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Throughout nature, spring signifies a new beginning. People tend to feel more energetic and optimistic, and might renew their commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Exercising sure is much easier when the weather is better, and fresh produce is increasingly making its way into your grocery store. The best spring foods might be even closer at home though — in your garden or a garden near you.
These greens aren't your run-of-the-mill spring veggies, but they are too good to overlook. Foraging for food is exciting, but farmers' markets might also carry this unusual loot.
Native to Europe and Asia, wild garlic has a bunch of names, including ramsons and buckrams. Its Latin name is Allium ursinum, and if you live in Europe you might well have it in your garden. This little fellow has a fresh taste that falls somewhere between garlic and spring onions, and it's high in vitamins C and B6, as well as iron and sulphur.
You can use wild garlic in salads, boil it as a veggie, use it as a herb to season your food, or make soup out of it. I'd especially recommend using wild garlic as the main ingredient of a home-made pesto. Put a good handful of wild garlic, ground elder, some walnuts, parmesan or ricotta cheese and a health dose of extra-virgin olive oil in your food processor. You may like to use pine nuts as well, and don't forget the salt. Do make sure to avoid the wild garlic from your garden once it has flowered.
Most people see this yellow-flowered plant as a weed — but did you know it can be a powerful "secret" ingredient in many meals too? The young leaves of this plant are fresh-tasting and great for salads, while the mature leaves are a bit more bitter. Blooming dandelion flowers are good for making cordials or even dandelion-flower wine. The flower buds make great capers, if you pickle them. Simply boil a good collection of flower buds in half water, half vinegar. Add some sugar, salt, pepper and mustard seeds and any herbs you might like.
What are you going to get out of dandelions, besides a tasty meal? This plant is actually full of vitamins C, A and B6 and calcium, iron and magnesium. Anyone who takes the plunge and incorporates it into dinner will forever think differently of this "weed".
Ground elder — or bishop's weed, goutweed, or Aegopodium podagraria — smells of herbs when you pick it, but can be used much like spinach. You might include it in Asian stir fries, pesto, omelettes, quiche or use it as salad. You'll only want to go for the very young leaves, otherwise your meal will be full of fiber and devoid of taste. As with wild garlic, you don't want to use ground elder once it flowers.
This plant was used as a treatment for gout and arthritis during the middle ages. In this case, the leaves are wrapped around the problem areas. If you eat it, you might experience a mild diuretic effect. You'll also get lots of vitamin C and dietary fiber from ground elder.