GONE WILD –WILD FOOD PICKIN’ ! !  I’m going to share a few wild foods I love and look forward to every season.
The earliest, for me, is the despised dandelion…the invasive lawn weed, that most lawn-groomers hate!
Well, I love them!!  There are many varieties to select from for a green veggie dish. I select the blunted-end leaf variety as they seem to be the least bitter.
Harvested before the buds open also gives the most tender leaves.
The Common Dandelion

In the pot

Do a good washing & culling, then place into a pan with a half-inch of lightly salted water….just as you would do with spinach.  Cook a few minutes at a medium boil, drain, & place into a  small bowl with a thin slab of butter, a splash of apple cider vinegar and s&p.  This is a delightful and different dish of greens chocked full of vitamins .

If your lucky enough to find Ramps (wild onions) in your foraging, a few in the pot of dandy’s gives an additional touch.

I have been one lucky transplant with the locals who have enjoyed these wild foods and will share once they find out you’re not a “city slicker” who only eats store-bought goods.
My friend & neighbor has harvested Fiddleheads for all of his life. He’s 93!!!   A generous gift of a pound or two is always welcome.  I have never collected Fiddleheads because they have not been near me, and not in my part of Washington County, Maine.
A good washing & tip-cutting is enough to get them into the pot  and boiled ’til tender…about 15 minutes. Never eat raw!  Toss into your dish with butter & vinegar— OMG !  GOOD?   OOOH yes!!

The next wild gathering are Goose Tongue Greens…a seaside plantain found along the upper banks of tidal water.  We have a great crop  along the edge of our bay….never to be pulled out…only clipped off to save the roots. They are about 6-8″ tall in bunches, with a triangular blade. They are quite salty and usually need one water change.  Then a 4- or 5-minute boil, drained, and placed into a bowl, with butter& vinegar & no salt.  Another wonderful treat!

This mornings cutting.


Now that my garden is in, up come the weeds! YEA!  Am I crazy? Yes & No!  Pigweed is everywhere and I can hardly stand the wait for it to get big enough to cut.
Lambs Quarters have been a source of valuable green food for eons!  If you like spinach , Lambs Quarters are for you.

Picking is easy, just pull up or cut off before the seeds arrive, strip the leaves and cull out the bad ones.  Leaf miners invade the plant usually from the bottom up.  Cut the leaf stems if you wish. Treat just as you would spinach with butter, vinegar, s&p.  I like it better than spinach.

All of the above are served with a mess of steamers. YES, steamed clams! Only now can you die and go to wherever!!

Or, mussels, Mahogany little-necks, & linguini, topped with Fiddleheads! OMG!!  I just died again !  If I continue this kind of eating, I’m gonna die!!

Now the Alewives are running, so off to the closest stream, with a fishing permit, a net, hip-boots, & a bit of luck.
Netting a few at the upper dam & loosing a few.

When I was very  small, before school, and just after the Great Depression, it was a hard recovery for the average working person.
Luckily my Dad had a job with a Boston newspaper during the G.D. and WW ll, but the first 12 years of my life, we didn’t have  lots of “wish we hads”.  So foraging & free for-the-taking was in order.
On my Dad’s day off we headed to the Pembroke Herring Run for a catch of free fish.  The stream was just beside Rte. 14, ( Barker St.).  Dad had a home-made net from a burlap bag and an old rake handle.   Upon arrival a few others with hip-boots were in the stream netting all they could lift.  Dad dropped his net in & let it drift open and the Herring would go in to be trapped.  A full galvi-pail satisfied Dad & home we went.
At home he gutted the fish along with scraping the scales off, leaving the heads & tails on to Mom’s objections! Mom wrapped the Herring in brown paper with onions, maybe more—- then baked them in the black kerosene stove’s oven along with baked beans.
When done, they were unwrapped and the skin would peel off exposing the sweet white meat full of bones– that didn’t deter Dad, he picked around them and enjoyed his catch.  I picked off the onions — no onions for me– and picked at the meat– I did enjoy the beans and cold slaw — picking out the carrots.  That was a Saturday night’s dinner when Herring was in season for many years.

I remember my Mom saying to Dad, ” Bill, these are gross”!   But she picked at them after removing the heads.
After the War, and foods became more available, the Herring Run was overlooked. There were new limits & regulations, along with the long lines waiting for your turn & monitored by the Fish & Game Officers.

Today, Smoked Herring is a favorite of many…on top of a saltine cracker and washed down with a favorite beer….mine??  Guinness Stout, thank you!

A LATE COMER.  6-19-22.

White Perch from a close-by Lake, Goose tongue Greens, from our waterside. Chanterelle ‘shrooms, picked out back, and sprigs of Rosemary growing in a pot in our garden. A tasty dinner.

“A little smoke couldn’t be noticed now, so we would take some fish off of the lines and cook up a hot breakfast. And afterwards we would watch the lonesomeness of the river, and kind of lazy along, and by and by lazy off to sleep.”
Mark Twain,  (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)


W. Ray Freden,  Marshfield, 70 years.  Pembroke Maine, “Down East” 17 years,  and wish it was longer.

4 Replies to “GONE WILD”

  1. Those mollusks look mighty tasty, the baked herring, not so much. My Mom and Dad loved oily fish, herring, mackerel, and smelts, I’d opt for a bowl of cheerios when possible.

    Your story was the dessert! Thanks Ray


  2. Ray! My mouth is watering. Except for the herring. A delicious trip through your eyes and memories. The cooking and serving suggestions are much appreciated. Like the photos!

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