New buds glow like still flames upon a candelabra.
Slender golden limbs balancing the light of spring.
Acer macrophyllum, the Bigleaf Maple, sends out playful flower bunches before the giant leaves begin to unfold. The dangling inflorescences engender a closer look. Some racemes bloom with male flowers first and then females, while others surprise with the reverse. These female first inflorescences result in “drop off males” after the spicy pollen is spent and graceful samaras begin to twirl in the wind. According to botanist David Wagner, they are sweetest.
We trekked along the McKenzie River with Wolf Rock in view, plucking tender flower bunches as we hiked. Along nearly every street in Eugene, these trees were also in bloom, heralding the season.
I like when all of the flowers have just barely opened so the complexity of slightly bitter green and floral sweet shine through. However, they do become less supple and enjoyable as they begin to fruit after pollination, so “younger is better” is a good rule of thumb.
I’ve mostly heard of wildfoods folks tossing these into stir-fries and scrambles, which I love, but eating them fresh is such a treat when they’re just right.
How to Make Wild Spring Rolls
This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a medley of herbs, fruits, and veggies. You really can use anything that you like, anything growing in your garden, or any fresh wild edible that doesn’t require cooking. How pretty would a combination of dandelion greens, oxalis leaves, salmonberry flowers, and violets be all wrapped up in rice paper translucence?
Here’s what’s in mine:
bigleaf maple flowers
fresh mint leaves
fresh basil leaves
fresh cilantro leaves
spicy peanut sauce and organic sriracha
rice spring roll wrappers
Start by prepping and neatly organizing all of your filling ingredients. Fill a bowl with warm water – you’re looking for around body temperature, since anything hotter can cause your rice paper to soften and breakdown too fast. Have a slightly moist cutting board or moist non-terry towel on top of the board ready next to the bowl. Gently place a single sheet of rice paper into the water for about 1 minute, feeling for the perfect texture. It will become impossibly pliable, almost like wet chiffon. The trick is to carefully remove it from the water before it gets to the point where it will just fall apart in your hands.
Allow the soaked rice paper to drip a bit and then rest it on the cutting board. If you want to show off an ingredient, like a flower or whole leaf, place those down first about a third of the way from the perimeter. Build the other ingredients on top, being mindful not to over or under fill. This might take a few tries. Once all of your elements are arranged, fold and roll as tight as possible, much like a burrito. The sticky paper will fuse together and seal your spring roll.
Slice in half and serve with dipping sauces on the side. Enjoy!