Peppergrass (Lepidium Fremontii and other species) appears in spring in the desert and summer in higher elevations along paths and roadsides. The tiny flat seeds are spicy and really wake up your tongue. The easiest way to use them is to pick the seeds off the stem and include them in a salad dressing or just sprinkle them over your salad greens. Another easy preparation, one that is fun to do with children, is to use them as a flavoring on pita chips. Cut pita bread into triangles and carefully separate the two layers. Arrange the triangles on a cookie sheet and brush the rough sides with olive oil. Then sprinkle on the peppergrass seeds along with one or two other herbs. Toast in a 200 degree oven for a few minutes until crisp. Watch closely so they do not burn.
On another matter, I spent the afternoon doing a post-cookbook-writing spring cleaning of my refrigerator. I found some jars of reddish mystery sauces, obviously a holdover from a recipe testing session. Out they went. An exciting discovery was a whole quart of homemade prickly pear syrup, a smaller jar of saguaro syrup, and a jar of Summer Jam made from prickly pear, plums and peaches, the recipe for which appears in Cooking the Wild Southwest. Less exciting was a small container of thoroughly desiccated pickled ginger that I bought to test a Ginger Carrot Soup recipe from Lambert’s of Taos. That recipe, delicious by the way, appears in The New Southwest Cookbook, which came out seven years ago. That ginger had been lurking back there way too long.
My mother was still alive when I was testing recipes for my first book American Indian Cooking (formerly American Indian Food and Lore) in the early 1970s. She asked me once why my refrigerator was always so full – not chiding me, just curious. When all the wild foods I use have to share space with the mayo and the pickles, the shelves just fill up. Thus the impetus for the clean-up this afternoon.
If you are looking for recipes for other wild greens or the cactus products that will be ready to pick now that spring is nearly here, check out my new book Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. I tell you how to pick them and how to turn them into tasty dishes.