Nature Noms: Seek Out These Plants in the New River Gorge For a Tasty TreatApril 2, 2013
Springtime is popping open plants and florals, flooding the Gorge with color— and deliciousness. Because the blooming season doesn’t just create a treat for the eyes; it’s also a treat for your taste buds.
Here are a few of nature’s delicacies to pluck ‘n munch on while you wander through the Gorge. But a word of caution: always be certain about what you bite into! Not everything in the forest can be eaten.
The plants are speckled with white and yellow flowers that harbor a sweet secret. You can tug the bottom of these flowers off for a burst of flavorful nectar. You’ll only get a drop or so from each flower, but not to worry— they grow in huge bundles, so you can keep reaching for another taste.
For a more substantial snack, seek out a blackberry bush. You can either pick them and pop them in your mouth as you go, or gather them up for cooking into a cobbler or other dish later. Your heart and memory will thank you, as blackberries are shown to give these, as well as other parts of your body, a healthy boost.
The outer bark of this tree makes it easy to spot. It looks like paper peeling away from the bark, and if you remove that layer, you’ll have prepared yourself a nice snack. If you have the tools to bring some water to a boil, you can also slice it into strips and make noodles, or make a spicy tea. The tree is full of a sap, far less sweet than maple but equally tasty.
Do you like root beer? Boiled sassafras root used to be the flavoring of old-fashioned root beers. This won’t surprise you once you’ve dug it up; it smells exactly like the frothy beverage. You can try it yourself as a tea, or grind it down into a spice called filet, and sprinkle it over your soup for a tasty thickening.
If you like spearmint gum, get the taste straight from the source. Boiling it will dilute the flavor, so gather the leaves for a bold base for a salad, or you can use them to flavor a sauce or dressing. Dry the leaves and store them in a jar to preserve them for later.
The buttery, gingerbread-like honey that drips from a Sourwood is some of the most sought-after in the world. It’s not edible straight from the tree, but the blossoms can also be used for jelly. Thirsty? Chew on the leaves to quench your thirst (but don’t swallow them).
There are tons more tasty trees, roots, leaves and more growing in our forests. What are your favorite natural snacks and flavors to find at the Gorge?