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24 Hours in St. Paul
By: Stephanie March | Posted: 05/08/2008
I have a secret life during spring, one that takes me to parks and grassy knolls and hills and dales. I am a forager.
We are a sneaky lot. We skulk through public lands looking for treasured morels or ramps, keeping our finds quiet, even from other mycophagists. I've been known to book "meetings" all day that require the use of a state park guide and my Wellies.
I can't claim to be in the same league as the professional sneaks. They tend to show up at the back door of a restaurant with a basket full of goodies for the chef, and then like Keyser Soze, they disappear. You can't contact them, you have to wait for them to come to you.
If you're game, there are a couple of well-known hunting sites. Morel enthusiasts swear that Whitewater State Park and the nearby town of Elba has some sort of charm on it. Lake Maria and Afton have also been sites of reportedly good finds. Unless they're just telling me that to throw me off the trail, which I wouldn't put past them. Novices might want to enroll in Slow Food MN's Wild Harvest Tour on May 18, just to be sure.
Luckily, you don't have to leave the city to reap the rewards because bigtime foragers usually sell at the weekend markets. I know ramps have already been sighted at the Midtown Farmers' Market, and you'll probably find some mushrooms at the Mill City Market, which opens for the first time this weekend.
For those of you lusting for the garlicky/oniony bite of ramps right now, pop into Golden Fig on Grand Ave. where you can buy a little pot of ramp spread made with Hope Creamery butter.
Stephanie March is Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s food and dining editor. See bio
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