Right now I’m just trying to get our wild greens delivery going, so I’m going to wait until later to tell you much more about cow parsnip, one of my favorite wild vegetables.
Cow parsnip gets huge–bigger than everything but ragweed you’re likely to see in South Central Wisconsin. Its early greens taste like a cross between celery and fennel, but far better than either–and, like both those plants, it works best as a cooked vegetable, especially in soups. Samuel Thayer reports that this plant is so widely used in traditional European cuisine that its name is the generic term for soup vegetables in many cultures (“borscht” is its Russian name, for example).
The flavor is intense, but it softens significantly if you add it to a soup or stew a few minutes before you pour in the stock, cooking it down slightly. Try it in combination with spring root veggies like parsnip and slow-cooked onions, and you’ll enjoy a complex sweetness you won’t find anywhere else.