Erie’s edible plants

Grace Thompson

Monday Jul 1st, 2024

CattailsErie is chock-full of edible plants and mushrooms if you know where to look. These plants have been harvested by and used by many people in Erie’s History, including the famous Joe Root. Several people still prepare these plants in foods today.

Foraging was one of the first ways that humans found food, previous to the domestication of the plants and animals we see today. But one must be cautious on what they pick to eat. Fortunately, there are countless resources that provide lists and examples of what is edible. These lists were compiled through years of learning. Several people likely got sick or worse before these lists were even written.

Several of the things that can be foraged locally have seasons. For example, Dandelion flowers and greens, morels, nettles, ramps, rhubarb stalks, spruce tips, and wild garlic can be found in spring here. Whereas in the winter, you can find wild greens like chickweed and hairy bittercress, black walnuts, chestnuts, hackberries, juniper berries, and chokeberries in place of the stuff you’d find in spring. There are also plants that do not have as direct of seasons, like the stalks of cattails or pinecones that have not turned brown.

There are several ways to prepare each plant as well. For example, Pinecones must be green and female in order to be edible. You must boil them before eating them, where they can be made into jam. This means you have quite a few options for foods to make with these things.

You do, of course, have need to be careful because there are some things that cannot be eaten that look like the items that can be eaten. The best example is pinecones. They cannot be eaten if they are brown or opening. You also cannot eat the seed pods of a cattail plant; they will expand in your mouth and be a hassle to deal with.

GraceBy Grace Thompson

Grace is a history major at Mercyhurst University. She will be working with us for summer semester as she gains experience in the museum field.