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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Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), also known as American black elderberry or common elderberry, is a shrub that can easily be found throughout North America. It’s known for its delicious, dark purple berries and lacy white flowers. Elderberries and elderflowers are famous for their culinary and medicinal uses. Edibility and culinary use Almost all parts of this plant are poisonous, except for its flowers and ripe berries. Elderflowers are delicate and fragrant with a slightly tart flavor. These cream-colored flowers are typically used as an edible garnish or to flavor desserts and beverages. Elderflowers can also be made into jelly or deep-fried to make fritters. Dried elderflowers can also be brewed to make medicinal herbal tea. Much like elderflowers, elderberries taste tangy and tart, although stronger. These dark purple berries should never be eaten raw as it might cause stomach aches. Elderberries are usually made into jam, marmalade, pastry filling, juice, wine, tincture, and syrup. Elderberry tincture and syrup are often used for medicinal remedy. Health benefits Elderberry is packed with important nutrients. Both the berries and flowers are rich in vitamin A, B, and C. The tiny berries even contain more vitamin C than oranges. They’re high in dietary fiber which can promote a healthy digestive system. Elderberries and elderflowers also contain a lot of antioxidants like anthocyanins, flavonols, and phenolic acids. This means they’re great for reducing oxidative stress in the body, preventing cancer, and reducing inflammations. Elderflowers and elderberries are often used to treat and prevent cold. They’re also great for alleviating cold symptoms, such as cough, nasal congestion, and fever. Elderberry is also said to be good for treating allergy and asthma symptoms. Its anti-inflammatory property also makes it great for alleviating pain, treating mouth and gum inflammation, reducing toothache, and treating digestive problems. Lastly, consuming elderberry can improve cardiovascular health as it helps lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. Cultivation Elderberry is not very hard to cultivate. With some work and patience, you’ll be able to grow some elderberry shrubs in your own garden. While it loves moist, fertile, and well-drained soil, this plant can tolerate almost every type of soil. But, it can’t tolerate drought at all. So, be sure to water the plant regularly. Plant elderberry in a location with full sun for a better harvest. Before planting, prepare the soil by incorporating manure or compost. Plant elderberry bushes in the spring, after the last frost date has passed. Plant each plant 6” to 10” apart, make sure the roots are well-covered. Water them once or twice a week to ensure they don’t dry out. Get rid of surrounding weed regularly, especially when the shrubs are young. Let the shrubs grow wild for the first two years. Don’t prune them or harvest the flowers and berries. This way, they’ll grow nicely and produce a lot of berries. Then, starting from the third year, prune the shrubs each spring and remove all the dead areas. The berries will start to appear at the end of summer and they will ripen around mid-August to mid-September. Make sure to pick them before the birds finish them off. Cautions Common elderberry leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous. Ripe elderberries are generally safe, but unripe elderberries contain toxins that can only be destroyed through cooking. Eating unripe or uncooked elderberries may result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Elderberry may cause the immune system to be more active, so people with autoimmune disorders should avoid consuming elderberry. Also, be careful not to confuse elderberry shrubs with the toxic water hemlock. These plants look somewhat similar, moreover, they typically grow in the same area. Elderberry has opposing leaves while water hemlock has alternating leaves.  Water hemlock doesn’t grow berries, but they do grow flowers. Water hemlock flowers look similar to elderflowers, but they have a firecracker-like formation. Do not touch or ingest water hemlock flowers at all. Conclusion Elderberry can be a valuable source of food and herbal remedy if you know how to prepare it. This plant’s tiny berries and dainty flowers definitely pack a punch when it comes to flavor. They’re versatile and can be used in a lot of delicious recipes. And their health benefits are undoubtedly amazing as well. It’s not a surprise to find that Native Americans have been using elderberries and elderflowers to make traditional herbal medicine.
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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.


---------------
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.

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) Harvested Roots
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Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), also known as American black elderberry or common elderberry, is a shrub that can easily be found throughout North America. It’s known for its delicious, dark purple berries and lacy white flowers. Elderberries and elderflowers are famous for their culinary and medicinal uses. Edibility and culinary use Almost all parts of this plant are poisonous, except for its flowers and ripe berries. Elderflowers are delicate and fragrant with a slightly tart flavor. These cream-colored flowers are typically used as an edible garnish or to flavor desserts and beverages. Elderflowers can also be made into jelly or deep-fried to make fritters. Dried elderflowers can also be brewed to make medicinal herbal tea. Much like elderflowers, elderberries taste tangy and tart, although stronger. These dark purple berries should never be eaten raw as it might cause stomach aches. Elderberries are usually made into jam, marmalade, pastry filling, juice, wine, tincture, and syrup. Elderberry tincture and syrup are often used for medicinal remedy. Health benefits Elderberry is packed with important nutrients. Both the berries and flowers are rich in vitamin A, B, and C. The tiny berries even contain more vitamin C than oranges. They’re high in dietary fiber which can promote a healthy digestive system. Elderberries and elderflowers also contain a lot of antioxidants like anthocyanins, flavonols, and phenolic acids. This means they’re great for reducing oxidative stress in the body, preventing cancer, and reducing inflammations. Elderflowers and elderberries are often used to treat and prevent cold. They’re also great for alleviating cold symptoms, such as cough, nasal congestion, and fever. Elderberry is also said to be good for treating allergy and asthma symptoms. Its anti-inflammatory property also makes it great for alleviating pain, treating mouth and gum inflammation, reducing toothache, and treating digestive problems. Lastly, consuming elderberry can improve cardiovascular health as it helps lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. Cultivation Elderberry is not very hard to cultivate. With some work and patience, you’ll be able to grow some elderberry shrubs in your own garden. While it loves moist, fertile, and well-drained soil, this plant can tolerate almost every type of soil. But, it can’t tolerate drought at all. So, be sure to water the plant regularly. Plant elderberry in a location with full sun for a better harvest. Before planting, prepare the soil by incorporating manure or compost. Plant elderberry bushes in the spring, after the last frost date has passed. Plant each plant 6” to 10” apart, make sure the roots are well-covered. Water them once or twice a week to ensure they don’t dry out. Get rid of surrounding weed regularly, especially when the shrubs are young. Let the shrubs grow wild for the first two years. Don’t prune them or harvest the flowers and berries. This way, they’ll grow nicely and produce a lot of berries. Then, starting from the third year, prune the shrubs each spring and remove all the dead areas. The berries will start to appear at the end of summer and they will ripen around mid-August to mid-September. Make sure to pick them before the birds finish them off. Cautions Common elderberry leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous. Ripe elderberries are generally safe, but unripe elderberries contain toxins that can only be destroyed through cooking. Eating unripe or uncooked elderberries may result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Elderberry may cause the immune system to be more active, so people with autoimmune disorders should avoid consuming elderberry. Also, be careful not to confuse elderberry shrubs with the toxic water hemlock. These plants look somewhat similar, moreover, they typically grow in the same area. Elderberry has opposing leaves while water hemlock has alternating leaves.  Water hemlock doesn’t grow berries, but they do grow flowers. Water hemlock flowers look similar to elderflowers, but they have a firecracker-like formation. Do not touch or ingest water hemlock flowers at all. Conclusion Elderberry can be a valuable source of food and herbal remedy if you know how to prepare it. This plant’s tiny berries and dainty flowers definitely pack a punch when it comes to flavor. They’re versatile and can be used in a lot of delicious recipes. And their health benefits are undoubtedly amazing as well. It’s not a surprise to find that Native Americans have been using elderberries and elderflowers to make traditional herbal medicine.
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Wild Sarsaparilla, a Native Source of Energy and Health

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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.


---------------
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.

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) Harvested Roots
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Read more.
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Read more.
Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis) Blooms
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Read more.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
Motherwort, Calming and Relieving the Anxious Mind
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Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis)
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Read more.
Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
Marjoram, an Aromatic Herb with Many Medicinal Uses
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Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), also known as American black elderberry or common elderberry, is a shrub that can easily be found throughout North America. It’s known for its delicious, dark purple berries and lacy white flowers. Elderberries and elderflowers are famous for their culinary and medicinal uses. Edibility and culinary use Almost all parts of this plant are poisonous, except for its flowers and ripe berries. Elderflowers are delicate and fragrant with a slightly tart flavor. These cream-colored flowers are typically used as an edible garnish or to flavor desserts and beverages. Elderflowers can also be made into jelly or deep-fried to make fritters. Dried elderflowers can also be brewed to make medicinal herbal tea. Much like elderflowers, elderberries taste tangy and tart, although stronger. These dark purple berries should never be eaten raw as it might cause stomach aches. Elderberries are usually made into jam, marmalade, pastry filling, juice, wine, tincture, and syrup. Elderberry tincture and syrup are often used for medicinal remedy. Health benefits Elderberry is packed with important nutrients. Both the berries and flowers are rich in vitamin A, B, and C. The tiny berries even contain more vitamin C than oranges. They’re high in dietary fiber which can promote a healthy digestive system. Elderberries and elderflowers also contain a lot of antioxidants like anthocyanins, flavonols, and phenolic acids. This means they’re great for reducing oxidative stress in the body, preventing cancer, and reducing inflammations. Elderflowers and elderberries are often used to treat and prevent cold. They’re also great for alleviating cold symptoms, such as cough, nasal congestion, and fever. Elderberry is also said to be good for treating allergy and asthma symptoms. Its anti-inflammatory property also makes it great for alleviating pain, treating mouth and gum inflammation, reducing toothache, and treating digestive problems. Lastly, consuming elderberry can improve cardiovascular health as it helps lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. Cultivation Elderberry is not very hard to cultivate. With some work and patience, you’ll be able to grow some elderberry shrubs in your own garden. While it loves moist, fertile, and well-drained soil, this plant can tolerate almost every type of soil. But, it can’t tolerate drought at all. So, be sure to water the plant regularly. Plant elderberry in a location with full sun for a better harvest. Before planting, prepare the soil by incorporating manure or compost. Plant elderberry bushes in the spring, after the last frost date has passed. Plant each plant 6” to 10” apart, make sure the roots are well-covered. Water them once or twice a week to ensure they don’t dry out. Get rid of surrounding weed regularly, especially when the shrubs are young. Let the shrubs grow wild for the first two years. Don’t prune them or harvest the flowers and berries. This way, they’ll grow nicely and produce a lot of berries. Then, starting from the third year, prune the shrubs each spring and remove all the dead areas. The berries will start to appear at the end of summer and they will ripen around mid-August to mid-September. Make sure to pick them before the birds finish them off. Cautions Common elderberry leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous. Ripe elderberries are generally safe, but unripe elderberries contain toxins that can only be destroyed through cooking. Eating unripe or uncooked elderberries may result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Elderberry may cause the immune system to be more active, so people with autoimmune disorders should avoid consuming elderberry. Also, be careful not to confuse elderberry shrubs with the toxic water hemlock. These plants look somewhat similar, moreover, they typically grow in the same area. Elderberry has opposing leaves while water hemlock has alternating leaves.  Water hemlock doesn’t grow berries, but they do grow flowers. Water hemlock flowers look similar to elderflowers, but they have a firecracker-like formation. Do not touch or ingest water hemlock flowers at all. Conclusion Elderberry can be a valuable source of food and herbal remedy if you know how to prepare it. This plant’s tiny berries and dainty flowers definitely pack a punch when it comes to flavor. They’re versatile and can be used in a lot of delicious recipes. And their health benefits are undoubtedly amazing as well. It’s not a surprise to find that Native Americans have been using elderberries and elderflowers to make traditional herbal medicine.
Elderberry, Tasty and Packed with Nutrients
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Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) Flowering Meadow
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Blue Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
Blue Skullcap, a Small Medicinal Herb that Packs a Punch
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