Foraging Pennsylvania Smartweed Greens

If you read online about this common mountain wildflower, you’ll see foragers saying it’s almost too peppery to eat (see also here), but I haven’t had that experience with Pennsylvania smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum) or its sister ladythumb (Polygonum persicaria), which we also have. However, I don’t typically eat it raw, but instead use it for pot greens.

These greens, with their pretty pink and white blooms, are abundant in both sun and shade, and easy to harvest. I cut my bucket full, then took them back to the house where I had to do four water baths to get the mud splatter off of them; it has rained nearly every day here recently.

Smartweed washed

Probably the biggest issue with smartweed greens is that the stems are very woody, so it takes a little bit of time to strip all the leaves off, but no more than if you were shelling beans or some similar domestic task. I cooked these with about a half inch of water in my pan, and a swirl of toasted sesame oil. Then I added them to some extra-firm tofu I’d cooked with hoisin sauce, rice, peanuts and sesame seeds. Nice flavor, and plenty of them on the mountain.

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