June 7, 2018

FAIRY TALE FOOD & RECIPE OF THE MONTH: Rapunzel Let Down Your...Salad? by A.M. Offenwanger

Spring and salads...
Author A.M. Offenwanger mixes 
it all together and combines it 
with a fairy tale!
“Once upon a time, there was a pregnant woman. In her neighbour’s garden, there was a planting of beautiful rapunzels. The woman had an irresistible craving for these rapunzels and told her husband that if she could not have any, she would die…”

Of course, we all know what happens—the husband steals rapunzels for his wife; the neighbour, who happens to be a sorceress, catches him; when the child is born the sorceress takes her as payment for the rapunzels; she imprisons the girl in a tower and calls her “Rapunzel” … and so on and so forth with the long hair and the prince and the happily ever after.

I loved that story as a child. I had only one little problem: What on earth, I wondered, are rapunzels? And why are they so amazing that a mother would give up her child for a handful of them?

Back then, I didn’t let it bother me—I just skipped on ahead to the satisfying conclusion where the prince gets back his eyesight when Rapunzel cries on him, and all is well. But once I grew up and the world became so much smaller thanks to Google, I made up for my childhood ignorance. And here is what I found out: Rapunzels are a salad vegetable.

As a matter of fact, I had actually eaten salads made of a plant that in some areas is called rapunzel: to us, it was field salad (also known as corn salad); its Latin name is Valerianella locusta. However, the real rapunzel salad plant is a different one: Campanula rapunculus, or rampion, as I learned from children’s book illustrator Paul Zelinsky’s site. Rampion is today mostly grown as an ornamental, as it forms beautiful bell-shaped flowers.

Now, as I said, I’ve never tried rampion salad. From what I gather, the part that’s eaten as a salad are the young leaves, which grow like spinach or loose-leaf lettuce. It’s pretty obvious that that’s what the woman in the fairy tale used, because as soon as her husband came home with it, the Grimms say, “she immediately made a salad from it, which she devoured eagerly. It tasted so very good to her that by the next day her desire for more had grown threefold.” (Good for her, I say; that’s a much healthier craving than ice cream and pickles. I’m sure the baby benefited from it—maybe that’s why she had such a luxuriant head of hair?)

Incidentally, Rapunzel isn’t the only long-haired girl who ends up in a tower because of Mama’s vegetable cravings. The Italian version, written down by Basile in 1634, involves parsley, but otherwise runs much along the same lines. I have a feeling that Princess Parsley and Princess Rapunzel would get along very well, having so much in common.

In fact, parsley and leafy salad greens do indeed get along very well. There is a lot more to salads than just iceberg lettuce and a few shredded carrots. You can add all kinds of interesting leaves to a salad—and not just leaves, flowers too.

That’s right, flowers. Here are just a few possibilities:
  • Calendulas (English marigolds)—the flower petals are a beautiful golden yellow; they used to be called “poor man’s saffron”
  • Nasturtiums - both flowers and leaves have a lovely peppery cress taste
  • Violas (wild pansies) - deep purple and yellow
  • Sweet violets - purple, with a delicate scent
  • Pea blossoms - white, with a fresh pea flavour
  • Bean blossoms - scarlet runner beans looks especially interesting
  • Borage - star-shaped sky-blue flowers; the fleshy leaves taste like cucumber
  • Rose petals - yes, they’re edible! I wonder if Sleeping Beauty knew that.

For leaf salads, you generally want to cut away anything that looks like you don’t want to eat it (rootlets, brown spots etc.); tear the leaves into bite-size pieces; wash them in a bowl of cold water until the water runs clear (I was taught to change the water at least three times, some say seven times); drain them well (a salad spinner is great if you have one, but just a strainer works too); and place them in a pretty bowl.

If you’re adding flowers, the preparation depends on the blossoms—washing them tends to squash them, I pick ones that are nice and clean, so they don’t need to be dunked in water. With some flowers (calendula or rose), you only pick the petals off and scatter them over the salad leaves, with others (pea blossom, borage) you use the whole blossom. Do whatever looks good and appetizing to you.
Now, when you’re making a lovely salad like that, do yourself a favor and don’t glob on thick blobs of bottled dressing. There is no need—making a salad dressing is the easiest thing. Here’s my recipe:


1/2 c. Oil (any kind—canola, sunflower, olive, almond, flaxseed—whatever you have on hand)
1/4 c. Lemon Juice or Vinegar (again, whichever kind you like—cider, wine, rice, balsamic, flavoured…)
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper
That’s it for the basic dressing—it works quite well as is—but there are endless possibilities for jazzing it up.

Optional Ingredients:

As I mentioned above, chopped parsley is one of the best herbs for adding flavour—or chives, green onions, dill, oregano … fresh or dried, either works, in whatever quantities you prefer. As a general guideline, start with about 1/2 tsp. dried herb or 1/2 Tbsp. fresh, and adjust it to taste.
If you prefer a creamy dressing, add 1/2 c. plain yogurt or sour cream.
For a bit more zing, 1 tsp. mustard, or 1/4 tsp. hot sauce or hot pepper flakes are great.

Whisk everything together with a fork, whisk or blender.
Pour about 1/4 c. over the prepared salad and gently toss it.

Serve immediately so that you can get it eaten before the sorceress comes storming in and catches you devouring her rapunzels or parsley.

Let us know if you try this recipe!
We'd love to hear from you.
A.M. Offenwanger, contributing editor at Enchanted Conversation Magazine, is a writer, reader, blogger, and editor.
Follow her blog Amo Vitam
and on Twitter @amoffenwanger
and Facebook here

Cover Photo and Text Photos by A.M. Offenwanger
Rapunzel Cover illustration from Wikimedia Commons
Cover Layout by Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff


Guy S. Ricketts said...

Very interesting! I had no idea a rapunzel was anything but a girl with very long hair. As a rookie salad eater - five years ago you’d have to point a gun to force me to eat one - I will indeed try this recipe (including the dressing).

Louise said...

I dunno, I think a salad would have to be really, really amazing for me to risk a sorceress's wrath, even with pregnancy cravings. Now if it was ice cream, that'd be another story ...

wmyrral said...

You get three comments about this delicious story, and perhaps four. First, you can transform this recipe to an excellent healthy salad recipe by recommending use of a healthy oil [such as the last three in the list] and pointing out that canola oil and others may interfere with the healthiness of a salad.ut because you have a salad doesn't mean you have a healthy meal.

A second comment is that I would include squash blooms, pumpkin flowers, and other garden blossoms as possible additions. Keep to young flowers unless you plan to use them in the unhealthy practice of coating them with an egg batter and frying them. Ian that case, go ahead and commit eventual suicide with unhealthy oils.

Finally, I can't help but admire the careful research and exquisite artresty with which this story was presented. I say BRAVO! to anyone with such admirable skills.

I love you.

Larry Winebrenner