Little stirs our Wisconsin hearts the way first glimpses of green do each spring. Soon our minds wander to yards, to gardens—and to sojourns in Wisconsin’s wild places. To those who are lucky, careful, and in the know, Wisconsin can offer plenty to feed our bellies as well as our souls.
Let a spring salad of wild dandelion, cattail, chickweed, watercress, basswood, and nettle kick off your foraging season. When berries ripen later in the season, make your own vinaigrette with Wisconsin wild blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries. For dessert, nothing says summer like a wild-berry cobbler. By late summer, our Wisconsin tree fruits begin to ripen. Look for butternuts, hackberries, hickory nuts, juneberries, acorns, wild plums, and black walnuts. The array of Wisconsin edibles is enormous, and nutritional values generally exceed those of commercially grown crops.
Before you or your little ones pop anything plucked into your mouths, be sure to check credible sources to correctly identify the desired plant. Eating lookalike species can be nasty, disastrous, or even fatal. Be aware also that the Wisconsin DNR allows foraging for wild fruits, nuts, mushrooms, asparagus, and watercress but prohibits collecting the seeds, roots or other parts of these plants.
Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast. She’s endured the curse of being a writer since attending a private arts high school in Connecticut, where the bad habit was encouraged. She also became a photographer at that high school. She spent all the time she could in the school’s darkroom, creating black and white images from film. Alas, a second bad habit acquired.
Fagan is passionate about the natural world and its creatures. She highly recommends the work of Chicago-based nature photographer Mark Swanson.
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