Forget April—March is the cruelest month, when winter seems never-ending. While local crops won’t yield for months, that doesn’t mean that spring isn’t sprouting. Here are three harbingers of spring right here in Westchester.
Ramps: Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are a member of the Allium family, and are close relative to onion grass, chives, leeks, and scallions. Tasting like a garlic-tinged, very intense leek, ramps grow wild from Canada to North Carolina and can be found right here in Westchester. Local chefs employ independent foragers who scour local wooded areas to gather wild ramps in spring. If you’re lucky, you’ll find them on locavorian menus around the county.
Shad: Shad is one of our more poetic harbingers, because the “runs” (as the mass, up-river spawning swims of these fish are called) follow the blooms of three flowers: forsythia, dogwood, and lilac. That means there’s no need to check charts to learn when shad is in season: when the buds of the forsythia bloom, shad is running in the Hudson.
Morels: Looking a little Hobbit-y (or like something in the garden gnomes aisle at Lowe’s), morels are to the Hudson Valley what truffles are to the Perigord. In fact, morels belong to the same fungus species as truffles, and, like truffles, morels are expensive and prized for their intense, earthy flavor. They’re often paired with fancy game birds like pheasant and served in lush, creamy sauces that support the morel’s heady flavor. Unlike truffles, however, morels can be foraged right here in our neighborhoods.