Full Snow Moon

Photo Credit: https://www.ajc.com/news/heres-when-the-full-snow-moon-will-rise-this-weekend/VS3VMJMOL5CKHMSAT3WAZJBDWI/

The full Snow Moon rises on Sunday afternoon, February 5.  Although it will occur during the daytime in the U.S., the full moon generally stays for a long duration so you should be able to watch it during the night and the day after as well. The Moon will be visible throughout the night sky rising at sunset in the northeast and setting with the sunrise the next morning in the southwest; it will reach its highest point in the night sky around midnight.

Since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month, American Indian tribes of the north and east most often called February’s full Moon the Full Snow Moon. Read about how snowflakes form.  View the science of snowflakes.  View a slideshow of photographs of snowflakes.

Frost cracks
Photo Credit: https://www.spsonline.com/blog/what-causes-frost-cracks-in-your-trees/

This is also the time when trees most often bear frost cracks. When they form, frost cracks can make a surprisingly loud sound that has been compared to that of a rifle shot! A frost crack is a long, vertical gash in the trunk of a tree, and is the result of a tree bursting open. Frost cracks occur during the winter where the trunk is exposed to sunshine during the day (whose radiant energy raises the temperature of the inner wood and the water flowing through it) then followed by rapid cooling when the sun sets. This extreme temperature variation, especially when the long dark night that follows is accompanied by bitter cold temperatures, causes the wood to rapidly expand and split – loudly!

Watch a video about the Full Snow Moon.

FYI: Mars will be perfectly visible during the three nights that the Snow Moon will appear to be full: Saturday through Monday. On Saturday night, February 4, at approximately 7:30pm, you’ll find Mars as shown here (click on photo to enlarge it):

SOURCE: https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/usa/albany-ny

Best time to view Mars on Saturday evening is 7:32pm.

Happy viewing!

Advertisement

National Pie Day

Photo Credit:
http://foodsafetytrainingcourses.com/blog/articles/food-safety-news/pie-safety-on-national-pie-day/

Created in the mid-1970s by Charlie Papazian and sponsored by the American Pie Council since 1986, National Pie Day encourages us all to take a break with America’s favorite dessert.

While pie exists in some form all over the world, Americans have a cultural affinity and culinary preference for the flaky dessert.  From Don McLean’s epic song “American Pie” to expressions like “as American as apple pie,” our country embraces the pie — apple in particular — as a symbol of national pride. However, a pie may be savory or sweet.

Fun pie facts to drop into conversations today –

  • oldest known pie was rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie from Rome about 2,000 years ago
  • nine states list pie as their official state dessert

The folks at National Today surveyed a thousand people about their pie preferences and here is what they found:

Source: https://nationaltoday.com/national-pie-day/#:~:text=National%20Pie%20Day%20occurs%20every,first%20three%20digits%20of%20pi.

Some suggestions on how to become engaged in today’s festivities –

  1. Bake your favorite pie.
  2. Share pie with friends and family.
  3. Play a board game called Pie Face.
  4. Sample different slices of pie.
  5. Share your favorite pie recipe with friends and family.  I’m sharing my recipe for your consideration to make something truly unique.  I enjoy pecan pie, but this is even better!

For you fellow foragers out there, here is a list of alternative pies to consider on this day (or, make the necessary arrangements to enjoy any one of these for next National Pie Day!) –

So, preheat your oven or visit your local bakery, and then celebrate happy pie noshing all day today!

It’s Okay to be Squirrelly Today

That’s because it is National Squirrel Appreciation Day.  Originally a creation by wildlife rehabilitation specialist Christy Hargrove in 2001, this day was so christened to learn about and celebrate these curious critters.

Squirrels commonly occur in a variety of habitats in all rural areas of the U.S.  However, up until the mid-19th century, squirrels weren’t present in American cities.  In fact, not until the landscape of urban areas began to be transformed by the planting of trees and the building of parks along with concerted efforts to introduce squirrels into these newly created environments did these bushy-tailed busy bodies begin to become established.  The first successful introduction of gray squirrels occurred in Philadelphia’s Franklin Square in 1847; Boston and New Haven followed suit in 1850.  By the 1870s, a much larger scale of parks expansion parks in America’s major cities provided a welcomed habitat for squirrels to live and thrive.  Read more about this undertaking.

Squirrels are a diverse group consisting of approximately 279 species and 51 genera that are broken into five subfamilies (Ratufinae, Sciurillinae, Sciurinae, Xerinae, and Callosciurinae). The family Sciuridae includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels.

  1. Ground Squirrels:  Ground squirrels live in burrows in the ground or among rocks.  They are generally more robust than tree squirrels and often have short, sturdy forelimbs that are used for digging.  Their tails, while fully furred, generally are not as bushy as those of tree squirrels.  Our most common ground squirrels locally include Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) and Woodchuck (AKA Groundhog) (Marmota monax).
  2. Tree Squirrels:  Tree squirrels generally have long, bushy tails, sharp claws and large ears.  However, the true defining characteristic used to determine which species of Sciuridae are tree squirrels is dependent on their habitat rather than their physiology.  Tree squirrels live mostly among trees.  Our most common tree squirrels locally are Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus).
  3. Flying Squirrels:  While flying squirrels also make their homes in trees, they have a physiological distinction separating them from their tree squirrel cousins:  a furred membrane (patagium) extending between each wrist and ankle that acts as glider wings that allows for gliding flight that enables them to glide between trees.  We have two species of flying squirrels in our area:  Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) and Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans); the latter is most often found south of the Mohawk Valley.

Some squirrelly facts to drop into conversations today –

  • more than 270 squirrel species worldwide
  • only wild mammal that many of us will routinely see throughout our lifetime
  • group of squirrels is called a scurry
  • 25% of nuts buried by squirrels are stolen by others, most often other squirrels
  • 74% of buried nuts are never recovered by the squirrel who buried it
  • worldwide, squirrels are attributed with planting more than a billion oak trees each year largely due to forgetting where they buried those acorns
  • squirrels can leap up to 10X the length of their body and they can reach speeds of up to 20mph!
  • their front teeth never stop growing and do so at the rate of six inches per year
  • communicate with a wide range of calls, such as ‘squeaking’ noises and territorial barks
  • tree squirrel nest is called a drey

Some suggestions on how to become engaged in today’s festivities –

  • Feed them and they will come:  Smear peanut butter on a pinecone, hang it in a tree, then grab a pair of binoculars and sit back and wait for some fun wildlife viewing up close.
  • Create an obstacle course:  Since squirrels are the epitome of opportunistic eaters (afterall, you know they will find and pillage from your bird feeders), why not make them work for it?  Check out this awesome video for inspiration!
  • Read on:  Open a book and learn more.  Adults might enjoy Squirrels at My Window by Grace Marmor Spruch.  Kids will prefer Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin and The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel by Thornton W. Burgess.

Think like a squirrel and seize the day!

Curious By Nature Events for 2023: Saturday Strolls through Four Seasons

During 2023, I will be conducting a series of nature walks in-synch with each of the four seasons.  Each walk will occur on a Saturday in hopes of encouraging your participation.

Winter Plant ID-Trailside Guide

This series will begin with a winter walk on February 25 at Anchor Diamond Park at Hawkwood in the Town of Ballston to identify plants – particularly forbs – in a winter landscape.  We’ll continue through spring and summer to view blooming wildflowers up close and then conclude on October 7 at Veterans Memorial Park in the Town of Clifton Park to view the vibrant palette of fall colors of forbs on display (as well as the last wildflower to begin blooming each year).  Each walk will offer those who join me with the opportunity to view plants in each of our four seasons and to do so in a variety of ways.  To illustrate my point, the inaugural session will engage participants through the use of a digital guide that I prepared for trailside use during our outing that will highlight several winter plant identification tips for each of the flagged plants that we encounter along our route.  Building off the self-guided winter plant ID walks that I offered last winter, I will lead a group walk on this outing and will assist participants in the use of my digital guide on their personal mobile device.  I think this interactive group activity will be a fun outing!

Common Witch-hazel

Common Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

For more information about all of my scheduled events, please view the Events page.

I hope you’ll join me.

Happy trails!

Full Wolf Moon

Photo Credit: Creator: Zeferli | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The full Wolf Moon rises on Friday, January 6, with peak illumination at 6:09pm EST.  Look for the moon to rise from the northeastern horizon around sunset that evening.  This full moon is a “micromoon” this year, meaning that it is at its farthest point from Earth.

A full moon in January came to be known as the Wolf Moon because wolves were more likely to be heard howling at this time.  It was traditionally believed that wolves howled due to hunger during winter, but we now better understand that wolves communicate to one another for a variety of reasons when they howl.  Howling is a wolf vocalization generally used to define territory, locate pack members, reinforce social bonds, and coordinate hunting.  During the denning season in spring and early summer, wolves only howl to pack mates.  As the late summer moves towards fall, wolves call more and more to neighbors and enemies.  Just before and during their breeding season in February, wolves are particularly louder and more vocal as they communicate in search of a mate, which is probably why people associated the month of January with howling wolves.  While it may seem that wolves howl at the moon, they lift their heads erectly upright toward the sky for better acoustics, because projecting their howl upward carries the sound farther.

Lore suggests that if this first full moon of the New Year is bright, its presence promises rain and a bountiful harvest; however, a red-tinted moon means a dry year lies ahead.

Watch a video about the Full Wolf Moon.

FYI: Mars will be perfectly visible during the three nights that the Wolf Moon will appear to be full: Thursday through Saturday. On Thursday night, January 5, at approximately 7pm, you’ll find Mars in relation to the Wolf Moon as shown here:

SOURCE: https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/night/usa/albany-ny

Best time to view Mars on Thursday evening is 9:17pm.

Happy viewing!

Not your ordinary ‘winter’ plant ID quiz!

On this second day of the New Year, there is no evidence outside that winter is upon us – yet the calendar says otherwise. 48 degrees and filtered sunshine this afternoon!

Thus, I invite you to peruse the photos below and take part in my first-ever snowless plants-still-with-green leaves(!) ‘winter’ plant identification quiz. All photos were taken at Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve in the Town of Clifton Park.

Click on any photo for a closer look.

Have fun!

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‘Tis the Season of Wintery Scenes Once Again

Diamond Path
West Towpath @ Vischer Ferry Nature & Historic Preserve following December 2008 ice storm

Welcome to winter!

The winter solstice will occur on December 21. It’s the northern hemisphere’s shortest day and longest night of the year. It’s also when noontime shadows are the longest of the year.

The season offers opportunities aplenty to view our winter landscape from a number of perspectives –

Up close:

Fruit of Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

From afar:

Flocked Forest

Time of day (and with shorter days, the opportunities pass quickly!):

Winter Twilight

Contrasts within winter’s whiteness:

In the abstract:

Frozen Flood: The Mohawk River in Still Life

As a medium for imprints:

Tracks of Fisher (Pekania pennanti)

The arrival of this new season will mark the return of the shortest days of the entire year.  How do you want to enjoy the outdoors with those few hours of daylight?

First ski tracks of season

Here is a list of winter outdoor and online activities to consider:

Happy trails!

Full Cold Moon

Photo Credit: https://abcnews.go.com/US/12s-wild-decades-final-full-moon/story?id=67600540

The full Cold Moon rises on Wednesday, December 7, with peak illumination at 11:09pm EST.  Start looking for this full moon just before sunset as it begins to peek above the horizon.  December’s full moon has a high trajectory in the sky, which means that it will be above the horizon for longer than most full moons.

For millennia, people across Europe, as well as Native American tribes, named the months after features they associated with the seasons of the northern hemisphere.  Not surprisingly, despite the differences in these cultures, the names that each assigned to those dozen moons are very similar.

December’s full moon is most commonly known as the Cold Moon—a Mohawk name that reflects when cold weather truly begins to grip us at this time each year.  Mohicans refer to this full moon as the Long Night Moon, as it rises during the “longest” nights of the year that occur near the winter solstice.  Fittingly, December’s full moon shines above the horizon for a longer period of time than most full moons experienced throughout the year.  During this long bright night of moonglow, perhaps ponder the spiritual meanings that have also been associated with December’s full moon:  reincarnation, hope, eternity, and clarity.

Watch a video about the Full Cold Moon.

Happy viewing!

Fall Silhouettes Pop Quiz

I visited Swatling Falls Nature Trails in the Town of Halfmoon yesterday and as I was walking along enjoying the sunshine, this striking plant silhouette caught my eye –

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In that instant, this pop quiz was inspired. Scroll down through the images and see how you fare in identifying these several dozen plants displaying their sunlit silhouettes!

Click on each photo to enlarge the image.

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How many did you recognize?

Of those shown above, the perennial plants are about to enter their winter slumber. Many of the same traits depicted above will remain visible into (and often through) winter. So, I hope you’ll join me in late February for a winter plant ID walk at Anchor Diamond Park at Hawkwood! Watch the Events page for details later next month.

Foraging for Not-Your-Store-Bought Pickles!

In recognition of National Pickle Day, I wanted to invite you to enjoy your favorite pickle today, but also to encourage you to plan to celebrate next National Pickle Day by serving your own foraged, homemade pickles to your family and friends.  How?  Read on!

What follows is a pickling calendar for foraged wild edibles along with information about where to find the referenced targeted species and how to forage them, plus a bevy of recipes on how to prepare a variety of “not-your-store-bought pickles” to be enjoyed next year at this time.

Pickling Calendar:

Need-to-Know Information regarding the Targeted Plants:

Common Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) = ripened fruit and young stems

Photo Credit: https://totallywilduk.co.uk/2020/05/05/bramble-stem-pickle/
Photo Credit: https://www.loavesanddishes.net/pickled-blackberries/
  • Where found: Dry fields and clearings
  • Canes are green where there is new growth at the tips, otherwise they are brown or reddish brown and have visible ridges and stout thorns
  • Alternate leaves are usually trifoliate or palmately compound with long petioles
  • Collect young shoots and stems while any thorns are still completely soft to the touch; shoots should snap off crisply – View how to harvest the young shoots.
  • Berries are ready for picking when they are dark black in color and look quite plump – View Foraging for Wild Edibles: Blackberries for info about foraging for ripened fruit.

Blue Ridge Blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum), Early Low Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), and Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) = ripened fruit; Fully ripened when dark blue or blue-black in color; excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and other trace minerals, iron, and a number of antioxidants (antioxidants are highly concentrated in the deep-blue pigments of wild blueberries)

Photo Credit: https://www.baconismagic.ca/loka-snacks/pickled-blueberry-recipes/

Blue Ridge Blueberry:

  • Where found:  Hardwood forests and edges of forests
  • Erect shrub with alternate branching that generally grows up to 20” tall
  • Twigs typically green or greenish brown

Early Low Blueberry:

  • Where found:  Dry fields and clearings
  • Low spreading shrub with alternate branching that generally grows up to 12” tall
  • Twigs are green or with reddish tinge
  • In best habitat, may become practically the only species covering large areas

Highbush Blueberry: View Foraging for Wild Edibles: Highbush Blueberry for info about foraging.

  • Where found:  Swamps, pastures and woods
  • Multi-stemmed with upright-spreading alternate branching, 6′ to 12′ tall with equal width
  • Bark of trunk and larger branches is somewhat shredded and gray to gray-brown

Common Burdock (Arctium minus) and Great Burdock (Arctium lappa) = root

Photo Credit: http://the3foragers.blogspot.com/2014/06/burdock-recipe-burdock-root-pickles.html

View a short video about how to harvest burdock root.

Common Burdock:

  • Where found: Waste places, disturbed ground, fields, and roadsides
  • Grows up to 6 feet tall with multiple branches
  • Lower leaves are heart-shaped with very wavy margins; all leaves dark green above and woolly below
  • Deep taproot, up to 12 inches deep

Great Burdock:

  • Where found:  Waste places, disturbed ground, fields, and roadsides
  • Grows up to 10 feet tall with multiple branches
  • Large, wavy-edged leaves that are hairy underneath
  • Extremely deep taproot, up to 3 feet deep

Common Cattail (Typha latifolia) and Narrow-leaved Cattail (Typha angustifolia) = shoots; Best collected when two to four feet tall – cut them off at or just below the water level and peel back the two main outer leaves, then grab the other inner leaves and pull gently to remove the tender pure white center section (usually first 4-10”); Cattails are nutrient-rich, containing beta carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium, and they are also a very good source of dietary fiber

CAUTION:  Do not collect shoots of Iris (Iris pseudacorus or Iris versicolor) and Sweetflag (Acorus calamus) – both are poisonous!  NOTE:  Individual leaves of Iris are flat as they fan out from a central point and individual leaves of a single Sweetflag plant emerge from different points off its rootstock, whereas Cattail leaves emerge from a single cylindrical sheath.

Photo Credit: https://i0.wp.com/willforageforfood.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/IMG_20170513_204251914_HDR.jpg?ssl=1

View Foraging for Wild Edibles: The Many Culinary Uses of Cattails for info about foraging.

Common Cattail:

  • Where Found: Always in or near water, usually shallow
  • Little or no gap between the male flower (top) and female flower (bottom)
    • Leaves usually broader than Narrow-leaved Cattail

Narrow-leaved Cattail:

  • Where Found:  Always in or near water, usually deeper
    • Distinct gap of a few inches between the male flower (top) and female flower (bottom)
  • Leaves usually narrower than Common Cattail

Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) and Small Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) = ripened fruit; Where Found:  Bogs

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/79182107@N08/8120847523/

Large Cranberry:

  • Berries generally 1/3 to ½ inch across

Small Cranberry:

  • Berries generally smaller than Large Cranberry

Common Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) = unopened flower buds

Photo Credit: https://practicalselfreliance.com/dandelion-capers/
  • Where Found:  Lawns, roadsides, hayfields, disturbed soils, and waste places especially in urban settings
  • Rosette of basal leaves produces several smooth, hollow, leafless flower stems typically 2-15” tall
  • Leaf margins typically shallowly lobed to deeply lobed and often with sharp teeth
  • Exudes white milky sap when leaves, stem or flower buds are picked

Orange Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) = unopened flower buds – View Foraging DayLily (beginning @ 4:40) for info on how to harvest the flower buds.

Photo Credit: https://www.fourseasonforaging.com/blog/2017/8/3/daylily-pickles
  • Where Found:  Edges of streams, floodplain forests, alluvial thickets, and old home sites
  • Basal leaves are linear with parallel venation, tapering gradually to a sword-like point; they have a tendency to bend down and outward around the middle, and are somewhat floppy in appearance
  • One or more stout leafless flowering stalks emerge from center of leaves and are usually much taller than the leaves; each stalk has 10-20 flowers with individual flowers opening successively and each lasting only one day

Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) = fiddleheads

Photo Credit: https://honest-food.net/pickled-fiddleheads-recipe/

View Foraging for Wild Edibles: Fern Fiddleheads for info about foraging.

  • Where Found:  Moist rich woodlands; Low woodland borders, swamps or soggy thickets
  • Fiddleheads emerge in clusters
  • Stem is smooth (no “wool”) and bright green with a deep groove inside
  • Feathery-brown, paper-like material covers the sides of each “fiddlehead” coil
  • Will remain tightly coiled until they reach a height of about 4-6”

Field Garlic (Allium vineale) and Wild Garlic (Allium canadense) = unopened flower buds of both species and bulbs only from Field Garlic (since it is an invasive species); All parts of Field Garlic have a strong garlic odor, whereas all parts of Wild Garlic have a strong onion odor and taste

Photo Credit: https://gallowaywildfoods.com/salted-pickled-wild-garlic-buds/img_1303/

Field Garlic:

  • Where Found:  Fields, pastures, and occasionally waste places
  • Main stem grows to 1-4 feet tall, bearing 2–4 leaves (each is a slender hollow tube 6-24” long)
  • Atop the stem is a tight cluster of a few flowers surrounded by a membranous bract when in the bud stage
  • Underground bulb is ~3/4” diameter, with a fibrous outer layer

Wild Garlic:

  • Where Found: Floodplain forests, alluvial thickets, banks of streams, and rich low forests
  • Narrow, grass-like leaves originate near the base of the stem, which is topped by a dome-like cluster of flowers

Smooth Gooseberry (Ribes hirtellum) = ripened fruit

Photo Credit: https://kitchencounterculture121.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/goo/
  • Where Found:  Wetlands, shorelines of streams and lakes, and rocky openings in forests and along cliffs
  • Shrub grows 2-4 feet tall with branches that have no prickles or very short, slender ones
  • Leaves are 1 to 2½ inches long and nearly as wide with 3 to 5 lobes that are coarsely toothed; veins are prominent and radiate from the base
  • Fruit is a smooth, round berry ¼ to 1/3 inch diameter that ripens from green to purplish

Fox Grape (Vitis labrusca), Riverbank Grape (Vitis riparia), and Summer Grape (Vitis aestivalis) = leaves

CAUTION:  Do not collect leaves of Moonseed (Menispermum canadense) – poisonous!                     NOTE:  All Grapes have tendrils; Moonseed lacks tendrils.

Photo Credit: https://mypantryshelf.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/jar-of-grape-leaves.jpg

Fox Grape:

  • Where Found:  Thickets, forest edges, and young forests or forests with a history of disturbance
  • Widely spaced alternate leaves are 4-8″ long and a little less across, usually have 3 palmate lobes that are broad and shallow
  • Upper leaf surface is dull green and hairless, while lower surface is brownish white from woolly hairs
  • Presence of forked tendrils emerge on nearly every node along the vine

Riverbank Grape:

  • Where Found:  Hardwood forests, forest edges and openings, thickets, disturbed sites, and rocky open slopes
  • Alternate leaves up to 6″ long and 4″ across, palmately lobed usually with sinuses between the major lobes being broad and shallow
  • Lower leaf surface is pale green with white hairs along the major veins; upper leaf surface is dark green and smooth
  • Presence of tendrils emerge on opposite from leaves, except every third one, along the vine

Summer Grape:

  • Where Found:  Hardwood forests, forest edges and openings, thickets, and disturbed sites
  • Leaves usually a little broader than long and variable in shape, from unlobed to deeply three- or five-lobed
  • Upper leaf surface is dull medium green and hairless to slightly hairy, while the lower leaf surface is pale green and moderately covered with white to light brown woolly hairs
  • Presence of branched tendrils emerge on nodes except for every third leaf along the vine

Common Greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia) = young shoots

Photo Credit: https://foragedfoodie.blogspot.com/2017/03/pickled-greenbriar-tips.html
  • Where Found:  Forests and their edges with southern exposure, dry thickets, and roadsides
  • Stems are slender, green, hairless – young shoots usually round and thornless, whereas older stems usually 4-angled with stout, flattened prickles up to ½″ long that are green with a black tip
  • Pair of tendrils at the base of many of the leaf stalks

Jerusalem Artichoke (AKA Sunchokes) (Helianthus tuberosus) = root; Unlike most root vegetables, these tubers consist mainly of inulin (7 to 30% by weight) instead of starch and sucrose – Inulin is converted to fructose when pickled; Sunchokes also have a number of vitamins and minerals including niacine, thiamine, vitamin B6, and vitamin C

Photo Credit: http://ledameredith.com/pickled-jerusalem-artichokes/
  • Where Found:  Roadside ditches, stream banks, and wet fields
  • Dig the roots with a digging fork, shovel or hori hori knife; be sure to go deep, as you may find tubers as much as a foot or so down in the dirt – View Jerusalem Artichoke Harvest (beginning @ 3:30) for info on how to dig up the roots.
  • After harvest, Jerusalem Artichokes may be kept in a paper bag in your fridge’s crisper drawer for a week or two
  • After cutting or peeling, the tuber flesh will darken, so pickle them as soon as possible.

Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) = young shoots (without leaves) up to 6” tall; Excellent source of vitamins A and C, iodine, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and resveratrol (same substance as that found in the skin of red grapes and which is part of a group of compounds called polyphenols that are thought to help reduce inflammation, lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol)

Photo Credit: https://backyardforager.com/japanese-knotweed-pickles-recipe/
  • Where Found:  Waste places and roadsides
  • Hollow stems with distinct raised nodes that make it resemble bamboo
  • Shoots may be harvested up to 12” tall, but must remove fibrous outer shell before cooking or eating – View How to Harvest and Eat Japanese Knotweed (beginning @ 0:34) for info about foraging.

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) = ripened fruit; Fruit are high in fiber and contain various substances and micro-nutrients, such as: alkaloids, alkaline salts, proteins and flavonoids (powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits)

Photo Credit: https://alongthegrapevine.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/dsc02612.jpg
  • Where Found:  Swamps, marshes, roadside ditches, and wet successional fields
  • Multi-stemmed shrub generally 9-18’ tall with ascending branches that have a tendency to arch
  • Pairs of opposite leaves serrated along their margins; leaf bases rounded to broadly wedge-shaped, while leaf tips taper abruptly, becoming long and slender
  • Mature drupes ovoid in shape, dark blue-violet color, and each containing single flattened ovoid seed; fleshy interior somewhat juicy and sweet, tasting like a date – View Foraging for Wild Edibles: Nannyberry for info about foraging.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) = stems and leaves; Contains rich amounts of the daily value of vitamin E (81%) and vitamin C (25%)

Photo Credit: https://www.ediblewildfood.com/sweet-pickled-purslane-stems.aspx
  • Where Found: Highly disturbed areas especially in urban settings
  • Plant forms a spreading mat up to 6″ tall and 2′ across, branching frequently at the base
  • Smooth, reddish, mostly prostrate stems with leaves clustered at stem joints and ends of stems – View Urban Foraging Wild Super Food Purslane for tips about harvesting.

Common Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), Field Sow Thistle (Sonchus arvensis), and Spiny-leaved Sow Thistle (Sonchus asper) = unopened flower buds

Photo Credit: https://i.imgur.com/I8qOLMF.jpg

Common Sow Thistle:

  • Where Found:  Fields, pastures, roadsides, gardens, vacant lots, disturbed areas, and waste places
  • Grows 1-4′ tall, branching very little except near the top where the flowerheads occur, and whose central stem is hairless and dull green but sometimes tinted with reddish purple
  • Alternate leaves up to 8″ long and 2¼” across, becoming smaller and more sparsely distributed as they ascend the central stem
  • Each leaf has hairless dull green upper surface and reddish purple tinted base with a pair of pointed basal lobes that extend beyond the stem

Field Sow Thistle:

  • Where Found:  Roadsides, cultivated ground, disturbed areas, and waste places
  • Grows 2-4′ tall, branching occasionally in the upper half and whose central stem is hairless and dull green
  • Alternate leaves are up to 12″ long and 3½” across, becoming smaller as they ascend the stems; most leaves are located in the lower half of the plant
  • Each leaf has 2-5 lobes with pointed tips on each side, upper surface is smooth, and base of each leaf has pair of small basal lobes (usually small and well-rounded) that clasp the stem

Spiny-leaved Sow Thistle:

  • Where Found:  Roadsides and waste places
  • Grows 1-3′ tall, branching sparingly in the upper half and whose central stem is dull green or reddish green, round, and smooth
  • Alternate leaves are up to 10″ long and 3½” across, but more commonly about half this size or less
  • Each leaf may be divided into smaller leaflets, or it may lack significant lobes along the margins, which are conspicuously prickly; base of each leaf is auriculate with a pair of large rounded basal lobes that strongly clasp the stem

Norway Spruce (Picea abies) and Red Spruce (Picea rubens) = young twig tips

Photo Credit: https://www.kitchenfrau.com/pickled-spruce-tips/

View How to eat a spruce tree: picking and using spruce tips (beginning @ 1:20) for tips on harvesting spruce twig tips.

Norway Spruce:

  • Where Found:  Naturalized in woods, but far more common in cultivation, where it used as a landscape tree, a windbreak tree, and a plantation tree
  • Coniferous tree 50-120′ tall, forming an unbranched straight bole and a crown that is conical to oblongoid in outline
  • Lateral branches slightly incurved and ascending along which several drooping branchlets divide into divergently branched twigs

Red Spruce:

  • Where Found:  Mixed coniferous forests with eastern white pine, balsam fir, or black spruce
  • Coniferous tree 60-130′ tall with a narrowly conical crown
  • Branches horizontally spreading; twigs not pendent (like Norway Spruce), but rather stout

Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare), Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense), Field Thistle (Cirsium discolor), and Swamp Thistle (Cirsium muticum) = young stems

Photo Credit: https://preview.redd.it/8k4h1paftsv61.jpg?auto=webp&s=18a401f69193d5f63da2971d926d30d096c30d5b

View Foraging for Thistles (beginning @ 1:15) for tips on how to harvest young stems.

Bull Thistle:

  • Where Found:  Pastures, successional fields, hayfields, thickets, and disturbed areas
  • From rosette of basal leaves (up to 12” long) in the first year, a flowering stem grows 3 – 4.5 feet tall in the second year
  • Stem is winged, with numerous longitudinal spine-tipped wings along its full length

Canada Thistle:

  • Where Found:  Pastures, successional fields, hayfields, cultivated ground, thickets, and disturbed areas, often creating somewhat dense clonal patches
  • Grows 1-3′ tall, branching occasionally in the upper half
  • Light green stem is slightly ridged

Field Thistle:

  • Where Found:  Most common in disturbed areas, but found in woodland openings, moist meadows near rivers, pastures, abandoned fields, open areas along railroads and roadsides, and waste areas
  • Low rosette of spiny basal leaves up to 1′ across in the first year
  • Usually only one stem that grows 2 to 7 feet tall in the second year

Swamp Thistle:

  • Where Found:  Wetland plant mostly of native habitats and often thinly scattered throughout
  • From a rosette of basal leaves (normally 6” long and 3” across) during the first year, a flowering stem grows 2 – 7 feet tall in the second year
  • Central stem is light green and longitudinally furrowed

Recipes for Your Consideration:

Sweet and Sour Pickled Blackberries

Pickled Blueberries and Pickled Blueberries

Bramble Shoot Pickle

A Forager’s Branston Pickle Relish

Burdock Root Pickles and Tsukemono-style Pickled Burdock Root and Yamagobo

Cattail Pickles and Cattail Quick Pickle and Cattail Shoot Quick Pickles and Pickled Cattail Shoots

Pickled Cranberries and Pickled Cranberries

Dandelion Bud Pickles and Dandelion Capers

Daylily Pickles and Spicy Pickled Daylilies and Daisies

Pickled Fiddleheads

Field Garlic Pickles and Pickled Wild Garlic & Dandelion Buds and Salted Pickled Wild Garlic Buds and Sweet Pickled Wild Garlic Buds

Fermenting Gooseberries

Pickled Grape Leaves and Preserved Grape Leaves and Fermented Wild Grape Leaves

Pickled Greenbriar Tips

Japanese Knotweed Pickles and Quick Pickled Japanese Knotweed Stems

Purslane Relish and Salt-Pickled Purslane Leaves and Sweet Pickled Purslane Stems

Pickled Sow Thistle Bud “Capers”

Pickled Spruce Tips

Pickled Sunchokes and Sweet and Sour Pickled J-chokes

Pickled Thistle Stalks

Be sure to pick a peck, pucker up, and have fun!