Friday, August 29, 2008

Spring Forage

A dear client gave me a list of about 25 wild edibles she found on her property. Though I know most of them I have never found them all around the same area. Lucky lady! Her property borders part of the Appalachian Trail so widespread disbursement may be the reason.

One early season edible we will find for sure on our annual Spring Forage this week is dandelion. It's a weed, but so are many other wild edibles. Dig and you will have yourself a twofer: weed gone, and green edible had. The smaller, tender leaves are less bitter. Saute├ęd with olive oil, fresh garlic, and some hot pepper is how my grandmother used to eat them. Raw in salads is another common use. Some people pick only the flower and make dandelion wine--for this there is quite a diversity of recipes you can web-search.

Field daisy leaves will be emerging and ripe for picking their tender leaves. Violets (tender leaves,) wood sorrel, plaintains, and Johnny jump-ups should all be available.

Sedum is another wild plant that when picked young can be used in salads or as a garnish, though one version called stone-crop is not. I say if there is a question, or it is questionable for some --fogeddabodit. Trout lily falls in this category, and we don't serve honey-mushrooms for that reason: some folks may find them upsetting.

Just down the road is Japanese knotweed, Fallopia japonica, syn. Polygonum cuspidatum, Reynoutria japonica, considered an invasive plant, so no worries about pulling it up by the roots, though mostly it is cut back just above where it meets the earth. Best height for picking the asparagus-looking stalk with red speckles is 4-6 inches. It is best to identify it in the fall when in full bloom, usually in roadside ravines. It is a high bush that has wall to wall leaves with long lasting and showy white flowers, and a bamboo-like stalk.

Ramps or wild leeks, Allium tricoccum, members of the onion family, resemble poisonous lily-of-the-valley plants. Be sure your ramps smell of onion. Some people confuse ramps with wild garlic which is also edible. In the UK wild garlic is called ramson, Allium ursinumin, so it may be more of an etymological rather than physiological confusion as wild garlic has thinner, hollow stems--more similar to chive than daffodil, which is another poisonous bulb to be wary of picking mistakenly.

We definitely know where to find some Ostrich or Shutlecock Fern, Pteretis pensylvanica, so we can get their early fiddleheads. This is an edible that can be scouted in the winter or early spring for site verification. Look for the spore-bearing fertile fronds shown in our photo.

We'll hope for morel mushrooms, but it seems too dry at this time for a good crop to emerge.

Always get advice from people who know the wilds. Here is link to a list and photos of wild Eastern plants.