We found ourselves home this holiday season, Robert off from work, and Gillian off from school, and lots of ants in our pants. We are usually traveling during this time of year, but due to some ticketing restrictions, we spent 12 days in Hawaii at the end of November, finding ourselves without travel plans for December's end. Connecticut's weather in November/December can be very variable year-to-year. Sometimes we are accumulating snow days and spending time making snow shelters, other times we can still be out hiking in the forests and finding growing green plants and fungi. The end of 2013 has been chilly, but snow-less, stunting growth but keeping the trails clear for exhilarating and red-cheeked hiking wearing many layers.
We hiked in a small section of the Mohegan State Forest in Scotland, CT on New Year's Eve, finding very little in the way of edibles or fungi, but scouting a fantastic oak and mixed forest near our home. There was some Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) berries left, and we chewed the somewhat dry berries for an easy sour cherry-like taste, spitting out the seeds and skin. We also ran across plenty of invasive Rosa rugosa rosehips, too small to bother with, but still edible and a potential source of vitamin C, and a few partridge berries (Mitchella repens). There was a small, brisk running stream that emptied into a larger swamp that supported a small population of cattails (Typha sp). We hiked for about a mile, encountering some shagbark hickories (Carya ovata) and lots of white and red oaks (Quercus sp), potential future sites for nut collection.
On New Year's Day we headed over to Ft. Shantok Park in Montville, CT. We had noticed plenty of oaks and some chestnut trees earlier in the fall. All of the nuts, both acorns and chestnuts, were long gone, leaving plenty of squirrel caches of empty husks behind. We did find a few edible wild enoki mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes) bunches, along with some inedible Trametes species. A few bits of fresh chickweed (Stellaria media) peeked out from beneath an insulating layer of leaves, making a quick snack. It has a tender crunch and a taste of corn silk.
Our New Year's Day ended with some time on the playground, then an evening watching movies, in anticipation of a potential snow storm for January 2nd. We all enjoyed our final forage of 2013 and our first forage of 2014, and look forward to morel/ramps season this spring, followed by abundant harvests in our home state of Connecticut.