Foraging for Spring

Fiddleheads

I finally got impatient for Spring to come to the Union Square Green Market and decided to take matters into my own hands. Wildman Steve Brill takes groups to the various parks in and around New York City to collect wild edibles growing right under our noses. This weekend he had a tour up at the Crestwood Riverside in Westchester, which is one of those “jogging” parks bordered on one side by a highway and the other by railroad tracks. While the environment doesn’t sounds too appealing the roster of items along the tour included ramps, fiddleheads, stinging nettles, field garlic, wild ginger and violets.

I called up, reserved a spot, and found myself traipsing through stands of Japanese Knotweed and fields of cut-leaf toothwort, in search of some of my favorite Spring-time delicacies. After a lackluster start, we came upon a small patch of stinging nettle.

Stinging Nettles
These little shrubs have thousands of hollow needles filled with formic acid (a skin irritant). You need to handle them with gloves otherwise you’re hands turn red and burn. I’m not sure how someone figured this out, but when you cook them, the needles wilt and the toxins are neutralized so you can eat it without the unpleasant side-effects. It has a green flavor and is delicious added to pasta or soups.

Ramps
Once we got past the nettles, there were a few ramps scattered about. The clusters grew more and more dense until we were surrounded by a field of these glorious members of the onion family. They’re like a cross between baby leeks and garlic with tender, slightly sweet leaves and a small bulb at the bottom. Someone needs to figure out how to make these things more hardy so grocery stores will carry them at a more reasonable price. By far my favorite thing to forage for, and quite possibly my favorite vegetable.

Fiddle Heads
After scouring the park for 2 hours, we hit the foraging jackpot with the first sighting of these little green fiddleheads emerging from the forrest floor. These little guys are only in season for a few days and we managed to catch the tail end of their short season. They’re the spring shoots of the Ostrich fern and can only be eaten when they’re curled up and first erupting from the ground. Slightly sweet and with a texture like young asparagus, these are delicious steamed with a bit of lemon and olive oil, or sauteed and added to a pasta.

Overall it went well and I may have to head back up there this weekend for more ramps. As for the tour guide, he’s great. If you live in the NY/CT area, he has tours almost all year long picking everything from spring greens, to summer berries, to fall mushrooms.

Here is the rest of my haul:

Violets
Yes, they’re pretty flower, but did you know you could eat them too? Great in salads, or candied on cupcakes:-)

Cuckoo Flower
This Cuckoo Flowers are not only pretty to look at they pack a spicy punch.

Garlic Mustard
This stuff grows everywhere, almost like a weed. If picked young, it tastes like a cross between mustard and garlic and has a slightly bitter taste.

Field Garlic
These look like chives on top, but when you dig them up there are small bulbs that taste like garlic.

Burdock
Originally from Asia, this high iron taproot can be found where in places that humans have disturbed the natural habitat (like in parking lots). It’s leaves are inedible, but the roots are delicious!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ We Are Never Full

    How fun! I think those who don’t live in or near NYC have a hard time understanding how much nature is actually around the 5 boroughs and only a quick train ride away. This is a great post! I want to go hike around and pull some ramps out of the ground!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com We Are Never Full

    How fun! I think those who don’t live in or near NYC have a hard time understanding how much nature is actually around the 5 boroughs and only a quick train ride away. This is a great post! I want to go hike around and pull some ramps out of the ground!

  • http://www.figandcherry.com/ Christie @ fig&cherry

    Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday. Great post, I love the shot of the Fiddlehead, it just makes me want to reach out and snap it off for a taste!

  • http://www.figandcherry.com Christie @ fig&cherry

    Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday. Great post, I love the shot of the Fiddlehead, it just makes me want to reach out and snap it off for a taste!

  • http://www.whiskblog.com/ Shari

    What a fun “field trip”! Wish I lived in NY!

  • http://www.whiskblog.com/ Shari

    What a fun “field trip”! Wish I lived in NY!

  • http://www.sugarlaws.com/ katy

    there were ramps at the union square farmer’s market on saturday too!! i had actually never had them, but i just sauteed them really simply in some olive oil and they were absolutely delicious!

  • http://www.sugarlaws.com katy

    there were ramps at the union square farmer’s market on saturday too!! i had actually never had them, but i just sauteed them really simply in some olive oil and they were absolutely delicious!

  • http://wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.com/ Wandering Chopsticks

    How cool! I’ve only eaten fiddleheads as part of Japanese mountain vegetables but they’re the best. I always ask for extra.

    You came home with a great bounty though. Ramps, nettle, and fiddleheads. That stuff will cost you in gourmet markets.

  • http://wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.com Wandering Chopsticks

    How cool! I’ve only eaten fiddleheads as part of Japanese mountain vegetables but they’re the best. I always ask for extra.

    You came home with a great bounty though. Ramps, nettle, and fiddleheads. That stuff will cost you in gourmet markets.

  • http://www.culinarydisaster.com/wordpress Jeff

    This sounds really interesting and makes me even more jealous that I do not live in a larger city.

  • http://www.culinarydisaster.com/wordpress Jeff

    This sounds really interesting and makes me even more jealous that I do not live in a larger city.

  • Marc

    We Are Never Full, I think people who live *in* NYC don’t realize just how much nature is around. I’m planning on going back up there this weekend to get more ramps.

    Thanks Christie!

    Shari, I’m not sure where you’re at, but there are edible plants growing in parks all over the place. Just make sure you get yourself a good book or tour guide so you can tell the edible ones from the inedible ones.

    Katy, I figured they’d get some ramps just when I’d given up, and I agree simple is best. I made a pasta with some ramps fiddleheads and bacon and turned the rest into a confit. Will post recipes soon.

    Wandering Chopsticks, yea I figured I saved myself at least $100. Plus, it opened up a bunch of new possibilities because budget was no longer an issue:-)

    Jeff, it’s not about living in a large city, in fact we probably have less places to pick ramps than say somewhere in Connecticut, do a search for foraging sites in your area, or just get a book and start looking for your own places.

  • Marc

    We Are Never Full, I think people who live *in* NYC don’t realize just how much nature is around. I’m planning on going back up there this weekend to get more ramps.

    Thanks Christie!

    Shari, I’m not sure where you’re at, but there are edible plants growing in parks all over the place. Just make sure you get yourself a good book or tour guide so you can tell the edible ones from the inedible ones.

    Katy, I figured they’d get some ramps just when I’d given up, and I agree simple is best. I made a pasta with some ramps fiddleheads and bacon and turned the rest into a confit. Will post recipes soon.

    Wandering Chopsticks, yea I figured I saved myself at least $100. Plus, it opened up a bunch of new possibilities because budget was no longer an issue:-)

    Jeff, it’s not about living in a large city, in fact we probably have less places to pick ramps than say somewhere in Connecticut, do a search for foraging sites in your area, or just get a book and start looking for your own places.

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com/ Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    What a haul! Everything looks wonderfully fresh and green. Sounds like a fun outing.

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    What a haul! Everything looks wonderfully fresh and green. Sounds like a fun outing.

  • http://www.bakingblondie7.blogspot.com/ Jessica

    Interesting plant! I feel sorry for the person who first tried to eat this plant withough cooking it first!

  • http://www.bakingblondie7.blogspot.com Jessica

    Interesting plant! I feel sorry for the person who first tried to eat this plant withough cooking it first!

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  • http://www.mattikaarts.com/blog matt wright

    about and simple and outstanding! great job mate. I love fiddleheads.

  • http://www.mattikaarts.com/blog matt wright

    about and simple and outstanding! great job mate. I love fiddleheads.

  • http://www.noobcook.com/ noobcook

    Wow you get to pick all these for free? That’s fantastic, it can’t get any fresher than this!

  • http://www.noobcook.com noobcook

    Wow you get to pick all these for free? That’s fantastic, it can’t get any fresher than this!

  • http://parsnipsaplenty.wordpress.com/ Lauren

    Beautiful fiddlehead picture! I hope great things come from those nettles. :)

  • http://parsnipsaplenty.wordpress.com/ Lauren

    Beautiful fiddlehead picture! I hope great things come from those nettles. :)

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