Posts Tagged ‘edible wild plant’

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There are many different kinds of wild mustard and the grow virtually everywhere in the world except the permanently cold north and south polar regions. These wild herbs are not only great survival foods, they are wonderful additions to the dinner table or a camping meal.

Many familiar garden vegetables belong to the mustard family, including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, rutabaga, turnips and Brussels sprouts. Because of the number of variations in wild mustard, it is difficult to give a good description. The flowers tend to be small and are often yellow, but they can also be white, reddish, and even pink or purple. The leaves are often lobed. One of the best representatives in general is garden mustard, which is grown mainly for the leaves and the seeds.

The plant also has a big range since there are so many species; from highland to lowland, good soil, poor soil, drier locations, damp locations, gardens, waysides, waste areas and fields.

The leaves can be steamed or boiled and they are quite tasty, especially when the plant is younger. They have a characteristic peppery flavor that gets stronger and more bitter as the herb grows older. To overcome this, boil the leaves in a couple changes of lightly salted water. Note, however, that pouring the water out when changing it also means that you will be losing a lot of vitamins and minerals.

Speaking of the nutritional value, a cupful of chopped mustard greens has only 15 calories and are a good source of fiber. This herb is a good source of protein, phosphorus, niacin, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and copper. It is a very good source for folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, and an excellent source for vitamin K, vitamin A and manganese.

In addition to boiling or steaming, the raw leaves can also be added to green salads. They are also pleasant when used in sandwiches in much the same way that lettuce is used.

Wild mustard is often overlooked as a survival food, but it could easily be a staple that has great value because of how available and healthful it is.

The picture is by PollyDot, public domain, http://pixabay.com/en/treacle-mustard-275614/?oq=wild%20mustard

Previous survival food in the series: Arrowhead (Sagittaria genus)

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This wild plant gets its name from the shape of the leaves, which are distinctly arrowhead shaped. These are water plants that grow in almost any fresh, clear, slow moving water. They grow from the lowlands all the way up to mountain forests, if there is a good water supply. Arrowheads put up a thick flowering stalk from the base of the plant, and from this, four to 10 small white flowers open up.

The base of the plant anchors itself in the mud at the bottom of the water, often growing at a shallow depth, with the leaves held erect above the water surface. Tubers grow from the main root mass and can grow two or three feet from the main plant, through the mud. The tubers float, if broken off the main plant. Both the stems and the tubers can be eaten, and since the tubers float, collection just amounts to breaking them off and then scooping them up when they come to the surface.

While there are other survival foods that are healthier, arrowheads make a good survival food. The stems can be stir-fried or boiled and the tubers can be washed, sliced and either fried, boiled or baked. The roots are edible raw, as well.

An ounce of the root has just under 30 calories, almost 80 percent of it coming from starches and sugars. This edible wild plant is also a good source of protein and it is quite low in fat. It isn’t packed with vitamins, but it is a good source of iron. Some tribes of American Indians boiled the tubers, pounded them to a pulp and then let the water evaporate. The resultant course, sweetish powder can be used like wheat flower.

The roots will also keep for a couple of weeks if kept cool, so this isn’t a food source that goes bad rapidly. They can also be dried and later boiled in water. Wrapped in a bit of foil, with a pat of butter added, arrowhead tubers are great for cooking in a campfire, much like small potatoes can be, and the cooking time is usually about 10-15 minutes, like with the spuds.

Because of the starch content, this is a good plant for a survivalist, camper or hiker to add to meals to stretch them out and make them more filling. Harvesting the tubers also encourages the plant to produce more, so there is no need to damage the entire plant.

Picture by Amédée Masclef, from Atlas des plantes de France. 1891, public domain because the copyright has expired. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:310_Sagittaria_sagittifolia_L.jpg

The last survival plant in the series: Coltsfoot

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Sometimes called coughwort, butterbur or the tash plant, coltsfoot is a valuable survival food that also has some good medicinal qualities.

The plant grows from a rhizome and can spread easily. An interesting trait of this wild herb is that the rhizomes put up leafless stalks, which bear the yellow flowers. After the flowers die back, the leaves grow out from the base of the stalk. The plant can grow up to a foot in height.

This plant isn’t native to North America, coming from England, Europe, Africa and Asia, but it has become naturalized. It grows in poor soils, so it is often found in waste places, along roadsides and in other areas that have nutritionally weak soil.

As a food, the leaves and flower stalks can be steamed or boiled. It can be added to soups, stews and cooked with meats. The flowers are occasionally used in salads and have a sweet taste, while the cooked leaves are mildly bitter. Rinsing after cooking can remove some of the bitterness. The leaves are occasionally dried and used as a substitute for salt.

NOTE: According to Japanese researchers, this plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids. It should not be consumed by anyone who has a pre-existing liver ailment and it should not be eaten in large quantities, since liver damage can occur.

Coltsfoot has been used for a long time for coughs, wheezing, bronchitis, sore throat, congestion, sore mouth and inflammations. For this, it is usually made into a tea or occasionally smoked. This wild plant is considered to be one of the most useful for treating coughs of any sort.

While its worth as a food plant is limited and not on the order of many other wild plants, coltsfoot is still useful for someone who is looking for foods that will help them survive disasters.

The picture is by byrev, public domain, http://pixabay.com/en/angiosperms-coltsfoot-edge-flowers-88466/?oq=coltsfoot

Previous survival food: Dead nettle

Portulaca_oleraceaThe purslane, also known as pigweed, pursley and moss rose, is a delightful survival plant with nearly a worldwide distribution. In the United States, this wild herb is considered to be a weed, but in some countries, it is cultivated on purpose. There are really good reasons for this, owing to food and medicinal value as well as the fact that it can grow in nutrient poor clay soil and can withstand drought conditions. All of this makes purslane a terrific survival food in times of trouble.

The wild plant has round stems and oval shaped fleshy leaves. It is classed as an annual, but it is also a succulent and grows readily from seeds. The plant usually grows close to the ground, though some species can grow as tall as 16 inches in height. The flowers are small and yellow, giving way to seed pods, each of which have many seeds. The pods pop open when the seeds are ripe.

Purslane is widely eaten in Europe, Asia, the middle east, Mexico, South and Central America and even Australia. The Greeks call this andrakla and cook the leaves and stems, mixing them with tomato, onion, garlic, olive oil and feta cheese.

The flavor is sour but mild, so it is good when eaten in salads, raw. The stems and leaves can also be fried, stir fried, steamed or boiled, with other ingredients or as a stand-alone potherb. The potherb is similar to spinach, though the plant doesn’t shrink as much as spinach does when it is cooked. This herb is great when used as an ingredient in soups and stews, such as wild stews, because it is slightly mucilaginous, in the way that mallow is, though not quite as much. In fact, moss rose is quite good when cooked with mallow. It can even be cooked in pastries, and this is a favorite way of preparation for the Turks.

Thicker stems can be pickled in much the way that cucumbers often are, too.

As a food, purslane is a healthy addition to the diet. The herb is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, fiber and is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids. Purslane is packed with antioxidants and appears to inhibit the growth of tumors, while preventing them from becoming cancerous. Few plants are higher in vitamin A, calcium or iron.

It has been and is used medicinally to treat insect bites, snake bites, bee stings, punctures, burns, boils, sunburn, rashes, and internally for diarrhea, bleeding in the digestive tract and hemorrhoids. For external use, the plant can simply be crushed and rubbed on. It can be made into an infusion, but this is seldom necessary.

In short, this wild herb is a powerhouse just waiting to help the survivalist or anyone else who wants to live healthier. It is found all over the place, is tasty and is easy to identify.

Picture by ZooFari, creative commons 3.0 unported attribution.

Last survival food in the series: Dock