So clearly I've been on a Mediterranean kick lately, with a cleavers pesto last week (I've been enjoying the left-overs since), and a thistle Greek salad the other day. So when I was looking at an ENORMOUS haul of greenbriar shoots, it's really no surprise that my mind turned to ratatouille.
Ratatouille is a French dish, usually served in the summer because it's loaded with summer veggies: summer squash (zucchini/yellow squash), eggplant, and tomatoes. But it comes from the Provonce region, on the Mediterranean, where the cities of Marseille and Nice are located. It's a hearty, rustic stew, that just happens to be vegan, low carb, low calorie, low fat, dairy free, gluten-free and paleo; though it's often served with bread, you could also eat it as a side dish for meat, or over polenta or pasta.
The spirit of ratatouille is to make a healthy meal out of what's seasonally available, and while tomatoes aren't exactly in season, I did have a ton of spring greenbriar, so I decided to go for it. This dish involves caramelizing the onions, and since I enjoyed the greenbriar caramelized as a pizza topping last year, I thought this would be a slam dunk! It was fantastic, even my husband liked it, and he doesn't like REGULAR ratatouille! Best of all, the greenbriar cooks a lot faster than the traditional eggplant, turning an hour-long prep into a meal on your table in 30 minutes!
|Thick and juicy, but still tender and bendable, |
these greenbriars are at the perfect stage for eating.
Greenbriars, aka Similax species, are only edible in the early to mid-spring, because it's the young, new growth you eat. The shoots and young leaves are quite tasty, and because of some sugars in them, they also caramelize beautifully. They are fairly easy to ID, I wouldn't quite say beginner level, but definitely for a slightly experienced novice. Please check out my post on how to ID greenbriars.