2017-05-25 / Columns

Outdoors This Week in the Eastern U.P.

By Stephen King

The April snow showers have changed over to rain, so the May flowers are now blooming. If you’re thinking about “Tiptoeing Through the Tulips” or “Sitting Under the Apple Tree,” now is the time. A lot of people get the idea to pluck a few petals and put them on the mantle. Some say they are just weeds and there are plenty of them, but then again, picking some of them is illegal.

To get to the root of the matter, I had a talk with Sherry Martine MacKinnon, Department of Natural Resources wildlife ecologist. She advised not picking wildflowers. On state land, flowers are protected by the same law that prohibits cutting your own Christmas tree. On private land, it’s sometimes OK, but sometimes not, because some flowers are even more protected than others. For example, it is illegal to pick wild orchids.

Sherry said there is actually a big problem with people trying to transplant orchids from where they find them to a more desirable spot on their own property. Trouble is, quite often, the orchids don’t take well to the move. Do not attempt to move the orchids. Please just enjoy them where they are.

Rules are more lenient on species such as trillium. They are the white flower that is kind of an iconic flower of spring in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. They literally cover the ground in some areas, carpeting the woods in a sea of white flowers and green leaves. Another species Sherry mentioned were marsh marigolds, and other common species are Dutchmen’s breeches, and the ever-popular dandelion.

The dandelion is far from being endangered, although many lawn owners might wish they were. The bees are not doing all that well and that they love dandelions in the spring. So, if you like honey, leave a few dandelions for the bees. Also, they are not the only thing that likes to nibble the dandelions. People do, too. The leaves are edible. Put them in salads and they taste great. People also use the flowers to make wine. Some think it tastes similar to a fruity white wine. Then, at the Regional Track meet in Pickford, I saw a use that was new to me. Brooklyn Umbarger, who runs the relays for the Panthers girls, had forgotten her chalk to mark a spot on the track. So, she just grabbed a convenient dandelion and painted with it, a most original use of a natural flower.

Morel mushroom hunting is at its peak. The false morel, often referred to as “beef steaks” by local residents, can sometimes cause negative reactions in people, even without previous problems. The same can sometimes happen with real morels.

Leeks are wild onions. I have heard that some milk farmers are not fond of them because, according to legend, the cows eat the leeks and the milk gets the flavor. Not exactly what you want on your fruity loops in the morning. Leeks are about the same size as the pickled onions you buy in a store, and Sherry suggested dropping a pickled leek in your drink if you want to try something a bit different.

A while ago, I promised a recipe. Here it is: Morel and leek soup. First, cut a chicken breast into small cubes. Fry that, along with some diced carrots, flavored with your favorite spices. I use lemon pepper and plain salt. Next, in a different pan, fry the morels and leeks, using either butter or margarine and putting the morels in first. They have to cook just a bit longer than the leeks. Like most onions, you’re not trying to roast them, just caramelize them and release the sugars. With the chicken, just before it gets done, add in a few bits of celery. When all are cooked, being sure the chicken is completely cooked through, add all together in the larger pan. At this time, add in water and some evaporated milk and perhaps add in a bit more butter. Then, garnish with some sliced almonds. Tastes like you should be sitting at your favorite table at a nice restaurant. A short list of ingredients is: 1 chicken breast. 1 cup of both leeks and morels. 1 stalk of celery. 1 carrot. 1 can milk. The rest to taste.

If you’re more interested in “Dancing in the Dark” than in “Tripping Daisies,” then there are still some good reasons to go out “Walking After Midnight.” First, as I have been noting for a while now, the suckers are still running in a whole lot of area streams. Traditionally, people love to go out after dark and get them while they are on the move. Like most fish, they tend to move a lot more after dark. This is because there are a lot of things that eat them, such as bears, eagles, and a whole lot of other animals, and moving around after dark gives them a bit more chance of survival.

The suckers are not the only things getting “Serious Moonlight” time. Trout can be caught after dark. I have done very well fishing them at night. Sometimes I even think they hit better on lures after dark. Also, this past week was the opener of walleye season, the king of all night-time fish. I hear they are biting well right now.

So, there are once again reasons to get outdoors, regardless of the weather. If you can’t be a “Sunshine Superman,” perhaps you will be “Singing in the Rain.”

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