Learning what the land has to offer

DR. BOB MUST, with backpack, identifies edible and medicinal plants for enthusiastic Wild Edibles Festival attendees Saturday. Hikes in Watoga State Park and at Yew Mountain Center were part of the two-day event. Photo by Gwen Balogh

Laura Dean Bennett
Contributing Writer

Did you know that redbud blossoms are not only edible, but are crunchy and sweet and would make an excellent decoration on the icing of a cake? 

Me neither.

But after attending the Wild Edibles Festival, I know it now.

This is just one of the many exciting discoveries made at the sixth annual Wild Edibles Festival which was held Friday and Saturday at Watoga State Park.

By all accounts, rain showers on both days notwithstanding, the event was wildly success.

The two-day event was organized by the Wild Edibles Festival Committee, which was formed from the Pocahontas County Nature Club. 

More than 100 participants gathered at Watoga State Park early Friday morning to begin their exploration of the world of wild plants that can be used as food or medicine. 

Foragers of all ages enjoyed several educational nature walks in addition to seminars about herbal teas, beekeeping, floral jellies, medicinal herbs and plants and spring tonics. Photo by Louanne Fatora

Attendees came from far and wide to sit in on seminars about herbal teas, beekeeping, floral jellies, medicinal herbs and plants, how to make apple cider vinegar and mushroom tea and how to make and use spring tonics.  

Guided nature walks in Watoga and also at the Yew Mountain Center on Droop Mountain were organized as teaching venues in learning to identify and forage for salad greens for vitamin-rich salads and cooking.

The festival drew all kinds of attendees, people who wanted to add to their knowledge and those completely new to the subject. 

Many families enjoyed overnight stays at Watoga, either camping or in Watoga’s cabins for the event.

Watoga’s beautiful and newly renovated recreation hall, with its brand-new kitchen, was the central gathering point, where seminars and meals were served up to attentive and appreciative participants.

Anyone with an interest in the food and medicine that nature offers us – our local bounty of edible and medicinal flowers, plants, shrubs and trees – would do well to make a note on next spring’s calendar to attend next year’s Wild Edibles Festival. 

Once you have learned how to safely identify and use wild edibles, the world of nature will open to you as never before. 

Like me, you will be inspired to investigate the healthful and delicious bounty that we oftentimes may not even notice at our feet.

And now, on that note, I think I will go foraging and fill my basket with the greens, the mushrooms and the ramps that Mother Nature has placed in my own neck of the woods.

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