Since I was a little kid, springtime has always been synonym with foraging and cooking with wild herbs.
For years in this season, our table has been filled with dishes featuring wild garlic, wild hop shoots, mauve leaves, dandelion, and nettle. Usually, we would keep things simple and stir fry the herbs quickly before throwing them into a frittata or a savoury tart, or serving them as a side for meat or hard boiled eggs. Sometimes, we would do risotto or pasta or a minestrone with legumes and grains and whatever vegetables the season offered.
Living in the countryside has deeply shaped my way of conceiving food as something seasonal, and our cooking reflected this philosophy.
Monk’s beard – the strange, charming, totally addictive green that comes in nourished bunches with plenty of grits attached – is my current religion. The fact that its season is almost finished kills me but, at the same time, it makes me happy. It feels liberating, like I can finally move on onto the next obsessive compulsive seasonal eating craze. Two more weeks or so, and I’ll be free.
But for now, and for the past two months to date, monk’s beard has been a very frequent guest at our table. We’ve eaten it simply blanched and tossed in oil and lemon, then served alongside stupid easy and terribly satisfying slices of toasted bread with butter and anchovies. We’ve eaten it in multiple takes with spaghetti – either sauteed in a puddle of strongly-scented anchovy butter, then topped with a landslide of fried breadcrumbs; or with clams and lots of lemon zest. In both cases, the green strands of monk’s beard would entangle with the pasta creating an unbreakable marriage of complementary flavours and textures. What a great little thing it is.