Wild Greens and Herbs
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Wild Herbs of Turkey

Labada (Dock, Rumex): In the buckwheat family, dock is a relative, one might say a close cousin, to sorrel. They resemble each other but dock has a much firmer leaf and is not sour like sorrel. One of the most-made sarmas in Central Anatolia is from dock leaves. Because it grows nearly everywhere and is easy to find, it shows up in pilafs, is made into soup, and cooked in other dishes. In Eastern Anatolia, it is also sold in its dry form.

Madımak (Knotweed, Polygonum cognatum): One of the most commonly used herbs in Anatolia, madımak is considered one of the signs of spring’s arrival. It is a low, spreading herb with elliptical dark green leaves and hard stems. It is made into soup, and cooked with eggs, in pilaf, with pastırma and made into cacık. In some Anatolian villages it is wrapped in yufka and eaten raw. Dried and stored for winter, it is made into pide and cooked with milk.

Sarmaşık (Black Bryony, Tamus communis): Also known as acı filiz (bitter shoot) because of its bitter taste, black bryony is much loved in the Aegean region and is believed to be medicinal. The plant is poisonous but the new copper-colored shoots and first leaves are edible when cooked well, and have been eaten since antiquity. The young stems are cooked with scallions and olive oil, and then eggs are added, or cooked alone. Immigrants from Crete make it into a meze with béchamel sauce.

Semizotu  (Purslane, Portulaca oleracea): Wild purslane has small, slightly glaucous leaves and white or yellow tiny flowers. There are six wild species in Turkey, which are used either fresh, or dried in Central and Southeastern Anatolia. It is added raw to salads, served with yogurt or tomatoes and onions. In Maraş it is made into soup, in Gaziantep it is commonly cooked with legumes, in Kilis it is sautéed with ground meat and in Central Anatolıa is cooked with rice in various ways. Purslane stems can be pickled, and its seeds ground and added to flour.

Silcan (Greenbriar, Smilax türleri): Known as dikenucu in the Black Sea region, silcan is a strongly vining plant with heart shaped leaves and thorny stems. The edible portion is the tender 5-10 cm end shoots. A specialty of Tirebolu is dikenucu pickles. In Cide, it is cooked with eggs; if it is to be put into börek it is sautéed with onion and oil.

Sirken (Chenopodium): There are several different species of Chenopodium known by different English names, such as Fat-hen, Wormseed and Good King Henry. Its leaves are wavy edged, some long and some broader; its flowers resemble clusters of grapes. It is cooked with meat, bulgur, or served with yogurt, and of course finds its way into böreks as well. In the Antalya region it is made into a börek with peas and ground meat, while in Samsun it is made into a sort of mücver.

Su Kazayağı (Lesser Water Parsnip, Sium sisarum): This plant, which favors wet places, is also known as yabani kereviz (wild celery). It is a member of the parsley family, with pointed wide edged, smooth leaves distributed equally on both sides of the stem. It has umbels of white flowers. It can be used anywhere celery/celeriac leaves are used. Around Bodrum-Muğla, it is both sauted as well cooked with bulgur. Its leaves and stems are good in omelets and meat dishes, and can be put into böreks.

Su Teresi (Watercress, Nasturtium officinale): Usable everywhere normal garden cress is used, this is a water-loving plant with small white flowers. Its heart-shaped leaflets are evenly distributed on the ends of the stems. It spreads by sending new shoots form the bases of the stems which emerge on either side of the thick but tender main stems. It can be used in salads and soups, in mixtures of herbs for böreks and can be sautéed with other herbs. It goes very well with potatoes; I recommend you try it in potato salad.

Şevketi Bostan (Golden Thistle, Scolymus hispanicus)This yellow flowered, thorny biennial plant grows at elevations of up to 1,600m. It grows commonly throughout Anatolia. The rosettes that emerge in early spring are edible. In Crete, it is pickled, it roots are fried and eaten with eggs. It is also simmered or grilled and eaten with olive oil and vinegar (or lemon) as a salad. In the Aegean region it is general cooked with meat or with chickpeans.

Teke Sakalı  (Salsify or Goatsbeard, Scorzonera veya Tragopogon):Before it flowers, these plants grow up with stringy leaves in fields and along roadsides. Their majestic white, yellow or pink flowers are quite striking. In the Aegean region it is mostly used in böreks; in the markets it is often sold as “börek herb.” In Ankara it is made into cacık, combined with spices and cucumbers. It can be sautéed alone or with eggs, and eaten with garlic yogurt.

Turp Otu (Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum): Like its cousin, mustard, this plant with its radish-scented leaves grows in orchards, along roadsides and in fields. It has white or light yellow flowers. In the Aegean, wild radish is mostly cooked and served with olive oil and lemon as a salad. In Bodrum, after cooking, it is mixed with eggs and fried. In Aydın, it is boiled, then sautéed with onions, and also made into a salad with pomegranate molasses, while in Izmir, lemon is used.

Yabani Kuşkonmaz (Wild Asparagus, Asparagus acutifolius): Wild asparagus is a semi-vining bushy plant in the lily family. Its long, whippy shoots emerge from the base of the plant or directly from the ground, and are very attractive with their dark green or reddish purple color. In the Aegean, the favorite way of cooking is sautéing with eggs. It can be used in a wide variety of recipes, from pasta sauces to quiches and soups, anywhere cultivates asparagus would be used.

Yabani Pazı  (Wild Chard, Beta vulgaris): A member of the spinach family, wild chard can grow up to one meter in height. Its leaves resemble those of common swiss chard but are smooth with red stems. Its flowers, which emerge the second year, are pale greenish yellow. In Kerkük, Iraq, sarma are made from the leaves of pazı, and you will find it in the bazaars of the Aegean region, destined for börek and sautees. In the Black Sea it is cooked in soup and is cooked like spinach, is served as a salad after boiling, or cooked with legumes.

Yabani Sarımsak (Wild garlic, Allium): Wild garlic resembles cultivated garlic. Its flowers range from white to various shades of pink, and appear in a ball at the end of a long thin stem. The various species may be think or thick stemmed. When you find it, you can put it in soups, omelets, sautees, börek and other dishes, breads, pasta sauces and cheese. As with regular garlic, it may be used either fresh and green or in bulb form. Called “sirmo” in the East, it is the vital ingredient in the famous herbed cheese from Van and its surroundings.


Fennel with Lamb (Aydın)

1 bunch of fennel (new spring leaves)
250 gr lamb, cut small
1 onion, chopped
1 T tomato sauce
3-4 T olive oil
Salt, black pepper, red flake pepper

Simmer the lamb till tender, set aside. Wash and chop the fennel. Saute the onion in the olive oil on medium heat for five minutes, then add the fennel. Add the tomato paste and red pepper, mix, then add the pre-cooked lamb. Add a little eater and cook for 20-25 minutes, and serve hot. (Turgay Aydın)

Black Nightshade Salad with Zucchini

½ kg black nightshade
2 zucchinis, cut into circles
2 large ripe tomatoes
3 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated
Sea salt

Use the tender ends and stems of the nightshade. Bring a large pot of water to a full boil, add the nightshade, the cut zucchini and the tomatoes, whole. After five minutes, drain, and remove the tomatoes. Put the nightshade and zucchini onto a serving plate. Skin the tomatoes and mash with a fork, and mix with th garlic, salt and olive oil, then pour over the nightshade and zucchini, and serve warm.

Bulgur Pilaf with Foxtail Lily

½ kg foxtail lily shoots
2 c bulgur
4 c water
1 T butter

Clean and dice the foxtail lily very small and boil for 5 minutes in 4 c salted water. Add the bulgur and simmer at low heat until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and pour over the melted butter. (Ass. Prof. Esma Şimşek)

Poppy Green Börek

1 kg yufka
½ kg mixed greens (poppy, nettle, cress, scallions, fresh garlic)
150 gr white (feta) cheese
3 eggs
1 c milk
1 c olive oil

Wash, pick over and chop greens, and knead with a little salt. Chop onion and garlic fine, add and mix in the cheese. Mix the milk, egg and olive oil separately. Divide the yufkas into fourths. On each piece, spread some of the oil mixture and a spoon of the cheese and herbs. Roll up the yufka, and place in a round baking pan, starting from the middle. When you have rolled all the yufka, drizzle the remaining oil/milk/egg mixture over the böreks and cook in a medium oven for 40 minutes (Emel Yegül)

Nettle Pide (Aegean Region)

1 kg nettles
5-6 scallions or wild garlics
¼ c olive oil
Salt, black pepper to taste
One loaf worth of ready made bread dough (or homemade)
Fresh kaymak (clotted cream) or butter

Use the tender ends of the nettles, throw away the hard stems. (The easiest way if collecting yourself is to snap them at the point where they break easily, usually about the second or third node.) Wash them well, then sautee them in oil with the scallions or wild garlic. Add the salt and pepper. Divide the dough into pieces slightly larger than a walnut, are roll out to 3 mm thick circles. Spread the filling on half of the dough, fold over the other side and seal with your fingers around the edge. Cook on a lightly oiled sac or a nonstick pan on both sides till browned, remove from pan and spread with fresh kaymak or butter.

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