So. We cheated on this whole “foraging” thing. I’ve been looking for a good guidebook & a person in town with ideas about where morels are. (Or rather, a person willing to share where morels are. They’re a hot commodity & can get $50 a pound at market, so those who seek don’t like to share. I can’t blame them.)
So. We also ate things more quickly than we took pictures. Meaning our gorgeous ramps & morels are undocumented. Okay, I snapped a quick shot with my camera, but from there it was straight into a skillet of melted butter.
Spring in Bloomington has foodies more on edge than any other time of year. Like a dog afraid of snow, they’re waiting at the door the second the ground begins to thaw, durable walking shoes and a mesh bag in hand.
Two foraged goodies are at the top of the list. Ramps, a wild leek whose greens are as tasty as the small onion bulb. And morels, a mushroom coveted for their rarity, their ability to soak up butter & their nutty, earthy flavor.
Ramps, an allium (member of the onion family), grow throughout the wooded areas of Indiana. These tasty surprises are pretty easy to identify. Their broad leaves have a distinct shape & texture. And as you can imagine, they smell like onions. Not a lot of risk here. Regardless, we didn’t really have time to forage. When I saw clusters of the wild leeks all washed and delicately bound in twine at the farmers’ market, I nearly swooned. It was completely unfair–I should be digging these out of mud while wearing a rain jacket.
No time to complain. I grabbed a bunch, asked the farmer-forage (an interesting farm that specializes in tree products like chicory chips, black walnuts & maple syrup) how he most likes to prepare them, he quickly rattled off options that made my mouth water: in omelets, on pizza, in stir fry.
Did you say, “Pizza?”
Joe & I have become completely addicted to this pizza crust. No sauce. Just toppings, cheese & a thin crust that crisps in a hot oven. Oven to belly in <10 minutes. We sautéed ramps with just about any other green imaginable, covered the crust with it, threw on some cheese & sun-dried tomatoes… and at far too much pizza.
In summary, ramps are glorious. Mild onion flavor. Incredible aroma. Greens–something I adore. Quick cook time. Also tasty raw without the heartburn of more intense, larger onions.
What I’ve been told are the key to foraging ramps: I’m looking forward to foraging for ramps, but also replanting a portion of what we find to increase rather than rob from the population. I know it’s hard, but try not to eat a portion of your haul, so that you secure a harvest (and the species) in future years.
On Tuesday, Joe came home from class with a plastic container of what looked like brains left over from a lab experiment. Turns out, one of his students is a seasoned morel gatherer. He was sweet enough to share probably a half pound of them with Joe–even soaked them in some salt water to pull out any larvae that may be living in them…
I know. It can happen. And it terrifies me. But they float out & you rise it off, gag, then pretend it never happened. Fortunately, ours were larvae-free–though Joe insists he’d eat them, larvae & all. The boy is really into this survival business.
We tossed the morels in with greens & potatoes for a great lunch, then–I know it’s shocking–we put them on our pizza for dinner with ramps & other greens. These mushrooms are the bee’s knees.* Tender. Eager to soak up flavors. Earthy, unique flavor.
What I’ve been told are the keys to foraging morels: Carry them in a mesh bag, so that spores can scatter as you walk through the woods. If you forage into a plastic bag, you could lose loads of potential future harvests. Rinse them. And, most importantly, research the difference between morels & things that look like morels but are poisonous & might kill you.
What are you foraging these days? Are you using a guidebook that you particularly enjoy? If not, how’d you gain your mad foraging skillz?
*Because bees have knees in which they collect pollen, their protein source–because bees are insanely awesomely cool.