Posts Tagged ‘wild plant’


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.

The last survival plant in the series: Coltsfoot

ImageThere are quite a few species of dock, but one of the most widespread is curled dock (Rumex crispus), sometimes called yellow dock. Curled dock can be found in most states and many provinces, but it isn’t native to North America. It came from Europe and Asia. This plant is considered to be a weed in North America and Europe, but it has good food and medicinal value. It is also now found in South America, New Zealand and Australia.

This wild herb can be found in places where the ground has been disturbed, including waysides, fields, gardens, vacant lots, forest borders, fence lines and along trails. The leaves are several times longer than they are wide and they taper to a point. There is a strong mid vein in the leaf and in Rumex crispus, the edges of the leaves are wavy, hence the common name. The plant puts up a flower stalk from the center of a rosette of leaves and this can become several feet in height. The flowers aren’t appealing, but dock produces copious numbers of seeds.

Once fully mature, the plant becomes deep reddish brown or burnt orange. The edibility is confined primarily to the leaves of young plants. Once they become older, the flavor becomes strong and bitter.

Caution: Like the closely related sorrel, this plant contails oxalic acid. It should not be eaten in large amounts and should not be eaten by nursing women. (Oxalic acid is what makes rhubarb leaves poisonous.) In sensitive people, oxalic acid can cause stomach distress and kidney stones.

The young leaves are sometimes added to to salads, and the leaves can be boiled or steamed as a potherb. Boiling the leaves in a couple changes of water helps to remove some of the oxalic acid, though this is seldom an issue in the young leaves as long as the helpings are moderate. The flavor is pleasantly sour, almost lemony, because of the acid. The seeds can also be dried and ground into flour.

Though the plant can be useful as a food for someone who is trying to survive a calamity, the biggest value is medicinal. While the older leaves are usually too bitter to eat, they can still be used for medical purposes.

A tea made from the leaves is very high in iron and has been used for a very long time to treat people who are anemic, including pregnant women or women who are menstuating. The tea can be helpful for people who have lost blood, as it can encourage the production on red blood cells. Unlike many high-iron sources, dock doesn’t usually cause constipation.

The crushed leaves can also be applied directly to rashes and stings, for fast relief. This property is mentioned in an old saying: Dock in, nettle out, dock rub nettle out. The reference is to the rash of stinging nettles. Rubbing dock leaves against the burning rash caused by the nettles causes relief almost immediately. Interestingly, dock can usually be found nearby where stinging nettles are growing. Externally, the leaves are also used on cuts and sores.

Dock roots are laxative, and a strong infusion or tea of the roots, mixed with vinegar, has been used effectively to treat ringworm.

Survivalists and others can take advantage of this plant, both as a food source and medicinally. It usually isn’t too hard to find or to identify. Some people also enjoy the flavor of the young leaves, myself included.

The last survival food in this series:

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:

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