Saturday, March 10, 2007

Stalking Wild Herbs

My grandma was a great one for hunting wild herbs in the spring of the year. She called this "going 'senging." She would get her herb apron on and her 'seng hoe, pack a lunch of biscuits, fried eggs, hog jowl, green onions and radishes from her garden.

She would always take us with her and we would roam the woods all day for weeks. She would dig only ginseng. She let us dig star grass root and yellow puccoon. It was too difficult for her to carry all those heavy roots, and ginseng was worth a lot more. We dug mayapple root near home as it was too heavy to dig far off.

All of these herbs were dried, and we sold them when the "root man" came by. (He was also the "old rag man" and the "scrap metal man.")

While 'senging, my grandma would not let us eat lunch until the train called the Pan-American ran. It always blew its whistle at 12 o'clock and was always on time. You could hear it for miles. At this time she would find a little stream or wet spot. She would dig out a little hole, and we waited for it to run clear. Down on hands and knees, face down, we would drink water with our lunch.

Oh, this was the greatest time for me! I could hardly wait until spring. We would watch for the signs of the herbs coming up. Grandma knew every herb in the woods and what was etable. We chewed on sassafras buds, anise stems, berries, nuts, red haws left over in the leaves of winter, mayapples, and sometimes even ginseng roots. So we did not go hungry.

We also ate locust beans, persimmons, wild grapes, and black haws when they were ready. I guess I could almost live in the woods. I used to love watercress, which was wild and grew in spring-fed streams. I picked it for a salad green. Sometimes I would take bacon grease, salt and cornbread to the creek and just sit by the water and eat my fill right there.

I remember a tree halfway to my grandma's spring which we called the "heart tree." It was really a redbud tree. When it was in bloom, we would climb it and strip off the blooms by the limb full. We would put them in a can and carry it around and eat the little pink flowers. They had a very good flavor.

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