I love this time of the year when Mother Earth is at her most exuberant, especially when it comes to weeds. I have been busy experimenting with my weed cuisine, concocting new delicacies every day. Usually I end up with a combination of herbs, a handful of this and a few leaves of that, depending of what is offering itself as I make my way through the garden or fields. But, this year my special attention is firmly focused on goutweed, which I am happy to have found in the garden.
I am probably the only person ever to have said this! Goutweed is most gardeners nightmare of an invasive weed. The mere mention of it distorts their faces with agony. I don't really understand why, though. Ok, it is invasive, but it is such a generous herb! It pops up very early in the season and can be used as a tasty fresh green with just about anything. I have made soups and salads as well as fillings for things like empanadas, cannelloni and lasagna. Of course you can just serve it as a green or make a pesto with it. It is also one of the best candidates for the 'greens jar'. A greens jar is where any surplus herbs end up, if I have picked more than I need for the next meal. I dry them, crumble them up and put them in the jar, no matter what they are. I love this concept of an ever changing herb-mixture ready to use in soups and what not when those herbs are no longer in season or not very palatable anymore.
Goutweed is a member of the apiaceae also known as the umbellifer family. It has many tasty relatives, such as carrot, parsnip or fennel. However, there are also some very poisonous members in this family - like the deadly water hemlock, the herb that infamously was used to execute Socrates. So if you intend to pick ANY of the umbellifers for food, make sure you are absolutely certain you have ID'd them correctly - a mistake could be fatal. However, Goutweed does not look much like Water Hemlock, so chances of mistaking it are quite remote. More dangerous for US based foragers is the similarity of its leaves with those of poison ivy. Like those of that viscious vine its leaves also sprout in threes and have a similar size and shape. Again, be very careful and very certain you have the correct species before you start munching it, or even start picking it.
One distinguishing feature - Goutweed will NEVER grow as a vine. But poison ivy does not always grow as a vine either. Once the flowers are out they are easier to distinguish, as goutweed has typical umbel shaped flowers while poison ivy has trailing flower clusters. Goutweed never develops any woody parts and its leaves are not glossy. Prior to unfurling the very young leaves are shiny and bright green. Goutweed does not look hairy. It loves popping up as a weed in gardens, but can also be found in damp shady places in the woods or hedges. In Europe it likes to grow in the company of nettles, another delicious edible and quite invasive species.
As the name suggests, Goutweed was once used to alleviate the pain of gout. This medicinal use has gone out of fashion in modern herbalism and I cannot attest to its efficacy since I do not suffer from this very painful condition. However, I can attest to its cleansing action and general beneficial effect on elimination. Goutweed is a useful herb to help 'move things around' whenever there is an energy blockage in the body. It is a diuretic, but it also gently stimulates digestion and metabolism. It is a good source of vitamin C and A as well as minerals such as iron and manganese, copper and trace minerals such as boron and titanium.
In the US it occurs throughout the Eastern States as well as in the Pacific Northwest, though it is not as abundant as in the Old World, where once upon a time it was purposely planted as a vegetable. Once established it is almost impossible to eradicate and so, to this day, it occurs throughout Europe, from Scandinavia to the south of Italy.
Goutweed is very versatile and can be used like spinach. Older leaves develop a more pungent flavor.
Sautee the onions till soft. Add mushrooms and garlic. Add the potatoes and sautee for 3 minutes or so. Add Vegetable stock (about 1 liter) and cook the soup until the potatoes are soft. Add the goutweed and simmer for about 5 minutes. Puree, dilute to desired consistency and add salt, pepper, chilies or other herbs to taste.
Make your empanada pastry (many people just use a basic shortcrust recipe, but feel free to make the dough as fancy as you like. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Roll it out in 6" diameter rounds.
For the filling, cube the tofu and fry in a little bit of soy sauce until crispy. Put aside. Sautee onion mushrooms and garlic, add seasoning
Add goutweed, stir in and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the tofu bits. You should now have a pan full of delicious filling for your empanadas. Cool the filling for an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 350°F = 176°C
Place a handful of filling in the center of your empanada round and fold it over to make a parcel. Press together the edges, with a little water if necessary to make them stick. Glaze with egg-wash (egg yolk mixed with a little water). Line a cookie sheet with baking paper and place the empanadas on it. Bake for about 30 min.
No doubt you'll come up with dozens more delicious recipes - that is the wonderful thing about things like Goutweed, which just provide you with a tasty, healthy green to add to just about anything.
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This Article was originally published in the Sacred Earth Newletter. The Newsletter is a FREE service containing articles, news and reviews on all things herbal and/or ethnobotanical, with an approximate publication cylce of 6 - 8 weeks. If you wish to subscribe, please use the subscription box to submit your e-mail address.
Please note that although all the references to edible and medicinal herbs are tried and tested, their efficacy cannot be guaranteed and has not been approved by the FDA. Furthermore, everybody responds differently to various plants, and adverse reactions cannot be ruled out. Historical information regarding poisonous plants is included for educational purposes only and should not be tried out at home. Everybody uses herbs at their own risk and thus must make themselves fully aware of their potential power. Any information given here is educational and should not replace a visit to the doctor should this be necessary. Neither Sacred Earth nor Kat Morgenstern accepts responsibility for anybody's home experimentation. Links to external sites are included as pointers to further resources - we do not endorse them or are in any way responsible for their content, nor do we thus verify that their content is accurate.