Arkansas Wild Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts and Herbs

Reader Contribution by Arkansas Girl
article image

What I mean by “wild” are any edible vegetables, fruits, herbs, and nuts that grow of their own accord. All we did was pick and eat them – no human cultivation needed.

I’ll explain some of what I’ve listed just in case you’ve never heard of them.

Wild onions don’t look anything like “tame” onions, but they are much more delicious. I won’t even try to describe them, but we did eat them.

Poke greens – We called them “Poke Salad” and never referred to them as greens. The plant had berries on its vines that when ripe were a deep purple and were said to kill you dead. Some people were too afraid to even eat the greens for fear they’d die, but you simply had to boil them for a good little while, then you’d be good to go.

We girls used the ripe, deep, reddish purple berry juice to “color” our fingernails. The first dip into water, and all our “fingernail polish” was gone. Now that I think back on it, I believe (except for its poisonous nature) the juice from these berries could have been used as cloth dye, but I never knew anyone who was into that kind of thing.

Mullen, Jimson Weed, Sassafras Roots, and PIne Needles were all used as medicines.

Pecans, hickory nuts, and black walnuts are self-explanatory, but “Bull Nettle Nuts” and “Chinquapin Pins” were nuts you just didn’t see much of. The ones we found were way back in the woods (on the way to Cousin Callie’s house). Never saw them anyplace else. We’d stop and pick the Bull Nettle Nuts, being careful not to prick our fingers in the process as they grew among a hull that looked likes a cactus with porcupine quills. This nut had a strange but delicious taste and “chinky pins” taste like raw sweet potatoes but look like acorns.”Chinky Pins” grew on a tree, and from what I remember, these nuts only ripened in late summer or early fall.

Just about everybody is familiar with apples, peaches, pears, figs, persimmons, plums, black berries, pomegranate, and strawberries. but you may not have heard of Rattan vines or trees, May Pops, Muscadine grapes and Scupadine grapes. We pronounced Muscadine “Muskerdine” and Scupadine “Scuffingdine.” Rattan and May Pops grew mostly along the highway. Black berries and plums grew in their own patches or orchards, respectively. Figs and persimmons grew mostly close to houses. My grandmother had fig bushes right outside her front porch. Pear, apple and peach trees could grow anywhere and were usually a singular tree.

The only Muscadine and Scupadine grapes (that I knew of) grew in what I now call “The Garden of Eden” – the homestead of a family whose land seemed to grow everything imaginable, including the only pomegranates I ever saw in the countryside. I also never saw any patch of earth that grew so many fruits, nuts and vegetables as this family’s land. Visiting their place was something my Mother didn’t have to ask us twice to do. We were on our way before she got the words out of her mouth good. And with such a description, I’m sure you can see why.

You know how some things, while they may not kill you, humans are not really suppose to eat. Well, that was what was said about May Pops and Rattan Berries. From what I remember, the rattan vine had small, deep blue berries that we loved to chew on. I’m not sure if they were meant to be eaten, but anything that we thought wouldn’t kill us, we ate, and to my knowledge, we were the only kids that ate them. Since they didn’t make us sick or kill us, we figured they were okay to consume. But the best part was that they were free and ours for the “pickin.'”

Now, a word about “horse apples.” I never saw any horses eat their apples and nor did we eat them. We heard they are poisonous. We had a horse apple tree in our front yard, and the fruit simply got ripe, fell to the ground and we kids played ball with them.

Then, there was this plant that had small, red, sour berries that we called “pee” berries,” because, supposedly, if you ate too many, they caused you to wet the bed. Not sure if that’s true, but they sure were delicious to suck on.

Actually, there were a lot more wild plants in our parts, but I have no idea their proper names, so I’ll have to leave them out. I do remember one large tree that looked like it could have been a wild cherry tree, but to know that for sure, I don’t.

And don’t think I’m so smart that I knew the names of all of these things. I did a little “surfing.” around in cyberspace.

Anyway, that’s it for our “Arkansas Food Fair.”

Wild Vegetables

  • Onions
  • Poke “salad” greens

Wild Medicinal Herbs

  • Mullen
  • Jimson Weeds
  • Sassafras Roots
  • Pine needles

Wild Nuts

  • Pecans
  • Hickory Nuts
  • Black walnuts
  • Bull Nettle Nuts
  • Chinquapin “Chinky” Pins
Wild Fruits
  • Rattan berries
  • Muscadine grapes
  • Scupadine grapes
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Black Berries
  • Figs
  • May Pops
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranates
  • Strawberries
Poisonous (humans didn’t eat these)
  • Horse Apples (Maclura Pomifera) (Osage-oranges)
Need Help? Call 1-866-803-7096