Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ellen Zachos: Backyard Foraging — Mugwort

Invasive weed or tasty soup? If we’re talking about mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) then the answer is both.


The first time I found mugwort in my garden I thought it was a chrysanthemum left over from the previous fall's planting. I left it in place, expecting a riot of bloom come autumn, but alas, all I got was more mugwort. The foliage isn't unattractive, and it smells terrific, but it's a thug in the garden and not something you want to let run rampant among your perennials.

Now I pull up every speck of mugwort I find . . . as soon as I find it. (And yet there’s always more to be pulled. . . . ) But rather than throw it on the compost pile, I bring it into the kitchen.

Mugwort is a traditional flavoring in several Asian cuisines, and the taste combines well with ginger, garlic, and sesame. You can find mugwort noodles and mochi in stores, and if you have your own supply of mugwort, try making this spicy spring soup. You’ll kill two birds with one weed.

Mugwort Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
Olive oil for sautรฉing
4 cups vegetable broth
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 cups tender, young mugwort leaves, chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

  1. Sautรฉ onion in olive oil until softened.  
  2. Add vegetable broth, potato pieces, and 2 cups chopped mugwort leaves.  
  3. Bring to a boil, and simmer until the potato is soft.  
  4. Add 2 more cups of chopped mugwort leaves and the almond milk, then simmer for 10 minutes.  
  5. Remove from the heat, and let cool, then process until smooth with a food processor or an immersion blender.
The taste is earthy and herbal and green.  And if you’re not sure what that means, then why not pick yourself some mugwort and find out.

Mugwort ID: the underside of mugwort leaves is bright white.

— Ellen Zachos


Ellen Zachos leads foraging walks and currently teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, where she received her certification in commercial horticulture and ethnobotany. She writes two blogs, which can be found at downanddirtygardening.com and gardenbytes.com and has written numerous gardening books and contributed to publications, including Horticulture and Better Homes & Gardens.

Backyard Foraging
65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat
You don't need to trek into the forest to forage edible plants. Ideal for first-time foragers, this book features 70 edible weeds, flowers, mushrooms, and ornamental plants typically found in urban or suburban neighborhoods. You'll be amazed by how many of the plants you see each day are actually nutritious edibles! Full-color photographs make identification easy, and tips on where certain plants are likely to be found, how to avoid pollution and pesticides, and how to recognize the plants you should never harvest make foraging as safe and simple as stepping into your own backyard.

Down & Dirty!
43 Fun & Funky First-Time Projects & Activities to Get You Gardening
Gardening for the nongardener, Down & Dirty! is the perfect resource for the first-time homeowner wondering what to do with the yard, the small apartment dweller looking for the right greenery and the right advice, and for anyone wanting to pull together kids, family, friends, or neighbors for a community activity. Fun outdoor projects cover everything from attracting birds to preparing treats with your homegrown strawberries. Each project includes the basics, clear and accessible information, and step-by-step instructions for getting your hands dirty!

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