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DAVIS COLUMN: Wild asparagus, morels mushrooms, turkey breasts, and trout fillets on the menu

DAVIS COLUMN: Wild asparagus, morels mushrooms, turkey breasts, and trout fillets on the menu

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Asparagus can be the vegetable; morels a fruit, as in fruiting body; a gobbler the white meat. For those who prefer red meat, it could be the pink trout fillets, enough to fill the plate.

Watercress, or garlic mustard, will green up a salad bowl.

If it’s a formal dinner, floral decorating could be any number of white, yellow, blue or red blooms, but don’t touch yellow lady’s slipper or orchis orchids. Columbines and wild geraniums, with a few fern fronds in a vase will last ‘till morning.

Gathering wild asparagus (previously escaped from cultivation) should have started in October, when locations of golden brown stalks blew in autumn’s wind. That’s where the spring shoots arise from rhizomes and roots of this perennial plant.

Rural roadsides, with permission if necessary, provide weedy fencerows where birds once sat after eating fall asparagus fruits. Tools needed? Good eyes and a parting stick; break the shoots by hand or carry any type of pocket knife. Straight knives, or knives not cased, would be dangerous to carry on wet slopes. Let’s hope the slopes are slippery.

Morel mushrooms are iffy, something fungal gatherers are becoming used to after 2020, one of the worst seasons ever according to buyers, pickers, and eaters depending on nature’s gatherers to fill the need as omelet fillers, steak toppings, and appetizers.

Still, the Muscoda Morel Festival in Grant County’s Muscoda, will be held May 15. Otherwise, there has not been a lot of talk about this self-proclaimed State Mushroom. Here’s where those from Illinois and Wisconsin agree. The States’ border is no barrier.

Don Martin, at Martin’s Sporting Goods in Monroe, had a man come in whose vehicle plate was Shroom Man. He had not found any.

After locating an old apple tree, dead white or red elm, hope beyond hope there’s enough moisture in the soil or clumps of mosses that there’s shade and moist soil underneath.

Walk up hill, too, even if it means turning around and walking the opposite direction. Spend the time to encircle each tree both directions to better find morels partially-hidden by last fall’s oak leaves, knee-high garlic mustard, and swaying grasses.

Avoid the quite different false morels, which will make one ill, or worse, cooked or not. It’s better to cook the good ones, any mushrooms, even the produce department varieties.

Deer ticks are out so make sure not to take any home. Slugs love mushrooms and sometimes get inside the morel’s hollow stem. They’ve been doing a job on the false morels.

Wisconsin’s third wild turkey hunting period (C) began May 5, and authorizations are still for sale for some later periods. Hens are nesting and feeding alone several times daily.

“Many hunters are complaining the population is down,” said John Borzick, at Tall Tails Sports and Spirits in Boscobel. “Some are finding little gray morels (just a variety), but nothing more when breaking from turkey calling. We’ve only had four birds come in for our contest so far.”

Trout fishing is now open for keeping fish on many streams. Based on catching during the releasing period, getting some to take home are great. “River (Mississippi and Wisconsin) fishing is good with panfish, smallies and largemouth catching really good, as is fishing for channel catfish.”

“The small morels I was watching froze off,” said Doug Williams. “But crappies are biting, and bass, too. Anglers have whipped out the lures I had, so supplies are still short. Better pick it up now if you find it.”

Gardens are at a standstill, first from cold and now from dry soil. Hold and plant later or supplement water.

Bloomers continue to mount with some in prairies, too, but most are forest ephemerals. Several conifers have mature flower-like pollen cones.

Bluebirds are beginning to hatch; eaglets are now developing dark feathers, with one report of quadruplets hatching and surviving on parents’ food supplies.

One report of a whippoorwill came from Iowa County last week.

Most of the nut trees are in flower, having missed the really cold temperature of several weeks ago.

Groundhogs and “gophers” are out foraging in full force. Yard moles are difficult to catch because of dry weather. Wait for rain here, too, to identify a new main tunnel.

Sandhill cranes that are out feeding in pairs may have lost their nests. Right now the brown-bodies birds are good walking rain gauges. Hope is bluebirds pick up with their second nest, which may be their first. Many nest boxes never welcomed a pair. Sapsuckers are drilling but hummingbirds have not come back to steal from the sap wells.

White birch sap is still flowing, being used mainly for drink, not syrup at 88:1 boil down ratio.

An 18-inch brown trout was caught and released from the East Branch of the Pecatonica River below the dam in Argyle last week.

The DNR 2020 Ethical Hunter Award presentation is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at Vortex Optics in Barneveld. Steve Kahan, Wausau, and Troy DeLaet, Rosholt, are co-winners this year. Each will receive Vortex Optics product and a DNR plaque.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at or 608-924-1112.


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