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Spring Beauties (warning: food porn)

I went for a walk today in Bagley Nature Area with Nathan and Essa Bessa Dog. We picked fiddlehead ferns and leeks. (Well the dog didn’t help, she is only good for her looks.) Sauteed quickly in butter, served with baguette, cheese, olives, fruit and wine. Oh HELL yeah.

Anyone else eat wild greens? What kinds? How do you cook them? The leeks turned out super sweet and buttery; the fiddleheads were slightly bitter. Perhaps they needed to be cooked a little longer.

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24 Comment(s)

  1. Beautiful! Fiddleheads will likely always taste a little bitter, I think--think of it as spring cleaning on your innards! My favorite is nettles, lightly steamed and eaten with a little lemon and salt. Bring on the spring greens!

    davids | May 13, 2011 | New Comment
  2. Do you have a gathering guide? So we can look for some to try? Or better yet, feel free to just bring a plate by next time. I’m not real picky and these look great.

    wildgoose | May 13, 2011 | New Comment
  3. From The University of Maine -- Cooperative Extension website (http://umaine.edu/publications/4198e/):

    “The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has investigated a number of outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with fiddleheads. The implicated ferns were eaten either raw or lightly cooked (sautéed, parboiled or microwaved), which was what caused a food-borne illness outbreak in British Columbia in 1990. Although a toxin has not been identified in the fiddleheads of the ostrich fern, the findings of this investigation suggest that you should cook fiddleheads thoroughly before eating (boil them for at least 10 minutes).”

    Some nice suggestions for identifying and cooking this spring delicacies.

    Lisa | May 13, 2011 | New Comment
  4. Are wild leeks the very common plant we see in the woods this time of the year? Is there something similar looking we shouldn’t eat? Can one confirm it being a wild leek by crushing a stem and smelling for onion or garlic? I love wild leeks but never knew what they looked like in the wild. Thanks!

    Bret | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  5. Bret…

    Yes.
    No.
    Yes.

    Chris | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  6. Bret, wild leeks (or ramps) are the first thing to come up in the woods. The only similar looking plant is garden-escaped lilies of the valley (which are poisonous), though I personally don’t think they look all that similar. The main identifier of the wild leek is the deep reddish coloring between the little bulb and the green part. And yes, the smell/taste.

    hbh1 | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  7. Here’s are comparison photos (stolen from the Internet):

    Wild leeks to the left, lilies of the valley to the right.

    The wild leek photo is from a recent Minnesota Monthly article by Marie Flanagan about cooking with wild leeks — “Ready for Ramps!

    Paul Lundgren | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  8. Edible Tulip: Rummaging for Ramps/Wild Leeks

    Photo of wild leeks. They are everywhere in the woods right now. I’ve never tried the bulb part of the leek as described via this link. Sounds like work to dig the bitches up. I would think if you dig up the bulb that they couldn’t grow back next year.

    maria | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  9. I’ve also heard that fiddleheads should be very well cooked before consumption, even going so far as to change out the water in the middle of cooking.

    edgeways | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  10. I always see lilies later in the season, after the leeks are gone. Has anyone seen them in the woods concurrently?

    Chris | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  11. It feels like this is somehow wrong, like picking flowers at Leif Erickson or something like that. Probably not, but it feels like it, to me.

    David Beard | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  12. The key is “sustainable harvest” of either of these spring delicacies, because digging the roots or breaking off the fiddleheads is killing that individual plant (or part of in the case of the ferns).

    Don’t take every plant in the bunch. Maybe 1 out of 10 or slightly higher ratio. But stop way before hitting the half way mark! Leave enough for others and for the plant to survive into the next year.

    According to Petersons Edible Wild Plants:

    It is recommended to cook both bracken and ostrich fern fiddleheads -- more so with bracken (and for longer related to an enzyme in the raw fern that can destroy vitamin B1 (thiamine). There are other ferns in the area that are presumably edible, but more bitter.

    Looks like many of the ferns are moving past harvesting stage -- at least in the woods along Skyline, but the ramps(leeks) are still available.

    Lisa | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  13. Young daylillies are great in salad. Unfortunately the deer think so also; they’ve taken a heavy toll on the ones in my neighborhood. Still enough to munch on, though.

    rediguana | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  14. Thanks everyone. I took a sustainable harvest big enough for a meal for two! They’ll go nice with the yellow foot chanterelles we found last August.

    Now, do we get morels up here?

    Bret | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  15. Casually foraging, I have only come across false morels around here. Not too far away, the Root River valley is nice weekend trip in Spring season. Bring a bike along too, for some laid back pedaling along the river.

    pH | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  16. We got a truckload of mulch from Lake Superior Garden Center two years ago, and the following year morels grew up out of it. Other than that I haven’t seen a morel here.

    bluenewt | May 14, 2011 | New Comment
  17. I have yet to get into any of the delectable cooking of what’s inside, but Edible and Medicinal Plants of Minnesota and Wisconsin is a really interesting read.

    zra | May 15, 2011 | New Comment
  18. The main thing to digging ramps sustainably is to pick a big patch (not difficult) and to, as previously mentioned, take only a few from each bunch. They don’t seem to have any problem propagating if you do that.

    They favor wet hillsides, and this makes digging them not too bad. You do need a good sharp garden trowel, and you do need to go a bit deep, or you miss the bulb.

    If you only pick enough for your personal consumption, you’ll be alright. They are common enough around here that I don’t worry too much. People are not (yet) inclined to the hard work involved, so I don’t anticipate having to compete with others at my favorite patches. A lot of people find them to be not to their taste, anyway.

    hbh1 | May 15, 2011 | New Comment
  19. I have been enjoying ramps for a few weeks now, and I really love them on pizza, but they are good in so many ways. Fiddleheads are kind of hard to find in abundance, but are pretty good if cooked properly. I also like to eat (very young) dandelion greens in salads or sauteed, but most of the spring greens around here if too old impart a bitter flavor. Anyone ever eat wapato? It’s a tuber that grows in swampy areas or next to water. I’ve never found any, but I guess others have.

    I guess morels really grow up in areas that have had fire go through, but I know there are some spots that they flourish all the time. Usually, if someone knows of those spots they aren’t telling.

    greg cougar conley | May 15, 2011 | New Comment
  20. If I’m reading this right, the morel of this story is that I should go take a leek.

    -Berv | May 15, 2011 | New Comment
  21. You’re fired.

    zra | May 15, 2011 | New Comment
  22. I had fiddleheads last night and they weren’t bitter at all. My procedure is to boil them for four minutes, shock them in an ice bath afterwards, pat dry and then saute in 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 butter with a little garlic and then salt/pepper to taste.

    Identifying the good eating ferns is easy. First, you don’t want the ones that have a light “fuzz” all over them. The good ones may have a little brown “paper” on the head that can be easily rubbed off by hand. Other than being fuzz-free, the second way to ID them is to look for those ferns whose stalk has a deep rib similar to celery.

    Get ‘em young and only take a couple out of each bunch you find.

    digit3 | May 16, 2011 | New Comment
  23. I can confirm that the morchella esculenta does indeed fruit in this city, and outside of the city. We’re not there yet though.

    Ask Louis Jenkins. He knows.

    Shhhh…

    Goody Wutherie | May 17, 2011 | New Comment
  24. Anyone tried boiled Stinging Nettle? Tastes similar to spinach and there maybe plenty of it growing in your backyard.

    Laura | May 18, 2011 | New Comment

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