The Best Thing To Do With All of Those Greens

Whether it's edible weeds or CSA chard, horta comes to the rescue

A quick update about tomorrow’s content: We’ve got a members-only discussion from 3 to 5 p.m. EST on “What are your easy summer dishes, no cooking required?” Looking forward to hearing from you. If you’re not a subscriber yet, right this way.

If you spend any time in the country, you will see people of all kinds, gathering greens on hillsides. It doesn’t happen here in the U.S. as much as it does in Italy or Greece or Lebanon or Mexico or dozens of places I’ve never been, but it happens everywhere — including here, where there are people with the heritage or inclination — because a “weed” is just a plant that’s growing in the wild, sometimes in the “wrong” place, and many weeds are in fact edible plants. Even I can recognize lamb’s quarters and purslane and dandelion, and I routinely gather them and cook them, because why not? 

Gathering weeds goes back to before agriculture: that is to say, it’s not even a tradition but something humans do, like berry-picking or mussel gathering, which makes it all the more fun. 

I’m not going to suggest you get into it; you make that decision. Whether you’ve foraged for wild greens or happen to have a pile of greens from a CSA, it’s understandable if they’re overwhelming you.

A friend at a party the other night said to me, “I hate chard, and that’s all there was at my CSA this week.” While I know for a fact that was not all there was at her CSA this week (I belong to the same CSA), I know the feeling when the bottom half of your refrigerator is crammed with bags of greens that all blend together in a what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do-with-all-of-this horrifying vision. Like her, I don’t even like chard (much; there are some forms in which I admit it’s terrific, but it takes work).

What you’re going to do — what I’ve taken to doing — is make horta, which translates to “greens” or “weeds” in Greek. It goes something like this: You take what you have, within reason — for example, the dreaded chard, collards and/or kale, garlic scapes, dandelions. (I’m trying to think of the things you don’t know exactly what to do with, could be a new Napa cabbage, bok choy, spinach for sure, amaranth, chicories, lamb’s quarters …. ) The more the merrier: whatever fits in your pot. You wash them if they need washing. (My CSA washes greens, and they’re really clean.) You put them in an Instant Pot or another pressure cooker, or in a regular pot, with adequate water to make sure they won’t burn. Pour in few glugs of olive oil, any seasonings you might want (garlic, chile, and so on), and you cook them until they become dark green and soft: Think of cooked spinach, but you want everything to be more or less that tender. 

At this point, you have a zillion options. You can serve them. You can chop them up with scissors. You can squeeze them dry and stuff them into bread or empanadas or pretty much any standard enclosure. You can adapt a Greek pie recipe like this one. You can turn them into a pasta sauce by cooking a handful or two, wet, with more olive oil, and if you like, some garlic, capers, anchovies, raisins — that kind of thing. 

After you do one or more of those things, you’ll probably still have horta lying around. Eat them some more. They taste better all cooked together, and at least your storage problems will be solved, until next week’s CSA arrives.