Hedgerow Food

I’ve got an old wrapper from a packet of herbs bought in the Kleinmarkthalle (an absolute Frankfurt institution!), sometime in the 1980s. At the time, I had recently moved to Frankfurt for work and discovered Grüne Soβe for the first time through my aunt Brigitte. The city’s natives are very proud of this dish, as it was the favourite meal of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was born in Frankfurt in 1749.

It is delicious!

For a long time now, I’ve grown the necessary herbs to make authentic Frankfurter Grüne Soβe in my garden, although, living far from Frankfurt now, there is no need to take it quite so strictly.

The basic recipe calls for a combination of seven herbs, which are selected depending on what is in season at the time. You need about 150 g, according to the recipe, and I use several generous handfulls. You got the choice of:

  • parsley
  • chives
  • chevril
  • cress
  • salad burnette
  • sorrel
  • borretsch
  • dill
  • terragon
  • lemon balm

Thinking about foraging in the hedgerow, you could add to this list:

  • pennywort or navelwort
  • wild garlic
  • wild chives
  • young nettle leaves
  • young dandelion leaves
  • wild sorrel
  • ….?

Whatever you like, try it out. It will taste differently each time, depending on the seven herbs you choose and their relative amounts.
There is also considerable flexibility with the other ingredients:

  • chopped hard boiled eggs
  • chopped gherkins
  • chopped onion
  • mustard
  • lemon juice
  • grated zest of a lemon

The base could be a combination of:

  • home-made mayonnaise
  • soured cream
  • single or double cream
  • yoghurt

This is what you do for Goethe’s favourite version, which happens to be lactose-free:

Prepare mayonnaise from a small egg yolk, a mild oil and lemon juice. If you use a food the food processor for this, you can add fistfuls of the washed and coarsly chopped herbs to that and liquidise it all. Otherwise, finely chop the herbs and add them. Combine the mixture with two chopped hard boiled eggs, some chopped gherkins, one small chopped onion, a grated clove of garlic, mustard, pepper, salt, lemon juice and grated lemon juice to taste. Goethe enjoyed it with fish or beef.

Another recipe adds single cream to the above.

For a healthier option, use yoghurt or soured cream instead of mayonnaise (or to replace some of it).

In my book, this is a very flexible dish and so far, I’ve never done the same thing twice and it’s always been good. In fact it is so good, it makes a perfect meal just with boiled new potatoes. Add a little steamed fish or pan fried salmon, perhaps? And an absolute favourite of mine: Grüne Soβe with fresh asparagus (I grow my own) and a glass of dry, crisp white wine.

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