CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — Want to collect your own food? Here are some of the most common forageables in West Virginia.
Ramps are a wild leek that are commonly foraged in West Virginia during the spring. Ramp season is from the beginning of April to sometimes as late as early June in West Virginia. The taste is somewhere between an onion and garlic, and they are so good that West Virginia made a whole festival for them.
When foraging for them, especially on public land like the Monongahela National Forest, make sure you follow these rules.
Morels are a type of mushroom commonly collected in West Virginia. The season is usually from late March to mid-May but how many mushrooms you will see in a season depends on the season’s rainfall and temperature. The earthy and nutty delicacy is generally pretty easy to identify from its honeycomb-like cap. However, never eat a mushroom that you are not 100% sure what it is and that it is edible. Watch out for brain mushrooms or “fake morels” that have similar ridges on their tops but without the deep holes that morels have; they are also darker in color than morels.
Paw paws are fruits that grow on small trees in West Virginia and the surrounding area. The taste and texture are often described as a cross between a mango and a banana. They can be difficult to forage because animals like opossums and raccoons often beat people to them. Although exact harvesting season depends on your precise location, in general the harvest season is from mid-August to early October.
Keep in mind that you should not pick paw paws from the tree or they will not be ripe enough. To harvest paw paws, gently shake the fruit tree and only take the ones that fall, otherwise, they will be too sour, and paw paws do not ripen properly off the tree.
Ginseng is harvested for its golden root, which has been used in teas, soups and even medicine for hundreds of years. It is valuable and can be sold to a registered ginseng dealer, according to the West Virginia Division of Forestry. Harvest season is from the beginning of September to the end of November, but there are some rules for both collecting and owning ginseng in West Virginia.
Although ginseng grows in all 55 counties, digging ginseng on state-owned land, or private land without prior written consent, is illegal. Because ginseng takes so long to reproduce, only plants with three or more prongs and at least 13 leaflets should be dug, and the berries of the plant should be red.
Possession of ginseng root between April 1 and Aug. 31 is prohibited without a weight receipt from the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
According to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, there are about 20 species of brambles in the state, including raspberries and blackberries. The sweet berries can be found throughout West Virginia and are picked in the summer—late June for raspberries and late July for blackberries.
If you don’t know where to find blackberries, there are several u-pick farms in the state that have blackberries and other fruits.