The salad proved to be equally homegrown – or at least locally gathered. There were baby nasturtium shoots, wild sorrel, and borage. There were tiny clumps of upland cress and wild asparagus stalks slender as pipe cleaners. The Hermit added some Jerusalem artichokes, which he sliced paper-thin with his Opinel. He rubbed a wooden bowl with a cut ramp, adding the greens and handfuls of dried blueberries and cranberries. From a small glass phial, he drizzled the salad with home-pressed hazelnut oil. He added a few drops of maple syrup and some homemade cider vinegar, but didn’t toss the salad until the last minute. – Chapter 16, “Not What I Expected”

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 bunch sorrel*
  • 1 bunch borage*
  • 2 bunches upland cress* or watercress
  • 8 ounces wild or fresh asparagus, trimmed (buy the slenderest stalks you can find)
  • 8 ounces Jerusalem artichokes*, scrubbed
  • 1 ramp*, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise, or 1 clove garlic, cut in half widthwise
  • 1/4 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil*
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1–2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4–6 nasturtium flowers

1. Pick through sorrel and borage, discarding any tough leaves or blemished stems. Remove any large stems from cress. Wash the greens if needed and spin dry.

2. Trim the tough bottoms off the asparagus, and cut stalks sharply on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces. Cut Jerusalem artichokes into paper-thin slices using a mandoline, a food processor fitted with a slicing blade, or a chef’s knife.

3. Rub a large salad bowl (the Hermit uses a wooden one) with the cut ramp or garlic. Add greens, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, blueberries, and cranberries, but do not toss. The salad can be made several hours ahead to this stage, covered with a wet paper towel and refrigerated.

4. Shortly before serving, drizzle hazelnut oil, maple syrup, and vinegar over the salad, but don’t toss until you’re ready to serve it. Gently toss the salad, adding salt and pepper; the salad should be highly seasoned. Transfer the salad to plates and garnish each with a nasturtium flower.

*Sorrel is an herb that looks like spinach and tastes like lemon juice. Borage is a leafy herb that tastes like a cross between cucumber and celery. Upland cress is a small-leafed peppery cousin of watercress. Jerusalem artichokes are tubers in the sunflower family that taste like artichoke hearts. Ramps are a sort of wild green onion (in season in springtime) with a flavor suggestive of garlic, scallion, and leek. Look for all of these vegetables at gourmet shops and natural foods markets with a good produce section or at a farmer’s market, or order them online from a company such as Melissa’s ( Hazelnut oil is available at most gourmet shops; if unavailable, substitute walnut oil or a good extra-virgin olive oil.

This recipe was originally published with the article, Q&A with Food Writer Turned Novelist Steven Raichlen.