Spring Greens: Cheese Weed

Cheese Weed

The many delicious varieties of wild greens arrive with warmer weather and longer days.  They are popping up in the desert now. Those of you living at higher elevations will see them as the temperatures warm up in your areas.  The cheese weed (Malva parviflor, M. neglecta) is a European import that shows up uninvited in gardens and other disturbed places.  The leaves, shaped like geranium leaves but smaller, are a little hairy and slightly coarse, but they have a mild flavor and hold up in stir-frys and soups.  The seed pods are round and look a bit like wheels of cheese, thus the common name.  The seed pods make good additions to salads as a substitute for capers if they are soaked overnight in a strong salt solution then pickled with any ordinary pickling solution. Let them cure for three months before using.

 The leaves can also be used as a substitute for the greens in the Egyptian national dish called molokhia. This is a green stew, usually made with chicken, onions and spices that is served over rice.  You can find lots of recipes for it on the Internet.  I’ve also read that the leaves can be substituted for grape leaves in stuffed vine leaves but the ones in my garden are too small. 
All the wild greens are chock full of vitamin A, and are probably organic if grown in your own yard. What a waste to consider them just a weed to be thrown in the compost or trash when they can be a nutritious complement to lunch or dinner.

See "cheeses" at lower left

Carolyn Niethammer is the author of Cooking the Wild Southwest  which contains recipes for 23 easily recognized desert plants, including about a dozen for wild greens.  Buy it from B&N here.

4 responses

  1. The first time I ate cheese weed was on the island of Crete where the leaves were lightly sauteed before being mixed with local cheese and stuffed into an empanada-style pastry. Absolutely delicious. Thanks Carolyn for this post.

  2. Great. You mention lunch or dinner … can you just nibble on one leaf without cooking? Or are they too bitter?

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