I have always been in love with spinach dip. It was one of my mom's go-to party or potluck recipes, and often served in a huge sourdough bread bowl. Delicious. I was a little bit disappointed when I went to look for a recipe to make my own and they all called for prepackaged ingredients. Frozen spinach. Packet of onion soup. It didn't change how tasty the dip was, but I figured there had to be a way to make it with fresh ingredients, and that it might be even better that way.
I sort of forgot about my spinach dip ambitions for a while, and just kept eating the prepackaged version from the store. In that time I learned about atriplex hortensis, (also known as wild orach, or mountain spinach), and how it has naturalized in the wilderness nearby. Much to my surprise there were massive patches of it growing in my own backyard (see the next photo for just part of one of the patches)! We ate some of the leaves last year in soup, but didn't do much else with them. This year I remembered my dream of figuring out a fresher spinach dip, and I wondered if the wild orach might work.
Wild orach is in a group of plants often generally known as simply "goosefoot" due to the shape of its leaves. This doesn't give you much to go on in terms of plant identification, because there are may other "goosefoots" out there, and some of them - such as Lamb's Quarters - are in a completely different plant family. Don't use this blog post as your main source for plant identification - find a good field guide (here are a couple: Food Plants of the Interior First Peoples, Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada) and use some other online foraging resources to supplement the very limited information I am giving you here.
I was reading around for various recipes, and I came across one that suggested you could use fresh spinach in your dip, but to steam it first because that will give you the right texture. I thought this sounded great, so I went out and gathered a bunch of wild orach to steam and try in my dip. I wanted a bit of crunch, but had no water chestnuts, so I finely chopped some Jerusalem artichoke to add in there since it has a similar texture. I think next time I would add slightly more, but because I didn't know if we would like it I started small.
Wild Spinach Dip
Scale this recipe up or down to suit your needs. I just made a small amount here to try it out, and because there are only a couple people in our house eating it. If you have the patience or are good at planning ahead this dip is even better after spending a night in the fridge. The flavours mellow and blend that way, but it is delicious eaten immediately as well!
- 100 g Wild Orach (can substitute normal spinach, but in this case use a lot more because the orach is much more substantial and breaks down less in the steaming process)
- 2 - 4 Jerusalem artichoke tubers
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp soup base paste or bullion (if using soup paste omit salt)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Steam the orach using your preferred method for a few minutes until just softened. Remove from steamer promptly and place on a plate in the freezer to chill, but not for so long that it starts to freeze.
- While the orach steams, blend sour cream, mayonnaise, onion powder, soup paste/bullion, garlic, paprika, and salt in a high powered blender or food processor until there are no large garlic chunks. Taste and adjust spices as you like them. Transfer to a bowl.
- Finely chop the Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and stir them in with the blended mixture.
- Remove the spinach from the freezer before it starts to freeze, and roughly chop it into smaller pieces. Stir the orach into the rest of the mixture until all the leaves have been coated in the dip and there are no large chunks of leaves.
- Serve with a really delicious loaf of bread and enjoy!
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