A couple hours of foraging has yielded a wealth of vegetables for tonight’s dinner, long before most garden greens have even emerged. Dinner includes tart sheep and meadow sorrel, steamed Canada thistle and curly dock shoots, and a stew of chicken, lentils and wild carrots, both roots and shoots. In the gathering, we discovered a considerable colony of Virginia water leaf. It’s an okay green, but not my favorite, so I’ll leave it alone for now. Maybe we’ll have some tomorrow. I also gathered a few pounds of feral rhubarb, and found pin and choke cherry trees that I hadn’t noticed before, and what looks to be a nannyberry bush. I haven’t even gotten to get into the woods yet in search of mushrooms. Who knows what fungal abundance may be out there already?
Among today’s foraging, the prize was definitely the abundant wild carrots (shown right). I harvested more than a few. Wild carrots are white, and they are more flexible than crisp. They range from 3 to 8 inches and branch because our ground is stony. This is a vegetable best boiled with stews and slow cooked with casseroles. They have–it’s hard to quite describe–a more intense carrot flavor and a more potent carrot fragrance. But I would not say they are as sweet as domestic carrots.
They also make great carrot shoots which will appear above ground in a couple weeks. I left most of the carrots alone to form shoots, many of which I will go back and harvest. It’s a better vegetable than wild carrot roots.
If you choose to harvest wild carrots, KNOW what they look like so you don’t confuse them with deadly poison hemlock. They are not hard to tell apart, but you must know how to identify the wild carrot.
Some distinguishing traits are:
carrots grow singly (poison hemlock grows in colonies)
potent carrot fragrance (PH has none)
channeled leaf petiole (PH is round and hollow)
hair on petioles (PH is glabrous)
No white bloom (PH has a white bloom–white dust that rubs off)
Tapering root (PH doesn’t taper much)