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.
Ramp bulbs are popular but many prefer the leaves. To harvest sustain-ably, pick only one leaf from plants that have at least two leaves or cut the bulbs at the roots, leaving the roots in the soil to continue growing.
Use ramps as you would onions or garlic. They’re best cooked and go great with morels! For another good food article on ramps check out WideOpenEats.com where they highlight ‘everything you need to know about ramps‘ and see how you can use ramps in the kitchen.
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.
One Eric’s favorite ways to eat dandelion greens is wilted in bacon grease. Also check out GrowForageCookFerment.com for the article on 50+ Dandelion Recipes: Drinks, Sweets, Soap, Remedies + More
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 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.
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.
Nettles make good cooked or stir-fried greens as well as a healthful tea, but you don’t want to eat them raw. Cooking or drying the leaves will remove the sting.
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.
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.