The Woods and Fields are a Table Always Spread

Ila Hatter, a direct descendent of Pocahontas, is an amazing mountain woman. She integrates the wild plants into her daily life and is a powerful educator in their favor. After delving into my family history, and getting a good deal on a rental car, I was set to get in a visit to meet Ila near the Cherokee Reservation and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our relatives (Pocahontas and Thomas Savage) grew up as brother and sister, with Pocahontas naming her son Thomas. It is said the two shared a close relationship….Ila and myself certainly share a love of the plants! is Ila’s official website. She and her husband Jerry have produced some beautiful educational media on wild foods. Ila has a great gift of including much of the folklore about the plants she highlights. Her video’s Wild Edibles & Medicinals of Southern Appalachia and Mountain Kitchen, as well as her cookbook Roadside Rambles: A Collection of Wild Food Recipes are available for purchase through her website. I love her motto: The Woods and Fields are a Table Always Spread!

Ila published a recent article in The Tennessee Conservationist about Wildflower Lore. Here’s an excerpt from Ila’s article, “The white Trillium grandiflorum was thought (by the Cherokee) to be an effective love potion. A maiden mixed it into the bowl of stew she was taking to the chief’s son she fancied. But on the way to his lodge she tripped and the mixture fell into the bowl of an ugly old man who followed her for weeks begging her to marry him. So if there is a moral, it’s to watch your step when resorting to love potions to attract a lover. Mountain superstition says if a woman picks a white trillium, it will rain. It certainly did on that Indian maiden’s expectations!”

My Mom says that the trilliums were blooming when I was born. I was lucky to find these trilliums (photograph above) on the Cherokee Reservation. Although trillium’s are sometimes noted as having edible spring greens, please do not do so unless in a survival situation. Some species have been placed on the endangered species list, many have been hit extrememly hard by our overabundance of browsing deer, and it is said they take nearly 20 years to flower.

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2 replies
  1. linda clark
    linda clark says:

    I live in west Tn. We are trying to learn plants to teach my nice her school lesson from.could you plese help me do this. Thank you Linda Clark.

  2. sunny
    sunny says:

    Hi Linda,

    I would suggest clicking on Ila’s schedule on her website, along with Doug Elliott’s website to find out when they’re upcoming classes are. I don’t live in your area and don’t know of any set curriculum surrounding wild food plants in your area. You’ll have to make it up as you go. This is a living tradition, that usually gets passed on via stories and direct experience out in the woods. You can do it!

    cheers, ~sunny


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