I was talking to my neighbor across the fence Sunday morning, and noticed the young green shoot of a what I grew up calling a green briar growing along the fence. I realized that this was the time of year when smilax, another name for green briar, would send out young tendrils to extend its growth.
This also makes a great time to gather those tender tips to eat.
Green briars were a common occurrence when I was a kid in West Virginia. It was plentiful, and painful. Consisting of a long, vine-like plant with nasty thorns, it always seemed to grow between where I was and where I wanted to be.
Fast forward 20 years. It wasn’t until a walk with Green Deane a couple years ago that I re-discovered green briar. Green Deane called it “smilax”, from its Latin name, Smilax bona-nox. I have stopped calling it green briar, since I hated it so much as a kid. These days, I call is smilax, and it is one of my favorite wild edibles.
Here is Green Deane’s video regarding smilax.
I cannot stress how fantastic Deane’s walks are. And since we have a 12 month growing season, every month his walks show a different set of wild edibles growing on the same ground. Go check him out!
So there is a crash course on what smilax is. Back to my morning….
I explained to my neighbor what it was, and that I planned on eating it. She was intrigued, but mostly apprehensive. I have some great neighbors, and they know how I can be a bit odd at time by “normal standards”, and yet they all still accept me. I cannot put a value on that… So she walked along with me as I picked a decent sized handful of smilax from the fence row and the small patch of scrub woods behind our two houses. We said our goodbyes, and I carried my handful of smilax inside to wash it off.
While smilax is tasty raw as you walk through the woods, it truly shines when it is cooked. Depending on your taste buds, I’ve heard it can taste anywhere from a green bean to asparagus. To me, it leans towards the asparagus side.
How I cook smilax – Lemon Garlic Smilax
- Rinse the smilax.
- Break it into pieces that will fit into the pan.
- A pat of butter in a pan on medium heat.
- After the butter has melted, but before it start to brown, drop the rinsed of smilax into the pan
- Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
- Lightly saute, tossing to allow even cooking. Smilax is a thin green, it doesn’t take much to cook it through. I aim for slightly underdone, so it still has a light crunchiness to it.
- Add a splash of lemon or lime juice. If you have a cupboard of long term storables like we do, grab the True Lemon instead, it works wonderfully.
- Cooking time from hitting the butter to plate should be 5 minutes or so.
After plating, I dusted it with a bit of my home ground pepper flakes for a bit of added spice.
Being a good neighbor, I walked it over to let my neighbor and her boyfriend try it. Hesitant at first, they both agreed that it WAS tasty….but I was still a bit odd.
I’m good with that.
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