Morels & Ramps the bounty of spring
In the northeastern united states as winter turns to spring and the soil begin to warm the region is waking from its dormant slumber and spring ephemeral flowers festoon the landscape. From the the dinosaur claw appearance of spadix of the skunk cabbage to the snow drops to the trilliums the spring is a time of the herbs that take advantage of the window of opportunity where the sun shines brightly onto the forest flore before the trees awaken and soak up the sun with their reaching branches.
Of the forest edibles that adorn our landscape ramps (Allium tricoccum) arrive as the first substantial feast that a forger can find. These little linear leaved plants pack a powerful punch in their lingering flavor. Both their edible leaves that stick out of the ground as well as the bulb can be consumed for those who appreciate a strong onion to garlic taste.
While ramps make for an excellent addition to many spring meals it is necessary to consider the impacts of harvesting these potent bulbs. It can take 5-7 years to a ramp develop from seed to a harvestable bulb. Due to the extended time it takes for ramps to mature is neccessary to take care in harvesting ramps from natural areas that make sure wild populations are not over exploited. For those who find ramps in highly visited natural areas it is suggested to only harvest only a few of the edible leaves and keeping the bulbs intact. If you are lucky enough to find very large healthy populations opting to dig a few bulbs can add an exciting element to your next wild foraged meal. Understanding of a plants life cycle is necessary to step to act as a steward of our forest resources and preserve our plant heritage for future generations.
Of the mushrooms that call the finger lakes region call their home, few are more ellusive than the morel. Morels seem to have a mind of their own not comforming to the comforts of cultivation like the more familiar white buttons or oyster mushroom and prefer landscapes that are on the wild side. Tucked away under towering elms or hidden in abanondond orchards morels with their distinctive caps are a delight of spring and harbinger of the mycological bounty to come. Both the black and yellow morel’s make for an excellent rich culinary experience with their nutty meaty flavor. As with any wild collected food, proper identification is paramount. If you are new to mushroom identification there are a number of great resources available.
Note the mesh bag we used to carry collected ramps, this practice allows for the spreading of spores as we continue our collecting adventures through the woods.
In the spring of 2017 we were lucky enough to find an exceptional crop of yellow morels that inspired us to pair them with ramps and deer for a locavore culinary experience. Morels have a short shelf life so it is important to use them within a day or two after harvest. Inspired by culinary creativity of Hank Shaw we decided to use the morels to make a mushroom sauce to accompany the venison backstrap. We modified his recipe to substitute shallots for ramps.