Making bitter greens taste good


John McDouall Stuart
Feb 8, 2014
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Illawarra, New South Wales, Australia
I use this approach at home for making salads, and they often include bitter greens like rocket, spinach, as well as not so bitter greens like lettuce.

I'm posting this now because lately I've been craving this type of crunchy salad.
The weather is warming back up, so I'm going to start eating more of them again. (I tend to eat much less salad during colder weather, and go to more warm, cooked meals.)

1) Get a bunch of nuts and seeds such as almonds, macadamias, sunflower seeds, pipitas, sesame seeds (buy them if you can't forage them)

2) Dry toast the nuts and seeds in a hot pan with a sprinkle of salt until they're a little bit browned but not burned, although a few almost burnt bits actually taste good. Do different sizes separately, as they take different amounts of time. Taste them as you go, and you'll notice the flavor changing the more they toast, and they become a lot tastier than when they're raw.

3) Pick the bitter greens (I'm guessing most people who know any wild edibles will know some bitter greens, and they're everywhere)

4) Throw the greens into a bowl

5) Optionally add some extra chopped salads like carrots, capsicum, cucumber, etc.

6) Optionally add some finely chopped/sliced raw onion (purple onions are the best, but any will do, including spring onions). I find the onions to be fairly important in a salad, however you can cope with leaving it out if you don't have it, or don't like it

7) Optionally add some grains such as quinoa

8) Drizzle over a tiny bit of olive oil

9) Drizzle over some acids such as lemon juice and vinegar (I tend to use lemon juice, balsamic, and cider or white vinegar together, but I've also found red wine vinegar and others good too)

10) Mix it all together to coat the ingredients

11) Taste it to make sure there's a nice balance of flavors. You want enough sweetness, enough acidity, and enough oil that there's a balance, but not too much of any of them. These will help to round out the flavor so the bitter greens so it isn't too intense.

12) Sprinkle over the nuts and seeds

13) Sprinkle over some of the salt in the bottom of the bag that the nuts and seeds are in (from when you added salt while toasting them). This salt enhances all other flavors, plus adds more nutty flavor.

14) Put it on a plate with some meat, fish, or anything really. Or just eat it on its own.

15) Enjoy!

Using this approach I now love eating crunchy salads in warm weather. I used to find salads a bit boring, and I would eat it mainly because it's good for me, but I found them a bit dull.

Now I've got the hang making these salads I start to crave them in the warmer weather.

The crunch, the nutty flavor, the acidity, the sweetness (of balsamic, or sweet salad ingredients), the hint of oil (and oils in the nuts), and the zing of the raw onion go really well together, and it's the balance of those flavors which are key to making the bitter greens enjoyable, rather than just something you force yourself to eat.

I think all those other flavors help our taste buds and our body to not get overwhelmed by the bitter components in the bitter greens.

In terms of making this in the bush, while being fairly light weight, with not too much gear:

a) carry a bag of nuts and seeds (I like to do this anyway because they're a good snack high in protein and energy)

b) carry a small bottle of extra virgin olive oil (I like to do this anyway for cooking, etc.)

c) carry a small bottle of vinegar (this is also good for treating some stings, fungal infections, etc.)

d) optionally carry a lemon (great as well with fish, or for a drink, especially if you get a cold)

e) optionally carry an onion (also good to cook with and add flavor to almost anything, as it's probably the most common thing I use in cooking)

Those ingredients have multiple uses, and aren't all that heavy, and don't take up all that much space.
You can leave out the lemon and the onion, or use the lemon and leave out the vinegar (you need something acidic to cut through and balance the oil).

A salad like this goes really well with various meats, fish, or various grains.

It's not until you have a well made salad like this that you realize just how enjoyable it can be to actually eat salad.
Many people have never had a really nice salad, with a balance of the various components, and the crunch. That's (I believe) why so many people simply dislike and will not eat salad, no matter how good it is for them.

You get the hit of fresh nutritious greens, oils, proteins, acidity, sweetness, and a really nice crunch in every mouth full.

Also it's great for your digestion and health, all that fiber and nutrition.

I NEVER EVER buy store bought dressings (I don't really like them and don't see the point, plus they're often unhealthy).
I always make my own from olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and another stronger vinegar. (You can leave out the lemon juice if you have to, but it does add more flavor.)
Most salad dressings basically consist of oil and acid (which is the key to making salad tasty), plus whatever other flavors are wanted.

That combination of oil and acidity really make boring salad vegies taste really good. I think they're meant to actually improve your body's ability to absorb some of the nutrients in the salads as well.

Let me know if you try it.
If you already eat salads, or already cook, then what I've described is probably already very familiar to you. You may even already make salads the same way (I didn't invent this.... I stole the ideas from a food show and just played around with them).

I'm hoping to try it next time I go out into the bush using wild greens. I usually make it using greens from my garden.
But it's fairly easy to find things like dandelions, etc. in the bush or in fields.

Also add non bitter greens too if you can find them, like sorrel.
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Malcolm Douglas
Jul 3, 2015
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Nice one, when I was travelling through Greece my taste buds were amazed by the simple strong home grown salads using nothing more than olive oil, vinegar and lemon

Howling Dingo

Richard Proenneke
Staff member
May 20, 2011
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Lemon juice,vinegar,balsamic dressing...Works wonders