It’s a forager’s paradise in West Michigan

Posted at 4:51 PM, May 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-04 16:51:20-04

Signs of Spring are popping up all over West Michigan, the trees are greening up and the flowers are blooming. A simple walk can reveal a cornucopia of wild foods in our own backyards and parks.

“Before you mow, harvest your dandelion greens" recommends Lisa Rose author of Midwest Foraging, “everything from the root to the flower is edible. The leaves make delicious editions to salad.

Remember tasting dandelions as a kid? They pack a bitter bite, but that's the good part about them.

“The bitter flavors are really important for our digestion," says Rose, "so integrating bitter greens is something that is good for our digestion, good for our stomachs and good for our livers.”

Another colorful flower to forage for are violets.

Picking up the delicate flower Rose explains, “These are one of my daughters favorite Spring wild edible flower and wild edible green. So the entire plant here, it’s this violet leaf, purple flower."

Violets are easy for kids to pick and quite tasty too. Rose says, “I make wild salads nearly primarily all of violet leaves from our own yards.”

Dandelions and violets are easy to find, but the treasured Morel mushroom is a bit more elusive. “You know I haven’t found yet this spring. Last year was a huge mushrooming season where they were abundant," Rose explains.

Mushroomers do not like to give away their hunting grounds. Rose recommends looking in a beach maple hardwood forest with areas of dappled sunshine.

But don't go eating any mushroom you find on the ground. “It can make you sick, it’s something that can induce vomiting. And nobody wants that," Rose warns, "There are a couple other spring mushrooms that are edible and some that are not edible. They have poisonous look a-likes.”

Foraging is not just for weekend hobbyists. Restaurateurs and chefs like Reserve Wine and Foods Executive Chef Matt Green are after the wild treats too.

On his menu Chef Matt is utilizing ramps, also known as wild leeks, for a potato and ramp soup. In a few of the dishes on his menu, Chef Matt uses fiddle head ferns, a swirly looking, asparagus tasting plant.

"I think they are all easy to cook with," says Chef Matt, “Since they are growing on a forest floor you just have to clean them thoroughly they all come naturally in a lot of dirt.”

Chef Matt also recommends that people forage in their own backyards or on public lands.

Ready to go out and forage? Check out Lisa Rose's blog

Prefer just to eat foraged food? ExploreChef Matt's menu