Yesterday evening was the first of six weekly sessions for a spring botany course on wild edibles that I've signed up for. It is taught by Martha Webber, a botanist and ecologist.
My fellow classmates and I arrived (an eclectic group) and gathered around a picnic table on which our teacher had set cups and two big jugs of maple sap and rhubarb juice for us to sample, as well as a basket of ostrich fern fiddleheads and ramps.
Then 'class' began. Our first lesson took place right outside Martha's front door where she had transplanted some ostrich ferns. She taught us how to recognize last year's flag.
Here are the fiddleheads popping up at the base of the old flag. Martha said that one could easily harvest two or three fiddleheads from a large fern without damaging the plant.
Here are a few that have passed their prime. Martha also noted that some ferns, such as bracken and the sensitive fern are known to be somewhat toxic and should therefore be avoided. The key identifying factor for edible ferns is the deep groove in the stem of ostrich ferns.
We then moved on to a big patch of waterleaf, which makes a nice salad green.
Next to the waterleaf were some ramps.
Beside the ramps was a patch of toxic bloodroot, which is not edible.
Here are some daylilies coming up. We harvested and ate the juicy, tender leaves at the base of the plant.
Garlic mustard was identified and collected for a salad.
When stinging nettles are young and tender, they can picked without gloves.
This kind of sedum is edible and went into our salad bowl as well.
Here is a beautiful patch of English primrose in flower. (We also identified evening primrose, but those pictures didn't turn out.)
Burdock has wonderful medicinal properties.
As does motherwort.
Here is our wise and wonderful teacher leading us through the woods on her property.
To further help us identify all kinds of plants and trees, Martha gave us a brief lesson on plant taxonomy. As the sun was setting she brought us back to the house, where we stopped off at her Jerusalem artichoke bed and dug up some tubers (I brought some home to plant in my garden!). We washed the chokes off and then washed our hands at the back of the house with soapwort.
Martha then welcomed us into her home for a delicious meal of baked lima beans with ramps and wild ginger, sweet molasses bread with dandelion jam, steamed nettles and fiddleheads, Jerusalem artichokes in a vinaigrette and a freshly picked salad of wild greens.
After our meal we sipped linden tea and Martha played us a tape of frog calls.
It was a wonderful and incredibly informative evening. I learned so much and I am thoroughly looking forward to the rest of the course.