Foraging for wild edible plants has been on the bucket list for a long time. It was good recently to be like Aboriginal people of centuries past and explore the local habitat.
One develops a connection with the local landscape by simply paying attention to the plants you walk or run by. We are surrounded by plants and trees that change with the seasons and provide natural beauty, food and companionship.
Morel mushrooms and their earthy flavor were discovered at the edge of a wooded area near a dead stump. Dead or dying elm trees are a favored habitat.
They look like a honeycomb sponge at the end of their stems. It is fun to discover Minnesota’s state mushroom in North Dakota. Morels should be at least thumb sized to harvest.
Morel mushrooms are hollow, unlike false imposters that are full. If it isn’t hollow, don’t swallow! Use a small knife to cut them from the stem so they come back next year!
The season is very short, often only a week or two. A few days with temperatures in the ’60s and soil with lots of moisture is needed. When you find one, there are likely more. It is like winning the lottery to find morel mushrooms. Its location will be more secretive than a fishing hotspot.
They are delicious simmered in olive oil over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook them until they’re gold colored and yummy. If a large quantity is harvested, they can easily be dried.
Wild asparagus was next on the hit list. Are they wild or remnants of a nearby home at one time? Asparagus was brought over by Europeans 400 years ago.
Plants are sometimes discovered during the summer and fall because they have an attractive, canary-yellow and fern-like appearance. Remember those spots the following spring. Asparagus does best in full sun in areas of decent moisture. It can be discovered along the edges of wetlands and transportation routes.
It was easy to spot my new asparagus patch. The spears rose out of the ground like one of those tire deflation device used by law enforcement to stop runaway cars. It was an aha moment for me!
They were cut at ground level and can be harvested until about July 4. Asparagus is a fast grower, sometimes an inch a day. Then it is time to let them rejuvenate so they can feed you nutritious greens next spring.
A few stalks are eaten raw. No cooking or preservation will top the taste of a fresh from-the-ground asparagus. Enough are harvested so some are microwaved after being washed to be served with a meat and potatoes supper.
Wild onions were another tasty springtime wild food found in town. There’s an onion for about every environment. Fresh, young, green hollow fleshy stems were eaten fresh after being snapped off and the small underground bulb left intact.
The smell and taste is typical onion with a sharp, aromatic bite. The green could easily be diced for salads, baked potato toppings or other garnishments.
Lilac blooms were harvested to freshen an office like no oil, aerosol spray or scent wax could ever do.”Take time to smell the roses” could easily be replaced with “take time to smell the lilacs.” The north row in a shelter belt along the Highway 210 Bypass and south side Kidder Recreation Area is very showy for highway travelers.
Purple blooms were trimmed off at the next branch intersection and placed in a clear glass vase with water to keep the stems fresh. A few heart-shaped leaves remain on the stem to provide interesting bright green contrast in the neck of the vase. They give off a sweet, honey-like smell that hangs in the air.
Take time to get out of the house to get active and roam the local landscape, learn about native plants and become part of the circle of life.