Posts Tagged ‘food 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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Dead nettles are a European plant that has become naturalized in America and often now grows as a wildflower. Despite the name, this plant isn’t related to stinging nettles. Dead nettle is actually part of the mint family. The plant does have value for survivalists, however.

Dead nettle is an annual plant, normally blooming in the summer. The stems show the connection to the mint family, because they are noticeably and distinctly square in shape. This is very unlike the stems of stinging nettles. Also unlike Urtica dioica, dead nettles don’t ‘sting’. You can gather them with your bare hands without worry.

The stems can grow up to about two and a half feet tall and the lower part of the stem doesn’t have leaves growing from it. The rest of the stem has a multitude of leaves, usually a couple inches in length. The leaves grow in opposite pairs on the stem, and the pair of leaves above or below each pair grow a quarter turn around the stem. The leaves bear a striking resemblance to the deep veined appearance of peppermint leaves or to those of stinging nettles, which is how the plant gets its common name, in the latter case. When the leaves are young, they have a purplish tint that is quite attractive.

The flowers are tube shaped and are white to light purple, including the various shades between the two.

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These plants prefer moist soils and are found growing along canal banks, in gardens, near forests and near streams. This trait is shared with stinging nettles and most kinds of mint.

For food, the plant can be steamed or put in soups and stews. The flavor is very mild, so it is good when served with stronger tasting foods. Steaming it with diced wild chive leaves is a good combination and it goes will with cooked dandelion greens. It can be cooked as a potherb and is edible raw as well. The flowers are also edible and sweet, making them good and colorful additions to green salads. The plant is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, iron and it is very high in antioxidants.

This wild herb has some great medicinal properties, like so many wild foods. Tea made from dead nettles is good for treating inflammations and the tea has pain relieving properties. It is used to treat allergies, too. Additionally, the plant juices are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. The plant is astringent, diaphoretic, diuretic and mildly purgative, in addition to the properties already stated.

There is some disagreement among botanists as to whether dead nettles and henbit is the same plant, but is is a rather moot point as both are edible and can be used in the same ways.

This is a good plant for people to become acquainted with. In the event of disaster, dead nettle can be a great food source for people who are trying to survive. It is also a great wild food addition for hikers and campers.

The opening picture is of common dead nettle and it is public domain, taken by Jana, http://pixabay.com/en/dead-nettle-violet-spring-6248/
The second picture shows dead nettle with white blossoms. It was taken by ariesa66, is public domain as well, http://pixabay.com/en/dead-nettle-white-deadnettle-hummel-320306/

The last survival food in the series: Stinging nettles

ImageThis plant gets its common name from the flat, heart-shaped seed pods that were thought to resemble the change purse used by shepherds. Shepherd’s purse is quite common where the ground has been disturbed, including fields, along roads or trails, in gardens and in waste places. It isn’t hard to identify, with lobed or toothed leaves, similar to dandelions, that seldom get more than a couple inches long. The flowers are white and have four petals, with the flower stalk arising from the middle of the plant. The stalk continues to grow with blooms at the top and seed pods lower on the stalk. The pods are actually fruits and they contain the seeds, which are also edible.

The entire plant is edible, though it is most often the young leaves that are harvested, prior to the time the plant blooms. The reason for this is that shepherd’s purse is a member of the mustard family, and like most members of the group, the peppery flavor becomes much more pronounced when the wild herb starts blooming. (This is also common of the other members of the mustard family.)

For a survivalist, this is a plant of good value. Not only is it common and easy to find in most of North America and Europe, it is also quite high in vitamin C, calcium, sulfur and iron. Additionally, it contains acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. The plant is also balanced in regard to the amount of carbohydrates and proteins it contains. The flavor is peppery but good, reminiscent of watercress, which is also a member of the family.

The plant is eaten either as a cooked potherb, as a raw addition to green salads and to flavor other foods, especially soups and stews. It goes great with most wild game, especially venison, bear, grouse and quail. It is also good with fish.

This herb has medicinal properties, though it isn’t commonly used in the United States for that purpose. It is good for use to stop internal and external bleeding, it is reputed to lower blood pressure, it is used to treat diarrhea and it has been effectively used by women who are on menstruating, to help control flow. It can also be used as a diuretic for people who are retaining water. Some American Indian tribes also used it as a mild analgesic. For medicinal purposes, shepherd’s purse can be dried, but it doesn’t retain its medicinal properties long, so it is best to use it fresh.

This is yet another survival plant that is great to eat for hikers and campers. The peppery taste can even be used to great effect on bland foods, to make them more palatable.

Previous survival plants in the series: https://survivingthezombieapocolypse.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/survival-foods-wild-onions/
https://survivingthezombieapocolypse.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/survival-food-mallow-plant/

The picture is by H. Zell, creative commons share alike 1.2 attribution