Wild Arkansas

September 29, 2010

Wild Wednesday at Murphy Park

Filed under: allium, dandelion, Edible plants, foraging, fruit, nuts, Pinus, taraxacum — Tags: , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 7:20 pm

Unfortunately, my camera broke so I don’t have photos of the edibles at the local park. Fortunately however, one of the groundskeepers aided our quest by pointing out several edibles we probably would not have known about.

At Murphy Park today:

Allium or Crow Garlic. It never gets above the ankle because of the weekly mowing so we’ll never get to see the flowers, but it still tastes and smells like onion. The groundskeeper said he would be quite happy if someone were to come along and dig it all up.

Plantagos- Both, the narrow and broad-leaf varieties.

Dandelion- ah the old standby.

Lepidium or pepper grass. It’s spread out in the grassy areas and around trees.

Black Walnut, crabapples, pine, oak, clover, wild strawberry (for some odd reason they are fruiting in shady spots) and yellow wood sorrel.

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September 25, 2010

Veteran’s Memorial Park/Lake Fayetteville

Filed under: allium, dandelion, Edible plants, Pinus, sumac — Tags: , , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 11:33 pm

common mullein

If you’re a wild food enthusiast, this is a good time to visit Veteran’s Memorial Park.

Here are a  few finds from spending just a little more than an hour.

Chinkapin/Ozark Chestnut

Hickory

Black Walnut

Persimmon (fruit)

Acorn (Red & White)

Dandelion (leaf & flower)

Allium (aerial parts/leaf)

Dwarf Sumac (berries)

Evening Primrose (flower)

Pine (and juniper berries)

Plantago (leaf and root)

Mullein (flower and leaf)

December 13, 2008

A Bitter Dande to Swallow

Filed under: dandelion, Edible plants, herbs — Tags: , , — WildArkansas @ 2:41 pm

dande6

Dandelion has been at the top of my list for a long time as one of the best healing herbs available. However, no matter what I did with the dande, I could not mask the bitterness to make it more palatable.

Yesterday I gave it another try and dug some root from the side of the house.

Everything I’ve read has said to dig the root during the fall and I have, with disappointing results. I’ve boiled, baked and roasted the dande. I’ve tried juicing it with lemon and putting it in salads. No matter what method of cooking or ingredients used I’ve had the same result—a terrible tasting dish or juice with that ever-present bitterness of dande coming through.

Though it’s probably one of the most widely distributed herbs, I suspect it’s also probably one of the least used, simply because of the awful taste.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve avoided the dande for the past few months.

In August I started experimenting with Taraxacum and wrote a short article about it. I avoided admitting then that the dandelion was one of the worst tasting bitters I’ve had to deal with. Yes it was healing, and a healthy addition to any dish, but…

It was a bitter dande to swallow.

Perhaps the full moon would have a beneficial effect. I remembered reading something about gypsies digging herbs during a full moon for potency and effect and after reading about the moon in its apogee, I had to try.

I dug, cleaned and sliced it and before placing it in the oven for roasting decided to try a bite. What a difference! I had to check the leaves again to make sure it was dandelion.

I found out later, by another forager that sugars bound together in the cells of the dandelion are broken and released by freezing and thawing. The fructose is released and moves through the root. This process also breaks down the cell walls so the root becomes tender.

After roasting I tried a bit added to my coffee and found it as a sweet and pleasant addition.

The root will also become a regular winter vegetable for me. I can enjoy the benefits without the bitterness.

There are some great dandelion recipes at Steve Brill’s website and dandelion fritters at Learningherbs.com

Bon apetit!

September 19, 2008

Wild Arkansas: Lowell and its gifts

Filed under: dandelion, Edible plants, Epazote, foraging, herbs, Lowell, passionflower — Tags: , , , , — WildArkansas @ 9:04 pm

Though foraging for edibles isn’t done as often as it once was, many Ozark families still retain knowledge and skills used by older generations and regularly collect wild greens, poke root or maypops.

Today, most people drive to the local market rather than grow or forage their own food, though the benefits go beyond the feeling of accomplishment and nutrition.

There is something transferred from plant and earth to the harvester. An acknowledgement that we depend upon one another or perhaps that connection lost when walking through the produce section of Wal-mart and stuffing the plastic bags with waxed greens.

Few realize how many wild edible greens are growing so close. On a recent forage in Lowell, I managed to discover garlic mustard, wild spinach and several varieties of Rumex or sorrel.

Many medicinal and culinary herbs are also found locally. Goldenrod is plentiful, as is, hedge woundwort, Japanese honeysuckle, passionflower, Asiatic dayflower, red clover, dandelion, yellow woodnettle and wild lettuce to name just a few.

Walking down dirt roads and along rows of a grape vineyard, I found the common mallow that is a regular diet staple in Israel, or once was.

Epazote is a culinary and medicinal herb used extensively in Mexico and has been naturalized to the U.S. In Arkansas it grows as a noxious weed despite its medicinal value. And the Cutleaf Coneflower, shines it’s mighty yellow head above all the other “weeds” in the vicinity.

The Coneflower was commonly used as a burn dressing by the Chippewa and a dietary aid by the Cherokee, by using it in cooked spring salad.

…And all of this is a reminder to me that Arkansas is abundant in natural resources. Maybe not the resources we typically look for, but those kind that are good for the body and soul.

I may not always be as grateful as I should be, but today I thank this land we live on for giving us so much.

September 10, 2008

Wild Arkansas: Taraxacum officianale

With harvest season coming upon us, I’ve found the dandelion root is a favorite among wildcrafters. As one of the most widely distributed herbs, the mighty dande is still one of the most affordable. Primarily because it is so abundant.

Considered a weed by most people the common dandelion (Taraxacum officianale) is also considered by herbalists to be one of the most helpful and powerful herbs available.

The nutrition content alone is motivating factor to consider the dandelion a regular diet staple. Per every 100 grams of fresh plant the dande contains 190 mg of calcium, 13,650 I.U. [international units] of vitamin A, generous amounts of B complex vitamins and 36 mg. of vitamin C. It’s also rich in niacin, potassium and zinc.

But the benefits don’t stop there. The active constituents in dandelion cleanse and tone the liver and is used, “In the treatment of several kidney ailments and also chronic hypertension,” writes Michael Hallowell in Herbal Healing, a practical guide to medicinal herbs.

Historically, the Chinese have used dandelion in the treatment of breast ailments, reducing the size of cysts and tumors and promoting milk flow for new mothers. New studies have documented the plant to have antioxidant and in vitro anti-tumor constituents.

As an alterative, the dandelion is acknowledged to have the ability to alter the condition of a patient from one state to another. As a febrifuge the dande has the ability to reduce abnormally high body temperature and from personal experience, being menopausal, the days I take a cup of tea or infusion is another day without hot flashes.

Literature lauds Taraxacum’s laxative properties and its use as a blood and lymph cleaner, but by far the best thing about this herb is its accessibility. You can probably dig some from your back yard.

Harvesting

Make sure the plants you dig are far enough away from the road so as not to have absorbed toxins from local traffic.

A small shovel or knife should be worked around the base of the plant and once you feel the plant loosen, you should be able to pull the root with no problem. If dandelions are young the roots will be quite small and you may have to hunt for a few to get the amount you need.

Drying

The easiest and fastest method of drying is in the oven. I pre-heat to 300 degrees while washing the plant material and separating from the leaves. Lay everything flat on a baking pan, lower the temp to right below 200 and check and turn every few minutes.

If drying the leaves, they should be crackling to the touch when dry. Check the bottom parts of the leaves before taking from the oven as they take longer than any other part of the leaf. Drying the roots takes a bit longer and when done, you should be able to snap the root apart. If it still bends instead of snapping apart, there is still some moisture.

To air dry, hang in a cool, dark place and check it every couple days. For roots, it may take up to four weeks to dry.

Cautions

There are few cautions against dandelion. Drug interactions include cautions for those who take lithium, other diuretics or hypoglycemics.

Though dandelion is extremely safe, remember to use in moderation. The carrot is also extremely safe but one man, Basil Brown, overdosed on carrot juice in 1974 after consuming ten gallons of the juice in ten days.

Using Dandelion

Though useful, the plant is very bitter to the taste.  To make it more palatable, I use sweetner and lemon with the plant or add to other tea mixtures.

The coffee can be made with the dried root of the plant by grating and using as a substitute or adding to other coffee. I use four tablespoons for a twelve-cup pot, but you may want to experiment a little and vary that for your own taste.

The tea can be made from any part of the dandelion. I use the leaves and flowers in an infusion/tea. The leaves seep for a bit longer than the flowers. Generally, I seep the leaves approx. 6 minutes and the fresh or dried flowers 4-5 mins. Sweeten and add lemon or honey to taste.

Dandelion salad
Wash greens and flowers thoroughly and add to other greens, radishes and other favorite salad veggies. Toss with olive oil and vinegar.

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