Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal: Cooking up a solution to creeping bellflower

Is creeping bellflower taking over your yard and garden?

The extremely prolific, invasive weed is a common frustration for Calgary gardeners, who have a tough time getting rid of it as each stem produces up to 15,000 seeds.

If you have plenty of it, there is some good news: you can eat it.

Creeping bellflower can spread quickly in your garden. (Wallis Snowdon / CBC)

The leafy greens are mild with not much flavor, which makes them suitable for soups, stews, pastas – even salads.

Suitable both raw and cooked, the tender leaves are high in fiber and vitamin C and could be used along with other greens and herbs. They can be layered into lasagna, for example, or whizzed into pesto with fresh basil.

The younger, smaller leaves are more tender, but even the larger, more established plants are fine for cooking. And if you wait long enough, you’ll have beautiful, purple bell-shaped flowers to use as an edible garnish.

We talked about edible weeds on the Calgary Eyeopener this week.

Plantain has flat, smooth, ridged dark green leaves that tend to lie flat on the ground and creep up between sidewalk cracks. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Look around your yard and you may find a plethora of other edible plants, too.

Those edible weeds include dandelions, lambs’ quarters (with textured leaves, they taste a bit like nutty spinach), purslane (a web of tiny leaves, it’s high in omega 3s) and plantain, which has flat, smooth, ridged dark green leaves that tend to lie flat on the ground and creep up between sidewalk cracks.

Make sure you know what they are and that they haven’t been sprayed with any weed killer, and you could have a free supply of good-for-you greens throughout the summer.

Calgary Eyeopener9:20Julie van Rosendaal on weeds

If you can’t beat ’em, eat’ em. Julie Van Rosendaal cooks up a solution to the pernicious city-wide spread of creeping bellflower.

Summery Greens Spanakopita

Here’s a recipe for an easy spanakopita you can make with any combination of leafy greens and herbs – spinach, kale, chard, creeping bellflower, plantain, fresh mint, basil, parsley, coriander, and so on.

This is a streamlined way of making spanakopita. There’s no need to cook the greens down first.

If you like, put a crushed clove of garlic into your ramekin of butter or oil to infuse it before brushing over your phyllo.

Use up your creeping bellflower by throwing it into a spanakopita. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Ingredients

  • 8 cups (approximately) fresh greens – spinach, kale, chard, creeping bellflower, plantain, fresh mint or other herbs
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped (or about ¼ purple onion)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Cup-1 cup crumbled feta
  • Olive oil, melted butter or a combination, for drizzling and brushing
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 sheets phyllo pastry, thawed

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Tear your greens into a large bowl, add the shallot, garlic and feta, drizzle generously with oil (or even melted butter), season with salt and pepper and scrunch with your hands to combine everything. Coat it with oil and break the greens down.

Lay a sheet of phyllo into a baking dish (or deep pie plate) that’s about 9-inches in diameter or a similar volume, letting the excess phyllo hang over the edges.

Brush the bottom (and some of the sides, if you like) with oil or melted butter and place another sheet on top, at a different angle so that the sides overhang an exposed part of the pan.

Brush with butter or oil and top with a third piece of phyllo, brushing that, too (if you like – or skip it).

A look at an unbaked version of Julie Van Rosendaal’s spanakopita. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Pile the scrunched greens into the phyllo, then fold over the sides that are hanging over the edge of the pan. Scrunch three more sheets of phyllo and place them on top, covering any exposed filling, and brush or drizzle with more oil or butter.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until deep golden and heated through.

Serves: 6.

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