Researches Say These Weeds Are More Nutritious Than Store-Bought Produce

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, reported that nutritious wild greens are growing abundantly in poor urban areas of San Francisco. The researchers, led by Philip Stark, foraged for edible wild greens in disadvantaged neighborhoods classified as “urban food deserts”. Six of the “weeds” were tested for nutrition content including chickweed (Stellaria media), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), dock (Rumex crispus), mallow (Malva sylvestris), nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) and oxalis (Oxalis pescaprae). Nutritionally speaking, all of these plants compare favorably to kale.

The wild greens boasted more dietary fibre, protein, vitamin A, sodium, calcium, iron and vitamin K, and provided more energy. Kale’s vitamin C content outshone the species tested, but the researchers suspect other greens such [as] wild mustard (Hirschfeldia incana) and wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) might rival it.” – Cocmos Magazine

Researchers have documented 52 different species in San Francisco, most of which are drought tolerant. Other abundant edible weeds include cat’s ear (Hypochaeris radicata), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), plantain (Plantago lanceolate), sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus), wild lettuce (Lactuca ludoviciana) and wild onions (Allium spp).

Many of these edible weeds are available year-round. If you’re interested in free food including some that are much more nutritious than most store-bought produce start studying edible weeds in the videos below and also check out FallingFruit.org

Recommended: How To Heal Your Gut

 




Invasive Weeds You Can, and Should, Be Eating – Easy Foraging

If you’re a gardener, the single most time-consuming thing you probably do for your greens is to weed them. Unless you have a killer raised bed setup, the odds are good that your wimpy garden plants won’t be able to withstand the onslaught of weeds perfectly optimized to thrive in the conditions you’ve created.

Watching your kale get overrun by chokeweed is enough to make the most seasoned gardener despair, but what if the way you are thinking about these garden nuisances is actually completely wrong?

Weeds aren’t always bad. Ralph Waldo Emerson once famously proclaimed that weeds were simply misunderstood, as “…a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered”. Though it might be hard for you to match his candor, the truth is that there’s a lot to like about common weeds that few of us are aware of.

As it turns out, weeds have far more benefits for our health than you can imagine.

Garden Weeds: Even Healthier Than Your Vegetables?

It takes a tremendous amount of effort to get garden plants to produce food. No matter how carefully you try to coax your tender plants to thrive, the odds are good that without some significant effort on your part, the close-growing weeds will soon take them over. While it’s easy to hate weeds for their effortless abilities to overwhelm your hard work, the truth is that the scrappiness of weeds is part of what makes them so special.

To understand this, keep in mind that every garden plant once started as a weed that was carefully grown over centuries until it came to resemble the plant that it is today. Fruits got bigger, inedible seeds got smaller, and unpleasant bitterness in leaves slowly became reduced. However, as the traits humans enjoyed best slowly became more prominent, the biggest benefits of these plants – their nutritional content – was slowly weeded out.

Wild plants don’t get the benefit of careful gardening to keep them alive, so they’ve adapted to defend themselves. For this reason, weeds are often full of phytonutrients, essentially an “arsenal of chemicals” that helps them fend off diseases and predators. While the bitter taste they produce often keeps the hungry away, these chemicals are full of health benefits for humans that help them fight off diseases like heart disease, dementia, and even cancer. Filled with vitamins and mineral levels that regular vegetables can’t compete with, garden weeds are truly more nutritious than supermarket greens. If you want the easiest, most efficient way to fill your diet with foods as close to nature as possible, chomping on wild weeds is a great place to start.

Types of Edible Weeds

The complete list of edible weeds is far too vast for any web article, but this list of common weeds from around the world should get you started.

Clover

You’ll find yourself lucky in a patch of clover even when four leafed varieties are nowhere to be found. Red clover is full of the phytoestrogen genistein, a substance that has been studied to treat colon and prostate cancers. While you might have to compete with the honeybees for your supply, raw clover can be chopped into salads or sauteed with other greens. However, there is some concern for pregnant women. Studies have shown that the large amounts of the phytoestrogens in clover may increase your risk of breast cancer and possibly birth defects.

Lambs Quarters (Goosefoot)

Young, tender, and very versatile, lambs quarters can be used as a substitute for spinach in any recipe. This is great news for salad lovers, as lambs quarters peak right when spinach is winding down for the summer. Loaded with vitamins A, C, and K and full of calcium and protein, you are actually better off eating this wild spinach over the cultivated variety. If you are filled with patience, the seeds from lambs quarters can also be collected and cooked as a quinoa-like grain filled with 16% protein.

Dandelions

Though you might cringe at the sight of their sunny-hued flowers blanketing your lawn, dandelions are actually nutritious and surprisingly delicious when used well. In fact, European settlers first brought the dandelion to the U.S. for use as a salad green. One cup of raw dandelion greens contains well over your daily needs of vitamin A and vitamin K.  The best ways to eat dandelions tends to be raw in salads or dried into herbal teas. For those feeling a little more adventurous, the yellow flowers can be breaded and fried for a tasty snack.

Catnip

Not simply a treat for cats, catnip actually has some fascinating health benefits for humans, too. Native to Europe, catnip easily grows around the world and makes for a great herbal tea that encourages relaxation. The mild mint flavor is tasty when snacked on raw or sauteed with other greens

Plantain

Though it has little resemblance to the tropical fruit with the same name, plantain weeds grow all over the world and make for a stellar medicinal plant that can be used topically to soothe skin ailments like rashes or burns. Even better, the younger leaves are tasty in salads and can be steamed, boiled, or sauteed. If you take the time to harvest the seeds, they can be ground into a nutritious flour that’s great for baking.

Bamboo

Though bamboo’s versatility has been put to use on everything from flooring to kitchen cutting boards, few people are aware that this fibrous plant is also edible. Often described as tasting like corn, bamboo shoots can be harvested when they are less than two weeks old and added to your favorite stir fry. Simply peel off the outer leaves and cut the tender middle into one-eighth inch slices before boiling them in an uncovered pan for twenty minutes. After the bitterness has been boiled out, you can eat bamboo any way you choose.

Garlic Mustard

Though it’s highly invasive throughout much of the world, garlic mustard originally came from Europe. The flowers, leaves, seeds, and roots of garlic plants make them great for weight loss and controlling cholesterol levels, and their faint garlic scent makes them a tasty addition to any dish. You can harvest garlic mustard all season long, but the tastiest roots need to be collected in the early spring.

Green Amaranth

Similar to lambs quarters but with a more mild taste, green amaranth is also known as redroot, pigweed, and wild beet. Because of the detergent-like qualities of the saponon on raw leaves, green amaranth is best cooked before eating to eliminate the strange aftertaste. For this reason, it’s often best to serve green amaranth with a stronger tasting vegetable to offset its mild flavor.

Watercress

There’s no avoiding the high price tag of watercress in classy grocery stores, but you can harvest it yourself for free. This weed can be found throughout the U.S. Adding it to your salads is a foolproof way to boost up your daily antioxidants.

Kudzu

While “the weed that ate the south” is a symbol of despair for millions in America, this voracious plant is actually edible itself. Simple to make into jams and jellies and tasty when the flowers are pickled, there’s a lot of ways to experiment with this tricky vine. Commonly used as a digestive aid in China, you can also chop up a cup of kudzu leaves and boil them for thirty minutes before drinking the health-infused creation.

Mallow (Cheeseweed)

Common to see in yards around the world, mallow is a blessing for adventurous eaters to enjoy. Both the leaves and seed pods are edible and can be enjoyed steamed, boiled, or raw as a salad green. Mallow is full of vitamins and minerals that make it useful as an herbal medicine, especially when used as an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, or laxative.

Purslane

If you only choose to eat one weed from your garden bed, purslane should be the one. This succulent looking plant grows close to the ground and in between the cracks of the sidewalk. If you find some, you’re in luck. This juicy, lemon-tasting green is filled with omega-3 fatty acids. It is tasty eaten raw, cooked or blended in a smoothie. Because every part of the plant can be eaten, you won’t have to worry about shoving it all in your mouth at once. As an extra benefit, purslane consistently produces a bumper crop of edible seeds, which can be used for baking. All you need to do is dry out the seeds for several weeks on a sheet of plastic before winnowing out the tiny, black seeds.

In Summary

The benefits of spending your summer days wrist deep in garden dirt cannot be underestimated, but there’s a lot you can do to enjoy fresh grown produce without the effort. Garden weeds are equipped to thrive where your vegetables suffer, and most of them actually contain more vitamins and minerals than conventionally grown produce. If you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of these long-valued “famine foods”, give your garden weeds a try and see how they make you feel. You might be amazed at the results.

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Five Common Weeds to Cultivate for Health and Nutrition

Much of the work we do as gardeners involves pulling weeds, and many of us can attest that this is not our favorite part. The good news is that there are many common garden weeds you can leave right where they are.

Edible weeds have been a common food source throughout history and a regular part of the American diet up until the rise of the supermarket and the shift towards large-scale agriculture. More recently, people have been re-discovering these nutrient-rich plants as part of a healthy, organic diet, and, as a result, educational opportunities abound. There is a variety of books, websites, classes and entire schools dedicated to teaching how to harvest and prepare these foods. If you read up on the subject, you will also find many wild, edible weeds offer the added benefit of medicinal properties.

Getting Started

The best way to get started is to learn how to identify your garden weeds. There are some very useful book resources out there with colored guides to positively identify the plants you are looking for and “weed” out poisonous look-alikes. Petersen Field Guide: Edible Wild Plants, by Lee Allen Peterson is a handy all-around reference that includes more than 370 edible plants, colored illustrations, photographs, and directions on preparation. If you want to get a little more in-depth on some of the more common wild edibles, Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate by John Kallas, Ph.D. includes thorough identification and recipes. There are also many local wild food groups popping up in towns everywhere, and an internet search should turn up local organizations.

There are also many local wild food groups popping up in towns everywhere, and an Internet search should turn up local organizations, workshops, and plant walks. Social media sites like Facebook offer another resource for national and local plant identification groups. On-line communities are a great place to ask questions, post-plant pictures, and benefit from the collective knowledge of others. Once you feel comfortable with identification, you can go out and start shopping for free in your own backyard.

Dandelion

The first and most common of these weeds is the dandelion. This plant is tenacious, managing to grow everywhere from cracks in sidewalks to all over your lawn. There is a huge agrichemical industry geared towards the American homeowner and the idea that a well-kept lawn is a weed-free lawn, with the dandelion depicted as the number one enemy. People are convinced they should spend their time and money eradicating the dandelion with harmful herbicides. The truth is, dandelions are very useful and are easily managed by hand-pulling and regular harvesting. The greens that emerge in the early spring are rich in antioxidants, Beta-carotene, vitamin C, Vitamin D, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, sodium, and a variety of trace minerals. They are also fairly high in protein. Not only can you eat the leaves, but the cheery yellow flowers make an excellent addition to colorful salads and can be added to stir-fries. My favorite thing to make with them are dandelion fritters for a festive springtime meal. In addition, the root makes a delicious coffee-like beverage when roasted, ground and brewed.

The value of dandelions doesn’t stop there. They are used as an herbal remedy for anemia, blood disorders, promoting digestion, improving liver and kidney function, regulating diabetes, lowering blood pressure and high cholesterol, and slowing the growth of cancerous cells.

Plantain

Not to be confused with the banana-like plant of more tropical regions, this common garden weed has a similar nutritional profile to dandelions and grows in equal abundance. Often this weed can be found growing everywhere from garden beds to lawns and roadsides. The green oval-shaped leaves sprout from the center of a rosette with a stalk covered in seeds rising from the center. Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked in sautés, soups, and stews. They are often blanched before they are added to salads or frozen for later use. The shoots when young and green are excellent sautéed in olive oil, and still edible once older, but the fibers present a bit more work for eating. The seeds can be stripped off the stalk and eaten as well, although this is a somewhat tedious process.

Plantain leaves can also be mashed between your fingers and applied as a topical poultice for relief of cuts, scrapes, bruises, and especially insect bites. Plantain is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. Dried leaves can be steeped for an herbal tea for general enjoyment and to treat liver and kidney disorders, urinary tract infections, gallstones, ulcers and bronchitis.

Chickweed

This plant gets its common name from the affinity chickens have for it, and those chickens are definitely on to something. Chickweed grows in a network of long, succulent stems with pointed leaves and tiny, white star-shaped flowers. It grows in gardens, lawns, and even in the shade under the canopy of trees. These tender greens are best harvested in May through July and if transplanted or sown by seed, it can be cultivated in a cold frame throughout the winter when fresh greens are hard to come by. It’s also a good plant to keep around in the garden because it decreases insect damage to other garden plants where it grows. The stems and leaves make an excellent salad green and sandwich fixing and they can be added to soups and stews, chopped stems and all. Chickweed is highly nutritious, providing vitamins A, B complex, C, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, manganese, sodium,

Chickweed is highly nutritious, providing vitamins A, B complex, C, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, manganese, sodium, copper, and silica. Due to the high content of saponins, it helps increase the body’s absorption of nutrients. It is so highly nutritious, in fact, that it was commonly recommended for convalescents and people recovering from illness to help build strength.

Externally, finely chopped chickweed will soothe and heal cuts, scrapes, burns, eczema, and rashes. Steeped as a tea, it has diuretic properties that promote kidney and urinary tract health. It is also considered an old wives’ remedy for obesity, due to its ability to break up and flush out excess fat cells.

Lamb’s-Quarters

This common weed is also known as “wild spinach”, and while it is quite similar, it is much easier to grow. This plant has tall stems with diamond shaped leaves that are green on top and whitish underneath, and appear dusty at a distance. Tiny green clusters of flowers grow from the top in spikes. Anywhere where soil has been disturbed, lamb’s quarters loves to fill in the spaces, which conveniently happens in our garden beds in the spring. It is best harvested before it goes to seed, as it spreads quickly through the garden. It is also important not to harvest it in areas contaminated by chemicals or synthetic fertilizers, as it readily absorbs and stores them.

Lamb’s-quarters is much higher in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, B Vitamins, calcium, phosphorous, niacin, iron, and protein than spinach and most of the other domesticated greens. You can use lamb’s quarters the same way you would use spinach in any dish. Like spinach, it is high in oxalic acid, which inhibits absorption of iron and calcium. Small amounts of raw lamb’s quarters are fine to eat, in things like salads and smoothies, but larger amounts should be cooked to break down the oxalic acid. It is rumoured to taste better than spinach when steamed, so be prepared for a treat.

Medicinally, lamb’s quarters are used as a tea or simply eaten to treat stomach upset and diarrhea. A simple external poultice can also be made by crushing up the leaves to soothe swelling and burns.

Nettles

And finally, my favorite superfood, stinging nettle. If you live on acreage or near a park, you may find them nettles in patches at the edge of wooded areas or find them in the shady parts of yards, often next to buildings. You may have had unpleasant run-ins with this plant, making it difficult to imagine any warm, fuzzy feelings towards it, but learn to handle it right and you’ll have a great ally in the plant kingdom.

In the spring, if you put on your garden gloves and pinch off the top few inches of the stalk and leaves, you can steam, stir-fry, puree or brew away the troublesome spines for a culinary delight.

Nettles are so high in so many nutrients, that you can’t help but feel like a superhero after eating them. Not only are they chock-full of Vitamins A,C, E, F, K, P and B Vitamins, they are also high in zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, selenium, boron, bromine, calcium, chlorine, chlorophyll, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, iodine, chromium, silicon, sulfur, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin. Top that off with 16 free amino acids, beta carotene, antioxidants, protein and fiber, and its no wonder they are referred to as nature’s multi-vitamin!

Nettles are delicious in soups and broths. They make a vitamin rich tea, pair nicely with eggs in scrambles and quiches, and even make a lovely pesto when substituted for basil.

Medicinally, nettles are used as a spring cleansing tonic, a blood builder, a PMS treatment, and as a diuretic. Nettles have also gained notoriety as a natural remedy for allergies, asthma, hay fever, hives, and respiratory issues. Topically, the nettle’s sting has been successfully for treating arthritis and tendinitis.

The Benefits of Edible Weeds

When it comes down to it, it is much more efficient to cultivate plants that are already thriving where they’re growing. They will require less watering and overall care. If they are a spreading weed, you will just need to make sure you keep harvesting enough to keep it contained. By working with, rather than fighting some of these plants, you will also benefit from freeing up extra time and energy to devote to other areas of your garden. You can’t get much more local than food harvested right out of your back yard, and you will know it was organically grown and chemical-free. When it comes down to it, what better way to get revenge on your garden weeds than to eat them!

Recipes:

Mountain Hearth Dandelion Fritters

Ingredients:

  • a few handfuls of freshly picked dandelion flower heads
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 egg slightly beaten
  • cooking oil of choice for frying
  • sesame oil, cider vinegar and tamari for dipping sauce

 In a bowl, mix dry ingredients, then whisk in water and egg with a fork. Heat enough oil in the bottom of a skillet to create a layer for frying. This can be to your preference, but I try to aim for 1/2 inch depth. Dip each flower head in the batter until thoroughly coated and fry until crispy. In a smaller bowl, mix sesame oil, cider vinegar and tamari to a consistency of your liking for the dipping sauce. Serve hot as a delicious spring appetizer.

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Mushrooms Boost Your Immunity

Nature provides an amazing array of resources to improve our health and boost our immunity.  Mushrooms are a type of fungus that are enjoyed by people all over the world and renowned for their nutritional benefits.  These have used in tonics, soups, teas, prepared foods, and herbal formulas to promote health and longevity.  In recent years, scientists have studied the medicinal benefits of mushrooms on the immune system.

There are thousands of different types of mushrooms with a small percentage being poisonous if consumed.  Most mushrooms are edible and include white mushrooms, morels, truffles, portabellas, chanterelle, shiitake, maitake, agaricus, reishi, oyster, and enoki.  While all of these mushrooms have nutritional benefits, some are far denser in unique immune stimulating compounds than others.

The most common nutrients found in the majority of mushrooms include thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), folate (B9), phosphorus, iron, panthothenic acid (B5), zinc, potassium, copper, magnesium, pyridoxine (B6), zinc, potassium, copper, and selenium.  All edible mushrooms are healthy for the body but some contain high levels of beta glucans, which are an extraordinary molecule that scientists are just beginning to understand.

Beta Glucan and the Immune System

Beta glucan is a powerful immune stimulating compound found in several mushrooms, yeasts, and other foods.  Beta glucan is a polysaccharide that is made up of multiple sugar molecules linked together.  The different types of beta glucan include 1,3-D glucan and Beta 1,6-D glucan,

Beta glucans are known by scientists as “biological response modifiers” that bind to the surface of innate immune cells, which allows the cells to have better coordination in their attack.  This reduces the tendency towards auto-immune reactions and hyperinflamatory activity when the body is under attack. This compound activates certain immune cells such as key T-cells, macrophages, natural killer (NK) cells and the cytokines interleukin (IL) 1 and 2.  Studies have shown that it inhibits the growth of cancer and strengthens the immune response to microbial invaders.

Beta glucans have been studied for their ability to mitigate cancer cell growth and reduce the symptoms of the common cold.  In one report by the Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism they studied firefighters and tracked their cold/flu symptoms.   Firefighters have very physically and emotionally stressful positions that demand a lot out of them. The results of the study showed that those who took beta glucan instead of the placebo had a 23% reduction in upper respiratory tract infections.  “These results are consistent with previous clinical research involving marathoners, individuals with high stress lifestyles and the general population,” wrote Brent C. Rudy, the director of the Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism.

Maitake Mushrooms  

Maitake means “dancing mushroom” in Japanese. It is said that people danced for joy when they found these mushrooms because they were worth their weight in silver for their remarkable healing properties.  Maitake has been found to contain high levels of the immune modulating molecule Beta 1,6-D glucan.

Agaricus Blazei Murill Mushroom

This mushroom commonly referred to as the ABM mushroom is grown in the rain forest of Brazil and is nicknamed “The Mushroom of God.”  Studies have revealed that the ABM mushroom has the greatest density of beta glucan in the world.  When human subjects were given ABM in their diet, they saw a 3000% increase in NK cells in the blood within 2-4 days.

Reishi Mushroom:

Reishi is rich in Beta1,3-D glucan which boosts macrophages, T cells, and cytokinetic activity.   Reishi is especially good at increasing the production of tumor inhibiting cytokines IL-1and IL-2.  Reishi has powerful analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-microbial affects in the body.  It also acts to protect the liver and detoxify the body of ionizing radiation.

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Purslane and Recipes

“I learned from my two year’s experience that it would cost incredibly little trouble to obtain one’s necessary food even in this latitude; that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength. I have made a satisfactory dinner, satisfactory on several accounts, simply off a dish of purslane (Portulaca oleracea) which I gathered in my cornfield, boiled and salted.” ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden (Life in the Woods)

While, apparently, not one of the more sought after wild plants- or even that well known in North America- purslane is a popular food in the Mediterranean and many other areas of the world. Look for purslane in open, sunny areas as it is a warm weather lover- not sprouting until the ground temperature reaches around 80 degrees F- very determined once established and flourishing with ease. The tear drop shaped leaves (though they remain rounded- not quite reaching a ‘tear drop’ point where the leaf meets the stem and are typically no longer than 1 inch in length) are green with a hint of red, first sprouting as four propeller~looking leaves out of a reddish system of stems that resemble pipes stretching across the ground. The plant rarely reaches more than 2 or 3 inches in height.

Purslane is a succulent- a plant which has fleshy, water-storing leaves or stems. In extreme cases of drought, the stems of the plant will pull water back in from the leaves and drop them. With the way that it spreads across the ground, purslane has the look of a plant that would root at each node. It does not. Though, interestingly, much like a starfish, it does grow new plants from cut segments- granted that the soil conditions are ideal. Purslane’s hardiness, along with this ability to grow new plants from chopped up pieces make for an unruly task for those trying to eliminate its presence from garden space or farmland…….and a delight for wild~food enthusiasts;).

It is fairly easy to identify purslane based on its leaves and stems, alone- for those who still feel uncomfortable, however- the plants do produce flowers once they reach a certain age. The flowers are tiny (less than 1/4 of an inch,) are usually yellow in color, 5 petaled and found on older growth. The tiny black seeds are barely larger than grains of salt.

Nutritionally, purslane is potent! It tops the list for quality amounts of vitamin E and contains an impressive amount of omega-3 fatty acids- unusual for a plant. I have read that purslane contains up to 4000 ppm of the omega-3 fatty-acid alpha linolenic acid. For those who take fish or flax oil supplement, purslane could offer up a nice alternative during the summer months while saving money in the process. Purslane contains glutathione, is rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus, and nicely compares to spinach in its iron content.

With a mild, very slight hint of sour flavor and chewy texture- purslane leaves and stems are edible raw and make a fantastic addition to salads. After rinsing, you can steam or add them to soups, stir~frys or other veggie dishes.

**Be mindful of spurge, a similar~looking, poisonous plant that can grow near purslane. The leaves of spurge usually grow in a pair across from each other on the stem~ which is not as thick as purslane’s stem, and gives off a white, milky sap when you break it. If careless, it would not be difficult to toss some in your bag while out scouting for purslane.

Purslane Potato Salad

  • 6 medium red potatoes, cooked and cubed
  • 3 cups purslane, washed and chopped
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 4 tbps. homemade mayo, blended nut~based cream or simply any cold~pressed oil
  • 2 tbps. dijon mustard
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Wash and chop all ingredients. Mix together in a bowl with mayo, cream or oil of choice. Add in seasonings to desired taste. Chill until ready to be served- (can garnish with fresh dill sprigs.)

*blending nutrient~dense leafy greens with antioxidant and water~rich fruits into a ‘green smoothie’ is an easy and incredible way to boost your health and vitality…

Purslane & Plum Smoothie

  • 1 head of red leaf lettuce
  • 1 bunch chard leaves
  • 2 cups purslane, washed
  • 4 black or red plums, pits removed
  • 1 cup mixed berries
  • 1/2 avocado
  • stevia, to taste

Add just enough water to blend until smooth & Enjoy!

The one rule, sans exception, of foraging; KNOW YOUR PLANT. While the benefits of eating wild plants are significant and very worthy~ there is no room for error. You can, and should, take all of the time that you need to get to securely know a plant before consuming it….in a way that you can comfortably and positively identify it 100% of the time.)




Elderberries and Recipes

When walking through a forest~ or any other natural place that radiates abundance~ I feel most alive. I know that I am far from alone when I write that I deeply sense the power behind and artistry within the way ‘eco~pieces’ fit so perfectly into a rich and dynamic whole. I lack an adequate description for how this harmony puts me at ease…

While enjoying the nutritionally rich ‘sparkle’ of a salad that was collected five minutes before meal time (when much of the produce at the market was grown a month ago) and curtailing grocery bills are both notable benefits of foraging~ one of the greatest treasures of collecting and eating wild foods is of a soulful and mindful nature. There is something about picking and noshing on wild plants that ‘charms in’ the most discerning of onlookers. Even folks who sport a serious disinterest in nature will toss out a dozen questions when they spot you, trail side, plucking up an ‘offensive’ weed and sticking it in your mouth. This intrigue is more than just inquisitive criticism; it is an outward expression of a deeper, more intuitive, nudging. Foraging reminds us that our food is not created in a factory or a supermarket. It is created by our Earth…and it reconnects us in a deep and sustaining way~ going far beyond the boundaries of physical nutrition. No advancement in science can make this variety of beautiful connection obsolete. While the below is about dining directly from Earth’s garden, if you have skills at reading between the lines, you’ll recognize a very sincere plea for less consumption and more self~reliance. I encourage all of us to do all that we can do to nourish ourselves, our children & the planet that nourishes us all……
……dig up, dig in, ‘re~wild’ yourself…..and enjoy!!!

Elderberries

Clusters of small white flowers dropping from the elder tree give signal to the nearby arrival of small, round, juicy, deep-purple elderberries.  Hanging in clumps from the busy branches of the 5-12 foot elder tree (or shrub)- they’re not difficult to spot. The most well known species is the American elder.  This medium to large shrub is a member of the honeysuckle family- and has smooth, gray bark and opposite, compound leaves.  The leaves are divided into several sharply serrated, 2-5 inch elliptical (widest in the middle- and tapering evenly to both ends) leaflets.  The fragrant, lacy blooms of the American elder open in late June and July and contain hundreds of five-petaled, white flowers that span out about 6 inches.

Like most wild plants, the berries of the elder bush are packed with highly bioavailable nutrients. They provide large amounts of potassium and beta-carotene as well as calcium, phosphorous and vitamin C.

The fun scoop: The most powerful wand (the ‘Elder Wand’) in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is concocted of wood from Sambucus canadensis or the American elder. Because I am a fan of all things magical, especially in relation to the hidden (and not so hidden) mystical properties of the sacred plants around us- I’m further pushed to share that in European folklore, fairies and elves would appear if you sat underneath an elder bush during midsummer nights. Interesting, as the strong scentof large masses of elder leaves are thought by some to have a mild narcotic effect. It is written that the lovely elder possessed potent magic~ with the capability of driving away evil-doers. Pocketing the twigs was considered a charm against certain illnesses. All passed down tales aside, my guess is that much of the elder’s charm hails from its ability to heal. The flowers and fruit are wonderfully medicinal. Hippocrates had already made note of this in 400 B.C……..
An infusion or tincture is commonly used to help alleviate ‘colds’ and ‘flu’ as it is astringent, expectorant and induces perspiration- making it helpful for bringing down a fever. The flowers can be steeped in oil to make a soothing ointment for sore muscles, burns and rashes.

The berries and the flowers of the elder bush are edible. The leaves, roots and bark (though medicinally mentioned in several older herbal books) contain a bitter alkaloid and glycoside that may change into cyanide~ and are not edible!

Harvesting elderberries is fairly easy- a carrier bag or bucket and a good pair of scissors (or simply your hands to pinch off clusters) will reward you with a bag full of berries in very little time. Each berry can, then, be removed from their stems~however, if you do not want to take the time for this semi-tedious task or to deal with berry stained hands~ the following method will be a treasure;). -> Simply place the entire clusters in the freezer- giving space to each on a plate or tray of some sort. After the berries have frozen solid, they are very easily removed by rubbing the clusters of berries between your hands. Make sure to do this over a large bowl as the berries snap off from the stems easily and can become a bit of a nightmare to cleanup if not careful. You can place the frozen berries back into the freezer for later use or use them frozen or thawed in recipes.

I have read that elderberries (like the above mentioned leaves, roots and bark) also contain a certain amount of cyanide. While eating a few of them raw doesn’t necessarily create a problem (noshing on a couple is so much fun while collecting)- eating too many can make for a not-so-pleasant experience. Cooking the berries apparently takes the cyanide out, making them safe for consumption. I’ve experienced my fair share of feeling ill after ‘testing’ out non-staple food items…and, as a result, have not been brave enough to test the limits of raw berry consumption;). With foraging, I like to lean towards safety and familiarity, at any rate, and would suggest cooking the berries if you’re planning to eat many of them.

Elderberry syrup is a staple in many of my herbalist friends’ cabinets—after perusing through several past shared recipes, however, I have opted not to dabble in syrup making almost solely based on the amount of sugar that it takes to preserve the concoction. It’s true- I have a ‘thang’ against concentrated sugar, and am dedicated to avoiding sizeable amounts of it. That written, I’m not as enthusiastic about side stepping the antioxidant bliss of elderberries altogether- so, after much ‘strategery’ (thank you, G. W. Bush;)), I decided to try freezing the cooked elderberry juice~ a method that I’ve successfully used for preserving other juices and herbs…it worked out quite well………

Elderberry Recipes

Elderberry Juice Cubes

  • Pick berries off stems as best you can (you can use a fork to separate berries from stems, or use the freezer method described above.)
  • Rinse berries in a bowl of cold water until clear and clean~ drain water.
  • Using a size appropriate pot, heat on medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes~ stirring frequently (berries will turn from a black-purpl’ish color to red-purpl’ish once they’re all cooked.)
  • Remove from burner, let them cool off a bit~ then mash them up using a potato masher or the bottom end of a glass jar.
  • Try to release as much juice from the berries as possible.
  • Spoon (or pour) mixture into a strainer positioned over a bowl, and press with a spoon to push the juice through.
  • Pour syrup into ice cube trays and freeze. When you need an immune system boost, just pop a couple out and blend with leafy greens, fruit, spring water, lemon juice (whatever sounds good) for a rejuvenating treat!

*blending nutrient~dense leafy greens with antioxidant and water~rich fruits into a ‘green smoothie’ is an easy and incredible way to boost your health and vitality…

‘Elder~Green’ Smoothie

  • 2 bunches of any variety of lettuce
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 4-6 elderberry juice cubes (from above)

Add just enough water to blend until smooth & Enjoy!

Chocolate Elderberry Ice Cream

  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups cooked and strained elderberries
  • 1 avocado
  • 4 tablespoons cacao powder (or carob powder)
    vanilla stevia, to taste (usually 2-3 dropperfuls)
  • a pinch of sea salt

Blend all ingredients (except elderberries) until smooth.  Pour into a chilled ice cream bowl and run according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Mid-way through, or after the mixture begins to freeze~ add in the elderberries.

(The one rule, sans exception, of foraging;  KNOW YOUR PLANT.  While the benefits of eating wild plants are significant and very worthy~ there is no room for error.  You can, and should, take all of the time that you need to get to securely know a plant before consuming it…in a way that you can comfortably and positively identify it 100% of the time.)




Mulberries and Mulberry Recipes

I grew up picking black raspberries and occasionally found interest in the deep purple gems hanging just overhead, but, it wasn’t until very recently that I took a serious look at these often unnoticed, untouched beauts.

There are two common mulberry tree species (plus many off shoot hybrids) here in the U.S. , the native red mulberry and the Asian white mulberry. The red mulberry, which reaches a height of about sixty-five feet, has rough, reddishbrown bark and the leaves are rounded, toothed, some oval shaped, some lobed. The fruit, also oval in shape, hangs from a thin, green fruit stalk and is composed of many very dark purple berries (when ripe.) Each little berry has its own seed. Red mulberry trees will be the ones that you are more likely to come across while foraging.

With the thought of beginning a silk industry in mind, white mulberry trees were imported from Asia during the 1800’s. Being too much work, this idea was quickly abandoned, though, not before this fertile tree swept its way across much of America. As the name implies, white mulberries are white with clearly visible black seeds in the center of each tiny berry.

It is not at all surprising to me that these little berries are being sold in stores as a superfood! As it turns out, mulberries mean business in the nutrition department. They are fairly high in protein; one handful contains about 3 grams of protein (for comparison- bananas are about 4% protein and mulberries are about 11%.) They are a sweet source of vitamin C, with about one handful (I don’t necessarily dig the counting’ game when it comes to food, but when I must- it is usually by the handful), a 28-30 gram serving containing around 130% of the recommended daily amount. They’re also a decent source of iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, potassium, and fiber.

Mulberries are one of those foods that I believe are best enjoyed, solostyle. Still, I’ll post a recipe for a fantastic smoothie and mulberry crisp below.

Mulberry Recipes

Wild Mulberry & Celery Smoothie Recipe

  • 1 cup wild mulberries
  • 1 banana (omit if you have lower glycemic needs)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple, chopped (again, lessen or leave out for less sugar)
  • 1 cup nut or seed milk (hemp, almond, coconut milk, etc.)
  • 3-4 stalks of celery
  • Blend until smooth and enjoy!

Mulberry Crisp Recipe

Fruit Layer

  • 4 cups wild mulberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (about 1 dropper ful) liquid stevia (or 1 tablespoon honey)

Crumble Topping

  • 3/4-1 cup coconut flour
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1 dropperful) liquid stevia
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • (can add in ground nuts/seeds and/or oats)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine fruit layer ingredients in a bowl and then pour the mixture into a fitting casserole dish.
  3. Combine the crumble topping ingredients (mix in coconut flour, slowly, until it reaches a crumble consistency. Evenly distribute crumble mixture on top of the fruit layer.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes.
  5. (Serve hot or cold)

(The one rule, sans exception, of foraging: know your plant. While the benefits of eating wild plants are significant and very worthy, there is no room for error. You can, and should, take all of the time that you need to get to securely know a plant before consuming it. You must comfortably and positively identify it 100% of the time.)

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