Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Yellow Birch

Food: Broken twigs of the Yellow birch (B. alleghaniensis) and Black or Sweet birch (B. Nigra) have a wintergreen fragrance. A sap can be collected and boiled down from Yellow birch. From Black birch harvest the twigs, red inner bark and larger roots. The inner bark can be boiled or ground into a flour. Twigs and inner bark can be steeped into a tea. Wintergreen flavor is stronger in Black birch. Medicine: Chippewa made a medicine from Black and White birch (B. papyrifera) for stomach pain. birch leaf Pictures, Images and Photos Technology: New England tribes used the bark of White or Paper Birch for many purposes. Large bark sheets were stripped from the tree in late spring to use as house coverings or to build canoes. Smaller pieces of bark were cut into patterns and used to make dishes and utensils, including seamless maple sap collecting dishes and maple sugar storage containers (makaks). The bark was also cut and folded to make baskets, fans and even tinder to fish by torchlight from canoes. Folding and biting single thin layers of the paper produced dental pictographs, or birch bark transparencies, that could be used for beadwork designs and patterns for other decorations. Note: Indian legend surround the distinctive markings of the birch tree. The bark of this tree was never taken without acknowledgement its importance to Native Americans and without offering and thanks to the spirits that provide it. Read the Ojibwe story of Winnebojo & the Birch Tree. For additional information browse NativeTech's Uses of Birchbark. I have many Yellow Birch on my land, but there is one I call the Queen of my forest...She is big and beautiful and in early spring when she id=s shedding her bark she is something to see!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Foraging Guidlines To Remember

These are guidelines we all should remember,and please read the disclamer on my site...

Foraging for wild food is a great way to experience the natural world and connect with something ancient and primal within ourselves.  And in many ways, it can be a more healthy alternative to the assembly line foods we find at the grocery store.  Not only is wild food much richer in essential vitamins and minerals, but foraging also provides much needed exercise.  It's a combination of hiking and gardening.  Before diving into the salad bowl that surrounds us, it's a good idea to be aware of some basic guidelines that will ensure that foraging remains safe and sustainable.

Proper Identification

Before eating any wild plant, make 100% sure it's not poisonous.
Learn the few dangerous species in your area before venturing into the wild to forage.  If you know what poisonous plants you may encounter, you'll feel more comfortable foraging for the edible species.
Don't rely on common names.  Common names can refer to several different plants.  Some wild edible plants share the same common names as poisonous plants.  Latin names are more reliable.  For example, Stellaria media refers only to common chickweed.  Latin was chosen to classify plants and animals because it's a dead language, so we can't expect it to evolve or change.  Common chickweed will likely have the same Latin name in a hundred years.
Find a mentor.  Learning from an expert or someone more experienced will give you a higher level of confidence.
Use all of your senses.  Don't limit yourself to visual ID alone.  Lots of wild edible plants have look-alikes.  Learn how to differentiate similar plants by smell, feel, texture, etc.  It's not a rule, but in many cases, poisonous plants are unpalatable and rank smelling.  That said, taste should only be used if you're absolutely sure the plant is not poisonous.  Some plants, such as water hemlock, are deadly in very small doses.
Learn habitat.  You won't find cattails on a high slope, and you won't find ramps in a swamp.
Learn companion plants.  Many plants are commonly found growing nearby certain other species.  If you see yellow dock, there's a good chance pokeweed will be close by.
Learn to follow wild edible plants through all seasons.  This is important for two reasons.  First is positive identification.  When I was learning to forage, I misidentified the poisonous white snakeroot as wood nettle.  I put the leaves in soup for a few months.  Fortunately I only added it in small quantities and no one got sick.  When it bloomed in July, it became clear to me that I had made a mistake.  There are admittedly other subtleties of differentiation that I should have noticed, but the flowers were a dead giveaway.
Another reason to follow wild edible plants through the seasons is to locate perennial plants that you want to harvest in early spring.  For example, by the time pokeweed becomes identifiable, it's often past the point of use.  If you make note of it during the warmer months, you'll know where to find it when it first appears in spring.
Learn which parts of a wild edible plant are safe to use.  Just because a wild plant is considered edible doesn't mean all parts are edible.  For instance, while the ripe cooked berries of elderberry are safe to eat, the bark, stems and roots are considered poisonous.  It's also important to note that some plants are only edible at certain times of the year.  For example, stinging nettle shouldn't be used after it goes to seed.


Conservation

Don't over harvest.  Every population is limited.  Even where wild edible plants occur in large numbers, the colony should be respected.  Try to collect no more than 10% (or less depending on how much foraging pressure the area receives).  And of course never collect any more than you will actually use.
Avoid foraging rare and protected wild edible plants.  Many plants may be locally abundant but are rare throughout their ranges.
Only collect the part of the plant that you plan to use.  If you're going to make file powder from sassafras leaves, there's no need to uproot the sapling.  Just take what you need and leave enough to ensure that the plant will continue to thrive.  A good rule of thumb is to harvest no more than 25% of a plant if you don't need the whole plant.
Consider cultivating wild edible plants in your garden.  Many wild plants that are edible are easy to transplant and propagate.  Ramps, for instance, are getting scarcer due to over harvest, but can be cultivated given the right conditions.  Take the time to research growing conditions of rare plants in your area.  There is a great resurgence of interest in foraging wild edible and medicinal plants.  That coupled with diminishing habitat puts tremendous pressure on wild plant populations.  This puts the responsibility of preservation on us.

Safety

Avoid toxic areas.  Never forage for wild edible plants near busy roads.  Most plants absorb lead and other heavy metals from toxic exhaust.  And these toxins tend to settle in the soil even if the traffic no longer exists.  Also avoid areas that are or have been sprayed with pesticides.
Know what part of the plant is safe in what season.  This was listed above, but it merits mentioning again.
When foraging wild water plants, know the water source.  This is especially important if you're planning to eat the wild edible raw.  Eating plants that have grown in contaminated water is the same as drinking contaminated water.  Chemical and heavy metal pollution are also concerns that can't be removed by cooking.
Only forage plants that appear to be healthy.  Plants can be afflicted by disease, fungi, pests or pollution.  Harvesting healthy plants minimizes the risk of illness and also means you're getting more nutritious food.
Get permission to forage.  This may not be an obvious safety issue, but around here, not respecting property rights and laws could result in some pretty unpleasant consequences.  It's also a matter of courtesy
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Improve Your Skills

The more you forage, the more proficient you'll become.  Try to learn a new wild edible plant each time you go foraging.  With each new plant, study all of its uses including medicinal.  You'll become more and more comfortable with the natural world and all it has to offer as you broaden your catalog of useful wild plants.
Happy foraging!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pineapple Weed Matricaria matricaioides Identification: This plant is related to chamomile (M. chamomile). Pineapple weed is an annual, 10 - 40 cm tall with a non-rayed composite flower head. It does have a distinctive pineapple scent. Its leaves are pinnate. Habitat & Distribution: Pineapple weed is found in almost all waste areas. It can be seen growing in cracks in the sidewalk in the centre of most towns and along many a backwoods dirt road. Edible Parts: Pineapple weed may be eaten as a tasty snack item while hiking or added to a wild salad. It makes a calming tea when steeped in hot water. The crushed leaves, stems, and flowerheads may be applied to the skin as an insect repellent. A wash made of pineapple weed will remove greases from the hair and act as a general shampoo and natural hair tonic. It can be used as a treatment for diarrhea, stomachaches, flatulence, as a mild relaxant, and for colds and menstrual problems. Externally it can be used for itching and sores. Pineapple weed is an edible, medicinal plant that closely resembles wild chamomile. It’s prolific in the western U.S., (although I believe it can be found in the eastern U.S. as well). Wikipedia has a good article with some identifying characteristics and where to find it. If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll start noticing the lacy foliage and little yellow flowers popping up in disturbed areas with poor soil. I live on a very hilly property, and anywhere that a bulldozer flattened out once upon a time now has pineapple weed growing all over it. I use this plant in place of chamomile for tea. It makes a soothing, mellow flavored tea that is wonderful with a little bit of honey. To use the herb fresh, snip off about a tablespoon of the yellow flowers and steep in hot water for a few minutes. To harvest and store for later use, gather it into bunches first thing in the morning and hang in a cool, dry place to dry. Snip off the buds and put them in a jar to preserve the flavor and aroma. You can make tea with pineapple weed alone, but I like making mixtures with whatever I have lying around. A cup of this is especially good if you’re kind of feeling like crap… Pineapple Weed Tea makes: one 32 oz. french press (although you could easily change the amounts for whatever size press you have) Ingredients: 1 tbs. dried pineapple weed – or- a few sprigs of fresh pineapple weed 5 fresh mint leaves 1 tbs. loose-leaf tea, such as Oolong honey to taste a few tablespoons of milk (optional, to taste) (I’m wondering if I need to write directions out for this? I will anyway though…) Heat a kettle of water to just shy of boiling. Put pineapple weed, oolong tea, and mint leaves into a french press. Pour hot water into press and let everything steep for 3-4 minutes. Press, and pour into cups. Stir in honey and milk to taste. Remember…. When you’re foraging for plants, make sure they’re not from an area that’s been contaminated by pollutants such as run off from a road. Know your plants some look a likes will kill you.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"How To Make A Poultice" (To Treat Many Skin Ailments!)

You can make a poultice to draw infection, treat boils and abcesses, relieve inflammation or a rash or simply draw the poison from a bee sting! What is a poultice? A homemade poultice is made by mashing herbs, plant material or another substance with warm water or natural oils to make a paste. The paste can be applied directly to the skin and covered with a piece of clean cloth. If the herb used is potent such as onion, garlic, ginger, mustard, etc., you may want a layer of thin cloth between the skin and the herb. The cloth can then be covered with plastic wrap to hold in the moisture. The poultice can be changed every 3 to 4 hours or whenever it dries out. A compress is used the same way but usually warm liquids are applied to the cloth instead of raw substances. Tinctures or herbal infusions are great for compresses. The list of ingredients to use for a homemade poultice is endless! Make a Poultice for Boils, Infections, Abcesses and Inflammation The following poultice ingredients have properties to draw out infections reduce inflammation. These poultices can even be used to treat chest congestion, hemorrhoids and earaches. Don't forget that you can use poultices or compresses on your pets and livestock also! Onion Poultice- mash raw onion and mix with warm water or organic plant oils. You may want a thin layer of cloth between your skin and the onion. Watch a video on how to make an onion poultice here. (More instructional videos can be seen at the bottom of this page) Potato Poultice- Grate a raw potato and make your paste! A potato poultice is good for inflammation and eye troubles such as conjunctivitis. Mustard Poultice - Mash some mustard seeds, mix with natural oil or water and apply. Use thin cloth between paste and skin. A homemade mustard poultice is very powerful and can burn your skin if applied directly. Plantain Poultice- Plantain is a commom weed that has great drawing power. Mash the fresh weed for the paste or use a tincture as a compress. See the Insect Bite Remedy Page for more information on plantain. Activated Charcoal - Super absorbing properties! Comfrey Poultice - Comfrey roots and leaves have great healing properties especially where bones and ligaments are involved! Make a poultice out of comfrey for any aches or pains. Tumeric Poultice- Organic Tumeric makes a great drawing poultice for boils and infections. For even better results take up to one teaspoon tumeric in a cup of warm milk along with using the external tumeric poultice. (Tumeric is also known as turmeric or curcuma.) Cayenne Pepper makes a great compress for arthritis and many other aches and pains. Bread and Milk poultice - These work very well for infections and boils. Simply heat milk and add a bit of bread, wrap in gauze or cheese cloth and place on cut or wound. Use as hot as you can stand it. Repeat a few times a day as long as necessary. It works pretty fast and often much better than over the counter products. Lemon Balm Poultice - Lemon balm leaves make a poultice for small wounds, cold sores and insect bites. Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c MAKE A COMFREY POULTICE FOR SPRAINS AND BRUISES 1. Snip or crush a small handful of comfrey leaves into a dish. 2. Pour enough boiling water on the leaves to cover them. 3. Mash into a pulp with a spoon. A pestle and mortar works great for this! 4. Let cool a little then spread the pulp directly on the affected area. Cover with gauze and bandage to hold in the poultice in place. Leave on for several hours. MAKE A SLIPPERY ELM AND THYME POULTICE FOR BOILS Slippery elm has great healing properties and thyme is a great antiseptic. Try a plantain poultice for boils also. 1. Mash thyme leaves and cover with boiling water (same as comfrey poultice). 2. Pour off excess water and mix in 2 tablespoons of slippery elm powder. 3. Apply directly to the boil or enclose the pulp in gauze. Leave in place for several hours.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Autumn_4 Pictures, Images and Photos Happy Autumn and Autumn Equinox! The equinox is a special time when the day and night are of equal lengths. Traditionally, the Autumn Equinox is a time to give thanks for the harvest, and honor bounty and the gifts of the Mother Earth. It is also a time to reflect on your journey, enjoy the fruits of your personal harvests and contemplate the path in front of you. Balance is the keyword for equinox time. It is a time to look inside, seek balance and embrace both the dark and light sides of yourself. As the night continuing to grow longer and the earth energy moving into stillness and darkness of winter, we need to align our energy to the earth dormant cycle and the stillness within. Happy Autumn! Let us celebrate this seasonal shift and enjoy golden days as the autumn leaves begin to turn color.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wild Edible Plants Benefits, Hazards, and Major Groups We are surrounded by wild edible plants everyday. In trying to learn about them, you might quickly feel overwhelmed by the staggering amount of information available. Here are some important consideration for getting started: - Identifying Plants - Benefits - Hazards - Major Groupings Identifying Plants It is vital that you can identify the wild edible plants that you intend to utilize. Some edible plants have deadly poisonous look-alikes. Good field guides are invaluable. The best guides clearly explain identification, collection, and preparation techniques. We highly recommend the following guides: - Identifying and Harvesting Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steve Brill - Discovering Wild Plants by Janice Schofield Benefits Wild edible plants are very beneficial for you and your family for many reasons. First of all, there are wild edibles growing near you no matter what part of the world you live in. Chances are good, you can find a large number of species where you live and some of them are likely to be plentiful. Secondly, many wild plants are highly nutritious and can be even more nutritious than many store bought fruits and vegetables. For instance, dandelion which you might think of as little more than a garden-variety weed is actually an incredibly nutritious wild edible plant. In a single hundred gram amount of cooked dandelion greens, there is 11,000 mg of Potassium, 18 mg of vitamin C and 42 mg of calcium. You might consider eating the dandelions in your yard, rather than removing or poisoning them. Though if you are going to consume wild edible plants, make sure you also consider the hazards. Hazards There are some dangers in collecting and eating wild edibles. To begin with, think about the location you are gathering and consider the following: - Is the area sprayed with pesticides or herbicides? - Is the area close to a busy road or other source of pollution? - Does your target species have any poisonous look-alikes? Also consider that wild edible plants are often more nutritionally concentrated than store bought foods - you may not need to eat as much quantity as you would of foods from home. It is also wise to start off eating very small quantities of wild edible plants, especially those you have not tried before, in case of potential allergic reactions. Test them before you collect or eat large quantities. Also, the hazard many people forget to consider, and it is one of the most important, is the hazard you pose to the plants themselves! Please practice wise and sustainable harvesting techniques. Consider the needs of the plants and the other animals that might feed on them. If the plant you are harvesting is rare, is the only one of its kind on the location you are harvesting or especially if it is endangered, leave it alone! Look for places where the species you are interested in gathering is plentiful. Also look for plants that have abundant fruit, nuts or berries. This will make your job of gathering less work and also, if you are considerate, it will leave less of an impact on the land. A good guidelines is to collect one third of the plant material, leaving two thirds for plant regeneration and wildlife. Major Groupings of Wild Edible Plants There are so many different kinds of plants out there in the world. It can really help to initially lump them into more manageable groups. Here are some of the major groups of wild edibles, organized by plant families: The Lily Family (Liliaceae): This includes species such as: - Wild onions - Wild garlic - Wild leeks - Camas - Glacier lilies The Purslane Family (Portulacaceae): This includes: - Miner’s Lettuce - Spring Beauty The Rose Family (Rosaceae): This includes edible plants such as: - Blackberry - Raspberry - Salmonberry - Thimbleberry - Wild roses - Hawthorn - Serviceberry - Choke-cherry - Wild strawberry - Silverweed The Heath Family (Ericaceae): This includes species such as: - Cranberry - Blueberry - Huckleberry The Mustard Family (Brassicaceae): This includes plants such as: - Pennycress - Shepard’s purse - Watercress The Mint Family (Lamiaceae): This includes wild edibles such as: - Wild mint - Self-heal The Sunflower Family (Asteraceae): This includes species such as: - Dandelion - Wild sunflower - Salsify - Chicory - Pineapple weed - Oxeye daisy - Common burdock - Thistle species The Nettle Family (Urticaceae): This includes: - Stinging nettle The Cattail Family (Typhaceae): This includes: - Narrow-leaf and broad-leaved cattail The Beech Family (Fagaceae): This includes: - Oaks - Chestnuts - Beeches The Pine Family (Pinaceae): This includes trees such as: - Pine - Hemlock - Douglas-fir - Spruce With proper identification and careful consideration of safety & potential hazards, edible wild plants can become an exciting and healthful part of your diet. Happy foraging!

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Ten Wild Plants For Spring Eats"

After a long, cold winter , spring is soon to arrive to push us outside to collect new green leaves and dig up fat roots. This is the time, according to tradition, for spring cleaning – and we don’t mean the house. We’re referring to an ancient folk belief about cleaning the blood, renewing the spirit, and energizing the body.

From the time of the Greek physician Galen in the second century and into the seventeenth, it was commonly believed the blood became stagnant after a cold winter, and that indoor air affected one’s temperament and brought about melancholy, as per the four humours (blood/sanguine, phlegm/apathetic, black bile/depressive, and yellow bile/ choleric). The idea still seems to hold water if you consider all the fluorescent lights and vitamin D lamps for sale throughout the northeast in wintertime.

How does one clean the blood? The process is very simple; it’s been done for centuries in England and the United States, and it’s a tradition in which everyone can participate: young and old, healthy or infirm, Islander or landlubber. The antidote to the melancholy after months of snow, cold, and dismal darkness is eating greens.

The greens are bitter, but that’s the point. They are stomachic, meaning they improve digestion, which is the whole essence behind purifying the blood. The ancient folk belief says that the blood is not dirty, rather the liver and the lymphatic system accumulate toxins from processing rich, heavy foods during cold winter months, and eating bitter greens helps to expel them.

Here are ten wild plants to be on the lookout for this spring.But please research them so that you know beyond doubt what you are picking.There are look a likes.

Cleavers

Galium aparine Pictures, Images and Photos

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is an herb that grows in dense mats on long spindly stalks, often knee-high or higher in rich soil. The hairy stalks are dotted with axils of tiny leaves, like crowns, every few inches up the length. (It resembles sweet woodruff, which is shorter and not edible: In fact, sweet woodruff is considered by the FDA as safe only when used in alcoholic beverages, and large doses are toxic.) Adorning each whirl of cleavers leaves is a tiny white flower. The plant is also commonly called lady’s bedstraw, because the hairy stalks cling to each other – and to your clothes – giving the plant a sticky feeling. American colonists would mat the stalks together to stuff their mattresses for cushioning. Medicinally, cleavers have been used in traditional herbalism to improve the health of the lymphatic system and to treat numerous ailments. Look for cleavers in shady rich woods or in the cool areas of your garden, often growing up rock walls or fences. Harvest the entire stalk: Snipped into pieces, it can be eaten raw in salads, or steamed (as you would steam turnip greens) with vinegar, making it a tasty vegetable.

Dandelion
傳說中的蒲公英 Pictures, Images and Photos

This plant is a veritable medicine chest and food pantry in itself. Dandelion (Taraxacum vulgare) is familiar to many of us with its bright yellow flower and deeply toothed leaves, which gave it the name lion’s tooth, or dent de lion in French. Whether you like it or not, many a lawn has dandelions. The plant is easy to identify even when it’s not in flower because of the leaf shape and the fact that dandelion leaves and stalks have no hair; chicory, which is also edible, has similar leaves but has tiny hairs all along it. Spring is the best time to gather young dandelion leaves, which are high in vitamin A, ascorbic acid, potassium, and calcium, and are considered a valuable diuretic. Eaten raw, they provide a pleasant bitter contrast to sweet spring lettuces; or steamed, they make a wonderful bitter. With your evening meal, try lightly steaming them with ginger slices and tamari or soy sauce; or in the fall, harvest the roots, which are high in iron and can be saut éed, stir-fried, or steeped in vinegar for a salad dressing.

quick recipe: Steamed dandelion leaf salad

Gather a basketful (or a gallon bag full) of dandelion greens, rinse them, and lightly steam them in the water that clings to them (only for a few seconds). Remove from heat and add a handful of dried cranberries, crumbled feta cheese, pine nuts, and a sprinkling of olive oil and vinegar. Mix well and serve with crusty garlic bread, local roasted chicken, and elderberry wine.


Garlic

wild garlic Pictures, Images and Photos

The many species of the onion family include onions, chives, and garlic (Allium sativum). While garlic is not a common wild plant on the Vineyard, you may find clumps of it, or of escaped cultivated garlic, growing anywhere the soil is rich and the trees offer shade and protection. Both wild and cultivated garlic are high in minerals such as magnesium, iron, manganese, and sulfur, and have traditionally been used in the diet to regulate cholesterol levels. Even in somewhat acid soils, like under our scrubby oak trees, you’ll find clumps of these alliums sending up their tall stiff leaves that resemble spears. If you dig, you’ll discover tiny bulbs, often not as big as what you see at the store, but these are edible and delicious. When the plant flowers, it sends forth balls of buds that open haphazardly and give the plant a fire-cracker look. The buds that form prior to the flowers opening are edible and can be snipped off for a salad or stir-fry , and the flowers – usually white, purple, pink, or red – are edible and offer a nice zing to the same dishes.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed up close. Pictures, Images and Photos

This introduced species is often considered a pest and is eradicated from many yards, but it is actually quite lovely to look at with flowers that hang in clusters, giving it an ethereal, cloud-like appearance – and it’s useful as food. Instead of simply eradicating it, consider pulling up all the shoots in the early spring to make “asparagus” omelets. This would certainly be less intensive and more flavorful than spraying them with herbicide. If you don’t know where your neighborhood patch of knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) is, watch for it this summer: The whole plant can grow into a bush six feet tall, and the broad heart-shaped leaves are smooth and bright, just like pokeweed’s. But instead of growing upright on a trunk, it sends out leaning and creeping stems punctuated with cream-colored flowers at the base of each leaf. Because it contains resveratrol – the same substance touted for making wine a heart-healthy drink – eating Japanese knotweed may help protect against heart attacks, and it is also being studied for its effects against Lyme disease. Harvest the stalk of the plant and cook as you would asparagus or rhubarb. Slightly tart, the young stalks (after they’ve grown slightly beyond the shoot stage) taste similar to rhubarb.

Mustard

wild mustard Pictures, Images and Photos

If you want a spicy kick in the springtime, harvest some mustard leaves. Each flower of this Brassica plant is a tiny, yellow cross, and these sunny mustards can quickly overtake a fallow field. Several varieties grow on the Island, including field mustard (B. rapa) and black mustard (B. nigra). The leaves are serrated, deeply lobed, and can be a purplish color. Mustard plants have slightly prickly under-leaves and stems. Look for them in meadows, abandoned gardens, and waste places that receive ample sun. The early spring leaves can be eaten raw in salads for a mild peppery flavor (reminiscent of arugula), but as summer progresses the flavor grows sharper. To remove excess bitterness, be sure to boil in changes of water: Bring water to a boil, submerge the leaves and let them boil for three to five minutes, then drain and repeat the process with a pot of fresh water. Rinse after the final boiling. Mustard greens can also be sautéed and may be cooked with bacon or pork for a satisfying Southern-style meal. You can make your own homemade mustard by grinding the tiny mustard seeds and mixing them with water, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Poke weed
Pokeweed Pictures, Images and Photos



This is one of the loveliest plants, but is poisonous by the end of the season when it sports a thick crimson trunk that towers overhead and droops bouquets of scarlet berries from above. For a few weeks in early spring though, the young tender shoots can be eaten like asparagus – only until they are no bigger than the width of a finger. Phytolacca Americana can be found in rich soil near gardens and woodland edges and can grow up to ten feet tall, with a trunk that is as thick as your forearm, and leaves that are a smooth, bright green. Look for the young shoots to emerge from last year’s root stalks. Both the roots and shoots will have the characteristic scarlet-tinged coloring and resemble fat asparagus, but the root is always poisonous. Later in the season, poke produces berries with small white flowers that hang in clusters like grapes. The seeds inside the berry are toxic and should not be eaten. However, the new one- to two-inch leaves are nutritious and fine throughout the growing season, and especially in the spring, in an old folk dish called poke sallet, in which they are boiled in several changes of water, then sprinkled with vinegar, and served with cubed pork if desired.


Oxeye Daisy

daisy Pictures, Images and Photos

Oxeye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) is the common daisy with white petals and a yellow center that blooms in springtime. Daisies are at their tastiest before the flowers blossom: The unopened buds and greens are edible and delicious. Oxeye daisies can be found in yards and open, grassy areas, and alongside gardens and roads. The leaves look small and frilly, a cross between miniature arugula leaves and fris ée lettuce. The taste is milder than arugula, but with a flavor described as “sweet, succulent and slightly spicy” by Russ Cohen in his book Wild Plants I Have Knownand Eaten (Essex County Greenbelt Association, 2004). Pinch the leaves free and add them to a salad along with other leafy green spring edibles like watercress, wild mustard, dandelion greens, and sea rocket.

Sea rocket

Sea rocket Pictures, Images and Photos

As the name implies, American sea rocket can be found while walking the beach, especially along the Island’s north shore, at the edge of grassy areas. Growing six- to twelve-inches high, this native plant (Cakile edentula) belonging to the mustard family has delicate (usually yellow) flowers and oval, succulent, green leaves with slightly wavy, blunted edges. All of it is edible, and quite nutritious with calcium, beta-carotene, and folate. Another rocket, commonly called arugula, gives us a hint of the taste of this wild edible, sometimes referred to as sea kale. The leaves taste similar to arugula with that characteristic spicy, horseradish flavor that may intensify later in the season. Sea rocket adds zip to your sandwich or salad. Just pinch off the leaves, wash, and toss with milder salad greens, or chop and use to garnish seafood. After a late-summer bloom, seed pods form and these can be picked and ground into mustard.

Stinging nettle

stinging nettle Pictures, Images and Photos

One of the most nutritious so-called weeds, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has a reputation for leaving painful welts on the skin. It’s true, if you brush against one of the one- to three-foot, pale green stems or its serrated, deeply toothed leaves, the plant will inject you with a tiny amount of formic acid, and it will sting. Rather deceiving, with its small, pretty, pale green flowers hanging like little garlands, nettle is covered with tiny hollow hairs, so you must wear gloves to harvest it. As seventeenth-century English physician Nicholas Culpeper said, “Nettles are so well known that they need no description. They may be found, by feeling, in the darkest night.” Look in the very rich, shady woods, near vernal springs, or on the farm where you used to keep compost, and don’t let the sting keep you from this nourishing plant. Nettles can be brewed into a tea that is rich in cobalt, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and B vitamins; nettle tea can also be used as a hair rinse and strengthener, or to water your plants. Nettle is also a superb potherb, meaning it can be used as a vegetable, and it can be grown in a pot on your kitchen windowsill for regular meals. Put nettle leaves in soups (the sting disappears when cooked), casseroles, or anywhere you would use spinach.

Watercress

watercress Pictures, Images and Photos

In the same family as mustard, watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is one of the most popular wild foods available, and its long growing season (flowering from April to October) makes it easy to find and harvest. As the common name suggests, watercress loves water: It often grows in dense spongy patches on the surface of springs and creeks, its succulent, spicy leaves floating on the rippling waters under shady trees. The small, dark green, oval leaves have rounded edges, and tiny tufts of white, four-petaled flowers grow at the end of firm yet tender stems. Snap off the peppery tasting leaves (and the flowers, if desired) and add to salads or soups, or use like chives. This plant provides vitamins A and C and was traditionally used in the treatment of scurvy and tuberculosis. Best eaten raw, it offers a wonderful, pungent taste to counteract sweet lettuces in salads.
I will talk about the medicinal properties of these ten wild plants in a later blog.