Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020 - 59

W

est Virginia's Watoga State
Park is 30 minutes from
any grocery or pharmacy,
but that's not necessarily
a problem. When you're
in the southern Appalachians, you're surrounded
by edibles and therapeutic plants, says
park naturalist and activities coordinator
Chris Bartley.
At Watoga State Park's annual Wild
Edibles Festival to be held May 8-9 [please
check], participants can forage enough
wild greens, mushrooms, wild onions and
other woodland edibles in the park for a
tasty lunch. Normally, harvesting plants
in any West Virginia state park is illegal.
But during the festival's foraging walks,
harvesting for onsite consumption is okay.
Festival vendors also supply wild edibles,
from black walnuts to maple syrup to the
wild onions known as ramps.
During foraging outings, visitors learn
the medicinal and nutritional benefits of
all manner of flora, from violets to stinging nettles to a burnt-looking mass of tree
gunk called chaga.
Chaga, in fact, is a highly prized find-
right up there with ginseng and goldenseal. When West Virginia park naturalist
Kailey Price spotted a chaga canker-a
fungus high on a birch trunk-the excitement in the group was palpable.
"Wow, I just ordered chaga from
Walmart for $100 a pound," exclaimed a
middle-aged Virginian.
Chaga has been used for
generations to boost
immunity and overall
health. According
to Memorial Sloan
Kettering
Cancer
Center's
website,
laboratory studies show
that compounds in chaga can kill cancer
cells selectively. It may also reduce fatigue,
inflammation and mental fog. Ground
into a tea, chaga is high in antioxidants
but low on flavor.
Price, who works at nearby Cass Scenic
Railroad State Park, led visitors around
Watoga Lake, calling attention to wintergreen, white pines, and hemlock trees-all
of which yield a nutritious tea. She was
pleased to spot a colony of reeds. Cattails,
she said, are a supermarket in themselves;
their roots, stalks and even their pollen are

edible. Price's personal favorite wild edible
is the ubiquitous dandelion, which she
boils into a jelly that tastes like honey.

TAKING A BITE OUT OF WILD
INVASIVES
Garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed, kudzu-the
number of non-native invasive plant species in
the southeastern Appalachians is rising. More
than a quarter of West Virginia's wild plants are
now non-natives. They alter local ecosystems
and displace native species.
When you pop them into salsas, soups and
salads, you are fighting back. Here are some
recipes distributed by the U.S. Forest Service at
the festival:
Garlic Mustard Greens Pesto
(developed by Sam Parker, Superintendent of
Droop Mountain Battlefield, Beartown and the
Greenbrier River Trail state parks)
¼ cup walnuts
1 tsp. chopped garlic (wild is fine)
1 cup garlic mustard leaves
1 cup chickweed (Stellaria media) or parsley
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
Salt to taste
Blend the nuts and garlic until everything is finely
chopped. Add greens and pulse a few times, then
add olive oil in steady pour while blending. Add the
cheese and blend a few more seconds. Add more
nuts and cheese if necessary to thicken. Then toss
with pasta, add to soup or serve with good bread.
Kudzu Quiche
(from Angela Gillaspie's Southern Angel.com)
1 cup heavy cream
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped young kudzu leaves
½ tsp. salt
Ground pepper to taste
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 nine-inch unbaked pie shell
Preheat oven to 350. Mix cream, eggs, kudzu,
seasonings and cheese and place in pie shell. Bake
for 35 to 45 minutes until center is firm.

FACING PAGE: Prized morel
mushrooms sprout from the forest
floor beside a showy orchid.
ABOVE, FROM TOP: Anyone
lucky enough to find a pawpaw fruit
has a custardy dessert on a stick.
Redbud flowers add zip to a spring
salad.
Classic mountain recipes pair the
pungent ramp bulbs with taters and
cornbread.

WILD EDIBLES FESTIVAL 2020 [PLEASE CHECK AHEAD]
The Wild Edibles Festival 2020 is May 8-9 at Watoga State Park in West Virginia. Keynote Speaker, Dianne Anestis, speaks on "American Indian Medicinal and
Edible Plant Uses of the 17th & 18th centuries."
The fest includes informational workshops, various vendors, demonstrations, wild
food, live music, opportunities to hike and much more!
For additional info, email watogasp@wv.gov or call 304-799-4087.

MAY/JUNE 2020

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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020

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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020 - Cover1
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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2020 - Cover3
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