Wild Arkansas

October 5, 2010

Something about Chicory

Filed under: chicory, foraging, herbs, recipe — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 5:41 pm

Best known as a coffee substitute or additive, young leaves are less bitter than dandelion, especially if picked growing in shade. As a medicinal chicory is found to contain volitile oils that kill intestinal worms and in Germany the flower has been used to treat ailments from gallstones to sinus problems.

Every part of the plant is edible with no ill effects. It is best tasting when found growing in shady areas and from early spring through the autumn months.

I dug some chicory recently and am currently using the herb as a liver tonic.

The root, brushed with olive oil and roasted in the oven at 250 degrees for 15 minutes, produced something palatable, but tough and stringy. On further consideration, I believe I should have soaked in salt water for awhile and then roasted it.

The leaves sauteed for two minutes with onion and garlic are not as bitter as I expected and mixed with other veggies or pasta would hardly be noticeable.

There has been some confustion over what chicory is edible. All chicory is edible, but some is more palatable than others. All chicory is bitter to some degree, but the Chicorum endiva or Belgian endive is cultivated most often.

The purple ray flowered, spindly limbed species we find alongside roads and in pastures share many of the same qualities as the cultivated varieties, but is higher in nutrients and lower in palatabilty. You must work to make it palatable.

The chicory root can be quite deep as it is a tap root. Set your spade or shovel about five inches from the center of the plant and then dig down and inward toward the center.

Use a small spade to brush dirt away so you can see where the root is and dig under it. If the root is too large it will be too tough even when soaked or boiled. Try to get roots that are not more than two inches in length or after a frost.

The following recipe is taken from Dolce Vita Diaries.

Chicory Spaghetti

Ingredients for 4 people

Spaghetti – 400g (or any pasta you fancy)

Wild chicory – 500g (plain chicory is available in most supermarkets)

Chilli – one dried one, chopped

Anchovies in olive oil – 3 fillets (optional)

Garlic – 2 cloves Olive oil – 5 tablespoons

Parmesan – 75g grated

Black olives (optional)

Wash the chicory well, cut it up roughly and put it to boil in plenty of salted water. Boil for 15 minutes or until the thicker bits are soft. Drain.  Boil a pan of water for the spaghetti. In a big pan or wok heat the oil on a low flame and add the garlic roughly cut into quarters, the anchovies and the chilli pepper. After a few minutes add the chicory and cook slowly for another 10 minutes. Add the spaghetti to the water and cook for about 5 minutes until ‘half’ cooked. Then spoon out the semi-cooked spaghetti into the chicory mixture (keeping the spaghetti water) and mix well.

Add the spaghetti water to the pasta/chicory one ladle-full at a time (like cooking risotto) and keep on stirring. When the spaghetti is nearly cooked add the grated parmesan, leaving a bit to sprinkle at the end, and mix well. This method gives you quite a creamy sauce, so that’s what you should be aiming for. Check for salt and serve. If you use short pasta instead of spaghetti it’s a bit easier because‘you don’t make such a mess’.


September 16, 2010

Chamomile by a different name

Filed under: chamomile, herbs — Tags: , — WildArkansas @ 6:03 pm

There is a chamomile growing prolifically throughout Siloam Springs. In fact, I found a whole field of beautiful golden rays.  Anthema tinctoria or Golden Chamomile’s intoxicating bouquet is reminiscent of its German cousin.  Unfortunately, it does not share the same qualities.

According to the Missouri Plants Database the flower is used for tea. Online research shows its properties are not widely known.

Personal experience with the plant: Whole flower, raw. Bitter. Leaves an aftertaste difficult to be rid of. Wonderful smell. Still experimenting. Will attempt to dry and make tea from both fresh and dry herb.

September 5, 2010

Sighting note: Chamomile

Filed under: chamomile, herbs — Tags: , , , , — WildArkansas @ 4:26 pm

Yes chamomile or Matricaria recutita of the chamomile tea variety is growing prolifically in NW Arkansas.

Large patches of the heavily scented flower have been spotted at Murphy’s Park in Springdale, but if you’re going to pick it for consumption (drying for tea, etc.) make sure to wash well first.

Goose and duck waste litter the area, so do not consume this plant without proper cleansing.

August 4, 2010

Re-post: summer edibles w/parts

Filed under: Edible plants, foraging, fruit, herbs, summer — Tags: , , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 5:37 pm


A couple of readers expressed an interest in viewing the list with the information on which plant parts should be harvested. Here it is.

A Short list of common edibles currently in season (summer) for Northwest Arkansas, though some can be found throughout the year.

Common name                         Binomial                                What’s Edible?

American Elder             Sambucus canadensis        Berries (prepared)

Asparagus                       Asparagus officianalis        Tips

Black Cherry                 Prunus serotina                   Berries

Cattail                            Typha latifolia                      Root, stem, flower, pollen

Chicory                        Cichorium intybus             Every part of plant is edible

Chufa                            Cyperus esculentus            Tubers; raw or cooked

Dandelion                  Taraxacum officianale        Every part of plant is edible

Docks                          Rumex (acetosa,longifolia…)    Leaves; raw or cooked

(There are several varieties of dock/sorrel in the area; including curly, spinach, broad leaved and the dooryard. All are edible.)

Ground Cherry       Physalis pubescens                    Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Ground Nut              Apios americana                          Tubers; cooked

Lambs quarters      Chenopodium album                  Leaves; raw or cooked

May apple                 Podophyllum peltatum             Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Mulberry (red, white) Morus rubra/alba               Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Oak (Red, White)    Quercus rubra/alba                  Fruit; raw (alba) or prepared (rubra)

Passionflower          Passiflora incarnata                All parts are edible; raw or cooked

Pawpaw              Asimina triloba        Ripe fruit; raw or cooked

Peppermint          Mentha piperita        Leaves; raw or cooked

Pickeral weed       Pontederia cordata        Leaf stalks/fruit; raw and cooked

Plantain/Plantago   Plantago major, asiatica…    Leaf; raw and cooked

Purslane            Portulaca oleracea        Leaf/leaf stalk; raw and cooked

Quickweed           Galinsoga parviflora        Green tops; cooked

Smilax              Smilax rotundifolia        Vine tips/berries; raw and cooked

Smooth Sumac        Rhus glabra            Fruit; cooked

Spearmint           Mentha spicata        Leaf; raw or cooked

Sweet Flag          Acorus calamus        Young stalks; raw or cooked

August 1, 2010

So many plants, so little time

Patrick investigating

Lactuca nine feet tall. The vibrant lavendar of the bull thistle, smart weed, jewel weed, flea bane, dog bane, sumac and few delights for the wildcrafters among us: chamomile, evening primrose and vervain among them.

Roaming the perimeter of Lake Fayetteville with Mr. Ethnobotany we only managed to traverse half a mile per hour–stopping every few feet to take photos and investigate our finds.

Though quite a few of the specimen we stopped for had already went to seed, there were just as many in full bloom or headed that way.

Patrick dug the root of a first year bull thistle as I looked on. It took a bit of work, because the thistle has a tap root much like the dandelion. This one happened to be a youngster, but I imagine if it had been older, it would have been next to impossible to uproot completely.

Bull thistle

The taste and smell of the raw root is quite distinct and brings to mind a time when we grew our own artichokes. The thistle is a relative of the artichoke, afterall.

The chamomile (Matricaria) we found grew close to the marina. Though I’ve seen plenty of photos of the plant, it was my first up close and personal encounter. You can tell a nerd by how excited they get over their first encounter with a much loved plant.

[Yes the heart leaps into the throat and there is a brief moment of wide-eyed wonder, corresponding to a sharp intake of breath.]

Toward the end of our walk, I realized I had stepped into a patch of Rhus radicans (poison ivy) and felt the stinging sensation creeping up my ankle. Patrick spotted some jewel weed, grabbed a handful and instructed me to crush it and use the juice on the infected area.

Voila! It worked. The pain immediately subsided, as did the itching and two hours later I had no rash.

Alas, the quick rise of temperature into the nineties dictated we stop early, though with the promise of another visit soon.

July 10, 2010

Filed under: Edible plants, foraging, herbs, trails — Tags: , , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 1:48 am

Along a one-mile stretch on JBU trail (NW) we found:

Acacia, black walnut, chicory, wild grape, pokeweed, sour dock, broad-leaved dock, lambs quarters.

Sourdock has gone to seed, but the broad-leaved variety is ready to pick.

Chicory is ready for anyone wanting flowers. Lambs quarters should be available throughout the season.

July 9, 2010

List of summer edibles – NW Arkansas

Filed under: collecting, Edible plants, foraging, herbs, summer — Tags: , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 12:36 am

A Short list of common edibles currently in season (summer) for Northwest Arkansas, though some can be found throughout the year. There are a few missing, but I’ll add to the list as I run across them.

Common name                   Binomial

American Elder             Sambucus canadensis

Asparagus                      Asparagus officianalis

Black Cherry                 Prunus serotina

Cattail                              Typha latifolia

Chicory                           Cichorium intybus

Chufa                               Cyperus esculentus

Dandelion                     Taraxacum officianale

Docks                            Rumex (acetosa,longifolia…)

(There are several varieties of dock/sorrel in the area; including curly, spinach, broad leaved and the dooryard. All are edible.)

Ground Cherry         Physalis pubescens

Ground Nut               Apios americana

Lambs quarters      Chenopodium album

May apple                Podophyllum peltatum

Mulberry (red/white) Morus rubra/alba

Oak (red/white)     Quercus rubra/alba

Passionflower        Passiflora incarnata

Pawpaw                   Asimina triloba

Peppermint            Mentha piperita

Pickeral weed       Pontederia cordata

Plantago                 Plantago major, asiatica…

Purslane                 Portulaca oleracea

Quickweed           Galinsoga parviflora

Smilax                    Smilax rotundifolia

Smooth Sumac   Rhus glabra

Spearmint            Mentha spicata

Sweet Flag           Acorus calamus

July 1, 2010

Forager’s herbarium

Though I’ve been around Lake Fayetteville several times, last night I participated in my first field class with a tracker and former Alaskan ethnobotany teacher, Patrick Monroney.

The lesson included learning how to build an herbarium.

This particular preservation method is not the same used by botanists who collect, label, dry and press the plant material before mounting.
[read Wikipedia article about how to build a formal herbarium http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbarium]

It is meant to build identification and collecting skills in the field.

For newbies to plant identification techniques, the herbarium consists of collected samples placed on plain index or card stock and held in place with clear contact paper. Once mounted, the plant data is entered on the card.

Despite fading daylight, we managed to put a couple of hours into collecting.

Lake Fayetteville is one of the best botanical classrooms in the area, because of the diversity available. In the two hours collecting, I came away with ten mounted samples.

Following is a project on how to start your first herbarium for identification purposes.

If you are going to mount in the field, you may want to prepare your contact paper beforehand, cutting pieces down to size.

What you need:

Scissors or an exacto knife
5×8 index cards (preferably white, unless you collect white flowers. In that case, Patrick uses colored stock.)
Contact paper cut into 4×7 pieces. (Comes in rolls that can be found in the housewares section at Wal-Mart.)


1. Cut your collected sample/parts down to size. Make sure all parts are clean and dry. (If moist, pat with paper towel).

2. Peel contact paper from backing, place sticky side UP on an index card and center it.

3. Lay plant (parts) as flat as possible on contact paper. Some are impossible to flatten, just do your best to flatten enough to mount.

4. Place another index card, white side down (white side facing plant)

6. Turn it around to inspect. You may have to clip or cut, but now you can label the card. 


If you need additional help putting together your herbarium, shoot me an email. I can send photos. The photos I tried to use in the post didn’t work very well. 🙂

June 30, 2010

Upcoming Ethnobotany Class

Filed under: Classes, foraging, herbs, OTS — Tags: , , , , — WildArkansas @ 1:23 pm

The Ozark Tracker Society is offering August 27-29:

Art of Wandering: Knowing Your Plants and Finding Your Way

Ethnobotany is more that just knowledge of edible and medicinal plants, it includes appreciation of culture as well as harvesting, processing and caretaker ethics. What do the herbivores eat and how can we model their behavior? Develop your identification skills and learn to use local wild plants for foods and medicines. Learn to find your way with aidless navigation as we wander diverse landscapes of the Ozark highlands. Core routines include “Wandering”, “Mapping” and “Mind’s Eye Imagining.”

The price for this class is $95. and due one week before the class begins.

For more info. visit the website at:


December 13, 2008

A Bitter Dande to Swallow

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


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!

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