• Yield: Serves 6 to 8

On the island of Crete, March and April are the best months to pick wild edible greens for making pies. Also in spring, in the markets of Heraklion, you’ll find neatly tied-up bunches of aromatic greens called yahnera: a few shoots of wild fennel bunched with salsify tops, leaves of young corn poppy, Roman pimpernel, shepherd’s purse, wild carrot, edible chrysanthemum, and a thick furry thistle called eryngo - all sweet fragrant greens nearly impossible to put together outside Crete.

The dominant flavor of a yahnera bunch, wild fennel, is hard to find. In spring, it grows rampantly in California; elsewhere combine supermarket fennel and some crushed fennel seeds. To simulate the other greens, I make up a mixture of three or four easy-to-find "sweet" greens (beet greens, baby spinach, Swiss chard, miner’s lettuce, pea shoots, mache, orache, nettles, lamb’s quarters, and green amaranth) to which I add just one sprig of cilantro for fragrance.

Black-eyed peas are a popular legume in many Mediterranean regions, ranging from Catalonia (where they’re cooked with moist stewed wild mushrooms or a spirited blend of salt cod and wild edible greens) to Cyprus (where they’re stewed with greens and served with good olive oil and lemon) to Turkey (where they’re enhanced with a unique burnished red pepper, then simmered with heaps of stewed greens - see page 170).

Serve this delicious vegetable dish warm or cool for lunch along with some cheese, olives, and a glass of wine followed, in turn, in true Mediterranean spirit, by . . . you guessed it! . . . a nap.


  • 1 2/3 cups dried black-eyed peas

  • 1 cup diced fennel bulb

  • 2 1/2 packed cups mixed tender leafy greens, washed, stemmed, and roughly cut up, about 5 ounces

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3/4 cup chopped onion

  • 3 scallions, finely chopped

  • 1 sprig fresh cilantro, stemmed and roughly chopped

  • 1 cup grated tomatoes

  • Pinch of fennel seeds, bruised in a mortar

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


1. Soak the black-eyed peas according to package directions. Drain and cook in fresh water to cover until almost tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the fennel and the greens and let sit, dripping wet, on a plate.

2. In a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, scallions, and the fennel and cook until soft, golden, and aromatic, 10 minutes. Add 1 cup water and continue to cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Add the greens to the saucepan along with the coriander, tomatoes, fennel seeds, and salt and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes.

3. Drain the black-eyed peas; discard the water. Add the black-eyed peas to the saucepan along with a few tablespoons water, if necessary, to keep everything moist. Simmer another 10 minutes and correct the seasoning. Serve warm or cool.

From Mediterranean Grains and Greens: A Book of Savory, Sun-Drenched Recipes, by Paula Wolfert. With thanks to Mirsini Lambraki for sharing this recipe.

Paula Wolfert is the author of five cookbooks. She has won numerous awards, including the Julia Child award, the James Beard award, the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing and the Tastemaker award, and has been a finalist for the Andre Simon award.