It may be raining, but at least it is not snowing! The temperatures are rising to a point where we cannot collect maple sap for much longer. We froze a gallon to use in winemaking later this year. We pulled out our half gallon of Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) wine and gave it a try since it has aged for about a year. It has lost some of it's odd viscosity, but retains it's vegetal aroma and taste, not my favorite. We did see the tips of the knotweed peeking up last week, so we'll be picking stalks soon, before they grow too tall. We like to pick them when they are about 6 inches tall, before the leaves unfurl. At that point, they have not developed their woodiness, and Gillian will eat them raw. I cook them in coffee cakes or muffins, as a fruity bar topping, and we are going to try a rhubarb-like jam recipe or two.
Chickweed salad and dressing
Spring greens are up, including dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), chickweed (Stellaria media), violet greens (Viola species), orpine (Sedum purpureum), and nettles (Urtica dioica). Robert washed an enormous bowl of chickweed and made a yogurt-chickweed dressing for a salad of mixed foraged greens. We also used the dressing a dip for fresh baguette and whole wheat bread chunks. The ramps (Allium tricoccum) are still just peeking up, about 2 inches now, with unfurling leaves. Robert picked just a few at a new location and is infusing them into some olive oil. The last few leaves got cooked into last night's dinner. Nettles are growing, I think a few sunny days will give them a boost and send us out into the field with full sized paper grocery bags for gathering soon. Dandelion greens have also been picked, washed, blanched, and frozen for future use, while the blanching water is saved and Robert drinks it like a tea.
Trout lily leaves,
stems, and unpeeled bulbs
A new edible for us this spring is trout lily (Erythronium americanum). We came across a large expanse of them just peeking us in some wooded areas next to a river. The leaves are mottled purple and green, fleshy, lance shaped and low to the ground. They grow in pairs or singly. Later in the season, yellow flowers appear, but all parts will die back before the end of June while the bulb focuses it's energy on spreading underground and storing sugars. We tried the bulbs of the early spring shoots. They are fairly deep in the ground, about 5 inches, and easily broken off of the stem and lost. Each is small, about the size of a chickpea, and covered in 2 loose brown skins that we peel off before eating the bulb. The taste is sweet and super crunchy, like a water chestnut. We all tried a few, but they are difficult to dig in quantity. Robert also tried the long, white leaf stem, and we have read the entire leaf is edible but have not tried it yet. It takes a long time for a large colony to propagate, so it is important to not overharvest the bulbs. We hope to give these a few more tastes before the season is over, but next time we have to remember to bring a shovel for digging, instead of our hands.