Read more about Ohio's Wild Edible Plants
Springtime in Ohio woodlands is a feast for the eyes. But another feast awaits the senses of taste and smell. Many of Ohio's wild plants are edible--and delicious.
A delectable and nutritious salad can be made from the young leaves of violets and day lilies, along with the tender shoots of cattails and pokeweed. A garnish of violet flowers provides a lovely touch. In addition to adding color and a sweet flavor, the violet flowers, as well as the leaves, are packed with vitamin A and contain three times the vitamin C found in an orange! A few wild onions will add zest to these fresh greens. These plants are all abundant in Ohio.
For a main course, morel mushrooms are an exotic treat. These prized delicacies are uncommon and, for the uninitiated, difficult to find. Morels spring from the earth in April or May after several days of warm, wet weather. The best places to search are in old apple orchards, around dead elm trees or grapevine tangles, and near ash trees in second-growth forest. When the leaves of the Mayapple have opened completely and the trout lilies are in bloom, morel season is at its peak. When the poison ivy leaves uncurl, the morels have gone underground for another year. Beware of the true morel's poisonous cousin, the false morel. If in doubt, consult a field guide--and an expert--before taking the first bite.
With summer comes an even greater variety of treats from the woodland pantry. Wild blackberries, raspberries and elderberries can be transformed into irresistible pies and jams. Dip the creamy white clusters of elderberry flowers in egg batter and fry them for a taste sensation that's crispy on the outside, yet light and fluffy inside. Boil the flower buds of the day lily or the young green female flowers of the cattail (before they mature into the brown cattail tip) and serve them as seasonal vegetables with a dollop of butter.
A perfect ending to our wild meal is a soothing cup of tea brewed from raspberry leaves or the crushed leaves and twigs of spicebush. Steeped sassafras roots make a fragrant and delicious tea considered by pioneers to be a potent spring tonic. A refreshing iced drink called Indian Lemonade can be made from the cone-shaped clusters of red berries that grow atop sumac trees.
Collecting fruits, nuts, berries or mushrooms in most Ohio State Parks is permitted, provided that they are for personal use. However, picking wildflowers is not permitted in Ohio State Parks. Please, help us protect them for everyone to enjoy.
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The true morel has a cap with definite pits and ridges, like a honeycomb. It is shaped like a light bulb. The hollow cap sits on top of the stem, with the bottom edge of the cap attached directly to the stem. True morels are found only in the spring, during warm rainy periods.
In contrast, the false morel has a cap that hangs free from the stem--you may be able to put your finger between the cap and the stem. The cap of the false morel may have lobes, folds, flaps