Update: Thanks to a reader comment and some further research there seems to be some toxicity associated with at least one kind of wild ginger. (There are about 10 different species all together.) This site notes that the species Asarum canadense, the kind found in this part of the country, contains Aristolochic Acid, which is "a naturally occurring toxin that can cause cancer, mutations in human cells, and end-stage kidney failure." In light of this information I suggest avoiding this plant for edible purposes.
This week's wild edible lesson was a field trip to this beautiful forest, carpeted with white trilliums.
Peeking out between the trilliums, we found a lot of Spring Beauty.
(My picture didn't turn out, but you can see what a beauty it really is here.)
I did however catch a good shot of the bulb like root, which if you have the patience to harvest enough of these tiny roots, you'll find you have a tasty alternative to potatoes.
I'm excited to learn about wild ginger.
If you want to make sure you've found the right plant, look for the distinctive and beautiful flowers at the base of the plant.
Then you can dig up the root. Though smaller and more labor intensive than the domestic ginger you find in the store, wild ginger root is deliciously pungent, peppery and very aromatic.
For local foodies out there lamenting the lack of local ginger, this just might be a viable alternative.
From what I can tell, the plant makes a good ground cover, and grows easily in shady, moist soil. I dug up a plant and I'm going to see how well it does under the shade of the cherry tree in my garden.
This is the leaf of the crinkleroot, also known as toothwort. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the crinkly root, however I can tell you that it makes a wonderful substitute for horseradish. It would take a lot of time and effort to clean and process the roots, but after one taste, it's clear that it would be worth it!
After tromping through the forest for a couple of hours we walked to the edge of a nearby river and set out a wild feast of steamed fiddleheads and stinging nettles, a freshly picked wild greens salad, a sample of burdock root, Jerusalem artichokes with wild ginger and potatoes with crinkleroot horseradish. We washed it down with linden and nettle tea. For desert Martha made up a batch of tasty dandelion fritters. I am definitely going to try making these myself!
All in all, it was another fun filled and informative evening and I can't wait until next week!