Wild Plants And Wooly Bears
By the third week of May the forest canopy has grown dense, a sign of another step forward for the change of seasons. Now, plants that thrive in the filtered sunlight of early and mid-spring have grown to maturity and set flowers and in many cases, seeds.
This week and the next carry many possibilities. Killing frosts are still possible. On the other hand, so are heat waves. In other words, we can’t count on much, at least not weather-wise. Still, hopeful gardeners set out tender crops and hope for the best. And wild food foragers set their sights upon a whole, new group of plants.
Lamb’s quarters, a plant that thrives on cultivated ground, becomes available for harvest. Also, common milkweed offers the first pickings of its tender tips.
So it’s a case of out with the old (fiddleheads and dandelions) and in with the new.
Folks who have never tried the above-named plants owe it to themselves to do so now. Lamb’s quarters rate as one of my favorite, leafy vegetables. Sweeter and milder than spinach (I just had some of my own spinach last night, and while delicious, it could not compare to lamb’s quarters), lamb’s quarters takes only a brief time to prepare. Just boil for perhaps a minute, simmer for another minute, drain and serve.
Common milkweed tips have a season of approximately two weeks, before the plant develops into the next stage. Don’t confuse this plant with toxic, butterfly weed, a type of milkweed that lacks the white, milky latex sap that distinguishes common milkweed. Also, butterfly weed sports erect, flat clusters of bright-orange flowers. The difference between the two is considerable, but still it pays to take heed.
Pick the tender tips, usually consisting of four, erect leaves, and boil for at least five minutes. This makes a fine, cooked vegetable.
These represent only a small fraction of the delicious, wild plants coming to a field, lawn or garden bed near you.