Mountain Gardens
A botanical garden of useful plants specializing in Appalachian and Chinese medicinal herbs

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Spring Ephemerals

As the name of this category of edibles implies, they appear and are available for consumption for only a brief period of time. Solomon’s seal shoots are tender and similar to asparagus, until the plants grow too tall to eat. The leaves of ramps (wild leeks) are only visible for a few months, before the leaves die back–though the plant later sends up a flowr. The morel mushroom season lasts a couple of months, with the morels only appearing after a big rain when the weather is just right.

Here at Mountain Gardens we have been delighting in harvesting these spring ephemerals, and collecting them for a few local restaurants as well. 

A few favorite dishes:

Local farm-fresh eggs stir-fried with bamboo shoots, fiddlehead ferns, nettle leaves, and ramps
Nettle pesto with ramps, fiddleheads, and Solomon’s Seal
Morels sauteed in butter
Rabbit stew 

These spring wild foods are growing in popularity. Nettle pesto was recently highlighted as a delicacy on an NPR culinary radio program. The Mountain Express, Asheville’s weekly newspaper, devoted several articles in April to ramps. Like American ginseng, ramps are threatened due to over-harvesting. In Yancey County, it is possible to drive down the highway and see men selling large bunches of ramps for $2 from the hoods of their cars. Ramps are a prized traditional local delicacy, often the first harbinger of spring. If ramps are pulled out with the roots, however, the plants are killed. We harvest them sustainably, leaving the roots intact so that the plant remains. It can take a ramp plant up to seven years to create seeds, since they grow so briefly each year. We are growing ramps and other native forest plants here at Mountain Gardens to help preserve some of these plants and to encourage their cultivation. We have native edible and medicinal plants that we sell in our nursery.

 

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Gourmet dinner: hasta shoots, morel mushrooms, Solomon’s seal shoots, and ramps

 

 

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Gourmet again featuring giant dryad saddle mushroom, Solomon’s seal, ramps, and magenta Lamb’s quarters

 

 

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Giant morel!

 

 

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Ryan using special stingless nettle harvesters (designed by Joe Hollis)

Joe Hollis