This week, I am pleased to present a recipe for foraged colcannon, featuring late winter wild foods: sunchokes, wild greens, and field garlic.
For the record, I did NOT start this week planning an “Irish” themed recipe because of St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, I almost changed my plans altogether when I realized the untimely coincidence between my “seasonal foraged recipe showcase” and America’s favorite excuse to drink green beer. (Ew.) And yet, here we are.
Classic colcannon recipes are a combination of mashed potatoes, butter, cream, a green leafy vegetable (often kale or cabbage; although some recipes use red cabbage, which would be a red leafy vegetable) and something for onion flavor (either leek and chives, or just chives, or green onions or….). While I do have some of last year’s potato crop still in storage (aka the garage refrigerator), I am always experimenting with new ways to use sunchokes and colcannon seemed like a great opportunity.
And it turned out SO good. This will be a staple in our winter veggie options from now on!
There weren’t as many sunchoke recipes this year because my crop was plagued with a variety of infestations. At least one unwelcome invader appeared to be some kind of millipede…
…another might have been an Indianmeal moth caterpillar…
…and then there was the damage caused by voles, gnawing the tubers underground as they carved up my yard with their tunnels.
Between the various pests, I lost about half my sunchoke crop.
And then suddenly, the season was over. A few warm days and increasing sunshine, and the tubers began putting out new roots and green shoots!
This colcannon recipe calls for a pound and a half of sunchokes, but you can vary the amount based on your harvest. Feel free to peel the sunchokes for a whiter (more potato looking) side dish, but I never take the time personally. Just remember whatever you do: soak the chopped sunchokes for at least an hour, longer if possible, to reduce the inulin content and the noisy after effects caused by happy gut bacteria! Multiple water changes help further.
Many different wild greens work well in this recipe. If you have a variety growing near you, this is a perfect opportunity to mix-and-match. Great options include:
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)…
Purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum)…
Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)…
And dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).
Personally, I don’t care for cooked chickweed (Stellaria media) – I prefer it raw – but others do. Bear in mind that some flavors may be strong for sensitive palettes, so garlic mustard and dandelion in particular could be mixed with more conventional greens (like baby kale or spinach) if needed.
One more tip: when foraging garlic mustard make sure to pull up the whole plant, roots and all, to help slow its inexorable spread into sensitive ecosystems. While all these greens are technically non-native invasive species, garlic mustard in particular wreaks havoc due to the allelopathic chemicals in its roots and its ability to cheerfully insinuate itself into both sunny and shady habitats.
The last wild ingredient for this recipe is field garlic (Allium vineale). If you prefer a stronger garlic-onion flavor, harvest the entire plant including the bulbs. For a milder flavor, use just the chive-like tops. Field garlic is very easy to find in late winter / early spring as it towers above grass in lawns everywhere. Make sure you have the right bulb by checking for the hollow leaves and pronounced onion-y smell when crushed or cut.
When substituting vegetables (like sunchokes) for starches (like potatoes), I find the dish often needs an extra boost of “umami” flavor to balance out the sweetness veggies tend to have. This is especially the case when substituting cauliflower for potatoes, but it’s helpful in this recipe too. The “Magic Mushroom Powder” from Nom Nom Paleo is my secret ingredient in most of my low carb adventures!
- 1.5 lb sunchokes, cleaned, chopped and soaked
- 4 c mixed wild greens (I used mostly dead nettle, with some garlic mustard for a flavor accent)
- 2 Tbs field garlic, minced, plus extra for garnish if desired
- 4 Tbs butter, divided
- 1/4 – 1/2 c cream
- salt & pepper to taste – I used 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper
- Magic mushroom powder if/as needed – I used 1/4 tsp powder
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the greens for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they reach the desired texture. Use a slotted spoon to remove greens to a bowl of cold water to stop further cooking, then drain.
- Add the sunchokes to the still-boiling pot of water, and cook 15 to 20 minutes. Or longer if you want them even softer and easier to mash.
- While the sunchokes are boiling, chop the cooked greens. Sautee the field garlic in 1 Tbs butter over medium-low heat until soft and fragrant, then add the greens to the pan.
- When the sunchokes are done, drain and place in a large bowl. Add 2 Tbs butter and 1/4 c cream. Mash with a potato masher, or blend with a stick blender, adding more cream as needed to achieve a smooth consistency. A food processor is also an option here; a blender is not recommended because it will be too thick to blend well. Stir in field garlic, greens, salt, pepper and magic mushroom powder. Adjust seasonings as needed.
- Serve warm with a pat of butter, and garnish with additional minced field garlic if desired.