It started out as a “when life gives you lemons” type thing. Only my “lemons” are what most people would call “weeds.”
Go figure, but they are all over my fields and gardens — all over our property in fact. And I don’t have to till, plant, water them, etc. Just harvest them. And even more surprising is that they taste amazing (the edible ones, anyway), especially when you mix them all together.
As I’m in the first year of my farm business and I’m in Quebec, there is not a hell of a lot of stuff that’s naturally ready on the 17th of June and earlier — unless you start your season way in advance in a greenhouse. As I’m a half-relaxafarian gardener at this point, we only started a few small select things in a greenhouse made from old windows for a total of about $15 in materials. Everything else is at the mercy of nature.
And the mercy of nature, when it comes to weeds, is very very great. Lamb’s quarters, while still small, is just about exploding. I’ve tracked down a few hot patches of sorrel. In fact, I’ve now developed quite unintentionally a mental-overlay of the property relative to high concentrations of good quality weeds ready for harvest.
Wanting to share the bounty and branch out beyond my early season offering of only microgreens, I finally figured out a basic formula to commercialize these amazing greens: making lemonade out of lemons. (Come to think of it, it’s a stupid saying, because even lemons by themselves are good)
I’m selling to five local restaurants now and experimented over the course of several weeks as I got my knowledge and experience up with bringing chefs edible wild flowers and greens as free samples with orders of microgreens and “normal” herbs from the garden. Which gave me enough confidence to finally start selling salad mixes composed of wild and cultivated greens like:
- Lamb’s quarters
- Wild mint
- White clover flower
- Tufted vetch flower
- Lemon balm
- Wild mustard
And so on. I have one great client who loves my products and will buy pretty much anything I bring to them. Everyone else is very price-conscious and maybe even wary. So I wanted to be able to provide a good quality product at a price which would still attract them as well.
So the pricing structure I worked out for my mixed weeds/cultivated greens is:
- 100g for $3
- 200g for $5
Originally, I had another price break at 500g for $10, but discovered I was under-selling myself too much relative to the time/effort it takes. It’s a good quality product that no one else is making available (I’m 100% positive), and it still takes time and expertise to locate, identify, harvest, prepare and deliver. So now it’s $10 for 400g (1lb is 454g for reference).
Anyway, while I was coming up with this idea, I happened across a comment on EatTheWeeds.com by someone else selling a salad mix with up to 40 different ingredients here:
salad mix chart-6-11 is Excel document listing plant, botanical name, flavors, and season in Anderson Valley, Mendocino…www.touchtheearthmusic.com
Check out especially their salad mix ingredient spreadsheet. Very enlightening and informative. I emailed them to find out how much they sell their product for and they wrote me back to say they’ve got a good relationship with a local restaurant which pays them $16 a pound. I spoke with my best local chef up here, and he told me for top end mixes at another restaurant he worked at, it wasn’t uncommon to pay up to $35 a kilo (a little more than two pounds), so while their price is high it does seem to jive.
That said, if I email my list of chefs and tell them I’ve got thirty-five dollar kilos of salad mix, I’m not sure how many takers I’d have. So for now, I’m sticking with my $25/kg pricing (though we’ll see what could work for small sizes at an upcoming farmer’s market).
Also, today I found this reference to the Greek “horta” which can be fresh or wilted greens:
In Greek cuisine, khorta (χόρτα, lit. ‘greens’) are a common side dish, eaten hot or cold and usually seasoned with olive oil and lemon.
At least 80 different kinds of greens are used, depending on the area and season, including: black mustard, dandelion, wild sorrel, chicory, fennel, chard, kale, mallow, black nightshade, lamb’s quarters, wild leeks, hoary mustard, charlock, smooth sow thistle and even the fresh leaves of the caper plant.
A video of a Greek chef in Crete picking horta has him saying that people originally learned which plants were good to eat by watching sheep (which would seem to lend credence to this):
And speaking of picking horta:
It’s funny this idea that there is some kind of shame or extreme poverty involved when people resort to picking and eating weeds. Like there is some shame or even crime in eating what nature gives freely… But I swear to you they are good (the edible ones, anyway) and in a lot of cases better than any regular crappy salad you’re going to find anywhere.
The fact that you can sell this kind of product as a small, specialty, niche, artisanal product only makes it all the better. I hope you do your research as to what’s good near you and give it a try!