Spring time for morel hunting enthusiasts is often described in many ways, and often can be summarized as a ritual. The rebirth of nature as it wakes from the winter freeze brings the coming of the ever-elusive great morel mushroom. While most morel hunters only set out to forage this prize mushroom, there are many other wild edible plants that others seek to forage and harvest along with the morel.
Before we get started, The Great Morel would like to emphasize the importance of plant identification. As with morels, other edible plants need to be properly identified. There are a great many resources out there such as Wild Edible – where you can find additional information. You can also get in contact with your state’s DNR and other local foraging experts in your area.
As with morels, other edible plants need to be properly identified…
When one thinks of foraging morels, they often think of ramps (Allium tricoccum), or wild leeks. Both ramps and morels have a very short season and both share some of the same habitat.
Dandelions (Taraxacum genus) are probably one of the more well-known wild greens that are readily available during morel season. Eric adds, “When I picked morels under apple trees in my yard a few days ago, there were also tons of dandelions blooming.” This common edible plant grows in most regions of the United States and can be easily spotted by its bright yellow flower.
- The leaves are hairless.
- The leaves grow in a rosette emanating out from the root.
- The leaves are very coarsely toothed with teeth that often point down toward the root.
- Leaves, roots, and flowers produce a milky sap.
- The hollow flower stems produce only one flower per stem, while some look-alikes have multiple flowers per stem.
Like dandelions, Common violets (Viola sororia), or Common blue violets, appear frequently in yards and other open areas where morels might occur. The common violet is another edible plant that is easily spotted and you can forage and harvest while hunting morels.
The younger leaves are great raw in salads or sandwiches and are excellent steamed. Like spinach, though, it’s easy to overcook violet leaves down to nothing.The flowers are slightly sweet and are great candied with powdered sugar and egg whites.
Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is a common weed that occurs in cooler weather and disappears as temperatures rise in late Spring or Summer. It loves damp, disturbed soil and really thrives in wetter areas.
The small white flowers are about 2mm across and grow on a single flower stalk from the middle of the rosette.
As a member of the mustard family, Hairy bittercress adds a pleasant peppery bite to salads. I think it’s best eaten raw but it can be used as a cooked green, as well. It’s one of the milder mustards.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is an invasive European plant that is naturalized throughout most of the United States. It’s commonly found around old homesteads where you might also find morels.
There you have it…
For the seasoned morel hunter who has tromped through the woods for years, you’ve certainly crossed the paths of many of these wild edible plants. There are many other edible plants such as fiddleheads, field garlic, chickweed, wild asparagus and wintercress; all of which can also be found in the spring right along with the morels.Here are a few additional links to sites about foraging edibles that are worthy of checking out:
Eat The Weeds (One of Eric’s favorite foraging sites)
Honest Food is a great site for cooking wild foods
Edible Wild Food – great resource for information and instruction
Grow Forage Cook Ferment – another wonderful site and needs little explanation.
You’ve just successfully completed The Great Morel’s Foraging 101 of some of the more common sought after edibles to compliment your morels. Again, The Great Morel cautions you to be certain with whatever you foraged – identification is key with morels, as it is with the plants listed in the article. If you are not certain – Do Not Ingest!
1. Contributing guest writer Eric Orr, is the founder of Wild Edible – a site about foraging for wild food and medicinal plants and herbs, and it’s about locally and sustainable grown veggies, as well as humanely raised meat, and how they all mesh together to nourish and sustain our bodies and souls.