Rapunzel Greens

After all the rich food of the season, I’ve been craving something fresh, something green and I found my thoughts wandering to the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Rapunzel.

Confused? My husband tells me that I regularly produce these non sequiturs, but I assure you, there is a logic to the connection between fresh greens and the Grimm fairy tale. To set the scene: just before supper we were listening to the music from that other fantasy, Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker, and my mind leaped from greens to fairy tales in a grand jeté

nutcracker

Many of you may know Rapunzel as the fair damsel held captive by an evil witch, high in a tall tower from whence she would lower her very long hair. The fairy tale actually starts before Rapunzel was born. Her pregnant mother had a craving, so severe that she thought she would die if she didn’t have this particular fresh green that grew only in the witch’s garden. To save his wife, Rapunzel’s father went to collect the life-giving green and, of course, got caught by the witch. The price they paid for this transgression was their unborn child. So, it came about that the child was handed over to the witch and named after the green her mother craved.

According to the children’s book author and illustrator, Paul O. Zelinsky (famous for his retelling of traditional fairy tales), the original story on which the Brothers Grimm based their story, the girl’s name was “Petrosinella” from petrosine, a Neapolitan dialectical word for parsley. The Brothers Grimm changed it to another green – rapunzel.

Rapunzel is one of the German names for a tender cool-weather green, originally a wild plant that was foraged throughout Europe. It contains many nutrients including vitamin A, a number of the Bs, three times the amount of vitamin C than lettuce, and more of those essential alphabet vitamins. It has many other names – feldsalat in German, mâché or doucette in French and corn salad or (more commonly) lamb’s lettuce in English. It’s scientific name is Valerianella locusta, and is an easy to grow annual plant that self seeds quite freely. We’ve even had lamb’s lettuce crop up between the patio slabs!

So, a salad of rapunzel (lamb’s lettuce) was on the cards for supper.

lambslettuce_salad

Lamb’s Lettuce, Beet and Pomegranate Salad
I love the earthy tones of raw beet in salads and couldn’t resist these golden beets in the market. Married with the nutty green of the lamb’s lettuce and the sweet red jewels of pomegranate seeds, it makes a colorful, festive salad. And, so easy to prepare!

Serves 4

  • 2-1/2 oz. lamb’s lettuce
  • 2 small golden beets
  • 1/4 cup seeds from a pomegranate

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Make the vinaigrette by putting all the ingredients into a jar, seal and shake. This makes more than you will need for the salad.

Remove the seeds from the pomegranate. Stephan’s Gourmet Blog has a great method for removing the seeds without laboriously picking them out. You will only need a portion of the seeds (about half the pomegranate) – set these aside and store the remainder in a sealed container in the refrigerator for another use.

Top and tail the beets and peel them. Coarsely grate the beets and set aside.

Clean and dry the lamb’s lettuce and put this on individual salad plates or in a large, wide bowl. Mound the grated beet in the middle, drizzle with vinaigrette and scatter the pomegranate seeds on top. Serve.

lambs_lettuce

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14 comments

  1. Great excursus…from rapunzel to parsley to what we call in Italy Valerianella… And i love it… Great the pomegranate molasses dressing! I have some left! 🙂 should try…. It’s one of the greens i use for my take-away (to work) salads! 🙂

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    • I should have guess that the Italian name would be almost like the Latin of the scientific name! I love this green and was fascinated by how the Brothers Grimm adopted its German name for their character in the fairy tale. Do try it – simple to do and delicious!

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    • Interesting, isn’t it? The Brothers Grimm believed that 19th-century philosophy that there were “relics” of life in prehistoric times embedded in traditional folk tales. It is true that foraging always supplemented hunted food and even when agriculture came in, there was still foraging for wild things going on. We still forage for things now and then, even if it is only berries. Rapunzel is all about pregnancy and in the original Grimm story, even Rapunzel is pregnant at one point. And, it is true, women do get these nutrient cravings during pregnancy. I wonder what the Brothers Grimm deduced from all that! Food for thought! Happy Christmas (as they say here in England)!

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  2. I love lamb’s lettuce and your salad sounds terrific. I eat the tender lettuce all the time when we travel to Europe but I hardly ever see it here in New England.

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    • I only saw it in the markets since moving to the UK, but I read somewhere that it was beginning to catch on in the US. I really love it. If you garden, you only have to plant it once since it self seeds all over the place, much like parsley.

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  3. I’ve sauteed rapunzels and they’re very delicious this way– almost with a soupcon of Oyster Sauce.

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