On Saturday, the Friends of Long Hunter State Park hosted their annual Spring Thing, a day of free nature classes and activities at the park. I recently joined the FLHSP, a nonprofit group that supports the park through volunteer activities and fundraising.
The day began with a birdwatching walk led by John Froeschauer, a retired Middle Tennessee state parks regional interpretive specialist. Another retired interpretive specialist, Sharen Bracy, taught her popular “Wild Edibles” class on foraging in nature. She began with a short lecture and then led the crowd on a short walk to find edible plants around the park’s visitor center. After the walk, the class feasted on dishes prepared by Bracy including wild onion dip, dandelion fritters, spicebush tea, sassafras tea, and persimmon cake.
Class attendees also tasted several of her homemade jellies and bought most of the jars she brought to sell. I bought her crimson clover jelly last year, and this year, I bought dandelion jelly, redbud jelly, and violet jelly. I was too intrigued by these unusual flavors to leave any of them behind.
Look at these colors! Crimson clover jelly is in the left photo. From left to right in the right photo is redbud jelly, dandelion jelly, and violet jelly.
Children enjoyed a scavenger hunt along the park’s Storybook Trail, and Bob Tarter’s live animal show - complete with a hedgehog - was a huge success. Chris Warren, Director of Continuous Improvement for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and Long Hunter Ranger Jeremy Blackwell spoke about honey bees and beekeeping. They even passed around beekeeping frames, and one was full of honey. After the presentation, the group walked to the two hives behind the park’s visitor center.
On the left is a frame containing honey, and on the right, Warren shows the group Long Hunter's two hives.
Long Hunter Ranger Leslie Ann Rawlings concluded the day with a “Wild Tea”class. Ranger Rawlings spoke about the uses of various herbs and plants, and attendees sipped a variety of teas including thyme tea, slippery elm tea, and dandelion root tea. She even had horehound hard candies available made from a tea using the horehound plant. I have read about horehound candy but had never tried it; it had a mild flavor similar to maple syrup. Participants then joined Ranger Rawlings on a walk along the Deer Trail across from the visitor center to identify plants that could be used for teas.
From left to right: thyme tea, dandelion root tea, and horehound candies.
If you missed Spring Thing this year, make a note for next year. Maybe I’ll see you out there!