Wild Strawberries Ripening Now!

The time is now.  Wild strawberries are beginning to ripen and if you want to taste a tiny taste sensation, then wait no more.  Best places to look for these itty-bitty crimson jewels are sandy soils in full sunshine followed by other open areas along the edges of woodlands and possibly sunny areas within woodlands.  Both the Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana; shown below) and the Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) commonly grow throughout our area.

Fruit of Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) – leaves are above the blooms/fruits

If you should collect more than a handful, consider these recipes –

Wild Strawberries and Cream

Wild Strawberry Cordial

Wild Strawberry Grog

Wild Strawberry Ice Cream

Wild Strawberry Muffins

Wild Strawberry Pastries

Wild Strawberry Tarts

Happy trails!

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Spring Wildflower Sampler – Part 8

Having had taken the day off from work, I decided to return trailside to continue my wildflower inventory along the Community Connector Trail in the Towns of Clifton Park and Halfmoon. I walked along the eastern half (located in both Towns) today because I had hoped to see Glaucous Honeysuckle in bloom.  No such luck – I already missed its brief blooming period this year!

In any event, since the forecasted thunderstorms never materialized (thank goodness), I enjoyed a productive inventory visit by finding another nine new species.

I observed the following blooms today –

Rattlesnake Weed  (bloom) – one of the nine species I had not yet observed along this trail.

Rattlesnake Weed  (leaves – purple veins are this plant’s very visible identification characteristic)

Clustered Snakeroot

Sweet Cicely

Black Locust

Asparagus

Fox Grape

Smooth Solomon’s Seal

Common Blackberry

Carrion Flower

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

And, happy trails!

Spring Wildflower Sampler – Part 7

Despite heavily filtered sunshine today, the forecast indicated that this would be the only mostly rain-free day of this long weekend.  So, I seized the opportunity and decided to continue wildflower inventory at Settlers Hill Natural Area. This trail network is located in the Town of Clifton Park and it is comprised of two different segments –

  • East trail: Beginning at Gloucester Street, this trail segment heads south across Clifton Park Center Road, Michelle Drive, Waverly Place, Summerlin Drive and Avenue of the Oaks (twice) before terminating a short distance south of 4 Leaf Manor.
  • West trail: Beginning at either access point off Addison Way or Fairhill Road, these two access trails will intersect and then this trail segment heads west across Moe Road before generally heading south and terminating at Wildflower Drive.

Thankfully, the sunshine did indeed prompt a number of blooming species to fully open their blooms for easy viewing.  This is a sampling of what I observed today –

Thyme-leaved Sandwort

Prickly Dewberry

Mouse Ear

Autumn-olive

Common Barberry

Germander Speedwell

False Solomon’s-seal

Black Cherry

Yellow Wood Sorrel

Dwarf Cinquefoil

Common Buckthorn (invasive)

Nannyberry

Stout Blue-eyed Grass

Asiatic Bittersweet (invasive)

Wishing everyone a safe and very enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.

Happy trails!

Spring Wildflower Sampler – Part 6

Having had taken the day off from work, I decided to return trailside to continue my wildflower inventory along the Community Connector Trail in the Towns of Clifton Park and Halfmoon. I chose to focus on the western half (located in the Town of Clifton Park) today because I had viewed the eastern end of this trail during my last outing here.

What a gorgeous day!

I observed the following blooms today –

Dame’s Rocket (pink variety)

Dame’s Rocket

Bulbous Buttercup (NOTE:  The green sepals point downward along the flower stem.)

Aniseroot

Canada Anemone

Dame’s Rocket (white variety)

Early Buttercup

White Campion

Yellow Iris

Bird’s-eye Speedwell

White Mulberry

Cleavers

Tatarian Honeysuckle (one of three invasive species of honeysuckles found here)

Celandine

Common Lilac

Silky Dogwood

Happy trails!

Spring Wildflower Sampler – Part 5

Even though the forecast called for 100% chance of rain today, the delayed start prompted me to get out early to see how much of my continuing wildflower inventory at Settlers Hill Natural Area I could complete before the rains began.  This trail network is located in the Town of Clifton Park and it is comprised of two different segments –

  • East trail: Beginning at Gloucester Street, this trail segment heads south across Clifton Park Center Road, Michelle Drive, Waverly Place, Summerlin Drive and Avenue of the Oaks (twice) before terminating a short distance south of 4 Leaf Manor.
  • West trail: Beginning at either access point off Addison Way or Fairhill Road, these two access trails will intersect and then this trail segment heads west across Moe Road before generally heading south and terminating at Wildflower Drive.

As it turned out, I was able to inventory the entire system.  However, not before becoming quite damp as the initial mist gradually became a light shower.

This is a sampling of what I observed today –

Ragged Robin

Wild Geranium

Tower-mustard

Canada Mayflower

Hooked Crowfoot

Mayapple

Flowering Dogwood

English Plantain

Black Chokeberry

Tall Buttercup

Happy trails!

Spring Wildflower Sampler – Part 4

With a forecast for rain this weekend, I decided to return trailside after work today to continue my wildflower inventory along the Community Connector Trail in the Towns of Clifton Park and Halfmoon.  I chose to focus on the Halfmoon segment because of the unique habitat adjoining that portion of the trail (i.e., rocky woods, rich woods, and exposed shale bedrock).

I observed the following blooms today –

Wild Sarsaparilla

Chokecherry (Read more about them from one of my prior posts.)

Sicklepod

Downy Yellow Violet

Wild Columbine

Swamp Buttercup

Red Baneberry

Hispid Buttercup

Hawthorn

Morrow’s Honeysuckle (invasive species – white blooms turn yellow)

Common Cinquefoil

Purple Dead Nettle

Bell’s Honeysuckle (invasive species – pink blooms turn yellow)

Apple

Black Medick

Dwarf Cinquefoil

Ovate-leaved Violet

During this outing, I also spied this fruiting specimen –

Morchella esculenta

Thus, the morels have arrived!  Read more about these delicious mushrooms from one of my prior posts.

Happy trails!

Fiddlehead Season is Here!

May typically marks the opportunity to go foraging for fiddleheads.

While the fiddlehead stage of other ferns (such as Ostrich Fern) are more sought after by chefs and also more routinely available at farm markets, the only species that I enjoy is Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum).

Bracken Fern fiddlehead stage

Bracken Fern contains ptalquiloside, which has been linked to cancer.  That being said, the substance is both highly volatile (i.e., it will dissipate or disappear when subjected to boiling) and it is water soluble (i.e., soaking it in water will diminish its presence).  PLEASE:  Read more.

If you believe that your preparation will allow you to safely eat this wild edible, I encourage you to learn how to identify Bracken Fern and where they grow.  Read more about foraging.  Foraging tip:  Look for last year’s stalks and inspect the ground for emerging fiddleheads.

The photo below shows the plant after the fiddlehead has completed unfurled and the leaflets have fully developed – never collect the plant when it has reached this stage of growth.  I do not collect any plants whose fiddlehead has unfurled so that the 3-branch pattern of the leaflets is already apparent.

Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum)

I don’t eat this species raw because of its mucilaginous quality.  After quickly cooking them (par-boil or steam), this species exhibits a mild asparagus flavor that I savor.  Use them as you would asparagus as a vegetable, or prepare them as a creamed soup, or add to baked dishes such as quiche.  However, please be aware that cooked Bracken Fern does not remain firm; it will become soft.

Some recipes to consider:

If you decide to collect more than you’ll eat in a single meal, I suggest that you simply wash and cut them to the desired size for however you intend to use them and then freeze for later use.

Here’s to good eats!

Happy trails!