Written by Jade Greene
As we move past early spring, new invasive plants are popping up and ready to be picked and eaten across the Bucks County Foodshed! Next on our spring foraging journey is mugwort. The plant can be used as an ingredient in soups (recipe below), dry it for tea, a flavoring for beers (popular in Europe!), moxibustion and even to repel insects. Some people find they have intense dreams after foraging mugwort.
Mugwort is a great plant to forage because:
- It is easy to identify
- It is invasive so you will be doing the environment a favor by picking it
- You can find it almost anywhere
- It is very flavorful and nutritious!
Deeply toothed leaves, opposite leaves. The top of the leaf is green, the bottom is white.
Mugwort’s most identifiable feature is its smell – crush a leaf, it will have a strong herbal smell.
Mugwort flowers in late summer, it is not good to forage this time of year. Flowers are small and white.
Smooth stem (not hairy, no thorns)
The plant grows only on the ground. It likes edges, roadsides and sunny patches. It can form dense stands.
The plant is ready to eat in May!
Where to pick:
Make sure you have permission to forage, many local preserves do not want you to get off the trail and pick plants, so be mindful! A backyard is a great place. It is important that you do not pick from an area that is sprayed with herbicides (eg, not near landscaping), away from major roads, and away from frequent dog walking areas (you don’t want to eat dog pee, yuck!)
How to pick it:
Snap off the young tender leaves. Light green and young leaves are the best (once the plant flowers or is woody, it is not good to forage). You can use scissors/clippers or your fingers to pick off the leaves. Feel free to pull up the whole plant after you have gathered the leaves you wish to cook with!
Recipe: Foraged Mugwort Soup
Adapted from Martha Stewart
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion or 3 small spring onions, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 medium white mushrooms (about 7 ounces), sliced
- 1 large Yukon Gold or russet potato (about 14 ounces), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces tender mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) or watercress leaves (about 8 cups)
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms; cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add potato and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer until potato is tender, about 20 minutes.
- Add cream and mugwort, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Puree soup in batches in a blender until smooth. Return soup to pot. Add Tabasco to taste; season with salt and pepper.