Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring Park Foraging!

I like to take walks in our local parks at different times of the year because you will find unique plants at each visit.  These photos are from Concord Park in Brentwood, Tennessee and the Franklin Recreation Center nature walkway in Franklin, Tennessee.

Violet, flowers and leaves are edible.  The leaves are great for salads and can be used as a spinach substitute in recipes.  They are also a tonic for the body’s lymph system and are rich in vitamin C.  The leaves are not stringy like plantain but are chewy.  They taste a bit spicy and nutty.  These plants are abundant right now!

Wood Nettle, Laportea canadensis, cousin to Stinging Nettle, the darling of foraging and a plant I have yet to locate in this area.  This can be used just like Stinging Nettle.  The stings on Wood Nettle are not as virulent as the Stinging Nettle but you should use gloves to pick.  It is a powerhouse of nutrition.  Once boiled the stings are gone.  This is great to flash blanch and freeze for future recipes!  It tastes green with a peppery zing, a favorite among foragers.

Star-of-Bethlehem, Ornithogalum umbellatum, not edible, however the bulb of the plant has been used in herbal medicine.  It contains chemicals that have an action similar to a prescription drug called digoxin used for congestive heart failure.

I am not an expert on mushrooms so I submitted this to a mushroom group to which I belong.  Their determination is that this is Pheasant's Back, aka Dryad's Saddle, Polyporus squamosus. It smells a bit like a cross between watermelon and cucumber! You can dehydrate them, crush them and used them to flavor different soups. You can treat them like any other mushroom...bread and fry.  It is one of the few mushrooms that can be eaten raw.  Always confirm mushrooms identification through multiple sources before eating!

Virginia Blue Bell, Mertensia virginica, flowers and leaves are edible.  Native Americans used this plant to treat respiratory illnesses.

Fleabane Daisy, Erigeron philadelphicus.  An herbal infusion of the roots has been used by Native Americans to treat coughs, colds and diarrhea.  Supposedly it is a bug repellant, thus the name Fleabane.
Close up of Garlic Mustard.
Garlic Mustard, aka Jack-by-the-Hedge, Alliaria petiolata, to some an invasive noxious weed but to others a favorite wild edible.  It has a two year growth cycle, the first as a small plant when it looks similar to Violets and Creeping Charlie, and in the second year, it can grow up to three feet high.  It is mild tasting with a garlic flavor that hits you about ten seconds after you chew it.  In April, look for the white flowers with four petals in the shape of a cross.  You find this most at the edge of woods with partial sun.

Common Plantain, Plantago major, a ubiquitous edible wild plant.  It can be cooked and eaten like spinach.  In the fall it will produce a seed head that can be ground for flour if you have the patience to collect the seeds!  Medicinally, it is a fantastic skin healer and wonderful in salves.  You can even chew it up and put it on a bug bite or sting for relief.  Also in the photo is dandelions, one of the first wild edibles that most new foragers try as it is easy to identify and tasty.  The flowers make great syrup that tastes just like honey.

Dogwood tree.  Some Dogwoods, like the Kousa Dogwood produce red berries in the fall which are edible and have been used to make wine.  The blooms are out now so scout out some Dogwoods and check back in the fall to see if there are berries!  This one probably will not have the fruit as the Kousa Dogwood's petals have a more pointed flower petal.  But it's worth a look!

While I diligently research and use what I post, please remember to do your own research and be 100% sure of what you are trying.  It is best to try just a bit of a new plant first to see if you have an unknown to you allergy or reaction!  Keep in mind, one of the reasons that plants are in the grocery store is because they are the most tame and acceptable to the majority of people.  Wild plants are less predictable but are often the most nutritious!

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