Gathering Cycle of the Year: May

by Kaare Melby

Winter has given way. The maple sap season is well over, the birch sap season is coming to a close, the fishing season is starting, the snow is mostly melted, and it’s time to start gathering roots! This time of year, wild roots are still sweet from their winter slumber. One of the most widely known wild plants is the humble dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and right now is the best time to harvest dandelion roots and their tender young spring greens. Later in the season, the greens and roots become bitter. While these bitter roots are still very good for you, they don’t taste very good, so don’t miss your chance to try them now. Wild ramps (Allium tricoccum) are just starting to grow bigger. There is a lot of variation in our unique microclimates created by the great Gitche Gumee (Lake Superior), the Sawtooth Mountains, and the muskegs (bogs) and forests further inland, so don’t worry if your ramps are still a little small for harvest, they will soon grow bigger. Another root you can harvest this time of year is wild ginger (Asarum canadense). In order to harvest wild ginger this time of year, you need to know where it is growing, because there are no leaves growing above ground to find yet. If you want to learn how to harvest these plants and how to cook with them, check out this video. Want to learn how to make dandelion root tea? Check out this video.

Another thing to keep your eye on are sucker fish. The local wisdom is that the sucker fish start running in creeks when the aspen leaves are “the size of a mouse’s ear”. Do you go out to gather suckerfish? If you do, send us a picture or story of gathering this (or other) local food!

Don’t forget to check out our Gathering Cycle of the Year resource on the Food Chain website to keep up to date on when to harvest different wild foods.