Spring is here, and at my house that means it’s time to act like pioneers and forage for wild food. With each passing year, we get better at identifying what’s edible and what’s not, so my family’s chances of being poisoned are happily decreasing at a steady rate. Remember that time I fed my family some mystery mustard?
I’ve since learned to play it safe(r), so we started off this year with dandelion jelly. Two years ago, we made dandelion wine, and that was quite enough of an experience to last me for a while. It was a lot of work, and somewhat of a waste because the resulting alcohol was so powerful no one could drink more than a tiny bit at a time. Meanwhile, I had gallons of it lurking in the dark recesses of my pantry, yeasty and alive and doing who-knows-what back there.
While we were picking dandelion blossoms for the jelly, we came across loads of chickweed growing in the lawn. We had just learned about this edible spring plant the evening before at an MSU Sci Fest lecture. It’s a tiny white flower with rabbit ear petals, and the whole plant is edible. I had never noticed it before, but you know how that goes: once you learn about a thing, you see it everywhere. We picked a bunch and looked for the various identifying marks we had learned the night before. Once we were absolutely sure it was chickweed, we brought it inside and fixed it into a nice little salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.
Then we made our diabetes-in-a-jar, otherwise known as jelly. When you make your own jam or jelly, you begin to understand why we have a weight problem in this country, that’s for sure. Jelly is basically pounds of sugar with a touch of water and a light flavoring added. This also explains why it’s so delicious.
The dandelion jelly turned out great (really, how can you mess up pure sugar?), although it was labor intensive. Picking the flowers involved a lot of bending over and standing up, which I believe I’ve made clear is not my favorite activity. Probably because I’ve had too much jelly in my lifetime. And chips. Anyway, then we had to remove the green collars from hundreds of blossoms because you only use the slender yellow petals for the jelly. But just like any homesteading activity, the hard work pays off when you end up with something neat you made all by yourself.
Our next foraging adventure will *hopefully* be morel hunting. We’ve been on the lookout but haven’t seen anything yet. It’s still early, though. And don’t worry, we’re not trying any mushrooms other than the easy-to-identify morel, so we won’t be calling you in the middle of the night for a ride to the ER. But if we did, I would offer you some lovely dandelion jelly as a thank you gift.