Spring Tonic Salad With Deer Heart and Morels

April 7, 2021 By: Bruce and Elaine Ingram

According to Southern Appalachian folklore, blood “falls” in the winter and “rises” in the summer. Come spring, in order to force one’s blood to start percolating again, a spring tonic was necessary. I’m not sure about the validity of my ancestors’ medical theories, but I do believe that a spring tonic salad is a marvelous way to rejuvenate our systems and eat healthily as well.

The base for this salad is a much-maligned weed that more accurately can be described as a forb – dandelions. Taraxacum officinale is important early spring browse for deer, as well as a favorite food for wild turkeys and a host of creatures from bobwhites to bunnies at this time of year. For humans, “blowballs” are superb sources of Vitamins A, C, and K and fine sources of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Dandelions may have a bad rap with some folks, but they are a true super food for their health benefits.

Spring also means it’s time to gather yellow and black morels. These are among the healthiest fungi to consume as they add copper, iron, manganese, and zinc to our systems. Plus, I would rate morels as the second tastiest mushrooms, behind only chicken of the woods. Be sure to lightly stir fry morels before adding them to your salad. As is true with most wild edible mushrooms, morels should be cooked before being consumed.

The main ingredient of our spring tonic salad is deer heart. When hunting or talking with fellow sportsmen and women, I’m still dismayed when they tell me that they’ve discarded this organ. Folks, this is one of the tastiest parts of a whitetail, and it may just be the healthiest, too. Please consider giving it a try. The mild, tender flesh performs well in any sandwich, soup, and, of course, salad.

Deer hearts feature vitamins B2, B6, and B12 as well as iron, zinc, and selenium. They also are, appropriately enough, extremely heart-healthy foods. This organ contains CoQ10 which serves as an antioxidant, thus warding off cancer. Furthermore, CoQ10 is also crucial for the health of our tissues and organs and assisting our immune system. If you’re lacking pep, or you are even anemic and in need of a literal spring tonic, deer heart will be good for what ails you. Here’s what else could go into this salad and how to prepare it.

Spring Tonic Salad


  • Dandelions
  • Half dozen or so yellow and black morels (lightly stir fried)
  • Cooked Deer heart (sliced thin in small slivers)
  • Asparagus (wild or from the garden)
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Sliced boiled eggs
  • Sharp cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)
  • French, Catalina, or Honey Mustard dressing (our favorites with this salad) Or your favorite dressing.

Morels are ideal additions to a Spring Tonic Salad


To prepare heart for cooking, remove outer membrane by slipping your fingers between it and the heart. 

Peel off in one large piece. Trim any visible fat. 

Cut heart open to remove large blood vessels and clumps of smaller ones, as they become chewy when cooked. 

Cook heart in a slow cooker from five to six hours on low. Use water or cream of mushroom soup.

Chill heart in refrigerator for several hours. Then start building your Spring Tonic Salad.

Bruce and Elaine Ingram are authors of Living the Locavore Lifestyle, a book on hunting, fishing, and gathering food, plus recipes. For more information: bruceingramoutdoors@gmail.com

About Bruce and Elaine Ingram:

Bruce Ingram is an NDA member and freelance outdoor writer from Fincastle, Virginia, and he is a regular contributing writer for NDA. Bruce and his wife Elaine write a weekly blog at Bruce and Elaine Ingram Indoors and Out. http://bruceingramoutdoorsblog.blogspot.com/