Spring is a wonderful time as we watch the lakes and streams open up, witness the return of the migratory birds, and witness the color returning to the landscape.
For those of us in the Northwoods it is also a welcome respite from the sub-zero temperatures. One often overlooked spring activity in our modern society is that of foraging for food. We are so used to going to the grocery store that many of us don’t even consider the option. Yet in an age where we are concerned with food the way nature intended it (read organic) we may want to go out in the woods and find some of the most natural foods around. Now, I’m not saying we should be looking for wild grubs (there are just some forms of protein I’m not interested in). There are many plants that one can eat though that are quite delicious.
Pat Moran of Moran Realty out of Longville, MN does a fair amount of foraging and turned me on to wild ramps. Pat hunts extensively for Morels also and other folks I know are really into them. Although I have not had much luck as a mushroom hunter I was able to find a number of wild ramp spots. Some people call them spring leaks, wild onions, or bear garlic. Whatever you want to call them they are delicious. Wild ramps are located throughout our northern hardwood forests. They grow around mature trees and at this point they still stand out due to their broad green tops. If you do decide to pick them while up at your vacation property make sure to leave at least half of them in the ground for next year’s crop. You can cook them in much the same way that you cook other onions but do not overcook them as they will loose some of their flavor. I like to saute them in butter for about 30 seconds along with some zucchini, mushrooms, and asparagus. Then I add some of our farm fresh guinea and chicken eggs cover it with some cheddar and enjoy a low-carb delight.
From what my morel hunting friends tell me the morels don’t grow on dead wood but they do well in elm or aspen forests where trees are beginning to die. Often the spots only last for three of four years and then you have to look for another area. If you have never had a morel you are in for a treat. They are quite simply the tastiest mushrooms known to man. I have had them and they have a slight nutty flavor and are fantastic all by themselves.
As spring turns in to summer you can pursue strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Some people use nettle leaves in tea or use it like spinach in lasagna. Apparently the plant looses its burning properties when heated. The native americans ground cattail root and used it like a flower. The list goes on but the point is that there is food all around us that we don’t need to cultivate ground for, pick weeds, and generally care for. It is also all-natural, non-GMO, and pesticide-free.