Friday, May 11, 2007

Spring Gatherers Big Three

I've been spending a lot of time in northwest Vermont gathering natures bounty lately. Here the fiddleheads are pretty much past. For those that don't know fiddleheads are the little buttons that fern fronds form from. They are best harvested when the stem is only unfurled about one to two inches. This is because ferns are known to be carcinogenic, and the assumption is the smaller and newer the growth, the less bad for you. Steam or boil them like asparagus, add butter and voila. They have a wonderful nutty flavor.

I've also been into the wild leeks or ramps as their known in some parts of the country. They tend to grow in colonies and have big bladed leaves. As soon as spring is over they flower, dry up and die till next year. They have an unmistakably strong onion smell. I've been kind of working on this theory that native americans actually gardened the wild leeks, by digging them up and transplanting to start new colonies. I'm just not sure how to go about proving it.

The last of springs big three are Morels, a type of mushroom that only grows in spring. They look like a mushroom brain on a stem. They are very delicate, but also some of the best mushrooms I've ever had. I haven't seen any out yet, but look for them in old burned over areas, and abandoned apple orchards. I avoid the orchards though because of the risk of pesticides. A hundred years ago they sprayed trees with arsenic and I just don't like the idea of putting that or any other pesticide in my body.

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