Walking in the Woods

Serviceberries bloom like earthborne clouds now.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) is one of the first berries to ripen, in mid June, because it is one of the first to bloom. Distantly related to apples and roses, the Serviceberry trees look like puffy white clouds as you drive down the road in early May. I have several here on the Farm, and I think I may spread some more out in the hedgerows because they are pretty and do have a sweet berry that if I can beat the birds to it, is quite good.

Wild strawberries may be the sweetest fruit in the world.

The tiny blossoms of the wild strawberry spangle the pasture like stars, heralding the fruit that will ripen in the first week of June, and which is probably the best flavor I harvest here at Stonycroft. The fruit will be about the size of the end of my pinkie finger, and if it is too dry, I may not get any.

Partridge berries ripen in spring, not summer.

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) is one of those neat little fruits that develops from not one flower but two. They ripen in early May from flowers that set the previous fall. Unfortunately, although they are pretty, they don’t taste like much and have a spongy texture.

Red Trillium

One of the earliest spring wildflowers. They aren’t edible, and as a matter of fact I never pick them, as they are relatively rare.

Young beech leaves are so soft, and neatly pleated.

Goldthread loves the deepest shade.

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia) is named for the bright yellow, threadlike roots. The Native Americans used them for medicine. I haven’t tried that, I just love the tiny blossoms that appear to float over the forest floor, their stems are so thin.

The bright yellow roots give this plant its name.

Jack-in-the-pulpit is such a fun oddity of a flower.

Later in the season “Jack” will become a cluster of bright red berries, but Arisaema triphyllum is not at all edible. The earthy flowers are easy to miss, but a treat to look at when you do find them.

A rare patch of the red trilliums.


Wildcrafting Fiddleheads

Cinnamon ferns are named for their spore fronds, which appear later in the year.

I have lived in New Hampshire for twenty years now, and have only gotten around to looking for fiddleheads this year. I’m not sure why – I certainly wildcraft enough with other things, both obvious and obscure. Partly I believe it is because they are only available for a few weeks, if not days, in early spring. And also because unlike most of my other wildcrafting, I have had no mentor. I use my field guides extensively, and have quite a collection of wild eldible guides at this point in my life, but for fiddleheads… well, the most charitable word I can use is vague. And I will not feed my family foods that are identified vaguely. Here on Stonycroft we have close to a dozen species of fern, and up until yesterday I didn’t think we had the edible kind. Glady and I took a walk, and I was taking pictures. Then I spotted what looked like the Ostrich Fern fiddleheads and decided I would bring a few up to the house for identification and inclusion into dinner.

Christmas Ferns remain green year-round

An unidentified fern, I will have to go back later to put a name to it.

The two types of fiddleheads I collected.

Back at the house, I delved into my books, and the internet for pictures and descriptions of edible fiddle heads, and realized that the little guys on the right in the above picture were correct. I had found them growing in a damp, shady area below an active spring. It was still cool enough there to have them tightly enough curled to harvest. Fiddleheads are edible, fern fronds are not. I discarded the wrong ones, and threw the handful of good ones, with a little cleaning off of the papery caul, into my pad thai for dinner. Along with some dandelion leaves.

Pork Pad Thai with rice noodles and fiddleheads.

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