The Heritage Herb Garden, at the Ozark Folk Center State Park, graces the grounds with visual colors and textures, sweet and pungent aromas and helps us to interpret the history of the human use of plants.
 
This minute I am anticipating walking the woods with friends and mentors during the Medicinal Herb Field Trip and Workshop coming up the first Friday and Saturday of April. Every spring I get the fever to smell the warming soil and look at all of the plants that are awakening to grow another season. It is like a family reunion to find all of the familiar friends. “Oh look at all the toothwort popping up” and “Over there, see that colony of mayapples?”
 
The senses sharpen and it takes some discipline to slow down and really take in all of the details. It is so easy to walk right over a morel mushroom or completely miss a patch of tender goldenseal sprouts. It is always exciting to identify yet another new plant, after decades of walking the same ground.

To set out with herbalists and field biologists with the expertise of Sasha Daucus and Bo Brown adds volumes to a personal knowledge base. To walk with Doug Elliott is a dream-come-true. I have been reading his works in the Wild Foods Forum since the 90s! He explores all the natural areas in his travels and lives his work—Doug is going to bring a fresh and humorous perspective to our adventure. Last week I wrote about the youngest member of this year’s wild entourage, John Michael Kelley. He is a serious young naturalist. I would not be afraid to be in the wilderness with any of these teachers.

We can’t know how far along the harbingers and spring ephemerals will be because growth is controlled by the weather. Nonetheless, it is a sure bet that the trees will be in bud or blooming, the birds will be singing and all the critters will be rustling in the leaves. There is no doubt in my mind that we will all emerge from our field trip completely refreshed and enlightened.

I am looking forward to tasting fermented foods and beverages, artfully prepared by Susan Belsinger and Shawn Hoefer. Our ancestors made kraut and root beer out of plant parts, maybe some salt and airborne bacteria. These foods are rich in nutrition and friendly flora for absorbing those vitamins and minerals. We will be learning just how easy it is to make our own fermented foods and why this way of processing vegetables and fruits is sweeping the nation.

Folks who register before March 28 will save $10 on the fee. The full schedule, speakers’ backgrounds and registration form are available at www.OzarkFolkCenter.com or by calling the Ozark Folk Center State Park at (870)-269-3851. If I don’t see you in the future—I’ll see you in the pasture!