‘Eat your greens’ we’re told from a young age. Young snowshoe hares need not be reminded. Nothing green seems to get overlooked by their taste buds.
Once new growth emerges on the lower branches of fir and spruce trees in the yard, the tender needles replace dandelions on the hares’ seasonal menu. Hungry bunnies reach the higher branches by standing on their hind legs, carefully balancing themselves in order to grab a bite. Who knew snowshoe hares could eat standing up?!
Snowshoe hares are amazing runners whose reproduction rates are legend. Could the greens in their diet be a key to their boundless energy?
Even keen salad eaters wince at the idea of eating evergreen needles but we don’t need to eat an entire bough to benefit from such nutritious fare.
A simple tea made by steeping a sprig of new growth needles in hot water will provide a good dose of vitamin C. Balsam fir needles are used for colds, coughs and asthma according to my Peterson Field Guide of Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs. As wild as it sounds, it’s probably tamer on the body than most drug store decongestants.
Spruce and fir needles can also be dried and crumbled for use as a wild accent in a variety of kitchen fare. Think of adding a bit to rice, venison or even Christmas cookies. At least the shopping aisle won’t be crowded and the Grocer’s selection will be a feast for the eyes as well. Recent rains have encouraged so much evergreen growth that Nature’s bounty will be great enough for both humans and hares to have plenty to share and enjoy.
Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013