There are many fall edibles that we often take for granted or don’t even realize. During the end of summer to early fall, I begin to go in search of some of these wonderful edible nuts and fruits. These include shagbark hickory nuts, white oak acorns, paw paws, walnuts and many more. These same foods also help wildlife to gain weight and prepare for winter.
Ohio’s state native fruit tree is the pawpaw (Asimina triloba). The fruit from these trees resemble the texture and flavor of a banana, except they have large brown seeds and usually have to be cut open. You can make all sorts of different recipes by using the pulp. Some of my favorite recipes include pawpaw bread, popsicles and ice cream.
Another wild food source is the many different tree nuts. Black walnuts, which must be hulled, have a very strong flavor to them. They make a nice addition to any fruit crisp, ice cream or dessert bread. (To learn more about black walnuts and taste some treats, stop by Black Walnut Weekend at Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve on October 11 & 12 from noon-4 p.m.)
Shagbark hickory is one of the best nuts out there, but the squirrels often beat me to them, so I can only enjoy a few here or there. They must know the good stuff, because these nuts go fast!
Another red berry you might notice along the trail is spicebush. Spicebush is an understory shrub, and the berries can be used as an allspice substitute. It is often a favorite food of the wood thrush bird.
Fall is a beautiful time of year where big changes are occurring all around and there are plenty of things to enjoy. Next time you are out on the trail, I encourage you to keep an eye out for these delicious treats (but be sure to leave them there for the wildlife to enjoy) or attend a Great Parks program to try them for yourself.
Pawpaw Cookies with Black Walnuts
¾ c. pureed pawpaw pulp
1 c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ c. butter
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. black walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease one large cookie sheet. Peel and seed fresh pawpaws and process in a food processor until fine. Sift together the flour and baking powder, and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg. Add the flour mixture and then add the pawpaw pulp. Chop half the nuts (reserve 16 pieces) and blend them in. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet and press a piece of black walnut onto the top of each cookie. Bake 12 minutes or until brown across the top. Makes about 16 cookies.
Makes 1 quart (4 to 8 servings)
Jenn Wallace, Naturalist