Bear News Beartown News
MAY 1, 2010

THE COUNTRY CORNER

The Wild Leek,
also known as the Ramp, or common Wild Leek (Allium tricoccum) is our best wild onion and a source of food and spiciness all year round.

Broad, smooth, light green leaves, often with deep purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems begin arriving in small troops as soon as the snow disappears. Scallion like bulbs are  strongly rooted just beneath the surface of the soil. Finish off your identification by tearing a leaf or stem and taking a sniff of the strong and distinctive onion scent of the Leek

Look for soil habitats that are sandy, moist and often on hillsides and near streams. Some almost always find them while searching for Morels so a bad day of mushroom hunting can often be a good day for leeks!

The leaves are are very tender early in the Spring and the bulb is edible year round, though they can toughen up in the summer. Don't bother collecting more then a few handfulls unless you want to blanch and freeze some, because the wild Leek is very pungent. Use it sparingly and you'll have good luck as the flavor of both the leaves and the bulb are quite strong.

Fiddleheads
The Ostrich Fern

Fiddleheads, are the curled sprout of the Ostrich Fern, Matteucia struthiopteris, a delicate and delicious spring vegetable found in a variety of habitats across North America.

Look for fiddleheads as soon as the earliest spring flowers bloom and anywhere you've see ferns growing before. You want to harvest them while they still retain a curl at the top and like asparagus, use as much of the stem below the curl as you can collect. This part is often overlooked and is every bit as good as the top. The fiddleheads pictured left are actually a little small to harvest. Waiting until they are 6 to 10 inches tall will yield a lot more to eat. And when harvesting leave about half the fronds there to insure the survival of the fern.

The stem rising up to the fiddlehead should have a groove in it similar to a celery stalk but narrower and the stem should be smooth and not furry.

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The distinctive feature of the Ostrich Fern is the brown papery material you can see in the picture above. It may be stuck in the curl but shouldn't stick to the stem.

One nice thing about fiddleheads is that there are no deadly ferns but some can get you sick, some people may be allergic, and I would always cook them to avoid bacteria...salmonella, etc. which I've heard can be a problem.

Wash the fronds, or even soak in salted water to chase the bugs out and saute with butter. For a change try sauteing with chives and chive flowers or adding a little white wine and Dijon mustard.

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Email: dernc@sover.net


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