Savoring the Seasons: Chatting about food

  • Blue violets AP PHOTO

For The Recorder
Published: 5/10/2016 3:32:34 PM

I love the many conversations this column sparks. My article about “volunteer vegetables” and foraging for wild foods was the topic of several chats this past week.

My friend, Karen, told me about her easy and tasty way to use the invasive garlic mustard she’s pulling out of the woods. And Karen, several other friends and I talked about our concern that ramps have become too popular and there is a potential for overharvesting. Please don’t harvest ramps unless you know you’re the only one picking from that patch. And, take very few of them.

If you want a garlicky/oniony spring green, pull up the many garlic mustard plants in local woods! You can use garlic mustard in almost any recipe that calls for ramps.

Another tasty plant that isn’t invasive but is plentiful in many local lawns is violets. A friend in college introduced me to violet flowers and leaves as little purple vitamin C snacks.

When my friend Sita Lang visited me at the Greenfield Weekly Peace Vigil last Saturday, she had a story to tell about the impact of my column. Sita works with elders, many of whom have dementia. She said one of her clients looks forward to seeing my column each week because she loves my photo and how happy I seem. I grinned when Sita told me and shared the story of this picture and how I wasn’t eating local food when it was taken.

A year ago, my long-time friend, Pat, visited from Seattle. Pat’s a great photographer, so I asked her to help me create a new photo for my column. Later that week, we got coconut-milk “ice cream” bars at Green Fields Market. As I walked out of the store licking my chocolate treat, Pat said, “Sit down on that bench” in a “don’t ask why, just do it” voice. I sat down on the bench with the ivy wall behind me and kept licking the bar. Pat pulled out her camera and pointed it at me. I laughed and said, “I can’t have a photo of me eating non-local food” and held the bar to my side while I smiled at Pat. Pat took a bunch of photos, and one of them now graces this column.

When I told Sita this story, she said, “Oh, my client loves ice cream!” I encouraged Sita to tell her client that I do, too, and that’s why I look so happy in that picture.

This week we’re eating …Simple Garlic Mustard Pesto

Karen Warren, Pelham

Pull up whole garlic mustard plant. Strip leaves off plant, bag rest of plant and put it in the trash (not the compost pile). Put garlic mustard leaves, some olive oil, a clove of garlic, and salt in food processor. Whir it up until it is a green paste. Serve on polenta.

This week we’re eating …Violets as Food

selected uses from:

Violet flowers make really wonderful additions to a springtime salad — the freshly opened flowers can go right on top of your greens. They have a slightly sweet flavor. They are also a wonderful trailside nibble. I have also used them in fritters (similar to black locust flower fritters or zucchini flower fritters) and also in shortbread cookies. Fresh violets can also be candied (this is done by coating them with eggwhite and sugar).

Dried violet flowers can be added to cakes, cookies, and teas. My favorite way to enjoy them is with a red rooibos tea — I add two teaspoons of red rooibos (or red rooibos with vanilla bean) and then 1 teaspoon of tea per cup. Enjoy it hot or cold.

Violet Greens can be enjoyed fresh or cooked. I don’t find them to have much flavor, but if you are hungry and are in a pinch, they’ll work.

Local food advocate and community organizer Mary McClintock lives in Conway and works as a freelance writer for Greenfield Community College, brand promoter for Goshen-based local food company Appalachian Naturals, and writer/editor for More Than Sound. Send column suggestions and recipes to:


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