The day lily is a showy perennial herb. It grows from fleshy-fibrous roots or tubers. Keeled, sword like leaves grow from the ground. The leaves can be up to four feet tall that grow in clumps from the crown of the plant, at the soil line. The flower grows from a tall naked flowering stem that grows from the base of the plant. The flowers are large yellow to reddish- yellow and either face horizontal or upright. The flower is short lived, it withers and decays after blooming sometimes even after one day. Day lily flowers come in a variety of forms, including: circular, triangular, double, ruffled, star-shaped and spider-shaped.
Day lilies are found in colonies or clumps along ditches and roadsides in damp soil. H. fulva: Western United States. H. flava: Primarily found in the northeastern United States west to Michigan.
Day lily bloom from May through July.
Buds, flowers, tubers.
The buds and flowers, long a standard vegetable in Asia, have many uses in cookery. Care should be taken not to overcook the flower buds. Boil only a few minutes when prepared as a solo dish topped with butter.
Buds and flowers can both be added to soup or stew a few minutes before removing from heat. The early tubers are good and crisp in a salad, or eaten raw alone. Care must be taken when eating the tubers – I have read they could have carcinogenic compounds. Do not eat the leaves there could be low level poison.1
Notes of Interest:
The day lily was originally a cultivated flower but escaped cultivation and now like certain types of dandelion are considered “invasive”. They are hearty and thrive when thinned where winters are cold.
Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale / COMPOSITAE Sunflower family
Other Common Names:
Common Dandelion, Blowball, weed
There are a multitude of species of dandelion growing in the temperate regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. Dandelions are a perennial or biennial herb but many consider them an invasive weed. Many consider dandelions to be the worst lawn weed there is, even paying for lawn services and using herbicides to eradicate these lowly plants from the face of the earth. Many of the dandelions you see in your lawn are invasive, brought to North America by Europeans.
Dandelions have hollow flower stems that ooze a bitter milky liquid if broken. The plants are as short as 2” but can also be as tall as 18”. The leaves are typically thin, deep green and coarsely toothed. The shiny and hairless leaves are clustered, growing from plant base in spreading rosette. The long, thick taproot typically goes straight down. Each stem has a single flower head or seed head. Plants can have multipe flowers on individual stems.
The flower is bright yellow to orange in color. The flower ultimately turns into a white ball of seed heads.
Abundant throughout North America; open fields, roadsides and lawns. Any place with enough sun and water can hold dandelions – even the sidewalk cracks in my front yard.
The plant grows and blossoms in early spring through summer and into the fall. The edibles can be picked from spring through fall.
Leaves and root.
Young leaves harvested before flowers appear can be used in salads or cooked like domestic greens. They are nutritious so if in need, do not pass up. Older leaved have a tendency to be bitter. To remove bitterness, cook the leaves in water, change the cooking water and bring to a boil again. That should remove the bitterness.
Roots are best dug in autumn and should be dried uncut until hard. Like chicory root, dried roots are slowly roasted and ground as a coffee substitute. You can also just scrape the roots and boil in a little salt water.
Notes of Interest:
Superior source of vitamins, containing a large amount of vitamin A; also B, C, and E as well as calcium, sodium and potassium. Dandelion greens are rated very high nutritionally.
Traditionally, dandelion has been used a diuretic, to increase the amount of urine in order to get rid of too much fluid. It has been used for many conditions where a diuretic might help, such as liver problems and high blood pressure. However, there is no good research on using dandelion as a diuretic in people.
Chicory – Cichorium intybus / COMPOSITAE Sunflower family
Other Common Names:
Blue Sailors, Wild Succory, Common Chicory Root, Succory, Wild Chicory, Wild Endive, Chickory
Chicory is native to Northern Africa, Western Asia and Europe. Sometime in the near past, European settlers brought chicory to North America. After that, like European starlings, the rest is history. It has “invaded” North America.
Each chicory plant has a single, long, thick root (known as a ‘tap root’) which is what most people know chicory for. My first introduction to chicory was a person I worked with who brought chicory coffee to the office and shared it.
Chicory is an erect, branching, perennial herb that can grow from 1’ to 4’ tall. If dug up, the long, deep taproot can break if you are not careful. The large clustered lower leaves are coarsely toothed (serrated) growing from the plant base in a spreading rosette. Upper leaves are small imitations of the larger lower leaves. The small flower is bright blue and is about 1” in diameter. Leaves at the bottom are usually larger and longer – much like dandelion. Flowers usually close in bright sunlight.
Chicory is usually found in open areas. Driving down roads in the Northeast US in the summer, the straggly looking blue flowered plants you see are probably chicory. The plant can also be found in open fields, farm land, and transitional borders – from forest to field. It will grow in cracks of rock and blacktop. Basically wherever the seed lands that provides enough water and an open enough area without too much competition is where the plant will grow.
A native of “Old World, Europe and Africa” now all over North America – USA and Canada as well as other countries.
Primarily spring and summer.
The entire plant is useful. In spring and early summer young greens can be added to salads and/or eaten raw. In spring entire the plant can be cut off just below its rosette and used as potherb. The leaves can also be boiled or steamed much like spinach leaves when they are still young. Older chicory leaves have a tendency toward a bitter taste just like dandelion. Accordingly, they should be “double boiled”, bring the leaves to a boil, dump the water, fill the pot with fresh water and bring to a boil again. This should reduce the bitter taste.
Roots can be dug any time, washed and roasted until they turn dark brown and snap easily. The roasted roots are ground and brewed like coffee. Chicory coffee makes much stronger brew than coffee beans. Chicory root can also be boiled and eaten like any other root vegetable.
Notes of Interest:
Chicory is rich in vitamin A and also contains vitamin C, phosphorous, potassium, calcium and iron1
According to WebMD – “Chicory is used for loss of appetite, upset stomach, constipation, liver and gallbladder disorders, cancer, and rapid heartbeat. It is also used as a “tonic,” to increase urine production, to protect the liver, and to balance the stimulant effect of coffee.”
“Chicory root has a mild laxative effect, increases bile from the gallbladder, and decreases swelling. Chicory is a rich source of beta-carotene.”
WebMD also issues a warning about chicory: “Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking chicory by mouth in large amounts is UNSAFE during pregnancy. Chicory might start menstruation and cause a miscarriage.”
1. Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Bradford Angier, Stackpole Books
The Cattail is a wetland plant with a unique flowering spike and flat blade like leaves that can reach heights from 3 to 10 feet. They are some of the most common marsh/wetland plants. They are unmistakable in appearance, the flower head is unique and great way to identify the plant. Once established, cattails vigorously develop into large colonies and have a tendency to overtake or crowd out other plant species. We have a small man made pond in our backyard. Once each year we must cut back the cattail plants. We do that by cutting into the roots and removing a section. Two species are most common in US: broad leaved cattail (T. latifolia) and narrow leaf cattail (T. angustifolia).
Cattails have the ability to sprout from seed and to spread through their root systems (also called rhizomes). I have a small pond in my backyard. I planted a small stand of cattails on water’s edge. Within one year they spread to over three times their original size, all through the growth of the roots.
Cattails are rhizomatous perennial tall, stiff plants, growing anywhere from 3’ up to 10’ tall. As the pictures indicate, cattail leaves look like long blades of grass, about one inch wide. The flower has two parts; a brown cylinder (the female part), and a yellow spike above (the male part). Cattails flower from May to July. Afterward, the brown sausage-shaped flower head continues to grow and develop. As the pictures indicate, the flower heads are unmistakable trademarks and help in classic cattail identification
Cattails prefer shallow, flooded conditions and/or wet ground. With that in mind, you will find cattails along pond edges and lake shorelines, damp ground near streams or in waters 1 to 1.5 feet or less in depth. They can even be found in ditches, in fact cattails are common roadside plants. Cattails need to have moisture during most of the growing season. They tolerate perennial flooding, reduced soil conditions and moderate salinity.
Cattail can be found in all US states, Canada and Mexico. In fact, cattail plants can be found worldwide.
Young shoots in spring – The outer portion of young plants can be broken off at the rootstalk, peeled and the heart can be eaten raw or boiled and eaten like asparagus. The raw young shoots taste like cucumber and can also be made into pickles.
Flower heads – In early summer the sheath can be removed from the developing green flower spike, which can then be boiled and eaten like corn
Pollen can be collected and used as a flour supplement or thickener. Pollen is gathered by shaking flower head gently into a container. Pollen is high in protein. It is a bright yellow or green color.
Seeds from brown heads in late summer can be eaten. Seeds can be harvested by burning the head, then winnowing.
Rootstalk throughout winter – they are nutritious with a protein content comparable to that of maize or rice. The rootstalk can be Baked or roasted. You can also dry out the cattail rootstalk and then pound it into a flour like consistency. Cattail rhizomes are fairly high in starch content; about 30% to 46% and the flour would probably contain about 80 % carbohydrates and around 6% to 8% protein. 1
Plants growing in polluted water can accumulate poison and pesticide residues in their rhizomes, and these should not be eaten
Notes of Interest:
A stand of cattails will provide food, shelter and fuel for your fire – 3 of the 5 basic survival needs at any time of year. The mature flower heads of cattail have high insulating power. In a pinch, use them in your clothing to keep warm. Additionally, you can beak apart the mature flower head and use as tinder. As a friend once said, “it lights up real good.”
Cattails are important wetland plants for wildlife. In the northeast US it is a common summer site to see red-winged blackbirds flying around or resting on cattails. Cattails are eaten or used as protection/housing by wetland mammals such as muskrats, waterfowl, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects.
The Klamath and Modocs of northern California and southern Oregon make flexible baskets of twined tule or cattail. Cattails or tules were also twined to form mats of varying sizes for sleeping, sitting, working, entertaining, covering doorways, for shade, and a myriad of other uses.1
Other Common Names for Blackberry: R. procerus: Himalaya Blackberry, raspberry, blackcap
The blackberry is a widely spread wild food that is easily identified. Not only are the berries edible but the leaves can be used in teas and infusions.
Blackberry can be a Shrub or bush-like perennial, can have trailing or climbing canes (most usual), thorned or smooth (usually domestic varieties). Blackberry leaves are simple and lobed to compound. Blackberry fruit is a berry generally in multiple drupelets. R. procerus: Bushy, large, dense clusters; stems stout, multiple, arching, thorned, up to 10 m long. As can be seen in the picture, blackberry leaves are divided into 3 or 5 leaflets, sharply toothed, 1.5-3.5 cm. Typically the fruit is black when mature. The flowers of blackberry generally are small and white. Bees are always active during flowering. Once flower petals drop fruit begins to develop. Unripe fruit looks segmented and like small examples of ripe fruit only white in color.
Blackberries are found throughout North America, generally in uncultivated and burn areas. Their habitat is extremely varied. Many times along roads or on the edge of border areas. This is one of my favorite wild fruits to pick while out on hiking or fishing trips.
Season: Blooms in spring and early summer; fruit late summer and autumn. On of the earlier thorned stems to leaf out in the spring.
Young shoots in spring; berries ripen in late summer and autumn. The fruit can be very seedy so be careful.
The young shoots can be cut just above the ground, peeled and eaten raw or cooked. Beginning in late summer the berries of most species are available. The berry can be eaten raw, boiled down to a syrup, squeezed for juice, cooked with stews or made into preserves, pies, and even wine. Leaves can be dried and used to make a tea substitute.
Growing your Own:
Blackberry plants are fairly easy to grow. I have gone from “stealing” wild cane to buying from a garden center. My experience is that domestic varieties are juicy and sweet while wild blackberry is sweet but rather seedy. The only wild blackberry I ever really liked as much as a quality domestic were the blackberries in the Pacific Northwest – Oregon and Washington. Anyway, I would suggest buying your plants from a quality supplier like Burpee. The blackberry should be planted late fall or early spring with room to grow and in a place where ‘pretty’ isn’t super important. The plants will spread through shallow runners. You will need to control the spread by planting in a raised bed or by routinely digging them out.
After harvesting your crop, it would be smart to treat the plants with a preventative general purpose fungicide. It should help to prolong the life of your patch.
Other maintenance is cutting old canes (big brown) or dead canes back after fruiting.
Notes of Interest:
Noted for its sweet delicious taste. The berries and root have medicinal properties useful for treating diarrhea. Blackberries and strawberries are very high in ellagic acid which is an antioxidant.
Poison ivy is a common North American plant that produces urushiol, a clear liquid compound found within the sap of the plant that causes an itching rash in most people who touch it. The fluids released by scratching the blisters do not spread the poison or the rash. The fluid in the blisters is produced by the body and it is not by urushiol.
Poison ivy likes to grow in suburban areas and many people I know have unwittingly cleaned out “weeds” along neighboring fences only to wake up the next day with the signature itchy rash.
Poison ivy can be found growing in any of the following three forms
Trailing vine that is 4 to 10 inches high
Shrub up to 4 feet tall
A climbing vine that grows on trees or some other support. Older vines on substantial supports send out lateral branches that may at first be mistaken for tree limbs.
Poison ivy leaves are deciduous and typical form in clusters 3 on their own stem that are almond-shaped. The leaves grow alternately on the main stem. The leaves are not very large – approximately 1 ½” – 5” long. Like other plants that are deciduous, the leaves of poison ivy change color with age and season starting out often times red in spring then to green then red, orange, or yellow in the fall. The stems are smooth – this easily distinguishes poison ivy from blackberry vines. The leaves as shown by the picture can have slight serrated edges and as the leaf matures can be shiny.
Vines growing on the trunk of a tree become firmly attached through numerous aerial rootlets. One problem here is that poison ivy grows in the same areas as Virginia creeper, so care must be exercised because you will not be able to clearly identify poison ivy in this situation. Poison ivy vines can have a “hairy” appearance, which can help in identification.
Poison ivy flowers from May to July. The flowers are yellowish- or greenish-white located in clusters approximately 3” above the leaves. The berries mature by August to November and are grayish-white in color.
Poison ivy grows throughout much of North America, including eastern Canada in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and all U.S. states east of the Rockies, as well as in areas of Mexico. So the lesson here is that you can expect it just about anywhere. When out and about hiking or camping you will likely find poison ivy in wooded areas, much of the time in open areas that receive sun. It also grows in exposed rocky areas and in open fields.
Urushiol binds to the skin on contact, where it causes severe itching that often develops into a red rash or flesh colored bumps and blistering. The rash can be treated with Calamine lotion or other over the counter remedies such as oatmeal baths and baking soda. In severe cases hospitalization may be required or if the plant has been ingested.
Urushiol oil can remain active for several years, so handling dead leaves or vines can cause a reaction. In addition, oil transferred from the plant to other objects (such as pet fur) can cause the rash if it comes into contact with the skin.