepared a couple of hours ahead of time to allow the flavors to blend.

our nascent garden

Please Note: Make sure not to use any plants that have been exposed to chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. And if you are harvesting wild plants, only use those that are at least 8 feet from the road in order to avoid potential chemical runoff.

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57 thoughts on “Mmmmm…Yard Salad: As Local As It Gets

  1. That salad looks so beautiful it’d almost be shame to eat it…lol…. never thought of marigold flowers for a salad before! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Your salad looks awesome! I used to gather wild greens a lot. Your post is spurring me on to get back into the habit! (I agree that dandelion leaves add a nice bite – they’re actually somewhat addictive once you get used to them, if you can find nice lush ones.)

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  3. Delicious! Your garlic mustard plant sounds interesting. Not one I know, so will look it up.
    Wild rosemary and thyme grow in abundance on our mountain, and the perfume is superb when I walk the dogs early in the morning!

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  4. What a great looking salad! I’m anxiously awaiting greens in my garden. Only planted them a couple weeks ago so they are not quite ready yet. Looking forward to yard salads at every meal!

    The vinaigrette sounds great too. My sage and thyme came back this year so it’s already useable. I may have to try this tonight!

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  5. According to the Michigan State University website, garlic mustard is very common: “Garlic mustard is native to Europe and is found from England east to Czechoslovakia and from Sweden and Germany south to Italy. It has spread from its original range and is now found in North Africa, India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. As of 2000, garlic mustard was present in 34 states and 4 Canadian provinces. Within the U.S., the largest populations are in New England and the Midwest.” For more info, you can see their Garlic Mustard FAQ page! http://www.ipm.msu.edu/garlicFAQ.htm

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  6. It’s so satisfying, isn’t it, to know that we can harvest local plants and actually dine on them with pleasure! Makes me want to go out in the rain a pick a nastursium from my garden! I made a stir-fry recently and decided to add some fiddle-heads of ferns growing in my garden. While I loved the idea, I realized once again that I don’t much like them. That said, while my blog is all about tropical foods, flavors and ingredients and the people who grow them, I’m not crazy about all foods tropical.

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  7. Your salad looks awesome! I used to gather wild greens a lot. Your post is spurring me on to get back into the habit! (I agree that dandelion leaves add a nice bite theyre actually somewhat addictive once you get used to them, if you can find nice lush ones.)

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  8. The salad looks delicious! I was already planning on spending most of tomorrow outside in the yard, tending to plants. Now I’ll be on the lookout for some lovely salad ingredients while I’m at it.

    Love the site. I’ve added it to the blogroll on my own blog. I look forward to reading more.

    Meg from nerfgunbobbins.com

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  9. Thank you. And I am also a huge fan of nasturtium and borage (the photo at the top of my blog is a close-up of the huge borage plant that was in my garden last year). Good stuff! And thanks for the link to your article on edible flowers. Very cool!

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    • Yes, your borage is beautiful! I noticed it right away when I clicked on your blog from the WordPress page. :-) I love its subtle cucumber-melon flavor. We’ve got chervil and chervil blooms right now, which I’m cherishing, knowing they’ll be gone soon now that the heat has come.

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  10. So it’s not too early to put those annuals out then, eh? (Freaky summery weather notwithstanding, it still seems a bit chilly.) I have some nasturtium seeds collected from last year’s batch that I’m dying to get started. So yummy in a salad!!

    We’ve been eating “basement salad” all winter, from the plants started under grow lights in our very illicit-looking basement setup. Looking forward to expanding our outside garden this year; thanks for the inspiration!

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  11. I’m pretty certain that we are past the last frost (although I may eat my words given this erratic weather we’ve been having — they won’t taste as good as garlic mustard…).

    That is so cool that you have been growing your own produce all winter. I’ll have to give that a try once this year’s harvest is gone.

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  12. That’s a Great post as always, it is great to have the chance to read a good quality article and Interesting topic with many great points.

    I wanted to say thank you for taking time to share this information.

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  13. Great post. Our local Unity Church just did a sustainable farming dinner. This is so awesome to see Ilove arrugula and I amgoign to have to get that book on edible weeds! Thanks for sharing.

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  14. Andrea, that’s sounds like such a wonderful (and delicious) idea for a church event! I highly recommend any of Jim Duke’s books, as well as those by Euell Gibbons, for information on the health benefits of various plants.

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  18. That’s very inspiring! I have thought about doing a salad garden in my backyard for a long time but I kept putting it off until I stumbled on a discovery today. I was about to uproot my brussels plant to get rid of it but was able to do a quick research if it was edible. I tried it and it was delicious! I’m motivated to do more gardening for healthy consumption.

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