Spring Foraging Run in Indiana

spring countryside in Indiana

Looks like nothing but grass and trees, most of it private land where you can’t go. You’ll find abundant food on the borderlands. Keep an eye on the treeline, pilgrim.

Winter hit me pretty hard this year, mentally and physically. I kept hoping for Spring but it never seemed to get here, even the few warm days didn’t seem to have any sticking power. A couple of days ago I woke up grumbling and creaky and for some reason, things started to happen. I put up the hummingbird feeder — it’s been cold enough that I expected the hummers to stay south for a bit, but maybe they would be here soon. I checked the asparagus bed, found nothing; took a trip to the state park to look for morels, found nothing. I truly mean nothing, in terms of fungi, usually I find mushrooms of all sorts there and come home with something to eat, even if not morels. This year, nothing.

After I came home, my neighbor knocked on the door and handed me a couple of morels he found at the end of the driveway. People are finding them along the roads this year, not in the woods. Who’d have thought? So, I went running, thinking I might come across some myself.

asparagus in grass

Serpentine? Phallic? Whatever it resembles, when the grass is a foot tall and the asparagus is 14 inches, it’s easy to find and also delicious.

Although I didn’t find morels, I did find some pretty neat things. There’s more food than I could possibly eat, growing along the roads this time of year. OK, I wouldn’t eat the turtle or the crayfish unless I absolutely had to, and the wild lettuce and dandelions are the sort of thing I just nibble on in passing, but there’s a lot of food to be had in the untended strips of land where anything grows. I came back with enough for the rest of the work week, and I have plenty more in the garden just in case I need it. Picked my first collards yesterday, when most people haven’t even planted any. If things want to grow, I let them grow. Collards are tough enough to overwinter.

Shepherd's purse blooming

Yes, it’s pretty, but can you eat that? You’d better consult an Audobon guide if you’re going to eat something like Shepherd’s Purse. The leaves and flowers of this wild radish are edible, not bad but not great, and it’s easy to mix them up with several kinds of poisonous plants like buttercups. Crush a leaf, smell it. If it smells bad, move on. No reason to risk yourself for a radish.

box turtle on the road

During my crossing of the great asphalt desert a fearsome giant approached me and carried me high into the air! I struggled fiercely and broke away, escaping into the lush undergrowth beyond the tall grass. The Turtle Clan will always speak of Flat Shell and his battle with the giant!

Wild onions

Wild onions, they’re everywhere here. They don’t die when RoundUp hits the fields, they just die back. In the late winter, every corn and soybean field turns green with wild onions, not grass. At the edge of the fields you can dig all the wild onions you want. The leaves are tough but the bulbs are tasty. Nothing better than a soup of wild onions, tofu, celery leaves and a little real soy sauce or miso. OH SO GOOD!

wild garlic bed

Looks like grass, but it’s not grass. Indiana hard-stem garlic grows in the worst of places. Dig down where this lush bed of flourishing garlic grows and you’ll find gravel. In between the gravel you’ll find rotted leaves and other organic debris, plus some really great, oily and delicious garlic bulbs. Gardeners could take a lesson from this, it’s not the clay that makes a garden. Gravel and compost grow good foods. Lots of air and excellent drainage.

crayfish mud mound

Last year the crayfish built towers that were were nearly flat to the ground and we had an amazing drought. This year the crayfish are building towers six to eight inches high, maybe taller if given time. Are they building against the rain we’ve had? or the rain to come? Interesting, this fellow closed his door already. (Yes, they are delicious, but digging them out is hard work).

garlic greens

You can buy a bundle of watery tasteless green onions at the store, or you can grab a bunch of spring garlic shoots at the roadside. One grew in herbicide and fertilizer, the other grew in gravel and the residue of roadkill. The latter is better, in nourishment and in flavor. Garlic greens used to be a popular vegetable, but few people eat them now.

After all that I set up the grill to cook the week’s meat, and while I was doing that Hummingbird showed up at the feeder. If Hummingbird is here, it’s Spring. At last.

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