Posts Tagged ‘wild food’

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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

Large burdock leaf

Large burdock leaf

Burdock is the bane of many gardeners and is considered a weed and a pest, but it is also a great survival food. It is native to Europe and has become naturalized throughout much of the world. The plant is biennial and is known for the seed pods that they produce and which are covered with hook-like appendages that hook on to fur, feathers and clothing easily, necessitating a good deal of time to pick out the burrs. This trait is how the plant gets its common name.

This plant shouldn’t be confused with cockleburs, but except for the burrs, the two plants don’t look much alike.

Though the first year burdock doesn’t usually grow very tall, in the second year it can reach nearly three feet in height. The leaves have wavy edges and taper to a point from a thick base. Some leaves can be large and have stalks that are a foot long. The flowers are purple in color.

The long, tapering tap root is quite edible, especially if it is from the first year plant. Older roots can become tougher, more fibrous and bitter and may need to be boiled in more than one change of water.

The roots are normally peeled and thinly sliced before boiling. These can be especially tasty when seasoned with soy sauce and ginger, or wild ginger. The roots, cooked with wild onions and chicken broth, can make a very agreeable chicken soup.

A cup of the root, sliced and boiled, has only about 110 calories and it is quite high in vitamin B6, as well as being a good source of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, fiber, and a fair source of calcium and iron. The downside is that it contains about 300 mg of sodium in the cup serving.

The flowering stalks, while they are still young and before the flowers open, can also be peeled and eaten raw or boiled. Since burdock is related to globe artichokes, it isn’t surprising that the flavor is similar.

The roots and seeds also have good medicinal value and are usually dried and made into tea for this purpose. The tea is good for treating scruvy, stomach problems, rheumatism, menstruation, dropsy, kidney problems and as a general tonic. The infusion is also a diuretic, helping the body flush toxins from the system. Externally, the tea is useful for treating ulcers, sores, bruises and boils. The leaves can also be used medicinally, but they tend to be bitter when taken internally.

Burdock is a useful plant for anyone needing to survive, or even to make meals stretch a little further. There aren’t many places where it can’t be found growing, so foraging is usually uncomplicated. Some people even grow it on purpose, even though it is known as a weed.

The picture is by Hans, public domain image, http://pixabay.com/en/great-burdock-journal-large-green-62435/

Previous survival food: Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

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

ImageOne of the necessities if you are trying to survive an apocalypse of any sort is to make sure that you have something nutritious to eat. Thankfully, there are a lot of different wild plants that are quite edible, widespread, easy to identify and even tasty. Among this is a plant called Mallow, also known as Cheeses or Cheeseweed.

There are quite a few species of mallow, which means that one species or another can be found in most habitats and climates. They are also distributed nearly worldwide, excluding only Antarctica. In fact, as many gardeners will attest, once established, it is very hard to get rid of these plants without poisoning the soil.

Common mallow (Malva neglecta) is representative of the mallows. They tend to be low growing plants with a roundish leaf, deep green in color. The tap root is stout and long, and a new plant can arise from even a small piece of the root – part of the reason it is despised by gardeners. The blossoms are usually pinkish-white, normally with five petals. These give way to seeds that are arranged in a segmented circle, not unlike a round of cheese, hence their alternate name. A well-known member of the family is the garden hollyhock, which has a similar appearance to mallow, though usually much larger in all respects. (Hollyhock is also edible.)

The entire mallow plant is edible. Many kids have experienced munching on the raw cheeses. The leaves can be added to salads, raw, or they can be cooked as a potherb. Additionally, they can be added to soups and stews. The cheeses and the roots can also be cooked. When these are cooked, they release a sort of mucilage that can thicken soups or stews. This trait is one of the uses of a member of the family: Okra. The flowers can add a splash of color to salads.

Mallow also has medicinal properties. It is an expectorant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and very mildly laxative. For these purposes, it is often made into a tea at a rate of one tablespoon of the leaves to a cup of boiling water. The leaves can also be dried for this purpose. The flavor is bland and the tea can be sweetened with honey. Externally, mallow is emollient and demulcent, so it can be rubbed on dry or chapped skin as well as on cuts, scrapes, insect bites and punctures.

This is a multi-purpose plant for survivalists and others. The plant is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. This makes it useful for hikers and campers, as well as for people who are just trying to stretch their meals.

It is good to become acquainted with this wild herb and to learn to identify it on sight. That way, should you ever find yourself in a survival situation, you will have at least one identifiable source of usually-plentiful food.

(The picture is by Soulignac (Gironde, France) 2004 – GFDL, creative commons share-alike, unported)