Or not to find ramps – that is the question. More accurately, since simply finding them is fine, should one or should one not harvest them and if the answer is “Yes, they’re delicious!” at what point, if any, does the answer become “No, they’re endangered!” or again more accurately (and the reason for all this dithering), “No, they’re in danger of becoming endangered if people keep picking them at the current rate.
Ramps (Allium tricoccum) at home in typical habitat
We regularly hunt for and pick them, trying to be responsible about it. We frequently cook and eat them in season, trying not to be too piggy about it. And I, at least, have two sub-questions:
- Is the worry about over-harvesting* justified? And
- Is it possible to formulate a general rule for the ethical enjoyment of foraged wild foods?
I probably should have titled this “Harvesting Wild Mushrooms;” there are all kinds of them just about everywhere (or at least everywhere in the Northeast). Our vegetable gardens may be soggy – even without Irene this has been a mighty rainy summer – but in the silver lining department there’s a bumper crop in the woods and fields.
While I’m in Maine getting the summer garden underway, husband Bill, aka Mr. Mushroom ( see his most recent morel hunting tips here) has been holding down the Hudson Valley end: feeding cats, cutting vast quantities of asparagus, mulching peonies, tending the bees , collecting morels – and being inspired by your responses to send another guest post:
Bears, Bees, Bacon and Morels
by Bill Bakaitis
Flash! My neighbor just informed me that the bears are back.
A few days ago he went out in early morning to feed his horse and discovered that the large bin which stored the sweet feed and biscuit treats was missing. Well, not quite missing as there were drag marks and when followed led to one of the neighborhood bears (last year there were five) having an early morning snack of the biscuits. After a brief encounter and short stand-off the bear beat a retreat.
End of that story, but Whoops, thought I, I sure better check the electric fence around our bees and rebait the hot wires with the Rancid Bacon Bear Bait stored in the freezer for just such occasions.
A spreading patch of bloodroot is now encroaching into our small fenced-in bee yard, and over the past few rainy days had grown tall enough to be in contact with the lowest hot wire of the electric fence.
The errant bloodroot leaves sizzled, snapped, crackled, popped and were draining the voltage of the wire. Good timing, I thought and went to the shed for a small sickle, to the freezer for the bear bait, and after disconnecting the solar charger trimmed all of the bloodroot and other vegetation under the fence. That’s when I found the morels. Read More…
As we were spooning in the eggs with asparagus and black morels I was just going on about yesterday, Bill mentioned that he should maybe say something about how to find the blacks – they’re a bit trickier than the main season blondes, but they have a special savor for being the first.
“Have at it! ” said I; and so here is some more from our resident guide to wild mushrooms:
THE FIRST MORELS OF THE SEASON
By Bill Bakaitis
The first morels of the season are the hardest to find. They are not Morchella esculenta, the blonde varieties standing tall under elm and apple but the Eastern Black Morel, M. elata/angusticeps/conica complex.
These early morels usually will begin to fruit near the end of April in the Mid Hudson area, just as the forsythia blossoms fall to earth, the maples begin to leaf out and the black flies begin to bite. I found my first of this season on Saturday, April 25, as the spreading heat wave pushed the thermometer to the record breaking 89 degree mark.
The Eastern Black Morel, typically the first morel of the season
It was lunchtime. I was in the kitchen. Bill went out to empty the compost before making his umptigazillionth ham sandwich ( This is not a man who believes in varying the midday menu.)
“Hey Leslie, come see what’s in the trap!”
Full grown muskrat - they're smaller than you'd think.
Start on the endless spring to-do list. Lawn and garden cleanup, shrub pruning, seed-starting, seed planting…
and (among yet other things)
* Consider the freezer
* Start on the bulb maps
* Figure out where the garlic is going to go
* Cut back and repot tired houseplants
* Scout for morel spots Read More…
It may be bundle up time ( we’ve had temps in the mid-20’s on several nights at this point) but there are still delicious wild mushrooms to be found. Here’s the latest from our resident expert.
THE MUSHROOMS OF AUTUMN
After The Leaf fall
story and photos by Bill Bakaitis
As the days shorten the trees shed their leaves, openings begin to appear in the canopy, and more light penetrates to the understory. Mild frosts will have singed the outer tips of the garden plants and the edges of the forest, but mushrooms such as Honeys can still be found poking through the thin cover of leaves under the thickest forest canopies.
Light frost on Maple Leaves
By mid-Autumn, a month after equinox, It’s a different story. Read More…
Kristi and I are discussing the last bits of putting the garden to bed. We’re wondering about the winter rye, our standard cover crop for the Maine vegetable plots. She planted it 10 days ago but nothing seems to be coming up. Big Mystery. Seed was fresh, there has been rain…
Mystery solved first thing in the morning. I look out the bedroom window into the rosy dawn and there in the garden is a flock of wild turkeys, busily scratching and eating.
wild turkey breakfasting on rye and clover
Another in the wild mushroom series from Bill Bakaitis, who is really warmin’ up to this. It’s a little different from the others in that it’s a primer on a mushroom I’m not crazy about, but plenty of other people like them (especially people from Eastern Europe), and a honey mushroom lover sings their praises at the very end of the post.
Mushrooms of Autumn: The complex Honey
story and photos by Bill Bakaitis
Mowing our lawn in New York a few days ago I was impressed by the number of Honey mushrooms that had sprung up. They seemed to be everywhere. Although Leslie and I do not eat them, many do, and from the Poison Control calls that come in at this time of year, we know that they cause problems for a number of people. It therefore seems appropriate to mention them in this treatment of Autumn Mushrooms. Here then part of the complexity of Honeys.
Armillaria mellea, The Honey Mushroom, yellow form
Another piece of not-exactly amazing news: being physically warmed up – by holding a hot drink, for instance – makes people feel more warmly toward others, more generous, more tolerant, while getting chilled – by holding a coldpak, for instance – has the opposite effect. You can read all about it here or here.
And then you can be sorry all over again that “global warming” has gotten established as the shorthand for catastrophic climate change. Warm is a hugely positive word, as others before me have been pointing out for some time. If you’re trying to sound the alarm about human-caused atmospheric changes that have enormous downsides (flood, drought, and biblically destructive storms, for starters), using a word that’s more or less synonymous with “good” is probably not such a great idea.
Same problem with undifferentiated “climate change,” given that – as you may have heard lately – change can be something desirable.
frost didn't hit the cosmos until mid-October, two weeks later than usual
Do I have a solution? Not for for the main problem, and not (at least so far) for what to call it. But for the keep yourself feeling warm part, can’t beat
Cream of (wild) Mushroom Soup
Rich in flavor but comparatively light in texture, a redemption of the genre. Also – if you tweak it a bit – a redemption of any recipe that has canned cream of mushroom soup on the ingredient list.