The woods of northern Minnesota provide us with food for body and soul, creating a seamless life that honors seasons and cycles. On the spiritual side, we’re blessed with a peacefulness that can become timeless as the days gently roll along; we’re grounded and in touch and find joy everywhere. It’s a beautiful life.
On the physical side, we grow a lot of food in the non-snow months. We also hunt for wild foods and try to learn more and more about what nature gives freely according to her own schedule. Yes, we have grocery stores in town; no, we don’t live like a pack of coyotes; yes, we get haircuts when we need them; no, we don’t bathe in the river. We’re modern American humans with satellite TV and hot running water who happen to take every opportunity to homestead, and then we share our projects on Facebook.
I do see the irony in that, and am as amused as you are.
Maple syrup time has ended for the year, so I’ll blog about that when next April rolls past. Fiddlehead fern time only lasts for a few days, so you’ll hear about those adventures next May. Spruce tip time ended yesterday, and we’re in the high throes of dandelion season, so those are the two harvests I’ll share with you right now.
Here’s a nice pile of white spruce tips:
Is your mouth watering yet? It should be, even if you’re not familiar with these bursts of pine and citrus and vitamins. When you first bite into one, it comes as a surprise… but keep chewing and you’ll start to get it.
These morsels are the new growth on the ends of spruce branches, and you can pick them like berries. They begin life when the snow starts to melt, nestled into a brown papery covering, and as spring accelerates they leap forth and become a little too piny for pleasant eating. You must catch them at the right moment.
Recipes scattered across the internet say they make a great substitute for dill as a flavoring; spruce tip tea is an ancient standby for spring coughs and colds; fried in garlic and butter, they are heavenly; they keep fresh in the refrigerator for many weeks; and I, being the person I am, made pickled spruce tips, spruce tip-infused vinegar, and spruce tip salt.
Spruce Tip Pickles
Spruce Tip Infused Vinegar
Spruce Tip Salt Before Grinding
Spruce Tip Salt After Grinding
We will use these culinary lovelies to make the rest of the year taste better, and each bite will remind us of what awaits in the woods if we only pay attention.
Now, the much-maligned dandelion gets a bad rap with city folks. We, on the other hand, eagerly seek them out and eat them by the bushel basket. I prefer the greens raw in salad; other folks in our community like to cook them and enjoy with ham and mashed potatoes. There are plenty of recipes for dandelion greens, hearts, crowns, roots and so on, so explore your search engine to learn more.
My absolute favorite use of dandelions is making wine from the flowers. Last year’s batch of dandelion wine is like drinking heaven, so I’m making twice as much this year. Here’s where I get my recipe, from Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons:
And here are the flowers, waiting in the fermentation bucket for step one:
Isn’t that pretty?
If you leave a comment below, I’ll share any of the recipes with you.
Do you do any fun homesteading projects? Gather any wild foods and enjoy the bounty of nature, on nature’s terms? Let’s have a conversation!