This article is for entertainment purposes only and should not be used to identify or consume any wild plants. Anyone interested in foraging for edible foods in Ohio is encouraged to read the book, A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants, by author Lee Peterson. Another great resource is eattheweeds.com.
Permits are not required to forage wild edibles from any of Ohio’s 20 state forests, as long as they are not listed on the endangered-or-threatened species list, which can be found online, and none of which are included here.
All photos either in the public domain or by the author.
What would happen if you only had nature to rely on for food and you lived in western Ohio? What plants, seeds, nuts, fruits and mushrooms could be eaten or grown to survive, no matter what season it was? Besides hunting animals and fishing, what did the Native Americans who lived here for 13,000 years before us collect and grow? What about early settlers? What did they use for medicine?
Surprisingly, there are actually dozens of edible and medicinal plants and trees that are native to western Ohio. Others were brought here by Native Americans from other parts of the Americas thousands of years ago or by early settlers. Today, they can be found in and around the woods, next to streams and rivers, along fence lines and even growing in parking lots and fields!
For example, a common “weed” that grows along local highways and roads—goosefoot—was once the crown jewel of the Native Americans who lived here.
Some people believe goosefoot, and many other foods native to Ohio, could be a crown jewel again.
According to Ohio History Connection, goosefoot (also called lamb’s quarters and chenopod) was in early use in Ohio about 6,500 years ago. It was second only to corn in its importance, as well as in the abundance it was grown. It is very similar to quinoa. In fact, the two are related. They are often served as a porridge or pilaf or made into gluten-free bread and granola.
The Native Americans in Ohio ate the fresh leaves from the plant (considered more nutritious than spinach) and then parched or boiled the seeds and ground them into flour.
However, the goosefoot growing on the side of the road today is no longer as nutritious as the kind the Native Americans consumed.
This was discovered when a geologist visiting Ash Cave in Hocking Hills in 1876 found a hoard of goosefoot seeds (roughly 9.6 million of them) that a Native American had buried there long ago. The seeds were examined in the 1980s and it was discovered that they had been domesticated in the past to make them more productive. This is similar to how Native Americans modified wild grasses by crossing them with high-yielding plants to eventually make corn.
Goosefoot, then, is a native plant that was domesticated in Ohio for thousands of years, feeding generations of people, and then returned to the wild, where it thrives to this day.
According to “The Chenopod: A Forgotten Plant,” an article written by Cheyenne Buckingham and appearing in edible Columbus magazine, modern farmers and residents in Ohio could benefit from growing and eating a more nutritious strand of goosefoot.
Currently, the plant is seen as a nuisance for farmers and is often eradicated if found near their fields. However, the local variety of goosefoot flourishes in Ohio’s humidity and high summer temperatures, while its counterpart, quinoa, does not and is grown mostly in Peru and Bolivia and then shipped around the world, including to grocery stores in Ohio.
“Crops that are particularly well-adapted to a region may end up being the key to stabilizing an unstable food system,” says Paul Patton, PhD., director of the Ohio University Archaeological Field School in the article. “If we stopped wasting money resisting it, and instead started cultivating and eating it, chenopods could be one of our best and healthiest resources in the fight against food insecurity (in the Appalachian region).”
According to the article, every 100 grams of uncooked goosefoot offers 19 grams of protein and 42 grams of carbohydrates, whereas 100 grams of quinoa offers 12 grams of protein and 72 grams of carbohydrates.
There is currently a quinoa renaissance taking place in the world and Patton and others believe Ohio (and its more nutritious goosefoot) could play a role.
According to ozy.com, in 2010, only 40 countries cultivated quinoa, while today, more than 100 do. One of the main reasons for this is because the plant appears to be resilient to climate change, as does goosefoot.
If farmers grow the native goosefoot, the article explains, which tastes similar to but is superior in nutrition to quinoa, and local people eat it, this eliminates the cost and environmental impact associated with shipping it, reduces the need for pesticides to treat it, and uses the natural environment to grow something that already wants to thrive here.
Another treasured food of the Native Americans that is abundant in western Ohio to this day, but that we also let go to waste, is the fruit of the pawpaw tree.
Pawpaws are Ohio’s state fruit and are, in fact, the largest edible fruit in North America! They have been described as tropical tasting, like a mix between a mango and banana. They can be found in wooded areas throughout our region and produce fruit between mid-August and into October.
A farmer in Athens, Ohio, who saw pawpaws going to waste on his own property, has turned them into a cottage industry. His farm, Integration Acres, grows pawpaws and makes food items such as frozen pawpaw pulp and ice cream, pawpaw spiceberry jam, chutney and other jarred products. He also sells a variety of other forest-farmed, locally foraged crops. This includes local berries, ramps and black walnuts, all of which are native to Ohio.
Integration Acres remains one of the largest processors of pawpaws anywhere in the world.
According to verywellfit.com, pawpaws contain less vitamin C than an orange, but more than an apple or banana. The fruit contains manganes, iron, magnesium, and other essential vitamins and minerals. They can be used to make custard, baked goods and even craft beer. You can even go to the annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival in September in Albany and sample everything just mentioned.
Pawpaws were famously used as a food source by the Lewis and Clark expedition when supplies ran low on their return trip from the West, and U.S. presidents Jefferson and Washington were big fans of the fruit.
The more you look into dandelions, the more you realize they are one of the most under-appreciated, under-rated plants in the world.
By health standards, many people consider them to be a “super food.”
As anyone who takes care of a lawn in the Midwest knows, dandelions have no problem thriving here. But many people do not know how nutritious and edible they are. They are also one of the most easily recognizable plants that grow in Ohio, making them a reliable food source.
According to healthline.com, dandelions are edible and medicinal, and the entire plant can be eaten, from the roots to the stem and flower.
They are loaded with vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as calcium, potassium, folate and some B vitamins. They contain powerful antioxidants that have been shown to prevent aging and certain diseases. They may help with inflammation, aid with blood sugar control, reduce cholesterol, and have been shown to lower blood pressure and aid in weight loss. They contain a high amount of prebiotic fiber unulin, which promotes a healthy gut. They are being researched as a treatment for skin ailments, cancer and bone health. Dandelion tea has been shown to successfully flush toxins from the liver. The list goes on.
According to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners (MOFG) organization, dandelions were not known to early Native Americans and may have been brought to North America on the Mayflower, not as stowaways, but on purpose for their medicinal and nutritional value.
Later on, during the Great Depression, dandelion salads were a common and nutritionally important meal, and dandelion wine was an affordable adult beverage.
The problem with eating dandelions found in Ohio today is that most have been sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals.
If you’re interested in consuming the plant or producing wines and jellies, it is recommended to grow your own crop by designating a special patch of land and raising them organically.
Ironically, while the United States uses an estimated 80 million pounds of chemical pesticides on their lawns each year (ten times more than what farmers use), largely to get rid of dandelions, the plant is actually good for lawns.
According to the MOFG, dandelion’s wide-spreading roots loosen hard-packed soil, aerate the earth and help reduce erosion. Their long roots pull nutrients from the deep soil and then share them with other plants.
Just like quinoa, there is currently a dandelion renaissance happening around the globe, specifically the use of dandelion tea, fresh dandelion greens to include in salad mixes and for use in nutritional supliments.
A report titled “Dandelion Green Market – The Global Industry Analysis” by Transparency Market Research, found that right now there is an emerging market for farm-raised, organic dandelions, with several larger farms beginning to enter the market. The only obstacle, the report states, is public awareness of just how beneficial this “lawn weed” is.
Ramps & Wild Garlic
Often growing alongside dandelions, and found pretty much everywhere in western Ohio, are ramps (wild onions) and wild garlic. They are most abundant in the spring and can be used to flavor everything from soups and meats to potatoes and salad. Some people even pickle them. They are loaded with vitamins and nutrients and are becoming popular to use in trendy restaurants in California and Colorado. They became so popular and depleted in Canada that the government passed legislation to protect them and they are now grown on farms to meet the demand.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, wild ramps and garlic are some of the first wild edibles to emerge in the spring and therefore have been cherished by people living in Ohio for thousands of years. They are known to grow in large, bountiful patches in old woods and ravines.
Like all onions, ramps are a great source of vitamins A and C, iron, selenium and chromium. This makes them good for teeth, bones and eyesight, cardiovascular health and the immune system. They also contain antioxidant properties that fight off harmful free radicals in the body.
The best part is, after being picked, they can simply be rinsed off and eaten raw or added to your next meal.
According to the Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide, published by The Ohio State University, Jerusalem artichoke may have originated in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys and been cultivated here for at least 500 years.
According to the guide, the first written account of the plant was a report issued in 1605 by Champlain, a European explorer. He observed Native Americans growing Jerusalem artichoke next to their corn and bean crops.
The plant produces tubers that taste and look like potatoes and that can be used in many similar ways. A single plant can produce 200 tubers in one growing season.
Along with early settlers in Ohio, who also found them useful in their diets, pigs are fond of the tubers and will dig them up with their snouts.
According to the Michigan University Extension Office, Jerusalem artichoke tubers have a nutty flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked, as well as mashed, roasted and sautéed. They have a high level of inulin, which is a prebiotic fiber, and can stimulate growth of bifidobacteria, which fights harmful bacteria and helps reduce certain carcinogenetic enzymes.
Today, the plant inhabits riverbanks, roadsides, fencerows and agronomic fields, but, like many other native plants to Ohio, is not used commercially, even though it could be a profitable commodity.
According to the guide, the sugars from one acre of Jerusalem artichoke can produce 500 gallons of alcohol, which is about double the amount produced by either corn or sugarbeet, both of which are multi-billion dollar industries.
The guide notes that Jerusalem artichoke is neither associated with Jerusalem (the city) nor an artichoke. It is, in fact, related to sunflowers. The common name is most likely a corruption of the Italian word, “girasola,” which means “turning to the sun,” because, like many sunflower species, Jerusalem artichoke flowers follow the movement of the sun across the sky. “Articiocco” means “edible” in Italian. So they called it “girasola articiocco” and someone who wrote it down heard different.
Along with ramps and wild garlic, some of the first vegetation available for food each year in western Ohio is ferns, specifically fiddlehead and ostrich ferns.
According to the website Mother Earth Gardener, wherever these ferns grow, they emerge in the first warm days of spring and were a welcome sight to Native Americans living throughout North America and Canada.
Out of everything on this list so far, fiddlehead and ostrich ferns are the most dangerous and labor-intensive to identify and prepare.
According to Mother Earth Gardener, while abundant and very nutritious, the two ferns can look like many others that are poisonous. Also, to prepare them properly without getting potential food borne illnesses requires one to remove their coverings and rinse and brush them thoroughly.
The coiled heads of the edible ferns can be used like many other green vegetables, and very much like asparagus. Mother Earth Gardener advises that the best way to prepare them is to (after cleaning them) steam and serve them immediately “with a dollop of butter, salt and pepper.”
Another spring plant brought to North America and Ohio by Europeans, and that is still prevalent here today, is chickweed.
According to the Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide, the leaves of mouseear chickweed (the kind found in Ohio) can be boiled and eaten as greens.
Chickweed has many culinary and folk remedy uses that date back centuries. It has been shown to support digestive health and it is a good expectorant, which means it helps to loosen mucus and relieve coughs. The whole plant has been shown to reduce inflammation, and it may aid in healing wounds and fighting germs. It continues to be studied.
Wild Berries & Fruits
There is no shortage of wild berries in Ohio, especially in the summer. Our whole region is covered with elderberries, wild blackberries, bush blueberries, mulberries and many other berries, most of which have been prized as foods in Ohio for eons.
The common elderberry shrub grows in wet areas, including river and stream banks, woodland edges and in meadows. Like many berries, it is packed with antioxidants and vitamins that have been shown to boost the immune system. According to webmd.com, some experts recommend elderberry to help prevent and ease cold and flu symptoms. The plant would have been an extremely important nutritional and medicinal resource for Native Americans and early settlers.
According to the website Farm and Dairy, wild blackberries (also called dewberries) reach peak season from the end of summer until early fall and grow in disturbed areas along fields, pastures, paths, forest clearings and next to streams, ponds and lakes. They are especially common in western Ohio, including at many local parks and preserves. When grown, they can be collected in massive amounts, and are great for making pies and other treats.
Spicebush shrubs are another berry producing plant native to and abundant in Ohio.
According to eattheworld.org, the leaves of the spicebush can be eaten raw in the summer, while the red berries that ripen in the fall can be eaten fresh or used in baking and pies. They are said to taste similar to allspice. The health benefits include the treatment of colds, fevers and stomach ailments. A soothing tea can be made with all parts of the plant. (content continued below...)
Native black huckleberries are another medicinal, tasty berry that has been shown to contain a high concentration of resveratrol, which is a powerful anticancer agent. According to Farm and Dairy, they grow in dry, rocky or sandy areas and ripen in mid- to late-summer through early fall.
The most successful blueberry in Ohio is the highbush blueberry, which, according to The Ohio State Extension, can handle the extremely cold winter conditions here. The species can be found in wet environments and contain high amounts of antioxidants and beneficial vitamins.
With a long growing season, mulberry trees produce fruit in the late spring and throughout summer and can found everywhere in Ohio. The berries are packed with vitamins and nutrients and taste very much like blackberries.
Numerous wild crabapple trees also grow in Ohio, offering ripe, tart, slightly sweet fruit in late summer and early fall. Mayapples provide fruit for a very short time in late summer, usually in August. The problem with them is that all the parts of the plant are poisonous, including the green fruit, but once the fruit has turned yellow, it can be safely eaten, according to eattheweeds.com.
Along with these summer berries, other edible berries ripen later in the season.
Hawthorn berries ripen in the midsummer and early fall and can be found in pastures and wooded areas in western Ohio. Eaten raw, they have a tart, slightly sweet taste. They are used to make teas, jams, desserts, wine and vinegar and as a supplement due to their cleansing properties.
American persimmons produce a small orange fruit in the late fall that is said to taste like honey. According to healthline.com, the sweet fruit is filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber and has been shown to promote heart health, reduce inflammation, support healthy vision and keep the digestive system healthy.
Last, but not least, are wild grapes, which ripen during the fall in Ohio and can be found in sunny places near rivers and streams, as well as in the moist woods. This includes wild fox grapes, which are one of the most treasured grapes that grow in Ohio.
Foragers beware, however, as there are many toxic plants that look like wild grapes, including Canadian moonseed, Virginia creeper and smilax. Although not native to Ohio, as Johnny Appleseed understood, Ohio and the Midwest is a great place to grow apples, not to mention peaches, pears, figs, apricots, nectarines, cherries and plums.
Wild Strawberries & Mock Strawberries
Wild strawberries grow in abundance in the spring in Ohio and have been eaten throughout the world for thousands of years. Native Americans ate them raw and used them to make strawberry bread. Early settlers gathered them and made pies.
While smaller than those found at the grocery store, wild strawberries are known to be more flavorful, even sweeter than the store-bought-version.
However, when it comes to flavor, wild strawberries are not to be confused with mock or “Indian strawberries,” which also grow in abundance in Ohio.
Although still edible and a source of nutrition, mock strawberries are not as flavorful as wild strawberries (they apparently taste like “melon flower”) and have been known to cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to strawberries.
The way you can tell the difference between a mock and a wild strawberry plant is that a mock plant (pictured at right) starts with a yellow flower and then usually only grows one berry per stem. A wild strawberry (pictured above left), on the other hand, has a white flower and grows off of a vine, so there will be several berries per plant.
Wild Carrots & Chicory Root
Wild carrots, known better as Queen Anne’s lace, are very common in western Ohio, although they are not native to the state.
Just like carrots at the grocery store, wild carrots contain beta-carotene, which is good for the kidneys and bladder. It has been shown to counter cystitis and kidney stone formation and to diminish stones that have already formed.
In terms of food preparation, the wild plant can be treated just like carrots from the grocery. They can be added to salads, put in stews or pressed for juice.
According to altnature.com, wild carrots can be cooked or eaten raw, while the flower clusters can be French-fried for a carrot-flavored dish. The aromatic seeds are used as a flavoring in stews and soups.
In western Ohio, those looking to pick and eat wild carrots should be forewarned about the resemblance between Queen Anne’s lace and poison hemlock. The two look very similar but can be differentiated through a simple smelling test. The poison hemlock will smell terrible while Queen Anne’s lace will smell like…carrots.
Often growing right next to and among wild carrots is chicory, which is like a little pharmacy on the ground.
According to healthline.com, chicory root fiber is used to treat loss of appetite, upset stomach, constipation, liver and gallbladder disorders, cancer and rapid heartbeat. It’s also used as a tonic to increase urine production, to protect the liver and can be used as a replacement for coffee. It is related to dandelions and often grows next to them.
There are more than 250 sumac species in the world, including many in Ohio, and all of the berries of the red sumacs are edible. This makes it a reliable plant for food and medicine.
Sometimes called “the lemonade tree,” the bunches of berries collected from staghorn sumac (this plant, unlike its cousins, is not poisonous to touch) can be used to make a tangy tea that’s filled with vitamins A and C and powerful antioxidants.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, early pioneers treated coughs, sore throats and fevers with sumac, while Native Americans used the berries to treat reproductive problems, stomach aches and wounds. It has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and has hypoglycemic properties that can aid in diabetes management.
High-end restaurants around the world are beginning to use dried sumac berries as a spice rub for lamb, fish and chicken, as well as a salad topper and in hummus. It can also be used to make an exotic red lemonade.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, all you need to make the “lemonade” is one pint of fresh sumac berries (about 6 to 8 clusters), a half-gallon of cold water and sugar.
Add the berries to the water and use a potato masher or a spoon to crush the berries so they release their flavor. Let the berries steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Once the sumac lemonade is flavored to your liking, pour it through a strainer or cheesecloth to remove the berries. Then add enough sugar to sweeten the drink, but not so much that you lose the tangy flavor. Pour your sumac lemonade over ice and enjoy. It can also be heated and served as a hot tea.
Skunk cabbage is the first plant in Ohio to flower each year, often in February and March when its biological makeup allows it to produce heat to stay warm during snow and freezing temperatures.
The plant lives in swampy areas and is easy to identify.
It has a long history of human use.
According to the book, Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America, Native Americans used the roots of the skunk cabbage to make flour for baking bread, although today this is a long and tedious process. A more reliable food source comes from the “cabbage” itself. According to the book, the young leaves, roots and stalks of skunk cabbage can be dried or boiled and added to soups and stews. Apparently, when cooked, none of the skunky smell or taste that the plant is known for remains.
According to the article, “The Year’s First Wildflower” by Columbus MetroParks, skunk cabbage is known to have medicinal uses as well. This includes using a root poultice to treat bruises, sores, swelling and wounds and as an underarm deodorant.
Native Americans, the article states, ground up and sniffed the roots to treat migraine headaches.
Mallow, or Malva neglecta, is a common plant species found throughout Ohio. It is is native to North America and many other parts of the world and has been used for food by people and animals for ages.
It is an exceptional food source because its leaves, stalks and seeds are all edible and because it contains 21 percent protein and 15 percent fat per serving. In Greek, its name means “to heal and cure.” In fact, the campfire treat and hot chocolate topper we call “marshmallows” are actually named after a version of this plant, a marsh mallow. Long ago it was not a dessert treat but a sap of the marsh plant that was used to treat coughs, colds and other ailments.
According to the book Foraging Washington: Finding, Identifying and Preparing Edible Wild Foods, the leaves of mallow can be chewed medicinally to ease sore throats. For food, the leaves can simply be eaten raw or dried. The same goes with the roots, flowers and seeds (also known as “peas” and “cheeses”), which can be eaten green and ripe. It is rich in vitamins A, B and C, plus calcium, magnesium and potassium. According to the website Garden Betty, the tender young leaves actually have one of the highest concentrations of vitamin A of any vegetable.
In terms of preparation, the plant can be thought of as a typical vegetable. It can be used in similar ways to okra, including to thicken soups and stews.
Black Walnuts & Other Nuts
Black walnut trees are native to the United States and Canada and were a major food staple for Native Americans. Collected and stored, nuts from black walnuts and other trees kept families fed through the long winter months and on long hunting trips. Native Americans were also known to produce milk from the nuts, which they drank or made soups with.
According to wikifarmer.com, a healthy and mature walnut tree can produce from 66 to 350 pounds of nuts each year, which equals a lot of food!
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, to harvest black walnuts, “collect the nuts as soon as possible to avoid mold and remove the husks immediately. Wear gloves as the husks stain your hands (and anything they touch). If the nut is too hard, wait a few days and it will brown and soften up. To remove the husk, you can simply step on them gently with an old pair of shoes. Hose down the nuts in a large bucket to remove any remaining husk. Dry the walnuts for a couple of weeks on a screen or drying rack or in a hanging mesh bag. You can store them unshelled up to a year. Crack the shell with a hammer to get to the nut meat. (Strike at a 90-degree angle to the seam until the nut cracks.) Use pliers to easily clip away the shell to release the nutmeat. Allow the freshly removed nutmeat to dry for a day before storing.”
Along with black walnuts, Native Americans and early settlers also gathered nuts from hickories and butternuts (white walnuts), as well as American hazelnut, American beech nut, and several acorn-producing trees.
According to the Ohio State University Extension, there are about 2,000 kinds of wild mushrooms in Ohio, including a variety of edible ones.
During different times of the year, foragers in western Ohio can find chanterelles, puffballs, lion’s mane, shaggy manes, shaggy parasol, meadow mushrooms, slippery jacks, Lepiotas, oysters, chicken of the woods, Dryad Saddles, morels and many other lesser-known edible mushrooms and fungi. In fact, more edible mushrooms are being added to the list all of the time, especially as interest in the health and medicinal benefits of fungi continues to grow.
Probably the most adored of Ohio’s mushrooms is the morel. They also happen to be one of the easiest to recognize.
“Morels are generally safe to forage because there aren’t dangerous mushrooms that look like it,” says Ohio Department of Natural Resources botanist Rick Gardner on the Ohio State Extension’s website.
People pick them fresh, sauté them in butter and salt and eat them. Some also fry them in a light batter and serve them with garlic- and horseradish-based dips, and often a combination of both.
According to eattheplanet.org, puffball mushrooms can grow up to one foot in diameter and can easily be identified and found in meadows, forests and fields in late summer and early fall. They are known to have a mild nutty taste and for their ability to soak up the flavor of any sauces, spices or herbs cooked with them. The mushroom has a delicate, tofu-like texture and can be boiled, baked, roasted or fried. They are often used as a substitute for eggplant and tofu.
According to eattheplanet.org, puffballs also have health benefits. They are loaded with protein and are low-calorie. They are filling and have been shown to lower cholesterol, increase cardiovascular health and boost the immune system.
Shaggy mane and lion’s mane are currently being studied as a treatment to protect against dementia. Found throughout western Ohio, according to healthline.com, these two mushrooms may also help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety (something being seen in many species of mushrooms right now) and may speed the recovery from nervous system injuries, protect against ulcers, reduce heart disease risk and help manage diabetes symptoms.
Another tasty and medicinal mushroom abundant in Ohio is chanterelle mushrooms.
According to webmd.com, they are an excellent source of polysaccharides, including chitin and chitosan. These two compounds help to protect human cells from damage and stimulate the immune system to produce more healthy cells. They’re known to help reduce inflammation and have been shown to lower the risk of developing certain cancers.
The Chicken of the Woods mushroom of the northeast United States (pictured above) gets its name because it acts as a great meat substitute. It’s also very easy to recognize, having a vibrant orange color. The mushroom can be sautéed, fried, pickeled, breaded and baked. Like puffballs, Chicken of the Woods is known for its ability to soak up the flavors it is cooked with. Otherwise, it has a somewhat bland, yet filling and healthy, flavor.
According to eattheplanet.com, Chicken of the Woods has the ability to inhibit certain bacteria, such as staph and may prevent absorption of nutrients into cancerous cells.
Only If You Have To
Finally, there are plants that you’d probably only want to eat if you absolutely had to.
For example, cattails are quite nutritious but have been described as tasting like a bitter cucumber. The sweet fiber in cattail roots provides a starchy carbohydrate and new stalk shoots contain vitamins A, B and C, plus potassium and phosphorous. Additionally, their seeds can be ground up and used to make flour.
The only problem with eating cattails in the modern world is that the plant acts as a filtration system that absorbs pollutants from the water that it grows in. Scientists continue to research ways to use cattails to naturally clean up water pollution around the world.
Believe it or not, stinging nettle plants are edible and very healthy for you. You just need to use gloves to touch it and to make sure to boil the plant before consuming it.
Found along rivers and streams throughout western Ohio, stinging nettle contains vitamins A, C and K, plus several B vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, healthy fats and amino acids, polyphenols and pigments. A new study by PubMed Central suggests that stinging nettle may help treat and shrink an enlarged prostate and may be a treatment for hay fever and to lower blood pressure.
On the not-so-bad-tasting list is a common garden plant—lamb’s ear, which is said to taste like a combination of apples and pineapples. It can be used to enhance salads or make teas by boiling the leaves in water. The tea, with its fruity taste, is used to treat sore throats and is believed to boost liver and heart health, among other benefits.
Finally, if things get bad enough, it is possible to survive on tree bark, grass and pine cones and needles! In Ohio, the inner bark of the eastern white pine was used by Native Americans to survive harsh, scarce winters.
I guess in the end, we can thank the Native Americans and early settlers who discovered and cultivated these plants, who planted more of the trees and shrubs that produced food than others, who developed medicines by trial and error, and who left behind gifts that we may not be using at this moment, but that appear to be waiting for us to remember just how special and beneficial they are.