Yesterday I found my first hedgehog mushrooms of the season. It was on a short outing with my daughter; she was after raspberries and I wanted to follow up on the sudden burst of mushroom activity in the yard. I suspected some edible mushrooms would be available, mostly chanterelles and lobsters. Those were good finds, but I hollered out loud when the first few hedgehogs appeared on the forest floor- they are among my most favorite mushrooms to eat. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Hedgehog Mushrooms”
Berry foragers, rejoice! The juneberry crop this year appears to be robust- as was last year’s- and they’re fruiting right now. Never had juneberries? I’m not surprised. They’re easy to miss, but maybe you should give them a closer look. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Juneberries”
Every year about this time there is a lull in the foraging season here in Minnesota. The early season has passed and the frenzy over morels, fiddleheads, and ramps is over. The summer mushrooms and berries really haven’t started. However, while raspberries, blackberries, thimbleberries, and other members of the Rubus clan have yet to even finish blooming, their little brother is here to take center stage.
Enter Dwarf Raspberry. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Dwarf Raspberries”
If you’re itching to get out and forage some wild berries this year, I have good news for you: the strawberries are in. They won’t be for long and they won’t offer the volume of picking as later berries, but they’re still worth pursuing. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Wild Strawberries”
The Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) seems to be gaining in popularity among foragers, if mentions in social media are any indication. Posts about “fiddleheads” are becoming more and more common this time of year. Also apparent in the social media soup is how much confusion there is when it comes to knowing which species are edible and how they are identified.
Some people- a proportional few- are vocal in their opinion that the Ostrich fern is not the only edible fern in Minnesota. While that may be true for sometimes complicated reasons, I will not subscribe to that school of thought. Allow me to explain why. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Ostrich Ferns”
Ramps are special, and the season is short. For some foragers, it’s the taste of Spring, and they wouldn’t miss it. I’m not that fervent, but I do like them nonetheless. This year, I made a point to branch out and do more than scrambled eggs with ramps. Now, I’m no chef, so don’t expect any groundbreaking ideas or recipes here. My perspective is that of an avid forager and great fan of trying new things. Continue reading “What to Fix: Recipes for Ramps”
Once again, I blame social media. For what, you ask? For the ridiculous fame that ramps seem to be “enjoying” nowadays.
Of course, people have known about ramps for a long time, even holding spring festivals for them in parts of the eastern U.S. where they used to grow prolifically. I say “used to” because it is well known that wild ramp populations are hurting. Because of that, they really don’t need any extra harvest pressure. Every foraging group I subscribe to on Facebook, however, is currently experiencing Ramp Mania. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Ramps”
I’m not a new-year’s-resolution person. Rare are the times I am moved to state such aspirations formally, and rarer yet are the years when they survive to see the next changing of the calendar. Still, I will frequently look back on the past 12 months as that milestone approaches each year. My reflections have been more rewarding than usual this time around. Continue reading “New Year, New Adventures”
When you think of camping, do you think of campgrounds? I’m sure most people do. When I’m going somewhere and plan on camping, I usually look to see where the nearest campgrounds are and how close they are to my planned activities. The thing is, if there is state or federal forest land available, you can probably take advantage of a kind of freestyle camping, which offers much more flexibility and is free of charge. It’s called “dispersed” camping, and most people don’t even know about it.
Dispersed camping, in a nutshell, is camping anywhere you like, so long as you observe a few reasonable rules. I have been taking advantage of this allowance in the last few years, and it has added much value and convenience to my hunting and fishing excursions.
Now, dispersed camping usually doesn’t get much more than a mention in the lists of rules for users of state and national forests. Unless you dig around a bit, you may not know what is allowed and what is not. Fortunately, there isn’t much to know. The following is a summary of what I believe are the most important considerations; follow links to find information that is most location-specific and most complete.
Dispersed Camping in Minnesota’s State Forests
Let’s begin with Minnesota’s state forests, because rules and terminology are uniform across the state system. “Dispersed Camping” is defined as “camping overnight outside of established campgrounds or designated campsites.” The following is my summary of the rules. In the interest of being thorough, read the full state statute and consult the rules for each state forest unit to check for special conditions.
The first and most important rule is probably that dispersed camping is not allowed “within one mile of a fee campground,” nor is it allowed where “posted or designated to prohibit camping.” This is not usually a problem, because state forest campgrounds are typically few and far between. Also forbidden while dispersed camping are digging, constructing “permanent camping structures,” and placing “wood, nails, screws, or other fasteners in a living tree at a campsite.” Also, human waste must be buried “at least 150 feet from a water body, in a manner that does not endanger a water supply.”
What is allowed includes gathering firewood, as long as it is dead and on the ground, and used while camping in that location. Campers may also stay in one location for up to 14 days “from the first Saturday in May to the second Sunday in September,” and 21 days during the rest of the year. When you leave, however, you must move to a new location “at least 15 miles from the previous camp.”
Dispersed Camping in Minnesota’s National Forests
When it comes to gathering and assessing information from the Forest Service’s website(s), terminology can stand in the way of the user. Minnesota has two National Forests: Chippewa and Superior. Their uses of the term “dispersed camping” and others differ, however, dispersed camping is still available.
Superior National Forest’s website is informative and well-organized when it comes to camping information, stating, “Types of camping include Campground Camping, Dispersed Camping, RV camping, and Wilderness Camping.” Each type is given a separate web page, and information is laid out logically. They also offer a “Camping Recreational Opportunity Guide,” a 4-page document that displays camping opportunities with helpful maps and charts. At the bottom of the document is the section on dispersed camping.
It defines Dispersed Camping as “camping outside of designated sites,” which is the simplest and most widely accepted definition of dispersed camping. The relatively few rules pertaining to dispersed camping are also spelled out plainly: be aware of fire restrictions, do not park in a way that will impede traffic or damage vegetation or soil, no digging or cutting live trees, and generally follow the Leave No Trace principles.
Chippewa National Forest’s website, on the other hand, can leave you guessing with regard to terminology. This is puzzling to me, because in my experience national forests and grasslands have all used camping terms in ways that align with Superior N.F. Why “the Chip” should be any different is still unknown to me. I have made the following table to compare terms.
What Superior calls “Fee Campgrounds,” Chippewa calls “Developed Campgrounds.” No big deal, really. But what Superior calls “Backcountry Campsites,” (single designated sites without facility beyond fire ring and pit toilet), Chippewa seems to call “Backcountry,” “Dispersed,” and even “Primitive” campsites. Yes, it seems all three terms are used interchangeably. Not only does it use “dispersed” for some designated sites— which in itself is a departure from the accepted meaning of the term— it doesn’t seem to even acknowledge the possibility of camping apart from designated areas.
I called Ken at the Forest Service office in Blackduck for some clarification. I explained the problems with terminology on Chippewa’s website, and its failure to even mention camping outside designated sites (with any term attached). He assured me that “…any place you decide to camp that’s not in a designated campground” is allowed, except in any location where posted signs prohibit. That is the rule basically anywhere else, so it was good to hear even though finding it in print/digital is presently difficult to impossible. When he added, “You can camp anywhere on this forest,” I was satisfied.
Dispersed camping is a useful recreational tool that every outdoor-oriented person should be aware of. As I’ve stated before, it can add convenience and cost savings to outings, especially when pursuits take us far from cities or campgrounds. With millions and millions of acres of state and federal lands available in Minnesota for hunting, fishing, foraging, camping, trail riding, and more, the opportunities for dispersed camping can influence and improve the way we plan our outdoor adventures.
Minnesota State Forests and our two National Forest Service entities allow dispersed camping with relatively few restrictions. As always, the onus is on the user to find and understand information and applicable rules, whether they be system wide, location specific, or temporary. Dispersed camping may be an under-utilized resource, but it is conceivable that misuse, especially by large numbers of users, could decrease or eliminate dispersed camping on our public lands.
I’m sure you’ve heard of “black cherry,” either as a flavoring or as a type of wood. For me, the name evokes a certain flavor of candy. But did you know it’s a harvestable fruit here in Minnesota? Yes, it is. And this year’s harvest was outstanding.
I’d been waiting several years for a good crop of these cherries- perhaps 4 or 5. They were not something I went out of my way for, but I usually checked on a couple different trees at least once toward the end of each summer. Well, this year, it was clear conditions were somehow just right. Branches were full of green clusters by July all over in my area. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Black Cherry”
When I came across the word “quinzee” several times within a short span this winter, it got my attention. I first had to do an internet search to determine exactly what it was, but knew right away I not only wanted to learn how to build a quinzee, I also needed to try sleeping in it. This seemed fun, but carried out in my own yard at home, it was an easy way to try something I might like to use in lieu of a tent on a future wilderness trip.
Continue reading “Do Something New: Build a Quinzee”
Believe me, I’ve been there too. You find yourself in the presence of an abundance of some kind of foraged treasure- perhaps for the first time– and you collect more than you know what to do with. Most of the time these things can be preserved, and we can decide what to do with it all later. For some reason I always seem to envision this taking place on a January day that’s so nasty I can’t even go ice fishing.
Anyway, the time to decide what to do with all those chokecherries has come. If you’re like me, you’ve made a couple batches of pancake syrup and/or jelly, but there are still several bags of berries waiting down in the basement freezer. The good news is, chokecherry syrup and jelly are unique and tireless, at least in our house (I believe every forager owes it to themselves to at least try the pancake syrup). The better news is, you don’t have to restrict yourself to syrup and jelly. If you use your imagination a bit and have the patience to endure a little trial and error, there are lots of uses for your purple tree caviar. Continue reading “What to Fix- Chokecherry Recipes”
Whether you call it Maitake, Hen of the Woods, Sheepshead, or just Bill, Grifola frondosa is a sought-after mushroom. It doesn’t seem to get the hype that morels and others do, but it is, in my opinion, one of the best tasting, most versatile, all-around great mushrooms. I get downright giddy when the summer is coming to a close and I can start checking my favorite spots. Throughout the season, I see a lot of excitement on social media over some really mundane mushrooms like Pheasant Back and Chicken of the Woods; frankly, I don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong; I eat those too when I find them. But for me, there are few mushrooms I’d rather find than Maitake when I head out the door. Continue reading “Foraging in Minnesota: Maitake”
Click on links to view full articles:
- Foraging in Minnesota: Wild PlumsWhen it comes to foraging, nothing says “end of summer” like wild plums. During that late August/early September time with cool mornings and moderately warm afternoons, I know without looking that American and Canada plums are ripe. Prunus, spp. Most people don’t know it, but Minnesota is home to two species of wild plums. American plum (Prunus americana) ...
- Foraging in Minnesota: Chicken of the WoodsDo they really taste like chicken? If you’re not too critical, yes.
- Foraging in Minnesota: Wild GrapesWild grape jelly is, admittedly, better than the stuff from the store. I say “admittedly” because I’d heard such claims and didn’t believe them— until I made my own.
- Foraging in Minnesota: Sand CherryIn Minnesota, Sand cherry is an inhabitant of dry— if not barren—places. Literally, think sand. In my quest to find P. pumila this year, I was most successful in the drier places of east central, west central, and northwest Minnesota.
- Foraging in Minnesota: Stinging NettlesThe growing season has begun, when many useful and tasty greens will appear. This includes one plant which is easily overlooked, if not considered a downright nuisance: the stinging nettle.
- Foraging in Minnesota: SnozzberriesIf you’re reading this, you probably don’t know what you’re missing. Everybody else is in the woods. The snozzberries are out.
- Foraging in Minnesota: BlackberriesIt’s blackberry season. While I sit here typing this out in mid-August, I have a hunch there are literally tons of them out there going unpicked.
- Foraging in Minnesota: Hedgehog MushroomsI place hedgehog mushrooms in the top echelon of wild mushrooms, right up there with hen of the woods, chanterelles, and black trumpets. It’s worth a trip to the woods hoping to find even a couple, especially if you’ve never before had the pleasure.
- Foraging in Minnesota: JuneberriesNever had juneberries? I’m not surprised.They’re easy to miss, but maybe you should give them a closer look. Despite having a mild, less-than-distinct flavor, juneberries (AKA serviceberries, saskatoons )are worth targeting.
- Foraging in Minnesota: Dwarf RaspberriesEvery year about this time there is a lull in the foraging season here in Minnesota. The early season has passed and the frenzy over morels, fiddleheads, and ramps is over. However, the Dwarf raspberry is here now to take center stage.
- Foraging in Minnesota: Wild StrawberriesIf you’re itching to get out and pick some wild berries this year, I have good news for you: the strawberries are in. Wild strawberries are a good way to get kids interested in foraging, or at least engage them in conversation about where food comes from.
- Foraging in Minnesota: Ostrich FernsThe Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) is gaining in popularity in the foraging community. Learn how to identify and cook this springtime treat.
- Foraging in Minnesota: RampsSpring kicks off the foraging season. Ramps are popular and a delicious addition to many meals this time of year. Allium tricoccum and Allium burdickii are similar but separate species. Minnesota is host to both, but A. tricoccum is by far more common.
- Foraging in Minnesota: Black CherryI’m sure you’ve heard of “black cherry,” either as a flavoring or as a type of wood. For me, the name evokes a certain flavor of candy. But did you know it’s a harvestable fruit here in Minnesota? Yes, it is.
- Do Something New: Tapping Maple Trees and Making SyrupThis year I tried tapping maple trees and making maple syrup in Itasca County, in northern Minnesota. I had to learn how to make maple syrup, but it was worth the time and effort.
- Foraging in Minnesota: ChagaForaging for chaga in Minnesota is getting popular. Know where to find it and how to prepare it as chaga tea. Inonotus obliquus has been known for hundreds of years as a medicinal fungus; do yourself a favor and give it a try.
- Foraging in Minnesota: CranberriesMinnesota is host to two different varieties of wild cranberry: Vaccinium macrocarpon and Vaccinium oxycoccos. They can be found in the many swamps and bogs in northern and eastern Minnesota, and much of that is on public lands.
- Foraging in Minnesota: MaitakeGrifola frondosa is a sought-after mushroom. It doesn’t seem to get the hype that morels and others do, but Grifola frondosa is one of the best-tasting, most versatile, all-around great mushrooms.
- Foraging in Minnesota: Wild HazelnutsWild hazelnuts are like a smaller version of the cultivated varieties, and Minnesota is host to both the American and Beaked hazelnuts. Know where and when to look for them, as well as how to identify them in the field and what to do with them.
- Foraging in Minnesota: ChokecherriesChokecherries are widespread in Minnesota, as well as in northern and western United States. Their flavor, once extracted from the heavily-pitted fruits, is unique and delicious.
- Foraging in Minnesota: ThimbleberriesThe Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) is native to Minnesota, but is not necessarily abundant. Closely related to the raspberry, it tastes somewhat similar, but has its own unique flavor and charm.
- Foraging in Minnesota: ChanterellesAlong with morels, hen of the woods, and a few others, chanterelles are one of the most popular mushrooms for foragers in Minnesota. Their mild, sweet flavor is very desirable in the kitchen, however there are several look-alikes which need to be avoided.
- Foraging in Minnesota: The Early Season, Part 1The Minnesota spring foraging season offers much more than just morel mushrooms. Fiddlehead ferns (ostrich ferns), ramps, pheasant back mushrooms, greens, and more are all widespread and available for the taking.
A few years ago, my dad told me a story about a guy who had a cabin across the lake from our family’s place up north. Legend has it he picked some mushrooms and brought them home for his wife to cook up. When she expressed her doubts, he proclaimed, “I know my mushrooms!” and slammed his fist down on the table. She cooked, he ate, he died.
Now, I have no idea what those mushrooms were. What I do know is that people die or become very sick every year from mushroom poisoning, or mycetism. It is unfortunate but almost inevitable. Continue reading “Death By Mushroom”