“Spring” is the perfect word. That’s just what the forest floor does, popping may apples and wood violets from the formerly barren, leaf-strewn earth. We’ve had a few cold snaps, windy days, and even some snow (which is to be expected in Wisconsin in April), but now that May has arrived, it appears that Spring is here to stay. Nevertheless, old-timers will tell you not to count on it until May has ended, for a check of old weather reports says the last frost isn’t until the end of this month.
Regardless of the risk–or even because of it–plants surge up towards the ample sunlight, gathering nourishment from the earth and sky, readying themselves for the frosts, heat, insects, and foraging humans that will come their way, hoping (I imagine) to live long enough to be pollinated and produce offspring.I am one of those foragers, though I doubt I threaten the plants’ chances of reproduction. I do my best to harvest sustainably, and garlic mustard, nettle, and dandelion don’t seem to be in short supply on the land we’re living on. In fact, we have been nourished daily, sometimes twice in a day, by the wild greens that grow on this land near the aptly named Spring Green, Wisconsin.
We began with Nettle, picking a bowl full of tops and leaves to go with whatever meal we were having. Soon we added dandelion leaves and blossoms, garlic mustard, and today I threw in some red clover leaves. We throw them in a pot with a little water, cover, and cook gently, long enough to break down the cell-walls and release the nutrients, but not long enough to make the nettle into a slimy mess. Today, I threw in a little cumin and turmeric, and delighted myself with a healthy scoop of local butter on top of it all. We also harvested Burdock root as soon as the second-year plants sprung up, and have been eating Burdock Root Pickles with just about every meal. The photo above shows what we’ve been eating: wild greens, local eggs (with dark, rich yolks), and the first asparagus of the season. With a side of burdock pickles and local dark beer, it’s just about the best spring meal I could imagine.