GREENVILLE – Darke County Parks hosted a free program at Shawnee Prairie Preserve last week on the “wonderful world of wild edible plants.”
The program focused mainly on edible plants, weeds and berries that can be found in local woods and backyards, and involved discussion of what is safe to eat, what to avoid and how to tell the difference.
Foraging for wild edibles is fun, according to the two Hocking College interns who presented the program, but unpredictable as well, as the types of plants and weeds that are available always is changing with the weather, as well as the seasons. In addition, some plants that are perfectly safe to eat can be nearly identical to certain others that are, in fact, poisonous.
“So why go out to your backyard and forage for things in the first place?” presenter and intern Brandi Brumbaugh said at the start of the program. “Well, first of all, it’s free. Second, there are often more nutrients in wild plants and weeds than what you can find in a store.”
Brumbaugh also said foraging for food in the wild can help people feel a stronger connection with the world around them.
“It connects you with nature in a way, when you can actually go out and see where your food is coming from,” Brumbaugh said.
Brumbaugh and fellow intern Tiffany Westfall cautioned attendees to avoid pulling up the roots of plants they forage, as this will prevent new plants from growing back, as well as to pace themselves when beginning to eat wild flowers, leaves and berries, as sometimes they can cause stomach troubles in those who are not accustomed.
“You may end up spending some time in the bathroom,” Westfall said.
Above all, the presenters counseled safety, encouraging novice foragers to use field guides and go out with an experienced person the first few times, as well as to avoid foraging on other people’s property without permission.
“Many healthy weeds have one that looks very similar that can actually kill you,” Brumbaugh warned.
Safe plants to eat include blackberries, chickweeds, dayberries and dandelions, which can be used to make tea or coffee. The heads also can be fried. Daffodils and buckeyes are poisonous, however, as is poison hemlock, which looks very similar to the perfectly healthy plant Queen Anne’s Lace.
Those interested in learning more about programs offered by the Darke County Parks can visit its website at darkecountyparks.org or sign up to receive copies of its newsletter. Included in each newsletter is a list of upcoming programs, articles from the parks’ naturalist educators and special programming information. Patrons also can visit the Shawnee Prairie Preserve located at 4267 State Route 502 in Greenville. Nature center hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.