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Back Roads: Treasures of the Fall.

When I think of Fall in West Virginia, I think of cool temperatures, brilliantly colored leaves, and foggy mornings.  Fall signals harvest time for the remaining vegetables and domesticated crops such as corn and soy bean.  What if I told you that West Virginia has a treasure trove growing in most of our back yards waiting to be harvested?

What if I told you that West Virginia has a treasure trove growing in most of our back yards waiting to be harvested?

Blackberries can be located all over West Virginia. If you’ve driven a dirt road for any amount of time, there is no doubt that your have seen these delectable fruits growing in clusters near fence lines. They range in flavor from tart to sweet.  It’s easy to distinguish the ripe berries, since they are usually the largest and display a shiny black exterior.  The bushes that grow these fruit are covered in small thorns, so be sure to use caution with kids.  July is usually peak harvest season, but they can be found all the way through late September. These berries have a plethora of health benefits and lets face it, they make an excellent cobbler.

If you’ve driven a dirt road for any amount of time, there is no doubt that your have seen blackberries growing in clusters near fence lines.

When you think of mushrooms in WV, morels tend to be the first to come to mind.  These are a spring favorite, but Fall has an abundance of delicious fungi as well. Some of my favorites are Chicken of the Woods, Oyster Mushrooms and Honey Mushrooms.  Chicken of the Woods is a brilliant orange and tend to grow at the bases of trees.  They are a “meaty” mushroom and  taste like chicken.  Oyster Mushrooms exclusively grow on trees as well.  These mushrooms are and great compliment to stir fry and soups. Honey Mushrooms are very similar in taste to Oyster Mushrooms. West Virginia has 1,700 species of wild mushrooms so use caution when harvesting and make sure that all mushrooms picked are correctly identified.

Chicken of the Woods is a brilliant orange and tend to grow at the bases of trees. 

Fall is also root collecting time.

Fall is also root collecting time. Most everyone who harvest roots, do it for the money or for the health benefits that the root offers.  The plants that are commonly collected from are Ginseng, Yellow Root and Black Cohosh.  Ginseng is the star of the bunch.  It is commonly seen as an ingredient on many energy supplements and drinks.  Ginseng Roots can range in value from $200 a dry pound to $800+ depending on the market.  These plants are strictly regulated and can only be harvested as an adult plant from Sept. 1 through November 30th. 

Yellow Root typically can be found near mountain streams or springs, but require more sunlight that the other roots discussed.

It tends to grow in well-shaded areas, especially north and east-facing slopes. Black Cohosh is oftentimes found to be a neighboring plant of Ginseng.  Black Cohosh is used in supplements, primarily for women since it affects estrogen.  Black Cohosh can range in value from $15 to $32 a pound dry.  Keep in mind, this root is very small and it takes a lot to make a pound.  Yellow Root is distinguished by its color. Yellow Root typically can be found near mountain streams or springs, but require more sunlight that the other roots discussed.  Yellow root has all kinds of health benefits, but is very popular for digestive ailments. Yellow root typically sells for $30 to $40 per pound dry.

I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy everything that this great state has to offer.

There are hundreds of foraging books and websites that give detailed information on all the above plants described.  I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy everything that this great state has to offer. Not only will you be making memories and getting good exercise, but you just might make a dollar as well!

– Dustin “Dusty” Allen w/ WVDNR. HashtagWV #134. August 2021.

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