February full moon was called the Hunger or Starvation Moon. People put up food for the winter, but the pantry was close to empty by then.
Root crops and canned food is fine. Fresh food has an appeal that grows the longer it can’t be obtained.
Many years ago I spoke with a woman, Ruby Woods, about her years growing up back when the general store was a day’s wagon ride away. For her March meant time to raid nature’s pantry for fresh greens.
Most of the greens she talked about are considered weeds today. For those who want to try a few, fair warning: Most of these are bitter or sour.
Plants are determined to grow and produce seeds. Getting eaten before that prevents the plant from reaching its goal. So plants often produce substances to deter insects and others from eating them.
Domesticated plants have most of these substances bred out as these are the bitter and sour tastes we’ve learned to not like. Some of these are rich in nutrition.
As “Wicked Plants” by Amy Stewart warns: Don’t eat anything you don’t recognize. My advice is to try a few that are easy to recognize.
Probably the easiest one is wild onion. There are several kinds and my preference is the one that sends up a clump of onion leaves. These are small, but powerful. Chewing on a leaf will heat up your mouth quickly.
Chickweed is a garden pest. It is a mild green and prolific in a cool, moist area. It’s great in stir fries. Cut or break the stems off and use the tops. You can harvest these plants many, many times.
Dandelions are good too. Use the younger, smaller leaves and the flowers. These leaves are a bit bitter and add a zest to salads or do well cooked down as a potherb alone or with others.
Yellow rocket is another good potherb. The leaves are easy to recognize once you know what to look for. If you are new to this one and to the chicory, watch the plants this year and know them by their flowers. Harvest the leaves next spring to add them to your pantry.
Chicory or blue sailor is a perennial. Mark where a few plants bloom. That makes it easy to pick the greens the next spring. Chicory leaves are similar to several wild lettuces and wild dandelion relatives. These too are edible, but not always tasty.
Nature’s pantry is a busy place. Dock, plantains, water cress, lamb’s quarter and more are also edible. Add a bit of variety to your salads this year with some wild greens.
See more of the Ozark’s seasons in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.