When it comes to springtime foraged vegetables, ramps (also known as wild leeks), have gotten the bulk of the chef and food world attention. I like ramps as much as the next tedious food geek droning on about the pungent wonders of spring’s first local seasonal edible green thing, but there’s some concern that the increased demand for ramps in recent years have led to overharvesting in some areas. So far the midwest continues to have ample ramp patches. Still, I think it’s wise to balance our enthusiasm for them with an eye toward sustainability.
Which brings me to a different early wild spring green with a bold flavor, wild garlic mustard.
Wild garlic mustard is an invasive plant, so abundantly proliferative that it grows almost everywhere in the northern hemisphere and is a weedy nuisance for many farmers. It’s sort of the Asian carp of the plant world. But it’s also delicious. It has a garlicky fragrance with a kicky heat along the lines of horseradish. They’re members of the brassica family (like broccoli and kale and cultivated mustard greens) and like their brethren are nutritional powerhouses.
It seems that if we’re going to be pulling these weeds anyway, we might as well bring them into the kitchen and take advantage of their flavor potential.
This wild garlic mustard green chimichurri comes together in about a minute. It comes from Chicago chef Paul Virant’s excellent cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen. It’s a vibrant, punchy sauce with a healthy splash of acidity from the red wine vinegar and lemon juice. It gets a smoky depth from the smoked paprika and rounded out with a generous amount of olive oil.
It’s great paired with pork, chicken or steak or a fish like salmon that can stand up to bold flavors. I could also see it playing well with eggs and black beans and avocados (maybe along with quinoa cakes) for a vegetarian meal.
Whatever you pair it with, it’s a great way to eat your weeds.
Wild Garlic Mustard Green Chimichurri
- 2 cups wild garlic mustard green tops remove the woody ends but keep the flowers
- 2 sprigs spring garlic roughly chopped
- Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika works well with either sweet or hot
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Add everything except the olive oil to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil and process until just combined.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator if not using within a couple of hours.