Wild food expert to receive honor

Edelene Wood is thrilled to be receiving an honorary Bachelor of Arts degree today from West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

“It’s a dream come true,” the 92-year-old Wood of Parkersburg told me this week. Finding out how close she was to getting a degree from WVU-P was one of her two birthday wishes last month. The other was to have a 10-minute conversation with relatives, she said.

Wood is a well-known wild foods advocate and expert. She is president of the National Wild Foods Association and author of the books, “A Taste of the Wild” and “Favorite Wild Foods of the 50 States.”

Wood is looking forward to once again leading the Nature Wonder Weekend in September at North Bend State Park in Cairo, a celebration of “gourmet” wild foods she started 47 years ago. Noted wild foods author Euell Gibbons attended the inaugural event.

“Wild mushrooms will be emphasized (at Nature Wonder Weekend) this year,” said Wood, a 1940 graduate of Parkersburg High School.

Wood remembers taking night classes at the Parkersburg Branch of West Virginia University around 1965 or ’66 when the college was housed in the former Emerson School, where the public library now sits. Besides earning some credits at what is now WVU-P, Wood noted she earned a two-year degree from Mountain State College in Parkersburg and worked at Monongahela Power Co. for 42 years.

From her last class at WVU-P, Wood said, she wrote a history about the Little Kanawha Regional Council, which worked to bring economic development and other improvements to the region. One of those developments was North Bend State Park, said Wood, who worked at the regional council.

When speaker/writer Darrin Nordahl of Sacramento, Calif., needed information for a book he is writing on Appalachian foods, he was told by people to contact Edelene Wood. Nordahl met recently with Wood in Parkersburg to talk about wild foods and the Nature Wonder Weekend at North Bend.

Wood put Nordahl, who writes on issues of food, public transit and city design, in contact with Ken Gilbert of Parkersburg, an author and artist. Gilbert and Nordahl walked the Euell Gibbons Nature Trail at North Bend and enjoyed a meal of venison, squirrel and a “fantastic” blackberry cobbler at Joellen Bailey’s home in Newark, Wirt County. Bailey is Gilbert’s cousin.

Nordahl visited the Ramp Festival in Richwood, W.Va., and areas of eastern Kentucky and Pennsylvania on his one-week food discovery trip. He said it is important to keep festivals like the one in Richwood and the Black Walnut Festival in Spencer alive.

Nordahl plans to release “Eating Appalachia” next January, with a chapter on North Bend State Park and references to Wood and Gibbons. If this book sells well, Nordahl said he would like to profile the native foods of other regions of the United States in subsequent books.

Nordahl hopes his search for true American flavors will entice people to try other foods.

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A “garden party” to celebrate the music careers of Parkersburg native Mike Morningstar and former Mid-Ohio Valley resident Alan Freeman will be held from 3-9 p.m. May 25 at Cafe Cimino in Sutton, W.Va., sponsored by the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and the cafe. Morningstar, 66, told me a health problem has prevented him from playing the guitar, harmonica and hickory stick at gigs on the road, but he plans to record songs in his studio in Gilmer County. Morningstar’s music career goes back to 1963 in Parkersburg when he played in garage bands, and evolved to performing across the state, in Athens, Ohio, a 13-year run at Bogart’s in Parkersburg, and performing regularly at the Sly Fox and the Front Row in Parkersburg. “I miss the people,” Morningstar said of playing music on the road. Freeman, who now lives in Renick, W.Va., is recognized as one of the best dulcimer players in the country. There will be a buffet, silent auction, open bar and music by Todd Burge of Parkersburg, The Carpenter Ants, Alan Freeman and Robert Shafer, Gray Samples and other musicians at the party. Proceeds will benefit the W.Va. Music Hall of Fame in Charleston. For reservations, call 304-342-4412 or email wvmhof@gmail.com

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com