The classic Tabouli (or Tabbouleh) Salad is made with bulgur, mint, parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers and a lemony garlic dressing, but I love to spruce mine up with seasonal wild greens. For this Tabouli I added some of the earliest wild edibles sprouting up now, greens like tender miner’s lettuce, peppery bittercress, and the oniony sprigs of crow garlic. This trio is amongst the tastiest of the late winter/early spring greens and all are easy to find, growing prolifically across the PNW. And they’ll transform your already healthy Tabouli salad into a nutritional powerhouse!
Probably the earliest greens around here are miner’s lettuce. Think of miner’s lettuce as spinach – only better tasting. Mild with a nice fresh crunch, it likes cool temperatures in partly shaded regions or woodland areas. The plant got its name because Gold Rush miners ate it to stave off the scurvy – which is no wonder since 100 grams contains about one third of your daily requirement for vitamin C. It’s also a great detoxifier, helping cleanse the blood and lymph system.
And if you like arugula or watercress you’ll love bittercress’s spicy bite. Right now the leaves are oh so tender, and like other plants in the Brassicaceae family, it’s likely bittercress is loaded with vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, beta carotene, antioxidants and sulfur-containing compounds that boost immunity and help in cancer prevention. Bittercress likes damp, recently disturbed and open spaces and is very common in gardens. When young it forms a little rosette of leaves and as it sprouts up it bears tiny white flowers (also delicious).
And if you’re fond of garlic chives, well you must get acquainted with the oniony Crow Garlic or Allium vineale. Considered a tonic plant, studies have shown that Allium contains sulphur compounds (which give their oniony flavour) and act as a prebiotic encouraging the growth of gut friendly bacteria! Crow garlic is also found in many landscapes from lawns, fields, open woods and trailsides. Look for plants that resemble chives. They’re tall, spindly, with dark to bluish green leaves that are hollow inside. And you can’t mistake their oniony aroma!
I also tossed in a handful calendula petals for colour. Here in Victoria they practically bloom all year long, and while they don’t have much taste they’re loaded with nutrients as well. The flavonoids and carotenoids found in calendula (which give it’s bright orange hue) are plant-based antioxidants that help to neutralizes the free radicals. It’s also blood purifier, used to promote functioning and detoxification of the liver and gallbladder, and has been shown to be effective in soothing digestive problems. The Romans used calendula mixed with vinegar to season their meat and salad dishes.
You can use any wild greens really, I also like to add garlic mustard, chickweed or sheep or wood sorrel for their tangy flavour. And in early summer I will add the bright crimson flower head of sheep sorrel and the pink petals of wood sorrel blossoms. So use whatever’s handy, just go easy on stronger greens like dandelion which will add notes of bitter to your salad. Feel free to add some chopped cucumber too – I just didn’t have any on hand so they didn’t make it into this recipe!
Wild Green Tabouli For Spring
- 3 bunches finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 cup chopped fresh mint
- 3 tablespoons fine or cracked bulgur
- handful of crow garlic, finely chopped
- handful of miner’s lettuce, finely chopped
- handful of bittercress, finely chopped
- 7-8 calendula flower heads
- 1 chopped firm tomato
- 1/2 onion
- 1/2 cup extra Virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large mixing bowl, pour the water over the cracked wheat and cover, let stand about 20 minutes until wheat is tender and water is absorbed.
- Prepare the chopped parsley, mint, miner’s lettuce, bittercress, and crow garlic. Pull off the calendula petals, add to the greens and set aside. (save a few petals and one flowerhead for garnish.
- In a large bowl, mix bulgur, chopped tomatoes, chopped onions with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Add to them the parsley and mint and olive oil and mix, adjusting seasoning by adding more oil and lemon if desired.
- Garnish with calendula petals. Serve cold.