Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wild bounty

Okay, since you're not able to munch on wild plums yet, I have another idea. Driving down those same winding country roads, look for the following plant along the roadside:

This, for those of you who have never savored the delicacy before, is wild asparagus. At this time of year the leaves are out and the stems are inedible. But this time of year is when the plant is most visible. Now is when you can see it and put down a stake, red flag or whatever for easier locating next spring. Asparagus stems come up in early spring, and are best picked when 8-10" long. I've picked asparagus when it's 18", and the bottom woody part has to be cut off.

The wild asparagus found along roadways are descendants from plants cultivated by farmers decades ago. The plants set berries in the summer, which are eaten by birds, and the seeds get spread all over the place. It's easier to find mature plants at this time of year along roadways which haven't been mowed for hay.

Another great spot to look for wild asparagus is near abandoned homesteads. If you find one, and get permission from the owner to walk around, you might also find a few other treasures; old apple trees, run-amok rhubarb patches, tangles of raspberry bushes, chokecherries, etc. Those old farmers were their own kind of visionary. They planted the trees and sowed the seeds, and we're still reaping the bounty years afterward.

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