Ramps, a Popular and Versatile Herb

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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.


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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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Maitake, the Wonderful King of Mushrooms

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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.


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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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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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Black Medic, an Underrated and Useful Wild Edible

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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.


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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



Featured Videos - eattheplanet.org


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



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