Tag Archives: foraging

A Walk in Cascade Peace Park

It seems spring has been struggling to come out this year. It has been unseasonably cold and thus all the greenery of late April and early May still seems to be hiding. In our quest for wild edibles Sam and I have become increasingly good at attaining Cattails and wild Onion but we don’t want to have a third meal in a row with the same ingredients. Our palates need variety. I guess you could say we have been picking the low hanging fruit. Cattails and wild Onions are easy to find and identify and therefore have been a great way to get started. Now I am ready to start looking for fiddleheads, morels, and leeks.

Yesterday was Star Wars Day and my birthday, May the 4th be with you, so it seemed a perfect day to go try and find these more elusive plants and fungi. Normally late April is the time for fiddleheads and early May the morels begin to make an appearance. Knowing how late spring is this year I thought I might try and find the very first few morels poking out among the hard woods of Cascade Peace Park. The weather was beautiful and I convinced my friend Del and his girlfriend Erica to join me on my venture as Sam was predisposed teaching and coaching Fencing at the West Michigan Fencing Academy.

Say cheese!

Even if we didn’t find any morels I knew we would have a good time on account of the weather and just getting into the woods. We started out of the parking lot off Bolt and not 5 minutes into our walk we came upon a good sized Blue Racer sunning himself just off the trail. It seemed a good omen as the last time I can remember seeing a blue racer over 3 feet long was when I was a small boy.

We made our way into the center of the park and began hunting around the bases of trees and fallen logs for morels. We carried on for quite a way without any success. It was surprising how little growth has sprouted in the forests. Morels like warmer temperatures and normally begin to pop when the temperature remains near 50 degrees at night. I knew we were early but I also knew that work friends had found a few. In the end you can’t find them if you don’t go looking. Fortunately, our search wasn’t entirely in vain. After startling a female Turkey I cam across, not Morels, but Fiddleheads!

We had come down into a ravine over looking a creek bed and suddenly there were fiddle heads everywhere. Sam and I had worried that we had missed the season. But here I was looking at my first fiddleheads. I was extremely excited. Sadly my discovery wasn’t of the Ostrich Fern fiddleheads which are the tastiest kind. But knowing they are just coming out is really good news.

It is funny how once you become acclimated to what fiddleheads look like they begin to appear all around you as if a veil has been lifted. They are such an interesting plant and the way they slowly unfurl themselves is a thing of otherworldly beauty. I found a few different species of fiddlehead but no big beefy Ostrich Fern fiddleheads.

I really like the way a few varieties look feathered.

This is my favorite picture of the day. How cool are Fiddleheads!

We left our little stream as the sun had long passed its zenith and dinner time was upon us. On the way back to the trail we walked through a bunch of old Apple trees and I held my breath for Morels, but none could be found. Leaving the Cascade Peace Park forage empty handed was a little rough on the ego; especially when all of our previous forages have been so successful. I know if need be we can find Cattails and wild Onion in a flash and fill our bellies that way.

Our foraged meal has been set for this Saturday’s lunch and we definitely have more time before we have to worry about going hungry. At least finding fiddleheads was a heartening discovery. We should be able to find bigger, tastier fiddleheads for our Saturday meal. Another good piece of news is arriving out of my garden, Asparagus is growing well and I know Sam and I should be able to find some growing wild in west Michigan eventually. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut, right?

A few Asparagus poking out.

Regardless, we’ll keep foraging. It is a great way to get outside and enjoy nature and I am truly relishing this experience with Sam and now friends. We are talking about having a group outing this coming Saturday morning at Seidman Park which should be a great time as well. After all we are just two kids in the woods, but who said we had to be alone?

- Alex

Surprised by Carrots!

I came home from work this afternoon and was graciously surprised by Carrots. My mother had been weeding her gardens and had thrown them onto the compost heap as they are a nuisance to her tulips. I was elated and grabbed them up and took them to our kitchen sink.

A carrot in the hand is worth two in the ground.

After a good scrubbing they really looked delicious and I am certain they will make a great addition to our soup! It is awesome how easy this really is. In all honesty I didn’t even try. One mans trash is another mans treasure I guess.

With an extra kick in my step on account of the carrots I felt my luck couldn’t get worse. I took a stroll in search of wild onion for our soup and low and behold I found some growing 200 yards from my back door.  Foraging has been a cinch today! Sam and I discovered a massive cattail marsh, my mother inadvertently supplied us with carrots and I found another place for wild onion!

I used a trowel and dug up a big clump and now they are sitting on the kitchen window sill. A beautiful bouquet of wild onion. The soup is coming together nicely.

- Alex

Our second meal is tomorrow. Will you cook with us?

As those of you who live in Michigan know, it has been raining all week.  Due to this fact, neither Alex or I have gotten outside to forage for our second meal.  So…we were so very thankful when we awoke to a cloudy, but RAIN FREE sky this morning!

Our recipe tomorrow will once again focus on the wonder plant, CATTAILS.

Cattail and Wild Rice Soup

  • 1 cup dry wild rice (produces 4 cups of rice when cooked)
  • 2 cups cattail shoots, sliced (about 30 cattails)
  • 2 tbsp Sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 2 tsp salt
  1. Wild rice should be cooked until tender.
  2. Saute the onions and cattail shoots in sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot, until they become tender and translucent.
  3. Add to the pot, the cooked rice, 4 cups of chicken broth (or other soup stock of choice) and also add salt.
  4. Simmer the mixture in the pot for 15-20 minutes and serve!
Our foraging experience began where it did last time, at  a Cattail swamp.  We were soon forced to forage elsewhere for cattail shoots though due to a small harvest.  Walking closer to the lake, Alex and I found the El Durado of Cattails!  Furthermore, we met one of my super nice neighbors who showed us once of her paths right down to the shore of the lake.  Lo’ and behold, we found the largest cattails as of yet!  We concluded the most likely, the cattail swamp we found them in was more mature.  
IMPORTANT OBSERVATION!  We thought it necessary to mention that in their young stage, Lilies tend to look very similar to cattail shoots.  Lilies are NOT edible.  Example below.

Lilies: Slightly purple. Cattails: Not purple.

I can’t imagine how grateful, and not mention sick of, the Native Americans who utilized Cattails were at this time of the year.  There really isn’t much other vegetation available for consumption right now.  Fortunately, the sprouting flowers and plants are pregnant with edible possibilities for later this spring and summer!

- Sam

Our First Foraging Experience

Sam and I awoke this morning with smiles toward the beautiful day! Bright sunny skies and 50 degree weather lightened our spirits as we gathered our supplies and set off on our first foraging experience. We took a basket, a shovel and a knife along so that we could be sure to gather all the wild edibles we came across.

Having done some preliminary scouting we knew for the most part what we needed and where we were headed. Our first stop was the Cattail bed near Sam’s house. Sam went into the water with her tall rubber boots and quickly discovered that though the day was warm the water was still very cold! So we traded boots and I stepped into the water and began pulling Cattails.

Cattails and numb hands

Picking Cattails is a trickier process than I had expected. It requires a strong grip and a slow but forceful pull. If you pull to quickly they tend to break off too high and you miss out on the soft white bottom where the Cattail is the best tasting. Needless to say Sam and I broke a few before we got the hang of it. On one of the last Cattails I pulled from the water I got the root and all. The roots are usually much better later in the season after they have had some time to grow  but we will still be able to enjoy this accidental treat.

After we had picked what we thought was enough for the two of us we moved on to the Wild Onions we had found on our earlier search. We dug the Onions up with a shovel and shook the dirt off as best we could all the while being careful not to hurt the young onions and picking the worm out of the root clumps. The best part about digging onions is the smell! Sam kept exclaiming how wonderful the smell was as we broke the onion clumps apart and breathed deep. With more Onions than we could count we headed back for home. Along the way we came across a few great big dandelions and gathered them up for a salad with our Earth Day meal. Once in Sam’s kitchen we cleaned our forage and laid them out to dry on the counter so we could see just how much we had gathered from Mother Nature.

Sam and I are so excited for our first meal tomorrow! We had a great time foraging for our food this morning and should have a great time preparing and eating our wild edibles tomorrow. We’ll be sure to share the experience.

- Alex