Garden Lifestyle

On the Road: Medicinal Herb Field Trip and Workshop in the Arkansas Ozarks

Last weekend was the annual Medicinal Herb Field Trip and Workshop at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas.

  • We started our hike out with a "Dandelion Tale" by Doug Elliott. Did you know that all parts of the dandelion are edible? Get the leaves when they are small and add them to salads, soups or stir fries and make dandyburgers. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
    Photo/Illustration: Sasha Daucus
  • On the trail with wildwoodsmen Doug Elliott, Bo Brown and John Michael Kelley. What a delightful and knowledgeable trio! These are guys that you'd want to get lost in the woods with!
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Trout lilies have mottled leaves and grace the forest floor in the spring with their delicate blooms. The young leaves can be cooked and eaten like a green and the corms can be boiled and eaten, though should be used sparingly.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Hikers enjoyed stopping to hear about various edible plants and trees from mountaintop to river bottom.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Slippery elm is an important herbal tree. The inner bark is mucilaginous and is used as a tea for sorethroats and made into lozenges. When dried and ground it can be used as a flour; it has a pleasant mild taste.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • The leaves and flowers of Oxalis spp. can be used in salads and as a beverage. These low-growing wood sorrels have a pleasant sour taste.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • We heard many critters along the trail and met a few--as you can see this box turtle was not shy and didn't close up into his shell as they often do--he was full of spunk.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Toothworts (Dentaria spp.) are lovely moist-woods plants with white-to-pink blooms in early spring. The roots are pungent and peppery and can be used as a condiment or in salads.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • A stop along the trailhead overlooking the creekbed below, where Sasha Daucus told us about the Ozark land formations.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • The trail runs along Whitewater Creek where the water is up, as is in most rivers and creeks in the region due to spring rains.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Over the years we have enjoyed wild-gathered watercress, however nowadays one must be certain it is gathered from clean water which has not been polluted by humans or livestock.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • The leaves and blooms of these delightful wild violets are edible in salads and as garnishes in beverages. Flowers can be candied or used in syrups and leaves are mucilagenous and can be used in soups. Shown here, they are growing under leaves of Solomon's seal.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger

Last weekend was the annual Medicinal Herb Field Trip and Workshop at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas. It sure is springtime in the Ozarks–check out the photos–and you’ll feel like you were out on the trail with us!

There is nothing better than a hike in the woods when the spring ephemerals are just popping out. In the upper woods they were appearing in the understory, though most were not in bloom–just here and there. Trees were leafing out, so we were able to identify them by their new, bright-green leaf growth. Those without leaves were easily I.D.ed by our trail guides Doug Elliott, Bo Brown, John Michael Kelley, Sasha Daucus, Tina Marie Wilcox and I.

It is of utmost importance, that we properly identify plants before harvesting and using them. That is why we have this hike every year–to hike with knowledgeable woodspeople and herbalists–to help us to identify and learn the plants. We like to use at least three field guides to help us be sure of the plants and their chracteristics.  Besides staying on the trail, or watching carefully where we walk, we are thoughtful about harvesting plants from the wild. We don’t harvest plants at-risk or endangered. If we do harvest plant material, we never dig too much of a patch. Select plants to thin the patch and take small amounts–only what you will use.

As we progressed down the trail, more and more plants appeared and by the time we got down to walk alongside Whitewater Creek, plants like trout lilies, spring beauties, toothwort and spring anemones were in a riot of blooms. We heard lots of bird calls and tree frogs, which our guide Bo Brown, who has great ornithological skills, helped us to identify.

After lunch we broke into smaller groups and were able to have more hikes with teachers whose expertise we were most interested in. (Read schedule on The following day we had an array of inspiring and interesting programs from “St. John’s Wort: Nerve Healing Power Herb” and “The Magic of Fermentation: Why and How to Do It” to “More Stories, Songs and Lore” and a selection of concurrent sessions. I learned so much from the other teachers and had a blast hanging with all of the herbies!

Our lunch was “A Wild and Cultured Luncheon” featuring wild weeds and fermented foods prepared by the Skillet Restaurant chef, Barb Wilson, her staff and I. My next blog will highlight some of those recipes so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, get out there in the woods and commune with nature!




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