Eating From My Forest Garden Harvest in May

From stir fry to quiche, these five recipes are helping me consume harvest from my forest garden this month.

Sorrel Soup With Boiled Egg And Stinging Nettles On Table

Igor Golovniov / EyeEm / Getty Images

My forest garden produces plenty of food throughout much of the year. And this month, many of the greens are at their best.

While it is still too early to enjoy the bounty of the summer berries and top fruits, mahonia berries ripening here this month are the first of the fruits we enjoy. We certainly don't have to wait for summer before we eat well from the space.

The ingredients from a forest garden are a little unusual to many who focus on annual crops. And many do not consider the full potential of edible perennial plants. I thought I'd share some of the ways I am using forest garden produce this month. Perhaps my recipe ideas will give you some inspiration for what to grow or how to eat some slightly more unfamiliar foods. 

When planning and eating from a forest garden, thinking about how to use potentially more unfamiliar ingredients can help you see how to obtain even more yields from the space. 

Hosta and Wild Green Stir Fry

Every year I look forward to seeing the rolled-up leaves, or hostons, of my hostas popping up through the ground and starting to unfurl. Since hostas are not only a useful shade-tolerant plant – they are also a very useful and versatile green vegetable. 

One of my favorite ways to use hostas from my forest garden is in simple stir-fries. We enjoy hosta leaves and curled up hostons sizzled in a hot pan, along with other wild greens such as ground elder, lamb's quarters, and onion greens. This simple stir fry can be great on its own, with some homemade bread, or topped with a fried egg from our rescue chickens. 

Good King Henry Quiche

Another way that I like to use the eggs from our rescue chickens is in a quiche, crustless-quiche, omelet, or frittata. Many greens from the forest garden make excellent additions to such dishes. And my favorite at this time of the year is Chenopodium bonus henricus (Good King Henry)—the young shoots of which are like a cross between sprouting broccoli and asparagus. The leaves are also edible in moderation and work well in place of spinach in many dishes. 

Nettle Pesto 

A key recipe for us, especially at this time of year, is pesto. Many greens and herbs can be turned into delicious pestos, which, incidentally, can be great stirred into the egg-based dishes mentioned above, or used in many other ways.

Young nettle tips, to me, are one of the best greens of the spring forest garden. This "weed" is a plant that I encourage to grow in and around my forest garden. Nettles have many uses as a spring green—they can be used much as you would use spinach in any recipe. But nettle pesto, with garlic, olive oil, and sunflower (or other) seeds is one of my favorites at this time of year. 

Sorrel Soup

Soups are also popular here, and I make many different soups throughout the year. One soup I enjoy at this time of year is sorrel soup, which I make with Belleville sorrel, woodland sorrel, and red-veined sorrel, all of which crop abundantly in the forest garden. (I throw some nettles in there too.) I simply blend the sorrel in vegetable stock with some bunching onion, and sometimes other seasonal veggies like pea shoots and peas. 

Mahonia Berry (Oregon Grape) Bread

The gooseberries are forming but the harvest of these and other early summer berries are still some way off. But one berry I do harvest from towards the end of May where I live is Mahonia berry or Oregon grapes. These are very tart and seedy but can work well for jams or jellies. I have made these in the past. But what I also like to do is toss some of them into some homemade bread. Their blooms of wild yeasts help the bread to rise, and they work very well to add a little tartness to bread also enriched with seeds or nuts. 

Though I also grow more traditional crops in my garden, the forest garden crops are rich and varied, healthy, and delicious. I hope that the above recipes inspire you, and help you to see the edible potential of forest gardens and other perennial planting schemes. I hope they will help you see that the produce from a forest garden is about far more than just the more traditional berries and fruits.