A delicious, surprisingly rich dish of wild greens with walnut sauce inspired by Turkish recipes for borage. It's one of my favorite Virginia bluebell recipes, but many greens can be used.
As I was cooking with my Virginia Bluebells this year, I started looking around in my library for recipes specifically calling for borage greens, since Virginia Bluebells are in the Boraginaceae.
Borage has been cooked in the Mediterranean for a very long time, but I also found different recipes from Eastern Europe like Georgia, as well as Turkey.
The flavor of the leaves is a bit stronger than some other wild greens I cook. Some have described the flavor as "mushroomy" but aquatic is probably a better descriptive term in my opinion (some people will call them fishy).
One constant I kept seeing in some of the recipes was a pairing of borage greens with rich sauces made from walnuts.
In Italy, borage is combined with a number of different plants to make something called the Prebboggion, a mix of anwywhere from 7-16 (roughly) different plants that can be blanched and cooked with garlic and olive oil, or mixed with ricotta to make the famous pansotti dumplings of northern Italy, which is served with a walnut sauce.
In Turkey, the greens are simply simmered and tossed with a very similar sauce. Mine is a hybrid of a few of the different recipes I found for borage greens, but you could use many different wild plants here, some with a little bitterness to them are an especially good foil for the richness of nuts.
Virginia Bluebells or Borage Greens with Walnut Sauce
- 4 oz Virginia Bluebell shoots, 4-8 inches borage, or another green you like can be substituted.
- ¼ cup black walnuts or other nuts or seeds that are easily crushed
- 1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 medium clove of garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and a scrape or two of zest
- 1 tablespoon sliced fresh mint leaves
- Immerse the Virginia Bluebells in cold water and allow to soak for 5 minutes to clean them, then remove and gently spin dry. Reserve a few flower clusters for a garnish (optional).
- Toast the nuts lightly in a hot oven or pan until aromatic, then cool completely. Crush the garlic clove with a pinch of salt and pepper in a mortar and pestle and mash it up well, then add the nuts crush them, and gradually add the olive oil and lemon juice, mashing to a coarse paste.
- Season the paste with an extra pinch of salt to taste-it should be well seasoned. Reserve the nut paste.
- Meanwhile, prepare a steamer basket in a pot with 2 inches of boiling water, add the Virginia bluebells and cook until just hot and wilted (30-60 seconds was fine for me. Borage leaves will take longer to cook, they should be blanched in boiling salted water instead of being steamed.
- Taste a shoot here and there to make sure the texture is to your liking. If your shoots are longer than 5 inches, cut them into 1 inch segments before or after cooking.
- When you’re pleased with them, remove the shoots and leaves with tongs to a bowl, allowing some water to drip off in the process.
- Add the walnut paste and mint to the greens and mix thoroughly but gently. From here the greens can be put in a covered container and held for serving later, but I think they’re probably best, still a bit warm, straight from the pot.
- Before serving, double check the seasoning quick and adjust as needed for oil, salt, pepper, and lemon until it tastes good to you. Serve cool or at room temperature.
- Use sesame seeds or sunflower seeds instead of walnuts.
- Use your favorite vinegar instead of lemon juice
- Use spinach, chard, or other greens you like.