Right now you are likely asking yourself what on earth is hortopita? It looks a lot like spanakopita, so what’s the difference? Short answer: very little. The only difference is which greens you put in there. Hortopita is, like spanakopita, a pie made with greens, feta, and phyllo, the difference is that while spanakopita is filled with spinach, hortopita is filled with whatever wild herbs are available.
The traditional greek diet makes use of all manner of wild herbs, and is often regarded as one of the healthiest diets in the world. To start, wild greens are very nutrient-dense. On top of that, the diet contains a wide variety of wild herbs, each of them with their own nutrient profile, leading to an incredibly nutrient-rich diet.
And there is no tastier place to start than a nice pie. I love spanakopita, but if I’m honest, I am not a huge fan of spinach. This hortopita, made with a collection of wild greens as well as some herbs from the store, is one of the tastiest meals I’ve ever cooked. And while phyllo can be a little intimidating if you’ve never used it before, I promise this recipe is both very easy and truly delicious.
Below you will find three more wild greens available around the front range of Colorado right now (spring), but you can make this with really any wild green–dandelion, garlic mustard, lamb’s quarter, whatever you have. That’s the beauty of it: it’s a delicious pie made to be filled with whatever greens you have around at the time. And if you aren’t up to foraging or come up a little short, feel free to replace whatever is missing with store bought spinach, kale, chard, etc.
Curly Dock (Rumex crispus):
Around here, curly dock is incredibly invasive. Like most invasives, it does not need a nutrient-rich soil, so you will find it all over the place. It can be spotted from a distance in the spring by the withered stalk from last fall. The stalk reaches up to four feet in height and will stick out of a rosette of lanceolate leaves.
For this recipe we will use young dock leaves, but nearly every part of the plant is edible, from the leaves to the seeds, even the stalk and root.
Leaves: Leaves will grow in a circle with all of their petioles attached directly to a central taproot. The leaves can grow up to about a foot in length, with ruffled edges. We will target primarily the younger leaves, which grow somewhat furled closer to the center. The leaves are hairless, and when torn will have a slight sliminess.
Flowers: Curly dock flowers are made up of many smaller inflorescences , and each of these is made up of several fused petals. The inflorescence grows atop a stalk of up to four feet in height. For the sake of early season greens, the flowers will no be present, though dock patches can be located by last year’s stalks.
Musk Mustard (Chorispora tenella):
Musk mustard is very evident in spring because of those little four-petaled purple flowers. Without those, it would be a little harder to locate, but definitely still possible.
Leaves: Aside from the purple flowers, you can identify musk mustard from its leaves, which may be attached by a petiole (leaf stem) at the base, but will be sessile (no stem) further up the plant. They are 2-4″ long and lobed. The depth of the lobes vary from leaf to leaf, with some of them very deeply lobed like dandelion leaves. Basal foliage grows in a rosette and is likely to have the most deeply lobed leaves.
Flowers: flowers are relatively simple to identify. They grow in four-petaled crosses, about one half inch across, in a variety of shades of purple.
Common Mallow (Malva neglecta):
Often described as a “see it once, find it everywhere” weed, common mallow is quite ubiquitous. Common mallow is very recognizable with its wrinkled, rounded, palmately lobed leaves. It is a low-growing plant happy in all sorts of soils, from nice loam to a crack in the sidewalk. And once you recognize it, I promise you will find it everywhere.
Leaves: Common mallow leaves are hairy, wrinkled, and palmately lobed. They grow in almost a complete circle, but they will maintain a deep cleft where the leaf attaches to the petiole. Leaves are palmately veined as well, with veins radiating outward from the petiole. Leaves grow no more than around three inches in diameter.
6 sheets of Phyllo
~10 cups of wild greens (and/or store bought)
2 oz. fresh dill, chopped small
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped small
1 tbsp mint, fresh or dried
1 tbsp oregano, fresh or dried
¾ cup green onions chopped small
4 cloves garlic
8-10 oz. crumbled feta
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Plenty of good olive oil
Salt + Pepper to taste
Start your oven preheating to 350 degrees.
Blanche greens in well salted water for 10 minutes. This removes a lot of the bitterness from wild greens. Once cooked, drain them in a colander and press as much additional water out as you can.
Heat ¼ cup of good olive oil in a skillet. Add 2 smashed cloves of garlic and fry them until they turn light brown. Remove the garlic from the pan and add the greens. Stir them to combine, add salt to taste, and remove them from heat. The greens ought to be delicious just as they are.
Beat eggs in a mixing bowl and add feta, pepper, green onions, herbs, greens, and vinegar, and mix very well.
Brush an 8” or 9” pie dish with good, rich olive oil. Cut your phyllo sheets in half. Add 6 layers of phyllo to the bottom of the dish, one at a time, brushing each with oil. The phyllo should hang over the edges of the pie dish, don’t worry about brushing that part, as it will be removed before baking.
When you’ve reached 6 layers on the bottom, add the filling evenly.
Add 6 more sheets of phyllo to the top of the pie, repeating the process of brushing each with oil. When you have 6 layers on top, trim the excess from the edge so that the pie fits nicely in the dish.
Place the pie on the bottom rack and bake for around 45 minutes until the top is golden and crispy.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before eating.
Disclaimer: with any foraging, make sure that you positively ID a plant before you eat it. Don’t use only this guide. Plants vary tremendously within a species, so make sure you look at lots of pictures and several guides. Be safe!