As the first cool breeze blows into town, if you are anything like me, you begin to prepare for the fall season. The fireplace is cleaned in preparation for cozy evenings at home. Recipes for hearty soups, bowls of chili, and warm stews emerge to satisfy the seasonal craving. And, most importantly, you begin to search the tree line for the first sign of that splendid fall process where the leaves transform from their normal shade of green to a multitude of reds, yellows, oranges and browns. At Crystal Bridges, our Trail Guides love to discuss this awe-inspiring natural transformation. But this year, they are highlighting another fall occurrence as well: the appearance of an abundance of edible nuts, roots, and fall fruits that can be foraged from our backyards, neighborhoods, parks, and nearby forests.
Together with our Staff Horticulturist, Cody George, the Trail Guide Program has created an experience where Trail Guides lead interested museum guests on a quest for 11 forageable fruits, shrubs, nuts, and roots on the Tulip Tree Trail. It is amazing what can be found and gathered if you know what to look for, and it is our hope that our guests will take what they learn on this tour and forage for edible native plants in their own backyards.
One particularly interesting shrub that is highlighted on the tour is the Spice Bush. Scientifically known as Lindera benzoin, this is a shrub of medium size that can reach a height and width of 12 feet. In early spring, the Spice Bush produces delicate clusters of yellow flowers. Summer allows the plant to showcase its brightly colored green leaves which turn a golden hue with the cool temperature of autumn. Bright red berries, accompanied by occasional bluish-black berries, inform the woodland wildlife that winter is approaching.
Now, for the foraging facts about this plant … most guests would be surprised to learn that every visible part of this shrub is edible. If you crush the leaves or berries between your fingers, you will immediately notice a citrus-spicy aroma that contributed to the naming of this unique plant. Dried berries can be included in recipes as an alternative to allspice. The shrub is used to make teas, and the limbs can be used to tenderize and flavor cuts of meat (inserted into cuts before cooking). A quick Google search will unveil recipes for Spice Bush-flavored ice cream, baked goods, and savory side dishes.
It is our sincere hope that you will join the Trail Guide Program as we forage on the Tulip Tree Trail this November. We were honored to debut the Fall Forage Trail Experience on Monday, September 30, and we will continue offering it every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through November 29. Tours meet at 11:30 am in the south lobby entrance of the Museum.