The Conservancy recently partnered with Debbie Naha, a Pennsylvania Master Naturalist and Registered Dietitian/Licensed Nutritionist, to use Climbers Run Nature Preserve as a site for her winter foraging walk being filmed by NPR. Debbie and NPR walked the beautiful Climbers Run preserve to find bittercress, field garlic greens, young dandelion greens, violet leaves, stinging nettles, chickweed, and garlic mustard (an invasive plant), all sautéed for a delicious pasta dish. To drink, they harvested native spicebush (Lindera benzoin) twigs to create Winter Spicebush Tea. Conservancy CEO Phil Wenger, and Conservancy Director of Education Lydia Martin, were excited to observe some of the filming. Check out the recipes below to make your own wild edible meal. To learn more about wild edibles, check out Debbie’s website: www.wildediblesnjpa.com
Pasta with Early Wild Greens
Foraged greens for this dish can readily be found in spring, and often in late winter. Serves 6.
- 12 oz. pasta (penne, fusilli, etc.)
- About 6 cups wild greens*, chopped or torn into small pieces, cleaned and loosely packed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and extra for garnish
- Salt to taste
- Place a large colander in the sink for draining the pasta and place your chopped greens in the bottom of the colander.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Before draining, dip a measuring cup into the water and reserve about 1 cup of the hot water. Drain the pasta into the colander over the greens. Return into the empty pasta pot, stir in half of the reserved water, and put the lid on.
- In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes, and saute until garlic is just golden. Remove skillet from heat.
- Add the oil and garlic to the pasta and greens. Stir well. The bottom of the pot should have a small puddle of broth. If not, add some more of the reserved pasta water.
- Transfer to a large serving bowl and mix in the grated Parmesan.
- Season with salt to taste and top with the remaining Parmesan.
* Wild greens: young dandelion greens, bittercress, garlic mustard, chickweed, field garlic greens, violet leaves, stinging nettles, etc. Note: When working with stinging nettles, chop them (wearing gloves!) and toss them into your boiling pasta water about midway through cooking. All it takes is a minute or two in the boiling water to remove the tiny stinging hairs.
Winter Spicebush Tea
The twigs of spicebush make a delicious warming tea – no leaves needed!
- 8-10 spicebush twigs (one good handful)
- 3 cups of water
- Break the twigs into pieces 1″ or smaller
- Put the water in a pot and bring to a boil
- Turn off the heat. Place the twigs in and stir, pushing them down into the water.
- Cover with a lid and let sit for at least 30 minutes. The longer you let it steep, the more flavor your tea will have.
- Strain the twigs from the tea.
- Stir in your sweetener of choice, if desired.
Makes a refreshing iced tea when chilled, or a warming winter beverage when served hot.