This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
Those whose hearts are steeled against Nature do not hesitate to cut the curly white fronds of the brake fern and cook them as greens. The best way to do this is by steaming, as then the shape is not spoiled, the fronds being attractive in appearance when cooked and suitable to serve on toast with a butter or cream sauce.
Either white or black mustard is a weed that can be used to advantage in the diet. It is well known as a plant growing along roadsides and in any cultivated ground, being particularly troublesome in grain fields and pastures. Like all plants mustard is at its best when young. The leaves may be used in combination with other greens which have a bland flavor, like purslane or pigweed, as the sharp flavor of the mustard gives them zest. When very young and crisp, mustard forms a good salad green and may be dressed either plain or in combination with cabbage, tomatoes, string beans or peas. A bacon, fish or cheese sandwich is greatly improved by a few mustard leaves dipped in French dressing. It is also a good salad accompaniment to cheese dishes or other foods difficult of digestion, as the sharp flavor stimulates the digestive organs. As mustard is bulky it is an excellent laxative.
The nettle is another edible plant formerly much used, but now little known. The tender shoots, plucked before the plant begins to flower, may be cooked as greens or made into an old-fashioned dish known as "nettle porridge" - a type of creamed green worth trying. If gloves are worn while picking, no ill effects from the nettles will be felt.
Mint is a weed of possibilities, although it is now little known save in a sauce. A handful of mint tops added to green peas when cooking gives a delicious flavor, while a touch of it is indispensible to dried pea or bean puree. Finely minced, the leaves may be added to orange fruit cup and banana salad, while a mint sherbet or quick mint jelly is delicious. In combination with cabbage, cucumbers or tomatoes it makes a delectable salad, while a sprig added to iced tea or lemonade is refreshing.
Wintergreen is a plant that is slowly coming into favor among country folk as a distinct flavoring agent. In the spring the tiny reddish leaves or "pippins" are a delicious addition to any fruit salad dressed with a French fruit dressing. Suitable combinations with wintergreen are bananas, pineapple and orange, or apple, nut and celery. It may be added to dressed cabbage, or used instead of mint in mint sauce. Wintergreen jelly is somewhat of a novelty and may be made by adding one cupful of chopped wintergreen leaves to a cupful and a half of water which contains a tablespoonful of vinegar, two of lemon juice, one-half tablespoonful of sugar, a dash of nutmeg, and a scant tablespoonful of granulated gelatine dissolved over steam in a little water. This should be moulded and served as a garnish to cold ham or lamb, sprays of wintergreen being used to garnish the dish.
Checkerberries may be used instead of pippins in any fruit salad, while they are delicious when cooked in sugar syrup and candied like orange peel.