Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible


Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
(Source: JohnHarvey/Wikimedia Commons)

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), or also known as creeping dogwood, is a perennial flowering subshrub species. This plant is native to East Asia, Russia, Northern USA, and Canada. Unlike its other relatives, bunchberry is a creeping plant that only grows to about 8” tall at most. In some parts of the world, this plant is considered a pesky weed due to its prolific growth. However, many people also regard this plant as a beautiful ground cover plant. Additionally, it also produces bright red fruits that are edible.

Edibility and culinary use

The fruit of this plant can be eaten raw or cooked. Bunchberries have a slightly sweet flavor. However, they’re quite dry and mealy, so they may not be the best snack when eaten raw. If you want, you can dry them to make bunchberry raisins. These raisins are great as a snack due to its sweeter taste. Additionally, you can also use raw bunchberries to boost the flavor of breakfast cereals and oatmeal.

Bunchberries are also an excellent ingredient for making jams. This is because bunchberries contain a fiber compound called pectin which works as a thickening agent. As a result, you’ll get a sweet jam with perfect consistency and wonderful mouthfeel. Alternatively, you can also use these berries to make pudding, pies, and other sweet desserts.

Health benefits

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
(Source: Neelix/Wikimedia Commons)

As mentioned earlier, bunchberries contain pectin. While most people only know pectin for its culinary uses, this compound actually has other benefits. When ingested, pectin can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Moreover, consuming pectin regularly can also help treat inflammation, diabetes, and GERD. Additionally, scientists believe that consuming pectin regularly can prevent poisoning from heavy metal. You can also use pectin topically to treat mouth ulcers and sore throats. You can do this by mashing the berries and use the juice directly on the ulcer.

Other parts of the bunchberry plant have medicinal benefits as well. Bunchberry leaves and stems can also be consumed as a herbal remedy. This is because they have analgesic and febrifuge properties. Brew the leaves and stems to make an herbal tea. This tea can treat many different ailments, from fevers and coughs to kidney and lung diseases. Lastly, this tea can also be used as an eyewash to treat sore eyes.

Cultivation

Aside from being a wonderful food source, the bunchberry plant can also serve as a unique ground cover plant. With its lush green foliage, snowy white flowers, and bright red fruits, this plant will definitely make your garden look more interesting. It can also attract butterflies to your garden. If you’re interested in cultivating bunchberry, you’re in luck! This plant is easy to cultivate and maintain. However, you’ll need to be patient as bunchberry takes a while to settle down.

Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) Flowers
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) Flowers
(Source: Will Pollard/Flickr)

Bunchberry thrives in many types of soil, from heavy clay soils to light sandy soils. Bunchberry prefers to grow in partially shaded areas. Remember to water the plant regularly to keep the soil moist.

You should be able to purchase young bunchberry plants from local plant nurseries. Depending on the size of the plant, it may take a few months until you can handle them and transfer them to their permanent positions. If you can’t find young bunchberry plants, you can still grow them from seeds. The seeds are readily available online. However, note that cultivating this plant from seeds will take way longer; germination may take up to 18 months.

Just make sure to prune and weed out the plants regularly once they’re established. Bunchberry plants may be a slow grower, but once it has matured, it will become rampant. If you don’t control their growth, the plants will take over your entire garden. It will also become a fierce competition to other plants in your garden.

Cautions

There are no known hazards of consuming bunchberry.

Conclusion

Bunchberries can be a great addition to your daily diet. While it may taste a little bland, it’s nutritious and versatile. Experiment with many different bunchberry recipes to find out which one you love the most. Even if you’re not interested in consuming the berries, this plant can still be an excellent addition to your garden. With a lush, carpet-like groundcover that lasts all year long, your garden is guaranteed to look even more beautiful with bunchberry plants.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

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Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy


Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
(Source: beautifulcataya/Flickr)

Puffball mushroom is the collective name for many different mushrooms with similar characteristics. But, in this article, we’ll focus on one specific puffball, the giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea). This mushroom can grow up to one foot in diameter. This wild edible is available in temperate areas throughout the world. You should be able to find giant puffballs in meadows, forests, and fields in late summer or early fall.

Edibility and culinary use

Giant puffballs have a mild nutty and earthy taste. It’s also able to soak up the flavor of any sauces, spices, or herbs it’s cooked with, making it a very versatile cooking ingredient. These mushrooms also have a delicate, tofu-like texture. They can be cooked in many different ways, boiled, baked, roasted, or even fried. Puffballs can be used in recipes as a substitute for eggplant or tofu. Try to experiment with many different recipes and find out which one is your favorite.

Since the rind may cause an upset stomach on some people, it’s best to remove the rind and only eat the inner flesh. When you cut the mushroom open, make sure there are no discolorations. If there are any other colors than white, throw the mushroom away. Also, it’s not recommended to wash the interior of the mushroom before cooking. Doing so will only make the mushroom soggy. Lastly, puffballs taste better when fresh, but you can also freeze or dry them for later use.

Health benefits

Young giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Young giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
(Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia Commons)

Just like other common mushrooms, the giant puffballs have great nutritional content. They’re rich in protein and low in calories. They’re also very filling, making them wonderful for weight loss. Moreover, it can also lower your cholesterol, increase your cardiovascular health, and boost your immune system.

Aside from that, some research has shown that the giant puffballs can help treat various bleeding, such as oral bleeding and traumatic hemorrhage. Lastly, puffballs also contain a chemical compound called calvacin. While more studies are needed to get a more conclusive result, some scientists believe that this compound may have antitumor and anticancer properties.

Cultivation

Unlike most common mushrooms, growing puffballs can be a challenge. They grow and feed in a different manner compared to other common mushrooms. It may take several tries to successfully cultivate the giant puffball. However, if you’re up to the challenge, here’s how you can grow them in your own home.

First, you need to get some viable spores. If you know for sure that there are some wild giant puffballs near your home, pick them once they turn brown. It means the puffballs are full of spores. But, it’s recommended to just buy mature giant puffballs from the internet as you run the risk of misidentifying the wild mushroom.

Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
(Source: Wing-Chi Poon/Wikimedia Commons)

Once you have your mature puffballs, break them open with a knife. Then, press the mushrooms until all the spores pop out. Fill a bucket with two gallons of spring or nonchlorinated water. Add a pinch of salt to keep bacteria away and a spoonful of molasses to feed the spores. Let everything soak at room temperature for two days.

Then, pour the mixture onto your lawn. Mist the area every couple of days to keep everything moist. The mycelium will eventually penetrate the ground and the mushrooms will grow. If you’re successful, you can expect the mushrooms to start fruiting within 3 or 4 weeks.

Harvest the puffballs while they are still young and pure white. Don’t pick the mushrooms with your bare hands as you might damage the mycelium. Instead, use a very sharp knife to make a clean cut. This way, the mycelium will be preserved and the mushrooms will come back year after year.

Cautions

There’s one thing you must always remember when harvesting giant puffball mushrooms. They must be pure white with no discolorations or patterns. Discoloration on the mushroom means that it’s beginning to decompose and rot. Thus, making it dangerous to consume. At the very least it can cause a severe stomachache. And if you see any pattern on the mushroom you’re about to pick, leave it alone. Patterns on the mushroom gills are a sign of an immature Amanita mushroom which is lethally poisonous. 

Conclusion

If you love mushroom hunting, then you’ll definitely love the giant puffball. There’s nothing more satisfying than finding a huge puffball in the wild and bringing it home for cooking. With its versatile flavor, this wild edible can be a great addition to your meals. Just remember to stick with the identification rule and you wouldn’t need to worry about any poisonous look-a-likes. Lastly, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try cultivating this mushroom in your own garden. It may be difficult, but the results will definitely be worth the effort.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible


Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
(Source: F. D. Richards/Wikimedia Commons)

Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus), also known as pigweed amaranth, is a common summer annual herb. This plant is native to the tropical Americas, but it has been introduced to also every continent in the world. In the US, this plant is mainly used as livestock fodder, especially for hogs and pigs, hence its name. Other than that, this plant also grows in many farm fields and gardens. Due to its prolific growth and hardiness, some people regard this plant as a pesky weed.

This plain-looking plant may be a livestock fodder. But, that doesn’t mean that humans can’t enjoy it as well. In fact, this plant is considered a valuable vegetable in many parts of the world. For example, Native Americans, Mexicans, and Indians are known to include pigweed leaves in their traditional dishes. Moreover, this plant is well-known for being a great survival food due to its delicious flavor and its nutritional content.

Edibility and culinary use

Every part of the plant is edible, but the leaves are the most popular part. Pigweed leaves are eaten as vegetables in many parts of the world and they can be eaten raw or cooked. Harvest and eat only the young pigweed leaves. This is because as they get older, the leaves become bitter and tough. These leaves have a mild and neutral flavor that’s reminiscent of spinach. Due to their light flavor, pigweed leaves are often combined with herbs, spices, and other stronger-flavored leaves. Alternatively, you can also boil fresh or dried pigweed leaves to make an herbal tea.

As mentioned earlier, every part of this plant is edible, including its seeds. These seeds may be small, but they really pack a punch. The seeds have a pleasant nutty flavor that becomes even more delicious when they’re roasted. You can grind roasted pigweed seeds and use the powder as a thickener or a cereal substitute. You can also use the powder when making bread. Or you can also sprout the seeds and add them to salads.

Health benefits

Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) Flower
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) Flower
(Source: Lynk media/Wikimedia Commons)

Pigweed leaves and seeds aren’t only delicious, but they’re also nutritious. They’re rich in vitamins A and C as well as other important minerals, such as iron, manganese, calcium, zinc, copper, and magnesium. Adding pigweed into your daily diet can improve your health and immunity immensely. 

Consuming pigweed can help alleviate fever, headache, nausea, stomachache, and other digestive disorders. Moreover, pigweed leaves have astringent properties. For that reason, tea made from these leaves can help treat sore throat, heavy menstrual bleeding, diarrhea, internal bleeding, and internal ulcers. You can also use the tea topically to treat cuts, rashes, scrapes, and insect bites.

Cultivation

After knowing all of its culinary and medicinal benefits, you might want to grow some redroot pigweed plants in your own garden. You’re in luck! This plant is very easy to cultivate and maintain. This plant can thrive in almost any condition; it can withstand hot weather and droughts. Moreover, you can also find pigweed seeds readily available online.

Sow the seeds directly in spring after the last frost. Try to choose a spot with moist but well-drained soil. Germination should happen within a week. Try to water the plants regularly until they’re well established. After that, the plant can basically maintain itself.

Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
(Source: University of Delaware Carvel REC /Flickr)

This plant also self-sows. It can even regenerate itself from seeds that have gone through the winter. Simply let the plant be and you will have a bunch of pigweed plants in no time. Harvest the leaves and seeds regularly to control the plants’ growth. Also, make sure to tile the roots every year to prevent the plants from taking over your entire garden.

Cautions

There are no known hazards from eating pigweed. However, you need to source itundated properly. Avoid pigweeds that are grown on nitrogen-rich soils or soils that contain chemical fertilizers. This plant concentrate nitrates in its leaves. Consuming nitrates in large amounts may lead to digestive tract disorders, stomach cancer, and cardiovascular problems. 

Conclusion

Redroot pigweed garners mixed feelings in the botanical field. While some people see it as a mere agricultural weed, some view this plant as a valuable food source. Which category do you fall in? After learning about the culinary and medicinal benefits of pigweed, hopefully, you’ll give this wonderful wild edible a try.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers


Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
(Source: Msact/Wikimedia Commons)

Sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) is a small deciduous tree that’s native to eastern North America. This tree is especially common in Southeastern US. You can find them growing in oak-heath forests, near riverbanks, and along roadsides. This tree can easily be identified by their lush dark green foliage which turns a striking fiery red in the fall.

Aside from being a gorgeous ornamental tree, sourwood also has several culinary and medicinal uses. In fact, for hundreds of years, many Native American tribes have been using sourwood leaves to cook and to make traditional folk medicine

Edibility and culinary use

Sourwood leaves are edible; they have a pleasant acidic taste. You can consume the leaves raw or cooked. The acidic flavor can add some fresh, tanginess to many different dishes. Young sourwood leaves can be a wonderful addition to salads and stews. You can also boil sourwood leaves to make a delicious herbal tea. This herbal tea has a zesty flavor that will taste amazing when paired with honey.

Sourwood tree’s beautiful white flowers are also edible. Just like the leaves, these flowers also have a fresh, acidic taste. The juice from these flowers is usually used to make sourwood jelly. Additionally, the flowers are great to have if you’re a beekeeper. They typically bloom in early summer, providing bees with an abundance of sweet nectar. Sourwood honey is very delicious; it has a buttery, caramel-like flavor. For that reason, this honey is highly prized in the market.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) Foliage
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) Foliage
(Source: Jaknouse/Wikimedia Commons)

Health benefits

To get sourwood’s health benefits, brew the leaves to make an herbal tea. This herbal tea can be used to alleviate symptoms of asthma, dysentery, diarrhea, as well as kidney and bladder ailments. But, while it can treat diarrhea, consuming sourwood leaves in high amounts isn’t recommended. This is because the leaves have a laxative effect in high doses. Aside from that, sourwood tea can also cure fevers, nausea, and stop excessive menstrual bleeding. Lastly, you can also chew the bark of this tree to treat mouth ulcers and canker sores.

Cultivation

With its gorgeous foliage, sourwood is an attractive ornamental plant. Dark green in spring and summer and burning red during fall and winter; this tree will make your garden look pretty all year long. Its small size also makes it great for smaller lawns. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, you can forage and consume its leaves and flowers. 

Additionally, if you keep bees, these trees would be a wonderful addition to your garden. Every summer, these trees produce small, bell-shaped, white flowers that are very attractive to honeybees. These flowers are a great source of nectar for bees. In fact, sourwood honey is considered a delicacy for its fresh and sweet flavor.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) Flower
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) Flower
(Source: Mrs. Gemstone/Flickr)

The hardy sourwood tree is quite easy to cultivate, albeit a bit slow. It can take up to 4 years for the tree to fully mature if you grow it from seeds. That’s why it’s better to buy young trees from a local nursery rather than growing this tree from scratch. This plant thrives when there is little root competition. So, if you intend to plant multiple sourwood trees, make sure to give at least 12” of space between each tree.

This tree can grow in a partially shaded area, but it will grow better if it’s planted in an area with full sun exposure. Sourwood tree can grow in almost every type of soil, just make sure that the soil is well-drained. Lastly, it’s also drought-tolerant so it’s great for beginners.

Cautions

Sourwood leaves and flowers are completely safe to eat in moderation. But, note that in high amounts, the leaves can act as a laxative. So try to limit your consumption to avoid unwanted side effects.

Conclusion

Famous for its gorgeous foliage, the sourwood tree has so many uses other than just being an ornamental plant. Sourwood is a wonderful cooking ingredient and a powerful herbal remedy. It’s actually rather sad that most people only see this tree as an ornamental plant when it has so many potential uses. So, the next time you see a sourwood tree, why not try including its leaves and flowers into your daily diet?


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Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea


Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
(Source: Joshua Mayer/Flickr)

Wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) is an annual vine plant that belongs to the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae). Wild cucumber is native to North America. It’s well known for its prickly fruits, hence its other name, prickly cucumber. 

Also, did you know? There’s another plant that’s also called wild cucumber. The plant’s scientific name is Cucumis anguria. It belongs in the same family as Echinocystis lobata, but it belongs in a different genus. They make look similar with their prickly, rounded fruits, but they’re entirely different plants. Cucumis anguria is more widely known as West Indian cucumber, while Echinocystis lobata is referred to as wild cucumber.

Edibility and culinary use

Unlike its similarly named cousin, this species of wild cucumber doesn’t produce any edible fruits. Its fruits aren’t fleshy and instead consists of two seed chambers. Wild cucumber fruits act solely as a seed container where seeds will grow and ripen. In fact, only the roots of this plant are considered edible. You may not be able to eat it straight as it tastes bitter, but you can boil them to make herbal tea. Note that this herbal tea is very bitter, so you might want to add some sweetener to make it more palatable.

Health benefits

Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) Leaves
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) Leaves
(Source: Dan Mullen/Flickr)

This plant has very limited medicinal uses. But despite that fact, wild cucumber has been a part of folk medicine for hundreds of years. As mentioned earlier, you can boil the root of wild cucumber to get a very bitter herbal tea. This herbal tea can help alleviate stomach problems, indigestion, nausea, chills, and fevers. Some researchers also believe that wild cucumber herbal tea can also treat rheumatism and kidney ailments. Then, you can also pulverize the roots and make it into a poultice. This wild cucumber poultice can help headaches and migraines.

Cultivation

Even though this plant has very limited culinary and medicinal uses, it still has other uses. For example, it’s considered a novelty decorative plant by most gardeners. Its fruits and leaves are regularly used in dried flower arrangements. Its large, patterned seeds are also used in artworks. Some people also have wild cucumber plants in their garden to attract certain wildlife, such as birds and small mammals, to their garden.

As a vine, this plant would look extremely attractive wrapped around your fence or a pergola. If you’re interested in cultivating wild cucumber in your own garden, then you’re in luck. This plant is relatively easy to grow. It can thrive in every type of soil, from light and sandy soils to heavy clay soils, as long as it’s moist and well-drained. Just make sure to plant it in a sunny location as it can’t tolerate shade. But here’s a little bit of warning, this plant grows very rapidly. Its vine can be as long as 30”. So, you should prune your plants regularly to prevent it from taking over your entire garden.

Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) Seed Pod
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) Seed Pod
(Source: Conrad Kuiper/Flickr)

You should be able to buy wild cucumber seeds from local plant nurseries or from the internet. Sow the seeds indoors in spring after the last frost date. They will germinate within one or two weeks. Plant them in their permanent place once the seedlings are big enough to handle. Young wild cucumber vines grow very rapidly, use stems, branches, or wire to support the vines. The flowers will start blooming by midsummer. Once their fruits ripen in the fall, the plants will start dropping its seeds. By that point, the plants will die off. Then, the dropped seeds will germinate and grow by the next spring.

Cautions

This plant is completely safe to consume. Just note that it may look similar to its cousin, the West Indian gherkin. While that plant’s roots are also fine to consume, they don’t have the same medicinal properties that wild cucumber roots have. 

Conclusion

Wild cucumbers don’t have a lot of culinary and medicinal uses; you can only consume herbal tea made out of this plant’s roots. But despite that fact, wild cucumbers are still a lovely ornamental plant. Its long vines, white blooms, and prickly fruits will definitely add some variety to your garden. 


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Wild Cucumber, a Hairy and Prickly Gherkin Cucumber


Wild Cucumber Plant (Cucumis anguria)
Wild Cucumber Plant (Cucumis anguria)
(Source: Eugenio Hansen/Wikimedia Commons)

Wild cucumber (Cucumis anguria), or more commonly known as West Indian gherkin, is a vine that belongs to the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae). This plant is native to Africa but it has naturalized all throughout the globe, including in America. Even though it’s not a garden cucumber (Cucumis sativus), this plant’s small and roundish fruits look and taste quite similar to garden cucumbers.

Note that there’s also another plant that’s commonly called wild cucumber, Echinocystis lobata. While they share the same name, Echinocystis lobata’s fruit isn’t edible at all. Cucumis anguria and Echinocystis lobata may belong in the same family, but they don’t belong in the same genus. In this article, we’ll mostly be referring to Cucumis anguria with its other name, Wild Indian gherkin, to avoid confusion.

Edibility and culinary use

As mentioned earlier, the small and squat West Indian gherkins taste similar to the common cucumber. Its inner flesh has a crunchy texture and a strong refreshing flavor with some sour notes. This gherkin cucumber can be eaten raw, cooked, or pickled. They especially taste amazing pickled. In fact, it’s believed that West Indian gherkins were one of the first cucumber varieties to be used for pickling. 

Other than pickling, you can use these gherkin cucumbers as a substitute for regular cucumbers. They can be chopped and made into relishes. Additionally, you can also add them to stews, soups, and stir-fried dishes. Fresh wild cucumbers also taste amazing in salads and sandwiches. Due to its neutral yet refreshing taste, these gherkin cucumbers can complement a lot of ingredients. They pair especially well with beef, chicken, carrots, cabbages, turnips, tomatoes, garlic, onion, dill, and parsley.

Health benefits

West Indian gherkins are a great source of potassium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and beta-carotene. Aside from being nutritious, this wild cucumber is also low in calories, making it a wonderful food for weight loss. It also has a rich water content. So, eating these cucumbers will hydrate and nourish your body. Lastly, eating these fruits can aid digestion and even help treat stomach ailments.

Cultivation

Wild Cucumber Plant (Cucumis anguria)
Wild Cucumber Plant (Cucumis anguria)
(Source: Dawn Endico/Flickr)

If you have your own vegetable garden, why not add the West Indian gherkin to your collection? This wild cucumber wild plant is cold-resistant and drought-resistant, making it relatively easy to cultivate. Moreover, this plant can give you a steady source of wild cucumbers all year long. The fruit’s peak season is late spring, but you should be able to harvest fresh gherkin cucumbers throughout the year.

It’s a bit hard to find young seedlings available for purchase, but you should be able to buy the seeds from local nurseries and online stores. West Indian gherkins can grow in all types of soil, starting from light, sandy soil to heavy clay soil. But, you need to make sure that the soil is moist yet well-drained. You also need to plant the seeds in a sunny position as this plant can’t tolerate shade.

Sow ripe seeds indoors during fall. They will start to germinate within one or two weeks. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, plant them in their permanent position in early winter. Your plants should start producing flowers and even some fruits by early spring.

Once your plants start to produce fruits, harvest them regularly. If you don’t, your plants will put a lot of their energy into producing seeds. This may cause your plants to die early. Pick the fruits regularly and it will encourage greater harvests. Make sure to pick fruits while they are young as they taste sweeter. Moreover, as they get older, the skin and seeds of the wild cucumbers will harden, making them taste unpleasant.

Cautions

There are no known hazards from eating West Indian gherkin fruits. But avoid ingesting the seedlings at all cost. The seedlings are toxic since they are a natural pest-repellant plant. Lastly, make sure to wear gloves when handling this plant; its prickly hair can penetrate the skin. 

Also note that it looks similar to its cousin, the wild cucumber (Echinocystis lobata). Since the two plants belong in the same family, they have similar appearances, especially to beginner foragers. While the wild cucumber itself isn’t poisonous, it’s inedible. It would be such a letdown to find that the fruits you’ve picked are inedible. So, make sure to identify the correct and edible wild cucumber.

Conclusion

If you love pickles, then you’ll really love this wild cucumber. West Indian gherkins taste amazing pickled. Since this is mainly a crop plant, it would be a bit hard to find this plant in the wild, despite its name. While you probably can buy pickled West Indian gherkins from the market, growing the plant in your own garden is also a great option. That way, you can get a steady source of fresh wild cucumbers all year long. You can also experiment and try this exotic looking fruit in many different dishes.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

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Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
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Anise, the original star of the herb garden
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Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
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Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
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Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
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Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
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Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
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Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
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Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
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Juneberry, Tasty and Nutritious Native Fruits


Juneberry Tree (Amelanchier canadensis)
Juneberry Tree (Amelanchier canadensis)
(Source: Borealis55/Wikimedia Commons)

Juneberry (Amelanchier), also known as saskatoon, serviceberry, or wild-plum, is a genus comprised of more than 20 species of deciduous shrubs. It belongs in the Rosacea family, meaning that it’s related to roses. Most juneberry tree species are native to North America. In fact, almost every US state has a native juneberry tree species. These trees are known for their small, dark red or purple fruits which ripen in June, hence the name. Juneberry trees are also popular for their beautiful foliage and delicate white flowers.

Edibility and culinary use

Juneberry trees produce delicious fruits. These fruits have a rich, sweet taste with a hint of nuttiness. Some describe it tasting almost as apples and blueberries combined. These berries taste wonderful fresh but they can also be dried, preserved, canned, or cooked. Some even make wine, beer, cider, and tea using these berries. 

If you’re lucky enough to find juneberry trees around your home, be sure to harvest them. You can eat them right away or use them to substitute other berries in many different recipes. Juneberry tastes especially great as a jam and pie filling. However, if you can’t find any juneberry tree nearby, you can still try these berries by purchasing from your local farmer’s market or health store. Saskatoon berries, one of the more popular species in this group, are harvested commercially and quite popular in North America. 

Health benefits

Saskatoon Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
Saskatoon Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
(Source: drbarronoss/Flickr)

The sweet juneberry isn’t only delicious, but it’s also nutrient-dense. Juneberry fruits are rich in vitamins A, C, and E as well as essential minerals, such as iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, and copper. Moreover, it’s also full of fiber, protein, flavonoids, and antioxidants. That’s why eating juneberries are very beneficial for your health. It can help boost your immunity, 

Aside from the fruits, other parts of the juneberry tree also have some medicinal uses. For example, you can boil the root bark to make herbal tea. This herbal tea can help treat excessive menstrual bleeding, alleviate menstrual pain, and stop diarrhea. An infusion made from the juneberry tree’s inner bark can also be used as a disinfectant wash.

Cultivation

Certain species in this group, such as the saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) and common juneberry tree (Amelanchier lamarcki), are usually cultivated as ornamental shrubs. Juneberry trees can be an absolutely delightful addition to any garden. Its rich green foliage will look lush all throughout the summer. Then in the fall, it will look warm and golden. Moreover, its white flowers and dark red fruits will bring a pop of color to your garden throughout the year.

Juneberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) Fruits
Juneberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) Fruits
(Source: Meggar/Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re looking for a good hedge plant, then the gorgeous juneberry tree is for you! It’s relatively easy to maintain, plus you get a steady source of sweet and juicy berries. These trees will thrive in rich, loamy soil. Juneberry trees need a good amount of water to thrive, so make sure to water them regularly to keep the soil moist. Juneberry trees will produce more berries in sunny locations, but they can tolerate some shade as well.

You should be able to get seedlings and young saplings from local plant nurseries all year round. It’s recommended to let them grow in a pot first before transferring them to their permanent locations in your garden. Plant the juneberry trees in your garden in the summer once they’re large enough to handle and water them regularly. They should start flowering by the next spring. The fruits will start to appear by midsummer. Make sure to harvest the berries immediately once they’re ripe. Otherwise, birds will completely strip off the juneberry trees of their berries.

Cautions

There are no known hazards from eating juneberries. They are safe to eat in moderation. 

Conclusion

Delicious and nutritious, juneberries are truly a great fruit. While you can find wild juneberry trees growing all across North America, it’s always a good idea to plant some trees in your own garden. That way, you wouldn’t have to compete with the local birds to get your hands on these delectable berries. On top of being a convenient food source, the trees’ foliage will also make your garden look amazing all year long.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Chickweed, a Delicious and Nutritious Weed


Chickweed (Stellaria Media) Whole Plant
Chickweed (Stellaria Media) Whole Plant

Chickweed is a common winter annual plant that grows all over Asia,  Europe, and North America. The name chickweed itself actually doesn’t only apply to one particular plant. There are two species under the name this name, Stellaria media and Cerastium fontanum. The former is considered as the true chickweed while the latter is more commonly known as mouse-ear chickweed.

Both plants are indistinguishable from each other; both have slender hairy stems with egg-shaped leaves and delicate, white, star-shaped flowers. These plants are commonly found in meadows and sunny open areas. In North America, chickweed is often considered as a common lawn weed. But, despite its reputation, chickweed is actually a nutritious wild edible.

Edibility and culinary use

Even though Americans see chickweed as a garden weed, other cultures don’t see it that way. In Asia, for example, chickweed is a valuable and important edible. In fact, it’s one of the symbolic herbs consumed in a Japanese spring-time festival called Nanakusa-no-sekku, or the Festival of Seven Herbs. 

Chickweed (Cerastium fontanum)
Chickweed (Cerastium fontanum)
(Source: AfroBrazilian/Wikimedia Commons)

Chickweed leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a slightly sweet, neutral taste, almost like spinach or lettuce. For that reason, this versatile edible can be used in many different dishes. The easiest ways to consume these leaves are to toss them into a bowl of salad or to add them into sandwiches. However, you can also find a plethora of other recipes, from sauces like pesto to chickweed pie.

Health benefits

Chickweed is full of vitamins A, B1, B2, and C as well as fiber and protein. Due to its nutritional contents and numerous medicinal properties, this cold-weather herb has been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years. It can treat many different conditions, such as constipation, bowel problems, iron-deficiency anemia, asthma, bronchitis, joint pains, and blood disorders. It can also aid weight loss by making you feel fuller for longer.

You can also apply the herb directly onto the skin to treat itchiness, bruises, boils, ulcers, and psoriasis. To do this, you can either bruise the leaves or steep the stems in hot water before applying them directly onto the affected areas.

Cultivation

Instead of weeding it, you can actually make chickweed a part of your garden. Aside from being a source of nutritious and delicious greens, it also has many other uses. This plant can act as a beautiful ground cover that will appear lush all year long. This plant also makes your garden more fertile by releasing phosphorus, manganese, and potassium into the soil. And in springtime, its small white flowers can attract pollinators, especially small birds to your garden.

Chickweed (Stellaria Media) Flowers
Chickweed (Stellaria Media) Flowers
(Source: Kaldari/Wikimedia Commons)

Chickweed is very easy to cultivate. It can grow in almost every soil condition, though it prefers fertile, moist soil with full sun exposure. On fertile soil, this plant will look wonderful as a ground cover. You can still make it grow nicely on infertile soil but expect a less lush appearance and fewer blooms in springtime.

Since this plant is gaining attention and popularity as a garden plant, you might be able to purchase young starter plants or seeds from local plant nurseries. Otherwise, you can always turn to the internet to find some chickweed seeds. Sow the seeds indoors in spring in a cold frame, they should germinate within a couple of weeks. Once they’re large enough to handle, plant them into their permanent positions in your garden by summertime. They will start blooming by the next spring.

Cautions

Chickweed is safe to consume in moderation. However, note that the leaves from Stellaria media contain saponins, which are toxic to the human body. But don’t worry, saponins are poorly absorbed by the human body, so it wouldn’t cause harm in small doses. Saponins can also be broken down by thorough cooking.

Due to the lack of information on the subject, it’s advisable for pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid consuming chickweed. Lastly, don’t forget to consult your doctor before including this wild edible into your daily diet.

Conclusion

It turns out that weeds can be quite useful in the kitchen, including chickweed. This plant isn’t only edible, but it’s also nutrient-dense and useful for treating many different ailments. If you find any chickweed growing in your garden, don’t be so quick to weed them out. Instead, harvest them for a delicious and healthy meal. Then, go a step further and cultivate them in your garden. 


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Ground Ivy, an Aromatic, Evergreen Wild Edible


Field of Ground Ivy (Glechoma Hederacea)
Field of Ground Ivy (Glechoma Hederacea)
(Source: Rasbak/Wikimedia Commons)

Despite its name, ground ivy (Glechoma Hederacea) is actually not related to the true ivy. Instead, it’s actually a member of the mint family. This aromatic, evergreen plant grows perennially is many parts of the world. Native to Europe and Western Asia, it was carried over to North America by the settlers. 

In North America, this plant eventually naturalizes and spreads around the continent. It’s often considered an invasive weed in many parts of North America. You might even find this plant growing and slowly taking over your lawn. While you might be tempted to pull them out, you might want to refrain from doing so. Because it’s actually a valuable wild edible that holds numerous medicinal and culinary uses. 

Edibility and culinary use

This evergreen plant is a wonderful source of wild edible all year long. Much like the true ivy, this plant remains green even throughout winter. The leaves are edible and they have a strong but pleasant minty flavor. This flavor becomes stronger as the leaves mature. For that reason, stick to younger leaves for dishes that only need a slight flavor punch like salads, soups, and stir-fried dishes. On the other hand, older leaves taste better as an herbal tea. 

Alternatively, if you love brewing beer, you can use ground ivy as a substitute for hops. Back in the day, the Saxons used to make ground ivy ale before they started using hops to flavor and clarify their beer.

Health benefits

Ground Ivy (Glechoma Hederacea)
Ground Ivy (Glechoma Hederacea)
(Source: Ian Cunliffe/Wikimedia Commons)

Ground ivy has been gaining attention from the medical community as of late. This plant possesses many natural medicinal properties. Scientists are even conducting research to figure out more about this plant’s potential as a cure for bronchitis, leukemia, cancer, and HIV. 

While the results are still not out for those conditions, ground ivy has been proven to help treat digestive problems, indigestion, acid reflux, gastritis, and diarrhea. It’s also beneficial for promoting healthy liver and kidney functions. Additionally, this herb can relieve throat and chest problems as well as headaches and migraines. Lastly, you can also apply ground ivy onto your skin to treat wounds, ulcers, and other skin problems.

To get its medicinal benefits, you can consume ground ivy by boiling fresh leaves to make herbal tea or juicing them. Alternatively, you can also dry the leaves and crush them to make a powder. The powdered form is just as effective and it will last longer in storage. This herb is well-tolerated by most people and can even be administered to young children. 

Cultivation

Even though most people consider ground ivy as an invasive weed, it can actually be a very attractive groundcover plant. The round, lobed leaves of this plant look elegant and its violet blooms will definitely brighten up any garden in the spring. 

If you’re interested in cultivating this plant in your lawn, then you’re in luck. This plant is very easy to grow and maintain.Ground ivy thrives is shaded areas, making it perfect to grow in areas where other plants refuse to germinate. This plant also prefers a loamy and moist soil, so remember to water this plant often. 

Ground Ivy (Glechoma Hederacea)
Ground Ivy (Glechoma Hederacea)
(Source: Frank Mayfield/Flickr)

You should be able to find young ivy plants as a starter to grow in your lawn from your local nursery. Before planting ground ivy, you need to water the soil thoroughly. Young ivy plants will grow nicely in a moist soil. Place the plants about 12” apart from each other to avoid overcrowding. Avoid fertilizing them for their first 3 months. After the plants have established themselves in your garden, you can fertilize them every 2 months to boost its growth. 

Then, don’t forget to control the ivy’s growth. Remember that this plant grows very rapidly. Prune and pull the plants out as needed so they don’t take over your entire garden or spread freely into the local ecosystem.

Cautions

Ground ivy is generally safe to consume in small doses. But beware, overconsumption may irritate the stomach, intestines, kidneys, and liver. 

Pregnant women should avoid consuming this plant since it can induce a miscarriage. There are also some concerns that consuming ground ivy may trigger and worsen epilepsy seizures. Lastly, people with kidney diseases should also avoid this edible as it might worsen the symptoms. 

Remember, as with many other wild edibles, you should consult your doctor before including ground ivy into your daily diet. 

Conclusion

Despite its bad reputation as an invasive weed, ground ivy is actually a fantastic plant. As an evergreen groundcover plant, it can instantly transform your garden into a lush and beautiful paradise. At the same time, it can also provide you with some delicious and nutritious greens. Aside from its strong and delectable flavor, ground ivy’s medicinal properties are undoubtedly amazing. 


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Henbit, The Elegant and Nutritious Wild Edible


Field of henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)
Field of henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)
(Source: Gaming4JC/Wikimedia Commons)

Another member of the mint family, the common henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is more than just a pesky weed. Known also as henbit deadnettle, this plant is, in‌ ‌fact, very nutritious wild edible. This plant is native to Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa days, henbit grows in numerous areas with a temperate climate, including the US and Canada. It was first brought over to the Americas as a chicken fodder. In fact, the name “henbit” came from the fact that chickens love eating this plant., but it was later introduced to other parts of the world. Now, henbit grows in regions with a temperate climate all around the world, including in North America. 

Henbit was first brought over to the Americas as chicken fodder. In fact, the name “henbit” came from the fact that chickens love eating the leaves of this plant. Today, many foragers have realized the nutritional value of this wild edible. Aside from being used as fodder, nowadays many people are adding this underrated edible into their own diet. 

Edibility and culinary use

All above-ground parts of henbit – the stems, flowers, and leaves –  are edible. But, like other early spring plants, the stems get tougher as they mature. So, you might want to stick to younger plants. Despite being in the mint family, henbit tastes nothing like regular mint. In fact, most people describe this plant as having a sweet and slightly peppery flavor. Depending on who you ask, some may say it tastes almost like raw kale or celery. This plant doesn’t have a strong aroma, just a pleasant and mild earthy smell with a light minty note on top.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)
Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) Leaves
(Source: F. D. Richards/Flickr)

Henbit leaves are especially versatile. You can eat them raw, cook them as a potherb, or boil them to make herbal tea. Younger leaves taste especially delicious in salads while older ones taste better cooked as a potherb. The flavor of henbit leaves compliment egg and pasta dishes really well. Other ingredients that will taste amazing with this edible include spinach, soft cheeses, mushrooms, nuts, poultry, pork, and wild game meats.

Health benefits

This wild edible is very nutritious. It’s low in calories as well as rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Henbit is a great ingredient to add to your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. It will make you feel fuller for longer and reduce mid-day cravings.

Aside from that, this plant also has some amazing natural medicinal qualities. It can help reduce fever, induce sweating, and treat joint aches. Drinking a henbit green smoothie can also help relieve constipation and promote a healthy bowel function. Lastly, henbit herbal tea has stimulant and excitant effects which means it will help relieve stress and anxiety.

Cultivation

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) Flowers
Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) Flowers
(Source: Masaki Ikeda/Wikimedia Commons)

Even though it’s often considered as a weed, henbit can actually be a really elegant addition to any garden. As long as you keep them in control, they will add a beautiful splash of color to your garden every spring when its flowers bloom. Moreover, you’ll also have a steady supply of delicious and nutritious edible ready in your backyard.

Cultivating this plant is quite easy. It’s not a fussy plant and only requires a minimum amount of attention. This plant thrives best on light dry soil, but it’s not very picky and can grow pretty much on any soil type. It also prefers full sun exposure, but can also tolerate some shade. 

If you want to grow henbit in your garden, sow the seeds directly in your garden. It’s preferable to sow the seeds in spring, but most of the time, they can germinate at any time of the year. Henbit seedlings will usually start to sprout in the fall and it will start blooming by next spring. Once the plant has matured, it will self-sow freely and don’t require human intervention. Remember to control the plant to prevent it from taking over your entire garden. The best way you can do this is by pulling young plants or mulching the soil. 

Cautions

There are no known hazards from consuming henbit, both in culinary and medicinal amounts. But, this plant does look quite similar to some other wild edibles, namely the purple deadnettle and ground ivy. But, both are non-toxic when consumed in moderation. So, you don’t have to worry about any toxic look-alikes.

Conclusion

Being part of the mint family, it’s natural for henbit to be considered a weed. It grows quickly, self-seeds, and has a tendency to take over any area it wishes. However, when you find henbit growing in your garden, don’t be so quick to pull them out. With the right treatment, you can control their growth and in turn, this underrated plant can be a wonderful source of a healthy and delicious wild edible.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Wild Blackberries and Raspberries, a Diverse Group of Delicious Edibles


Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus), a Common Species in This Genus
(Photo by: Karelj/Wikimedia Commons)

Do you know what Rubus is? It is a diverse genus of flowering plants in the Rosaceae family. Most Rubus plants are easily recognizable from their rough and prickly wood stems, much like the common thorny stems of rose plants. These stems are usually tangled, forming a bush called brambles. The fruits from a Rubus plant, often called bramble fruits as well, are classified as aggregate fruits. This means each fruit is made up of many drupelets.

From that explanation alone, you might not realize it, but you’ve probably encountered a lot of Rubus plants and fruits during your lifetime. Raspberry and blackberry are common Rubus plants. These berries are famous for their brilliant taste and great nutritional content. But they’re not the only wild edibles within this genus. There are many other Rubus plants which produce equally delicious and nutritious fruits.

In fact, Rubus fruits are widely consumed all over the world. The use of wild blackberries, raspberries, and other Rubus plants have been documented throughout the globe since ancient times. From Ancient Rome and Greece to China and India, many cultures regard plants in this genus highly as a health-inducing edible.

In this modern age, people only consume the tasty fruits of this plant. However, back in the days, our ancestors would use the entire plant to make all sorts of dishes and most importantly, traditional medicine. Roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits, no part of Rubus plants would go wasted at the hands of our ancestors. Aside from eating them, they would use different plant parts to make tisanes, infusions, poultices, decoctions, and plasters.

Since this genus grows all throughout the world, you’ll definitely be able to find wild Rubus plants growing nearby, no matter where you are. Additionally, some plants have even been introduced to foreign lands. They eventually naturalized in their new habitats and become another wild edible for foragers to consume.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the less-known members of this genus: Wineberry, Thimbleberry, Common Dewberry, and Black Raspberry. Though somewhat underrated, these plants are a great and nutritious food source.

Wineberry

Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius)
Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius)
(Photo by: Rasbak/Wikimedia Commons)

The first Rubus plant comes from East Asia. It’s known as wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) due to its red, wine-colored fruits. Wineberry is very closely related to raspberry, gaining the reputation of being the Asian version of the common raspberry.

This perennial plant was first introduced to Europe and North America in the 19th century as an ornamental plant. Eventually, it naturalized in parts of those regions. Wineberry usually grows in sunny locations. In North America, you can find them in the mountains, on roadsides, and along the edges of fields and forests. Their most distinctive characteristics are their hairy, reddish stems and equally hairy, bright red berries.

Edibility and culinary use

If you love raspberries, you’ll definitely fall in love with wineberries as well. Wineberries taste just like the delicious raspberries, but juicier and slightly sweeter. These berries will definitely taste best eaten fresh right after harvest, but they can also be used in a variety of recipes. Wineberries will work great in sweet desserts, pies, fruit salads, and sauces.

You can use these berries to make jam and wine as well. In fact, wineberry wine is a popular alcoholic beverage. Research has also shown that wineberry wine has amazing health benefits. This beverage is very rich in antioxidants, containing even more than related fruit wines such as raspberry and strawberry wine. Drinking a serving of wineberry wine daily can boost the immune system, improve blood flow, reduce bad cholesterol, speed up weight loss, and increase overall health.

Note that these berries are rather fragile. They can only stay fresh for a few days after the harvest. But, you can extend their shelf life up to a couple of months by freezing them. And don’t worry, freezing wineberries will do little to diminish its juicy flavor and nutritional contents.

Thimbleberry

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
(Photo by: Walter Siegmund/Wikimedia Commons)

The next Rubus species, thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) is native to western North America. Thimbleberry shrubs grow in open woodland areas and on roadsides. These wild shrubs tend to be huge; some shrubs can even grow to be more than 8’ tall. But despite the plant’s large size, it has small white flowers and even smaller red berries which appears and ripens every summer.

Edibility and culinary use

Thimbleberries look similar to raspberries, only slightly smaller and flatter. Due to how soft and juicy they are, thimbleberries typically can only stay fresh for a couple of days after they’re picked. For this reason, people typically dry or freeze them right after harvesting them. This way, they can last longer. While fresh thimbleberries taste best, dried and frozen ones also taste delicious.

Aside from eating them on their own, thimbleberries can also be used in many different recipes. Their fresh sweet and sour flavor is usually used to enhance the taste of sweet desserts, vinaigrettes, and fruit salads. Lastly, you can also make thimbleberry jam by boiling equal volumes of berries and sugar until the mixture becomes thick.

Common Dewberry

Dewberry (Rubus flagellaris)
Dewberry (Rubus flagellaris)
(Photo by: James H. Miller & Ted Bodner/Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike the first two Rubus plants, the common dewberry (Rubus flagellaris) is more closely related to blackberries. In fact, the fruits look very similar to blackberries, only slightly larger. They’re bright red when young and dark purple when ripe.

Also known as northern dewberry, this perennial plant is native to North America. It grows in almost every habitat you can think of, from deciduous forests to savannas.

Edibility and culinary use

Ripe dewberries are edible and they taste amazing. They have a rich sweet flavor with a hint of sourness. While they taste fantastic fresh, they can also be used in many different recipes. People mainly use dewberries to make pie fillings, cobblers, puddings, and other sweet desserts. Dewberries are also great for making jams, preserves, and sauces.

Aside from its fruits, dewberry leaves and stems are also edible. Dried dewberry leaves make a wonderful herbal tea. Meanwhile, young stems or shoots are typically peeled and eaten raw as a delicious snack.

Black Raspberry

Black Raspberry (Rubus occidentalis)
Black Raspberry (Rubus occidentalis)
(Photo by: 성락 + 연주/Wikimedia Commons)

Lastly, we have black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis) which is native to eastern North America. Unlike the previous Rubus plants, this one is actually rather well-known, especially in the medical community. Black raspberry has been touted as a super food. They contain more nutrients and three times more antioxidants than their red counterpart. The only reason why they’re not as popular as their red cousins in the market? People often have a hard time telling black raspberry apart from blackberry.

These tiny dark berries may look similar to blackberries, but they’re completely different. As its name suggests, black raspberries are dark-colored raspberries. So they’re shaped just like raspberries, with a hollow center and covered with fine hairs. In contrast, blackberries have a white core in the center.

Edibility and culinary use

This exotic looking fruit has a vibrant and rich taste. Black raspberries have a sweet and fruity taste. They’re also not as tart as blackberries and the more common red raspberries. Black raspberries taste great with just about any desserts you can think of, from pie and cobbler to pudding and sorbet. They also taste amazing when made into jams or preserves. Additionally, since they’re almost identical to their red cousins, you can use them as a substitute for any recipes which call for red raspberries.

Health Benefits

Rubus fruits are rich in essential nutrients. They contain vitamins A, B complex, C, E, and K as well as potassium, calcium, copper, iron, manganese, and magnesium. Eating them will improve the body’s immunity, help heal inflammations, promote a healthy cardiovascular system, strengthen the bones, improve vision, and boost your overall health. They’re also rich in dietary fibers. So, they will make you feel fuller longer while also regulating your blood sugar levels and improving your digestive system’s health.

Black Raspberry (Rubus occidentalis), Harvested
Black Raspberry (Rubus occidentalis), Harvested
(Photo by: Nyttend/Wikimedia Commons)

These berries are also rich in antioxidants. This means they’re great for fighting off free radicals, slowing down cell aging, and preventing tumors as well as cancers. In fact, medical experts have been using their extracts to make medicine and health supplements. They believe that Rubus fruits can prevent DNA mutations as well as block the blood supply to tumors and cancer cells. Moreover, these delicious berries can also help cancer patients combat the adverse side effects of chemotherapy.

Aside from eating the fruits, you can also use the leaves and roots of most Rubus species to make herbal tea. While it doesn’t taste particularly delicious, this herbal tea has many health benefits. This tea is especially great for treating nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dysentery. If you don’t like the flavor of the tisane, try adding honey, sugar, or lemon juice to make it more palatable.

Use in folk medicine

Many societies around the world have been incorporating Rubus plants into their folk medicine tradition. People usually drink Rubus infusions and decoctions to treat many ailments. Generally, they’re used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, poor eyesight, nausea, and inflammations. The Greeks and Romans also use Rubus infusions to prevent vaginal discharge and female infertility. Meanwhile, the Chinese use them to treat impotence and male infertility.

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
(Photo by: Jim Dexter/ Wikimedia Commons)

Additionally, it’s also common to apply infusions and decoctions topically or use them as a mouth gargle. Due to their antibacterial and antifungal properties, these infusions are great for washing wounds and preventing infections. When used as a gargle, they can also heal canker sores and bleeding gums. Sometimes, people also chew Rubus leaves to strengthen their gums and teeth. People also make poultices from dried, powdered thimbleberry leaves. These poultices can treat wounds, burns, and bruises.

Cautions

Not only are they delicious, but almost all berries in the Rubus family are also safe to eat. There are no known adverse side effects from consuming Rubus berries, both in food and medicinal amounts.

Conclusion

There are all sorts of Rubus plants out there, waiting to be discovered. So, why limit yourself to the common blackberries and red raspberries? Take a look around the local woodlands or even browse the farmer’s market, see if you can find other Rubus fruits. The four plants mentioned in this article barely scratched the surface of this amazing genus. Start your journey from there and discover even more healthy Rubus wild edibles later on.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

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Dandelion, a Surprisingly Beneficial Wild Edible


Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Illustration
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Illustration
(Photo by: Walther Otto Müller/Wikimedia Commons)

Who doesn’t know dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)? This lovely flower grows almost all around the world. You’ve likely blown fluffy dandelion balls at least once to make a wish during your childhood. Children love to blow on dandelion’s feathery light seeds into the wind, hoping that they would soar to the sky and make their wishes come true.

Despite its beautiful and ethereal appearance, people consider dandelion as a pesky and annoying weed. These flowers often pop up in the most unexpected places. After all, dandelion’s seeds are easily carried along by the wind, bringing them to many different places, like the roadside and maybe even your own lawn. But don’t be so quick to pull them out! Aside from granting children’s wishes, dandelions actually have many culinary and medicinal uses.

Apparently, our ancestors have figured this out long before we did. Historically, dandelions are prized due to their pleasant taste and numerous medicinal properties. In fact, societies around the world have been using them to make various recipes as well as to make traditional herbal remedies for thousands of years.

Edibility and culinary use

Dandelion is a very versatile ingredient. All parts of this plant are edible, including its roots, leaves, and flowers. Young dandelion parts have a delightful, chicory-like taste with a bitter note.

Roots

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Roots, Harvested
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Roots, Harvested
(Photo by: Zero-X/Flickr)

The larger and more mature the roots are, the more bitter they’re going to taste. Old dandelion roots taste extremely bitter, that’s why you should avoid them and harvest smaller, younger ones instead.

Once harvested, you can clean them and dry them out in the sun. After the roots are completely dried, roast and ground them. When steeped with hot water, this powder will work great as a non-caffeinated coffee substitute. Dandelion coffee tastes and smells almost just like the real thing. It’s a great substitute if you love the taste of coffee but need to limit your caffeine intake.

Aside from being used as a coffee substitute, some people actually eat dandelion roots much like they would with other root vegetables. However, due to its extremely bitter taste, there are mixed views about cooking them as a root vegetable. One thing is for sure though; eating these roots is certainly an acquired taste. It will take a lot of seasonings and spices to make them palatable. If you’re curious, you can try to include them in your meals and see if you like their taste. Some say they’re quite good when roasted or added into soups.

Leaves

Young dandelion greens have a pleasant earthy and nutty taste. Much like the roots, the older the leaves are, the more bitter they’re going to be. So, pay attention to when you are harvesting them and stay away from older leaves and stems. You can pick young and tender leaves all throughout the growing season.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Greens, Harvested
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Greens, Harvested
(Photo by: Farmanac/Flickr)

Here’s a tip if you intend on harvesting your greens. A week or so before the harvest, cover the plants with a dark and opaque fabric for most of the day. The fabric will block out most of the light and thus, blanch the leaves naturally. When you pick the leaves, they’ll be less bitter.

This leaf vegetable is quite versatile and can be used in many different recipes. Fresh young leaves will add a delicious crunch to salads and other fresh vegetable dishes. They also work great as a potherb and as a spinach-substitute. When cooking, note that the taste of dandelion greens is the perfect compliment for bacon, nuts, lemon, and goat cheese.

The leaves can also be dried for later use. Dried leaves can add a delightful nutty taste to bread and savory muffins. You can also steep them to make dandelion tea which is incredibly healthy. Note that dandelion tea can taste quite bitter. If so, you can dilute the beverage with a little bit more water to make it more palatable. Additionally, honey and lemon will also complement the flavor of this tisane nicely.

Flowers

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Blooming Flower
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Blooming Flower
(Photo by: Greg Hume/Wikimedia Commons)

Dandelion flowers are a fantastic delicacy; they’re versatile, healthy, and tasty. Unopened buds are tender and tasty. You can deep-fry them to make dandelion tempura or add them to fresh salads. Meanwhile, the bright yellow flowers will look lovely when used as an edible garnish in salads and desserts. You can also use them to make jams and syrups.

These flowers can also be made into several different beverages. Dandelion wine is a particularly popular delicacy, especially in Europe. Alternatively, you can steep the flowers to make a delicious herbal tea.

Health benefits

Nutritional content

Despite being a weed, dandelion is actually a very healthy wild edible. It’s low in calories and fat while containing lots of essential nutrients. A cup of raw dandelion greens only contains 25 calories, 0.4g of fat, and absolutely no cholesterol. It also provides you with 1.5 g of protein and 5g of carbohydrates which includes 3g of dietary fiber.

Aside from that, dandelion is also an amazing source of key vitamins and mineral. It’s especially rich in vitamins A and K. In fact, you’ll be able to fulfill your daily vitamins A and K needs with just a cup of dandelion greens. You can also get vitamins B complex, C, and E as well as antioxidants from them. This vegetable also contains small amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, and copper.

Medicinal uses

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Flower Buds
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Flower Buds
(Photo by: lcm1863/Flickr)

With such a fantastic list of nutritional contents, it comes as no surprise that dandelion has a lot of health benefits and medicinal uses. First, as a great source of dietary fiber, the green parts can promote a healthy digestive system, stabilize blood sugar level, control diabetes, and make you feel full longer. Then, due to its vitamin K and calcium contents, it can also improve bone and teeth health.

Dandelion also has mild diuretic property. This helps the kidneys in functioning properly and help remove toxins from your body. Dandelion is also fantastic at improving cardiovascular health. It can prevent and cure anemia as well as high blood pressure. Aside from that, vitamin C and antioxidants in dandelion can also boost your immune system, protect your liver from diseases, and even prevent cancer.

This flower is also great for pregnant women and new mothers. Vitamins A and B complex, as well as folate, iron, and calcium, are essential nutrients for pregnant women. Moreover, due to its diuretic effect, dandelion can help relieve mild edema that’s common during pregnancy. Dandelion’s nutritional content can also aid recovery after giving birth. It can also stimulate lactation.

Dandelion can also be used topically. The sap is potent at treating skin diseases. It has antimicrobial and antifungal properties. As a result, it’s great for treating itchiness, skin infections, bruises, rashes, boils, eczema, and other skin conditions. Dandelion juice can also be a valuable addition to your skincare regime. It can prevent and cure acne, reduce face redness, and make acne scars less noticeable.

Obtaining the edible

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Field
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Field
(Photo by: Tomasz Kuran/Wikimedia Commons)

Due to its amazing health benefits, dandelions are gaining popularity these days. Many supermarkets, grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and health food stores now sell them. It’s actually not recommended to forage dandelions from the wild. Since they’re considered a weed, there’s a big chance that wild dandelions have been sprayed with herbicides. If you’re not sure what the plants have been exposed to, it’s better to leave them alone.

Always make sure to pick young, bright green leaves with almost no blemishes. Then, you can store them in your fridge just like you would with any other greens. When stored in the fridge, they’ll stay fresh for 3 to 5 days. It’s recommended to wash them and put them inside a sealed plastic bag with some paper towels before storing them in the fridge. The paper towels will absorb excess moisture so your dandelion greens can stay fresh longer.

Cultivation

Aside from foraging them and purchasing them from grocery stores, you can also cultivate dandelion in your own garden. Doing this will not only provide you with a reliable food source but also give your garden a fresh pop of color. Moreover, dandelions are very easy to grow and maintain.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Seeds
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Seeds
(Photo by: Huw Williams/Wikimedia Commons)

Dandelions are resilient and will survive in poor conditions. They will thrive best under full sun exposure, but they can grow with just about any light. They’re also not picky about the soil condition, as long as it provides adequate drainage. One thing you must note though, don’t use chemical fertilizer if you plan on harvesting the plants for consumption. The chemical may harm your body if ingested. Just add lots of compost to the soil where they grow instead.

This plant can be grown outdoors as part of your vegetable garden or indoors in a container to make it easier for you to harvest them. Sow the seeds directly 4 to 6 weeks before the expected last frost date. Once they’ve sprouted, thin them so each plant is about 6” apart from each other. They will be ready to harvest by late spring or early summer. They will reseed themselves. But since the seeds often fly away, you may find them in places where you don’t expect them to grow.

Cautions

Dandelion is mostly safe when consumed moderately, both as a food and as a medicinal herb. However, note that this herb is a type of ragweed. Ragweeds may cause allergic reactions in sensitive people when taken by mouth or used topically. If you’re allergic to other types of ragweed, such as chrysanthemum and daisies, avoid consuming dandelion. Allergy symptoms may include heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, itchiness, and skin redness. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop consumption immediately and contact your doctor.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Flowers, Harvested
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Flowers, Harvested
(Photo by: wayne marshall/Flickr)

There are some concerns that overconsumption of this herb over a long period of time may reduce fertility in women as well as lower the testosterone level in men. This is because the plant contains phytoestrogen. While this substance may be good for some people, it may also be harmful to others.

This flower may also interact with certain medicines, such as antibiotics and blood thinning medications. So, it’s recommended to consult your doctor before you start consuming dandelion as a medicinal herb.

Conclusion

Once you look over its bad reputation as a weed, dandelion can actually be a valuable addition to your daily diet. They are an amazing nutrition powerhouse. Low in calories and rich in essential nutrients, dandelions are truly an underrated wild edible. The time has come to embrace the wonderful benefits of dandelion. Try them and you’ll soon find yourself recommending this edible to everyone you know.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
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Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
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Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
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Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
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Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
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Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
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Dead Nettle, an Overlooked yet Valuable Wild Edible


Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) Illustration
Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) Illustration
(Photo by: Otto Wilhelm Thomé/Wikimedia Commons)

With a bad reputation as a common weed, dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) is a greatly underrated wild edible. Moreover, its creepy name often puts people off. But actually, the “dead” part of its name actually refers to the fact that this plant doesn’t sting like its cousin, the stinging nettle.

Dead nettle is a herbaceous flowering plant that’s native to Europe and Asia. But, they’re also common throughout North America, growing in planting beds as a weed. This plant is easily recognizable from their green, hairy leaves with purple tops and pink flowers. Despite its humble appearance, dead nettle is actually a valuable edible and medicinal plant.

Edibility and culinary use

Despite belonging to the mint family, these leaves taste nothing like mint. Instead, they have a mildly sweet taste. Young dead nettle leaves are amazing when eaten fresh. They can be a fantastic addition to your salad. They’re also a great substitute for the more common greens, like spinach, kale, and lettuce, in wraps and sandwiches. You can also blend them with other greens and some lemon juice to make a delicious green smoothie.

Alternatively, these leaves can also be cooked as a potherb. Much like any other greens, these leaves will taste great stir-fried, blanched, and roasted. They will also be a fantastic addition to soups and stews. If you want something different, try dipping them in tempura batter and deep fry them for a delicious and crunchy snack. Lastly, you can also steep these leaves to make a healthy herbal tea.

Health benefits

Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) Flowering Tops
Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) Flowering Tops
(Photo by: BerndH/Wikimedia Commons)

Dead nettle leaves are highly nutritious. They’re a great source of vitamin C, iron, fiber, and flavonoids. Moreover, these leaves also have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties as well as diuretic, astringent, diaphoretic, and purgative effects.

Dead nettle herbal tea is exceptionally potent in healing kidney diseases, seasonal allergies, chills, and common colds. Consuming this edible can boost the immune system and fight off bacterial infections as well. Lastly, the leaves can also be used externally to stop bleeding as well as heal cuts, burns, and bruises.

Cultivation

Even though dead nettle is often considered a weed, it can actually be a beautiful as useful addition to your garden. The green and purple leaves will give your garden gorgeous ornamental foliage all year long. Then, of course, it’s also a great source of healthy edible. Moreover, this amazing plant will continue to flower well into the winter. Aside from being beautiful all year long, they also provide the local population of bees the nectar they need when other sources aren’t available. Luckily for you, this hardy perennial is easy to grow and require very little maintenance.

Dead nettle can grow almost anywhere in your garden. It can tolerate both full sunlight exposure or partial shade. It can grow in the least fertile or poor soil, as long as it has good drainage. Also, while the plant isn’t exactly drought-tolerant, you don’t need to water it too often, just twice a week should do.

Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)
Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum)
(Photo by: Gavin Schaefer/Wikimedia Commons)

The purple dead nettle is a common plant, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to find some young plants from local plant nurseries. Once you’ve bought young plants, simply transplant them to your garden after the last frost and give them around 1’ to 2’ of space between each other. Alternatively, you can also grow them from seeds. Sow the seeds in the spring after the last frost and give them around 8” to 12” of space to avoid overcrowding. Remember to prune your plant after every flowering season to stop them from taking over your garden completely.

Cautions

Note that dead nettle leaves have a mild laxative effect. Consuming too much, especially in herbal tea form, may cause diarrhea. Dead nettle may also induce menstruation, so pregnant women are advised to avoid this wild edible.

Conclusion

Due to its reputation as an invasive weed, most people tend to overlook the purple dead nettle. But this amazing plant is actually a nutritious wild edible. So, if you find any growing in your planting beds, don’t immediately pull them out! Instead, be grateful for this wonderful food source. Then maybe, you can try cultivating them and make your garden even more colorful with their green and purple foliage.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Black Chokeberry, a Native Super Food


Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Fruits
Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Fruits
(Photo by: Puchatech K/Wikimedia Commons)

Despite its funny name, black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is a super healthy food that has been cultivated and consumed for thousands of years. It’s native to eastern North America, but due to its various uses, chokeberry bushes were later introduced to Europe as well. They’re easily recognized in the wild from their glossy dark green leaves, which turn red in the fall.

These small, black berries are a quite important part of Native American cultures. They’re a great wild food source and they have other uses as well. They’re used to preserve meat and make traditional medicines, among other things.

Edibility and culinary use

Black chokeberry has a really good but astringent flavor. The astringency is more pronounced when the berries are eaten raw. For this reason, they taste best when cooked. That way, their natural sour and sweet flavor will come out nicely. Some extra added sweetness from sugar and honey will make them taste exceptional.

Black chokeberries are often made into syrup, juice, and jam. They also taste amazing when added to cakes, muffins, pies, and tarts. They can also be dried to make chokeberry raisins, which has a tart yet sweet flavor. Dried chokeberries can be eaten on their own as a healthy snack or used as a topping for desserts, such as cakes and ice cream.  

Health benefits

Even though black chokeberry isn’t as popular as other berries as a wild edible, these underrated berries have fantastic health benefits. They are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and E as well as minerals such as potassium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and iron. They’re also low in fat, sodium, and calories. In fact, 100g of fresh chokeberries only contains about 50 calories, making them an exceptionally healthy diet food.

Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Flowers
Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Flowers
(Photo by: Kent McFarland/Flickr)

Moreover, these berries have the highest antioxidant content of any fruit. They contain about 3 times as much antioxidants as blueberries. That’s why researchers believe that black chokeberries can be great for preventing and fighting off cancer. They also can eradicate free radicals in our bodies, making us healthier and boosting our immune system at the same time.

That’s not all these berries can do. Native Americans used to consume them to fight off the common cold and flu, but recent studies state that these berries are capable of curing many more ailments. Due to their dietary fiber content, these berries can assist your digestive system, promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, and even regulate your blood sugar level as well as prevent diabetes. These berries also contain compounds that can improve your cardiovascular health, reduce high blood pressure, and regulate cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. Lastly, black chokeberries can reduce oxidative stress in the eyes and thus, lower the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Cultivation

Black chokeberry isn’t only great as a food source. Chokeberry bushes can also be an amazing addition to any garden. Its dark green, glossy leaves will turn into lovely shades of orange and red in the fall instead of falling off. As a result, you’ll have vibrant foliage in your garden all year long. Moreover, this plant’s tiny white flowers are amazing at attracting pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. The small, black berries will start to appear in early fall. Make sure to harvest them immediately once they’re ripe before the birds finish them all off.

Since black chokeberry is a native plant in North America, you shouldn’t have any problem finding them in local plant nurseries. You can either buy young plants to transplant to your garden or bare roots to cultivate later. They’re not very hard to grow and maintain either. Just keep the soil around them moist and make sure they get enough sunlight.

Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Bush
Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) Bush
(Photo by: Cranbrook Science/Flickr)

If you buy young shrubs, then it’s not difficult for you to grow them in your garden. Simply pick a sunny location in your garden and carefully transplant the plants once they’re sturdy enough. Just make sure to give around 6” to 12” between each plant to avoid overcrowding.

If you buy bare roots, soak the roots in a bucket of water. Keep each root separated and don’t expose them to the sun. Then, you can start planting them in early fall. Dig a hole 6” wider than the root and with the same depth as the root. Carefully fill the hole halfway with soil then water the plants. After that, continue filling the hole with soil while readjusting the soil. Make sure that the crown or the graft of the plants is only slightly above the soil.

Cautions

Chokeberry is safe when consumed moderately. But, these berries contain oxalic acid. If you consume too much oxalic acid, it may cause oxalate-type kidney stones to form. If you have had kidney stones or other kidney problems before, it’s best to limit your chokeberry consumption.

Conclusion

It’s undeniable that black chokeberries are an amazing source of nutrients. Their late fruiting period also ensures you still have a healthy and reliable food source when other plants have already started to wilt.

If you’re lucky enough to have some chokeberry bushes growing nearby, make great use of them and don’t forget to harvest the berries before the birds finish them off. But if you’re not so lucky, don’t worry. You can still grow them in your own garden. Plus, they’re a lovely and colorful addition to your landscape.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

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Basil, a flavourful favourite
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Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
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Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
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Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
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Dryad’s Saddle, a Unique and Tasty Mushroom


Dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus)
Dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus)
(Photo by: Roger Kidd/Wikimedia Commons)

Walk around your local forest and you’ll probably spot some wild mushrooms growing on tree stumps. Take a closer look at these mushrooms, you might be lucky enough to find some edible ones. Dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) or pheasant back mushroom is one of these valuable wild edibles. In the wild, you can recognize these tasty yet underrated mushrooms by the unique pore patterns on their underside as well as the distinctive brown patterns on their light tan caps.

Edibility and culinary use

Dryad’s saddle has a mealy yet pleasant flavor. These mushrooms also have a distinctive aroma that’s reminiscent of watermelon rinds. They taste best when they’re young and tender. As they mature, they become tougher that they’re impossible to chew. Older dryad’s saddle can be used to make a soup base or vegetable broth, but their flesh can’t be eaten as they’ll be too tough and leathery.

Once harvested, immediately wash and clean the young mushrooms before cooking them. Dryad’s saddle tastes best when roasted or sauteed. You can also boil them and add them into stews and soups. Alternatively, they can also be collected, dried, and powdered to be consumed later. You can use this powder to enhance the flavor of soups, gravies, bread, and even tempura batters. Lastly, you can store the mushrooms in a paper bag and freeze them for later use.

Health benefits

Dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) Young Specimens
Dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) Young Specimens
(Photo by: Phil Sellens/Flickr)

Much like other wild mushrooms, dryad’s saddle can be a nice addition to your daily diet. These mushrooms are a wonderful source of protein and other essential nutrition. Dryad’s saddle contains vitamins B complex, C, and D as well as essential minerals such as iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium. They’re also low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol, making them great healthy food.

Dryad’s saddle is also high in antioxidants. For this reason, eating these mushrooms can help your body fight off free radicals as well as prevent tumors and cancer. These antioxidants can also boost your immunity against common diseases, such as cold and flu. Dryad’s saddle is also rich in dietary fiber, so its’ great for promoting a healthy digestive system. Additionally, eating these mushrooms will also make you feel fuller longer, thus reducing your overall calorie consumption. Lastly, adding these wild mushrooms into your daily diet can also help manage your blood sugar levels, reduce cholesterol, regulate your blood pressure, and improve your overall cardiovascular health.

Cultivation

You can find dryad’s saddle growing on fallen logs, tree stumps, or dying hardwood trees. They’re typically found around April and May, but it’s not uncommon to find them growing in the summer and early fall as well. If you’re lucky enough to find these brown mushrooms growing in the wild, take note of their location. They usually appear in the same place each year until they’ve consumed all the wood.

Dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) Underside Pore Pattern
Dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) Underside Pore Pattern
(Photo by: Rosser1954/Wikimedia Commons)

However, if you’re not so lucky, you can either buy them from the supermarket or grow them yourself. Though they’re a bit rare, you can buy dryad’s saddle growing kits online. These kits usually contain mushroom spawns that are ready to cultivate and an instruction booklet. Once you have these spawns, you need to get a hardwood log to grow them. Soak the log in water for 3 to 7 days to make it more suitable for mushroom cultivation. Then, drill holes into the log and plug your spawns. Keep the log in a cool, moist, and shaded place.

Just like in the wild, your mushrooms will begin to fruit around April and May. they will continue to fruit until early fall. Remember that only young mushrooms are suitable to eat. You can either leave older, tougher mushrooms alone or harvest them and boil them to make a soup base then discard the flesh. Much like in the wild, your colony will continue to provide you with an abundance of fresh and tasty dryad’s saddle mushrooms for years to come.

Cautions

There are no known side effects from eating this mushroom. There are no poisonous look-a-likes either. You just need to be careful to only pick young mushrooms for eating as older mushrooms often become infested with maggots.

Conclusion

Dryad’s saddle is a very underrated wild edible. These mushrooms are tasty and nutritious but due to their lack of popularity, they’re often ignored. Dryad’s saddle mushrooms can be a delicious addition to any meal while providing you with great nutritional contents. Just make sure to pick young specimens as older ones tend to be too tough to chew.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
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Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Ramps, a Popular and Versatile Herb


Ramps (Allium tricoccum) Field
Ramps (Allium tricoccum) Field
(Photo by: Fungus Guy/Wikimedia Commons)

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are a wild onion species native to North America. While this woodland edible’s bulbs resemble that of a scallion, it has beautiful broad green leaves. It’s one of the earliest wild edibles to emerge in the spring and it’s a wonderful food source all year round. This herb is well-known among foragers and foodies alike for its wonderful taste and aroma along with its great medicinal uses.

Edibility and culinary use

This herb has been consumed for thousands of years by Native Americans. The leaves, stems, bulbs, and flowers of this plant are all edible. Ramps are famous for their strong garlic-like aroma and delicious onion-like flavor. It can be used and cooked as you would with regular leek and spring onions. It can be adapted into numerous recipes as a substitute for onion, garlic, or the common leek. Use ramps sparingly when you’re using it as a seasoning as its strong flavor can easily overpower the taste of your dish.

You can also chop up ramps and sprinkle them over a salad. This green can also complement your favorite sandwich or sub nicely. This herb also tastes particularly good and unique when deep-fried in batter. Ramps pesto will also complement pasta really well. You can also submerge them in olive oil to make a delicious infused-oil that will taste great for cooking and as a salad dressing. Lastly, you can boil, sautee, grill, or roast them to make a delicious vegetable side dish.

Health benefits

Aside from being delicious, this pungent herb is also very nutritious. It’s very rich in vitamins A, B9, and C as well as essential minerals, such as iron, selenium, and copper. Ramps also contain useful sulfur compounds as well as powerful antioxidants. For this reason, ramps have been shown to prevent tumors and cancer.

Ramps (Allium tricoccum)
Ramps (Allium tricoccum)
(Photo by: John Winkelman/Flickr)

Ramps are also great in maintaining cardiovascular health. It contains a sulfur compound called kaempferol which protects blood vessels lining against damage and helps the liver in eliminating bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. Its rich iron content also boosts red blood cells production. Lastly, vitamin B9 or folate helps lower high blood pressure and prevent stroke.

Additionally, ramps are also a popular herbal remedy among Native Americans. The Ojibwa and Iroquois use ramps decoction as a quick-acting emetic, as a treatment for worms in children, and as a spring tonic that will flush out toxins and restore health. Meanwhile, the Cherokee consumes this herb to ward off cold, flu, croup, and other respiratory infections. They also use the juice of this herb to aid earaches.

Cultivation

While you can easily find ramps growing around local forests, it’s unsustainable to forage them. Overharvesting them can take a toll on its population and cause problems to the environment. When you forage them from the wild, make sure to only clip some of the leaves and stems instead of digging the plant along with its bulb. This way, they’ll be able to grow back over time. While doing this can help the local ramps population, it’s recommended to just grow some plants in your garden. That way, you’ll have a steady source of ramps without having to disturb the environment.

Ramps (Allium tricoccum) Flower
Ramps (Allium tricoccum) Flower
(Photo by: Joshua Mayer/Flickr)

You can buy ramps seeds online or from local nurseries. But it’s not recommended to grow this plant from seed as they take a very long time to germinate and mature. The best way to grow ramps is to transplant the bulbs. You may be able to buy them from local nurseries. But if you can’t find any, you might have to get a few from the wild.

Be careful not to damage the bulbs and roots. You can start transplanting them in late fall or early spring. Choose a location that’s cool, moist, and partially shaded. Plant the bulbs 3” deep and 6” apart from each other. Make sure the tip of the bulb is above the ground. Water them well and cover them with 2” of shredded leaf mulch.

Cautions

There are no known dangers of consuming ramps moderately. However, overconsumption may result in food poisoning as well as cause nausea and upset stomach. Avoid giving this herb to your pets, especially in large amounts. Cats and dogs are susceptible to ramps poisoning.

Conclusion

With such amazing culinary and medicinal uses, it’s not hard to see why ramps are so popular. Despite its strong and pungent smell, this herb is very versatile and can be used in a lot of different recipes.

Unfortunately, this popularity acts as a double-edged sword. While this herb is regarded highly, a lot of events and festivals held to praise it has caused its population to suffer. So, while this is a great herb to include in your daily diet, try not to forage it from the wild. Instead, try growing some ramps plants in your own vegetable garden. That way, you’ll be able to reap all the benefits ramps has to offer without hurting the environment.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Maitake, the Wonderful King of Mushrooms


Maitake (Grifola frondosa) in the Wild
Maitake (Grifola frondosa) in the Wild
(Photo by: Lebrac/Wikimedia Commons)

Maitake (Grifola frondosa) is a type of mushroom that’s native to China, Japan, and North America. To Westerners, maitake is often called hen of the woods and sheep’s head mushrooms. Despite being a native to North America as well, these mushrooms are more commonly found in Asian supermarkets throughout the US.

The name Maitake itself literally “dancing mushrooms” in Japanese. The mushroom got its name from how Japanese people used to dance whenever they found these mushrooms. These mushrooms are especially prized in the East due to its delicious taste as well as various health and medicinal benefits. In fact, it’s sometimes called “The King of Mushrooms” as well due to its large size and preciousness.

Edibility and culinary use

Chinese and Japanese people have been eating this delicious mushroom for more than 3,000 years. Maitake mushrooms are widely appreciated for their delicate and unique texture as well as their musky, earthy, yet versatile flavor and aroma. Since these mushrooms toughen up as they age, be sure to choose firm, young ones for cooking.

Maitake can be cooked in the same way other popular mushrooms, like shimeji and shiitake, are cooked. Before cooking, make sure to wash them to clean off any dirt that may be sticking to the mushrooms. Once washed, check if the base of the mushrooms is tough or firm. They’re often too tough to be eaten, so you might want to chop them off and discard them.

Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
(Photo by: caspar s/Flickr)

After you have clean mushroom caps, you can cook them any way you want. Stir-fried, deep-fried, baked, or stuffed, these flavorful mushrooms will taste amazing. You can also boil them, then eat the mushrooms and drink the water as an herbal tea. Lastly, you can also eat raw maitake by crumbling or chopping them into small bits and sprinkling them on a salad.

Health benefits

Maitake is said to a type of adaptogen which means it can assist the body in fighting off any mental and physical ailments. This mushroom is also a nutrient powerhouse. It’s rich in beta-glucans, antioxidants, essential amino acids, protein, vitamins B and C, and important minerals, like iron, selenium, copper, zinc, and potassium. Moreover, maitake is also low calorie, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-sodium, and rich in fiber. So, this delicious mushroom is also a great food for those who are on a diet.

This herbal remedy can be used to cure and prevent a lot of ailments. A hot bowl of maitake soup will be especially good for boosting your immune system and overall health. Consuming maitake will protect you against common illnesses like cold and flu. This mushroom is also consumed to combat high blood pressure, control blood sugar levels, and reduce cholesterol.

Maitake also has strong antiviral properties. This mushroom’s extract has even been shown to kill off HIV and hepatitis virus. It has also been shown to be quite effective in preventing and fighting off tumors and cancer. Additionally, it can also be eaten to reduce the negative effects of chemotherapy such as nausea, hair loss, upset stomach, and loss of appetite. Lastly, this mushroom may also treat infertility caused by Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

Foraging and Cultivation

Maitake is common in the Northeastern US. They can be found growing in the woods at tree bases. They’re most commonly found under oak trees, but they may also grow under maple and elm, so keep an eye out. These mushrooms usually appear from late summer to early fall, but they peak in early to late September. Remember where you find maitake as they usually appear in the same place each year. After harvesting, you can immediately use them or freeze them to store for later use. They can be kept for up to 2 years when frozen.

Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
Maitake (Grifola frondosa)
(Photo by: Pethan/Wikimedia Commons)

If you wish, you can also cultivate maitake on your own. There are many ready-to-grow maitake kits sold online. These growing kits are great for beginners; even children can grow maitake successfully with these kits. Make sure to get your kit from a reliable source. The kits usually come with their own instruction booklets. Pay attention when reading the instructions to ensure optimum growth and yield.

Depending on the type, the maitake kits can be used to grow these mushrooms indoors or outdoors. Most kits are usually made to grow maitake indoors. But after the maitake kit fruits for the first time, you can bury them outdoors in your garden in a moist environment. The fungus will continue to fruit year after year.

Cautions

Consuming maitake may lower your blood sugar level. If you’re diabetic or prone to hypoglycemia, watch your blood sugar levels carefully when consuming this mushroom. It may also lower blood pressure, so avoid consuming it if you have hypotension to prevent worsening your condition. For these reasons, you should also avoid this mushroom two weeks before a scheduled surgery. Lastly, always consult your healthcare provider before consuming maitake as a health supplement.

Conclusion

It’s no wonder that maitake is called the king of mushrooms. With its rich nutrients content and wonderful medicinal benefits, it’s not hard to see why these mushrooms are so treasured. If you’re lucky enough to have them growing near you, forage them and try including them in your daily diet. If you’re not so lucky, don’t worry. Buy some from your local Asian supermarket or try growing them at home by buying ready-to-grow maitake kits.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

Black Medic, an Underrated and Useful Wild Edible


Black medic (Medicago lupulina) in Bloom
Black medic (Medicago lupulina) in Bloom
(Photo by: Simon/Flickr)

Black medic (Medicago lupulina) is often considered a weed and a mild nuisance in the garden. However, if you see this plant invading your garden, don’t immediately spray it with chemicals! Instead, you should actually be happy. This seemingly annoying weed is actually edible and rich in nutrients. It even has some wonderful medicinal qualities, making it a nice herbal remedy.

Also known by its other names, yellow trefoil, hop clover, or black clover, black medic originally came from Europe and Asia. People later introduced this plant to North America as a crop for fodder. Since then, this plant has naturalized and become a common sight in dry, sunny roadsides and meadows.

Edibility and culinary use

In Europe and Asia, where this plant is native, black medic leaves are often used as a potherb. They’re cooked and eaten much like other greens, such as spinach and collards. The best way to cook these leaves is to lightly sautee or stir-fry them, but they can also be added into soups and stews. Additionally, you can throw in the leaves into a bowl of salad, but most people find them too bitter when eaten raw.

Black medic seeds are also edible. Historians believed that Native Americans roasted these seeds and ground them to make flour. However, there have been some concerns that the seeds may contain compounds that interfere with the digestion of proteins. But these compounds will be destroyed if the seeds are sprouted first. This plant belongs to the same genus as alfalfa. While not as nutritious as alfalfa sprouts, black medic sprouts can be cooked and eaten similarly.

Black medic (Medicago lupulina) Flowers and Leaves
Black medic (Medicago lupulina) Flowers and Leaves
(Photo by: Tigerente/Wikimedia Commons)

Lastly, if you’re a beekeeper, you’ll be happy to find that black medic flowers can be used in honey production. Honeybees seem to love these flowers. Honey made of these flowers tends to taste nice and sweet as well.

Health benefits

Though not as powerful as its cousins, red clover and alfalfa, black medic is quite nutritious. Every 100g black medic leaves contain around 23g of protein and around 25g of fiber, making this herb an amazing source of protein and fiber. Due to its fiber contents, this herb can help promote a healthy digestion system. This plant also has a mild laxative effect, making it a great natural remedy for constipation. These leaves will also make you feel full longer and aid weight loss.

Black medic is also rich in essential minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium. Including this herb in your daily diet will certainly benefit you in the long run. This herb has also shown antibacterial properties. Thus, making it a nice herbal remedy for mild bacterial infections and bacteria-related diseases. Lastly, this herb may assist the body’s blood clotting process which means it can help stop bleeding.

Cultivation

Despite being considered a weed, this sun-loving plant can actually be a useful garden plant. Aside from being a great and nutritious food source, black medic can also improve the quality of your garden’s soil. This plant’s roots can form a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacterias. As a result, the soil on which this plant grows become more fertile over time. This means black medic is an effective green manure cover crop.

Black medic is a short-lived annual plant which will die after flowering. But, since it produces a large number of viable seeds, it can behave as if it were perennial. This plant dislikes acidic soils and shades. So, try to grow it in a sunny location with neutral and alkaline soil. It thrives best in dry to moist, well-drained soil which contains clay, sand, or loam.

The seeds can be sown in spring or fall, but spring seems to be the best time for growing black medic. The plants will have a harder time growing if the seeds are sown in the fall. Before sowing, pre-soak the seeds in warm water for 12 hours to ensure germination. Sow the seeds directly and lightly cover them with soil.  

Black medic (Medicago lupulina)
Black medic (Medicago lupulina)
(Photo by: Anneli Salo/Wikimedia Commons)

Mow or harvest them often to prevent them from overtaking your garden. Lastly, black medic will survive over the winter and flower the following spring. The flowers will attract pollinators to your garden and help feed the local bee population.

Cautions

Since this herb assists blood clotting, it should be avoided by people who are taking blood thinning medications. This herb also has a mild laxative effect that shouldn’t be a problem when eaten moderately. However, overconsumption may cause diarrhea.

Much like alfalfa, black medic may also contain some estrogenic compounds. Therefore, it’s best for pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid this herb. It’s also better not to give this herb to children due to a lack of research on its effects on young children. As with any other herbs, it’s best to consult a doctor before consuming this herb.

Conclusion

Despite its various uses, black medic is still a widely undervalued crop. Instead of considering them a weed and getting rid of them, we should start utilizing them, both as a food source and as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop. In the end, we should use what nature gives us to the best of our ability.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
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Wild Sarsaparilla, a Native Source of Energy and Health


Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)
Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)
(Photo by: Jomegat/Wikimedia Commons)

Despite their similar name, wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) is not related to the true sarsaparilla at all. Unlike true sarsaparilla which belongs to the Greenbrier family, wild sarsaparilla belongs to the Ginseng family. Wild sarsaparilla is a perennial flowering plant that comes from northern and eastern North America. This plant can easily be found growing on creeping underground stems in the woods.

This plant has had a long history with Native Americans. It’s considered a very filling food source as well as a wonderful herbal remedy. Also, much like its name suggests, the roots of this plant is often used as a substitute for true sarsaparilla roots in making root beer.

Edibility and culinary use

Wild sarsaparilla has a sweet spicy taste and a nice aromatic fragrant. The leaves, fruits, and roots of this plant are edible, but the roots are by far the most commonly used one. They’re used as a substitute for sarsaparilla, to make root beer, to make syrup, as well as to flavor other foods and beverages. Native Americans also used to eat wild sarsaparilla roots as emergency food, especially during wartime. This is because these roots are a wonderful source of energy.

Other than that, you can brew wild sarsaparilla leaves along with the roots to make a refreshing herbal tea. Young shoots are often cooked as a potherb as well. They can be stir-fried, blanched, or added into soups and stews. Lastly, ripe wild sarsaparilla fruits can be used to make wine and jelly.

Health benefits

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) Leaves
Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) Leaves
(Photo by: Homer Edward Price/Flickr)

Much like its similarly named friend, sarsaparilla, wild sarsaparilla is an amazing medicinal herb. In fact, Native Americans have been using the roots of both plants interchangeably for making traditional herbal remedies. The roots can be made into a tincture, tonic, and herbal tea for internal use or used as a poultice for external use.

This herb has diaphoretic, diuretic, pectoral and stimulant properties. Aside from that, it’s also a great detoxifier as it encourages the body to sweat all the toxins out. Wild sarsaparilla can treat a lot of ailments. Internally, it’s used to treat cough, asthma, pulmonary diseases, rheumatism, and digestive problems. It can also help alleviate toothache and stomachache. Then, a poultice made from this herb can be used externally to treat sore muscles, joint pain, ulcers, burns, minor cuts, rash, insect bites, and other skin diseases such as eczema.

Cultivation

Wild sarsaparilla can easily be found growing in woodlands, especially if you live in northern and eastern US. But if you don’t want to go into the woods each time you want to use this herb, you can grow it in your own garden. This perennial herb isn’t hard to grow and it requires very little maintenance, especially if it has matured. Plant wild sarsaparilla on rich, loamy soil in a shady and protected area.

Wild sarsaparilla can be propagated from root cuttings. You can do this by digging up the roots when the plant is dormant in late fall. Cut the roots into 4” segments and lay them in a planting bed. Bury the root segments under 2” of soil and a layer of bark mulch. They can be transferred to their permanent position outside in their second spring.

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) Flowers
Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) Flowers
(Photo by: Halpaugh/Wikimedia Commons)

Alternatively, you can also grow this plant from seeds. You can gather the seeds from ripe, unblemished fruits at the end of summer. If you can’t find any plants in the wild, simply buy the seeds online or from a nursery. It’s best to sow these seeds in the fall. They will germinate within 1 to 3 months. Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, place them in individual pots and let them grow in a greenhouse. Transfer them outside in late spring or early summer, be sure to give approximately 10” space for each plant.

Cautions

Wild sarsaparilla has no known hazard, but it’s always wise to consult your doctor or other medical providers before starting to consume this herb.

Be careful when foraging this herb in the wild. Wild sarsaparilla and poison ivy can look similar, especially in the spring when young plants just start to emerge. Young wild sarsaparilla plants will have three sets of 3 young leaves on its branches, just like poison ivy. A way to tell the difference between both plants is to check for the base of the plants and their leaf shapes. Wild sarsaparilla doesn’t have a woody base while its leaves have finely serrated edges.

It’s easier to tell them apart when the plants have matured. Mature wild sarsaparilla will have three sets of 5 leaves branching out from a common point on the stem along with little white or green flower clusters hanging below the leaves.

Conclusion

Wild sarsaparilla is truly a wonderful medicinal herb. It has had an extensive history as a herbal remedy. In fact, Native Americans tribes see this plant as a panacea and a valuable food source. With its uniquely distinct taste and potent medicinal properties, wild sarsaparilla will be a great addition to your daily diet. So, try taking a walk in the woods and see if you can find any wild sarsaparilla. Once you find it, why not try to cultivate it in your own garden? Its lovely green foliage will look amazing in any garden.


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Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



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Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
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Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.

White Clover, a Sweet and Nutritious Edible Weed


White clover (Trifolium repens)  Meadow
White clover (Trifolium repens) Meadow
(Photo by: Hideyuki Kamon/Wikimedia Commons)

White clover (Trifolium repens) is a low-growing perennial plant that’s native to Europe and Central Asia. It has been naturalized all over the world as a yard crop. Its most distinguishable features are its smooth, trifoliolate leaves and white flowers. Despite its inconspicuous appearance, apparently, this plant possesses some great culinary and medicinal uses.

Edibility and culinary use

All aerial parts of this plant are edible, including the stems, leaves, flowers, and seed pods. The leaves and flowers have a delicate, sweet taste. They can be used fresh right after harvesting or dried for later use. The most common way to consume the leaves and flowers is to brew them to make a sweet and relaxing tisane.

Then, fresh leaves also taste great in a salad, soup, and vegetable stir-fry while dried leaves can add a vanilla-like flavor to baked goods. Likewise, dried clover flowers are also great for adding flavor to baked goods as well as jelly and cool beverages. Fresh while clover flowers can also be used as an edible garnish in various dishes.

Additionally, you can use white clover as a substitute for red clover. While both plants don’t exactly have the same flavor, they’re similar enough to be used interchangeably. For example, dried white clover flowers and seed pods can be ground to make gluten-free flour, just like with red clover flowers.

Health benefits

White clover (Trifolium repens) with Four Leaflets
White clover (Trifolium repens) with Four Leaflets
(Photo by: Joe Papp/Wikimedia Commons)

Compared to its cousin, the red clover, white clover is less popular in the herbal medicine realm. It also has fewer health benefits. But, that doesn’t mean white clover is useless as a herbal remedy. To begin with, it contains a lot of essential vitamin and minerals, including vitamins A, B2, B3, C, and E as well as magnesium, potassium, chromium, and calcium. Due to its nutritional content, this herb is often used as a natural remedy in various communities around the world, including Turkish, Indian, and Native Americans.

A white clover infusion can be used to treat fever, coughs, and colds. It’s also good for treating common cold symptoms, such as upset stomachs, nausea, and dizziness. White clover herbal tea can treat rheumatic aches and arthritis. It can also be used as an eyewash to cure minor eye infections or applied on the skin to heal wounds, burns, ulcers, and sores.

Cultivation

White clover is becoming more and more popular among gardeners. It looks great as a grass alternative. It’s an excellent creeping ground cover; it’s easy to maintain, moderately drought-resistant, and requires no fertilizer. Then, as a nitrogen fixator, this plant can improve your garden’s soil fertility. It also helps other plants in your garden by attracting pollinators such as butterflies and bees. And of course, you get the added bonus of having a reliable and convenient source of food and medicinal herb.

White clover (Trifolium repens) with Blooming Flowers
White clover (Trifolium repens) with Blooming Flowers
(Photo by: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons)

You should be able to get white clover seeds online or from a local plant nursery. Choose a sunny location with moist, rich soil. Aerate the soil, water the area daily to moisten the soil, and remove any weeds that might hinder the clover’s growth. It’s recommended to starting sowing the seeds in spring or summer.

Sow the seeds evenly over the area and bury them under ¼” layer of soil. The seeds should start germinating in 10 to 15 days. Water the area daily to ensure optimum growth until the plants are well established. Do not fertilize these plants as doing so will kill them.

Cautions

White clover is generally safe to consume in moderation. However, due to its blood-thinning effect, it might increase the risk of bleeding. So, it’s best to stop consuming this herb at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery. This blood-thinning property might also interact with hypertension medications. Consult your doctor before including this herb in your diet.

Conclusion

Despite its humble appearance, there’s no denying that white clover is a very useful plant to have around. It’s not only good for your garden, but it’s also great for your health. Moreover, its lush green foliage will stay gorgeous all throughout the summer and sometimes, even winter as well. With white clover, you’ll have a beautiful garden all year round.


---------------
Writen by Cornelia Tjandra
Cornelia is a freelance writer with a passion for bringing words to life and sharing useful information with the world. Her educational background in natural science and social issues has given her a broad base to approach various topics with ease. Learn more about her writing services on Upwork.com or contact her directly by email at cornelia.tjandra@gmail.com



Many of our readers find that subscribing to Eat The Planet is the best way to make sure they don't miss any of our valuable information about wild edibles.

Subscribe to our mailing list

our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg



eattheplanet.org is an affiliate marketer. We may earn commission from links to products and services on this page.

Basil, a flavourful favourite
Read more.
Aralia, golden foliage and edible shoots
Read more.
Anise, the original star of the herb garden
Read more.
Angelica (Wild Celery), sweet but hardy
Read more.
Aloe Vera and its soothing properties
Read more.
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Bunchberry, a Beautiful and Valuable Wild Edible
Read more.
Giant puffball mushroom (Calvatia gigantea)
Giant Puffball Mushroom, a Soft and Tasty Delicacy
Read more.
Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Redroot Pigweed, a Humble and Underrated Wild Edible
Read more.
Sourwood Tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) in the fall
Sourwood Tree, Gorgeous Foliage and Tasty Flowers
Read more.
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
Wild Cucumber, Inedible Fruits but Great for Making Tea
Read more.