A Taste of the Ozarks

Northwest Arkansas is a veritable feast for the eyes with trails and waterfalls and springs and blue-holes galore. But if you’re really interested in exploring everything that the area has to offer when you’re out in the woods, you really have to do a little tasting as well. There are plenty of local plants available just off the beaten path for you to taste, but make sure you have done a little research before you ingest anything. In fact, in some cases, it’s a good idea to keep your hands off as well.

Because we love our customers and want to see you often, here’s a list of some things that you should NOT throw in a salad when you’re taking in the wild wilderness of the Ozark Mountains…

  1. Pokeberry (also known as Pokeweed) – While the leaves of the young pokeberry plant have been traditionally used as an edible green in the Southern region of the U.S., its preparation is  best left to the experts. Several blanchings in hot water are required, and who has that kind of time on the trail?
  2. American Nightshade  – These plants have little white flowers that look similar to a tomato plant when in bloom. They produce small berry-like fruits that are dark purple when ripe and can be eaten raw or cooked. However, the unripe green berries are highly toxic.
  3. Horse Nettle – This plant is in the same family as the American Nightshade, but its ripe fruits look like a clutch of yellow cherry tomatoes. Most parts of the plant are considered toxic, and handling the plant with bare hands or letting it swipe your legs can lead to a nasty burning rash. Just leave it alone altogether.

To be fair and balanced, here are a few plants that you can chew on without any negative aftereffects….

  1. Sassafras – You may have heard of this ingredient in tea or soda. It’s also used in the making of a traditional gumbo and has been considered by mountainfolk to be a cure-all for hundreds of years.
  2. Wild blackberries – Bears eat them, and so can you. However, since bears know when they’re ripe, you should be extra cautious if you happen upon a nice clump of bushes… you might have company as you take your snack break.
  3. Willow – Native Americans have used the bark of the willow as a pain-killer for headaches, sore throats, and anything else you might take an aspirin for. It’s also used in the making of a poultice to speed healing of wounds. So, if you stumble running from that black bear that surprised you in the blackberry patch, be sure you stumble near a willow tree grove.

One Comment

  1. Connie says:

    I would like to hike with someone who can teach me how to recognise these and other plants.

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