Jelly Roll Fungus, sounds better than it looks, but it’s edible.

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Black Jelly Roll
Black Jelly Roll (Photo By: Jerzy Opiola / Wikimedia Commons)

The name Jelly Roll (Exidia recisa, glandulosa, nigricans) conjures up images of home made pastries with jelly and sugar, but once you see a picture of this fungus you’ll see the humor in the name.  A very unsightly fungus to say the least, but Amber, Black, or Brown Jelly Roll is in the group of fungus called jelly fungus or cup fungus, another common name for these species is witch’s butter.  A very common fungus, they have a gelatinous texture, but the vast majority of them are edible, some are prized in certain parts of the world.  This species is found growing on recently dead hardwoods.

Edibility and Culinary Use

It is rather tasteless with a gelatinous texture, but absorbs easily flavors it is cooked with. You can eat them raw or cooked.  They are used to in salads and soups. They are also very commonly seen and make for a good snack when you’re in the mood for something a little different.

Health Benefits

Brown Jelly Roll
Brown Jelly Roll (Photo By: Norbert Nagel / Wikimedia Commons)

Studies on nutrition and health benefits of this particular fungus are rare but fungus of the same Family are know to have many health benefits including reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Similar species also have huge amounts of proteins, fats, polysaccharides and Iron, so eating them regularly could prevent diseases related to iron deficiency such as anemia.  This species probably also contains Pectin, Calcium, Vitamin D, B1, and B2.

Cautions

This species is sometimes is said to be inedible, but that probably only refers to the fact that this particular species is not commonly eaten.

Conclusion

This is one of those foods that are often overlooked because most people would agree, it looks gross.  But Jelly Roll Fungus should be consumed much more than it is now because of its health benefits.  It is easy to identify and harvest, and it works well when cooked or raw.

Amber Jelly Roll
Amber Jelly Roll ( Photo By: Andreas Kunze / Wikimedia Commons)


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Spicebush, A Warm Fall Woodland Spice

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If you can’t find Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) in the wild you can purchase seeds or plants here:
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) – 25 seeds
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) – 10 plants (1′-2′ tall bare root)
Spicebush berries and leaves
Spicebush berries and leaves (Photo By: Cody Hough, college student and photographer in the Michgian area)

Spicebush(Lindera benzoin) is a shrub native to north eastern United States.  It is a common woodland shrub that can be identified easily by the fragrance of its crushed leaves.  The leaf shape is difficult to distinguish, especially for beginners.  This plant produces red berries in summer which is a prized item for wildlife.  The species is dioecious which means that male and female plants exist and berries only form on female plants.

Edibility and Culinary Use

The leaves and berries of this plant can be eaten raw or cooked.  A tea can be made from all parts of this plant, most commonly twigs and leaves, it has a refreshing flavor and texture.  Also the berries that ripen in early fall have a taste similar to allspice, it is a warm spice that can be used in baking and pies.  They are usually used fresh or frozen for later use.  The leaves can also be eaten raw, usually as a condiment, and the young bark is said to be good to chew on.

Health Benefits

This plant is known for its use in the treatment of colds, fevers, dysentery, and internal parasites.  This safe plant with no knows hazards is a traditional medicine of the Native Americans and is known for its powerful health benefits.  This plant should be studied more for its beneficial compounds.

Conclusion

This is a safe and delicious plant that is typically hidden away in the forests of the North East.  But it is easy to find in the under story of the woods since it only grows about 5’ tall.  Yet another plant that is often underappreciated and undervalued by most people, adding this plant to your diet will be a great experience with good health benefits.



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Wild Violets Are A Versatile Edible Plant

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Wild Violets

Wild Violets
Leaf Shape and growth pattern are 2 good ID features

Johnny jump ups, hearts ease, pansies, wild violets, and a host of other names all point to plants in the Viola genus. There are 400-500 species worldwide and they can be found in almost all temperate climates.  In the North Eastern United States Viola sororia is a common wild violet.  This information also applies to most other species of violets and certainly the common pansy that can be purchased in early spring at any garden center.

Edibility and Culinary Use

The whole wild violet plant is edible.  Leaves and flowers can be eaten raw or cooked, raw leaves are nice and crunchy with a slightly mucilaginous texture.  The flavor of wild violets is mild, not overwhelming so you can eat a whole bunch at one time.  They are commonly used as a lettuce substitute in salads and sandwiches. The roots are one of my favorite spring snacks, right when the leaves start coming up in early spring, you can uproot the entire plant and find small edible tubers on some species, such as Viola sororia. Wash the tubers then lightly boil or steam these to soften them up a bit before they are served.

Health Benefits

Historically wild violet leaves and flowers have been used for a number of ailments from headaches to asthma, to sore throats, even whooping cough, just to name a few.  It has also been used as a breath freshener.  The plant is valued for its anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties.  Wild Violets and Pansies also contain salicylic acid, which is a pain reliever.

Blue, white, yellow and purple are common colorations together or apart
Blue, white, yellow and purple are common colorations together or apart

Identification

Wild violets are difficult to identify when flowers are not present. The primary factors that can be used for easy identification of this plant are the timing and shape of flowers.  Wild violets can be identified by the flowers appearing in very early spring.  These plants are common in untreated lawns and planting beds.

Once you see these very early spring flowers you can confirm the identity of the plant by the flower shape.Wild violet flowers vary greatly in shape. size and color but their petal pattern is always the same. They all have 5 petals arranged a specific way, 2 up top, then 2 in the middle on either side, then a single petal on the bottom. For extra confirmation of correct identification search online or in reference guides for wild violet species in your area and attempt to identify plants by species.  Leaves are often heart shaped but sometimes are irregularly shaped or rounded as is the case with many pansies. The maximum height of the plants vary by species but are usually less than 8″ tall.

Conclusion

Violet flowers always have a lower center petal in front.
Violet flowers always have a lower center petal in front.

Wild violets are a great foraging plant.  Flowers and leaves pop up in very early spring, and the plant sticks around throughout the entire growing season.  Throw some pansies or violets into your next meal to give some color.  Violets are one of the first things to come up in the spring so to celebrate the first few weeks of warm weather eat violets for taste, texture, and color.

Read our Article on: Safe Foraging



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