With the arrival of warmer weather, my gardens have shot up, producing all sorts of good things to eat. My goal is to have something from our farm with every meal.
Sometimes it’s eggs and dill with breakfast, sugar snap peas and coriander with lunch, kale leaves with dinner.
It feels so good to be growing what we need each day, things that make us healthier and stronger.
But sometimes I like to venture outside the garden and do a bit of foraging.
I’ve always liked the idea of foraging, and I’ve done my fair share picking huckleberries in the woods in British Columbia, collecting wild fennel in Italy, and this week, collecting plantain leaves from our Big Orchard in Australia.
Plantain is one of the nutrient-rich “weeds” that grows unbidden in nearly every environment on earth. You can find it in alpine meadows and shady woodlands, rain-drenched roadsides and heat-baked Australia.
For some reason, plantain has taken up residence in our Big Orchard, flourishing in verdant clumps near the citrus trees. While I pull out other weeds that might draw nutrients away from our fruit trees, I encourage the plantain knowing it will provide free, nutritious food for us throughout the year.
Foraging expert, Katrina Blair, has written a fantastic book called: “The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival.” I love it. Chock full of history, folklore, and scientific research, it also contains excellent recipes for how to eat nutrient dense wild foods such as dandelion, thistle, amaranth, and, of course, plantain. Plantain is loaded with good things: vitamin E, calcium, potassium, Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, micronutrients, and protein. It is also anti-inflammatory, a digestive aid, helps women during PMS and menopause, and, oddly enough, increases sperm count in men, according to the latest research from the University of Malaysia.
Blair’s book has had me looking at our woods, fields, and paddocks with a whole new purpose, and set my creativity whirring as I dream up ways to use these nutritious and delicious wild foods that grow for free all around us.
This weekend I picked my first harvest of plantain leaves and set to work turning them into dinner.
I picked baby radishes and baby beetroots from my garden, along with a few kale leaves and an Asian green I can’t remember the name of. I heated up olive oil in a large pan with a few chopped garlic cloves, then added the halved radishes and beetroots to brown and caramelize while I chopped the kale, greens, and plantain leaves. Cooking radishes removes the heat completely and leaves you with a sweet, earthy vegetable that is truly delicious.
When the root veggies were done, I added all the greens, covered the pan and cooked the greens for a minute or two. Then I added shredded chicken, a handful of sliced sugar snap peas, and a hearty drizzle of ginger garlic sauce, heated everything through and dinner was ready.
Absolutely delicious. The sweetness of the root veggies and dressing perfectly balanced the earthy greens, while the chicken gave a savory note and the peas gave a light, fresh crunch.
For my first plantain dish, we gave it a resounding YES!
Do you have a favorite food you like to forage? xo
Wild Plantain Stir-Fry
1 bunch plantain
1 bunch red Russian kale
1 bunch Asian greens
2 garlic cloves, sliced
½ cup baby radishes, trimmed and halved
½ cup baby beetroot, trimmed and halved
1 cup shredded chicken
½ cup sliced fresh sugar snap peas
¼ cup ginger garlic dressing (if you don’t have a bottle, whip up your own with fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, and a bit of brown sugar)
- Wash and chop greens and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in large frying pan, add garlic and cook about thirty seconds. Add radishes and beetroot, cut side down. Fry until golden brown on cut surface.
- Add greens, stir to coat with oil, cover and cook for 1-2 minutes until just wilted.
- Add chicken, sugar snap peas, and ginger garlic dressing, stir to coat, cover, and heat until just heated through, about 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and serve warm or cold as a salad.