Spring Salad

Spring Salad

Ordinarily our salads wouldn't warrant a post - they might contain a couple of interesting plants, but other than that, nothing special. However, last month (it's taken quite a while for me to get round to writing this up) we made one that is a little different. The picture above probably gives away what made this salad special, but let me give a bit of background.

In parts of Continental Europe, particularly the more rural parts of Italy and Spain, it isn't unheard of for meals to be prepared with a blend of lots of different wild plants (sometimes as many as 50)(Luczaj & Pieroni 2017). For example, the complex wild vegetable dishes sometimes eaten in the Liguria, Tuscany and Friuli regions of Northern Italy, known as Prebuggiun, minestrella di Gallicano, and Pistic  respectively(ibid.).

This tradition is taken to new heights by extreme salad man and author of the excellent Around the World in 80 Plants, Stephen Barstow. Last I checked, Stephen grew upwards of 2,000 edible plants, in his garden in Norway, many of which he also celebrates for their ornamental value - for this surprisingly large class of edibles he has coined the term 'edimentals'.

'Extreme salads?', I hear you ask. 'How extreme?' Well, in 2003, he made one from over 400 different species (and a total of 537 different varieties)(if you want to know exactly which, he's posted about it here). That is a particularly extreme example, but he regularly makes salads with upwards of 100 species (many of which also make it onto his personal website - here). Apart from the diversity of their ingredients, what makes Stephen's salads so distinctive and so stunning, is his use of edible flowers (often nearly as numerous in their variety as the greens).

For years now I’ve wanted to make a Barstovian Salad, and earlier this month I finally got myself organized enough to do so. While I didn't come close to the 100 species mark, I was still quite happy at having managed to include 57 species (and a total of 59 varieties), particularly as this was made on the first day of Spring.

It was also nice to combine foraged plants and cultivated ones. Of the 59 that I used, just under two thirds came from plants that can be foraged around the UK right now (N.B. although it's taken me a while to write this up, most of them are still well within their prime harvesting window). I should probably confess though, that only about half of these were actually foraged on this occasion - the wild plants that I like best have, over the years, found there way into our garden, so I've become a somewhat lazy forager. Neverthless, I think it shows just how much is available at a time of year we tend to think of as somewhat barren.

Anyway, there's only so long you talk about a salad, so let pictures do the talking from here on - hopefully the big reveal isn't too much of an anticlimax after I've just told you that some salads contain several hundred species.


Each plant has been numbed on the picture below and underneath it I've listed the ingredients.


1. Corn poppy
(Papaver rhoeas)

2. Smooth Sow Thistle
(Sonchus oleraceus)

3. Ground Elder
(Aegopodium podagraria - wild)

4. Lesser Celandine
(Ficaria verna)

5. Cleavers/ Stickyweed/ Goosegrass
(Galium aparine)

6. Cow Parsley
(Anthriscus sylvestris)

7. Germander Speedwell
(Veronica chamaedrys)

8. Nipplewort
(Lapsana communis)

9. Ground Ivy
(Glechoma hederacea)

10. Small-Flowered Willowherb
(Epilobium parviflorum)

11. Opposite-Leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium)

12. Self-Heal
(Prunella vulgaris)

13. Wild Garlic
(Allium ursinum)

14. Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)

15. Garlic Mustard
(Alliaria petiolata)

16. Red Dead-Nettle (Lamium purpureum)

17. Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)

18. Dandelion
(Taraxacum officinale)

19. Sea Purslane (halimione portulacoides)

20. Wall Lettuce
(Mycelis muralis)

21. Sea Beet
(Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima)

22. Spiny Sow-Thistle
(Sonchus asper)

23. Lemon Balm
(Melissa officinalis)

24. Salt Bush
(Atriplex halimus)

25. Salad Burnet
(Poterium sanguisorba)

26. Buck’s Horn Plantain
(Plantago coronopus)

27. Blood-veined Sorrel
(Rumex sanguineus var.sanguineus)

28. Sea Aster
(Tripolium pannonicum)

29. Cuckooflower/
Lady’s Smock
(Cardamine pratensis)

30. Bladder Campion
(Silene vulgaris)

31. Musk Mallow
(Malva moschata)

32. Nettle-leaved Bellflower
(Campanula trachelium)

33. Red Valerian
(Centranthus ruber)

34. Ground Elder
(Aegopodium podagraria - wild)

35. Chamomile
(Chamamaelum nobile)

36. Pot Marigold
(Calendula officinalis)

37. Wasabi
(Eutrema japonicum - leaves and flowers)

38. Good King Henry
(Blitum bonus-henricus)

39. Ice Plant
(Hylotelephium spectabile)

40. Feverfew
(Tanacetum parthenium)

41. Mixed Small Flowered Alliums**
(Allium spp.)

42. Black Salsify
(Scorzonera hispanica)

43. Brazilian Spinach
(Alternanthera sissoo)

44. Mushroom Plant
(Rungia klossii)

45. Five-leaved Cuckoo Flower
(Cardamine quinquefolia)

46. Bronze Fennel
(Foeniculum vulgare)

47. Parsley
(Petroselinum crispum)

48. Three-leaved Cuckoo Flower
(Cardamine trifolia)

49. Rakkyo
(Allium chinense)

50. Peach-leaved Bellflower
(Campanula persicifolia)

51. Purple Tree Collards
(Brassica oleracea)

52. Caucasian Spinach
(Hablitzia tamnoides)


53. Oregon Grape
(Mahonia aquifolium)

54. Cherry Plum
(Prunus cerasifera)

55. Black Cherry Plum
(Prunus cerasifera var. nigra)

56. Chamois Cress
(Hornungia alpina)

57. Lungwort
(Pulmonaria officinalis)


58. Toasted Ash Seeds
(Fraxinus excelsior)

59. Bramble Shoots
(Rubus fruiticosus)

* We have a large pot which has Allium caeruleum, A. neopolitanum, A. oreophilum, and A. roseum growing in inexcusably cramped conditions, and I didn't bother trying to separate out or identify exactly which ones I picked.

And below are a couple more photos showing some of the ingredients a bit closer up.


Barstow, S. 2014. Around the World in 80 Plants. Hampshire: Permanent Publications.

Łuczaj, L. & Pieroni, A. 2016. ‘Nutritional Ethnobotany in Europe: From Emergency Foods to Healthy Folk Cuisines and Contemporary Foraging Trends’ in Mediterranean Wild Edible Plants (de Cortes Sánchez-Mata & Tardío eds.). New York: Springer. pp. 33-56.

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