Cottonwood Buds are Medicinal, Leaves are Edible


our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg

Cottonwood Tree

Cottonwood seeds
Cottonwood seeds collecting on the ground (Photo By: EnLorax G. Edward Johnson / Wikimedia Commons)

The eastern cottonwood tree (Populous deltoides) is a native North American tree that is common in eastern and central United States as well as southern Canada. Many people recognize this tree from the cottony substance that falls from the trees in early summer.  This “cotton” acts as a sail to move the seeds as far from the parent tree as possible. Cottonwood trees are a riparian species which means that they thrive in wet and semi-wet conditions, but these trees can also handle drought which makes them very well suited to a range of environments. These trees are often seen along the edge of water bodies.  Cottonwood trees are known to grow very large, in fact they are one of the largest deciduous trees in North America, one tree in Pennsylvanian was recorded to be over 100′ tall. Cottonwood trees are also known to be brittle and I personally have seen a number of them break in moderate winds. Cottonwood trees are recognized by many people but the edibility of their leaves and health benefits of cottonwood buds are often overlooked. This article primarily refers to eastern cottonwood, but this information likely applies to other cottonwoods such as fremont’s cottonwood(Populus fremontii) which is native to the southwestern U.S.

Edibility of Cottonwood Leaves

cottonwood buds
Small Summer Cottonwood Buds and Leaves (Photo By: Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service / Wikimedia Commons

This was a surprise to me when I learned that not only are cottonwood leaves edible but they are extremely nutritious. According to a very reputable edible plant database (pfaf.org) cottonwood leaves contain a greater amino acid content then rice, corn, wheat, and barley.  One problem I see with eating cottonwood leaves is the taste.  This is a tree that is very abundant in my area and I have eaten small portions of cottonwood leaves before, but they tend to be very bitter. This bitterness might be able to be reduced by cooking or drying but I have not had the opportunity to experiment with that yet.

Health Benefits of Cottonwood Buds

Cottonwood buds and bark contain salicin which is a compound that likely breaks down into salicylic acid(asprin). Preparation of cottonwoods buds or bark with oil, or alcohol can make a natural medicinal product with similar properties to aspirin.  This would be used externally or internally for pain relief, inflammation or fever.  Other medicinal uses of cottonwood bark have been recorded such as treatment of whooping cough, tuberculosis, colds, and intestinal parasites. Whenever you make a product that concentrates the compounds of an edible plant the product may not be edible anymore, use caution if using any concentrated product internally. A closely related species (Populus balsamifera) is used to make a North American version of balm of gilead, a fragrant oil with medicinal benefits. These benefits are likely very similar to eastern Cottonwood buds and bark.

Cautions

There are no major cautions associated with the plant, buds or leaves other than that some people may be allergic to cottonwood sap.  There seems to be a link between people who are sensitive to bees also being sensitive to cottonwood sap. Exercise caution anytime you use a new product externally or internally.

Key ID Features

cottonwood bark
cottonwood(Populus deltoides) bark (Photo By: KENPEI / Wikimedia Commons)

One good identification feature for cottonwood trees is their size, but that doesn’t help someone who is trying to harvest cottonwood buds or leaves. Another good identification feature is their deeply furrowed bark.  These 2 features are shared by other related species such as the tuliptree(Liriodendron tulipifera). The leaf shape of cottonwood trees will set them apart from tuliptrees. Tuliptrees have very distinctive leaves. Cottonwood leaves are triangular with course teeth along the margins. Cottonwood buds are also somewhat distinctive, in winter and early spring they are large, long, and pointed. One last identification feature is to follow the cotton in early summer. Put all these identification features together and you should be able to confidently identify cottonwood trees.

Conclusion

This is one of those plants that a lot of people are aware of but many people simply view as a weed tree. Not only is this tree a native plant but it offers impressive nutritional and medicinal benefits as well. I would encourage more people to experiment with eating cottonwood buds and leaves in different ways. In my opinion this plant could be an important edible plant because of its high amino acid content, especially for people that don’t eat meat. If you love to try new wild edibles, give this a try and leave a comment below with your experiences.



Celebrate our Most Popular Article With This Exclusive T-Shirt!!

Visit our store by clicking on THIS LINK to get this t-Shirt which was designed exclusively for eattheplanet.org viewers which means it can not be purchased anywhere else on the internet. This shirt reads "Sassafras- The Radical Root". Our most popular article Sassafras, An Illegal Substance That Grows Wild In Our Back Yards inspired us to design this sassafras t-shirt
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



Pinus Strobus Eastern White Pine
Eastern White Pine, An Effective Remedy For The Common Cold
Read more.
Pinus Strobus Eastern White Pine
What Is The Opposite Of “Conifer”
Read more.
What Is The Opposite Of “Conifer” ANSWER
Read more.
Elaeagnus umbellata, Autumn Olive fruit
10 Wild Edibles, You Should Know
Read more.
Quercus rubra acorns
Oak Tree Acorns, A High Calorie Wild Edible
Read more.
Tsuga Canadensis needles and cones
Canadian Hemlock, A Hot Winter Tea
Read more.
Native American Smoking A Pipe
Surprisingly, Smoking Tobacco From A Pipe May Have Health Benefits
Read more.
Sassafras albidum leaf shapes
Sassafras, An Illegal Substance That Grows Wild In Our Back Yards
Read more.
Sassafras albidum
What is the story behind the banning of Safrole?
Read more.
Juniperus virginiana young tree shape
Eastern Red Cedar Berries, A Touch of Natural Flavor
Read more.

Pickled Pawpaws


our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg

Pickled Pawpaws

Pickled Pawpaws
Pawpaw Fruits (Asimina triloba) (Photo By: Scott Bauer, USDA / Wikimedia Commons)

Pawpaw fruits are fruits from the pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba). The Pawpaw tree is a very unique U.S. native fruit tree.  It is very unique because all of its closest relatives are tropical fruit tree species. This tree has evolved to handle cold weather and has brought its tropical flavor with it. Pickled pawpaws are one way to preserve these unique fruits.  Pawpaw fruits do not last long under normal conditions, no doubt that this method was used to help preserve these fruits and extend their season of use. Pickled pawpaws use the unripe fruits in a base of mainly vinegar. To read more about the Pawpaw tree see our article Pawpaw Fruits, A Tropical Fruit in Temperate Climates

To be honest the jury is still out on weather eating pickled pawpaws is a good idea since consuming the unripe fruits often makes people a little sick to the stomach.  It is possible that if pickled correctly the irritating components of unripe pawpaws could be broken down into less irritating components, but that is just a theory. There are not enough first hand experiences of people eating pickled pawpaws to confirm this so if you have eaten pickled pawpaws please comment below and let us know about your experience.

The Recipe for Green Pickled Pawpaws

Makes 1 pint

Ingredients
1 cup white wine vinegar
¾ cup sugar
½ cup water
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tbsp. of lime juice
2-3 green pawpaws (cut in half, skinned and seeds removed)

Supplies
1 Pint canning jarshalf pint canning jars or quarter pint canning jars

Instructions – no hot water bath
Combine all ingredients except for pawpaws and bring to a boil. Put pawpaws in a pint jar then pour the hot liquid into the jar on top of them. Put the lid on the jar, let it cool then refrigerate.  If you do not process the jars in a hot water bath then keep it refrigerated, it should still last a few weeks.

Instructions – process in hot water bath

Combine all ingredients except for pawpaws and bring to a boil. Put pawpaws in a pint jar then pour the hot liquid into the jar on top of them. Put the lid on the jar snug but not too tight. To process jars for canning put them in a large steamer pot of boiling water for 5 mins, the water should be covering the jars. Then take them out, tighten the lids and let cool. Pawpaws processed in a hot water bath should last at least 6 months. They may be less firm then the unprocessed method.

If you try this recipe out please comment below.



Celebrate our Most Popular Article With This Exclusive T-Shirt!!

Visit our store by clicking on THIS LINK to get this t-Shirt which was designed exclusively for eattheplanet.org viewers which means it can not be purchased anywhere else on the internet. This shirt reads "Sassafras- The Radical Root". Our most popular article Sassafras, An Illegal Substance That Grows Wild In Our Back Yards inspired us to design this sassafras t-shirt
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



Pinus Strobus Eastern White Pine
Eastern White Pine, An Effective Remedy For The Common Cold
Read more.
Pinus Strobus Eastern White Pine
What Is The Opposite Of “Conifer”
Read more.
What Is The Opposite Of “Conifer” ANSWER
Read more.
Elaeagnus umbellata, Autumn Olive fruit
10 Wild Edibles, You Should Know
Read more.
Quercus rubra acorns
Oak Tree Acorns, A High Calorie Wild Edible
Read more.
Tsuga Canadensis needles and cones
Canadian Hemlock, A Hot Winter Tea
Read more.
Native American Smoking A Pipe
Surprisingly, Smoking Tobacco From A Pipe May Have Health Benefits
Read more.
Sassafras albidum leaf shapes
Sassafras, An Illegal Substance That Grows Wild In Our Back Yards
Read more.
Sassafras albidum
What is the story behind the banning of Safrole?
Read more.
Juniperus virginiana young tree shape
Eastern Red Cedar Berries, A Touch of Natural Flavor
Read more.

Pawpaw Fruits, A Tropical Fruit in Temperate Climates


our facebook page for additional articles and updates.

Follow us on Twitter @EatThePlanetOrg

Pawpaw trees

Pawpaw Fruits
Pawpaw Fruits (Asimina triloba) (Photo By: Scott Bauer, USDA / Wikimedia Commons)

Pawpaw trees(Asimina triloba) are unique because most of their closest relatives are tropical species, but these trees are not. Pawpaw trees are native to temperate climates of eastern and central United States and southern Canada.  This USDA map shows their range in the U.S. and Canada. Pawpaw trees are in the same plant family as tropical fruit trees such as cherimoya, soursop, and sweetsop. The spelling of pawpaw varies and includes paw paw, paw-paw, and papaw. The pawpaw tree is a medium size tree typically only reaching 35′. It is very hardy and disease resistent in its growing range. This makes it very valuable to organic farmers because pesticides do not need to be applied for this plant to thrive. One major downside for organic growers is that pawpaw fruits do not preserve well compared to other fruits. This tree is known for its pawpaws but It also makes a great landscape plant with one minor problem.  It reproduces by sending up suckering shoots similar to the sassafras tree, these suckering shoots may be aesthetically unappealing in a landscape, but regular maintenance can keep them down. You can buy pawpaw roots online to grow your own trees at home.

Pawpaw Fruits

Pawpaw Fruit and seeds
Pawpaw Fruit and Seeds (Photo By: Clarknova / Wikimedia Commons)

Pawpaw fruits are elongated oval fruits with a smooth thin skin.  The interior of pawpaw fruits have a consistency that is often described as custard-like.  There are large seeds through the center of the fruit that must be removed before eating, the seeds are very hard and somewhat toxic. Pawpaw fruit taste is what makes this plant so interesting.  It has what I would describe as a tropical flavor.  It tastes a little bit like a banana but different . The taste is very difficult to describe in words since it is such a unique flavor.  Although they have different tastes and are very different plants the pawpaw reminds me of kousa dogwood which is another temperate tree with fruits that I would describe as a tropical flavor. Pawpaw flowers bloom in spring and the fruits fully ripen in fall.  Unripe pawpaw fruits taste awful and might make you a little sick, you will know they are ripe when they just start to get slightly soft to the touch.  Fruits will often fall off the tree when they are ripe enough to eat and can be picked off the ground. There are many ways to eat pawpaw fruits: they can be peeled and eaten around the seeds, they can also be cut in half and seeds removed then spooned out avoiding the skin, Or you can just eat them with the skin on avoiding the seeds but the fruit skin does add a slightly bitter flavor. Pawpaw fruits do not last long after they are picked, to extend their season of use unripe pawpaws can be made into pickled pawpaws.

Health Benefits

There are some important health benefits of pawpaw fruits. The fruits are packed with nutrients including very high levels of magnesium, iron and vitamin C. It’s vitamin C levels are higher than oranges and were an important source for midwestern native Americans. Native Americans also used the leaves for a number of external ailments such as ulcers.  Recent research has shown that pawpaw plants contain very effective antioxidants at high levels similar to other fruits such as cranberries and cherries.

Cautions

The primary caution with pawpaws is to not eat the seeds they contain a narcotic toxin that will likely make you sick. The seeds are generally not considered to be lethal and actually may have certain health benefits in the correct doses, but different people react differently and it is unknown how you will react.  Pawpaw fruits even cause allergic reactions and gastrointestinal problems for some people, so if you have never eaten pawpaws before then just try one or two and give it a day to see how you feel. The leaves and fruit skins cause mild dermatitis to some people.

Key ID Features

Pawpaw Tree Leaves
Pawpaw Tree Leaves (Photo By: Kurt Stuber / Wikimedia Commons)

pawpaw fruits are unmistakable in temperate zones compared to other temperate fruit trees.  They are elongated ovals with very smooth skin ranging from 2″-6″ long. The fruits grow in clusters of 1-5 fruits.  The immature fruit color is light green and the fruits mature to a greenish yellow color in the fall.  The leaves are simple leaves with an obovate shape and a point at the tip. The leaves have visible leaf veins with a smooth leaf margin.

Conclusion

Pawpaw trees are versatile and unique trees that are beginning to be rediscovered for their ease of cultivation and health benefits. Pawpaw fruits truly stand alone in temperate climates of the United States as a unique native fruit.  Native Americans have known of their benefits for millennia. Why has it taken our modern society so long to appreciate this tree and it’s extremely nutritious and beneficial fruits.



Celebrate our Most Popular Article With This Exclusive T-Shirt!!

Visit our store by clicking on THIS LINK to get this t-Shirt which was designed exclusively for eattheplanet.org viewers which means it can not be purchased anywhere else on the internet. This shirt reads "Sassafras- The Radical Root". Our most popular article Sassafras, An Illegal Substance That Grows Wild In Our Back Yards inspired us to design this sassafras t-shirt
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



Pinus Strobus Eastern White Pine
Eastern White Pine, An Effective Remedy For The Common Cold
Read more.
Pinus Strobus Eastern White Pine
What Is The Opposite Of “Conifer”
Read more.
What Is The Opposite Of “Conifer” ANSWER
Read more.
Elaeagnus umbellata, Autumn Olive fruit
10 Wild Edibles, You Should Know
Read more.
Quercus rubra acorns
Oak Tree Acorns, A High Calorie Wild Edible
Read more.
Tsuga Canadensis needles and cones
Canadian Hemlock, A Hot Winter Tea
Read more.
Native American Smoking A Pipe
Surprisingly, Smoking Tobacco From A Pipe May Have Health Benefits
Read more.
Sassafras albidum leaf shapes
Sassafras, An Illegal Substance That Grows Wild In Our Back Yards
Read more.
Sassafras albidum
What is the story behind the banning of Safrole?
Read more.
Juniperus virginiana young tree shape
Eastern Red Cedar Berries, A Touch of Natural Flavor
Read more.