Autumn has been rather hesitant this year. Usually by this time, the trees are bursting with color, calling for us to come out and admire their spectacular beauty before their brilliant leaves begin to gently slip one by one from their grasp. However, after a rather mild summer, colder weather has been sporadic at best as we work our way into the middle of October.
Regardless of the season’s hesitance, Autumn Trail Tours are well underway at Crystal Bridges. The Fall Forage Trail Experience made its seasonal debut on Monday, September 29 and has introduced many eager guests to plants, shrubs, and trees with edible attributes along the trails. To further celebrate the kickoff of this exciting tour, I thought I would highlight three fabulous featured plants and, at the same time, give you the chance to test your forageable knowledge.
Can you name these forageable favorites? (Answers at the bottom should you need to peek)
A – The first forageable beauty is a medium-sized shrub found most often along stream banks and in wooded areas. This shrub grows naturally throughout the state of Arkansas as well as much of the eastern, mid-western, and southern United States. Imagine a plant that was used by Native American tribes and early settlers to sooth hives and comfort a teething baby. In addition, the fruit, or nut, is tasty roasted as well as ground into a nut butter or flour. Anyone know what a European filbert is? Well, if you do, this native nut is said to have a similar taste. The nuts of this shrub mature around this time every year, and interested foragers are encouraged to make haste to collect these tasty morsels. The squirrels are also huge fans and are quick to discover and devour as soon as the nuts have matured.
B – The second forageable plant provides a “go to” remedy for individuals suffering from a cold. Thin dark green leaves climb a stalk that can reach two to three feet in height. This plant likes company and is usually found in a clump in sunny well-drained areas. Like the first forageable shrub, this plant is also a native to western Arkansas, self-seeding itself year after year. Most people know this plant when they see its beautiful daisy-like bloom that can grow up to five inches in diameter. The flower includes delicate purple rays, similar to the sun’s rays, which spring out in a circle around the central flower head. The roots of this amazing plant contain medicinal properties believed to prevent as well as lessen cold and flu symptoms. In addition, dried leaves and flower heads make a fine herbal tea to boost your immune system and fight those seasonal germs.
C – The third featured forageable is a tree. Found on our grounds, this medium-sized native tree can grow to reach thirty to thirty-five feet in height. It loves to live in moist, low, swampy areas. In early summer, you will find small, white, fragrant flowers amidst its branches, and in late summer you will notice orange cones which eventually bear bright red seeds, a welcome treat to a variety of birds. At this point, you may want to know what part of this plant is good for foraging.The answer is found in the leaves: shiny dark green on the top with silvery underbellies, these leaves release a spicy fragrance when crushed. Believe it or not, these spicy leaves can be used as an alternative to the bay leaf that you buy at your local grocery store.
Fall Forage Trail Experiences are happening every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:30 A.M. Come, join the fun, and learn more about forageable favorites from one of our amazing Trail Guides! A-American Hazelnut, Corylus americana B-Purple Coneflower, Echinacea pupurea C-Green Shadow Sweetbay Magnolia, Magnolia virginiana ‘Green Shadow’