Monday, April 27, 2020

Spring Shoots, Mushrooms, and Greens-Dinnertime!

Spring is coming along slowly this year, it has been chilly and damp, plenty of April Showers. A few treks into our local woods yielded some early edibles: nettle shoots, ramps greens, garlic mustard, and morels. Dinners have been wild this week!

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)are out in open fields and along the edges of the woods, They are covered in small, stinging hairs that inject you with a mix of histamines and acids, producing the "sting". Nettles are high in soluble iron and proteins, a super green vegetable to use as a spring tonic.

Soup made with nettle greens, spinach, and ramps greens, with topu croutons

We do have a very local spot where we often find a handful of morels each year. This year the yellow morels (Morchella americana) have popped early in this one spot, it is a really exposed area that gets plenty of direct sunlight. We headed back twice, finding more than two dozen good-sized mushrooms. Morels are a highly sought after mushroom with a very earthy flavor, and they can be preserved by drying. It is very important to slice your morels in half to make sure they are completely hollow (and to make sure there are no slugs hiding!)

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a very abundant and invasive weed that most people want to eradicate from their property. It is biennial, and the second year's growth has already shot up with the flower cluster at the top. Garlic mustard is in the mustard family and can be a bit bitter for beginners, but we eat so much that we are used to the pungency and can eat it as a side of sauteed greens.

Potato and morel hash with a side of sauteed garlic mustard greens
Irish boxty made with morels and ramps greens

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) have sprouted in southern New England, and we have collected a few from several different patches that we visit. Ramps are a wild leek with a fantastic funky-garlic flavor. We only collect one leaf from each plant, allowing the bulb to stay and reproduce for future years; besides all of the flavor we want is found in the leaves, along with the goodness of a green vegetable.

Flaxseed braided breads stuffed with potatoes and ramps greens

Chinese flower steamed buns with chopped ramps greens