TAYLOR COUNTY—Many folks can recall a time that they took a stroll through West Virginia woodlands, along the way finding delightful edibles such a berries, wild onions, ramps and morel mushrooms.
Those any many more plants will be the focus of discussion at the Taylor County Historical and Genealogical Society during First Friday.
The Taylor County Historical and Genealogical Society is happy to introduce Bette O’Steen as a foraging speaker during July’s celebration downtown.
“While attending the 2021 AmeriCorps Conference, historical society members were able to watch Bette’s foraging video,” revealed Taylor County Historical and Genealogical Society President Olive Ricketts. “We enjoyed it so much that we wanted to bring her to Grafton for one of our First Friday events.”
O’Steen will present a valuable discussion to attendees and will be showing the community what is and isn’t edible in their own yards, along with the forest around them.
West Virginia is home to numerous wild edibles ranging from sweet to savory. Whether it be pot herbs or starchy vegetable substitutes, there are plenty of wild plants that can be added into your dinner lineup.
Among the list of possible treats found locally includes fruits such as persimmons, blackberries, raspberries, dewberries, paw paws, gooseberries, teaberries, blueberries, wild cherries, elderberries and grapes.
In addition to ramps and wild onions, many folks also head out to collect a salad of dandelions, chickweed, freshly picked sheepsoil, wild lettuce and fireweed, an acceptable spinach substitute.
Mountain State ancestors used dozens upon dozens of wild plants for food at some time during the year, but such nature lore is now gradually being lost as each generation becomes more urbanized.
The art of not only finding but preserving these natural food items is becoming a thing of the past, and O’Steen looks to change that outcome.
O’Steen, who resides in Nicholas County, is an accomplished forager but has also found success in the teaching and information realm.
She has written “Bette’s Beds” gardening column for 11 years in the Nicholas Chronicle, taught Wilderness Survival at 4H for 12 years in Fayette and Nicholas Counties and was able to turn the 4H for children classes into wild food foraging for adults.
Additionally, O’Steen teaches many different gardening classes and is currently working on a series of Eight Heart Healthy Cooking Classes sponsored by grants from Try This WV.
She also owns and operates Grassy Creek Farm specializing in herbs, greens and hydroponics.
When it comes to cooking, O’Steen whips up numerous Native American dishes using ingredients found in the wild, and she says that those who know her, wouldn’t dare mow down her edible weeds.
As a Master Gardner of 14 years and an Appalachian Representative on the national ten-member advisory board for the Farmer Veteran Coalition, O’Steen is sure to impart wisdom to those who attend this special talk.
So, be sure to gather your family and friends and head to the historic M&M Bank Building, located at 107 West Main Street, for a presentation beginning at 5:00 p.m.