Wild Arkansas

September 6, 2010

Five common edibles anyone can find

duck potato

Fall is here, and some of us who forage regularly begin looking less at the herbaceous leafy stuff and more to the branches of trees (nuts) and roots. The following five edibles are ready right now.

Good luck and have fun.

1. Despite lack of a first frost, chicory root can be dug early. Though related to dandelion, the whole plant is much less noxious than its bitter cousin.

Try digging some of the root and test for taste. If it’s too bitter, wait another month. Chances are, it’s going to be sweet tasting.

All parts of the chicory can be consumed, but at this time of year it’s best to just use the root.

2. Maypops can be found on disturbed ground. The egg-shaped yellow-green fruit is sweet when ripe, but very seedy. People of the Appalachians reserved the fruit almost exclusively for creating a maypop drink by pouring boiling water of the fruit and straining, but the fruit is a good trailside nibble despite the seeds.

3. The duck potato or Sagitaria latifolia was early this year, but in ponds throughout NW Arkansas there is an abundance of the plant.

Get your shovel out, because these babies are not coming out without a fight. I’ve tried repeatedly stomping for the prize with no results. This is one you’ll have to work for.

4. Ahhhh…the sweet smell of chamomile. Sweet dreams come with this bouquet. Not only is chamomile great for soothing the worried mind, but it tastes great and smells even better.

If you’re not going to make tea with it, pick for just the sweet smell or use for pouporri.

Find this near lakes, ponds, rivers growing on the drier ground. Moist environment without being soggy. The herb has been spotted in several public parks from Rogers through Fayetteville.

5. Oh nuts!

Yes dear readers, it’s time to look up. Those wonderful, protein-packed nuggets of nutrition are here once again.

Black walnut, hickory, pecan and acorns too. They are all here for the picking (up).

The black walnut you want to husk yourself. Do not wait for it to dry, because by that time the worms have gotten into the meat.

In some areas the acorns are falling, in others they are still green. Just take a look around and see what you can find.

I gathered red oak acorns in Springdale that were green and had to boil several times before they were palatable. Be sure to leach the tannins from these babies, because they have a very acrid taste without the proper preparation.

If you travel further west toward Siloam Springs, you may find more white oak that has a less bitter acorn. I’ve been told the white oak acorn is sweet, but have yet to experience it myself.

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