Seasonal Recipe Ideas for Summer
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Summer is here and the vegetation is bountiful! In the Twin Cities area, several greens are at their prime, including lamb’s quarters, amaranth, and purslane. Flowering herbs are also at an ideal stage for picking, and berry season is just starting to kick off. With so many wild edibles abounding in yards, parks, and gardens, now is the perfect time to harvest to your heart’s content! However, you should strive to use everything that you harvest, instead of forgetting about it and letting it rot in your fridge (which I have definitely been guilty of!) Having a list of recipes or go-to dishes makes it much easier to churn through your wild harvests, and enjoy the gifts of nature’s garden!
In this article I will go over some ways to use summer greens and herbs. (I previously made a post all about berries; you can check it out here.) I will also include a couple homemade recipes plus a few recipe links, and hopefully leave you with lots of ideas on how to prepare your wild edibles! Since this article is focused on cooking, I will not go over identification of these plants. Please use your trusted field guide or this website, Minnesota Wildflowers, for identification details.
Wild salads work much the same way as regular salads, except you’re adding wild plants, of course! Just how wild you want it to be is up to you. You could make your favorite salad and add a few wild greens, flowers, or herbs; or do a complete overhaul and make something entirely different and new. A few pointers to get you in the right direction:
Loft is important! Lots of wild greens are pretty flat in comparison to cultivated lettuces like romaine. This means that they make a kind of weird, dense little salad on their own. Consider adding cultivated greens to improve air space. Or, if the stalks of the wild plants are tender enough (and safe to eat, of course), consider leaving them on to add dimension.
Varying textures make a salad more appetizing. Something with crunchy, crispy, fibrous, and tender elements is better than something of a uniform texture.
Explore the color wheel! Having multiple colors in a salad not only makes it look more appealing, but adds a greater breadth of vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds.
Add fat and acid! You simply must put fat in a salad. Seriously. Vegetables contain fat-soluble vitamins that your body needs, plus it makes it taste way better and why would you want to eat something that doesn’t taste good? I typically go for extra virgin olive oil, though any high-quality, flavorful oil will do. Or if you don’t like oil for some reason, add avocados or nuts or seeds or cheese or bacon pieces or something with fat in it. For the acid part, I usually go for lemon juice, lime juice, or some kind of vinegar.
Balance the bitters. Salads are supposed to be a little bitter. Bitters stimulate digestion, and part of the reason salads are traditionally served before a meal is because all those bitter greens help prepare your digestive tract for the heavier food to follow. But that said, you don’t want it so bitter that it’s unpalatable. And wild greens tend to be more bitter than cultivated ones. So you can balance out the bitters with sweeter vegetables like carrots, beets, peas, or corn. You can also use a sweeter vinegar like balsamic, or add a little bit of maple syrup or honey to your dressing. However, I don’t recommend making an overly sweet dressing, because you’ll drown out the delicate flavors.
One of my favorite ways to eat wild greens and herbs is with eggs. They’re easy to add to omelettes, scrambles, hash, frittatas, or to chop up and serve raw on top of eggs done any way. And for the vegans out there, you can do the same thing with tofu! In fact, I heartily enjoy tofu scrambles and included a recipe below.
You’ll notice that this recipe is mostly denoted in grams. If you are someone who cooks or bakes a lot, I highly recommend investing in a kitchen scale. It’s so much more accurate than using volume, and it’s very helpful if you’re trying to develop your own recipes. However, I included approximate conversions here for those without scales.
Recipe: Tofu Hash with Wild Greens
This recipe is easily adaptable to what you have around. I used amaranth (Amaranthus spp.) and lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album) for my wild greens, since they’re in season right now, but you could easily sub stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), dandelion (Taraxacum spp.), ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), purslane (Portulaca oleracea), or any other wild green— as long as you find it palatable! Also, if you prefer eggs, you can sub 3 beaten eggs for the tofu.
Serves two as side; one as a sole dish.
90 grams potato, cut into small cubes (one small potato)
40 grams carrot, cut into small cubes (one small carrot)
45 grams white onion, diced (1/4 medium onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 Tbl lemon juice
225 grams tofu, drained and cut into cubes (1/2 12-ounce block)
50 grams wild greens, coarsely chopped (1 heaped bowl)
1 Tbl soy sauce
Heat about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat. Add carrots and potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mostly softened and browned, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Add garlic, onion, and spices. Stir and add lemon juice. Cook until onions are tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add tofu. Stir and hack up with spatula to create random texture. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add greens and soy sauce. This will look like a lot of greens at first, but they will cook down! Stir continuously until greens are wilted and tender, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add additional lemon juice and soy sauce to taste, if desired.
Serve and enjoy!
Summer herbs such as wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta), mint (Mentha spp.), and many more make great cold infusions and teas. Below is a recipe for red clover (Trifolium pratense) blossom tea mixed with a cold infusion of wood sorrel.
Recipe: Red Clover Sorrelade
This refreshing drink is great for the summer months. Red clover has a grassy taste like oat straw, but with some sweetness and spice mixed in. Wood sorrel as a cold infusion wonderfully imparts its sour, lemon-like flavor.
2 cups fresh red clover blossoms, loosely packed
2 cups fresh wood sorrel greens, coarsely chopped and loosely packed
Sweetener to taste, if desired
Gently wash red clover and wood sorrel in separate bowls.
Loosely pack one pint jar with red clover blossoms, and another pint jar with wood sorrel greens. (The entire above-ground portion of wood sorrel may be used, including stems, flowers, and seed pods. Use only the flowerhead of red clover— try not to get any leaves in there.)
Bring two cups of water to a simmer, about 180º F. It should be steaming and have a few bubbles, but not be boiling. Pour this water over the clover blossoms. Cover the jar with a lid and let sit at least 1/2 hour. Strain and place liquid in fridge.
Cover the wood sorrel with cold water. Place in fridge for 12 to 24 hours. Strain out plant material and keep the infused liquid.
Combine wood sorrel infusion and red clover infusion in a larger jar. Add sweetener if desired. Shake or stir, and let sit in fridge about an hour.
Serve cold over ice. Enjoy!
If you get sick of drinking tea, try making jelly! Herbal infusions can easily be made into jelly, basically by heating, dissolving sugar, and adding pectin. Here is a recipe for red clover jelly.
Sauces and Dips
Wild herbs and greens can make excellent pesto. Pesto is basically greens, olive oil, toasted nuts, and parmesan cheese all blended together and served over pasta, on sandwiches, with crackers, or on other foods. (Vegans can make pesto by subbing nutritional yeast for parmesan.) Wild food pestos abound, but I think garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), and chickweed (Stellaria media) are some of the more popular ones. Here a is recipe for a wild green pesto.
Hummus is another excellent medium for wild greens and herbs. Basically just follow your favorite hummus recipe, but toss in a load of wild greens at the end. I have done this with garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and thought the result was phenomenal, but it would probably be good with most wild greens. Here is a recipe for garlic mustard hummus. It calls for ramp (Allium tricoccum) greens, but garlic can be used instead.
Who doesn’t love a good smoothie? Wild greens are awesome in smoothies, as are wild fruits if ya got em. I stick to greens that don’t add significant bitterness, such as stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album), and ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare). (Just make sure to blanch the nettles first so they don’t sting your mouth!)
In my opinion, a smoothie in its most basic form is frozen bananas blended together with almond milk. (I prefer frozen fruits in my smoothies to fresh ones because it gives it more of a milkshake vibe.) Bananas are sweet and starchy and make the perfect base for smoothies. To me, if it doesn’t have bananas, it’s not a smoothie! I like using non-sweetened almond milk or other nut milks, but you can use any non-dairy beverage, or milk, yogurt, kefir, or other milk-like products. Just keep in mind that fermented items are less sweet and will create a tangier smoothie. Then, decide what other elements you want in there: frozen berries or other fruits, nut butters, protein powders, whole seeds or nuts if you don’t mind a grittier texture. You can also add a bit of sweetener if you like, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, or other flavorings.
And just because it contains wild greens doesn’t mean it has to be greens-forward. If you don’t particularly like the taste of greens, smoothies are a great way to mask the flavor! Just mix it in with lots of bananas, berries, and other fruits.
Summer is a great time for flowers, and we tend to overlook them as sources of food. However, edible flowers are delicious in salads or teas, as described above. And since they look so pretty they make fantastic edible decorations! If you’re like me and watch fancy cooking shows, you’ve probably seen bakers adorn their cakes with edible flowers. However, flowers can also go into baked goods! For example, dandelion flower petals make an awesome addition to muffins, biscuits, cookies, pancakes, and other items. An internet search for these will reveal countless recipes.
Flowers are also great candidates for fritters. These are basically flowers dunked into a pancake-like batter, deep-fried, and dusted with powder sugar. They look like something from the state fair and basically taste like funnel cakes. Not the most high-brow way to enjoy flowers, but definitely a crowd pleaser! Again, an internet search will uncover loads of recipes. I’ll let you do the looking here rather than recommend a single recipe, as I have yet to find my favorite fritter batter.
I hope that gives you plenty of preparation ideas for those wildharvested plants! I will consider this article a success if I can save just a few greens from turning to mush in the back of your fridge.
But let me know what you think! What are your favorite recipes or dishes? Was there something obvious I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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