Exploring Wild Edible Plants

Wild edible plants expert, Carrie Vrabel shows Maria Sutherland (l) and Megan Ryan (r) how to harvest a nut from a hazelnut tree.

With the fear of shortages and feelings of food insecurity over the past year and a half, at one point or another, many have asked themselves, “would I be able to fend for myself if society broke down?” It’s a very intriguing question given that we are very dependent on our food systems and therefore quite disconnected from agriculture in general, which puts us even further away from identifying plants in the wild that we can eat or use. For millennia, before modern agriculture and industrial domestication of plants, our ancestors depended on finding the plants they needed for food, medicine and more. But over just a handful of generations 99% of humans lost most working knowledge about how to search nature for the things we need.

A couple of friends and I recently met up with local wild edible plant expert, Carrie Vrabel at Fox Island County Park (7324 Yohne Rd) to learn about how to identify common edible plants, what books and resources to use for identification and of course, what not to eat. Each month throughout the summer, Vrabel leads a tour at Fox Island for $2 per person that is open to the public to learn about wild edible plants. And it has recently been selling out!

Vrabel grew up on a farm where identifying and eating common plants in the woods was a regular practice. As an adult, she began to seek out learning opportunities and certifications to learn more about what nature can provide. She says that it can be somewhat empowering to know you can walk into the woods and be able to find something to eat.

Throughout our tour, Vrabel not only was able to relay the Latin and common names for the plants we identified, but she also taught us how native people used them to cure ailments, make cordage for rope, wound care uses and more.

The experience feels very much like you’re opening the door to a whole new world and perspective on everyday life. It was quite intriguing to think about “what if” instead of going to the store, what if we just went into the woods for what we need, as so many civilizations did before us. Among the many thoughts this experience provokes, it also begs the question, if we’re more connected to nature and being knowledgeable about it was common knowledge, would we take better care of it? But, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Wild Edible Plant Tours or the many other educational events there are at Fox Island County Park, you can learn more by visiting allencountyparks.org/parks/fox-island/ or by visiting their Facebook page. You can also join the new Facebook group, “Wild Edible Indiana” to follow along as people discuss plant identification and their uses: www.facebook.com/groups/1188776411632387

Alex Cornwell
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Alex Cornwell

The Owner & Publisher of The Waynedale News. Alex is a community leader and founder of various organizations, events & improvement initiatives in the area. He is also the recipient of 2019's Allen County Vandeveer Impact Award and 2012's University of Saint Francis' Distinguished Young Alumni Award. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer