Greek Cow Parsnip Salad with Lemon Dressing

Cow parsnip shoots give great flavor to traditional Greek Horta Salata (boiled greens dressed with olive oil and lemon), one of my favorite salads. Using locally available wild greens like cow parsnip is consistent with the Greek tradition of using the freshest, most flavorful greens available. Be sure and read the related article (linked above) to learn how to harvest and clean cow parsnip shoots.

Greeks enjoy eating a wide variety of wild greens (generically called “horta”) that Americans dismiss as worthless weeds. In Greece, it’s common to see women doubled over in fields and along roadsides harvesting wild greens that are full of flavors not found in supermarkets. Cooked wild greens are showcased best by a simple dressing of olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Each variety has its own unique taste. Using several varieties together makes for the most interesting flavors but, if you don’t have time for elaborate foraging expeditions, Horta Salata tastes great made with only a single variety.

  • 2 pounds young cow parsnip shoots, dandelion leaves, or variety of mixed wild greens
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2–3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt

Wash greens carefully. Discard tough or damaged stems, leaves, roots and any flower buds. Cook greens in boiling salted water for 2-5 minutes, or until they’re just tender. Cooking time varies depending on type of greens; don’t overcook. It’s best to add tougher greens first, and tender greens only as the cooking time nears its end. Tender new cow parsnip shoots take only a short time to cook.

Drain greens well. Dress with olive oil and salt to taste while greens are hot. Don’t stint on salt as it enhances greens’ flavor. Just before serving, drizzle fresh lemon juice over greens and mix in. Greens look and taste fresher if you add lemon juice at the last minute.

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