Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Eat Your Yard! (Continued)

Since posting about edibles in our yard, I have found even more of them!  Here are a few more things you are bound to find in and around your yard, even in the city...  don't use Round-up to poison these edibles- harvest them!  Foraging is not only fun, but it's FREE :)

Red Clover

You are probably familiar with Red Clover already, but did you know that this lovely plant (from the legume family, none the less) is edible and medicinal?  Red Clover is found all over the United States, and is commonly used as cattle feed!  As you can see in the pictures, this species of clover has pretty pink blossoms and "stripes" on the leaves.  It usually grows in large patches in open, sunny fields (or in the middle of your yard!).

The leaves and flowers can be eaten raw or tossed into a salad- they also make a nice tea!  Some people experience bloat when eating large quantities of red clover, so pace yourself.

Traditional Chinese medicine believed that it was a good tonic for colds, to purify the blood, and at one time they burned it as incense. Native Americans used it as a salve for burns, as well as for bronchial problems. Many cultures have traditionally used red clover to treat whooping cough, respiratory problems, psoriasis, eczema and even cancer. Red clover is one of the herbs in Essiac, which is a herbal blend for cancer patients, and grows in many areas around the world. 

Sweet Red Clover blossoms

Broadleaf Plantain

The next edible/medicinal herb is Broadleaf Plantain- a great herb to have around in case of an insect sting, burn, open wound, or intestinal upset!  Plantain is not only edible, but packed with nutrients.  It grows alongside roads or your driveway, in our case :)  It is easily recognizable by the long, stringy veins in the leaves, as seen in the picture below:

The stringy veins of the Braodleaf Plantain leaf

When using plantain as a wild green, it is prefered to blanch the leaves first to make them more tender.  This plant tends to be a little tough and slightly bitter when eaten fresh.  After blanching, the leaves can be frozen for future use in soups, casseroles or sauteed!  Dried leaves make a great tea for digestive problems.

Braodleaf Plantain along the driveway

As you can see, Broadleaf Plantain grows all along our driveway... I showed my youngest son how to chew the leaves and apply them to insect bites, since he tends to swell when stung.  The medicinal qualities of plantain draw out the poison from stings and hasten healing from burns or open wounds.

Oriental Poppy

I was amazed at the beauty of this Oriental Poppy!  But, poppies aren't just ornamental... their seeds are delicious to harvest after the blooms have faded away!  Just harvest the seed pods when they start to brown and let them dry in your kitchen.  When the pod is fully dried, open them to reveal the nutritious seeds inside!  

Poppy seeds are known to decrease levels of bad cholesterol in the blood and are high is dietary fiber.  The seeds are excellent source B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid. Many of these vitamins functions as co-factors in substrate metabolism especially fat and carbohydrates.  Poppy seeds contain good levels of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium.

Small amounts of opium alkaloids in poppy seeds have been found to have some beneficial effects on the human body; soothe nervous irritability, act as painkillers. Its seed extractions found useful in pharmacy and in many traditional medicines in the preparations of cough mixtures, expectorants, etc.

Milk Thistle

The last edible I will show you is Milk Thistle.  Although this plant is very spiky and unfriendly-looking, I assure you it is quite edible!  It is a tall (it can reach 3 ft in height), spiny plant that grows in full sun just about everywhere... I have seen them as far south as Florida and well into the Rocky Mountains.

The flowers of this plant (although they aren't blooming at this altitude yet) are light purple and bloom on the terminus of the plant stalk.  All parts of the plant are edible, even the roots.  Thistle leaves can be eaten raw, sometimes as a spinach substitute, after the spines are removed.  Flower buds can be cooked, as can the stem after peeling and soaking to reduce bitterness. Thistle can be used as an asparagus or rhubarb substitute or added to salads.  Milk Thistle seeds can even be roasted and ground as a coffee substitute!

As a medicinal herb, it is a great tonic, increases appetite and aids in digestion. It is used by many people, including those who were addicted to alcohol to cleanse the liver. Milk thistle is used internally in the treatment of liver and gall bladder diseases, jaundice, cirrhosis, hepatitis, acne and poisoning (including mushroom poisoning). 

Explore your surroundings!  You'll be surprised at all the edibles you find in your area :)
Enjoy nature and its bounty!

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