The sun shone brightly as we gathered next to Kauffmans Mill Road and entered the riparian buffer to admire the early spring growth and discuss wild edibles. Many thanks to everyone – including canine companions – who came out for the first naturalist stroll of the year.
It has been a cold spring so many plants are just now emerging but we noticed poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) greening up with its lush growth and discussed how it is definitely on the do-not-eat list.
Paw paw blossoms are just tiny buds and hopefully this year we will avoid a late frost which harms the production of fruit. Many mammals and birds (and humans) love to feast on the sweet soft flesh, a treat in September when the avocado-sized fruit ripens and falls to the ground.
No sign yet of trilliums, ferns, columbine or mayapple but they should be coming up fairly soon along with our other native ephemeral wildflowers which enjoy the dappled shade and rich soil near the river. We paused at the ‘Grove’ and found patches of chickweed, one of the most tender and delicious spring greens. Unfortunately, the garlic mustard is emerging so encouraged everyone to seek out and destroy it since it is one of the worst of the nonnative invasive plants. One way to destroy it is to harvest it (always pulling it up by the roots) and adding the leaves to soups, quiches, pizza and other dishes. Disclaimer here – before eating any wild edible, make sure you are positive of its identity! Eastern forests are full of edible and medicinal plants but it is important to know exactly what you are gathering and ensure that the timing is right for harvesting. Pokeweed is a prime example. Its window of harvest is spring when the shoots are about eight inches tall. Guidebooks still recommend boiling it three times and pouring off the water before ingesting. It is worth the effort though, as it is both delicious and versatile.
There is much beauty at this time of year when nature is awakening and it was wonderful gathering with such a fantastic and knowledgeable and interested group of naturalists!
The White House Farm Foundation will be hosting monthly public walks and talks – contact us if you would like to be added to our email list.
Many thanks to Ken Cranston for joining the walk and for taking these great photos!