Ah foraging. Yes, foraging…
That most wondrous of activities that allows us to share in nature’s bounty whilst at the same time being a part of (as opposed to distinctly removed from) nature.
Though, I haven’t been foraging anything for quite a few months. Foraging Pennsylvania in the wintertime is not exactly a pleasant activity. It’s possible, if need drives such a thing. Just not very ‘joyful’. Hunting on the other hand, is wondrous in Pennsylvania over the winter. I haven’t hunted for years, but there is a plethora of big and small game here that is a hunter’s dream come true.
But we are slowly nearing the end of winter.
Springtime is just around the corner. Though most here wouldn’t believe it. We’re still getting snow and twenty-degree weather here at night, and the ground is still frozen solid.
But like the slow march of inevitability, Spring must finally break, sooner or later.
Two months from now the forest floor will be carpeted in verdant greenery like one reads about in fairy tales and stories of olde.
Life shall spring anew from the dormant soil, and shoots will push up through the now frozen ground to breathe new life into a world now in stasis.
And during this time of rapid growth, is perhaps the best time to be learning about, and foraging for, wild plants. Especially greens. There is nothing in the world like fresh spring greens, both in quality and quantity. They are typically more tender and, depending upon the plant, much less bitter, than older plants. Remember: rapid growth = tender and delicious when it comes to edible plants. Spring greens are no exception.
For me, there is nothing in the world like that first dish made with fresh spring wild garlic (Allium canadense), dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), and dock (Rumex crispus/obtusifolius). It’s a yearly spring ritual at our house. All fried up in olive oil, with a dash of cracked black pepper and ancient sea salt, and served over a nice bed of rice.
There are few culinary pleasures that it can compare to after being frozen solid for typically five months from late November to mid to late March or April.
But those first delicious wild garlic greens are likely still two months off.
What will come up first are the garlic mustard. (Allaria petiolata)
As well as the mustardy wintercress greens (Barbarea spp) and other Brassicacea. Whilst nowhere near as delicious, in my opinion, as the wild garlic, they do provide some much needed spring nutrients after a winter of dormancy and being cooped up in the house all season long. So, even though less delectable, they are still very highly desired.
As spring unfolds here in the Frozen Northlands, I’ll be sure to post some pictures as things thaw out and provide that first delicate snack of the season!
A field of Brassicacea as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately by the time the flowers have opened they are super bitter. If you see a sight like this, remember where they are for next year and get them before the flower buds open!