Foraging or wandering around: You can be the judge, plus the Stray Cast

Snapshots gathered from spring foraging around Chicago outdoors and a smattering of sage advice; plus Wild Things and the Stray Cast.

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A bowl of sauteed dandelions, picked earlier this month, earned its lines back to Euell Gibbons. Credit: Dale Bowman

A bowl of sauteed dandelions, picked earlier this month, earned its lines back to Euell Gibbons.

Dale Bowman

“Did any of the neighbors see?’’ my wife asked.

In a yellow slicker, I had picked young dandelions from our lawn in the rain this month, then prepared them.

I’ve had an interesting spring foraging or, more accurately, wandering around.

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On Saturday, I wandered around a favorite morel-hunting area. There were no morels, despite friends sending photos of good finds.

But mayapples caught my eye. They had grown much in two weeks, some nearing a foot high. I bent to see downy yellow violet, violets and spring beauty up close.

Sizing up mayapples last weekend while wandering around sorta looking for morels mushrooms. Credit: Dale Bowman

Sizing up mayapples last weekend while wandering around sorta looking for morels mushrooms.

Dale Bowman

As I age, I appreciate flora more. In younger days, it was more fauna.

Two weekends before, I wandered the same spot. Too early and too dry, though I found blooming spring beauty and large-flowered bellwort along with what were then much smaller mayapples.

Remember that morel hunting at Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites that offer spring turkey hunting (through May 13 in the north) may not begin until 1 p.m. or later. Morel hunting is allowed at many IDNR sites but not at virtually all nature preserves, park districts and forest-preserve districts.

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In between morel hunting, I wandered with Bob Siegerdt and Karen Franke. At the beginning of the pandemic, Franke came to a public area to get out for sanity and came across a sea of plants she wasn’t sure of.

A guy happened to pass and said, ‘‘Oh, ramps.’’

Ramps (wild leeks) are one of those things where spots are kept secret.

Siegerdt found them again this spring, then led us on a two-mile tour of the site, where harvesting is not allowed.

Sizing up mayapples last weekend while wandering around sorta looking for morels mushrooms. Credit: Dale Bowman

Bob Siegerdt examines a ramp in a place where Karen Franke them last year at the start of the pandemic lockdown.

Dale Bowman

After they showed me the ramps, I focused on buttercups, white fawn lily (or white trout lily) and trillium, something Franke understood.

Foraging for ramps has earned a deserved bad reputation because some foragers spade up plants illegally on public land. Harvesting of ramps is primarily done on private land.

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The dandelion recipe came from Phil Willink, who advised boiling the dandelions, draining them, then sauteing them in olive oil with garlic and onion. The recipe was adapted from Euell Gibbons.

When younger, I had horrific encounters with dandelions (cooked and as homemade wine), likely because they were too old and bitter. So I was leery but trusted Willink, a fish researcher with the Illinois Endangered Species Board.

Time is key.

‘‘If the plant has flowered or is even forming a stalk, then it is getting late,’’ Willink messaged.

He only uses plants without buds or with the buds still ‘‘embedded in the rosette of leaves.’’ He said to focus on shaded spots or north sides of buildings, where plants are delayed slightly.

‘‘The best dandelion greens I have ever had were in a fancy restaurant in Chicago’s Greektown!’’ Willink noted. ‘‘Wish I knew their recipe. Cannot remember which restaurant now.’’

If the lawn is doused in chemicals, don’t eat the dandelions.

Illinois hunting

Friday is the deadline for the first application period for firearm deer permits.

Wild things

On Sunday, Leslie Borns reported that Mark Kolasa had spotted a piping plover at Montrose Beach. The plover appeared to be the world-famous Rose.

Stray cast

The subtle catch in Lake Street Dive singer Rachael Price’s voice sounds how a crankbait ticking weed tops feels.

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