The ramps are up so the wild food season is officially open. I went out and gathered some ramps and then used them to make my favorite ramp meal-ramps and eggs. Ramps can be found in the woods in areas with moist soils. Ramps have a flavor that is a cross between an onion and garlic. Ramps can also be easily dried for later use. As with any popular wild food, over harvesting is a concern so it is strongly recommended that ten percent or less of a patch of ramps be harvested.
1 yellow pepper chopped
Fresh mushrooms chopped
Small onion chopped
10 cherry tomatoes cut in half
1/2 cup milk
1 lbs pork sausage
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
Slice the bulb (white portion) of the ramp into 1/4 inch wide slices. Slice the purple part of the ramp into inch long chunks combine with white part. Crosscut the green leaves into one inch wide pieces and set aside.
Begin browning the pork sausage. When it is about ½ done add the white and purple parts of the ramps, green pepper, mushrooms and onions.
Mix eggs and milk and beat well in a separate bowl.
When sausage and fixings are done, add the egg and milk mixture, the green portion of the ramps and the cherry tomatoes.
When eggs are fully cooked, spread Swiss cheese on top, turn off heat and cover until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Ramps are not around for very long so run out and dig a few and cook up this dish. You’ll really dig it.
When the marsh marigolds are in bloom, it is time to head to the woods with a pack basket to gather some wild foods. There are some delicious wild foods that pop almost as soon as the snow melts. I’ll describe four of my favorite spring wild foods below.
Ramps, or wild onions, are one of the most famous wild plants in Wisconsin’s woods. This plant, which looks a bit like a tulip without the flower, is a very tasty treat. The entire ramp plant can be dug up and eaten. To prep ramps for eating, just wash off the dirt and trim the roots. The flavor is a cross between onion and garlic. Ramps go great in omelets and with venison. Ramps can be picked and hung to dry for future use. Ramps can be found in hardwoods with a damp soil. Ramps are vulnerable to over harvest so the entire clump of ramps should never be taken. I always leave one or two ramps from every clump.
Watercress is another plant that is prime for harvesting in the spring. If you can find a cold clear spring in the spring, it may hold lots of watercress. It has a slight radish flavor that is great in salads and soups. I spray watercress with vinegar and rinse before eating to reduce the probability I am eating stuff like giardia.
Wild ginger is also in its prime in the spring. Ginger can be harvested from spring until late fall, but I think the flavor is best in the spring while it is flowering. Wild ginger is slung low to the ground and the roots are just under the surface of the soil. In the spring ginger has a small red flower. The root is the edible part of the plant. It can be used fresh, dried or ground up. It works great in pumpkin pie.
Late spring is the time to harvest the famous morel mushroom. This is probably the most commonly harvested mushroom and when it is in season, many people will be in the woods looking for dead elms and morels. Lesser known but equally delicious is the oyster mushroom, which also blooms in the late spring. These pearly white mushrooms prefer dead stumps and trees and grow in clumps. As always, when gathering wild mushrooms, make 200% certain you know what mushroom you are eating.
I’ll be publishing some ramp recipes under the Cook Shack page later.
A few photos from the shoot. Thanks to Eric for hosting and organizing this great shoot. It goes back several decades.
I took Maddy the mad mutt for a hike in the Dunnville Bottoms and found the place seriously flooded. The Red Cedar River was as high as I have ever seen it. Much to my surprise, my water hating dog ran in a shallow spot and began to play in the water.
Wild rice is an amazing food. It is delicious and highly nutritious. It makes a wonderful component in a myriad of hot dishes. This recipe is my foundational recipe for multiple hot dishes that involve wild rice. It also makes a great side dish. With the ingredients in this dish, one can add venison, beef, chicken, rabbit or squirrel. Sauces like good ole’ cream of mushroom soup, chicken or beef broth, or milk gravy can also be used to enhance the dish for some very fine dining. The cooking time and amount of water added to the dish will vary depending if hand harvested rice or commercially grown and harvested rice is used. The hand harvested rice will take two times the amount of water to rice while commercially harvested rice will take three times water to rice. Hand harvested rice will cook in 15 to 20 minutes and commercial rice in about 45 minutes.
1 cup wild rice
Water as directed above.
2 carrots sliced
3 stalks celery sliced
1 medium onion chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning.
Fresh or dried ramps. Fresh ramps can be sliced and added to mix. Dried ramp can be crushed and cooked or be run through a spice grinder and added.
Heat oil in fry pan add carrots, celery, and onion. If Fresh ramps are available add them now. Sauté till nearly soft. Add rice and cook for a couple of minutes. Add water and cover and cook until the rice is done.
The 2019 Conservation Congress hearings will be held on April 8th at 7:00 PM. The Dunn County hearing will be held, as usual, at the Dunn County Fish and Game Club House. For a listing of all the other hearing locations in the 71 other counties in the state click on this link: https://dnr.wi.gov/About/WCC/Documents/spring_hearing/2019/2019hearinglocations.pdf
A major change for the Spring Hearing is that it will be possible to fill out the questionnaire on-line. A live link will be posted on the Conservation Congress web page that will go live at 7:00 PM on April 8. The link will be live for three days. The Conservation Congress has adopted this procedure for using the on-line option: “Individuals in attendance at the Spring Hearings can choose to fill out the paper input form the night of the hearing or take a random verifiable number that can be submitted through the online system. The random verifiable number will allow an individual’s input to be tallied along with the input provided by in-person attendees in the county in which they attended.
Individuals who are unable to attend a Spring Hearing in person can provide input through the online version (without the random verifiable number). This input will be compiled and considered with the overall input but will be separate from the county-specific (in-person) input.” The Conservation Congress page can be found with this link: https://dnr.wi.gov/About/WCC/springhearing.html
Overall there are eighty-eight questions this year. The first forty-nine questions are DNR generated questions and the remaining thirty-nine are from the Congress. Changes to fishing rules make up the largest number of questions.
Questions 20 through 26 propose changes to the regulations for fishing on the Mississippi River. Questions 20 and 21 propose changing the bag limit for walleye and sauger in pools 3 through 8 to a combined 4 fish with a 15-inch size limit for walleye and none for sauger. The new proposed limit for pools 9 through 12 is a combination of 6 total walleye and sauger with no size limit. The suggested regulation changes are due to research showing that the fish grow faster but live shorter lives in the Mississippi than in other Minnesota or Wisconsin Waters. Also, the Sauger population is declining in the upper pools. Question 22 seeks to lower the white bass limit from 25 fish daily to 10 daily in pools three through 9. This change is being suggested because research has shown that white bass live much longer than previously thought so lower limits are needed to protect the white bass population. Question 23 proposes lowering the sunfish, crappie, and yellow perch bag limit in pools 3 through 9 from 25 to 15 fish per day. Pan fish are subject to strong fishing and harvest pressure, so the lower bag limits are designed to protect the currently healthy population of panfish in the Mississippi. Question 24 looks to lower the daily bag limit for Shovelnose Sturgeon from 10 to 3. Again, this lower bag limit is designed to protect the shovelnose sturgeon population. Not a lot of information is known about the shovelnose sturgeon other than it is a long-lived fish. It seems prudent to the fish managers to lower the limits to avoid harming the fish. If approved, Question 25 would lower the daily bag limit on Northern Pike from 5 to 3 and only one of the three fish can be over 30 inches. This change is designed to protect the population and to help create a trophy fishery for Northern Pike. Question 10 and 11 are a statewide fishery’s question for bass. Question 10 would allow the DNR to exempt permitted fishing tournaments from special local regulations and instead use the common state wide total of 5 fish per day with a 14-inch size limit. Question 11 proposes a year-round bass season but would only allow harvest of fish during the traditional bass season.
Several Questions pertain to hunting and trapping. Question 4 asks if the closing time for hunting pheasants on public land, like Dunnville Bottoms, should be changed from 2:00 PM to 12:00 to reduce hunting pressure on stocked birds.
The first Conservation Congress question is number 50 and it proposes an increase in the setback along water ways to 30 feet to help stop suspended solids and nonpoint pollution of our waters that cause algal blooms.
Question 52 proposed a new pilot program to help curb the spread of CWD. The Payment for Positives Program’s (P4P) goal is to use hunting to target herds most likely to have CWD by paying landowners and hunters cash for turning in CWD positive deer. Payments are suggested to range from $750 per deer to $1250 per deer. Sponsors of the program are suggesting that the legislature use approximately one percent of deer hunting license fees to fund this program. The pilot programs are designed to see if the program would remove more CWD positive deer from the herd and increase the testing and reporting of CWD infected deer.
Question 56 seeks to restore the tagging requirement for harvested deer. Question 56 proposes a statewide ban on feeding and baiting of deer. Question 70 seeks to restore funding for public lands.
Questions 78 and 79 seek to enhance hunter safety. Question 78 propose restoring the age limit for youth hunting back to 10 years old after the age limit was eliminated last year by the legislature. Question 79 would restore the requirement that on a mentored hunt only one gun may be carried between the mentor and mentee.
Questions 82 and 83 call for an increase in the Inland Trout Stamp fee (82) and an increase in the Great Lake Trout and Salmon Stamp (83). The new revenue would help pay for trout stream restoration and improvements, and funding for staff, maintenance and upgrades to fish hatchery’s that stock the Great Lakes.
Questions 85 and 86 support a ban on lead fishing gear (85) and ammunition (86). Lead is the primary material used in ammo and fishing tackle. Lead in tackle and ammo has also been shown to be a source of often fatal lead poisoning for 130 species of critters. There are non-toxic fishing tackle and ammo alternatives available.
Finally, one of the first orders of business at the Spring Hearings in electing delegates to the Conservation Congress. Every county has a team of five delegates that represents the county. The Conservation Congress is the only statutory body in the state where citizens elect delegates to advise the Natural Resources Board and the Department of Natural Resources on how to responsibly manage Wisconsin’s natural resources for present and future generations. The Conservation Congress is citizen democracy in action. It won’t function without your participation.