Serving foraged foods, fresh from forest or field, not only makes for interesting dinner conversation, it also provides a nutritional boost to your favorite recipes. Cooked wild greens as a stand-alone side dish or sprinkled fresh over a green salad are great ways to introduce these springtime beauties. Ever thought of using those lovely, wild violet flowers as a sandwich spread topping, or tossing lightly sautéed morel mushrooms with shrimp, and serving them over seasoned rice? This is the season to do just that.
Wild onions are found across the country from late winter to early summer, growing singly and in clumps. They should be dug, not pulled, to keep the bulb and stem intact. Separate, wash, and trim off the root end and woody tops before eating.
Morel mushrooms are delicacies worthy of a tramp through the woods. Growing in mixed hardwood forests, they can be found under trees and in the rich soil of deep leaf litter. Naturally camouflaged, morels are easy to miss, so step lightly and keep a sharp eye on the ground.
Clover is nothing new to herbalists and wild food enthusiasts. It may be news to some, though, that the whole plant is edible, medicinal, and extremely nutritious. Of the many varieties, red and white are the most common. Harvest clover from your backyard, as long as it’s an organic backyard, but be sure to leave enough for the honeybees to enjoy.
It may sound strange to think about harvesting stinging nettles, but this herb is delicious, and it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and iron. Because nettles will cause great irritation if touched with the bare skin, always wear gloves when picking them, and again when transporting them to your pan or pot for cooking. Once the cooking process begins, they will no longer cause the stinging irritation. Pick nettles when they are young, before they get fibrous and before they flower. To pick them, find a stand of nettles, count down two to three bracts, put your fingers under the bract, and gently snap the nettle. Be sure to put harvested nettles in a bag of some sort for transporting.
NOTE: Do not harvest any wild food if you are uncertain about the plant or unschooled in the art of foraging. Use a reliable field guide, study online sources, or take an expert along. Always harvest wild foods from unadulterated sources – no chemical sprays or fertilizers. Harvesting fresh food from wild yards, fields and pastures is organic living at its finest.