The woods do something to your soul and it isn’t something tangible, although what you can get from the woods often times is.
This is the best time of the year because it starts the season of the getting meals for free from the land. It’s not always easy and you have to do your fair share of studying before you head out and start picking and eating stuff. But it’s worth it. And not just for the meal, but for the part of you that fills up that you can’t say what it is.
April first marks the start of trout season. They are mostly stocked but that doesn’t bother me. It gets you outdoors doing something and while your there you can start looking at how the trees and landscaped changed over the winter. Usually I do a little fishing over the winter too, but this year I couldn’t so getting back to my favorite spots was exhilarating. Nabbed a few trout early in the season too.
The magnificent colors of this rainbow are the beginning of color returning to New York State. After a tough couple of hours of no bites I went back to one of my favorite spots and changed up my presentation. First cast this beauty hit like truck. My fishing buddy, my five year old son, was so happy he could barely talk. First trout of the season is always exciting, doesn’t matter the age.
Next to show up is ramps. Ramps are wild onions and there are some spots I know of around here that grow thousands. You could never dig them all even if you had to. The entire plant is edible, from it’s white bulb, through the red stem, and straight to the tip of it’s perfectly green leaves. They consequently go excellent with trout! I typically fry the whole trout in butter with the diced bulbs, then throw in the chopped leaves at the end for a perfect meal.
Next to start popping up is the tasty little flower buds of the spice bush. When these grow they end up with bright green leaves with a citrus flavor, eventually the plant producing red berries that can be dried and used as allspice. The bark tastes of allspice as well, and in the spring the little yellow flowers have a slight citrus flavor. It makes a fantastic tea or the base for a brine. I used it to make both, drinking a hot cup of tea while I made a brine for a duck that I’ll smoke. The duck came from Fisher Hill Farm.
What I have not seen yet are morel mushrooms. This morning there was a freeze alert so that certainly doesn’t help. Possibly the ground has not been warm enough and maybe I’m just getting antsy. These mushrooms can go for as much as $20 per pound. But they’re free if you know what your looking for and sauteed with ramps and butter they’re might not be a better meal.
I have also found fiddleheads this year, but none from the Bracken or Ostrich fern, only from the Christmas Tree Fern. They are edible, but don’t taste all that great. So I’ll keep my eye out for those as well.
Also edible are dandelion greens, which make for a great salad. It’s been a great year so far, even though it’s been a little chilly. I fully expect the warmer weather to bring out more.