Raspberries, Salsify Buds, Sweet Cicely, Yarrow, Wood Sorrel, and Mayapple
Black-cap raspberries are the first of the brambles to produce fruit, but the red raspberries are also ripening in some areas. Some years wild raspberries are dryand seedy. But this summer we have had plenty of water and the berries are plump and juicy. And the plants are loaded with fruit. So fill your belly, fill your freezer, and make some jam!
Many foragers are familiar with salsify root. But a surprising number of people that I consider seasoned foragers have never tried the flower buds. This often overlooked summer vegetable is one of my favorites. The flowers and seed heads look somewhat like giant dandelions, making them easy to find. And they produce several crops of buds throughout the summer. Look for fresh buds after a rain.
Sweet cicely pods are starting to mature. The seed pods have a mild flavor of licorice or anise. They are also very sweet, giving the plant it’s name. They are so sweet, in fact, that they can be used to sweeten beverages or even to help cut sugar in your favorite desserts. This is a wonderful culinary herb, definitely worth taking some time to play with. The seed heads have 3 main branches, each with 3 sub-branches that contain multiple seed pods. To sustainable harvest, simply remove only 1 branch from each plant and leave the other 2 behind.
Yarrow (above left) is a common weed found along the edges of lawns and parks. Yarrow is an excellent first aid plant. It is astringent, antibacterial, and antiviral. A poultice, wash, or salve can be used topically to treat cuts and scrapes, in much the same way you would use neosporin or first aid cream. Teas and tinctures are effective in treating colds and flu. It is also diuretic, and the tea works well against urinary tract infections. The taste is a bit bitter, though. Using the flowers and adding fruit or spice to your tea will make it taste a a little better.
Wood Sorrel (above right) is another common weed in lawns and parks. The lemon flavored leaves, flowers, and especially the pods are delicious in salads or just as a snack. Chopped fresh sorrel also makes a very nice seasoning for chicken and fish. But the best way to get the most of the lemony flavor is to make a sauce. Finely chop several handfuls, and then put it in a pot with a spoonful of olive oil. Heat it just long enough to make the leaves wilt and it becomes a creamy mush. Put it on…anything!
Mayapples are one of the most prized fruits among foragers. This is partly because they do not taste like a typical Great Lakes area fruit. Their flavor is quite tropical, sort of like a pineapple-banana-lemon-guava. But mostly it is because, if you want to get mayapples, you need to beat the mayapple elves to them. Everyone sees lots of mayapple flowers, and everyone sees plenty of unripe fruit. But only a lucky few ever find a ripe mayapple. This is because the mayapple elves guard the patches and grab the fruit the minute it ripens. So if you know of a patch where there are unripe mayapples, check them as frequently as possible. And good luck beating the elves!