Spring-Foraged Herb Tart
This spring has burst into warm sunny days, bright cheery blooms, and best of all, early plants to forage and eat. Highly nutritious and full of vitamins and minerals, early edibles will give you a burst of energy and vitality, and are a great way to enjoy a taste of spring!
There are plenty of edible plants available during spring in the Northeast. My favorite early plants appear in the same place on my farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania every year. Today I gathered chickweed, ramps, and nettles and created this Spring-Foraged Herb Tart. I also added the spinach I planted last fall which was ready to pick now.
Powerful Punch in a Tart!
You can find real nourishment in nature. A walk or hike will invigorate your soul. Gather ingredients from nature for food, and you can powerfully nourish your body!
Here’s some general nutritional and identifying facts about the three wild greens I collected. (It’s a good idea to do some research before attempting to forage if you are not familiar with how to identify wild edible plants.)
Chickweed, Stellaria media, is easily identified by it’s white star-like flowers. It’s a low growing plant which thrives in sun or shade. I usually find it in undisturbed areas; along a wall or tucked under a tree. Look closely, it has tiny hairs on the stems and at the end of flower buds. The leaves are oval with pointed tips. This plant is an easy one to find.
I found it growing under the parking meter I used in town today! (Please note, urban foraging can be exposed to environmental toxins. Choose your plants wisely!) It’s a nutritious addition to any salad or sandwich. It has vitamin A, B and C, as well as minerals including calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, silicon and zinc.
Nettles, Urtica dioica is a common naturalized weed throughout North America. You may know it as “Stinging Nettle” …. which tells you a lot. You can identify it by touching it with bare hands – Which I do NOT recommend! It’s tiny hairs act like needles in the skin. Use gloves to harvest and handle it carefully until it’s blanched in water – only then is it consumable, and the sting is gone. It can also be dried and used a tea. Nettles contain vitamin A,B,C,E,F,K,P, as well as multiple minerals and high levels of antioxidants. It is literally a natural multivitamin.
Ramps, Allium tricoccum is sometimes called a spring onion. It is in the onion family, but they taste more like a garlicky scallion. Yum! The trick is find an area where there is a patch. Once you do, you can go back every year and take just enough to enjoy. Overharvesting can cause your patch to disappear. Not good! Ramps are high in vitamin A, C, selenium and chromium. It is a powerful antioxidant, meaning that it seeks out and neutralizes free radicals, the particles that attack healthy cells and, in unchecked amounts, can bring about premature aging. Ramps in your diet makes you a Spring chicken!
SPRING FORAGED HERB TART
For the filling:
2 cups nettles
1 cup chickweed
1 handful of ramps
2 cups spinach
2 tbs. olive oil
½ cup onion, diced small
1 cup milk
2 cups Basket cheese
½ cup parmesan
1 tsp. salt
(You can also use a store bought unbaked pie crust.)
9 inch tart pan
1 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
½ tsp. salt
2 tbs. ice cold water
(The buckwheat flour is a gluten-free option. I am a fan of the rich, nutty flavor and high nutritional value. It’s high in fiber, amino acids, protein, niacin and vitamin B.)
Use cold ingredients to make crust. Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter, cut into pieces, pulse for about 10 seconds. Add ice water drop by drop until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Turn the dough out onto some plastic wrap. Press the dough into a flat circle. Wrap the dough in the plastic and chill for at least an hour. On a lightly floured board, roll chilled dough out into a 1/8” circle. Place pastry in tart pan, trim edges. Line pastry with aluminum foil, add pie weights, and partially bake unfilled pastry. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry begins to color around the edges. Remove foil and weights. Let cool.
Bring water to boil in a one-quart pot. Blanch each of the first three ingredients beginning with nettles. Use tongs to avoid sting. Place nettles, in boiling water for about 1 minute. Remove immediately, strain, remove leaves, discard stems.
Chop into very small pieces. Do the same with chickweed and ramps (except no need to removes stems); chop everything after removing excess water.
Place olive oil in sauté pan, add onion and cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes, until translucent. Add the spinach and stir until wilted, about 1 minute.
In a bowl mix 3 eggs, one cup of milk, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
Chop two cups of Basket cheese into small pieces. Add the chopped wild greens, sautéed spinach, parmesan and Basket cheeses to the egg mixture.
(I used Basket cheese, available now because it is an ingredient for a traditional Italian Easter Pie. It tastes like a mild ricotta cheese, and doesn’t compete with the flavor of the greens. Any cheese, can be substituted if you prefer.)
Place egg mixture into cooled tart shell. Bake in a 375 degrees F oven for 45 – 50 minutes, or until the pricked center comes out clean.
Allow to set for about 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!