I’ve been snooping around a particular patch near home lately. It’s time to forage fireweed shoots, which you may know as willow herb, or blooming Sally. They can be steamed and eaten like asparagus, with a remarkably similar in flavor, with a lemony aftertaste. They’re well along in sunnier spots around Haines but are just appearing in the place we usually harvest them. While looking for fireweed, I found something else, unexpectedly early.
I found false morels. True morels are the one mushroom we gather—if we can—in spring. They’re among the most sought after of all mushrooms, very tasty. False morels are considered poisonous. They’re similar enough to morels to distract, but I consider their arrival good news, as true morels could also be up in the same area. We’ve found them there before. They’re very hard to see, especially since the wind often carries wads of dried bladderwrack seaweed—very similar in color and shape to the mushrooms—into the same area. Finding the morels is worth the effort, though, especially when the search might reveal fireweed shoots, young dandelion greens, and other wild herbs. Not only that, but poking around on a warm, sunny bank, enjoying the fragrance of the awakening spring should never be considered time wasted.