Butternut (Juglans cinerea)
An early ripening nut in the walnut family. This nut is more oblong and milder tasting than the walnut.
I did not harvest this plant, but the friends that did were told what they had by a native to these mountains. That person claimed that branch lettuce was becoming rare due to over harvesting. It can be eaten raw in a salad, or cooked in bacon fat.
Although it is not a berry it is considered aggregate it's bright red color makes it easy to spot and it's wonderful sweet tart taste makes it hard to gather. I tend to eat more than I gather. Three cups can be enough for a pie or muffins,Jam, or you can eat them in only a few minutes. It does not seem to have a preference to shade or sun although some sun adds to the size and sweetness. We are around 3000 ft. though I have seen them at higher elevations.It is a non native coming from China through Europe. Considered by some to be invasive. One of my favorite berries.Prefers slopes with good drainage and woodsy soil.
Not surprisingly with all the rain, mushrooms are popping out all over. Chanterelles are just starting their season which should go on for a couple of months especially if the rain continues. Look in the wet woods along the banks of creeks and trails. I'm also finding the edibles Lactarius volemus and Hedgehogs or Hydnum repandum, a tooth fungi. Both very tasty. Black trumpet is out there too. Check your books and don't eat anything unless you're sure. Go out on a foray with someone who knows. Lots of other interesting fungi all over the woods even if you can't eat them. Great fun.
The walnut is a delicacy known throughout Europe. Picked before ripening in early Summer these nuts can be pickled or made into a delicious and healing black walnut liqueur. Of course, the ripe nuts later in the season are delicious as well.
The longstanding traditions and uses of these nuts in Europe must be paralleled by uses in the Appalachain region? I have not heard of many stories to that effect though... With the abundance of Black Walnut trees in the Blue Ridge, it is about time we start using these nuts in a variety of ways!
After high temperatures in the 80's for a couple of weeks, we finally got a reprieve of low 70's. My son and I took the opportunity to wade through brambles and thick weed growth to gather these delicious berries along a fence line. They were not overly sweet, due I'm sure, to recent rain. They also seemed a bit smaller than last year. We managed to harvest enough for 3 pints of jam, leaving quite a few to continue to ripen.
Headed up to Whitetop we saw plenty of wood nettles along side the roads and trails.
I harvested about a pound of ramps down along a dry creek bed up on White Top. It was a cooler, rainy day and I noticed a lot of the ramps in the area I was foraging already had flowers up.