Black Chokeberry, a Native Super Food

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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.


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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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Dryad’s Saddle, a Unique and Tasty Mushroom

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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.


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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

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

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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.


---------------
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



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

Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum)
Wild Leek – A Beloved Spring Wild Edible
Read more.
Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)
Wild Sarsaparilla, a Native Source of Energy and Health
Read more.
White clover (Trifolium repens) Meadow
White Clover, a Sweet and Nutritious Edible Weed
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Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) Close Up
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Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) in Bloom
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Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
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Read more.
Kudzu (Pueraria montana)
Kudzu, an Invasive Weed with Hidden Virtues
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Hops (Humulus lupulus)
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Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
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