Leeks, morels, and transplanting the wild harvest: thoughts on an early spring

It’s around midnight.  I’ve had down-time in blogging these past few months, trying to get our house in order before we move up North to a new piece of land, and hopefully get a few business ideas that we’ve had brewing for many a season out to the public.  But tonight outside the air is warm, around 60 degrees.  Remember we live in Michigan where it is still supposed to be cold in March, but not tonight, not this year.  Since last week the weather has been unseasonably warm and the fruit and ornamental trees in our backyard are budding, many of the crocuses in the front yard have already bloomed, birds are building nests and singing mating songs, and my kids are exchanging their winter boots for bare feet and their snowsuits for shorts and t-shirts.

Up north we would be picking morels on our land, if we had time to get up there.  They begin fruiting right around this temperature.  They don’t last long.  Morels fruit around a temperature of 45-65 degrees and then after it gets warmer than that, the season is finished.  People like me that like to wander wooded countries looking for the fat, pocked beauties pick all that we can, and then are left to dream through the other seasons for new morel bounties in the years to come.  I talked to my neighbor last week and he said that they still have snow, remnants of a large snow storm that dumped a couple feet of snow on them in a couple of days.  So it might not be here quite yet, but still I’m sure the morel season is imminent and the maple syrup season too.

That’s all up North of us.  Down here there are no trees to tap and we don’t have any good ‘shrooming spots that we know of, so a family has to make due with what they’ve got.  What we do have down here is some of the edible “weeds” that grow in our lawn.  Chickweed and dandelion are already pushing up, and that’s exciting because it’s a tell tale sign of spring. When you are wildcrafting and consciously observing nature, every season is marked by the plants and the animals that accompany it.  The rhythm to the seasons becomes less of cliché and more of something that is experienced through these intermediaries.

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Wild leeks are one of my most favorite “markers” of the season.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we have a spot that we go every year to harvest them and of course we are the only ones doing it, despite this being an urban center (or maybe because that it is an urban center).  Last year I planted some leeks in containers and left them in our backyard in hope that they would survive the winter and show themselves this spring.  I have not been disappointed.  Most of my transplants returned, which gives us a good indication that they are leafing out in the woods as well.

I’m going to try planting like this with other plants this year:  create my own living identification book in my backyard.  When you live far from the woods, like we currently do, transplanting some of these wild plants can help you study them in all stages of their lives, as opposed to just when they are in their edible stage.  I know with leeks for example, we have found wild ginger, wild garlic, spring beauties, trout lily and garlic mustard.  All of these are edible.  I’ve yet to see them all from the beginning of their lives to the end, but I’m looking forward to it, and I’ll pass on what I learn in the future

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2 Responses to Leeks, morels, and transplanting the wild harvest: thoughts on an early spring

  1. 1left says:

    Hi, wild leeks and morels are both rare in my area, though I have introduced wild leeks to a few local river intervales, the wild leeks in their cluster beds are a lovely green to see and taste, I too like to grow a little wild indicator garden. happy foraging.

    • Jeremy says:

      Thanks 1left. I like that you introduced leeks near your river. That’s great. I many times have thought about seeding wild edibles in places where they do not currently grow. You know, spread the love around. Happy foraging to you as well.

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