A wonderful thing about Spring is that new growth emerges after Winter and a walk in the woods can be quite exciting when so many edibles become available. Sometimes these edibles only remain in season for a short while so it pays to take frequent forays into the woods.
One of the “nuisance” plants that I usually dread in the woods is the briar, also know as bull briar, cat briar, or smilax. It is actually a bush that grows like a vine, having tendrils to aid it in climbing adjacent plants or structures. The long vine-line limbs are armored with thorns and readily snag on clothes and scratch skin. The mature leaves remind me of plantain leaves that have veins running the length of the leaf.
A friend recently informed me that the tips, tendrils, and shoots of Spring are edible and can be eaten raw on the spot or can be harvested to cook back at camp or at home. Since then I have learned that the roots contain starch and are edible as well. The tips and shoots are similar to asparagus in nature when picking them… the most edible parts can be easily snapped off by hand. If it is resistant, move farther out to the end until it snaps off easily.
My friend also said that they are best “sauteed with a bit of salt, butter and garlic…not to cook so much as just to warm up…and don’t drown the flavor…tastes like raw peanuts or bean sprouts”. Indeed, they tasted good, but don’t over cook as they with lose their tenderness.
So now I have a more positive regard for briars, knowing that in Spring they bring goodness!