Posts Tagged ‘wild herbs’

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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

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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)

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This plant, sometimes called the common thistle, is considered to be an invasive weed nearly everywhere it grows. That is saying a lot, because it grows almost everywhere in North America except for in a few places in the deep southeast. It is also widespread in Europe.

This is a biennial plant that can grow up to six feet tall in its second year, producing the blossoms on branched stems. The leaves are deeply lobed, with spines at the end of each lobe as well as on the midvein, on the stem and around the flower. The flowers are pink to dark pink or nearly purple in color and they are actually quite attractive. The leaves at the base of the plant form a rosette that can be over a couple feet across.

The herb grows in sunny areas that have from damp to dry dirt. It is sometimes seen in waste areas, roadsides, empty lots, trails, pastures and even occasionally in gardens. The plant has a thick, tapering tap root but propagates by seeds.

Looking at one, a person might easily dismiss it as something not worth eating, even for a survivalist. This would be a mistake, however. It is actually a healthy and good tasting wild plant, with a flavor that is similar to celery, though bland.

A sharp knife can be used to remove the spines from the leaves and the leaves can then be eaten raw, steamed, boiled or added to other foods such as soups and stews. The leaves are best when they are harvested during cooler times of the year, like spring and autumn.

The thick tap root can also be peeled, sliced and either boiled or fried, stir-fry style.

A personal favorite is to collect the flowerheads before they’ve totally opened and to peel off the thorny outer skin. These are then boiled. Once done, the flavor is similar to artichokes (which are also members of the thistle family). I like slicing the cooked flowerheads and dipping them in mayonnaise. The downside is that they aren’t usually very large, so it takes a lot of them to make a meal.

This plant is high in vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, iron and fiber, which makes it a nutritional powerhouse. It also contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, so it has value because of the anti-oxidants.

Medicinally, Asians have used bull thistles for a long time for the treatment of internal bleeding and hemorrhages. American Indians also used the plant to treat bleeding gums, inflammation and stomach ulcers. The plant has properties that help with almost any kind of internal bleeding.

For the survivalist, this is a plant to remember. It is common, healthy and can help sustain a person in the case of an apocalypse or even after a natural disaster. Don’t let the thorny appearance fool you. Just remove the thorns.

There are many species of wild onions but they all have something in common with the store-bought variety: All of them are edible. Most wild onions don’t have hollow leaves like garden grown varieties, though. Instead, the grass-like leaves are flat, narrow and taper to a pointed tip.

Some species also lack a noticable bulb like domestic onions have, and they may have thick rhizomes instead. Like regular onions, however, both the leaves and the roots are edible, raw or cooked, and both have a distinct onion flavor and aroma when crushed. The scent is a major identifier for these wild plants, too. There are quite a few look-alikes, but none of those look-alikes smell like onion when a leaf is crushed. Most wild onions have blossoms that are varying shades of pink, sometimes so light that they appear almost white.

These plants grow from lowland to high altitude and in forests, river valleys and prairies.

Wild onions have about 64 calories per cupful, raw. They are high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium and manganese. This is all good news for someone attempting to survive an apocalypse. They are even good for lowering cholesterol. After all, nobody said that you couldn’t survive and be healthy about it at the same time.

Medicinally, American Indian tribes used the juice to treat insect bites and to reduce swelling and puffiness. Cooking wild onions in a thick simple syrup or honey can be used to treat coughs and colds. The juice acts as a natural tonic, too. Like other members of the onion family, the juice is also an insect repellent, especially for biting insects such as mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks.

They can be cooked by simply chopping and adding to other foods, or by boiling or baking. The roots can also be dug up and used any time of the year if the survivalist knows where the wild onions are growing. The flavor is good enough that it can be used with fish, wild game or even grubs and other soft bodied invertebrates. Additionally, wild onions can be used to flavor other survival foods, especially those that are bland.Image

Like other survival plants, this is a good one to include in meals even if you are simply out camping.

Other survival foods: https://survivingthezombieapocolypse.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/survival-food-mallow-plant/

The picture of wild onion blossoms and buds is by George F Mayfield, creative commons share alike 2.0 generic attribution.