Along the River Trail: Wild Edibles

Written by David de Vitry
During a science field trip on wild edibles in middle school, we dined on puff balls, dandelions, lambsquarters and more. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by wild edibles and all that nature has to offer. It amazes me that everyday weeds, bushes, and trees have interesting and nutritious foods to eat.

I’ve found that our river trail offers an abundance of unique plants, some of which you can eat! Here are a few of the many plants to eat along the river. As with any wild plant, be sure you are 100% sure that the plant is what you think that it is, and only eat a tiny bit the first time, especially if you tend to be allergic to things.

Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina): Red cone of fuzzy berries on top of trees. These trees are found in the edge of the woods, near the railroad tracks, streams and highways. Not to be confused with poison sumac, which has white fruits.

To make a Sumac Tea: pick the berries in late summer early fall when they are dark red. Soak in COLD water for 20 minutes then filter. Looks and tastes like pink lemonade!

Paw Paw (Asimina triloba): The largest edible fruit native to North America. This sweet fruit tastes a bit like banana or mango with a yellow custard like consistency. Usually found in shady and hilly areas like Chickies. Harvest in early fall when the fruit is near rotten looking. Do not pick from the tree when it is still green. Tends to have many large seeds inside. Also can be used in place of bananas in banana bread.

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus): Found in old tree logs, usually after a warm wet rainy time. These mushrooms look much like baby hedgehog in your hand. Hard to misidentify. Best picked when white, then cooked in soup or fried.

Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms (Laetiporus): Also found on hardwood tree logs in the fall, this bright red on top and sulfur yellow on the bottom. This mushroom is hard to ignore! Tender pieces may be cut and fried with butter and onions. Tastes like Chicken!

For more tips on hunting wild mushrooms, check out
the WildFoodism’s guide for easy to identify mushrooms: