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SEARCH EDIBLE WILD PLANTS BY:
woods Western woods
Mountains Desert/Prairie Seashore
The Seasons Winter Spring Summer Fall
Food type Nuts, Bark, Roots, Leaves Berries/Fruit
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Wild Foods Found Around Water
Cattails (Typha latifolia L.; Typha angustifolia L.; Typha domingensis Pers.) Zone 1.
We can find many useful plants near the water like cattails. There are two species of cattails common to North America. The major difference is in the width of the leaf. A broad leaf is a Typha latifolia, a narrow leaf Typha angustifolia. Southern Cattail is T. domingensis.
Food Preparation: Cattails are a versatile food stuff. The roots, new shoots and flowering heads are edible. In the spring, simply find the shoots, reach down into the mud and pull. Peel off the off the outer leaf and underneath is a tender tongue of cattail. Saute this delicate core for 3-5 minutes in butter. Deeper in the soil is a long root where the cattail was attached. The root core is an excellent source of starch. Eat the starch raw as quick energy food or better yet, crush the roots in cold water and leach out the starch. The starch may be added to soups and stews as a thickener.
About mid June the male flowering head of the cattail located above the female flower spike may be stripped into a plastic bag. This high protein flower extender will keep in your refrigerator for eight months or use it immediately.
Here's a recipe.
Medicinal: chopped roots of cattail have been applied to burns and minor cuts. For more health and herbal tips, read the "Herbalist" by Joseph Meyer.
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale R. Br.) Zone 1
Collect watercress from a clean water source, a high land stream or a free flowing spring. Watercress, nasturtium officinale is a pungent spicy green, an important ingredient in V8 cocktail juice and one of the most useful greens know to humankind. In the north, it is available ten months a year. South of the Mason-Dixon line it is a year round food.
Food Preparation: Scramble chopped
watercress with eggs, put it on a pita sandwich, saute it or make watercress
Duckweed (Lemna spp.) Lemna trisulca L. Zone 1.
Duckweed is a green slime that covers ponds in mid summer. Upon close inspection, the green water cover is a small plant called duckweed from the family Lemnaceae. The root hairs suck nutrients from the water. Duckweed is edible.
Food Preparation: Blend it in your favorite soup recipe. Make certain you puree the duckweed and cook it because it is tough and may be harvested from polluted water. In is best in cream soups.
Recipe: DUCKWEED SOUP
Wash duckweed thoroughly. Recipe feeds four.
-One cup of broccoli
-Chop a 2 cups of leeks.
-One cup of celery.
-One cup of broccoli
-Two tablespoons of chopped Oriental ginger
-One large vegetable bullion cube.
-Two tablespoons of soy sauce
-One tablespoon of sesame seed oil
-One cup of low fat sour cream
Saute in a cup of water and two tablespoons of olive oil the duckweed and vegetables. Cook at a simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool. Then puree in a blender. Add the pureed vegetables to the pan, stir in two cups of water, the bullion cube, sesame oil and soy. Raise heat. Then stir in the cup of sour cream. Adjust seasoning to taste. I sometimes add a tablespoon of fine chili sauce or satay sauce. Serve hot.
Medicinal: The Chinese use Lemna to treat
hypothermia. It also relieves flatulence and is used to treat acute kidney
infections. For more medicinal uses of duckweed and other herbs, read Dr. Duke's
"Handbook of Medicinal Plants" from Quarterman Press.
Reedgrass, Common Reed (Phragmites communis )
Syn: Phragmites austalis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud. Zone 1.
Reeds are found around the margins of streams and in wet low lands. The root of reed grass, like cattail roots, may be harvested and leached of its starch. The first shoots of spring may be eaten raw but are best steamed until tender.
Food Preparation: Simply chop the new shoots to a manageable size, place them in a steamer. They are ready to eat in five minutes. Here's the catch...The outer sheath may be tough and inedible. Slice open the shoot and use your two front teeth to strip into your mouth the inner edible, soft tissue core. You may with mixed success strip down the shoot to the softer tissue then saute or steam.
In the fall, seeds may be stripped, crushed and cooked with berries or ground into flower or cooked in whole gruels and soups. Add this to your favorite cooked cereal: seven and twelve grain cereals. Mix these seeds with flax seeds and walnuts into pancakes or waffle mix.
Scirpus acutus Muhl ex Bigelow.
This aquatic plant has edible stems, seeds and roots. It is used by Native Americans to make baskets, balls (for children) mats, lids, handles and charms.
Food Preparation: Inner pith of young stem, or inner pith at the base of the stem eaten raw or cooked.
Go to photo to learn more.
White Turtle head (Balmony) and Deer tongue
Chelone glabra L. and Chelone sp.
Food: You won't find these covered as edible plants in many books. Go carefully.
Young shoots and leaves were boiled, steamed and then, typically fried. Parboiling of these plants tenderizes, removes some of the bitterness. Frying with grease improves the flavor. As food said to increase appetite.
Leaf tea may treat indigestion.
Caution: Go conservatively. You must follow this plant through the seasons. As it looks very different in the spring as shoots vs. in the fall when in bloom.
Medicine: Cherokee used the flowers in infusion to treat worms (anthelminthic) and to lower fever (febrifuge). Floral infusion also said to be laxative. Ointment for aerial parts (flowers and leaves) used on piles, external ulcers, herpes, breasts. Infusion to treat jaundice (chologogue)
Preparation: Infusion : fresh plant parts one:one fresh herb in water (grams to ml). Dried aerial parts 2:1 infusion.
Folklore: Iroquois used infusion of crushed root as anti-Witchcraft medicine. Malecite and Micmac used this plant and others as a contraceptive to block pregnancy.
Wild Rice (Zizania aquatica) Zone 1.
Wild rice is a tall grass found growing in shallow, clean water. It looks like reed but has a broader seed head. It typically grows in large colonies.
Harvesting: The seeds may be harvested in August and September. Timing is critical. Check your stand of wild rice often. Mature seed drop off easily. Return every other day to maximize the harvest. I paddle my canoe into the rice growth and use my paddles to beat the rice off the plant into a large sheet draped over the front two thirds of my canoe. The rice when lifted in the sheet will take a surprisingly small space as they nestle closely together. To thrush the husk from the seed, use a rolling pin. Simply row back and forth (not too hard) over the grain.
Go to recipe.
(Nuphar lutea ssp. variegata (Dur.) E.O. Beal ) Zone 1.
This plant is a dominant species in most northern and eastern waterways. It has an attractive yellow flower. The primitive looking fruit bears what I think is the only edible part of this plant.
The flower blooms through the Summer.
Food Preparation: The large root stock may cut free and boiled although it smells like an apple, it is a bitter pill to swallow even after two or three changes of water when cooking.
POPPED NUPHAR SEEDS: The seeds may be dried and ground into flour or prepare them like popcorn. Place the seeds in a popcorn popper, cover the machine so the small seeds don't become airborne. The results are usually disappointing. The seeds simply pop open. Serve them with a pinch of salt, olive oil and butter blend.
Fragrant water lily (Nymphaea odorata Ait.) Zone 1
Many water lilies are edible. Note the plate-like leaves and floating blossoms. Pioneers ate the unfurled leaves and the unopened flower buds. The flower pedals may be eaten with salad greens.
Arrowhead, Wapato, duck potatoes (Sagittaria latifolia Willd.) Zone 2.
Arrowhead or Wapato, Sagittaria latifolia, has an edible tuber attached to its root. Don't confuse this plant with arrow arum which is a toxic look alike. Arrowhead or Wapato leaves are palmate. That is all veins run out from a single source like fingers on the palm of a hand. Arrow arum has pinnate veins. Note how veins run out from the mid-rib that dissects the leaf.
ROASTED TUBERS: Arrowhead tubers require much effort to dislodge in their deep, mucky hideaway. Wear a pair of waders, and used a long handled hay fork. Pry deep in the muck and "worry" the tubers out of the mud. Once dislodged they will float to the surface. Peel the tuber, slice them in half. Toss in olive oil. Roast them under a broiler in an oven or grill. Eat like a potato. The arrowhead tuber may be harvested in the fall, winter or spring.
Yellow and White Marsh Marigold, American Cowslip
Caltha palustris L. and Caltha leptosepala DC. ssp. leptosepala var. leptosepala
Food: C. leptosepala not considered edible. Caltha palustris has edible seeds and leaves.
Preparation: Leaves must be boiled in two changes of water then fried in butter, olive oil or the like. Bring the first pot of water to a boil, boil 2 minutes, pour off water and repeat one more time.
Many tribes boiled then fried the leaves with animal lard and animal meat and ate them. Boiling is said to break down the toxic protoanemonin.
Medicine: White Marsh Marigold chewed and poulticed on wounds, external inflammations...Okanagon and Thompson all used the plant this way.
Caltha palustris roots were boiled, mashed and applied as a poultice to inflamed wounds. Decoction of plant was taken to treat colds, diaphoretic and expectorant action. Root decoction was considered emetic. Powdered root used to treat scrofula. Leaf infusion considered cathartic, laxative. Root emetic. Cooked leaves and stalks considered diuretic.
Pickeralweed (Pontedaria cordata L.) Zone 2
Pickerelweed, the leaves and seeds can be eaten. Eat the seeds like nuts. The leaves are most tender in the spring while they are unfurling beneath the water. This, however, is not first or second rate food.
Food preparation: Cook it as a pot herb. The flower petals may be added to salads.
Description: Pickerelweed veins spread from a single source at the base of the leaf and converge at the top. Compare this to the toxic arrow arum leaf.
Dock, Swamp dock (Rumex orbiculatus Gray) Zone 2
Dock and Swamp dock are survival greens. Too tough and bitter to eat when mature. But may be steamed or boiled when it first emerges. Several species of dock, swamp, sour, curled and yellow, produce edible seeds in late summer.
Caution: Restrict the amount of dock leaves you eat because of the high tannin content and oxalic acid content. These chemicals may be harmful to the kidneys when eating in excess.
Rose (Rosa sp.) Zone 1.
There are several species of wild rose. Their flowers give rise to the famous fruit rose hip, an excellent source of vitamin C, available in late summer and autumn.
Food Preparation: Rose petals and rose leaves may be dried and used for tea. Too delicate for my taste. But a few decorative rose petals are excellent in summer floral salads.
(How to make rose water)
Elder (Sambucus canadensis L. (eastern); Sambucus callicarpa (Coast red elderberry/West); S. microbotrys (Mountain West); S. melanocarpa( Mountain West) and S. racemosa L. (Mountain West) may all be of the same species. Sambucus cerulea Raf. of the West has sweet edible berries.
WARNING: S. callicarpa; melanocarpa; racemosa, microbotrys of the Mountain West and West Coast have inedible red berries that can be made into wine. Seeds are poisonous and can induce vomiting. Avoid this fruit.
American elder thrives along the edges of streams, bogs and
other wet lands.
Recipes: Frittered Elder Flowers or Elderberry pie also make Jelly from the cooked and strained juice.
Healthtip: I like to dry elderberries in late summer and early fall in my food dryer. The dried berries can be added to stir fry, bread recipes and pancakes/waffle mixes. The fruit is rich in bioflavonoids that are antioxidants and capillary protectants...They also improve blood circulation to distal areas of the brain, feet, hands.
Also see: Louseworts: Pedicularis spp.
Purple Pitcher Plant
Sarracenia purpurea L.
INEDIBLE: The Purple Pitcher Plant, although not edible, was used by Native Americans as medicine and for the utility of its unique vase like shape. The cup was used as an emergency water holder. Children used the leaves like cooking pots, a hot stone could be dropped in the vase like leaf to heat water, boil meat. Herb was also dried, powdered and sprinkled over a person as a love potion.
Medicine: Modern herbalists and Naturopaths tout pitcher plant decoction for stimulating the immune response. Native Americans used the roots or leaves in decoction to treat numerous ailments. Root tops were boiled and taken for urinary problems (Penobscot, Algonquin, Tete-de-Boule. Algonquin considered the roots diuretic in decoction. Pulmonary problems including blood in the sputum was treated with the root decoction. Malecite used the aerial plant infusion for treating tuberculosis. Leaves were used in decoction by several tribes to treat womens' gynecological problems, including difficult menses. Root decoction was used to help expel afterbirth. These uses suggest uterine stimulating effects. Leaf infusion used as an antispasmodic and febrifuge. Root infusion used by Micmac as a gargle to treat sore throat.
Nuts/Edible and Medicinal Seed, Leaves Bark & Roots
Okay, let's look at some trees, shrubs, nuts and berries:
Live Oak, oak
Scotch Pine, Pinus sp.
Tamarack , Larix laricina
Tuliptree, Tulip poplar
Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh.
American chestnut although rare may be found in botanical gardens and secret hideaways. More common is the Chinese chestnut. Do not confuse these trees with the Buckeye or horse chestnut. Chestnuts may be removed from their spiny husk, then crack the protecting shell and eat fresh whole, sliced, as a meal (ground), or roasted. Try them roasted in stuffing for goose, turkey, duck or chicken.
Native Americans dried then ground chestnuts and used the meal to make bread. I like it in gravies, stuffing, cooked in a soup. Try roasting the nuts, grinding them and making coffee. A tamale can be made with ground chestnut and cornmeal, delicious. I like them mashed to meal, then mixed with dried currant, dried cranberries and cooked in my 7 grain hot cereal. Nut meats are delicious in potato soups, corn soups and various chowders. Try them added to hominy or mixed in corn bread. Smash a few nuts and mix them in sweet potato soup or mashed potatoes.
Hazelnut, Beaked hazelnut
Description: tall shrubs, small trees. Leaves to 5 inches, coarse, toothed (double toothed). Nuts in a bristly husk. Often found as under story, rich soil preferred. Edge of woods, fen, marsh.
You have to beat the squirrels to these, favorite nut of the fox squirrel. Beaked hazelnut is abundant in southern Michigan. Washington State known for their cultivated hazelnuts. Wild strains here and there in between. Remove husk, roast and eat. Not bad raw.
Nuts can be ground into nut flour, great nutritional boost to bread, pancakes, waffles. Try cooking nuts in soup, stews and with game. Hazelnut bread is popular in Washington. Nuts can be dipped in honey and roasted, messy, but good.
Oaks and acorns
Description: This is
a large genera with species worldwide. In the United States, I prefer the acorns
as food from the oaks that have rounded instead of pointed leaf lobes. White oak
(Quercus alba), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa); swamp chestnut oak (Quercus
michauxii) and chestnut oak (Quercus prinus) are good examples from the Eastern
United States. The Chinkapin oak or yellow chestnut oak (Quercus
also has sweet acorns. Out West look for Gambel's oak (Quercus gambelii); blue
oak (Quercus douglasii); Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana). Oaks with leaves
that are pointed have more tannins and are too bitter to consume even after
special preparation. The best way to get acquainted with oaks and learn how to
identify them is to visit an arboretum. There the oaks will be labeled and
identification is facilitated. Armed with this visual proof you will be more
successful in the bush gathering nuts for the winter.
Cooking tips: Chinkapin, chestnut oak, and bur oaks have sweet nut meat. All oak nuts can be improved by an overnight soaking in fresh water. Native Americans would shell, crack or smash the acorns then place them in a skin bag and soak them in a stream for a day or two to remove the tannins. Tannins in acorn meat embitters the taste. Tannins are water soluble phenolic compounds that are leached away in the stream, thereby the water bath sweetens the nut. A quick fix in the kitchen is to puree the acorn meat in water. Use a blender and combine one cup of water with every cup of nut meat. Blend thoroughly. Then press the water out of the nut meat through a clean pair of panty hose, cheese cloth, or clean white sock. Note: A dirty white sock imparts an objectionable flavor to the nut meats. I like the acorn puree on baked potatoes; over tomato sauce; in all baking recipes, or out of hand as a snack.
Pharmaceutical uses: White oak has tannin rich bark. Tannins are antiseptic and astringent. Native Americans and pioneers made a tea from the bark for mouth sores, burns cuts, and scrapes. The bark was considered by many a panacea. We now know that tannins in oak and tea may provide cancer protection and are under investigation. Ethnobotanist Moerman reported how Iroquois scraped powdered bark from the healed over broken branches of oak and sprinkled it over the navel of infants to heal the area after removal of the umbilical cord. Red oak bark decoction was used for diarrhea, the tannins once again account for the reported effectiveness of this remedy.
Pine, White Pine (Pinus strobus L.), Pinyon pine, (Pinus edulis)
Scotch Pine, Pinus sylvestris
White pine needles may be made into a tea. I take a handful of needles, crush them, then add them to a gallon jar of water containing mountain mint, lemon thyme and lemon balm. Squeeze in juice of 1/2 lemon and let infuse in refrigerator for six hours. Uplifting! Pine pitch can be used to seal wound, it is antiseptic, disinfectant. Seeds from cones may be eaten.
Pinyon pine has edible seeds. this tree grows at higher altitudes in the Mountain West. Especially prevalent in the "Four Corners" area.
Scotch Pine: Oil from needles of pine shoots used to treat (According to Commission E) blood pressure problems; colds; coughs and bronchitis; fevers; oral and pharyngeal inflammations; neuralgias, and to prevent infection. Presence of antiscorbutic quantities helps prevent scurvy (historical traditional use of pine needle tea). Essential oils are active components: alpha and beta pinene, germacren D.
Personal: I brew a tea from all of these pines, mixed with lemon balm, mint, fennel and lime juice, enervating, anti-infective. This brew is made by cold infusion...(see Herbal Preparations)
Sugar maple (Acer Saccharum) Red maple (Acer rubrum)
Big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) (1) (2) (3)
Description: Trees found across the United States and southern tier of Canada. Many leaves have the basic form of Canada's national emblem emblazoned on their flag. Crowns of trees are broad and rounded in the open. Bark is smooth when young and furrows with age. Leaves are typically three lobes. Red maple leaves have red petioles, distinctive. Seeds have the characteristic helicopter blade appearance and fly accordingly.
Cooking tips: The seeds may be eaten, but are poor tasting. Pluck the seeds from the helicopter blade husk and cook like peas, or stir fry. You will soon have your fill of them. Maple sugar and maple syrup from the winter and spring sap is what these trees are all about. A maple sugar mill near you has taps or information on where to purchase them (they'll probably sell or give you a few). Use a brace and 3/8 inch bit to drill through the bark until you hit hardwood. Clean the hole thoroughly, then use a hammer to drive in the tap. Sap flows best on warm sunny days after a freezing night. In southern Michigan, tapping begins in late January and continues until the sap runs dark and thick and stingy in early April. Trees under ten inches wide use only one tap. Larger trees you may use two or three taps in a circle around the tree. Use a covered pail to collect the sap. If you are going to boil the sap down on an open fire make certain your wood is dry and presents very little smoke. Smoke will give an undesirable flavor to the syrup. I use three pans over a long and narrow fire pit. I pour the sugar water from pan to pan as it cooks. Pan number one receives the fresh water from the trees, pan two will receive the reduced water from pan one and pan three receives the further reduced water from pan two. Pan three, of course, will have the thickest, richest water. Boil the syrup in pan three until it coats a spoon.
Pharmaceutical uses: Maple syrup is a glucose rich sugar substitute with the added benefit of numerous minerals. I prefer it as a sweetener over refined sugar which has no minerals. Traditionally, maple syrup has been used to flavor and sweeten cough syrups. The unfinished fresh sap is considered a mineral rich tonic. I store a couple gallons in the freezer and keep one in the refrigerator as a water source that--for flavor and nutrition--beats all those fancy spring, geyser, artesian, minerale, Frenchie, stuffed shirt water sources served in prissy clear plastic bottles with sports tops for suckling infants (I wonder if my editor caught this vagrant gaff?)
Author's Note: A few other trees that may be tapped for sap include: black walnut, white, black and yellow birch. Grape vines climbing high into the forest canopy can be cut (to save the tree) in the spring and they will provide copious amounts of mineral laden water.
Barberry, Common and American
Berberis canadensis P. Mill., (American) and Berberis vulgaris L. (Common)
(Photo, recipes, most text)
Uses: Thorny shrub of open woods, with tear drop leaves in whorls, round to ovate berry.
Food: Berries cooked and juiced, dried and powdered for mush, jelly.
Medicine: root bark for mouth sores and sore throat, like other Berberis and Mahonia spp. decocted leaves a liver tonic.
Note: Branches form natural hooks and fasteners.
There are several species. Blackberries that ripen in mid and late summer. Leaves are alternate compound with 3-5 leaflets. Trailing, spiny shoots that form spiny shrubs. Stems are green to dark green. Flowers are in white clusters.
Health Benefits: Like raspberries black berries contain ellagic acid and bioflavonoids that are antioxidant, capillary protectants, circulatory enhancers, improving blood flower to distill areas of the body. Both soluble and insoluble fiber makes them good choices to prevent atherosclerosis.
RECIPE: Here is a low calorie, high nutrition breakfast made with raspberries or blackberries or both. Mix two cups of berries with 2 cups of low fat sweetened vanilla yogurt. Add a dash of milk and blend. Here's a wonderful ice cream substitute with only half the sugar and fat.
Blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) Zone 1.
Blueberries are available from early summer through September. There are several species of blueberries found in highlands, low lands, open lands and wooded areas. Plants are from one foot tall (alpine and Maine) to twelve feet. Leaves are alternate, yellow/green. Pinkish flowers are tulip shaped, or urn shaped on dense, terminal clusters. Round blue to blackish fruit.
RECIPE: For a simple blueberry treat, pour a bowel of frozen blueberries and cover them with half-and-half, cream or whole milk. If dieting, use low fat milk. This frozen dessert sets up quickly and is ready eat--a refreshing, cooling, low sugar world class treat.
Wild Cherries: Black Cherry, Choke Cherry
Black Cherry: Prunus serotina Ehrh.; Chokecherry: Prunus virginiana L.
Black cherry has an edible fruit, the bark of the tree is rough, scaling, peel the bark and the wood looks reddish underneath. Leaves ovate to lance shaped, toothed, smooth on top, mid rib vein underneath has hairs. Leaf is also paler underneath. Berries are black. Whereas choke cherries are reddish. Both berries hang from long, drooping racemes. Chokecherry is a smaller tree or shrub (black cherry may reach over 80 feet). Leaves are more oval, sharp toothed, sharper teeth than black cherry leaf with no hairs on midrib. White flowers on thicker raceme. Bark of wild cherry when freshly torn is aromatic, whereas chokecherry is not.
Food: Bark, root leaves inedible because of toxic glycoside Prunasin, hydrocyanic acid. Fruit of both plants edible. Makes excellent jams, preserves. Put on cereal....Do not eat seeds. may be dried and frozen for later use as a trail food.
Medicine: Chokecherry: Given toxic nature of plant parts, except fruit, Native Americans and pioneers used bark infusion as external wash. Black cherry: inner bark used as a flavoring and therapeutic for colds, sore throats, diarrhea, respiratory infections and congestion as well as inflammations internally and externally. CAUTION: USE ONLY PHARMACEUTICAL GRADE, PROFESSIONALLY PREPARED FORMULATIONS OF THIS TREE.
Gooseberry (Ribes spp.)
Currant, black, American Black Currant, Ribes nigrum, Ribes americanum
Look for gooseberries in woodlands and along the margins of woods. There are several species. Varieties may be spined or spineless: small shrubs along the edges of woods, needing partial shade with spiny branches. Leaves are maple like, alternate. Flowers are small, yellow/green to reddish, singly or in clusters. Fruit is translucent green with spines or smooth early, then turn red to purple when ripe. Harvest in late spring to mid summer.
RECIPE: Cook bristled berries to soften spines. Smooth berries may be eaten out of hand. Make freezer jams by combining these tart berries with raspberries or strawberries.
Chocolate Berry Reprise:
Put a cup each of gooseberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries in a pan (you may use frozen berries). Cook slowly until berries are softened. Cool. Puree berries in a blender. Chill. Scoop into wine cups. First a couple tablespoons of pureed berries, then a layer of no fat whipped cream, then another layer of berries. Finally, a swirl of whipped cream, topped with sprinkles of bitter chocolate.
Hawthorn berries grow in profusion on my brother's farm. They become ripe in late August in northern Indiana. They may be picked and eaten off the tree. Cut in half and dry for later use. De-seeded berries may be used with other fruit or alone to make jams and jellies. If making a jelly seeds need not be removed, a tiresome process. Also, remove the seeds from berries, mash the berries, then fry then in fat to form a cake. High energy winter food. Click here for a hawthorn brandy recipe.
Native American Uses.
Amelanchier canadensis L. and other species
Trees or shrubs ranging across North America. White showy flowers in early spring, followed by black berry. Flowers have five petals, drooping, standout in dark lifeless forest of early spring, very conspicuous. Leaves are tooted, oval.
Berries are sweet to bland. I like them in cereal. Cook them down with honey or maple syrup to make preserves, add lemon or lime juice. My be mixed with other fruit for field berry pie.
Juniperus communis L.
Juniper is a low lying, or erect (depending on the species) evergreen shrub. Berries may be eaten when ripe, but are better used for cooking.
Food: stews, wild game, domestic foul, berries may be made into tea, crush berry first use judiciously, one or two berries. Juniper berries may be infused in to vodka and used in cooking game, sauteing, grilling marinade. Grated it is uses on cold cuts, so try it on vegetated protein cold cuts, like Wham and Mock chicken, soy burgers. Gin, schnapps and aquavit are flavored with juniper berries.
Medicine: Diuretic, extract is in diuretic (Odrinil). Antiseptic, diuretic, cleansing tonic, and digestive aid. Used traditionally to treat arthritis, rheumatism, strongly antiseptic to urinary tract problems, gallbladder but contra-indicated for kidney disease. Possible indication for heart disease, high blood pressure, dropsy. Native Americans used juniper branches around tipis and shelters to fend off rattle snakes. Is uses in Europe for arthritis and gout. Diluted essential oil is applied to skin to draw and cleanse deeper skin tissue. Has been used to increase, promote menstruation (PMS, Pre Menstrual Syndrome, dysmenorrhea).
Traditional Medicinal Preparation: One teaspoon of berries to one cup, boil for three minutes, let steep until cool. Some add bark and needles to berries.
Chemistry: volatile oil: myrcene, alpha and beta pinene, cineole, sabinene. Also diterpenes, vitamin C, resin, simple carbohydrates, tannins.
Warning: use sparingly, beware of allergic reaction. Pregnant women should avoid this herb because it may induce uterine contractions (pregnancy). Don't use if expected kidney infection or kidney disease. Reported uterine stimulating effects. May increase on induce menstrual bleeding. Do not use potent, caustic essential oil internally without the help of a licensed holistic health care practitioner.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng
Forest floor and forest openings, Trailing shrub, prostrate, mat forming. Dark, leathery, evergreen leaves, smooth edged, obovate or spatula shaped. Alpine variety of bearberry has larger leaves. I have found this plant in Michigan, Ontario, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.
Food and Other Uses: Leaves dried and mixed with tobacco for ritual Native American smoke. Berry is dry, mealy, was cooked with goose fat and other animal fats and eaten. Because of the berry's lack of flavor they were often mixed with fish eggs and stronger tasting foods to extend the nutrition. Berries may be dried in a food dryer and smash into flour like substance. First people in the Northwest would use this flower like a spice on meat, liver. Leaves traditionally used in tea as a diuretic treatment for dropsy. Bell a Coola mixed berries in fat and ate them. Berries and leaves as a tea: tonic, diuretic, analgesic. Lower Chinook tribe dried berries then mixed them with fat for food. Native Americans boiled the berries with roots and vegetables to make a soup. typically, First people ate the berries with fish eggs, preferably salmon eggs.
Berries were also boiled to make a grayish to brown dye. Crushed berries used to waterproof baskets.
Medicine: Whole plant infused then mixed with animal grease (goose, duck, mountain goat) and animal hoof (horse, deer) resultant salve used on sores, scalp, babies scalp, rashes. Infusion of aerial parts used as mouth wash, canker sores, sore gums. Leaves and stems ground and used as a poultice over wounds. Infusion of leaves, berries and stems taken orally for cleaning kidneys and bladder complaints (diuretic), analgesic effect on back pain. sprains. Berries eaten or infused with whole plant for colds. Whole plant was also infused mixed with grease and taken for diarrhea. Kwakiutl smoked leaves for narcotic effect. Decoction of leaves to treat victim spitting blood. Dried leaves crushed to powder and sprinkled on sores. Raw berries may be a laxative according to Upper Tanana tribe. Raw leaves may be chewed to quench thirst when traveling. Infusion of plant taken to strengthen bones and bone breaks. Black fish mixed leaves with tobacco and placed in all religious bundles (spiritual healing) . Ritual smoking with dried leaves mixed with tobacco, red willow, skunkbush. Typically, leaves dried, toasted or roasted, crushed and smoked alone or mixed with tobacco.
Leaf infusion best known as diuretic, astringent and tonic.
Recipe: Bearberries and Fish Eggs
-salmon or other fish eggs
-animal lard, vegetable lard
Preparation: Saute berries in grease until crisp. Place berries in cheesecloth or cloth sack, panty hose, and pound to break up. Add fish eggs and stir and pound to mix. Sweeten to taste.
Mulberry (red, black, white)
(Morus spp.) Zone 1.
Not far from the gooseberries are mulberries. There are red, purple, white and black varieties. The darker berries may be of the same species. White berries are Morus alba. Trees may reach 60 feet...Have a broad, rounded crown, but typically caught up in hedge rows where its shape is determined by the competition with other trees and shrubs. Leaves are heart shaped, or lobed, 2 to 3 lobes. Green to yellow green flowers, cylindrical, long fruit.
WARNING: Do not eat the unripe fruit and leaves because they may be mildly hallucinogenic. Ripened fruits are very edible.
Recipe: Mulberries are great right off the tree. Or layer then fresh with whipped cream.
FUDGE: Mulberries, gooseberries and currants may be combined or used separately to make fudge.
Gently cook 1 cup mulberries, until hot. Mash the berries through a fine sieve to separate the juice. Mix in 2 cups of brown sugar, add 3 Tbsp. of butter (I prefer ghee, clarified butter). Then reheat slowly to dissolve the butter. Bring the pan to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir. Let the mixture form a hot soft ball between 235-240 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer.
Then whip the mixture with a wooden spoon for a few seconds. Press the fudge into a buttered pan and cut pieces. Eat immediately or cover and refrigerate. This stuff is messy, when serving kids, have lots of room and sufficient water for clean up.
Dry mulberries in a food dryer and used in cereals, muffins, bread. Juice the berries in shakes or as 100% juice.
Native American Medicine: White mulberry Morus alba L. bark was infused or decocted to treat dysentery and diarrhea from other sources. Bark infusion styptic, antidiarrheal, cathartic. Rappahannock used tree sap of Morus rubra externally as an occlusive skin treatment for ringworm. Morus rubra L. red mulberry roots were infused or decocted to treat worms and urinary tract disfunctions. Root decoction also considered antidiarrheal, cathartic, purgative, stimulant and emetic. Bark decoction was used by Delaware as an emetic. Meskwaki considered the plant a panacea. Alabama infused roots and drank as a stimulant for increased energy. Morus nigra L. bark decoction or infusion considered a laxative. Bark infusion of this plants roots used to relieve acid and bile accumulation in the stomach (stomach acidity).
(Menispermum canadense L.)(poisonous)
Warning: Moonseed is a climbing, berry producing vine that looks similar to wild grapes. Moonseed is distinctive. Break open the berry between your fingers, clean off the seed and behold the crescent moon emblazoned across the seed coat. Avoid this fruit.
Recipe: Wild grapes may be dried in the sun for about three days to make raisins. I used to stick them on foil in the window of my van. In a day or two they would be sun roasted dry.
I crush whole grapes between my teeth and swallow a few grape
seeds when eating out of hand. The oil in the seeds is used for cooking and has
numerous health benefits.
(Vitis spp.) Zone 1.
The leaves and fruits of grapes are edible. They are found nationwide climbing trees, walls and fences. Leaves are a bit maple like, lobed. Vines having clinging tendrils growing form leaf axils. Clusters of green flowers give way to the fruit, which ripens in late August and September.
Grape leaves, especially the young terminal leaves of spring are edible. They may be par boiled for two minutes. Wrap vegetables, rice, spelt, amaranth in grape leaves.
Recipe: Dolmandes...Cut away tough stems, wash, then boil leaves in salted water for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse under cold water.
25 grape leaves
4 ounces half and half wild rice and brown rice
2 cloves garlic
½ cup raisins
optional ½ cup pine nuts
1 t cumin
2 cups water
4 T dill fresh or 1T dried
4 T fresh parsley
2 T chopped fresh mint 1T dried
salt and pepper
Saute onions in garlic, then add rice and cook for five minutes, stirring often.
Next add the pine nuts, garlic, raisins cumin and one cup of water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is soft and cooked. Cool.
Enter and blend the rest of the ingredients: a beaten egg, tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, dill, parsley (also can be used as a garnish).
Line a ten or twelve inch baking pan with grape leaves, cover leaves with water, pour in 1/8 cup of olive oil (or whatever is left) .
Add about one Tablespoon of rice mixture to each grape leaf. Fold leave around the filling. Place the stuffed grape leaves in the pan, with open fold sides down (so they don't come open). You may layer them in the pan, stacking them on top of each other. Squeeze the lemon juice over all. Add another cup of water. Place a plate over the stuffed leaves and simmer slowly for an hour and a half. They may be cooked over a burner or in an oven at 300 degrees. Serve cold or hot.
Mahonia aquifolium Pursh. Nutt.: Mahonia nervosa (Pursh) Nutt. var. nervosa
Description: To six feet tall (Mahonia aquifolium) evergreen shrub, with holly like, shiny leaves, leaves leathery, pinnate, compound, pointed edges. Flower small bright yellow. Berries deep blue, waxy. Gray stem, roots and bark bright yellow on inside due to alkaloid berberine. M. nervosa is a smaller forest dweller with rosette of compound leaves whorl up from the ground. up to three feet tall, berries on central spikes. (photo, recipes, more)
Asimina tribloba (L.) Dunal.
Paw paw's are plentiful as an understory in the forests that border Lake Michigan in Berrien County. there are several hundred trees in Warren Dunes state park. The large elongated but ovate shaped leaves give the species away. The fruit is eaten fresh. Unripe fruits will ripen after picking in a few days or a couple of weeks depending on degree of ripeness. Flavor is intense. But a soft fresh fruit will only keep a couple of days in the refrigerator. The mango like taste of the custard like fruit makes this one of the cherished foods on the planet. Exotic, tropical looking and there it is naked in the snow as I ski by.
Pollination is touch and go from flies and beetles that have gathered pollen form a different tree. The trees are protogynous, that is the stigma of the flower, the female receptive organ, ripens before the pollen, thus the trees cannot self pollinate. hand pollination is accomplished with difficulty do to the tall, frail nature of the tree. Fruits are located about reach, and the frail trees won't hold a ladder safely.
Some seasons the trees fail to bear fruit do to an infestation of Eurytides marcellus and Talponia plummeriana. the latter is a moth whose larva burrows into the flower causing it to wilt and die away. E. marcellus a beautiful butterfly has a larval stage that feeds on the paw paw leaves.
Preparation: The fruit may be eaten with ice cream, blended into shakes, but is best eaten fresh off the tree or off the ground.
(Photo)Shrubs and trees in marshes and thickets. Sometimes thorny. toothed, ovate leaf. Fruit yellow to red, purple to black.
Eat right off the tree when soft and fresh.
(Rubus spp.) Zone 1.
Red and black raspberries may be found along the fringes of woods and the margins of fields. It is spreading a trailing, typically thorny shoots forming 6 foot high shrubs that can make formidable barriers. To the uninitiated look much like blackberries covered next. They have compound leaves with three to seven leaflets. Leaves are whitish or pale green and typically hairy underneath. Whitish clusters of flowers. Raspberries are variable, but when ripe they are easy to pull off the stem leaving a hollow indentation in the fruit, much like a basket.
Wild raspberries are covered with a whitish sheen. This substance is nananone a fungacide. Nananone protects the berry from premature spoilage. It may be beneficial to you. Ellagic acid in raspberries (also in blackberries and strawberries) is anti cancer and is in human trials. One cup of raspberries may provide protection from cancer. Raspberries are high in health protecting flavonoids and disease preventing fiber.
RECIPE: I like my raspberries with frittered elderflowers and beebalm blossoms. Dip the cluster of elderflowers in tempura batter. Fritter in a wok. Sprinkle over powdered sugar. Then cover with raspberries and beebalm blossoms.
A West Coast dweller that ranges from California to the Alaskan peninsula. Salal is a sprawling shrub growing in pine forests. It has oval, shiny, leathery thick leaves. Leaves are alternate, clinging to sturdy stems. Flowers are bell shaped pink to white strung out like pearls, growing near the ends of the stem. The dark blue to blue black fruit is ripe from July through September depending on your latitude, altitude and attitude. A good attitude is a necessary virtue when foraging. Anyway, this plant--like a cat--goes everywhere. Hanging over deadfall, clinging from cliffs, creeping across the driftwood toward the beach salal forms dense thickets, barriers to a hikers progress. So quit hacking and start eating.
The berry can be eaten as you walk along. Take some home and blend them to a jelly and add to maple syrup. Try drying them in a food dryer and use them in muffins, waffles and pancakes. Salal make a fair jelly. I prefer to mix it with blackberry and Oregon grape berries. This combination makes an interesting pie.
Rubus spectabilis Pursh.
This shrub grow to 6 or 7 feet on erect stems laced with thorns. Stems are brown with yellow bark, thorns are weak to soft. Leaflets are fuzzy and usually in threes. Each leaflet about three inches long. Edges are serrated (toothed). Flowers are fuchsia occur as leaves appear in spring. Fruit ranges from bright red to yellowish. Fruit is soft and dry.
I find this berry on Vancouver Island along the path to Botanical Beach. Easy to find, spot the bear dung and there are the berries. This soft fruit (when ripe) melts in your mouth and will melt in your backpack too. So eat it on the hoof as you hike along humming your favorite hiking ditty.
Lindera benzoin (L.) Blume
Native American Uses: Stems and berries used in cold and hot infusion to make tea. Also, a flavoring agent for wild game including: deer, groundhog, opossum. Cherokee used the plant this way as both food and medicine. Very fragrant, aromatic. Makes an excellent fragrant wreath.
Medicine: Creek and Iroquois used the plant medicinally for coughs and colds, typically an infusion of the leaves, bark and ends of stems. Also a favorite in sweat lodge ceremony. Placed on hot rocks as a powerful warrior plant. Considered a febrifuge, diaphoretic and analgesic. Cherokee may have used the plant to induce blocked menstruations. Bark infusion used externally on hives.
(Fragaria virginiana) Zone 1
Wild strawberries may be found in meadows and open woods. Leaves are ovate, larger at the base tapering to a point, toothed. Has white flowers, grows in colonies. Harvest time is June.
Food Preparation: Makes six large muffins.
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3/4 cup white flour and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour)
1teaspoon baking soda and 1t. baking powder
cup black walnuts or English walnuts
4 Tablespoons flax seeds
A favorite strawberry recipe combines one whole seedless orange, peel and all, with a cup of strawberries and a cup of blackberries or mulberries. Add an egg white, a half cup of vegetable oil, blend the ingredients and then mix a cup and a half of flour with half cup of sugar, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. baking soda and a 1 tsp. of salt. Add about c. of raisins and 1 cup nuts: black walnuts are your best choice. Make 6 large muffins. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Here's all the energy and protein you need to kick off a day. Remember, any of the wild berries I describe may be substituted for the strawberries in this recipe.
(Rhus spp.) Zone 1.
Sumac is widely distributed. Usually seen on your bike ride bordering fences and fields, roadsides. This shrub can grow to 20 feet. Leaves are compound anywhere from 11 to 30 leaflets. Leaves are toothed, hairless. Dense cones of white flowers mature to spikes of fuzzy red berries. In the Eastern United States we have dwarf, winged sumac and staghorn sumac. I prefer the heads of staghorn sumac. Collect them before they have been leached by too many rainfalls. Strip the "cotton" covered berries from the heads and stems.
RECIPE: With honey and sumac berries you can make a pleasing summer beverage. Place the stripped berries into a clean sock, simmer the sock full of berries in a pan of water, tasting frequently until you get the lemony flavor you desire. Then sweeten with honey.
Sumac berries soaked in water can be used wherever you need the flavor of lemon. Use the water in cooking. Try it with peas and string beans.
RESOURCE: An excellent field piece for discovering wild fruits and many others is the "Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants" by Elias Dykeman available from Outdoor Life Books, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.
Rubus parviflorus Nutt. ssp. parviflorus
A deciduous shrub, barbed with thorns, erect with shredding to smooth bark. May tower to 7 feet in moist seeps. Leaves are large, maple like. Easy to spot and never forgotten. Found from sea level to over 5000 feet. Predominantly, seen in the Western mountains and coastal areas across the northern tier of states. Found here and there in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. But I get most of mine in the Cascades.
Eat this berry while foraging in the bush. Ripe when soft. Like salmonberry, thimbleberry will turn to "goo" in your backpack. So eat this food as Nature instructed our ancestors: Apply forefinger and thumb to fruit, pull and twist, then pop it into your jaws. No cooking needed. I find these berries at the parking lot on Heliotrope trail, Mt. Baker.
Very good on cereal, tart, crisp and clean as the mountain air.
Medicine: Insect galls found on branches by Thompson's were burned and used to speed healing of navels of newborns. Dried and powdered leaves considered styptic, applied to wounds. Infusion of roots used to stimulate appetite. Decoction of roots said to be beneficial for pimples, black heads. Leaves crushed and rubbed on face to treat acne. Leaf tea a tonic and considered anti-emetic by Kwakiutl nation. Sprouts valued as a tonic in infusion and a source of vitamin C to fight scurvy. Leaves dried as used as a styptic poultice on wounds, burns. Berries used by Blackfeet to treat pulmonary problems. Dried leaves burned and ashes mixed with grease as an external treatment of edema (Skagit nation south of Bellingham, Washington).
(Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.; V. oxycoccos L.) Zone 2.
Cranberries are found in bogs and marshy areas in the Northern tier of Eastern states to include Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, Maine. V. Oxycoccos is a smaller look-alike to V. macrocarpon, typically found in acidic bogs. Both like cool acidic conditions. It's a low trailing shrub, with slender stems, scaly bark. Leaves are simple, smooth, alternate, evergreen. Widely ovate, thickest in middle, whitish underneath. Flowers in sparse clusters or single, pink, urn or tulip shaped about 6mm. Fruits are berries about 3/4 inch round, with red to red blush when ripe. They can often be found where there are pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea L.) and sundew (Drosera rotundifolia L.).
Recipe: Cranberries are a proven urinary tract cleansing fruit. To prevent urinary tract infections drink cranberry juice daily and several times a day if an infection is in progress
Cook whole cranberries then puree them. Use apple cider to sweeten and some maple syrup. Simmer for twenty minutes until mash is soft. Use on toast, side dish, great with turkey, lamb and goat.
Edible Plants of the Sea and Sea Shore
Also: Madrone, Arbutus menziesii Pursh. Lots of medicine and some food uses.
Goose tongue, Narrow leafed seaside plantain
(Plantago maritima L.)
Description: This was a gorgeous discovery a couple years ago as I was scrambling over lava rocks along the San Juan De Fuca trail on Vancouver Island west coast. It was clinging to cracks in the lava outcropping backlit by a sun dropping into the Pacific Ocean (see photo). Goose tongue has long narrow lance shaped leaves growing from a basal whorl, no basal sheath. Leaves are longitudinally, thickly ribbed. They look similar to narrow leafed garden plantain (Plantago lanceolata). Native Americans sometime back in antiquity called this plantain: "goose tongue".
Cooking tips: First, you have to have it fresh and raw while sitting on the ledge with the sea backdrop. It is succulently salty, mineral rich. Next, mix it with some finely sliced kelp and saute it with olive oil and water. Finally, stuff it in the cavity of a cleaned and washed salmon and then steam it in a reed basket, or steam it in the kitchen with a Chinese basket steamer over a pan of boiling water.
Pharmaceutical Uses: Fresh leaves and fresh juice used. They are considered anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. My friend, Native American healer, Patsy Clark chews the leaves and applies them over wounds. In Germany the leaves of members of this genus are simmered for twenty minutes in honey and taken for gastric ulcers.
Warning: Goose tongue can be confused with arrow grass remember arrow grass leaves are flat on one side and round on the other, with sheaves at the base of the leaves, whereas goose tongue leaves have prominent ribs, are more flattened and if you cut the leaf in cross section it would appear flat or slightly V shaped. The characteristic plantain spike of goose tongue is distinctive. Remember foraging rule 1: Follow these two plants through the seasons before eating goose tongue.
Lathyrus japonicus var. maritimus (L.) Kartesz & Gandhi
Description: A marine coastal dweller, dawdling along the upper littoral area of the beach. I stumbled across beach peas on Vancouver Island, a few miles west of Sooke, along a beach that provided splendid glimpses of jumping salmon. Beach pea leaves are compound, even numbered, typically 6-12 leaflets. Each leaflet is tipped with a curling tendril typical of pea family. Opposite leaflets are about two and half inches long. Fruit is pea pod like and hairy about 2 1/2 inches long. Found in sandy upper areas of beach among driftwood and dunes.
Cooking tips: Do like the natives and cook the beach pea seeds in seal oil. If that's not practical cook them with salmon. The new growth (stalks of spring) may be stir fried, boiled, steamed and eaten. After peas flower tender young pods may be cooked and eaten like snow peas. Dried peas may be cooked like coffee, roasted, then percolated (Alaskan Eskimos). Iroquois ate as cooked greens new shoots of spring. Makah and other nations ate peas when immature and tender...cooked.
Pharmaceutical uses: Chinese used this Pacific Rim wild food as a tonic for the urinary organs and intestinal tract. Eskimo considered the peas poisonous...Iroquois treated rheumatism with cooked whole young plant.
Warning: Many members of the pea family are potentially toxic. Make positive identification, eat only small amounts of edible wild foods and follow all foraging rules.
Sea Asparagus, American Glasswort, Saltwort (S. virginica), Slender Glasswort (S. maritima)
Salicornia virginica (L.) S. maritima Wolff & Jefferies
Uses: Plant burned to ash to provide alkali (carbonate of soda) used in glassmaking.
First time I had this vegetable was at the Sooke Harbour House restaurant and Inn on Vancouver Island west of Victoria. I also purchased the plant in the local Sooke supermarket. Later I discovered it growing on Whiffenspit at the entrance to Sooke basin.
Preparation: Eat young, fresh greens, washed, cook like asparagus or puree into soups and stews.
Seaweeds, Kelp, Wakame, Laver
Nereocystis leutkeana (bull kelp), Porphyra, Laminaria, Iridaea
Go to: Native American Uses
Only two seaweeds are considered toxic one is a pelagic tropical floating type and the other can sometimes be found in sub tropical areas. Get yourself a field guide on seaweeds if you do not have an accomplished forager to learn from. Most seaweeds are edible. Seaweed is great food for your garden. Consider seaweed has virtually all the minerals and trace elements we need.
I gather sheets of Laminaria and dry them in the sun. If water quality is good, I rinse seaweed and eat it in the inter-tidal area. To begin your seaweed adventure go to an Oriental market and buy a couple of varieties. Add it to soup and noodle dishes. It's natural mineral and salt content is great seasoning.
Edible Wild Plants of the Mountain West
Mountain mint, Pycnanthemum
White Marsh marigold, Caltha leptosepala
Ash, Mountain Ash, Western Mountain Ash, western Mountain ash
Sorbus sitchensis M. Roemer
Sorbus americana Marsh.
Food: Berries cooked with meat, boiled in soup and used with blueberries when canning. Green berries placed over blueberries. Berries may be dried and stored for later use. Berries like eastern variety best after frost. Berries flavor meats and were used as spice with roasted game.
Medicine: S. americana: tonic, mood enhancer, anti microbial, appetite stimulant: Inner bark and or terminal buds infused for colds, also used to treat mood shift, depression. Buds and inner bark fibers infused for as tonic, strengthening. Inner bark infusion also said to reduce pain after childbirth. Root infusion for colic. Wood ash styptic and useful over burns and boils. Root of sweet flag and S. americana infused together as spring tonic. Fruit used as a digestive aid. Infusion of root and bark taken for rheumatism, arthritis.
S. sitchensis: anti arthritic, anti rheumatic, digestive aid: root infusion for digestion and upset stomach. Okanagon and Colville report that infusion of twigs may stop bed wetting in children. Can be used as a chewing stick for cleaning teeth, warmed twigs used to relieve earache. Twig infusion said to stem painful urination and improve urinary incontinence. Like infusion taken for stomach problems, stomachache. Infusion of young branches to stop bed wetting. Boiled stick, cooled until warm and used in ear for earache. Berries rubbed on the scalp to rid it of lice.
Wood used to make stays and ribs for canoes, snow shoes (frames) lacrosse sticks.
Avalanche lily, yellow avalanche lily, yellow dogtooth violet
On Mt. Raineer spring comes in July for the Avalanche lily. As the snow fields retreat the lilies pop through the melting ice in huge colonies, blooming in a blaze of yellow. This plant is similar and from the same genus as the trout lily (Erythronium americanum) and the white dogtooth violet (Erythronium albidum) of the Eastern United States. The lance shaped leaves grow from a deeply buried edible corm. Leaves are usually two, lance and ellipse shaped, narrowing at base. There is a single yellow flower (sometimes two) on a 7 or 8 inch stem. Found in alpine meadows, high slopes in Western mountains.
Cooking tips: Reaching the corm is a difficult dig, much effort is needed. This is remarkable because unlike me Native Americans did not use dynamite and a back hoe. Consider the Lytton people of Canada gathered about 225 pounds per family for their winter food store. The corm contains the polysaccharide inulin and thus must be cooked to be edible. Native Americans wrapped the bulbs in cattails and reeds then cooked them in a pit covered with earth over which a fire was burned. Ten to twelve hours in the hot pit would render the corms delicious.
Pharmaceutical uses: I believe the inulin rich bulb would be helpful to diabetics. Inulin requires several digestive cleavages before it is reduced to simple, usable sugars. Inulin in burdock root is used for treating diabetics in Japan.
Bistort, Buckwheat and related species
Polygonum bistortoides, Polygonum spp.
Members of the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae are world famous as food and medicine. Edible wild members found in the Americas include: the tasty root of Coral vine (Antigonon leptopus); Seagrape (Coccoloba diversifolia); Wild buckwheat (Erigonum longifolium, E. inflatum and E. latifolium); and buckwheat species (Fagopyrum spp.). Mountain bistort, a smart weed, Polygonum bistortoides is seen growing in open meadows throughout the Western mountains. I've seen it often at Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker, Washington. Bistort root is edible but must be washed to reduce tannin content. Chop and blend the root in hot water. This reduces tannins but also extracts starches, reducing the quality of the food. Polygonum persicaria and other knotweeds, smartweeds are edible but once again require careful preparation and are relegated to the role of spices essentially, as they are unpalatable in large quantities.
Elk Thistle, Meadow Thistle
Cirsium scariosum Nutt.
This thistle is abundant in meadow, alpine and lowlands in the mountain west. Especially abundant around Yellowstone.
Root is eaten raw, boiled, baked. Native Americans pit baked the root.
Pinus ponderosa P.&C. Lawson
Uses: Extremely important tree for food, medicine, ceremony and building. Go to PHOTO/MORE.
Blackfeet used the dried sticks as "Indian Matches" twirling them between palms to start fires. To learn this method of fire starting see our video: Survival....Also check out the survival section in this database for more fire starting skills.
Lousewort, Pedicularis sp.
White Bog Orchid, White Rein Orchid, Plantanthera dilatata (Pursh) Lindl. Ex beck var.
Shooting star, Dodecatheon
Clasping leaf (clasp leaf) twisted stalk, also: Owl Berries, Witch Berries, Frog Berries Streptopus amplexifolius (L.) DC
For More Mountain Plants See berries and nuts for more wild foods of the Mountains
Edible Plants of the Yard and Meadow
In quick order, here are some wild useful herbs that you can serve in the kitchen and you can grow them around the home.
Go to: Amaranth, Amaranthus
Shepherd's purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
Shooting Star, Dodecatheon sp.
(Taraxacum officinale L.)
Description: Ubiquitous lawn dweller. Long, lance shaped, toothed leaf from a basal whorl. Yellow composite flower with numerous rays. Long bitter tap root.
All dandelion parts, leaves, crowns, roots and flower petals are edible. The seeds are the favorite food of the goldfinch. Dandelion leaves are best in early spring before they flower. Old, bitter leaves may be improved by soaking them for a hour or so in a bowl of water with a teaspoon or so of baking soda mixed in. Dandelion leaves are high in A, C and B vitamins. The crown of the plant, the whitish area just below the leaves and above the roots may be deep fried. First, cook crowns in your favorite tempura batter, then deep fry. Try it, you'll be glad you did. Dandelion tea made from roots has been used as a laxative, blood purified and diuretic. Recent evidence suggests that dandelion tea may rejuvenate the alcoholic's liver. Another interesting source book about herbal pharmaceuticals is the "'Barefoot Doctor's Manual.' from Running Press.
(Stellaria media (L.) Cyrillo)
Chickweed is a common ground cover and an excellent food. It may be eaten raw of cooked. Dr. Duke tells me that chickweed is a cure for obesity but alas like so many herbal remedies, he has used it with little success. Anyway, sprinkle the flowers in with the leaves when preparing a salad. Stewed chickweed with rabbit, chicken or beef. Just add 4 c. of flowers, leaves and stems to the pot. Mix in your favorite stewing herbs into the bird, bunny or, in this case, beef roast and then brace yourself for a magnificent feast. We are doing this one pit style. Place a clutch oven in a hole, cover it with cattail leaves and 2-3 inches of muck or earth. Build a fire over the pit and then cook lunch over the fire. The roast underneath will be done for dinner
Along the fringes of my lawn in the shady areas are violets-several varieties. Violets are cultivated in France for perfume. This is an incredible edible. The leaves are high in vitamin C and A. I use both the leaves and flowers in salads. Keep in mind that late season plants without flowers may be confused with inedible greens. Play it safe. Forage this plant only when it is in bloom.
I’ve Got a Crush on Violet
I have a crushing case of spring fever. I am in love with Violet again. Pansy is looking good too. But only Heartsease well cure what ails me. So lets eat all three. Violets, Heartsease, Pansies are edible and in the next few weeks they will be available in a garden or woods near you.
Blue woodland violets of the Viola species, family Violaceae are popping up in the forest. They should be popping up in your garden or along the shady edges of your lawn. The plant is an edible perennial. It’s native. It looks good, tastes good and is good for you. Viola is one of the best sources of vitamin C, with ample amounts of potassium, vitamin A and health protecting bioflavonoids. The showy flowers are edible and the leaves provide free food for weeks. It is a cinch as a transplant. Move it to a underused shady place in your lawn and get out of the way. Start plucking and eating the leaves as they emerge. Flowers are only a few days behind. The bloomchens look great on a salad, they will surprise and please your guests. Also, violets may be added to soups (a floating garnish) and stir fry. Dry flowers in a food dryer and keep them handy to infuse into teas. Woodland violets spirited to my garden from the wild present me with free, organic food fresh from my "Five Minute Garden".
Medicine: The cooling, fever reducing properties of violet flowers and leaves can be gained by mixing the with salad greens. In traditional medicine you have a spring tonic, a blood purifier, detoxifier, mild laxative and diuretic. Pansies were eaten to treat respiratory infections. They are slightly mucilaginous helpful with whooping cough, bronchitis. Native Americans used the tea of the whole plant to treat rheumatism. As a food and medicine violets are considered nutritive, anti-inflammatory and expectorant. Fold practitioners claim the plant to be good for fibrocystic breasts, both internally and externally applied (unproven). Other sources suggest as a food and medicine it may be helpful for hemorrhoids and varicose veins because of high vitamin C content. Bioflavonoid content may strengthen capillaries (rutin) preventing capillary fragility. I have and autoimmune disease, Psoriasis, this is a good food for my diet. It is healing both internally and externally. Traditionally used externally for eczema, varicose ulcers.
Chemistry: rutin (bioflavonoids) High in vitamin C, A and Potassium.
CAUTION: ROOTLETS AND RHIZOME OF VIOLA SPECIES ARE NOT EDIBLE. POISONOUS LOOK-A-LIKES INCLUDE DWARF LARKSPURS, DELPHINIUM TRICORNE AND MONKSHOOD, ACONITUM UNCINATUM.
Note: Do not eat African violets.
If you Like Violets, You’ll Love Pansies
Pansies and Johnny Jump Ups are also edible. Pansies like Viola tricolor (heartsease) are bland but beautiful on a plate. They have similar properties to wild violets. They may be candied. My candying process is to whip up some egg white. Then take a tablespoon of vodka and dissolve sugar in it until it is saturated and won’t dissolve any more sugar. Mix a tablespoon of vodka/sugar with a tablespoon of egg white. Use a clean artist’s brush to paint the vodka/sugar/egg white onto pansy. Put sugar in a salt shaker, and shake sugar over the moist flower. Sprinkle some sugar on a sheet of wax paper and place the candied flowers on the paper to dry.
Johnny Jump Ups are edible and make a delicate decoration on cakes, waffles, pettifores, pies and the like.
Fresh edible flowers of all kinds are available year around from the flower lady, Nancy Baker and get her catalog: e-mail: Live plants and seeds may be purchased from Richters, the herb specialists at .
(Cirsium vulgare L.)
Did you ever step barefoot onto one of these? Ouch! This is bull thistle, a biennial. These barbed leaves are the first years growth. The roots may be boiled and then sliced and stir fried. Wear gloves when harvesting roots and leaves. Strip off the spines with a knife. Without the armor, the leaves may be eaten raw or cooked. The flavor is similar to celery. Harvest leaves in both the spring and fall. In summer the flower petals may be sprinkled over salads. According to Duke, some folks steam and then eat the outer green bract around the flower heads like artichokes. The Chinese use thistle teas and decoctions to treat appendicitis, internal bleeding and inflammation.
Plantain is another favorite medicinal of the Chinese. Barefoot doctors use the whole plant in a tea to clear fever and promote healing. Plantain is best harvested before this flower stalk appears. New leaves keep coming all year. Use young tender leaves in salads. Soak older leaves in dilute salt water for 10 minutes and then steam till tender. The dried seeds may be eaten whole or ground into flour. According to Duke, seeds and their husks may serve as a gentle laxative.
Lamb's Quarters, Pigweed
Chenopodium album L.
Lambs Quarters are found in fields, on waste ground and in just about everyone's garden. A healthy lambs quarters plant may cling 3 ft. tall; but it is the young tender leaves and tips that produce the best salad greens. For a nutritious snack, add seeds to your favorite bread or muffin mix. As a pot herb, boil lambs quarters for 5 minutes with mustard greens and dandelion greens.
Native American Nutrition
This garden volunteer found crowding its way into
cultivated plots across the United States. It is a national wild food treasure
for Native Americans. Typically, the seed heads are eaten while in bloom or when
mature. A close relative of Lamb's Quarters is Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa).
Both plants are members of the goosefoot family. Chenopodium quinoa is an
edible primal grain that you can purchase in health food stores and 7th Day
Adventist markets. But Lamb's Quarters is my favorite. The leaves are edible as
well as the seed heads. Lamb's Quarters leaf tea was used for treating
stomachache, scurvy, diarrhea. A wet pulverized mass may be poulticed over
burns. Before applying the mass to the burn site, the victim chews the leaves
mixing in saliva and the mouth antibiotic defensin. As food, Lamb's quarters
leaves may be added to salads, stir fry, steamed in wontons with quinoa, carrots
and burdock root.
There's a restaurant in Cuernavaca, Mexico called Los Colorines that serves Lamb's Quarters on the stem. Lamb's Quarters in Mexico are called Huanzontles. This food gets to the roots of primitive culinary arts. First, the seed and flower laden stems are steamed. Then dipped in egg white and dredged through Masa or flour. Finally, they are pan fried in olive or canola oil. A red sauce is prepared from tomatoes, peppers, lime juice, garlic, onions, salt and pepper. Eating Huanzontles is a kid thing. The stem is pulled between your teeth to strip off the protein and essential amino acid rich seeds, flowers and leaves.
Try Lamb's Quarters with beans. Prepare your favorite bean soup. Then steam Huanzontles seed heads for about three minutes, then strip them into your soup. The seeds complete the balance of essential and non essential amino acids in the bean dish.
In my garden, Lamb's Quarters keeps coming all year. A plant may reach 12 feet in heigth, providing a spray of seed heads ample enough to feed ten people. Most plants range in the three to four feet range. Cut off a seed head and the branch bifurcates providing two new heads. Like the biblical loaves and fishes, Huanzontles doubles it production every time you harvest it.
Here in Michigan it's November. In my garden is a seed laden Chenopodium several times frosted by advancing winter. So today I leap back into primal history: cutting the ripe seed heads with a sharp stone, steaming them and stripping them through my teeth. With a plate full of Huanzontles an Aztec doesn't have to kill his fellow man for protein. The protein is in the plant. Vegetarians and all God's creatures sleep safely tonight.
Glechoma or Ground Ivy, Glechoma Hederacea L. is available all year long. TThe leaves may be dried and steeped in hot water for about 10 minutes. Some like this tea, not me. Not much to it. Cherokee used an infusion of leaves to treat colds.
Hen bit looks like ground ivy but is an erect plant. It is found around the fringe of fields and the edges of yards. The young leaves and flowers of spring may be added to salads. Cook the whole shoot in vegetable soups and stews.
Author's Note: I have included milkweed as an edible plant because many people eat it.
Like pokeweed, milkweed is potentially dangerous without special processing and cooking preparation. All parts of the plant may contain heart stimulating cardiac glycosides. I recommend you not eat milkweed unless it is prepared by a knowledgeable and experienced forager. There are several species, some more edible than others. There is poor documentation on appropriated preparation. I would only eat this plant in a survival situation where no other food was available.
Cooking Tips: All edible parts of this
plant are best cooked. I eat the young shoot, unopened flower buds and thrice
cooked seed pods. It is safest to steep plant parts in at least two changes,
preferably three changes of water to reduce cardiac glycoside content, a
potentially toxin. Poke weed or simply
Poke may be found
growing on waste grounds almost anywhere in the United States. The very young
leaves as they first emerge from the ground are edible; but only after cooking
them in at least two changes of water. The root, stems and berries of this plant
are poisonous. Be cautious with this plant. Don't eat Polk unless you are
foraging with a knowledgeable botanist.
More Yard and Meadow Food
Okay, back to my yard. This is pepper grass. As a kid I used to munch on these seeds. You may add them to a salad. The young leaves when they first emerge are edible but bitter. Use them sparingly.
Wild asparagus (photo) is typically found along roadsides and fence rows. Best pick it away from the road where it won't be tainted with benzene, lead, oil and other auto pollutants. Discover your wild asparagus crop in the fall when the large adult plants are easiest to see. Mark the spot then come looking for the good stuff next spring from late April through May depending on your latitude.
Cinquefoil (photo) grows in my yard and may be found in fields and on waste ground. The leaves make an herbal tea that taste wise ranks right down there with rose hip and ground ivy. The fact is, pioneers used the bitter teat as a gargle and mouthwash.
Wild carrot (Daucus carota) (photo) is a biennial. The second years growth gives rise to the flower many call Queen Anne's lace. The root of this plant smells and tastes like domestic carrot but is tough and woody. Make certain before using carrot that it has the characteristic carrot smell. There are some poisonous look a likes but only carrots smell like carrot. Wild carrot is good in vegetable stew. It imparts the carrot flavor and if you eat carefully around the roots pithy core, there is substantial soft tissue to devour.
Burdock (Arctium sp.)(photo) is a common garden nuisance. In June or July dig the first years root of this biennial. Peel the roots and cut them into thin strips. Boil the strips in water. If bitter, use two changes of water. Serve hot under a pat of butter and a dollop of sour cream. A mock celery soup may be made with the young leaf steams of burdock. Add burdock, wild carrots and wild onion to chicken stock. Cook, season and serve. Be certain to harvest the roots in the fall, winter or spring of the first year. the second year's root is too tough and bitter.
Jerusalem artichoke (photo), a member of the sunflower family, produces a large edible tuber. This plant may be found along roadsides. Add the tubers to your garden and you will have a substantial food source that will continue to reproduce year after year. Harvest the Jerusalem artichoke roots in the fall, spring or winter. The tuber may be sliced and eaten raw. It has a taste similar to water chestnut. This plant is worth looking for. Other members of the sunflower genus bare edible seeds in later summer and early autumn.
This is chicory (photo), a common resident along the shoulders of rural roads. The young leaves are edible although bitter. Down New Orleans way they dry the root of chicory, grind it and blend it with coffee.
White or weeping willow (photo) and black willow here, sometimes called marsh willow, have received much notoriety lately as a medicinal. According to Dr. Duke, salicin from willow may have a better anti-inflammatory action than aspirin. Willow tea may be made from a sprig or this case a bundle of willow sprigs. Drop the willow cuttings into hot water, steep for 1 minute. Here is a relaxing brew that may sooth the backache or take the edge off an aching head. But be careful. Too much salicin may be dangerous. Consult your physician before trying this tea.
Stinging nettle (photo) is a common resident along roadside fields and wooded areas. The vine here contains a skin irritant. This chemical is destroyed when the plant is cooked. Stinging nettle is an excellent pot herb. Cook it with wild carrots, wild leaks and dandelion greens with a little soy sauce. Old plants may be boiled. Throw away the plants and use the nettle stock for soups or refreshing vitamin reach drink. Don't confuse the hairy stinging cells of nettle with the thorny and poisonous horse nettle, a member of the potato family .
Mullein (photo). is often seen growing in vacant lots. A close up looks and behold, the velcro of the bush. I use these hairy leaves to rub out the pain of stinging nettle. Native Americans lined their moccasins with the warm wooly leaf. A tea from the leaves and flowers of mullein has been used to treat coughs, colds and bronchitis.
This is wood sorrel (photo) the leaves, flowers and seeds have a sour taste. Add flowers, seeds and leaves to salads or brew them into a beverage. A few words of caution, however, use this plant sparingly. Excessive consumption may inhibit the absorption of calcium in the body. Cheap sorrel like wood sorrel may also inhibit calcium absorption.
Wild onions (photo) and wild chives grow in fields or disturbed land. Relocate chives to your yard. It will come up faithfully year after year. The whole plant may be chopped into salads, soups, chili and stews. Likewise for wild garlic if you are lucky enough to find this elusive plant. There is some evidence that eating wild onions, wild garlic or wild chives may reduce blood pressure and lower blood sugar.
In summer you can spot day lilies along rural roads (Photo). Dig up the bulbs and transplant to clean soil away from auto pollution. The flowers may be added to a summer salad. Buds may be steamed, boiled or deep fried. Serve with butter or cheese sauce. Firm root tubers may be harvested all year. Add them raw to salads or cook like a potato. A word of caution. Use this plant when in bloom. Early growth closely resembles the poisonous iris plant but the yellowish tubers of day lilies are distinctive.
Common milkweed (Photo) is sometimes eaten as a vegetable but the sack contains toxins. Cattle and sheep have died from milkweed poisoning so I discourage experimentation with this plant unless under the guidance of knowledgeable forager who has had experience with this plant.
Ground cherries and tomatillas (Photo) are another garden side nuisance or attraction depending on your point of view. Sometimes called lantern plant because of its lantern-like husk, ground cherries may be harvested when ripe, usually August of September. Any time earlier and they may make you sick. Like other members of the nightshade family, its probably best to avoid this fruit.
Goats beard (Photo) looks like a large dandelion. The root is edible, first boiled and then fried. It's not that good. Not worth the trouble.
I always get one or two prickly lettuce (Lactuca canadensis) plants (Photo) sprouting up my lawn. A couple hundred years ago the distilled a weak opium-like sedative from this plant. It was used as a cough suppressant. The blanched leaves are bitter. They definitely won't impress dinner guests.
Red clover (Photo) here has rose purple flower petals that may be eaten raw in salads or batter fried. Skilled herbalists have used this plant to treat cuts, burns and skin problems such as psoriasis.
Spiderwort (Photo) like red clover is common along roadsides. The young shots and leaves may be eaten but are very mucilaginous. Or as my daughter puts it, they are slimy. The flowers may be added to summer salads. They are pungent, strong tasting, however.
Comfrey (Photo) is an herb that takes naturally to a pond. Found on low ground and moist places, the tender young leaves may be cooked like kale or spinach. Keep in mind that comfrey leaves contain traces, perhaps insignificant, of a carcinogen but by all means do not eat the roots.
Let's close this section with a member of the mint family (Mentha sp.) (photo), peppermint. Peppermint like spearmint may be found along the margins of the marshy low lands, streams and lakes. It has a square stem like most members of the mint family with opposite leaves that are sharply serrated. Identify the plant by crushing the leaves and stem. Note the strong aromatic odor of mint. The leaves may be used to flavor cold drinks and hot teas.Garlic Mustard (Alliaria officinalis) also called Jack by the Hedge and Sauce alone has heart shaped leaves and is a common dweller of roadsides and margins of the woods (see photo), Garlic Mustard is an alien North American plant that has spread like wild fire across much of the country. Young basal leaves of late fall and early spring are edible when cooked. Best when young and cooked in small amounts with other potherbs. Leaves of summer are impossibly bitter. Springtime arrow shaped leaves may be a cautious addition to salads, from sweet to bitter. Seeds taste like mustard.
Goldenrod flowers, Solidago spp., Asteraceae, (photo) may be steeped into a tea. Bland.
S. canadensis L. seeds possibly eaten as food by Gosiute first people. Roots may have been eaten by Kayenta and Navajo.
Medicine: Flower head infused to treat diarrhea. Decoction of roots considered an aphrodisiac. Okanagon (Colville) tribes used infused stems to lower fever. Steam bath or bath with aerial parts of plant considered sedative.
Also: Sheep sorrel, Rumex acetosella L.
Edible/Medicinal Plants of the Eastern Forests
Bellwort, Sessile Leaf, Uvularia sessilifolia L.
Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata L.
Plantainleaf sedge, Carex plantaginea Lam.
Birch, Paper Birch and yellow birch
Betula papyrifera Marsh. Betula alleghaniensis Britton
Food: Birch species are provide seed and edible bark for wildlife. The trees can be drilled like maple to draw sap. Sap may be boiled to thicken, or drink it right from your collecting bucket. The wood of yellow birch is dark brown to reddish brown , heavy, hard, close grained excellent for snowshoe frames, canoe frames, sledges. Strong wood. The tree is found throughout the upper eastern part and Midwest of the United States and the southern portion of Ontario. It prefers wet but well drained areas.
Paper birch is fast growing. A tree found in the Northern Midwest, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and a few northern northeastern states. Seeds are important for wildlife (see more). the wood is used to make souvenirs, pulpwood for paper. The tough bark is peeled and stretched to make birch bark canoes. Canoe frames are white cedar and pine and balsam resin are used to seal seams.
Medicine: Betula papyrifera bark powder was used for diaper rash, other skin rashes. The Cree used the bark powder to treat chapping, venereal disease. Ojibwas used it for treating stomach cramps. Outer bark used to cover wounds (Poultice). Wood was boiled in water and drunk as a lactagogue. Decoction of ends of stems and new growth for toothache, teething. Inner bark used for treating diarrhea (in decoction). decoction of new growth tips of branches in tea or decoction as a tonic. Stomach cramps treating with decocted root bark mixed with maple syrip. Bark also used to make cast for broken limbs, wrapped and tied around limb. Hot water was applied to make birch bark cast shrink to support broken limb. Sap in soring used to treat coughs.
Other: bark used to make canoes, baskets, shelters, great fire starter,. Rotten wood burned and used for smoking foods. Root bark used as tea, infusion. Birch bark used as a preservative slows spoiling of food.
Diospyros virginiana L.
Persimmon trees are found as far north as the protected temperate areas of the Great Lakes.
Food: Native Americans fermented this fruit in water to make an alcoholic drink. Fruit was rolled in cornmeal and soaked in water. Fruit is edible late in the season when the cold takes the "pucker" off its taste. Pudding is made from the fruit and is delicious (for recipe see Trees, Shrubs, Nuts and Berries video).
Medicine: Astringency of fruit made for a sore throat gargle after infusing mashed fruit in water. Bark was chewed for gastrointestinal stress, acid reflux of the stomach.
Spring beauty, Indian potato, mountain potato
(Claytonia caroliniana; C. lanceolata and C. tuberosa)
Description: Found in rich, moist woods, Spring Beauties are about seven inches tall, with narrow lance shaped leaves growing from the ground where they are attached to an acorn sized, fleshy corm. Spring beauties emerge early in spring, bloom. They may carpet the forest floor. After blooming the leaves die off . Flowers are in lose terminal clusters numbering from three to eighteen. Flowers are about a centimeter across and are light pink to white, or white with pink veins. The plant can be found throughout the East and across the northern tier of states and the Mountain West.
Cooking Tips: The brown skinned corm is eaten. Peel the skin, wash and eat raw or cooked. Try it on the grill with roasted vegetables. Roll the corms in a little olive oil, then roast for about 8 minutes until brown. I also eat the flowers in small amounts, bland. Every Spring I start my daydream engine by gouging a few of these corms out of the ground with a digging stick. Then I plop on a suitable log and peel the corm's skin with my thumb nail. From my canteen I splash a bath of water over the exposed flesh of the tuber and plunge it into my mouth. As the sweet nut-like flavor permeates my taste buds, I imagine myself free, a primal beast, unleashed from the restraints of taxes, e-mail, deadlines, financial needs and the incessant ticking of the clock.
Hepatica or American liverwort (toxic) (Photo) is one of the first flowers to bloom in March or April. Small amounts of the roots and leaves of this plant have been used to treat indigestion and disorders of the kidney, gallbladder and liver. Beware, however, large amounts of hepatica are poisonous. Use of this plant is reserved for a skilled herbalist .
Skunk cabbage (photo) smells like its name. The flower is a primitive spathe covering a spadix. Skunk cabbage roots are occasionally used as medicinal. First they must be thoroughly dried to reduce the burning oxalate to harmless crystals. Herbalist make an infusion of the tea from the dried root. According to Malcolm Stewart in his book, "The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism', skunk cabbage root is most commonly used as a mild sedative. Be advised, the plant is poisonous and juice from the fresh plant may cause skin blistering and will severely burn the digestive tract if eaten. Again, only experts should handle this plant .
The leaves of marsh marigolds (photo) sometimes called American cowslip have been eaten as a pot herb in the spring before the flowers open; but this is risky practice. They must be cooked in several changes of water because they are very bitter. For my money, not worth the time or trouble. In view of the caustic nature of this plant, it is best to avoid it .
Medeola virginiana L., (photo) has an edible tuber.
Medicine: Medeola virginiana L. from family Liliaceae produces berries that Native Americans used as an anticonvulsive. Dried leaves and berries were given to youngsters and babies in infusion. Root tea also used as a diuretic to treat congestive heart failure.
Jack-in-the-pulpit (photo) or Indian turnip (toxic) is found in rich soils, generally a woods or shady low land. Like skunk cabbage, this plant contains calcium oxalate and is not edible raw. Indians used to slice jack-in-the-pulpit roots and dry them deactivating the calcium oxalate. The dried root was then sliced, cooked and eaten like potato chips .
Mayapple (toxic) (photo) is another common plant of the woods that for the most part is poisonous. The fruit is edible in the summer when soft and ripe. Knowledgeable foragers cheerfully gather the ripe fruit and use it in pie fillings and jellies. Remember, this plant is poisonous except for the pulp of the ripe fruit.
This (photo) very young ground cover is jewelweed or spotted touch-me-not. In the spring jewel weed may be eaten raw, steamed, saute or stewed. The sour flowers may be candied and deep fried. The soft parts of jewelweed, the flower, stem and leaves may be rubbed over your skin as an antidote to poison ivy or stinging nettle.
Spring beauties (photo) bloom in May in rich, wet woods. Note the delicate cluster of flowers and lance-like leaves. Native Americans and pioneers loved this edible. At the root is a small tuber called a corm. Peel the outer skin off before eating. This is great trail food; but like so many spring, your window of opportunity is short. Spring beauties are available for only a few weeks in April and May. Come June or July there is no trace of the plant above ground.
Next a couple of look-a-likes. Solomon seal (photo). True Solomon seal has flower umbels in the notch of each leaf. False Solomon (photo) seal has a flower spike at the top of the plant. The young shots of full Solomon seal are said to be edible but berries may be emetic. That is, they may cause you to vomit. Root stocks of fall Solomon seal are inedible. Young shoots of true Solomon seal are fair as a trail food steamed or cooked with mixed vegetables. This plant should be judiciously sampled. Large quantities may be harmful. Inside each fruit are several seeds that may be transplanted into your herb garden. This is a beautiful herbal that needs little care and has a different look each season. For naturalists who would like to start a wild flower garden, Harry Phillips, book, '~Growing and Propagating Wild Flowers" is a must available from the University of North Carolina Press.
Bloodroot (photo) was used by Native Americans to produce a red dye. The dried root was also used to induce vomiting. But ingesting bloodroot may be fatal. Never eat this plant. Also avoid getting the red juice of the plant in open wounds, a caustic and painful mistake.
There are several varieties of trillium (photo). The leaves and flowers are said to be edible but for my taste members of this genus are too pretty to eat. Trillium and related species are excellent transplants. Get permission from the land owner and then dig up the entire plant with at least an 8 inch earth ball. Locate in the shade in rich soil. (Native American Medicine)
Not far from water, usually on a shady bank in a wet woods, you may find rams or wild leeks (photo). Here's a premium quality food. The leaves, stems and bulbs are edible. Marvelous in stews and soup or simply saute in the wild. In this case, with cattail shoots.
Fiddleheads (Pteridaceae family) (photo of fiddleheads) are the unfurled leaves of ferns. They may be eaten raw or steamed. I prefer them saute or deep fried. A word of caution, however, some ferns such as bracket fern may cause stomach cancer. eating fiddleheads may also lead to thiamin problems. Best avoid these plants (See other useful ferns: sword fern, deer fern, maidenhair fern)
This is wild ginger (photo). In May, the primitive flower emerges. The root may be crushed and added to salad dressings. When dried and grated, it is an adequate substitute for oriental ginger. For the daring gourmet, try boiling the root until tender then simmer in maple syrup for an unusual candy treat.
Over here is wild anise (photo), commonly called sweet cicely. Note how sweet cicely is similar in appearance to water hemlock. Get expert identification before using this plant. The root of this plant has a sweet anise odor. Use the root to spice up cooked greens. I've heard the leaves are occasionally eaten by diabetics as s sugar substitute (More).
Partridge berry (photo) is a tiny creeper found at the base of trees in wet woods of the northern and central U.S. and Canada. The bland berry ripens to bright red in late summer. It's a tasteless trail food with little or no bulk. A hard time survival berry but available all winter long.
In the spring, you can find Rue anemone, Anemonella thalictroides (photo) on high and dry wooded areas. At the base of this spring bloomer is a spicy root tuber. I have used this tuber in soups and munched it on the trail. There is little documentation as to its edibility so let prudence be your guide. Don't eat rue anemone until authoritative information becomes available.
Wintergreen (photo) There are several species of this plant in North America. This is creeping wintergreen or checkerberry found in the eastern half of the U.S. The flower forms an edible berry that turns from white to red by late summer. They may be available all winter. If not gobbled up by late season foragers. Add the summer fruit to pancakes and muffin mixes. The leaves make a delicate tea or munch them as a breath freshener.
Cleavers or goose grass (photo) may be found in woodlands, along streams and in vacant lots. Also called bedstraw, cleaver leaves may be added to salads in early spring but tough mature leaves must be cooked.
Grey Morel mushroom (photo) (Morchella esculenta) and Black morel (Morchella elata) may be found in April and May in many wooded areas, pine forests and old apple orchards. Morel mushrooms may be harvested. But be careful, as you know, many mushroom species are deadly. Forage with an expert. Seen here are small gray morels. The gray and black variety here may be eaten raw or prepared in a million other ways. The giant puffball is found on rich soil in shady areas. It may be cooked like an edible mushroom; but before eating, cut it open and be certain its flesh is white and not yellow. Also avoid this plant if gills or a rudimentary stem are inside.
Puffball (Lycoperdon species) Edible fungus. Not prime stuff, but worth collecting, breading and frying in butter. Also important Native American Medicine and used today to stop bleeding: wounds, nose bleeds and the like.
The trout lily or dogtooth violet (photo) has mottled leaves. The young leaves may be boiled for 10 minutes and eaten but we can't guarantee they are salubrious. The real beauty of the trout lily is in the eyes of the beholder. As a food stuff it's best left alone.
Toothwort, cut leaf toothwort, (photo) has a spicy, pungent root stock. There are several species in North America. Eat the roots of toothwort as a trail food or chop the root into garden salads.
Spring cress (photo) is a slender erect plant with white flowers found in woods and open areas in early spring. Use the young leaves and flowers in salads. The root stock may be grated--a spicy horseradish substitute. Winter cress may be used in the same way but is less desirable.
American ginseng (photo) is a prized medicinal. Saponin is the active ingredient of ginseng root and has perplexity properties. Some saponins raise blood pressure. Others lower it. Some raise blood sugars. Some lower it. Obviously, more research is needed.
Evening primrose (photo) is found on wastelands bordering wooded areas. The flowers, roots and seeds are edible. Plant parts containing gamma linolenic acid or GLA. Some folks claim GLA may cure or prevent acne, alcoholism, obesity and schizophrenia. I don't know about that but evening primrose flowers taste great and are less filling. Dip flowers in egg whites. Roll them in sugar and then deep fry.
Ground nuts (photo) are found in moist thickets. They are climbing vines. Begin digging at the ground where the vine enters the root. Follow the root and collect the tuber. there will be four or five maybe more. The tuber is 15% protein. Be certain to look up ground nut in your field guide. Note, the seeds may be prepared like lentils.Also see: Louseworts: Pedicularis spp.
Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana L., Hamamelidaceae (Photo/more)
Native American Uses: Twigs and inner bark used in infusion to treat colds, pain, sores, fevers, sore throat, tuberculosis. Used by Cherokee, Chippewa, Iroquois, Mohegan, Menominee and Potawatomi covering the whole range of the plant east of the Mississippi River. Infusion of twigs also used to treat dysentery and bloody dysentery, diarrhea. Tea used externally to treat arthritis. Decoction of new growth tips, leaves and sprouts (shoots around base of plant) used as a blood purifier or spring tonic. Young end tips used in decoction to treat colds and coughs. Root and twig decoctions were considered a panacea, a cure all for just about any ailment: bruises, edema, cholera, arthritis
Insect bite treatment: Infusion of twigs washed on insect bites.
Primal Decoction Technique: First people dropped hot rocks in a skin bag of water and drug. Gourds and pottery were used in the same way. A fire heated rock is lowered into the water and drug combination and an instant boil occurs. Drug can be added after water comes to boil.
Louseworts, Pedicularis canadensis L.
Wild or Spotted Geranium, Geranium maculatum L.
Edible Plants of the Western Forests
For western berries see berry section
Deer Foot, Vanilla Leaf, Sweet After Death
Achlys triphylla (Sm.) DC.
Description: Common forest dweller in Coastal Range, Sierras, Olympic, Vancouver Island forests south to Mendocino, California. Found in shady, moist forests. Single leaf with three fan shaped leaflets, roundly toothed. Spreading rhizomes form dense masses. Extensive logging chokes out the existence of this plant.
Uses: Flavoring agent, insecticide, pioneers used leaves as freshener in water used to wash clothes. Dried leaves mixed with pipe tobacco.
Food: Not edible. Evidence suggests that pioneers may have used this plant as a flavoring agent but with the presence of coumarins we do not recommend eating it until scientific evidence is gathered to prove it safe.
Chemistry: Presence of coumarins.
For medicinal uses see more.
Alder, Sitka Alder
(Photo and main text)
Description: Shrubs or tree located throughout North American mountains, especially the Northeast, northern Midwest, and the Pacific Coast and Western Mountains.
Uses: Smoking, dye, curing meat, various medicinal preparations.
Cedar, Eastern White Cedar and Western Red Cedar
Thuja occidentalis L. and Thuja plicata D. Don
Food: Primarily used for making cooking boxes, planks for flavoring plank style cooked salmon and cooking utensils.
Cedar is a male warrior plant used by Native Americans in sweeping and smudging rituals to cleanse the body of evil spirits. Northwestern tribes made fine cedar boxes for cooking and storage. Europeans use the wood to line chests and encasements because of the fine fragrance and insect repulsing chemistry of the wood.
Thuja occidentalis, Eastern white cedar or Arbovitae is found throughout the northern tier of states and Ontario to Newfoundland/Labrador. Found in alkaline soils, swamps, lowlands, coastal areas of Lake Superior. Red squirrel eat buds in spring and cut seed laden branches for winter forage. Hare, moose and deer browse the leaves. Porcupine eat the bark and may inadvertently girdle a tree. Seeds are eaten by the pine siskin a small finch of north eastern evergreen forests.
Medicine: Thuja occidentalis: The branches and leaves are a favorite aromatic to be placed on hot stones in a sweat lodge. As mentioned the smoke is used for smudging. The branches for sweeping. The name Arborvitae (translated: tree of life") was given by the French when they discovered First People used the bark and leaves to treat scurvy (tea). Eastern tribes like the Algonquin steamed branches to treat colds, fever, pleurisy, rheumatism, toothache. the fruit was infused into water for treating colic. Chippewa scarified (pricked) charcoal from the burned wood of the plant into temples to treat headache. Leave and bark juice was pricked into skin to treat dizziness, headache. Boughs were used as snake repellent. Leave tea as mentioned for dysentery and scurvy. Ojibwa uses the smoking branches for smudging, a ceremonial cleansing ritual. a decoction of the leaves was used by this tribe as an analgesic. Potawatomi smudged leaves for purification, to repel evil spirits. Leaves were poulticed by Penobscot over swollen hands and feet. (Videos, books on NATIVE AMERICAN MEDICINE and LITTLE MEDICINE.
Thuja plicata a magnificent tree, tall, thick, a giant of old growth forests in the Northwest. Prefers moist bottomland with deep rich soils. Heavy seed crops are produced every three years. Fertility is reached at about 20 years of age. Very durable, decay resistant wood.
Thuja plicata: Was used in similar ways as white cedar. Cedar boxes were also make to steam salmon and other foods. Boxes had lids, hot rocks were placed on wet plants, often skunk cabbage leaves wrapped around salmon. The trunk of this tree was used to make totem poles, canoes, lodges. The inner bark was used to make baskets. Cedar boxes were used for making seaweed more palatable. Red laver, Porphyra perforata, was decomposed for 5 days, then pressed into wood frames and dried in the sun. Hence they were transferred to cedar boxes and layered with chiton spittle (tidal mollusk with armor like scaly shell) between layers. That is they chewed chiton meat then spit it on the seaweed. The boxes were secured for about a month and then this ritual preparation was repeated three more times. Finally, the cakes were packed in cedar box with cedar boughs and used as winter food. Often eaten with salmon at Potlatch feasts.
Spring beauty, Indian potato, mountain potato
(C. lanceolata and C. tuberosa) (photo)
Description: Found in rich, moist woods, lower levels of Western mountains, coastal forests. Spring Beauties are about seven inches tall, with narrow lance shaped leaves growing from the ground where they are attached to an acorn sized, fleshy corm. Spring beauties emerge early in spring, bloom. They may carpet the forest floor. After blooming the leaves die off . Flowers are in lose terminal clusters numbering from three to eighteen. Flowers are about a centimeter across and are light pink to white, or white with pink veins. The plant can be found throughout the East and across the northern tier of states and the Mountain West.
Cooking Tips: The brown skinned corm is eaten. Peel the skin, wash and eat raw or cooked. Try it on the grill with roasted vegetables. Roll the corms in a little olive oil, then roast for about 8 minutes until brown. I also eat the flowers in small amounts, bland. Every Spring I start my daydream engine by gouging a few of these corms out of the ground with a digging stick. Then I plop on a suitable log and peel the corm's skin with my thumb nail. From my canteen I splash a bath of water over the exposed flesh of the tuber and plunge it into my mouth. As the sweet nut-like flavor permeates my taste buds, I imagine myself free, a primal beast, unleashed from the restraints of taxes, e-mail, deadlines, financial needs and the incessant ticking of the clock.Also see:
Devil's Club, Oplopanax horridus (Sm.) Torr. & Gray ex Miq.; Araliaceae
Louseworts: Pedicularis spp
Madrone, Arbutus menziesii Pursh.
Mountain Ash, Sorbus sitchensis M. Roemer
Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
Desert and Prairie
Pinyon pine (pine nuts)
Also see TEXAS
(Photo and more information)
Agave sap or water is edible, drinkable, but is best made into pulque or tequila. The sap is used for treating and sealing wounds. Cortez dropped his axe half through his thigh, and surely would have died had not the Mesoamericans stopped the bleeding and sealed the wound with Agave sap, honey and charcoal.
Agave water is captured by cutting the fleshy stems out the center of a mature Agave plant (about six feet high). The resulting hole fills with sap that may be used as potable dringing water. To see this process and discover how pulque is made click this link: Agave.
Amaranthus retroflexus L.; Amaranthus sp.
Food: Young shoots and leaves eaten raw, cooked or dried and reconstituted in hot water for winter food. Seeds used whole as cereal food (cooked). Seeds ground into flour. Seeds used whole in bread, muffins etc. Small black seeds used to make pinole with cooked corn meal and water (see our video Native American Medicine). Leaves and seeds mixed with grease cooked and eaten. Seeds of amaranth may be purchased at 7 Day Adventist supermarkets and many health food stores. Quinoa and Amaranth seeds great primal grain, just as God and Nature designed it.
Native Americans sacred ritual plant mixed with green corn in ceremonies.
Prosopis juliflora, P. pubescens
(Photo and more information)
Mesquite beans and pods are edible as are screwbean mesquite. Sweet and juicy when ripe, with many seeds. Wood is used for smoking meats and roasting. Not as good as grape wood, but darn' near.
Prickly Pear cactus, Opuntia
Prickly pear cactus leaf pads (leaves are spines) may be stripped of their spines, roasted, peeled and eaten. Simply, through the pads on hot coals. the heat will burn off the needles and soften the skin. Peel skin and eat inner flesh. This fleshy pad can also be pickled or sliced into salsa, omelets, huevo rancheros specifically.
I have eaten the flowers of several varieties with no ill effects. I understand that Native Americans of the Mexico eat the flowers. There is no written documentation on this...So be careful.
The purple fruits are edible, but seedy. Prickly pear jelly is very good.
Yucca filamentosa; Yucca sp.
(Photo and more information)
Yucca flowers are edible. The young seed pods may be stir fried.
Medicinal: Used for liver and gall bladder cleansing.
Chemistry: steroid saponins: gitogenin and tipogenin.
EDIBLE WILD PLANTS OF THE SPRING
What follows are a few of my favorite wild foods of Spring.
Also: Sheep sorrel, Rumex acetosella L.
Adrian's saddle is a Spring polypore mushroom high in polysaccharides providing immune system stimulation. When broken or cut gives off the faint smell of watermelon. I like to cut it into small pieces in stir fry with nettle, dandelions, watercress, leeks and violets.
Both root and leaf stems are edible in the Spring. Slice the root in long thin strands. Inulin rich providing immune system stimulation...Called gobo in Japan.
These roots sell for about $5 per pound. Grow them in a shady part of your garden for free.
Typha latifolia, T. angustifolia
Cattails shoots and roots are good now. Grab the shoot firmly in your hand and jerk straight up to loosen them from the root. Use a space to dig up root.
The shoots can be sauteed in olive oil and soy sauce. Or stir fried in Italian dressing.
Roots can be pounded in water to release starch. Use starch as a thickener for soups.
Chives are plentiful for the picking in the spring and late winter. The clay fields in April along the Ohio river just east of Madison, Indiana are fragrant in the pungent odor of chives. Chop them into salads, stir fry. Put the flowers in egg dishes on salads.
Dandelions leaves, roots and flowers are available. Eat all three. Leaves are vitamin rich. Throw them into salads (small amounts until guests get used to the stronger taste). Flower petals may be sprayed over rice, salads, stir fry. Root can be chopped and simmered in water for a bitter digestion improving tea. This is a great tonic plant to clear the toxins of living indoors through the winter.
Evening primrose leaves and root may be eaten in the Spring. A bit strong tasting but phytochemical rich and nourishing.
Lamb's quarters are breaking through the soil in my garden by May. These delicate new shoots and leaves of Spring are best, clip and put them in salads, stir fry, steam.
Allium tricoccum L.
My favorite wild allium. Conspicuous for only a few short weeks in the spring. Baked, steamed, fried...perfect.
Violets, woodland and other
Wood Ear Mushroom
Also see: Louseworts: Pedicularis spp.
EDIBLE WILD PLANTS OF THE SUMMER
Cattail pollen, male flowering heads and female flowering heads
Leeks, bulb and seeds
Sheep sorrel, Rumex acetosella L.
Edible Wild Plants
POWERFUL ANTIOXIDANT BERRY,
Burdock, Gobo burdock
Arctium lappa L.
Root is available in Fall! (photo)
USES: Root: Anti-diabetic (diabetes) internally, lightly cooked. Helps with hypoglycemia when prepared correctly, don't overcook. Immune system stimulant. Helps prevent colds/flu. Perhaps helpful with chronic immune deficiencies, may be helpful with autoimmune diseases. Reported to help treat psoriasis. Warming. tonic, detoxifier. Internally for skin diseases. Diuretic. Treat eczema and psoriasis with root and drink water root cooked in. Also useful internally and externally for acne. Antibiotic. Strengthens stomach, liver, and lymphatic system. According to Japanese studies may be anti-mutagenic (anti cancer). Chinese use leafy second year branches in infusion to treat rheumatism, arthritis (Tierra) and measles. This medicinal tea is often sweetened with raw cane sugar. Tincture of seeds also used for psoriasis. Essential oil reported to encourage hair growth and improve skin condition. To remove oil puree seeds in hot olive oil and squeeze out through cheese cloth.
Said to lower blood sugar, but in use probably slows release of glucose from intestine because polysaccharides require more steps in digestion before being reduced to monosaccharides for absorption. Thus the release of glucose is slow, gradual to blood from gut.
PREPARATION: Harvest roots in Fall or Spring of first years growth. Root may be twenty or more inches long. Peel root, slice diagonally and stir fry, steam. First year's leaves may be peeled, cooked and eaten. Second year flower spike may be cut in late spring and sauteed or steamed called cardone in Italy. Leaf infusion over chronic skin problems. Soak root in olive oil for topical skin treatment (soak in refrigerator for one month, slice thinly, put in oil, strain 1 month later...).
Plant in shade or sun. Pull burrs off dog, crush them to release seeds, spread seeds on scuffed soil in late winter. Plant thickly. Thin seedlings and spread them in May. Fall leaf stems and roots edible.
CHEMISTRY: roots: polyphenolic compounds, caffeic acid, arctic acid and polyacetylenes (antimicrobial) Inulin. Seeds: tannic acid, arctiin, arctigenin; Root: high in vitamin C, B vitamins and vitamin E, good potassium to sodium balance, with numerous minerals including sulfur, silica, manganese, iron...Bitter compound lappatin.(4)
Sambucus nigra..S. canadensis L.
Berry is available in the Fall!
USES: Flavonoid rich, anti-inflammatory, flowers and fruit best used, avoid leaves and bark, lowers fever, soothing to irritations, reduces inflammation, alterative, diuretic. Use flowers and fruit as food or tea for influenza, flu, colds excess mucus, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, improved heart function, fevers, hay fever, allergies, sinusitis. Flowers can be infused in water and rubbed on skin to soothe and soften irritations. Moore claims elderberry flower tincture of the flowers is alterative, diaphoretic, stimulating the body's defense systems. Elderberry flower tinctures may be more effective and more tasteful when combined with mints.
-Flowers best for upper respiratory problems.
Berries diuretic detoxifying...distilled elderflower extract (water) softens and tones skin...
PREPARATION/COOKING: flowers may be batter dipped and frittered, or sprinkled over salads, infuse into tea; fruit can be dried and used as sprinkle on pancakes, salads, meat dishes etc. Fruit may also be tinctured for colds and flu prevention...Use alcohol 190 proof or glycerin full strength with fresh berry; 1:1 wt. to volume. Keep in refrigerator use teaspoon full for cold flu prevention.
NOTES: Elderberries (fruit) may be dried in a food dryer, then refrigerated and used in cooking throughout the cold months for disease prevention. Dried berries can be cooked in stir fry, stirred into hot rice, mixed into pancake batter...
Chemistry: Rutin high in immature flowers. Campesterol in whole plant, seeds high in linoleic and linolenic acid, phenylalanine. (2)
Warning: leaves, bark, root, and unripe berries may cause cyanide poisoning.
Oenothera biennis L.
Flower and root is available as food in the Fall! Also, basal whorls of leaves of first year's growth may be used to make vegetable bullion.
Uses: The essential fatty acids and amino acids in the seeds are reportedly good for treating depression and psoriasis. I have psoriasis and have found this oil and borage oil expensive and ineffective ways to treat this auto-immune disease. I have more success at less cost using fish oil capsules: Max EPA and DHA 1000mg tablets up to 12 per day, tapering down after 2 weeks to six per day and eventually three per day. This is not a cure but coupled with sun therapy and seawater bathing greatly clears my skin. Be certain to keep the skin moist with moisturizers.
Cooking: The root is edible (biennial plant: first year root best). New leaves of first or second year edible in salads, stir fry. Seeds can be poured out of seed capsule (looks like small dried okra pod). Immature seed capsules may be cooked like okra, but do not taste like okra.
Chemistry: leaf: coumarins, neochlorogenic acid, ellagic-acid, digallic-acid, kaempferol, quercitin, oenotherin. seed: excellent amino acid profile, phytosterols, significant quantities of alpha-linoleic-acid and linoleic, beta-linoleic-acid and gamma-linolenic-acid. Good quantities of zinc.
Grapes and leaves available. Use leaves in pickling jars for dill pickles.
USES: Phenolic compounds in grapes especially dark skinned grapes may improve heart function, protect from heart disease, improve mental function and in near research protect against Alzheimer's disease. Traditionally, grapes were eaten, taken as juice or wine to treat menopause, hemorrhage, varicose veins (calendula cream also used to treat varicose veins and phlebitis), hypertension, lower cholesterol, skin rashes, dermatitis, menstruation. Good anti-inflammatory for inflamed gums, mouth sores, sore throat, eyesores. Ayurvedic uses of raisins: contain malic, tartaric and racemic acids, tannins and may have small amounts of arsenic.. Raisins are eaten for chronic bronchitis, heart disease, gout. Use raisins with fevers when thirsty or with cough. Used with enlarged spleen or liver. Leaves used for diarrhea. Grape juice used (especially with children) to treat constipation (see Kapoor in resource file)(1)
Chemistry: Phenolic compounds in grapes include quercetin and resveratrol, ellagic acid.
PREPARATION: wine and grape juice, eating whole
grapes. grape seeds have essential fatty acids which may be beneficial to heart
disease, arthritis, diabetes.
COOKING: Leaves are edible may be steamed and wrapped around rice dishes Greek style. Grapes should be eaten raw (grow your own) or lightly prepared cooked or fermented. Juice appears to be as effective as wine for prevention.
Horseradish root is available and leaves of Fall may be simmered with other vegetables to add punch to vegetable broths.
DEMONSTRATION: SALAD DRESSING: horseradish root, 1/3 cayenne pepper, tablespoon of tahini, 1/2 cup of Marukan seasoned gourmet rice wine vinegar, 1/2 cup of onion juice, one cup celery juice, salt, pepper, tarragon, pinch of rosemary, pinch oregano and thyme, add half cup of water or 1/2 cup of olive oil (optional and not necessary).
Uses: Root tea is an expectorant. Small amount in sauces may relieve sinus congestion. Antibiotic, anti-fungal. circulatory stimulant. Lowers fever by increasing perspiration. Pickled chopped root may be eaten judiciously to open sinuses (sinusitis). Used to treat gout, arthritis, sciatica, urinary infections. Used externally as a poultice over wounds, arthritis.
WARNING: Avoid if have stomach problems, ulcers, may cause vomiting, and allergic reactions internally and externally, as poultice may burn skin.
Natural Health: Muster oil glycosides for mustard plasters rubefacient and vesicant (blister forming) increased circulation to inflamed joints.. Acrid lungs, large intestine, tonifies lungs and liver, in excess damaging to liver.
Cooking: Young fresh leaves are excellent stir fry or salad green, sandwiches,
Try cooking fish with root grated with apple.
Blend root with vinegar and cream (or sour cream and no vinegar) as sauce or
condiment for beef, eggs, pork, lamb... (see Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their
Uses, Deni Bown, p. 242)
HYSSOP (Anise Hyssop, Giant hyssop)
Hyssopus officinalis, foeniculum L.
Leaves make a great tea in the Fall. Seeds may be used in cooking.
USES: Tea used as a sweetener. Cooling, drying, treat illnesses due to dampness and heat, diarrhea, abdominal pains. May be effective against cold sores and genital herpes. Hyssop tea may be dabbed over the sore or hold a chewed leaf over the spot. Treat fevers as a cold infusion to disperse heat (flowers and leaves). Improves appetite. ...May relieve and prevent nausea and vomiting.
Feverfew flowers may provide a similar effect. (3) (7)
PREPARATION: EAT Hyssop flowers with nuts, shellfish, in frittered pumpkin blossoms. One of first treats in garden in early spring, pick and put aromatic leaves in tea, salads, or imbibe off the plant. The flower and young leaves are great in a cold infusion of water mixed with other mints...Spring pick me up and mental stimulant. GREAT RECIPES IN EDIBLE FLOWER VIDEO WHEN STUFFED WITH SHELLFISH, SHARP CHEESES, HERBS IN SQUASH BLOSSOM ROLLED IN EGG WHITE AND SAUTE.
Chemistry: volatile oils: anethole, p-methoxycinnamaldehyde, methyl chavicol, anisaldehyde.
Fall is the time of year to dig and eat tubers.
Tuberous sunflower with edible tubers. Pick in Fall and early Spring and throughout the Winter.
Welcome producer to your garden. Best isolate; vigorous and friendly, over exuberant in its own importance and propagation. Practice birth control, or self confine in an area that it cannot overrun.
Chemistry: Tuber is good source of polysaccharide Inulin. Lightly cooked is beneficial to pre-diabetics providing a slow release of simple sugars. Longer cooking cleaves polysaccharide chain in disaccharides and simple sugars. Eat raw or lightly cooked. Sliced in a salad great.
Early in Fall or late Summer it is not necessary to peel... Fall, Winter and Spring tubers are best peeled.
Indian Lore: Leaves and cut stalks were infused in water and drunk by First People to treat rheumatism.
Pycnanthemum virginianum and incanum
One of my favorite mints for tea and cooking. Fall is your last chance to use these leaves. Try them when you cook peas.
Medicinal: For stomach upset, colds, sinus headache, sinusitis, fevers, tonic, stimulant, increases perspiration, relaxant (stomach), colic.
Preparation: as a tea, cold infused is good, put in quart jar of water and place in sun, or in refrigerator over night. Sun may waste some chemicals.
Leonurus cardiaca L.
Medicinal: Considered by many herbalists and naturopaths as a superior woman's herb. Uterine and circulatory stimulant. Considered hypotensive, antispasmodic, diuretic, laxative, sedative and emmenagogue. Useful for PMS? Leonurine in the plant tones the uterine membrane (membrane regulation). Traditionally indicated for amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, urinary cramps and general debilitation (weakness) and to clear toxins from the body Also, for bacterial and fungal infections internally and externally.. Infusion is also used for asthma and heart palpitations. Homeopathic preparations used in menopause. Ancient Greeks used the herb with pregnant women to treat stress and anxiety, but many modern herbals suggest not to use the herb with pregnant women because of its uterus stimulating effects. Chinese use the herb similarly to European traditional uses as a single herb (Simpling) and do not compound it typically with other herbs. (3) (6)(7)
Preparation: Decoction of herb use in China as uterine stimulant. Decoction aqueous extract is antibacterial. Chinese treat nephritis with aqueous extract (according to Hsu 180 to 240 grams of fresh herb to water as a tea or decoction.)(3). Herb in US and Europe made into a tea.
Seeds are slightly sweet and cooling about 15 grams of seed for beta carotene and essential fatty acids to improve eyes. (3)
Chemistry: Beta-sistosterol, phenolic compounds (tannins) flavones: rutin, pinitol, leonurine, leonuridine, leonurinine, stachydrine (3).
NOT TO BE USED BY PREGNANT WOMEN...
Nettles (stinging nettles)
Urtica dioica L.
My fall nettle crop is still producing in November, that's seven months of free food. I pinch off top leaf whorls of new growth. Wherever I pinch the nettle will bifurcate and grow two new top whorls of edible leaves, thereby doubling my pleasure every week. Older, tougher bunches of nettles, their stalks and leaves, may be cut and added to improve and enrich flavor of vegetable broths.
Jim Meuninck is and author and biologist. For numerous wild foods and medicinal plants tips, visit his web page at . This month featuring a naturalist’strek across the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain.
Stinging Nettle and Wild Leek Soup
Better Than Winning the Lottery
Two of the first edible wild plants to emerge in the spring are stinging nettle (Urtica dioica L.) and wild leeks (Allium tricoccum Ait.). A synonym for wild leeks is Ramps. You know nettle if you walked through it bare legged. To relieve the inflammation and itch rub it with Jewelweed or Mullein leaves. But we are not here to damn nettles, we are here to eat them.
Stinging nettles and wild leeks are two plants that work in tandem to purify your stagnant blood, provide you with protection from acute infections and give you a most needed mineral boost.
Both plants can be purchased (try: and transplanted into your yard. Wild Leeks prefer shade. Nettles will tolerate shade, partial shade and full sun.
A nettle crop is invasive, disease resistant, excellent genetics. They are best contained against a wall of a building or in large pots. Somehow corral it. Leeks too, will spread, but slowly. Forget about stunting any propensity they have, you will want to eat more than you can grow.
These two wild foods that are almost always available. My nettle is just pushing through my Michigan ground the first of March and I will be cooking a couple time a week all the way until November. If you have un-calloused fingers where gloves when harvesting. Pinch off the top whorls of leaves. In a few days the tops you have pinched will bifurcate and produce two new whorls of leaves...You have effectively doubled your crop and fed yourself at the same time. Older bunches of nettles, tough stalks and leaves, may be cut and added to enrich flavor and improve mineral content of vegetable broths.
Wild leeks provide excellent tasting leaves in early spring. Following the leaves, comes the edible flower. The leaves die off in late spring and disappear except for the seed stalk. Attached to the seed stalk, just below the ground is the edible bulb. The bulb is there for you any time of year.
Let’s cook, but keep in mind this is not a "date" dinner. Wild leeks, like garlic, enter your body, do their good deeds and gradually gas off through your skin, hands, breath...Well you get the picture. But if your loved ones love leeks...Yaahooo!
Nettles: Cooking nettles eliminates their sting. Eat young shoots in spring: steam, saute, stir fry. As the nettle stem gets tough, pick and eat only the tender new growth of leaves at the top of the sprouting herb. New growth leaf whorls are available through the seasons. Older summer nettles (tough leaves and tough stems) may be simmered with other herbs: rosemary, celery, thyme, onions, leeks, lovage to make a vegetable bullion, or soup base. Discard the plant materials after simmering for thirty minutes. Use vegetable broth in cooking.
Wild Leeks: Eat leaves as they appear. Try to eat only one leaf on each plant. This practice will not kill the plant. Prepare the leaves like cultivated leeks, in soups, stews, stir fry, broth soups, Chinese and Japanese noodle dishes. Under the earth is the bulb. Cook the bulb until tender. It looks like a cocktail onion when cooked but much stronger tasting. Flowers are onion like, bitter and are very good spread over salads, stirred into mayonnaise, mustard, butter, salad dressings.
Combination Recipe: "I’ve Won the Lottery Soup"
Cream of Ramps and Nettle Soup (4 servings)
-2 Knoors vegetarian bullion cubes dissolve in a quart of water
-4 cups wild leeks leaves (Ramps) substitute: cultivated leeks
-4 or 5 wild leek bulbs
-4 pound of stinging nettle leaves
-1 cup low fat sour cream
-1/4 cup of pastina
-4 cups water
-spices: pinch each of pepper, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, oregano at end of cooking.
Options: Portobello mushrooms and watercress.
Preparation: Cook and dissolve two Knoors vegetarian bouillon cubes in four cups of water (or to taste). Simmer nettles and leek leaves and sliced bulbs for about ten minutes. Let cool, then puree with sour cream. Reheat. Add spices, stir. Cook Pastina in boiling water until al dente. Add to cream soup. Serve.
For variety: slice and saute in olive oil a Portobello mushroom and chopped water cress. Stir into reheated cream soup. For zest, add cayenne and or horseradish.
TIP: Jewelweed and mullein may be rubbed on nettle stings for relief.
Use: Nettle are mineral rich and a traditional food for allergy sufferers. Freeze dried nettle have been used to treat hay fever with moderate success. Diuretic. Expectorant having been used for asthma and cough. Nettle tincture used for flu, colds, pneumonia and bronchitis. Dried plant is styptic. According to Brill and Dean in their book, IDENTIFYING AND HARVESTING EDIBLE AND MEDICINAL PLANTS, drinking nettle tea and eating nettles may make your skin clearer and healthier. May be therapeutic for excema. Nettles may improve color, texture, gloss and health of hair.
Bleeding: Nettle has styptic (dried herb on wounds) and hemostatic characteristics. Tea from the plant has been used to stem internal bleeding. consult a naturopathic or holistic health care provider for more on this therapy.
Counterirritant: Nettles have been used to thrash arthritic joints. This causes pain and inflammation and temporary relief. Not recommended.
Experimental: nettle roots have been used in Russia (tinctured) for hepatitis, and gall bladder inflammation. And in Germany nettle root extraction is used in research for the treatment of prostate cancer.
Chemistry: Hairs contain histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin (anti-depression, sleep promoter, anti-bulemic, improves sensory perception), formic acid, 5- hydroxytryptamine (serotonin), plant high in iron and other minerals: calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, sulfur, phosphorus.
Vitamins include: vitamin C, beta carotene and other carotenoids, and numerous B vitamins. Rich in absorbable amino acids at about 10% protein. (2) (6)
Russians used nettle to treat hepatitis...Other plants used to treat hepatitis include Lobelia inflata, Plantago major, passion flower, Mahonia aquifolium, Camellia sinensis, Artemisia absinthium, Cornus florida, Mentha pulegium, Momordica charantia, Mayapple and others.
Notes: Later today I am going to blend fresh nettle with water and a little ash from a fire,that should neutralize the formic acid and make it edible raw. Will this provide me with a source of serotonin? Also, histamine? And what's the risk? Is this an alternative to freeze drying the herb for treating hay fever? Calcium chloride may be better than wood ash...Hmmmm? Hope this isn’t my last column....
Mentha piperita L.
Still available for tea and cooking through Thanksgiving in lower Michigan.. Mix leaves with mountain mint and lemon balm, splash in lemon juice for an uplifting tea.
Uses: same uses as mountain mint, including antiseptic and anesthetic, analgesic effects. Good for lower bowel. as a tea or in salads, cold drinks, and with vegetables and protein dishes.
Women special: morning sickness nausea, also irritable bowel syndrome, gastroenteritis, sinusitis, asthma, itchy skin, cooling for fevers and influenza, colds. Carminative, digestive aid. May stimulate bile secretions and help heal ulcers.
Menthol from mint is anesthetic, germicidal, decongestant found in: Solarcaine, Ungentine, Ben Gay, Noxzema, Vicks, Mentholatum.
Large amounts may stimulate uterine contractions.
Essential oil increases productivity and accuracy in work place.
USES: Teas, salads, drinks, all cooking, Jelly.
Preparation: as a tea, hot or cold infusion. Also in salads and drinks. Use in salad dressings and sauces.
Mentha spicata L.
Fall: Use same as other mints less irritating oil, make sauces from leaves, for flatulence hiccups, fevers and upper respiratory tracts infections in children and adults
-Spearmint is preferred for cooking over peppermint, milder. Not an effective tea.
Fall: gone by the end of September, better hurry.
Uses: bronchial complaints, sinusitis, digestive problems, flatulence, season meats, ancient anti-rheumatic, expectorant. add to black tea to get Earl Grey like flavor.
Active ingredient: thymol
Cooking: eat young leaves raw, cook with for flavoring, flowers in salads or as tea, excellent over sauces, especially Italian.
Fall: You may have missed the boat. By October in northern latitudes this plant died off.
Uses: similar to M. didyma, this is a strong oregano like mint. Better for colds, sore throat, fevers, headache, rub on externally over skin eruptions, prevents excess mucus.
Cooking: as with other mints. Great tea, anti-infective.
Pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin seeds, roasted pumpkin, pumpkin ice cream, Fall is the time of year to harvest and enjoy.
A handful of pumpkin nut DAY MAY BE ANTIHELMINTHIC AND IMPROVE AND PROTECT PROSTATE PERFORMANCE, perhaps improving acute prostate hyperplasia conditions (see your holistic health care physician)
USES: Antihelminthic and used to treat swollen prostate (prostate disease), prostate hyperplasia (used in conjunction with zinc tablet and saw palmetto berries).
Contains essential fatty acids.
Cooking: In pancakes (great), hot cereals, salads, snack, stir fry.
Chemistry: main effective constituents are phytosterols. seed: arachidic-acid; linoleic-acid; alpha linolenic acid; oleic-acid; palmitic-acid; stearic acid; amino acids; ash; aspartic-acid; calcium; beta-carotene; copper; chromium; magnesium; phosphorus; selenium; tin; zinc,urease; phytic acid; phytosterols; alpha-spinasterol; beta-sitosterol, riboflavin; thiamin; salicylic-acid; Monounsaturated fats; DL-Citrullin; cobalt, cucurbitol, dehydroascorbic-acid; iron; lauric acid; lysine; myristatic acid.(2)
Mayan and Aztec Menu: Pumpkin Seeds and Tomatillos
This is the best time of year to buy pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita pepo). Buy unsalted green seeds or whole in the shell seeds. Keep them in your freezer. Green pumpkin seeds are hulled and a one pound bag will last the uninitiated about one millennium. After roasting in the oven, pumpkin seeds are great in pumpkin pie, providing an alarming crunch to the unsuspecting guest who has never had nuts in pumpkin pie. Also, they are a nutritious fit in waffle and pancake mixes, bread, muffins. Sprinkle them over salads. Swirl them into chicken stir fry. With a little practice you can empty that one pound bag before the end of this millennium.
Mayan Food, Aztec
What's all the fuss about pumpkin seeds? Well, if your significant other still has his prostate, pumpkin seeds may help him keep it. There is empirical evidence that eating pumpkin seeds my alleviate prostate complaints including urinating difficulties associated with prostate hyperplasia. Cucurbitin an amino acid in pumpkin seeds kills worms and vermin. Pumpkin seeds are use in Mexico and Central America as a folk remedy to kill tapeworms and other intestinal parasites, perhaps effective in the early stages of schistomiasis and prophylactic to traveler's diarrhea. The active chemistry that may effect the prostate are zinc, essential fatty acids and phytosterols. Phytosterols in pumpkin seed include: sitosterol, stigmasterol, spinasterol, clerosterol to name a few. Pharmacologically plant sterols can be converted to steroid compounds similar to our own endogenous steroids (hormones). Does our body use plant sterols like steroids? Preliminary evidence suggests it does. Mexican "wise women", traditional fold medicine practitioners, take three or four tablespoons of the seeds per day to treat worm infestations, prostate complaints, irritable bladders. As mentioned, seeds are good sources of essential fatty acids: linoleic acid, alpha linolenic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, arachidic acid and stearic acid. Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are life supporting, we can't live without them. They come from plants and pumpkin seeds like flax seeds are a good source. For folks that get cold sores pumpkin seeds contain lysine. Lysine may help cut the frequency of cold sore infections. Pumpkin seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals, especially zinc.
Right now, pumpkin seeds are fresh, available and abundant. Eat them because they are nutritious and taste good. If there is a medicinal spin off that keeps you vibrant and healthy, well then, I'm not surprised. We eat plants or we eat animals that eat plants. Therefore our chemistry is made up from plant chemistry. We are plants with wheels.
Pumpkin Seed and Tomatillo Recipe
Here's a pumpkin seed/tomatillo recipe:
Tomatillos are wild solanaceous plants related to tomatoes and eggplant. They are available in the produce section of markets frequented by Hispanic Americans. Tomatillos self seed in our garden year after year. Green mole made with tomatillas is versatile, combine pumpkin seeds and it is unique.
-6 tomatillos* (you may substitute green tomatoes)
-two or three jalapeno peppers
-three T green shelled pumpkin seeds
-½ t cumin
-1 clove garlic
-salt and pepper
-1/4 lemon (juice)
Boil tomatillos and peppers in water until they are soft, about 7 to 10 minutes. Strain.
While peppers and tomatillos cool. Grind pumpkin and cumin seeds. Dice garlic clove. Add ground seeds, garlic, peppers and tomatillos to a blender. Puree. Stir in lemon juice to taste. Salt and pepper. Use this sauce on everything. I mean it. Over chicken, in soups, tacos, enchiladas...Jill (my wife) and I make it by the quart.
Author's note: Tripletreat pumpkins can be grown at home and produce shell-less seeds.
For more lectures, tips, columns and recipes see Jim Meuninck's Web site: www.herbvideos.com .
Autumn does not slow down the production of this plant. Especially in areas where they have been mowed down by a bush hog. New growth is prolific. (see herbal) or tea.
Uses: Taken as tea, aerial parts (leaves and flowers) are warming increasing perspiration. May reduce inflammation externally and internally. Digestive aid. Diuretic, may lower blood pressure (hypotensive), relaxes spasms of digestive tract and other musculature. Styptic, reported to have anti-hemorrhage activity internally and externally. Internally for colds flu, measles. Thins and causes mucus to flow. Also, has been used for diarrhea, arthritis, menopause, hypertension, In China to protect against thrombosis after stroke or heart attack. Has been used externally for wounds, hemorrhoids, inflamed eyes, nosebleeds, ulcers. Can be combined with elderberry flowers and/or berries.
Caution: may make you more photosensitive, sensitive to light. Also contains small amount of carcinogen and liver toxin thujone.
Chemistry: anti-inflammatory azulene. Achilleine in yarrow suppresses menstruation and arrests blood flow. Yarrow reportedly used to slow heavy menstruation. Coumarin in yarrow balances effect of achilleine. Achilleine lowers blood pressure.(2) (6)
Preparation: May be used fresh or dried. Use whole aerial parts of herb, flowers and leaves. Use about 3 times as much fresh herb as dried. Make infusion or tea. Tea is bitter, if too strong add more water. Dried herb may be stirred into hot lard and made into a topical wound dressing. See video Native American Medicine for details. Yarrow may also be tinctured in glycerin or alcohol see Meuninck's Herbal therapies video for tincturing details.
Edible Wild Plants of the Winter
Root vegetables and seeds are typical available in northern temperate climates in the winter.
In marshy areas while walking on deer trails Apios americana (groundnuts) may be found. Or look for the dried vines of the past years growth clinging to the thicket, willow and underbrush. Follow the dried vine down to the soil then carefully dig and pull up the vine to discover ground nuts. You may find eight or ten on a single root runner.
Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) seeds are available in their dried seed receptacles. Break off the capsules and pour out the essential fatty acid and protein rich seeds.
Burdock root is available before the ground freezes or between freezes. You may have to mark where the roots are, as they are inconspicuous after the leaves die off.
Many grasses parched in the winter fields may still harbor edible seeds.
Jerusalem artichokes are available under the frozen soil if you know where to look. Mark your wild stands of these tubers before the snow falls and changes the backdrop.
Streams bubbling out of steep banks may have watercress (Nasturtium officinale). Lawless Park near me has a bubbling spring that produces watercress year around.
Cattails let you know that there are shoots and corms under the ice and snow ready to harvest. Difficult going but starch rich when you get them.
Dandelions (photo) are available here and there in the winter. Often small and inconspicuous this time of year. They are sweet and the root is good made into a tea. Drink the tea. But don't discard the root, eat it.
Corn field stubble will gather and produce heat on sunny winter days. Growing in the stubble is chick weed (photo). If you know the farmer did not use pesticides here is ample eating.
Mint (photo) leaves will survive several frosts and begin greening early. Look for these treats where you found them in the spring and summer.