Spring Foraging Fails

This was supposed to be my breakthrough year with foraging. I truly believe that foraging, along with conscientious gardening and supporting local conscientious farmers, is the best method most Americans have to reduce their oil consumption and carbon footprint. Even more important, then, that I practice what I preach and incorporate wild food as part of my everyday life.

Well. With a few notable exceptions (morels, for example), my foraging spring has been utterly full of fail. I would love to blame the erratic spring weather we have suffered but let’s face it – every spring in Maryland is like that!

I missed the window on several different foods, including knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) and milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) shoots. They all seemed to go from the tiniest spring sprout to big and woody in the blink of an eye.

Knotweed when it was too early to harvest ... and then suddenly it was too late!
Knotweed when it was too early to harvest … and then suddenly it was too late!

At least with my milkweed patch, the farmer usually mows the field in early July, so I will get a second shot at the shoots!

I blinked and the daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) were in full bloom. Luckily enough grow wild around here (they are invasive, after all) that I can still get a decent meal’s worth of buds!

Daylilies in full bloom
Daylilies in full bloom

And the only fiddleheads (Matteuccia struthiopteris) I found were the same ones I always find – the ones my husband planted in our hardscaping, strictly off limits for foraging! I at least took a photo of them back in April when they were perfect for eating.

The forbidden Ostrich fern fiddleheads
The forbidden Ostrich fern fiddleheads

The local mulberry (Morus rubra) tree produced small, flavorless berries, not worth harvesting or eating.

Like mulberries only smaller ... and with no flavor
Like mulberries only smaller … and with no flavor

(On the other hand, I recently learned about the health benefits of mulberry leaf tea, so the saplings all over my yard finally have a purpose!)

My serviceberries (Amelanchier canadensis) both failed to flower, and as a result, produce any fruit. Nor did I venture into the woods to see if the local wild serviceberries (probably A. arborea or A. laevis) fared any better. Someday I will get to enjoy a serviceberry harvest!

I didn’t even get a good showing of Brood X cicadas (Magicicada septendecim)! OK, I wouldn’t have eaten them anyway – although they are really high in protein and allegedly taste like shrimp. But we had one day of a handful in our yard, and that was it. I suspect the agricultural fields surrounding our tiny oasis dump so much toxic ick into the soil, nothing could survive as a larva for 17 years underground!

Brood X Cicada
Brood X Cicada

And last but not least, I still haven’t located any ramps (Allium tricoccum)!

What foraging successes or failures did you experience this spring?


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