This past Saturday morning, over 45 people headed to the Eat Local Challenge event in Couterie Forest inside of City Park to learn more about wild edible plants. Botanist Dr. Charles Allen led the group on a two-hour long tour throughout the trails in the park and covered nearly every plant that was sighted.
The knowledgeable and witty Dr. Allen captivated participants with his detailed descriptions of plants such as Wild Lettuce, Common Ragweed, Dewberry, Common Goldenrod, and Ladies Eardrop Vine. He explained how the seeds of Peppergrass go well with bread and how he cuts the tips of young Blackberry leaves to make tea with them. If you want to make impressive pancakes, Dr. Allen suggests adding Elderberry flowers. For your next meal of red beans and rice, throw in some dried locally foraged Sweet Bay leaves.
As Dr. Allen explained the specifics of each plant, participants passed each one around and tasted the edible ones and examined the few non-edible plants. Some folks gathered plants to take home to utilize later. From Dewberry to Duckweed, Dr. Allen answered questions throughout the hike and uncovered some of the mysteries of Southeastern Louisiana forests.
To learn more about wild edible plants, you can find Dr. Allen’s book Edible Plants of the Gulf South on Amazon.