Tag Archives: wild food

Partridgeberry

Partridgeberry Facts and Information

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) also known as twinberry is a low growing perennial woodland plant of the eastern United States. It is in fact an evergreen non-climbing vine, no taller than 6 ½ inches with Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) also known as twinberrycreeping stems 16 inches long. It blooms from late spring to mid-summer and sets berries that typically turn red when mature. Partridgeberry is highly ornamental and is used in gardens and landscaping. It is easy to find on online nursery shops. It grows typically by its spreading vines setting roots. The seeds will sprout, but only after a period of dormancy, called stratification.

The berries are a food source for many native animals – deer, birds, small mammals, etc. Native Americans made partridgeberry leaf tea as well as using the berries medicinally and for food.

Description

As noted above, Partridgeberry is a low trailing evergreen vining plant. Its flowers are fuzzy white, each having four petals, and as the picture indicates, grow in pairs. What is interesting is that the flower pairs generally create one red berry. Partridgeberry is a low trailing evergreen vining plant.

The stems are mostly light green to light brown and either glabrous or hairy; old stems become brown, smooth, and woody.

As the first picture indicates, pairs of opposite leaves occur along the stems and are ½ inch to 2 inches long and similarly across; they are oval in shape and smooth to slightly undulate along their margins. The upper leaf surface is shiny, and usually dark green. The glossy green leaves are small and broad with a conspicuous white midvein.

Habitat

Partridgeberry grows in both dry and moist wooded areas. The upper most picture was taken streamside in a mature deciduous Adirondack forest. Habitats include rocky woodlands, sandy savannas, slopes of wooded sand dunes, sandstone ledges along ravines, mossy boulders in wooded ravines as well as edges of swamps and bogs.

Range

This plant has a territory somewhat similar to mayapple and is found across a wide area of eastern North America. Partridgeberry is found from south Eastern Canada south to Florida and Texas all the way to Central America into to Guatemala.

Edible

Both leaves and berries are edible. Leaves are typically made into a tea.

The berries can be eaten raw, dried and cooked. They are basically bland tasting. The berries can be mixed with other forest berries. They are reported to be high in vitamin C, tannin, anthocyanins and antioxidants

Strawberry Plant Facts and Identification

Strawberry

Strawberry – Fragaria Virginiana

Common Names:Strawberry - Strawberries are in full fruit production in their second year.

Woodland strawberry; California strawberry, Virginia Strawberry

General

The first time I came across strawberries in the wild, and knew it, I was 18 years old hiking with a friend in the coastal mountains of Oregon. He was the one that identified them. It was one of those times when it was all about camping, fishing for cutthroat trout and eating wild foods – with a lot of it being strawberries along with a smattering of blackberries, thimbleberries and a bit of wild greens. I found it strangely fulfilling camping in a tent for a week really living off the land.

The good news about strawberries is that they are easy to identify and widely distributed. The bad news is that the strawberry fruit can have a limited growing season. This is a perennial plant that spreads by seed, short rhizomes (a thick underground horizontal stem that produces roots and has shoots that develop into new plants) and leafless stolon (a long stem or shoot that arises from the central rosette of a plant and droops to the ground).

Strawberry - Growing strawberries is fun and easy because they'll thrive in many regions.Identification:

If you have ever seen a strawberry plant in Home Depot, Lowes or your local garden center then you know what a wild strawberry plant looks like – only the wild strawberry is smaller. The toothed leaves are thin and basal compound in groups of 3 with a petiole generally 1” – 4”. They are sparsely hairy below. Leaf color is generally a bluish-green. The strawberry flower has 5 white petals with numerous pistils and 20-35 stamens. The flower is typically .25” – .5” wide. The fruit is white then turns red when ripe with the seeds on the outside. The plant is generally 2” – 6” tall.

Location:

Strawberries grow where there’s lots of sun: in meadows, fields, on moist ground, along the edge of woods, and on hillsides. You can find them across the U.S. and Canada except in desert/arid areas.

Edible:

The fruit ripens sometime between June and August. I have even come across strawberry fruit in the wild in late September. Obviously the fruit is edible and if you can pick enough, it can be canned, frozen or dried. The fruit of strawberries are nutritious and are full of essential vitamins and minerals.

The leaves and stems are edible and actually taste good when fresh and young. They are loaded with vitamin C – an important vitamin used to prevent scurvy. One way to enjoy the benefits of the leaves is make a tea with a handful of freshly picked leaves. For winter use you can dry out the leaves and store in a jar.

Notes of interest:The Strawberry has a very high vitamin C content and is versatile as a dessert food.

Native Americans used strawberries as a food source. The strawberry is an important food source for many wild animals from insects to deer and birds.

Growing your own strawberry patch: Strawberry plants are easy to grow if you want free fresh fruit. I like to plant my strawberries in long rows.

They should be planted in full sun in a light, loose soil, about 10” apart in rows 2’ apart. You should plant in an area that has plenty of room for your patch to spread out. Lightly fertilize the plants during the growing season. After 2 – 3 years your plants will spread – mostly from “runners”. Once a runner plant has established its own roots and is healthy I like to move it to avoid overcrowding. Keep the runners pruned back until after you pick the strawberry fruit. This allows the plant to focus on fruit production thus increasing yield. As they age plants will lose “vigor” so you should pull plants over three years old to maintain your patch’s fruit production. Younger plants are more vigorous and produce more berries.

The biggest problems I have in the Northeast are rabbits (they will eat the plant right down to the ground) and gray squirrels (they will sneak in like the rats they are and eat the fruit just as it is ripening). I find the best way to protect plants and fruit is to cover the row with deer netting. It will let in the bees for pollination but keep out rabbits and squirrels.

Plantain – Plantago

Plantain

Common names: ribwort plantain, English plantain, buckhorn plantain, narrowleaf plantain, ribleaf and lamb’s tongue, dooryard plantain, Plantain: The Miracle Plant You Can Find in Your Yardcommon plantain, Englishman’s foot, White Man’s Foot

It is just one of those damned weeds that you fight with every year – that is of course if you care about your lawn. Plantain, a perennial, is a very common “weed” that can be found just about anywhere. Just like so many other plants, Colonists brought it over from Europe with them. So, it is in my opinion an invasive species. Native Americans gave plantain two of its “common names” – Englishman’s foot and White Man’s Foot.

Description:

Leaves spiral on a very short, weakly woody stem. Leaves are broadly lance shaped to egg shaped, hairless or sparsely short haired. Roughly 2″ to 7″ long, leaves have five to seven prominent parallel veins from the base. Roots are fibrous and shallow. Broadleaf plantain can be distinguished from buckhorn plantain, Plantago lanceolata, by its broader leaf and longer flower head spikes.
The leafless flower stalks grow in summer into fall. They will reach approximately 6″ to 18″ tall. As the picture illustrates, the flower stalks grow out of the center of the plant. The flower stalks bear densely packed greenish white flowers each of which will form a seedpod containing 10 to 18 seeds.

Habitat:

Plantain grows in varied habitats. They can grow in moist soil, shade or full sun, poor soil in between sidewalk cracks – take your pick.

Location:

As the map demonstrates, plantain grows throughout Canada and the Coninental U.S.

Edible:

The very young leaves can be added to salads, or cooked as greens. The immature flower stalks may be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds have a nutty flavor and may be parched and added to a variety of foods or ground into flour.

Notes of Interest:

Plantain is very high in beta carotene (A) and calcium. It also provides ascorbic acid (C).

The plant provides food for butterfly caterpillars, rabbits, deer, and grouse. A wide variety of birds eat the seeds.

According to WebMD: Fibers from broccoli and plantain plants may block a key stage in the development of Crohn’s disease…read more

 

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Jerusalem artichoke – Helianthus Tuberosus

Jerusalem artichoke

Common Names: sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinambour, Canadian potato, sunflower root, wild sunflowerJerusalem artichoke

Driving around in upstate New York in late summer you can spot Jerusalem artichoke growing just off the road. Take a walk near old farms and just off the path you can spot small plots of these native plants growing. This edible plant is actually a species of sunflower native to eastern North America – however due to its food value (and probably its flower) it has been introduced worldwide. Just another example of man bringing a new plant to an area to become an “invasive species”. The root system of this wild food is fibrous with thin cord-like rhizomes that can grow as long as 50 inches. Usually apparent at the tips of rhizomes are whitish to pinkish tubers that are irregular in size and shape and resemble a slender potato with knots.

Description:

The Jerusalem artichoke is a tall perennial plant. It can grow up to 10’ in height. Its stems are strong upright in growth. They have “hairs” along the stem. The leaves are opposite or in whorls of three on the bottom and alternately arranged near the top. The top of the leaves are covered with short hairs and are 4 to 10 inches long and 1 1/2 to 5 inches wide broadest at the base and tapering at the tip. All leaves have toothed margins. The flowers are bright yellow as can be seen in the picture. The flower head is a rounded central disc approximately 1 ½” to 2” wide which has approximately 10 – 20 – 1 ½” to 2 ½” flowers rays attached. Each plant will have several flowers on small stems.

Habitat:

You can find Jerusalem artichokes in damp or rich thickets, waste areas, old fields, along roadsides and even in peoples gardens – either as a known vegetable or just a nice yellow flower.

Location:

You can find clusters of these wild flowers growing from southern Saskatchewan south into Kansas and eastward into Quebec down to Georgia. Frankly since many people have attempted to grow jerusalem artichoke as a food source, you can find this plant growing where ever conditions are right – again “invasive”

Edible:

The tuber is the edible part of this plant. If you wait until after a frost the inulin in the tubers will start turning to sugar thus making it sweeter. You can prepare the tuber just as you would a potato – roast, bake, boil, eat it raw, dry and grind into a flour. It is extremely versatile.

“Jerusalem artichokes get their sweetness from a unique sugar called inulin, which the body metabolizes much more slowly than it does other sugars. This makes the veggie a preferred food for diabetics, and for anyone who wants to avoid eating simple sugars and starches. Jerusalem artichokes are rich in iron, potassium and a range of B vitamins.” 2

Notes of Interest:

Jerusalem artichokes were cultivated by the Native Americans, in fact Samuel de Champlain found domestically grown plants at Cape Cod in 1605.

Truly a plant of many uses, the jerusalem artichoke can be grown for: human consumption, alcohol production, fructose production and livestock feed.

“Dehydrated and ground tubers can be stored for long periods without protein and sugar deterioration. Tubers can be prepared in ways similar to potatoes. In addition, they can be eaten raw, or made into flour, or pickled.” 1

A 25-square-foot planting can produce more than 100 pounds of harvested tubers. 2
The sugars from one acre of Jerusalem artichoke can produce 500 gallons of alcohol, which is about double the amount produced by either corn or sugarbeet. 3

1. Alternative Field Crops Manual – University of Wisconsin
2. Mother Earth News
3. Ohio State University – Ohio Perennial and Biennial Weed Guide

 

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Staghorn Sumac – Rhus Typhina

Staghorn Sumac

staghorn sumac

Driving around during September in New York you will eventually come across a group of small trees growing in dense stands. The leaves will be a deep red and large conical red hairy fruits called drupes may be at the end of branches. This is the common Staghorn Sumac which is a deciduous shrub to small tree. It grows quite aggressively. Because staghorn sumac can grow by its roots (rhizomes), and once established it can be a pain to remove.

Description:

Staghorn Sumac grows 10’ – 35’ tall. As can be seen in the picture, the leaves are alternate & compound growing approximately 24” long with 10 – 32 serrate leaflets. Each leaf grows to 12” long. The leaf stalks and the stems are densely covered in rust-colored hairs. Mature trunks are smooth and hairless. Interestingly, only female plants produce flowers and berries. The red berries grow at the end of branches. The plant flowers from May to July and fruit, the drupes, ripen from June to September. As can be seen in the pictures, they grow in upright bunches. Each cluster of drupes may contain 100 to 700 seeds

Habitat:

Staghorn sumac grows in gardens, lawns, the edges of forests, and wasteland. It can grow under a wide array of conditions, but is most often found in open areas which are not already established by other trees.

staghorn sumac branches can have tiny hairsLocation:

Staghorn sumac is found throughout the eastern half of the United States and Canada from western Ontario, south to Oklahoma into the Gulf Coast States and eastward to all the Atlantic States and eastern Canada.

Edible:

The fruit of sumacs can be collected, soaked and washed in cold water, strained, sweetened and made into a lemonade-like drink.

Notes of Interest:

Staghorn sumac spreads by seeds, and by its roots, rhizomes, to form “stands”.

The staghorn sumac derives its name from the countless tiny hairs covering its branches and resembling the tines of a deer’s antler when in velvet.

All parts of the staghorn sumac, except the roots, can be used as a natural dye.

Native Americans used the berries from staghorn sumac to make a drink.

The berries and bark are an important source of food for birds (upland games birds as well as song birds) and small mammals.

Staghorn sumac can form with either male or female plants.

 

Blackberry Trifle Recipe

Blackberry Trifle Recipe

Ingredients

12 ladyfingers or ginger bread
4 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons brandy extract
6 almond macaroons, crushed
8 cups vanilla pudding
4 cups whipped topping
1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds

Instructions

To make blackberry trifle, mix flour and sugar, combine the berries and stir gently.

Arrange bottom halves of lady fingers (or crumbled ginger bread) in single layer in bottom of a 9 x 9-inch pan. Spread with blackberry mixture evenly around.

Place a second layer of ladyfingers on top. Mix orange juice and brandy extract. Pour over ladyfingers. Hand crush macaroons and sprinkle over top. Cover with pudding. Allow to chill and set for 1 hour. Spread whipped topping over pudding. Decorate with toasted almonds.

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