There are many wild plants in Appalachia that are edible or have medicinal value. The key is to be able to identify them and understand their applications. This knowledge can be very valuable to people who spend a significant amount of time outdoors, especially those who like to camp out in the backwoods of West Virginia.
Most know dandelion as the weed that crops up in the front yard every spring and summer. But it is also a great source of vitamin C and potassium. The leaves can be eaten raw as well as boiled for a tea. The flowers can be fermented and made into wine. The roots can be ingested as well, either cooked or raw. The roots and leaves have been used by Europeans and Native Americans for years as herbal remedies. For example, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, dandelions can be consumed as a diuretic and appetite stimulant.
The pokeweed, as its name suggests, is like the dandelion in that it is considered undesirable by many gardeners. However, it has historically been used as a food source. More commonly referred to as just "poke," the shoots of the plant can be used as a substitute for spinach in recipes. Much of the plant is also considered poisonous, especially the deep purple berries that grow from the stalks. The American Cancer Society reports that certain derivatives of Poke may be useful for counteracting cancerous tumors.
The highland plantain is another annual weed that can be eaten and used as an herbal remedy for some ills. The leaves of the plant can be boiled until tender or battered and fried to make a kind of a chip. Further, it is believed that a solution of rendered plantain and water can be applied to all kinds of wounds to improve healing, according to the medicinal almanac "A Modern Herbal" by Maud Grieve.
Ramps, also commonly known as "wild leeks," are a very popular member of the onion family. They are found all over West Virginia and are recognizable by their green tops and green onion-like roots. They have a very strong flavor and are often served simply boiled and salted, though they can also be prepared a number of different ways, such as in salads or sauteed along with other ingredients.
- dandelion image by Katarzyna Szura from Fotolia.com