After a long winter and a cold spring that seemed like it would never end we finally have some pleasant weather. During the winter most people dreamed of the warm spring days and what they would do when spring arrived. Danny Clemons and I looked forward to going fishing. I think most everyone would agree the main thing is to get outdoors.
I’m not a big fan of fish but I do like little brook trout less than six inches in length, but what do you have with them?
Dandelions are one of the best greens and are abundant everywhere. Growing up in my house we had dandelions steamed and sprinkled with a little vinegar. That’s the way I still fix them. But a friend I know sautés dandelions in olive oil, garlic and mushrooms. I have to admit those are pretty good too.
Another edible springtime plant we often had on the table was cowslips. The leaves are excellent in salads or they can be steamed and topped with melted butter, salt and pepper. The blossoms are edible as well or make a pleasant tea. The roots are said to have a medicinal quality. As Shakespeare wrote, “Where the bee sucks, there suck I; In a cowslip’s bell I lie.”
You’ll find them growing in well drained but moist soil in partial sun. We always picked them next to small brooks when trout fishing.
Most everyone will be aware of fiddleheads, another great springtime treat. They grow in very moist soil with little sun. As I’ve driven around recently I have seen signs where people have them for sale. Sometimes a local store will have them for sale.
Another delicious plant is milkweed. While you can eat milkweed all summer, the best time to pick them is this time of year. You need to pick them when about two inches protrudes above the soil. They’ll look like asparagus before the leaves unfold. This is the time to pick them. The best place to pick them is in an old gravel pit. Here the root goes straight down searching for water. Take your thumb and fore finger, grasp at the base where it enters the gravel, pull up and you can remove root and all, usually about six inches in length.
Bring them home and wash them. Then par-boil for a few minutes, drain and refill with fresh water. Cook until tender and serve with a little butter, salt and pepper. Another recipe is after par-boiling to sauté them in olive oil or butter with seasoning of your choice. They are a great edible.
But my all-time favorite is mushrooms. While there are many varieties of shrooms, my favorite are morels. Morels are a real delicacy. Some restaurants will pay up to $15 per pound for freshly picked morels. Unlike many mushrooms, morels are easily identified. Locating them can take some time but when you find a patch you can easily pick enough for several meals.
They tend to grow under old apple or ash trees. I use pruning shears and cut them off at ground level. I always leave some to seed for next year. Don’t pick them all or you might not find any next year.
When you cut them you’ll notice they have a hollow stem. When preparing them cut the stem in half lengthwise to make sure there are no insects inside. Morels will be appearing any day now if we get some rain. I know of two varieties. The early morels show up about now but then there is another larger variety. The larger variety will show up in late May to early June. Both are the best mushrooms available. Sauté them as you would any store-bought mushroom.
Any of these spring edibles I like with small brook trout and brown rice. If you don’t have brook trout substitute haddock or salmon. It’s a very short season. Get outdoors and get your dinner. Now I’ve made myself hungry and need to go catch some trout for dinner.
The next meeting of the Chester Historical Society is Thursday, May 24, at the Academy Building on Main Street at 7 p.m. The monthly slideshow will be old Chester homes and businesses. All are welcome whether members or not.
This week’s old saying I heard at the Chester Post Office years ago. A tourist asked an old-timer, “Do you know how to get to Grafton?” The old man replied, “Ayuh.” Then the tourist asked, “How do you get there?” His reply, “Most folks drive” and he walked away.