What’s In Your Horta?

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Boiled spinach on white dish.One of the most interesting things about traditional Greek cooking is that nothing goes to waste. In the United States, most of us have no idea that the wild plants that grow outside our doorstep can actually be delicious when prepared correctly. While on your trip to Greece, it’s not uncommon to see people walking the hills with baskets in hand, collecting these plants in order to create delicious meals with them.

Horta is a popular dish and it is one of my all-time favorite snacks. It’s also extremely easy to make. Stuff a pot with any greens that you want. Add about a cup of water, bring to a boil, and then simmer for a few minutes. Transfer the greens to a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkle it with salt.

When I usually make this dish at home, I use either spinach or escarole. But in order to make it truly authentic, you need to head for the hills. Here’s a list of some of the most popular greens that are used in this dish.

Dandelion Greens

Dandelion is one of the most prevalent weeds around. Here in the United States, it isn’t a native species, which means that it tends to take over wherever it grows. While most people spend a lot of time and money trying to get rid of them, Greek people know how delicious they can be. Dandelion is considered one of the best greens to use in horta! It’s also one of the easiest to find. Instead of using weed killer to get rid of your dandelion greens, let them grow and pick the leaves whenever you want to make this dish. Dandelion tastes best in early spring when they’re tender because get bitter as the growing season progresses.

dandelion leaves and flowers

Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle, also known as “tsiknoudia” in Greek, is a fairly common edible plant that is found throughout Greece. There’s also a reason why it’s called “stinging” nettle. Handle the plant with care because the leaves contain little stingers that excrete an irritant into your skin when you try to pluck it. However, the leaves are perfectly delicious and stinger-free after they’re boiled. They’re also a popular green to use on “hortopita” – a type of pita that is similar to spanakopita, except that it’s made with wild greens.

Lamb’s Quarters

Goosefoot plant Lamb’s Quarters, also referred to as “levethies” in Greek, is another common wild green that is found in the Greek countryside. It goes by several names including wild spinach, goosefoot, and pigweed. This plant is also fairly common in gardens throughout the United States. In fact, my yiayia berated my father when he treated the Lamb’s Quarters like a weed. It has a similar flavor as spinach and is a great wild green to use in horta.

If you decide to use these wild greens in your Greek food, it’s important to make sure you’ve identified them properly. Once you do, you can make your horta the way you usually do.

 

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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