Getting your Ducks in Line

Basket full of Morels & Pheasant Back mushrooms, Spruce Tips, Asparagus, Dandelion and Nettle leaves
Spring Foraging Basket

Part of a successful Spring foraging hunt is the homework you do beforehand. It’s now mid November in Latitude 46.54. We’ve already been hit with a few snow storms but it’s still possible to find Fall edibles and mushrooms for at least another 2 to 3 weeks. Today I was looking for frozen Highbush Cranberries, Hawthorn Berries, Wild grapes and whatever else I could get my grubby little hands on.

My Lab support – Lou

It was a fantastic midday walk with my new trusty Dog – Lou. Just recently adopted, Lou is a retired hunting Dog and now my Foraging companion. I love looking for Bush Berries at this time of year because it’s simply just too easy. Each tree stripped of it’s leaves you can see things that before covered under the Summer leaves. Today I harvested all I was looking for. Highbush Cranberries are best after going through several freezing’s and defrosts. You just have to beat the birds to the score. Hawthorn berries are best when harvested before a frost but like grapes… their sugars concentrate after being frozen several times and make a delicious caramelized confection late into the season. I harvested the wild grapes and hawthorn berries together, mixing them in the same basket. They pretty much look the same mixed up but the balance of the two when processed is absolutely awesome. I’ll write another Blog post just on those guys but today I found Foragers Gold. A nice little patch of late season Wild Asparagus.

Snuggled smack dab in the middle of this picture is a late season Wild Asparagus. The golden colour unmistakable. The frilly frond ends giving itself away. In the words of Euell Gibbons ” About this time I noticed that an old, dry, last year’s stalk stood above every clump of new asparagus tips. If I could learn to distinguish these old asparagus stalks from the surrounding dried debris, then I would be able to locate the hidden clusters of green spears from a distance. Despite my impatience to be off seeking more of these tender spears. I sat down on the ditch bank and for five minutes I did nothing but just LOOK at one old dry Asparagus stalk. It looked very much like the dead weeds and plants that surrounded it, and yet there were differences. The old Asparagus plant stood about three feet high and had a central stem or ‘Trunk’ about a half inch in diameter which easily distinguished it from weeds with forking stems. Wind and winter weather had long since robbed the plant of it’s soft, threadlike foliage, but the horizontal branches were still there, though badly broken about the outer ends. These side branches, evenly spaced along the old stem, were larger near the ground and tapered to very small near the top, giving the whole plant a slender Christmas tree outline, although it was a very thin scraggly tree so late in the year. The color was different, too. Like all the rest of the dead plants it was straw colored, but on the old asparagus the shade was lighter and the color somewhat brighter.” – excerpt taken from ‘Stalking the Wild Asparagus’- by Euell Gibbons Copyright 1962.

I get a kick out of Euell. He reminds me of my Auntie Di, who also happened to be my second Mum (my mothers best friend). She, along with my mother, taught me everything there was to know about wild foods and then some. I have great stories about how she almost died but in the process discovered the cure for Wild Oak rash… but that will come later. I digress and must focus on my Foragers gold – Wild Asparagus.

What I had found today was an incredible patch. First sighting the above pictured Fall stalk, Lou and I kept walking into the high grass to discover stalk after stalk. Myself giddy with excitement, Lou just happy to be alive, together we tromped through stalk after stalk after stalk. I stopped counting after 100.

Now I know exactly where to look for my Spring Asparagus. Having now spotted it in the Fall, my search is only left to digging in between the tall Spring grass in my new little secret spot. Hopefully some will eventually make it back to my kitchen. I’ve been known to eat as quickly as I harvest. The sweet crunchy taste of fresh Asparagus is too irresistible

Lately, the seasons have slowly begun to shift. 25 years ago I would start my Spring Hunts at the end of March. Chomping at the bit to get out into the forest after the winter seclusion, I still hit my areas early regardless. Early Spring mushrooms being Oysters (Pleurotus Ostreatus) and Pheasant Back (Polyporus Elegans) not actually Morels like everyone thinks. I was told as a kid That these mushrooms (Morels) came up around the same time individuals would do their first lawn mowing. Well, that’s not so true nowadays. Between shifting seasons and over enthusiastic lawn-mowing homeowners, the season is actually the last 2 weeks of May and first 2 weeks of June in my latitude. Especially the last few years. Long after Spring Ramps make their prescience and just a short time before Chanterelles make themselves seen. This is when I find both Asparagus and Morels. The Basket of Spring Goodies tells all.