09 July 2009

Wild Edibles Walk

On our "cabining" trip last weekend, Sergio and I went out on a Wild Edibles Walk, a guided tour of all things even remotely edible on the Natural Wonders Trail at Meramec State Park. Naturalist Lisa was our informative guide and the walk was a beautiful traipse through the woods. We saw a myriad of flora both edible and not (no fauna but for the tracks). We learned so much, too, and are continuing to learn with the public copy of Wild Edibles of Missouri that I checked out from the library upon our return.

Earlier I read something in the brochure for the park that caught my attention: it was an admonition to all visitors and hikers that they should be prepared to "meet nature on its own terms." This choice of wording made me keenly sensitive to the idea of whose terms most of my world is currently running on. And I wondered what that means for all things uncultivated - for all the things we saw growing 'wild.'

The trail we walked, the Naturalist, and the books, were all cultivated and tame. But I feel confident in saying that the things we saw were still pretty wild indeed.

Naturalist Lisa and her resources

Sassafras from the top: this plant is unique for its three different leaf shapes: large three pronged leaves, football shaped leaves, and mitten shaped leaves.

Sassafras from the bottom. The sassafras root is edible (was used for root beer) but has been banned by the FDA for being potentially carcinogenic.

Wild Ginger grows low to the ground and has beautiful leaves. Its flowers (not pictured) grow from the ground, at the adjoining base of two stems, and are pollinated by ants.

Acorns of many trees are edible; I believe this one is oak.

We saw a number of mushrooms along our walk - none of us could tell if they were edible. When in doubt, assume that they aren't.

Besides learning about edibles, we learned a bit of dendrology. The walnut tree has compound leaves - that's one leaf with many several (in this case about 18) leaflets.

The walnut is also edible, but you need a sledge hammer or car to crack open the hull.

More incredible spreads of mushrooms - beautiful whether you can eat them or not.

Blackberries grow wild; these aren't quite ripe so we didn't taste them.

Every time we came across a plant that had been nibbled on, Naturalist Lisa referred to it as having been "browsed." I loved that word for it made me think of bugs with grocery carts. Here's an actual browsing in progress. If you look closely you'll see a second bug on the back of this caterpillar. And perhaps there's a third, microscopic bug on the back of that bug.

None of us could identify this one, we just loved the way the stem appeared to be sewn into the leaves, instead of the leaves growing out of the stem.

Don't know what this is besides a beautiful compound leaf.

Deer tracks!

Gooseberries are green when ripe and black when overripe. We think.

There are wild grapes in Missouri; this is a wild grape vine.

All the photos from our Wild Edibles Walk can be seen HERE.


Sergio said...

What a great entry and photos. Your writing Made me relive the wonderful time I had on that nature walk. My favorite thing was the beautifully elegant walnut leaves. Such amazing colors and scents. Everybody should go on a wild edibles walk with naturalist Lisa.

mom said...

I enjoyed the photo walk, but longed for the commentary on flickr gallery. Perhaps an in-person "tour" in DC?