When I told a friend I was writing about edible wild foods, she shook her head. She manages a Downtown restaurant - food is her business - but she said she just wasn't adventurous enough to grab something outdoors and eat it.

When I told a friend I was writing about edible wild foods, she shook her head. She manages a Downtown restaurant - food is her business - but she said she just wasn't adventurous enough to grab something outdoors and eat it.

She's not alone.

The wilderness scares many people, so it's no surprise that taking a meal from the woods would too. With practice and a few simple tips, anyone confident enough to take a two-mile hike can experience the wealth of nutrition found outside their doorstep.

"You should try it cautiously at first, but you hate to scare people away from eating these things because there's so much out there," said Michelle Comer, a conservation worker and naturalist with the state's Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.

"Every study I've read says that [wild edibles] are more nutritious than their domestic counterparts."

Wild foods were once staples of the American diet, and today homespun recipes and folklore abound for most natural plants hidden in plain sight.

Dandelions, which were originally brought to America as garden crops, can be added to salad, sauteed with olive oil and brewed for tea. A branch of elderberry hung from the door keeps witches at bay, while its fruit is often used in pie and jam. Even that pesky invasive species garlic mustard can be eaten raw.

During summer mornings, just as the sun comes up, I'll grab a few supplies, head to a quiet wooded place and come back with some tasty treats.

I'll generally take a field guide from the library, a digital camera to double-check IDs and a few collecting sacks. Old pillowcases work well, as plastic bags seem to speed up wilting.

Here are three recipes that require little preparation and use wild plants easy to recognize. You'll be foraging in no time.

Wild Ohio Salad

1 gag of store-bought field greens

20 garlic mustard leaves, chopped

10 tender dandelion leaves

5 dandelion flowers

Red clover heads to garnish

For those who already enjoy a salad of field greens, this is a great introduction to wild foods. You can add small amounts of wild edibles, see what you like and go from there.

Berry Good Milkshake

2 scoops vanilla ice cream

4 ounces milk

10-15 wild berries

A productive mulberry tree at my old German Village apartment was a consistent summer treat. This recipe also works with blackberries and black raspberries, both common in Central Ohio. Simply combine the ingredients and blend.

Indian Lemonade

4-6 staghorn sumac berry clusters

1 gallon cold water

Sugar to taste

Maple syrup, cinnamon and cloves (optional)

Place berries in cheesecloth and swirl in water. Remove cheesecloth and berries, sweeten and add ice. Flavor lies on the berry's surface, so don't wash them first. Thanks to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for this one.

Box:

Safety First

- Never put anything in your mouth unless you're certain what it is. Start with easily identifiable plants and use only the parts (leaves, berries, etc.) suggested.

- Know the life and development of fruit, nuts and wild plants. Sometimes a plant is delicious during one month and poisonous the next.

- Ask for permission before foraging on private property. Most state and local parks regulate what can be taken, so be sure to ask a ranger.

- Don't collect near highways, drainage ditches, railroad tracks or brownfields. These areas can contain high levels of chemicals, even if they've gone unused for years.

- Don't eat any food that comes into contact with lawn chemicals in your yard.

For more outdoor adventures and foraging tips, click to the Venture blog at ColumbusAlive.com