Mid-summer Madness

I come home from a hard day of work to find a cold jar of staghorn sumac-aide, beading with perspiration, waiting for me in the fridge. The lemon-flavored beautiful-brown drink is just what I need on a hot summer day. It’s summer in New England! Virtually all of the plants that make an appearance this far north have made great strides in their life cycle. Even the late comers, like pokeweed and virgin’s bower, have flowered. The wild cherries (pin, black, and choke) have ripened. And many of the elite mushrooms have taken the stage. The wild world is at its peak and total madness ensues.

Foraging this time of year is overwhelming to the senses. Every day new flowers are opening on plants, while others are forming seeds, and every time it rains, brand new mushrooms appear overnight where there were none before. It’s easy to get sidetracked by just exploring all the species in dense thickets around the borders to woods and in overgrown fields. For the most part, you can avoid the greens as most, but not all, are too tough or bitter this time of year. I still harvest the tender tops of many, but there are more seasonal items available. My favorite summer treats are stagnorn sumac-aide, chanterelles, pineapple weed tea, milkweed buds, flowers, and pods, and amaranth greens and lamb’s quarters greens (exceptions to the greens-are-past-due rule).

Mid-summer is also a good time to collect medicinal plants, as most of them are thriving this time of year. Many foragers preserve the bulk of their medicinal plants in July and August, usually through drying. I don’t eat or infuse medicinal plants in great quantities since they can have strong effects on the body, so I only preserve small amounts. If you ingest any medicinal plants, it’s best to check with a doctor first to make sure they don’t interact with any of your prescribed medications and to make sure you don’t have too much.

The species I’ve eaten since my last blog include a range of edible and medicinal plants and mushrooms, some of which were eat as vegetables, while others were infused into tea or used as spcies: bedstraw, chaga, black cherry, sheep sorrel, wild lettuce, sweet fern, wild grape leaves and tendrils, garlic mustard, stinging nettle, mugwort, motherwort, field pennycress, chanterelle, lady’s thumb, elderberry flower, staghorn sumac, St. John’s wort, red clover, summer oyster mushroom, pin cherry, common puffball, day lily, milkweed, salsify, New Jersey tea, wild ginger, ground ivy, Lactarius indigo, live forever, wood sorrel, Virginia waterleaf, weeping bolete, lamb’s quarters, sarsaparilla, bishop’s goutweed, downy serviceberry, heal-all, large-leaf aster, partridgeberry, Clintonia borealis, birch bolete, spruce gum, peppergrass, shepherd’s purse, pineapple weed, curled dock, ox-eye daisy, wild strawberry, Canadian thistle, two-leaved toothwort, Ganoderma tsugae, bull thistle, Amaranth, white pine, prenanthus alba, black locust, and jewelweed.