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Make the Most of your Spruce Peak Stay by Planning Ahead.

Occasionally, going for a bike ride means coming home smelling like onions. On a recent warm spring afternoon, 10 minutes into a mountain bike ride around Stowe, a bright patch of wild ramps stopped us in our tracks. The shin-high green leaves of these delectable scallionlike alliums (indigenous Abenacki people called them winooski) carpeted the forest floor in all directions. In awe of nature’s abundance,we decided to circle back to this spot at the end of our ride.

Back on the trail,we immersed ourselves in the fields and forests of a broad valley, now on the lookout for tasty treats emerging from the soil. After a few more turns, we spied a patch of stinging nettle. Stopping for a stretch break, we rolled the jagged leaves between the palms of our hands to dissolve the little hairs growing on the underside of the leaves that can sting your skin.We’ll occasionally feel the tingles of a few stray hairs on our tongues and fingertips — but it’s a small price to pay for the delicious flavor of this highly nutritious spring green. Feeling refueled, we prepared for a long climb into the hills.

Our afternoon ride had turned into a spur-of-themoment treasure hunt for dandelion greens, garlic mustard, wintercress, fiddlehead ferns, and knotweed shoots. Rolling along a winding path under sapphire skies,we couldn’t help but think ofwhat a good friend and avid forager once told us: “You are what you eat: wild and free.”

Our foraging habits are rooted in our love for exploring the outdoors as much as they are in our desire for the nutritional and medicinal qualities that forest plants provide. It’s a great excuse to go for a hike or bike ride, discover new terrain, and tune into the landscape around us. Foraging turns our attention to the weather, ground conditions, vegetation, slope orientation, and elevation in a way that very few other activities do (an exception being the pursuit of untracked powder snow while backcountry skiing and riding). Even if you go home empty-handed, the experience is always an adventure.

If you’re new to foraging, consider consulting an in-the-know friend about where to find the goods. Just don’t be surprised if they blindfold you first—the best foraging spots are often kept secret to prevent overharvesting.

Then pack as if you are heading out for a hike, study up on responsible harvesting practices (see sidebar), and most importantly, learn to identify the species you’re seeking. Before long, you’ll be roasting your own ramps, blending freshly-picked greens and mushrooms into your favorite dishes, and whipping up wild raspberry cobbler for dessert.Happy foraging!

01 Wandering through an incandescent sugar maple stand during a mushroom hunt in nearby Moretown.
02 Ramps are an early spring delicacy.We love them raw in pesto or gently sauteed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
03 Monty, age 2, has been foraging with his mom and dad since he was in the womb. Here, he gathers fluffy lion’s

04 Monty inspects giant oyster mushrooms growing in his backyard woods near Stowe.
05 Our daughters Maiana, 7, and Lenora, 4, gather wild blueberries along a private lakeshore on a sunny summer morning.
06 A blackberry-raspberry hybrid, black raspberries have a unique and super-sweet flavor.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Tips for safe and sustainable foraging

  • Don’t pick or eat a plant unless you are 100% certain of its identity. This is especially important with respect to wild mushrooms, but many plant species have toxic lookalikes, too.
  • Make sure you have permission to pick; foraging for personal consumption is allowed on most public land, including Mt. Mansfield State Forest.
  • Leave plenty behind, especially with slow-growing wild ramps. Don’t harvest more than 10% of a ramp patch.
  • Unless you’re planning to eat the root or bulb of the plant, cut it along the lower stem, leaving the rest in the ground and allowing for future regrowth.
  • Help berries and fungi reproduce by knocking some berries to the ground and shaking spores loose from any mushrooms you are gathering.

07 A younger Maiana snacks on wild spinach and the last remaining sweet dandelion flower petals in a pasture south of Stowe.
08 The best kind of foraging is often spontaneous, so we always stash an extra bag to carry home impromptu harvests, such as blackberries discovered during a bike ride.
09 With a wonderful fruity fragrance and subtle peppery taste, chanterelles can be found between July and September, and dried or frozen for later use.

10 Lenora proudly shows off her precious collection of melt-in-yourmouth wild strawberries.
11 Fiddleheads—the young, unfurled leaves of the common ostrich fern—are yummy when pickled, sauteed, or roasted (don’t eat them raw).
12 A morning haul of chanterelles and lion’s mane

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