Spring is one of the most exciting times of year, and the regrowth of fresh greens always makes me crave them. Spring ephemerals, or plants that have short life spring lifecycles, are fascinating in how they operate. Plants like ramps, toothwort, spring beauty, trout lily, and Floerkia sprouts all live and get their energy in the very early spring when it’s still cold–before the trees fully leaf out–a genius sort of evolution. To me the ephemerals are crafty little buggers, and I imagine them saying something like: “ok trees, if you’re going to hog all the sunlight for most of the year, we’re just going to get our fill before your leaves fill out when it’s still early–how about that?!”
Raw Trout Lily Edibility PSA
There’s a good amount of edible Spring ephemerals where I live, and they’re great raw in a special spring salad, with one exception: trout lily. Trout lily, or Erythronium spp, at least the ones in my area, can cause emesis in a small part of the population, so I never serve them to people who haven’t eaten them raw before. Cooked trout lily is a different story, but they also don’t taste good cooked, so there’s that.
Either way, the recipe is more a teaching point about nature’s cycles than a strict recipe per se, so feel free to add your own touch, for example, I added a couple leaves of virginia waterleaf, that, while it isn’t an ephemeral, adds a nice touch of color with it’s speckled leaves. A couple early leaves of golden alexanders add a nice celery-esque pop here and there.
Spring Ephemeral Salad
- 8 oz fresh spring ephemeral greens leaves, stems and flowers
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- Fresh lemon juice or a dash of vinegar--your choice
- Good tasting salad oil like extra virgin or a rich nut oil
- Wash the greens well, then dry completely in a salad spinner or by gently wrapping in towels.
- Toss the greens with a touch of oil, salt and pepper, and acid to taste, then serve.