After a week of cold temperatures and rain, it was great to get out and enjoy the trails and open roads. I hope you all got out on two wheels. This time of year is especially great for the foragers among us. We rode the Oak Creek Trail, always a reliable source of wild plums. Yes, we had a late frost that knocked out many fruit harvests, but if you look, you can still find wild plums along many trails and roads, and they make great jams and jellies.
We weren’t the only ones enjoying them, by the looks of the animal scat along the trails. You might find wild grapes, though apparently they have some look-a-likes, so you have check to be sure. Most of the berries, like the mulberries, raspberries, and gooseberries, were ripe in early summer.
The elderberries were ready a few weeks ago, and are good for wine, syrup, and a cough remedy. Sumac, with it’s lemony sourness popular in middle eastern cuisine, is past it’s prime but still widely available and showing it’s beautiful fall colors. Goldenrod, blooming now, has many fine qualities as a tea and tincture and is not at fault for your allergies. Many of the plants we see along the way have medicinal properties, but it’s best to do your research before trying to use any of them.
I sometimes see people from other cultures busily picking some kind of herb from a trail side and wonder what it is. Whatever it is, it’s common and somehow beneficial to someone who knows what to do with it. Many “weeds” we see are perfectly delicious when properly prepared. I enjoy lambsquarters, stinging nettles, purslane and dandelions in the spring, like daylilies and cat tails, of which all parts are edible at the proper time.
Coming on now should be black walnuts, though I think that late frost got most of them, from what I’ve seen, or haven’t seen covering the trails. Once riding the (currently closed) Steamboat Trace we picked up butternuts, which look like an egg-shaped black walnut. In that area of far southeastern Nebraska, you can even find paw paws and aronia berries that you don’t find in the wild around here.
Just don’t pick from areas that look like they might be sprayed, or that get a lot of road dust. There are several plant apps that can help you identify them using the camera on your phone, but I haven’t been impressed with what I’ve tried so far. If you’re looking for a way to spend more time outdoors and to get to know your surroundings more in depth, ride along the trails and try to learn the names of the plants. With a little study and a bag or two along, you might find a delicious new hobby. Just remember to be a considerate forager, don’t pick all of a thicket or plant. Leave some for the other users, animal or human.
I biked to the trail head in Valparaiso from Lincoln, and couldn’t tell from the map that Ashland Road between County Road 25 and 26 was minimum maintenance. While usually I love a good mmr, most definitely not after a rain. It turned out to be a longer stretch than I’d hoped. I hiked the bike 3/4 of a mile.