Spring Greens and Tonics

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After a hard, cold Oklahoma winter, my granny would often say, “My body needs some greens.” She wasn’t alone. Many people in the good old days believed in feeding their winter starved bodies with some good old greens and even boiled up some tonics. Now granny didn’t rush out and walk to the grocery store, instead she would go to her garden or take a walk in the woods for some tender greens. Poke salad, dandelion, beet and mustard greens were what she ate. It not only fed her cravings, but the experts say that these greens are good and healthy for the body.

Did your older loved one forage for spring edibles and greens to make tonics? Perhaps your grandparents remember foraging for spring greens?

This publication of Edible Wild Plants is put out by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and is a very comprehensive guide for foraging for edible plants. It lists over 20 foods you can find in the wild.

Poke Salad and other Greens

My daddy said his mama would boil up some poke salad she gathered from the woods and after they had been boiled three times with fresh water, she’d throw them in a frying pan she had cooked her bacon in. Some say they taste a lot like spinach. I think I might even like them with all those bacon crumbles on top! Here’s a recipe that sounds like granny’s from cooks.com.  Daddy said his mama also loved mustard greens. We have an overabundance of wild mustard growing here in California. It’s great to think we can have a free salad at least during the springtime.

Dandelion Salad and Teas

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, many of our folks believed in a tonic made from dandelion leaves. They’d boil it up and drink it down and swore it made them feel like a new person. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, it was actually loaded with water-soluble vitamins. People also made a regular fresh salad from dandelion leaves. Be very careful if you decide to forage for your own. The area where you pick must be free from herbicides and fertilizers.

Rhubarb and Sassafras

I don’t believe we have any sassafras around my neck of the woods, but if it does grow around your vicinity, it’s the roots you want. Scrub them and cut them into small pieces and boil for a great tea. I’d add a little honey to mine or perhaps some sugar.

Rhubarb is also said to be very healthy for a springtime tonic. Just don’t eat the leaves. They can make you sick. Cut up the stalks and boil them thoroughly. They also make delicious pies!

Make sure and look through the Edible Wild Plants publication above and I suggest you print it out for reference when you go foraging!

(This article was reviewed July, 2024 since it originally was published May, 2017.)

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