Spring is here

Indiana is finally getting green again so we were anxious to get outdoors and take advantage of it. The new season brings with it new plants and new activities. Early spring is a perfect time for invasive species removals and foraging for wild edibles.

On Saturday, we took a trip to Fall Creek Gorge Nature Preserve (also known as Potholes). Over the course of the last few years, we’ve discovered a surprising number of hidden gems in Indiana. It’s pretty unexpected when you drive two hours through flat farm country to a small parking lot, then hike a hundred feet into the woods to find a deep gorge with exposed rock face canyons and waterfalls. That’s pretty much the scene at Potholes. There aren’t very many miles of hiking, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in beautiful scenery.

Our main agenda on this trip was to help the Nature Conservancy staff in removing the invasive garlic mustard weed from the preserve. Garlic mustard can crowd out other native, more rare plants including wildflowers. It also causes soil erosion from its loose root structure. It was transported from Europe for food and has a strong garlic, onion flavor. After four hours of pulling them up from the ground, our group of six had made a sizable dent in the invasion.

On Sunday we went with the adventure club on a wild edible foraging trip in Plymouth. Our friend Lara invited the group to her property where she hoped we would find the precious morel mushroom. Instead we found a lot more garlic mustard, some wild leeks, and chives. Despite not finding mushrooms, the property was a neat place to explore. We took home a sizable load of other plants and made an excellent pesto over pasta for dinner that night.

It was fun learning about local invasive and edible plants. Knowing the invasive plants in your area is important so that you can do your part to stop the spread. It can also leave you with a tasty, healthy, and free meal. The best way to find out more about local invasives is to go to a local nature park and ask a staff member.

Links
Invasivore.org – a blog by Notre Dame biology students about eating invasive species
The Nature Conservancy’s Fall Creek Gorge Nature Preserve

Our pesto recipe:
Combine chopped up wild leeks, garlic mustard leaves, spinach, olive oil, and water and blend until smooth. Pour over pasta and top with parmesan cheese. I didn’t record the amounts, but I think you can just play around with it until it blends smoothly and it should be good.

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