Harbingers of Spring – Ramp, Fiddleheads and Morels

What is the harbinger of spring?  It is the sight of daffodils, crocuses or rabbits but it is also that wonderful time of year when three of nature’s bounties appear – and the bounties we offer were all harvested sustainably from organic farms.

sm rampRAMPS – One of the first things to arrive amongst the avalanche of green are Ramps (a.k.a. Wild Leeks). They are in the same family as chives and scallions. They appear from one day to the next and scatter themselves across south facing slopes all over the countryside. Ramps are a spring treasure because they are one of the first forageable edibles of the year. They have a wonderful aroma of garlic and taste of tender onion.  Chop them up and add them to soups, salads, egg dishes and potato and grain sides.  Ramps are loaded with vitamins A and C.  They also contain significant amounts of the trace minerals selenium, which may help to prevent prostrate cancer, and chromium, which is necessary for properly metabolizing fats and carbohydrates.

FIDDLEHEADS emerge as miniature dervish dancers around the first week of May. In lowlandfiddleheads forests from the Great Lakes to the Maritimes of Canada the Ostrich Fern emerges in profusion. Tiny gray-green spirals reaching into the first really warm days of Spring. Each of them wearing their own little fur overcoat to protect them when it was chillier weather. Snapped up and eaten by whoever has the sense and taste to do it.  How do you cook them? They can be used just like any other firm, green vegetable, such as asparagus and broccoli.  Their flavor goes well with Asian-inspired dishes such as a stir-fry or paired with cheese and tomato in a pasta dish.  They should be cooked as they have a bitter taste when raw.

MorelsMORELS are spongy fungi belonging to the same species as the prized truffle.  Like truffles, they have an intense, earthy flavor that adds depth to so many dishes, particularly those with creamy sauces, such as pasta and risotto.  They also pair well with game birds such as pheasant.  These woodland treasures are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps prevent cellular damage, and potassium, a mineral that helps to lower blood pressure and may help promote bone health.

watercressWATERCRESS is one of the oldest known leafy vegetables to be consumed by humans.  In some parts of the world it is considered a weed, and in others a herb, and in one county in England they hold a festival in its honor bringing in 15’000 visitors each year.  Rich in minerals (particularly iron) and vitamins A and C, it is also a digestive aid, and is rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants.  Used mostly in salads (often with avocadoes or cucumbers).

By Hazel Bacigalupo


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