family members, but they’re considerably larger.
Unfortunately, the greens are best gathered in
early spring when the flowers are still wrapped
tight in their round, button-like buds. At harvest
time, identification relies upon leaves, stems, and
buds alone, so we’ll need to be familiar with all
the features of the plant, not just the ones that are
easy to find in a field guide.
Foot-high clusters of heart- or kidney-shaped
leaves show up as splashes of green against
the browns and greys of the springtime marsh.
Closer inspection (which often requires a pair of
waterproof boots) reveals shallow teeth on the leaf
margins. While ascertaining a positive identification, it is wise to note nearby plants, as well. The
marsh-marigold can share its habitat with several
fatally toxic species (water and poison hemlock,
for example), no part of which should inadvertently
make its way into the forager’s gathering bags.
In addition to mud boots, also bring gloves. Like
other buttercup family members, marsh-marigolds
produce protoanemonin, a carbohydrate-based
toxin that can irritate the skin. Because of it,
marsh-marigolds should never be eaten raw. An
attempt to do so would likely be short-lived, any-
how, as the uncooked greens taste terrible. With
gloves, however, the tender leaves can be safely
pinched off. The stems are hollow, succulent, and
satisfying to pick. Gather a large volume as they
cook down dramatically.
When wild food guides recommend that a
green be prepared with a long boiling in multiple
waters, I am often skeptical. Guides are often
overly cautious about cooking recommendations
for wild plants. But with marsh-marigolds, I follow
these recommendations and boil
the greens for 30 minutes in three
changes of water. This significantly
reduces their bitterness.
Despite the ambivalence of
other wild food authors for marsh-marigold greens, I rather like them.
They have a texture that reminds
me of spinach and a mildly bitter
flavor when well cooked. Like other bitter pot-
herbs, I prefer to prepare them in oils and serve
them with something starchy like rice, as in the
recipe given here.
The marsh-marigold serves as a great example
of how learning to forage requires a mixture of
diligent research and personal experimentation
– we’re grateful for the lore passed down from
foragers who have gone before, but willing to trust
our own experience.
[ NATURALLY CURIOUS ]
Wood frogs mate and lay their eggs in ponds and occasionally vernal
pools before heading back to their wooded, terrestrial habitats.
Their eggs are subject to predation by numerous animals, including
leeches, fish, aquatic insects, and as these pictures show, eastern
newts. Hungry newts can feed for hours without moving more than an
inch, and many often do. After discovering an egg mass, a newt plunges
its head into the clump of eggs, grabs one and, with great shaking of its
head, separates an egg from the mass and quickly swallows it. Seconds
later, the newt repeats the process and continues doing so until it is
satiated. Luckily for the frogs, each egg mass contains 1,000 to 2,000
eggs. — Mary Holland
Several boilings in fresh water help to