Wild Edibles Club First Excursion

The weather in northwest Wisconsin is below average and I am still heating my home in Minong. It is a wet and rainy season this spring and impossible to start a garden under these circumstances.

Debora with gathered leek greens.

 My friend Debora and I went out to the Washburn County forest at 5 p.m. last evening to a favorite haunt  between Hayward and Minong in search of leeks also known as ramps. There were large colonies of leeks and yellow trout lily. The lily bulbs were quite small and we decided not to gather them outside of a few that came along with the leeks when we dug in the deep, composted and compacted forest soil. I tried a few yellow trout lily bulbs and they tasted like raw potatoes.

Yellow trout lily

 I never saw as many trout lilies in my life.

Yellow trout lily in bud

 This was certainly a bountiful colony stretching across the forest floor in the near and far away woods.

closeup of leek plants

closeup of leek plants

The leeks are difficult to dig when growing in large clumps among other woodland plants. One needs to separate them out after digging. Leek leaves and bulb are both edible. Yellow trout lily on the other hand only provides an edible bulb. The fun is in the gathering.

Cleaning leek bulbs for freezing

Cleaning leek bulbs for freezing

I have learned over the years that it takes three times the work to clean, sort, cut roots and save leaves after gathering. 

Drying leek leaves

Drying leek leaves

Leek leaves need to be dried by using paper towels and placing single leaves in a tray, separated by layers of paper towel sheets between each row of leaves. Place the leaves  in the freezer for a few minutes to start the freezing process.

Then remove the trays from the freezer and transfer leek leaves with paper sheets intact to a ziplock freezer bag. Be sure to mark the bag in order to identify what you have preserved. Believe me, after a while, most foods will look the same after they have been in the freezer for any period of time.

Debora noticed something else in the woods and went to explore what it was.  She discovered emerging what we thought were ostrich ferns. 

Cinnemon or interrupted fern

Cinnemon or interrupted fern

  It was only later I learned that the fern was cinnamon (Osmunda cinnemomea) or interrupted fern (O. claytonia). I have gathered fiddlehead ferns before and I enjoy bracken fern as fiddleheads. Now I know why I prefer them.

For one the ferns left a stain on the plastic bag we were using. I should have been alerted then that something was wrong. Then I tried to eat one that I blanched and it tasted terrible. Even an experienced gatherer like myself can get confused. Always research before gathering. We should have carried the Forager’s Harvest or Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer to the gathering site and verified the species before picking. I had left the books in the van. Live and learn!

Fiddlehead ferns of cinnamon and interrupted fern have a hairy covering and simply are  not worth taking a risk. Don’t ever use either one. Seek true ostrich or bracken ferns for wild edibles. They are delicious and you will be well pleased.

Another group of wild edible gatherers are going to another forest where Happy Tonics has a wild butterfly habitat with land use for the habitat from the DNR. I know we have bracken fern out there in the clearing and I hope the ferns are ready to gather on Monday. I will let you know next week how this turns out.

Be happy insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

Happy Tonics October 2010 News

 Ryall, M. E. (2010 October 27). Happy Tonics October News. Washburn County Register, p. 9

Marie Basty

Marie Basty

 

Mary Ellen Ryall

Mary Ellen Ryall

October 22 – Mary Ellen Ryall, a 2003 graduate of Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, Hayward, WI, received a 2010 Outstanding Alumni Award. The award honors an alumni’s outstanding contribution to the college and community.

Marie Basty, was selected to receive the first-ever Alumni Award. Basty graduated in 1996 and was recognized for her personal and professional success. Jason T. Schlender, 2007 Native American Studies graduate, was also honored as a 2010 Outstanding Alumni Award winner.

McNulty children in Happy Tonics Visitors Center/Store

McNulty children in Happy Tonics Visitors Center/Store

 October 15 – Janine McNulty and her young family visited Happy Tonics Visitors Center/Store. The children brought native seed to help seed the Monarch Butterfly Habitat. McNulty works for the LCO Hertel tribal offices.

Janine McNulty talks with Jim VanMoorleham, a volunteer of Happy Tonics.

Janine McNulty talks with Jim VanMoorleham, a volunteer of Happy Tonics.

  She is interested in planting native wildflowers around the tribal buildings in Hertel. She is now able to collaborate with Happy Tonics and LCO in Hayward for leads in how to obtain work study students and interns to assist with this project.

Samuel Tha

Samuel Thayer reaches for salsify leaves.
Samuel Thayer reaches for salsify leaves.

 October 19 – Samuel Thayer’s Wild Edible Class, UW Barron County, Rice Lake campus, was attended by Ryall and Rochelle Becker, a Happy Tonics volunteer. Thayer is the author of The Forager’s Harvest and Nature’s Garden. For the final class, students brought in wild edibles which were cleaned, prepared and added to the community soup pot. We drank hazelnut milk, ate wild fried parsnips and tossed fiddlehead ferns, puffball mushrooms and chopped dandelion roots into the soup pot. For dessert, we had black nightshade berry – some used to think it was poisonous – topping on cheesecake. The meal was fun and delicious. Every student in the class contributed to making a success of the program. Happy Tonics plans to start one of the first Wild Edibles Club in the USA in Shell Lake, spring 2011. Many students of Thayer’s class are interested in being members of the club.

NOTE: I stand to be corrected about shipping Tall Bluestem Native Grass from Happy Tonics online store. Recently I spoke with Dave Vold, of Shell Lake City Hall. He suggested we not ship the seed because it may not be a native plant elsewhere. Tall bluegrass is a native grass more frequent in prairie states. It is used for prairie restoration, soil erosion, water conservation and as a forage plant for deer and cattle. The plant is also used by birds for nest making and seed. Happy Tonics is always willing to listen. Often opinions add to the collective knowledge base.

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