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On Your Table Blog

March 20, 2023

We could use some spring...greens

We could use some spring...greens

photo courtesy of Pixabay

by Julie Garden-Robinson, LRD

Even in winter, “spring greens” often are available at the grocery store in ready-to-eat salad mixes.

“My daffodils are coming up!” one of the people said.

We were talking about what we like about springtime on a recent video call. We were from cities throughout the U.S.

“I have a bunch of crocuses blooming,” another person commented.

“We had 13 inches of snow, with more on the way,” I said.

That certainly put a dark cloud over the conversation. Yes, I wanted some pity after numerous blizzards. Some of my colleagues were reporting temperatures in the 60s.

“But I am looking forward to flowers at some point,” I quickly added.

I think we in the upper Midwest need some green in our environment. I would even settle for a weed poking up through the snow.

We have almost made it to spring, which makes me think of gardening. We want to plant a “victory over winter” garden. I do, anyway.

Victory gardens were first promoted in World War I, when people were encouraged to plant gardens to help feed themselves to help in the war efforts. People were encouraged to live simply and grow more food for their families.

Gardens popped up in all sorts of spaces besides front yards and backyards. Any space could become a gardening space, including parks and playgrounds.

During World War II, limits were set on high-demand items. People were given books of stamps and different foods had different numbers of “ration points” to buy them. Tires, shoes, meat, sugar, canned fish and meat were among the foods rationed.

In fact, boxes of macaroni and cheese first became popular during World War II rationing, because it was inexpensive and easy to prepare.

Fortunately, we are not in an era of food rationing. However, we have seen increases in prices at the grocery store for a variety of reasons. That may make us rethink our food purchases to stretch our dollars.

Gardening, even in small spaces, can provide delicious, fresh food for your table. Large flower pots can become miniature gardens with tomatoes and peppers.

I was rearranging some things in my office, and I came upon my set of 1940s World War II “Health for Victory” recipes and menu tips. As I paged through the books, I came upon some recommendations for “wild spring greens.”

The “spring greens” being recommended as “Cinderella foods” were dandelions and lamb’s quarters. Yes, both are edible, but you want to be sure they haven’t been sprayed with herbicides. Be sure you rinse all fresh vegetables and fruits with cool water.

Dandelion greens are best when gathered before they blossom. They can be sautéed in a small amount of oil and added to eggs or served in salads.

Lamb’s quarters have light green leaves and “frosty” undersides. As with dandelions, pick them when they are young, before they blossom. The 1944 cookbook recommended serving them in a mixed green salad.

If you are not adventurous enough to try some weeds this spring, be sure you are including a variety of fruits and vegetables in your food selections. “Spring greens” often are available in ready-to-eat salad mixes.

Fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables all count toward our daily fruit and vegetable recommendation of at least 4 ½ cups daily. Fruits and vegetables, as part of an overall balanced, healthful diet, provide vitamins, minerals and fiber without a lot of calories.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can protect against cancer, heart disease and many other conditions. They also add color and beauty to our plates.

If you want to be inspired to grow things, check out the archives of the “Field to Fork” webinars hosted by NDSU Extension. This year we have featured experts in horticulture, food safety, nutrition and more. You can learn about planning a flower bed, choosing vegetable varieties and preserving food safely. See to learn more. 

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist (NDSU photo) Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D, R.D., L.R.D., is an NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. (NDSU photo)