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.


August 6, 2010

Ready, ripe for picking

Picking Passionflower

Several patches of passionflower caught our attention last week. The vine is literally growing everywhere in Northwest Arkansas and we harvested a couple of pounds, dried it and have put it aside for tea.

Prunus serotina or the wild black cherry is also ready. We found several trees in Rogers and Siloam Springs, the fruit falling to the ground.

Prunus serotina - Black Cherry

Fruit can be used for jelly, as trail nibble or for juice.

We harvested some for snacks–it can also be dried and eaten like raisins.

September 19, 2008

Wild Arkansas: Lowell and its gifts

Filed under: dandelion, Edible plants, Epazote, foraging, herbs, Lowell, passionflower — Tags: , , , , — WildArkansas @ 9:04 pm

Though foraging for edibles isn’t done as often as it once was, many Ozark families still retain knowledge and skills used by older generations and regularly collect wild greens, poke root or maypops.

Today, most people drive to the local market rather than grow or forage their own food, though the benefits go beyond the feeling of accomplishment and nutrition.

There is something transferred from plant and earth to the harvester. An acknowledgement that we depend upon one another or perhaps that connection lost when walking through the produce section of Wal-mart and stuffing the plastic bags with waxed greens.

Few realize how many wild edible greens are growing so close. On a recent forage in Lowell, I managed to discover garlic mustard, wild spinach and several varieties of Rumex or sorrel.

Many medicinal and culinary herbs are also found locally. Goldenrod is plentiful, as is, hedge woundwort, Japanese honeysuckle, passionflower, Asiatic dayflower, red clover, dandelion, yellow woodnettle and wild lettuce to name just a few.

Walking down dirt roads and along rows of a grape vineyard, I found the common mallow that is a regular diet staple in Israel, or once was.

Epazote is a culinary and medicinal herb used extensively in Mexico and has been naturalized to the U.S. In Arkansas it grows as a noxious weed despite its medicinal value. And the Cutleaf Coneflower, shines it’s mighty yellow head above all the other “weeds” in the vicinity.

The Coneflower was commonly used as a burn dressing by the Chippewa and a dietary aid by the Cherokee, by using it in cooked spring salad.

…And all of this is a reminder to me that Arkansas is abundant in natural resources. Maybe not the resources we typically look for, but those kind that are good for the body and soul.

I may not always be as grateful as I should be, but today I thank this land we live on for giving us so much.

August 27, 2008

Late Bloomer: Stress

Filed under: health, herbs, meditation, passionflower — Tags: , , , , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 7:48 pm


“…it is the condition that results when person-environment interaction leads someone to perceive a painful discrepancy, real or imagined, between the demands of a situation on the one hand and their social, biological, or psychological resources on the other.” Wikipedia.

Contemporary culture dictates that you’re going to be stressed beyond average at times. Economics and social standards make demands upon people that are sometimes pretty unreasonable.

Common stressors are responsibilities, illness, life events and adverse environment, and with longer working hours becoming the norm, some things in life are going to be ignored—primarily self-care and relaxation.

We all have stress in life—it’s a given that is included in the gift we’re given for being here. The problem is prolonged stressors lead to health problems for the individual. Common health problems related to stress include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, heart disease, hypertension, depression and other mental health problems.

De-stressing naturally may at first feel like an added stressor, but actively working to regain some form of control in your life acts as a de-stressor. Much of stress is caused from the feeling of one’s life spiraling or being out of one’s control.


Studies show that during moderate to heavy exercise, endorphins are released into the system. Endorphins are natural opioids. Regular exercise aids the body in expending ingrained stressors.


A simple fifteen minute breath meditation helps clear the mind and relaxes the muscles. Once it becomes a habit, you’ll find yourself doing this several times a day to alleviate stressful situations.

You time [no phones or computer allowed]

Take time for a cup of relaxing tea and a chat with someone you feel comfortable with. Go for a walk in the woods—anything that will get your mind off those things that stress you out. This includes family members and friends who are adding to your stress.

Everyone needs a hug

Research shows that affection and spending time with someone you care about is a natural stress reliever. Get or give a hug, whisper sweet nothings or just hold hands.

An endorphin snack

Capsaicin, a compound found in red chili peppers causes endorphins to be released. Next time the boss is yelling, take a quick bite of the pepper and smile.

De-stressing teas

Try a cup of relaxing tea instead of coffee. Chamomile, honeysuckle and passionflower help alleviate stress and relax the muscles.

Simple breath meditation

Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Make sure distractions are limited. Slowly become aware of your breath through your chest or your stomach. If you need to place your hand on your stomach to feel the breath, that’s fine. Pay attention to how the breath makes the area rise and fall.

Some thoughts will invade your space and this is fine. Acknowledge them, let them go and come back to the breath. Do this for 15 minutes daily.


Effects of Stress at the American Institute of Stress

More de-stressing and a little yoga

Late Bloomer is a weekly column written by Carla R. Herrera

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