Grape Nuts is my cereal of choice. The late Euell Gibbons said the crunchy nuggets are good for a person, and I believed him. My wife said she’d just as soon eat pea gravel from the roadside.
Gibbons also said that yarrow is healthful. It makes a nice tea and is considered to be a love charm. If the federal government hears about its charming powers, however, the FDA will step in and require that buyers register as yarrow users.
My wife loves this plant. She had yarrow in her flower bed at one time, but I cut it down with a weed whacker. I thought it was a weed. Older and somewhat wiser, I know now that love comes in many forms. Sometimes it looks like a weed.
I learned a little about plants from the late Marie Mellinger, who led nature lovers through hills and valleys, naming practically every plant as she went. She wrote a book, “Roadside Rambles,” a guide for folks brave enough to eat wild edibles. I keep it in our tiny reading room for quick reference.
Speaking of wild edibles, my daddy said he broke his arm eating breakfast during the Great Depression. He fell out of a persimmon tree.
We have a persimmon tree in our yard, just in case. It looked dead a few years ago, but miraculously rose again, like a phoenix from the ashes. The fruit is edible but not very tasty; even the dogs won’t eat it. But it’s another form of love, growing outside our kitchen window.
I remember stomping maypops when I was a boy. I thought that was their only purpose: to be popped. But Marie’s book suggests you slice them and simmer for five minutes. Strain, add lemon juice and sugar and serve over ice with lemon slices and mint. Maypops, by the way, come from the passion flower vine, but don’t tell Uncle Sam.
And then you have blackberries and their first cousin, dewberries. I don’t have to tell you how much love is packed into blackberries. When Earl Palmer’s Uncle Ralph Deaton died, one of his relatives walked around his casket three times while toting a blackberry cobbler and, sure enough, Uncle Ralph didn’t sit up. So they closed the casket and buried him. They weren’t being cute or cruel. They were just following Ralph’s instructions.
Two other wild edibles, hips and haws—not to be confused with hems and haws, which is what politicians specialize in—will enhance your mood, in case you’re in a bad one. They’re used for tea and syrups and can be candied for special treats. Hips come from roses, haws from hawthorn trees. Use one or the other. Ingesting hips and haws at the same time might cause your mood to overswing.
So there. I’ve given you a short lesson on some lovely edibles found in the hills and valleys and on roadsides.
For convenience, though, you might try Grape Nuts. Or pea gravel.
— Phil Hudgins, a former community newspaper editor, can be reached at email@example.com.