[Disclaimer: The information on this page represents my own perspective, practices, beliefs, and experiences. I am not a botanist nor am I a doctor or nutritionist. I have done my research and each reader must do his own. I take no responsibility for an individual reading and using this information. SOME PLANTS CAN KILL YOU OR MAKE YOU SICK IF YOU EAT THEM OR HANDLE THEM WRONGLY SO YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE WILD EDIBLES THAT YOU MIGHT INTERESTED IN USING OR INGESTING. YOU ALSO NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THEIR ACTION AND INTERACTION WITH MEDICINES, ETC. PREGNANT WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN, OLD PEOPLE, PEOPLE WITH CHRONIC DISEASES (DIABETES, ETC.), CAN BE NEGATIVELY/BADLY AFFECTED BY THINGS THAT HEALTHY PEOPLE CAN TOLERATE. I HAVE EATEN WILD EDIBLES--SO HAVE NATIVE AMERICANS, EUROPEAN AMERICANS, AFRICAN AMERICANS, AND TRIBAL PEOPLES. FOR ME, LEARNING THIS KNOWLEDGE HAS JUST BEEN RECAPPING AND LEARNING WHAT GOD GAVE US FOR FREE OUTSIDE. THIS PAGE IS JUST A PLACE FOR SOMEONE TO GET SOME INFORMATION--IT WILL NOT MAKE YOU AN EXPERT. I take no repsonsibility for the use, non-use, abuse, misuse, etc. of this information. Some weeds have medicinal action. I have heard that dock is so high in vitamin A that we don't need to eat more than two inches of it (maybe the person meant raw, I don't know)--and yet it is good to know about dock--some children have lost their eyesight (especially in "developing"/raped countries) for lack of vitamin A. If you are taking medication, you will want to be sure that eating wild edibles will not negatively impact your body. If you are a woman with child, you will not want to eat these things without ensuring that there are no contraindications (ill side effects) for you--or the baby in your womb. The very young, the sick, women with child, lactating (breastfeeding) women, those with chronic diseases, and the elderly can be afflicted by things that most healthy persons can tolerate. Talking to a knowledgeable doctor and performing research examining multiple sources is important. Look for what can go wrong. Look up the words "dangers" and "contradindications". This page could be used as a primer based on a few weeds I've interacted with but it is by no means authoritative. You need to know something about their action under various conditions and what parts you can eat and can not eat. A potato is good, BUT ONLY EAT THE POTATO PART of the plant. A person cannot just eat any plant or any portion of any plant. Irresponsible actions can kill.. Consult multiple color photographic references (not drawings). Even if you go on a weed walk with what seems to be an expert, double-check everything. Further down this page is a list of resources that I have found helpful--for those interested in further research. CHILDREN DO NOT EAT ANY WEEDS WITHOUT YOUR PARENTS' PERMISSION!]
Let's go on a Weed Walk.
In Year 3 of our homeschool, we went on a Weed Walk similar in scope to what you will see here. It was an important, eye-opening milestone in our journey to learning about the wild food outside that you can eat. After we came home, somehow our eyes were lightened to see plants that we could eat. On one memorable day, I looked down and exclaimed, "That's chickweed!" I did not know that that was chickweed, but at the same time I did know it. We looked it up in a book and it was chickweed and we ate it. We had one or two books (with photos, not drawings) that we could reference to confirm the edibility of our finds. After that first sighting, I no longer needed a photo of chickweed...
With our new knowledge, we stopped applying poison (pesticides, herbicides, Monsanto chemicals, etc.) to our yard, and waited a year. We then began eating wild edibles that found their way into the yard. We developed a desire to know about the trees and plants in our own yard. When treemen and others have come to my home, I've gotten my burning questions answered--"What kind of tree is this?"--without taking up taking too much of their time. After talking with several individuals, I've been able to identify most of the trees in my yard.
When I see a new weed, I take mental note. All of the plants on this page, except for the comfrey (someone gave me a root), have found their own way into our yard. There are others, but I have found the ones on this page to be some of the most common and/or useful wild edibles. For us, foraging, preparing, and eating wild edibles is a delightful, liberating activity. There is enough food outside to eat. We once had a disorganized weed garden in a shady spot, but I want to try again, this time with a larger, more formalized weed garden in a sunnier spot with chief specimen plants for eating, learning, identification, and passing on this simple, liberating knowledge to future generations [UPDATE: the deer and groundhogs may not let that happen; they just love the pickings, and, based on quickly disappearing water, we believe that the deer use the birdbath at times to quench their thirst during their meal.].
Before we begin our Weed Walk, a word of caution is in order here:
- Make sure that you are able to positively identify any wild edibles that you are interested in eating. Check several photographic references to help you to make positive identification.
- The Universal Edibility Test was developed for those times when there is any doubt--but never test mushrooms or wild carrot type plants. These types of plants can be highly toxic and fatal. If you cannot expertly identify them it is best to leave them alone.
- Do not eat weeds from areas treated with herbicides or pesticides or from areas less than 100 feet from the road, especially a busy road.
- Always know which parts of a plant that you can eat. On some plants you can eat the leaves. On another plant, the leaves will kill you and the stem can be eaten. On yet another plant, you can eat all of it.
After we examine and discuss some weeds, those that are interested can take the Weed Walk Quiz
in order to test their ability to identify these plants.
Lamb's Quarters. There was a widow woman who had children to feed. A man pointed out Lamb's Quarters to her and said something like this, "Do you see that plant over there? You can collect it and eat it. You and your children can live off of it until you can find work." Lamb's Quarters is sometimes called "goosefoot" because of the shape of its leaves. Its root brings up trace minerals as well as calcium, potassium and iron but it is still a mild tasting green. It can be cooked like spinach or placed raw in a salad. Lamb's Quarters is one of the most nutritious plants available--Amaranth is said to be number 1 and Lamb's Quarters number 2.
[Aside: Linda Runyon's book, Essential Wild Foods Survival Guide, has nutritional data on these and other wild edibles. A Recommended Daily Allowance chart is below. Some believe some of its figures may be too low for optimal health. For instance, the RDA says 60 mg of vitamin C daily, whereas I heard from one source that our fathers may have consumed 350-400 mg. Vitamin C is has been used clinically to fight infections (ref. The Clinical Experiences of Frederick R. Klenner, MD. Clinical Guide to the Use of Vitamin C, Abbreviated, Summarized and Annotated by Lendon H. Smith, M.D. . The booklet is online for free, I purchased it from Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. As with all things, when reading this book, prove all things and cleave to that which is good. After carefully reviewing and making notes, you may wish to see this dosage chart. The Clinical Experiences of Dr. Klenner notes that when therapeutic levels of vitamin C are taken, one needs to take 1,000 mg of calcium daily because the vitamin C pulls calcium ions from blood platelets thereby decreasing blood clotting ability. Before embarking on any treatment, each person must do adequate research--do not just take my word for it or even just one doctor's word for it. And don't believe everything that you read or hear--evil men and seducers are waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.) and most of us know how important vitamin C is to ward off scurvy. I was once told to take 4000-5000 mg of Vitamin C daily for a sinus infection (that may not be enough for some-->). [UPDATE: Based on an incident I read of in Steve Hickey and Andrew Saul's book "Vitamin: The Real Story" (chapter 6, first two paragraphs starting on page 103) I took massive amounts of vitamin C when I was becoming more and more closed up with what was probably a sinus infection. I was not reaching bowel tolerance even after taking about 40,000 mg of vitamin C over the course of a day or so (normally I reach bowel tolerance after just a few thousand milligrams). Soon after I began taking the vitamin C, I could discern the "crackling" in my nasal cavity like when I take antibiotics for a sinus infection. Result: I did not have to make my usual visit to the doctor for antibiotics, a first.] I don't want to pile on too much information here, but sometimes people are so enthused about things that they do not warn people as they ought to. I found out all this information piecemeal. LOOK FOR CONTRAINDICATIONS (THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG) FOR EVERYTHING, INCLUDING RAW MILK!]
Notice how it looks dusty/powdery on its center leaves. This look distinguishes it from its dangerous look alike. The plant can get very large, as in four feet, maybe more. One day I cut off a branch and a few days later I noticed that two branches had taken its place! Okay, let us pick a few leaves of this plant and place them in our basket. Along the way, I will pick a few greens for the basket here and there. Lamb's Quarters can be eaten raw in a salad but if you are going to eat a lot of it a day, it is said that you should boil it first and discard the water because the goosefoot greens (including amaranth) have more than the usual amount of oxalic acid (too much oxalate can cause kidney stones). I am leary of any plants like this or polkweed when they have very red stems, I pick from them when they have green stems with maybe a little red. I think that the red indicates high nitrate levels which are not good for people and very bad for infants under six months (who need to be on mother's milk anyway). Warning from the internet concerning lamb's quarters--"It's called pigweed because it used to be used as pig fodder. The leaves do contain some oxylates and nitrates, though, so intake should be limited especially by those with kidney problems."
Chickweed. Chickweed is rich in iron as well as vitamin C which helps our powerful immune system (350 mg of vitamin C in half a cup). Chickweed is a mild green and can be used in salads or chopped up in place of lettuce on a sandwich. The cooked young greens taste just like spinach. I sautee garlic and chickweed in butter and add salt. It is delicious. I recall the raw stems being tough one time, but maybe that is because it was a mature plant. Chopping them up probably would have made it easier to chew them. One may be able to find chickweed in winter. Notice the tiny star-like white chickweed flower in the lower right hand portion of the picture. Chickweed grows in a big luscious mat in cultivated areas as well as border areas in the woods.
Dandelion. The entire plant is edible and highly nutritious. It can be eaten raw or cooked. The greens are full of nutrients. If they are cooked down, in a change or two of water, they will not be bitter (save the water for the compost pile). They can also be combined with good tasting greens where their strong flavor can get lost while adding important nutrition to the diet. One ounce of dandelion greens will give you 7,000 units of vitamin A--more than the minimum Recommended Daily Allowance of 5,000IU. When establishing one's diet, one must be careful lest he get hyper-vitaminosis A from way too much vitamin A. I do not know how much constitutes too much, but if one's diet is varied (6-10 different plants a day if eating wild edibles exclusively), this should not be an issue. Dandelions are an excellent source of iron and calcium and are good for the blood, liver, gall bladder (I read that if you have gallstones, you should avoid dandelion), and kidneys. Roots can be roasted for a non-caffeine coffee substitute or eaten like a potato. 10-15 dandelion leaves has as much calcium as 6-8 ounces of milk. I have heard dandelion flowers described as "pure calcium". Eight ounces of dandelion root equals 814 calories. 3.5 ounces of dandelion root provides 92% of daily recommended fiber.
Purslane. A mild tasting wild edible. Fleshy leaves and succulent stalks add texture to raw salads. Notice its spreading habit and reddish stem. Purslane is high in iron and other nutrients.
<--- polkweed berries--do NOT eat!
(Some say they are poisonous (some say they can be cooked);
I leave them for robins and mockingbirds--they love them)
Polk Sallet/Polkweed/Pokeweed. (This must be cooked, do not eat this raw.) One day, as a child, I was in the car with my mother as we drove past a stand of trees by the road. "Polk sallet!" she exclaimed. Before I knew it, she had pulled off the road, grabbed a paper bag, and jumped out of the car to load up on polk sallet. She would cook the leaves with her greens. One company sold canned polk sallet. Polk sallet is very easy to find in the yard and in parks. We have a big polk sallet plant growing next to the house. I tried to cut it down but it would not die so somehow I decided to eat off of it. It keeps coming back year after year. This perennial wild vegetable gets up to ten feet tall. The berries and roots are not to be eaten. I have read that you are supposed to boil the leaves in two changes of water but I have fried the leaves in bacon grease with no water and experienced no ill effects--maybe that is because they were young leaves--I do not suggest anyone try this. The young stem (not the big, hard, mature red one) can be soaked overnight and fried like okra. I did not soak mine long enough so it had some bitter residuals but the texture was excellent. They also say not to collect leaves longer than 7". If I do, I just take out the big vein stem connecting them to the plant. Early on, I did not know all these particulars and have never gotten sick, but since you know, may you take good heed and further your research even after you come across these plants. Do not eat polkweed raw, you may get very sick--vomitting and diarrhea. Polkweed has a lot of nutrition-- half a cup of the greens provides 35 calories (10 from fat), no cholesterol, three grams dietary fiber, 100% of the daily need for vitamin A, 60% of vitamin C, 8% calcium, and 6% of iron. Pokeweed has 8,700 IU's of vitamin A per 100g (3.75 ounce) serving. Canned polk sallet was sold into the 1990s.
Activated Charcoal & Clay. I was told that if you eat something poisonous, burn some toast, scrape off the burnt charcoal and eat a tablespoon or two. It is supposed to bind the poisons. (I took burnt wood, scraped off the charcoal, and put it in an old spice bottle for when need may arise.) I have also heard that clay binds poisons. I believe that Native Americans did this. I would just want to make sure that the clay came from a clean, chemical/pollution-free area. Some people purchase edible clay and consume a tablespoon daily for health reasons.
I was once told concerning comfrey, "A leaf a day keeps illness away." Sometimes I make Comfrey tea (I seep a chopped up leaf or two in hot water for about 10 minutes). Comfrey is a fuzzy, mild tasting green with a deep taproot that brings up trace minerals from the soil. I have read that dried comfrey leaves have about as much protein as legumes. Sometimes, I will chop up a leaf in my salad greens. I also dry it out in the sun and use it in my "green flour". Green flour consists of dried up green edibles that I have ground to powder. I add it to quick breads, sauces, etc. for nutrient density. I will also add water to the green flour to make a batter and then fry tasty, light cakes on the stove, but I do not use a lot of comfrey.)
Update: The book, Doctor Yourself: Natural Healing That Works by Andrew Saul, PhD has an interesting section on comfrey with information from various sources. Basically states use leaf externally (crushed into an emerald green paste) as a poultice for ulcers, etc.) and one-half to one ounce of minced root scrubbed and washed and boiled (5-10 minutes) for a tea for tuberculosis, internal tumors, ulcers, promotion of bone fractures. He warns that "Herbs may be the most natural medicines, but they are still medicines. There are potentially harmful side effects if nonboiled comfrey is consumed in appreciable quantity. This warning especially applies to what is sometimes called "comfrey-leaf tea," which I specifically advise you to avoid. In my opinion, pregnant or nursing women should decline to use any medicine [we would add children, the elderly, those with chronic diseases, etc. In an emergency situation, we need to know what is available to us, the contraindications/dangers, and then be able to figure out which way to go.]. To be comfy with comfrey, consult you doctor and a reliable herbal textbook...." (page 61) Dr. Saul's website DoctorYourself.com has proven helpful to me, particularly his information and books about Vitamin C--I know for myself that it is a healer. One just must take enough, long enough. I have several of his books some of them are--Fire Your Doctor; Vitamin C: The Real Story; Orthomolecular Medicine for Everyone (I think that I have this one; Hospitals and Health, etc.Warning: I found this on the internet-- "A deceased friend was an extension veterinarian who wrote a book on poisonous weeds. Raising dairy goats was also a hobby of Sam's. Sam had been feeding his goats Comfrey and I remember him asking if I could test the protein level on this herb that had increased milk production of his goats. A few weeks later Sam requested more testing since some of his goats had died, others aborted. It turns out that Comfrey tends to accumulate Nitrates in high levels under certain weather conditions. Many of these "Weeds" are untested under varying weather and growing conditions."
I've never had any trouble with comfrey, BUT IF YOU EAT COMFREY, PLEASE BE CAREFUL AND DON'T EAT TOO MUCH DAILY. I can't tell you how much. I just eat it every once in a while and add a few dried leaves of it to my green flour. This warning is not scare any one away from comfrey, but I do want you safe. I find that AS THE SUMMER GOES ON, THE STEMS of lamb's quarters and polk salad (pokeweed) TURN RED. When I see that, I STOP HARVESTING OFF OF THEM. I know little about nitrates and what they are but it seems to me that they build up as the season goes on.
Concerning the man whose goat died, he may have been feeding it exclusively comfrey (I read somewhere 30% comfrey caused problems in rats but I don't know how long they ate that much comfrey). Both death and abortion are mentioned in this report on cattle eating excessive nitrates. It says that the bottom 1/3 of the stalk/stem of the leaf contains the highest level of nitrates, so I try to take the stem out of comfrey and use the upper 2/3 of the leaf. Even if the goats died from another cause we do need to be careful. Women who are with child, young children, people with chronic diseases, and old people are suseptible to more things, I would recommend that they steer clear of comfrey. After reading all these warnings, I started taking out the big stems (especially in the bottom third of the leaf) by folding the leaf long ways and removing it). Just about anything can cause problems if we have too much of it or don't use it aright. Persimmons are not poisonous, but their skins can cause intestinal blockage for people with digestive problems. One man ate 2.2 pounds of them daily for 40 years and ended up with blockage. Allergies to nuts, eggs, and shrimp can kill. We need to be aware of what we are eating whether wild edible or a cultivated edible. Don't eat too much of one wild edible, eat a variety. Linda Runyon who lived off of wild edibles for about 13 years says that eating 6-10 different wild edibles a day should provide balanced nutrition.
The following is excerpted from one of our comfrey links below--"Comfrey does contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which have the potential for liver damage. There have been warnings put out against the use of the herb, but evidence of incontrovertible documented toxicity is lacking. In the book "The Safety of Comfrey," J.A. Pembery found no reported cases of pyrrolizidine poisoning from comfrey. He did find one case of pigs in Germany being poisoned by nitrates in comfrey, but not by pyrrolizidine. Lab tests on rats suggest that TO CAUSE HARM TO HUMANS, ONE WOULD HAVE TO EAT ABOUT 20,000 LEAVES. Certainly from anecdotal evidence, many people have eaten comfrey without reservations for decades and been very healthy. Still, to err on the side of caution, limit consumption..."
Comfrey is known as knitbone because of its ability to help quickly heal broken bones (comfrey tea is sometimes called knitbone tea). Here is a quote from, the "Comfrey" entry in The Complete Gardener (by Monty Don)--For centuries, the mucilaginous leaves (which make good-ish fritters) have been used to heal bruises and broken bones...
Comfrey is a perennial that grows quickly and prolifically. I only eat the leaves occasionally but I've read that the root can be used medicinally as a tea for coughs, salves, etc. I have never tried the root and do not know how to use it or how much to use. I warn against freely experimenting with no knowledge Comfrey is known for its uses as a cell proliferant and has various applications, including the healing of surface wounds (for deep wounds, plantain is the better choice--don't use comfrey--the top will be healed trapping in the beasties deep inside). Comfrey has virtue; cut it down and it pops right back up again. It is easy to propagate by division (but if you dig it up and leave a piece of root behind you'll get another plant!). I hear it is a wonderful addition for the compost pile (I make a concentrated Comfrey tea for my plants--put a bunch of leaves in a bucket of water and let it sit and rot for several days or weeks and then use the dark liquid as a liquid fertilizer.) and can be cut down several times a year. Its ability to come back amazes me. I even did an experiment to see if planting a comfrey leaf with no roots would work--it did, maybe one of three leaves grew into a new plant (if your compost pile is not hot enough you may spread comfrey throughout your beds--a little piece will grow into a new plant--I think that peppermint is the same way). Tomatoes are supposed to love comfrey (I'll put torn up comfrey leaves around the plant.). While I read that comfrey grows wild in Europe, the plant you see pictured is one that I received as a root with a few leaves; it may be Symphytum officinale. I divided this mother plant into a number of plants--comfrey likes moist soil, but does not want to constantly sit in soggy soil. It may do best with a little shade.
Comfrey can also be placed on the compost pile [note: I read that sage is one of the few plants that does not like comfrey]. When a man told me that he buried raw farm animal dung, put some dirt on it and then planted on top of that, it liberated me and greened my gardens notwithstanding the warnings not to do so. They say not to use the raw dung if you are not going to cook the vegetables. I didn't know that when I first used farm animal dung in the garden, but it makes sense. With all the GMOs and things that animals are being fed now, I am pretty in a "whatever grows out there" mode now. I like to stay aware of the wild things and am still finding new plants that I had only seen pictures of before.
Some people apparently use comfrey as a nutritious forage plant for their animals--including farm and zoo animals. Because of comfrey's rapid, lush, plentiful growth it can supply a ready source of regular or emergency food for animals (read more about this in the comfrey links below).
Comfrey has been known and successfully used by man for centuries, its virtues are well-known; however, as with so many things, there are warnings against Comfrey nowadays, saying that it is dangerous for people to use it internally. The powers that be villanize comfrey after isolating one specific property of it and then overdosing two-week old baby rats on it. Meanwhile dangerous GMOs are being continuously released into the American food supply, fields, and seas with no fanfare (and, from what I have heard, inadequate third party testing). If you have not seen the GMO Trilogy with Jeffrey Smith, you need to watch it. Monsanto (makers of Roundup, etc.) has a starring role.
In concluding this section, I was told about the traditional uses of comfrey and was eating and ingesting it in small quantities before ever hearing about possible contraindications. As an interested individual, I have a responsibility to 1) read the warnings about comfrey, GMOs, chemicals, etc., 2) consider them, and 3) decide what actions to take...
Clover. Clover is a good source of vegetable protein. One source said that 15 red clover leaves has as much protein as a slice of Velveeta cheese (I no longer eat Velveeta "processed cheese food"). Leaves, stems, blossoms, and roots are edible and can be placed in salads. The little plants can be dried and powdered and then put in sauces to boost nutrition. Red clover is supposed to be best, but from what I can see, white clover is more common. Clover is a blood thinner (white clover has more of this property) so women who are with child and those on blood thinners and aspirin, etc. probably should not eat it--talk with a professional about it.
Plantain. Plantain was a European potherb brought to America. Native Americans called it, "white man's footsteps". Plantain can be used as a salad green and is well known as a powerful wound healer. Known as "nature's band-aid", plantain can be chewed up and applied as a poultice on a wound, including puncture wounds, because it goes deep in order to bring up necrotic (dead) tissue. This is important to know if you are treating a puncture wound. In that case you would not want a wound healer that focuses on healing the surface of the wound. I have found plantain to be plentiful. Here we have pictures of broadleaf plantain and narrow leaf plantain (notice the ribbing). Memory hint for plantain as a healer of wounds: plantain rhymes with and looks like pain.
Now that I have collected some fresh greens, I can make a Green Drink. In my blender I will place some greens (not raw polkweed, though), an apple and/or a banana, a cup of water (some additional fruit juice is optional--the Green Drink is delicious without it), and some ice. After I blend it all together, I will have a nutritious and tasty drink. No blender? Chop up the food and eat it and drink the water on the side. I was told, "Drink your food and chew your water". Digestion begins in the mouth, chewing, grinding, blending, liquidating, mixing with saliva, etc. On the Weed Walk, I was taught a little song--♫ "Chew, chew, chew your food,
thoroughly each meal.
The more you chew, the less you'll eat,
the better you will feel." ♫
(to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat--life is not a dream)
6-10 Different Plants a Day
Many of these wild edibles have high nutrition and sometimes medicinal action. One particular plant should not be overeaten. A plant can be so rich in vitamin A that if you eat too much of it, you risk a vitamin A overdose (hypervitaminosis A). Some vitamins, like vitamin C are water soluble--you urinate out the excess nutrients. Others, like vitamin A and vitamin D, are fat soluble--the excess nutrients are stored in your fat, hence you can get too much of them.
If one eats 6-10 different plants a day, they should get well-rounded nutrition and not too much of one substance. This is nothing to fear, people have been eating these plants for millenia, but you need to be aware of this. If we know the basic properties of these plants, we can avoid problems--wild food expert (and nurse) Linda Runyon learned the hard way that sorrel should be blanched before eating.
You may want to take the Weed Walk Quiz before we continue on our walk.
Getting Enough Calories
Greens have dense nutrition but there are not that many calories in greens. If you need 2000 calories a day and a cup of greens is 35 calories, how can you make it? Roots and nuts and seeds and pine twigs and catkins and acorns are places where one can get his calories. There are also edible insects to be found. Please note that not all roots are edible. Trees are not weeds, but they are important wild edibles so we have included a few of their products here. Seeds and nuts have fat in them. We need fat in order to process certain vitamins like vitamin A. Not all seeds and nuts are edible. I counsel the reader to do his research.
Pine needles contain a lot of vitamin C. When European sailors had problems with scurvy the Native Americans taught them to eat pine needles to cure it. Those that listened were cured. Vitamin C is very important in boosting the immune system (and don't forget to drink plenty of water to keep your body flushed out). Pine needles and twigs can be eaten raw or or placed in some hot water to seep for tea. We have had them both ways. I do enjoy the tea and am looking forward to cooking with pine needles and twigs. Author Linda Runyon says, "Pine provides the energy to go on!" (Essential Wild Food Survival Guide) The catkins are tasty little morsels and I think they would make a nice addition to pancakes. This is not low calorie food. I would like to try the layer underneath the bark (not girdling the tree but taking vertically from the bark) which can be used for emergency food and, I hear, can be made into flour and bread. Pine nuts are delicious (I've never foraged for them though--they are hidden in the pine cones to be coaxed out. I have had pine cones open in the house and drop their seeds, but at that time I did not know that they were edible).
Acorns come from the mighty oak and are plentiful in the fall. We collect intact, brown, ripe acorns and crack them at home. We crack the shells with a meat hammer, break up the nut meats, and simmer/boil them in three or four changes of water in order to leech away the bitterness from tannin. I even made an impromptu acorn chili. Acorns have a wonderful texture and could be added to a meat chili, stew, or just about anything. The leeched nuts can be dried and made into flour to add to breads, sauces, etc.. This fall, I want to harvest a bushel or two of acorns and store them like "Great Aunt Mary" discussed at the "More about acorns..." link below.
Acorns have fed man and beast for centuries. Like other nuts, acorns are high in protein, oil/fat, and calories. We need something to keep our bodies going and a bowl of chickweed leaves is not enough. Acorns contain 142 calories in one ounce. That is 1136 calories in one cup of acorns. Acorns are about 8% protein and 37% fat. They are high in calcium and other minerals and rich in complex carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. They are also a good source of fiber.
I will reiterate--acorns are bitter because of the tannic acid (some are more bitter others. White oak acorns are less bitter--I call the white oak tree a "cursive" white oak tree to remind me that leaves are curvy like a lower case cursive "w" instead of pointed like the oaks with more bitter acorns.) so they need to be leeched in clean water. They taste bad without leeching. Not only that, too much tannin can cause health problems. When leeching, the water turns red from the tannin. I have read that the tannin water is antiseptic and is a useful wash to wash off sores and other things. This water is traditionally used to tan hides to make leather. I read this about tannin in horses that eat too many acorns: When absorbed from the gastrointestinal track, tannin enters the blood stream and circulates through the liver and kidneys. Upon contact, tannin will damage these very important organs. As a result, the kidneys do not do a good job of filtering the waste products that are usually excreted through the urine. These products stay in the blood stream and are circulated back through the liver, where they cause additional damage. In the liver, the combination of the tannins and the waste products damages the cells. Now the liver cannot do the efficient job of producing digestive enzymes...regeneration of damaged liver cells is very slow. A horse and a man are two different creatures; however, eating too much tannic acid can cause kidney failure in man. Native Americans would place the acorns in a moving stream and let the tannin eventually wash away.
Do a search on ways to leech acorns (e.g., smash the nutmeat and boil in three or four changes of water (change into boiling water, do not let them cool off).
More about acorns...
Article: Uses for Acorns...
Insects are an exellent source of protein. Ounce for ounce they provide 65-80% protein compared to 20% for beef. Many peoples of the world have satisfied their food requirements with insects. Growing up, I heard on the news of a man who was found living in a cave. He had lived there for 25 years because he thought the war was still going on. He lived off of spiders. Others during war time have eaten slugs (raw slugs can leave you with a nasty parasite) and whatever they could find in the garden. I've read that young children of vegans (people who only eat vegetation with no meat and no meat products (eggs, milk, etc.) have died from vitamin B12 deficiency, even when on breast milk. In a survival situation, if one does not have a steady supply of meat, milk, cheese, etc. that supply B12, one has to look elsewhere. I've read that earthworm tissue provides a good source of protein and B12 but they should be purged and cooked to kill any parasites.
As for us, we have stretched out and tried a few insects and are having conversations about trying others. The Army military survival manual covers earthworms as emergency food--let earthworms fast for a day to purge them of their dirt. Hannah and others have tried earthworms, I have not. I did read about a girl who ate an earthworm without purging and picked up a parasite that settled in her lungs. (After purging the worm, I would cook it, too.) I read about a man eating a raw slug and getting meningitis. Earthworms are easy to find and if cooked well any parasites should be killed (I might dry them and try to grind them to powder and add them to food that way). Grubs are insects at their most nutritious state. I do not know what bites and what doesn't but I have been bitten by a fat little worm. I did eat a chocolate covered cricket once and ants or termites. I hear that you can attract a bunch of ants with something sticky and then add them to stew or some other dish to increase the nutrition (they supposedly taste bad--eating an ant doesn't sound bad to me so I hope to remember to try it soon). Hannah put a plain cricket over a candle flame--she said it tasted like ash. She did not eat the legs. I have seen a sparrow do this to a cicada--take off the body trunk and leave the rest. My nephew ate a dried up earthworm and said that it tasted like a stick. My sister-in-law ate one too and said the same thing. One man prepares and eats slugs (50/50 vinegar/water to kill and remove slime, boils to remove more slime, makes a visceral cut to remove the dark gland near their tail, and eats). People have eaten them during war time. As a child, I tried chewy escargot but I had many images in my mind of the huge snails that crawled up the walls outside our home so I could not enjoy it. At this point, I may try it just to be more acquainted with it. Now is the time for experiments and knowledge. Many will take the mark because they cannot fathom living outside of the world's system.
[Update: Hannah had been eyeing slugs for some time as food (not me). One day she boiled one for fifteen minutes and ate it (she first put it in vinegar to kill it and take off some slime. One man said they have a gland near the tail end that can be taken out because it is bitter. Hannah's slug was small. I told her next time she needs to purge it for a day in the refrigerator.). She said that at first she did not want to eat it, but she chewed it up anyway. She said that it tasted like chitterlings and that I would "love it" and that next time she wanted a bigger slug.]
A lot of the world meets its food and protein requirements through insects--John the Baptist did...
Insects can help you and your animals. Your chickens will probably love Japanese beetles, flies, slugs, comfrey (don't overdo it), purslane, and weeds--which is what they would eat if there were able to fend for themselves. They may also enjoy chard (not a weed but a hearty, highly nutritious cultivar that you can enjoy for most of the year--use it like lettuce and the stalks like celery (though they have their own distinctive taste). Your home-produced eggs will be even more nutritious and cheaper. Feeding greens in addition to layer feed make the eggs much richer in color. I look at farm animals as an important part of the family and consider them when deciding what to grow on my property. [Unfortunately, I don't think that we Christians are going to have much need for our own farm animals in the near future, our future is in the woods which is why this Weed Walk page exists. We need to know and be acquainted with (on a regular basis) what is available to us outside. Now is not the time to mentally settle down thinking that we will set up homesteads that will remain unmolested. We are developing a mobile mindset and although this is a grievous end times situation, we are learning a lot and enjoying these times and experiments.]
Identifying an Emergency Food Supply
Cracknel: An Ancient Soldier's Food
War Garden (Start learning about guerilla gardening. The hour is late.)
- Military Survival Manual (I believe it is fm21-76. We printed out most of it from online--excluded an appendix or two--and put it in a three-ring binder. It looks like Amazon sells it but I do not know if it contains all the same graphics.)
- "Nature Bound Pocket Field Guide" by Ron Dawson (photographs of edible and poisonous wild edibles)
- Other photographic references [I may upload other recommendations at some point.]
- Go on a Weed Walk in your area.
- Linda Runyon materials (http://ofthefield.com/):
- Homestead Memories (an engaging book recounting her 13 years of living off grid and eating wild food)
- A Survival Acre (a provocative title--enough wild food on a single acre to live off of)
- Wild Cards (edible wild foods identification cards--cards are made like playing deck but no pictures of the jack, queen, etc.)
- Essential Wild Foods Survival Guide (original title, "Crabgrass Muffins to Pine Needle Tea")
- Master Class on Wild Food Survival" (a fantastic 3-hour DVD that is the perfect compliment to her books. I only found one low review of this product, but I believe that it was probably because the reviewer was new to foraging and had not read Miss Runyon's books. It is an amazing and timely teaching. If you do not have her books, have not been on a Weed Walk, have not been eating weeds, you may not want to view this first. Do the other things first and, in time, view this important teaching.)
- Chris Janowsky survival videos and book on Survival [may upload more information on these specific resources later.]
From my files--Don't despise this lowly plant that grows in your lawn, but read of its virtues and use it every day and not just in the spring. One ounce of greens will give you 7,000 units of Vitamin A. Of course, as it becomes older and a little more bitter, that is because of the minerals which the deep roots are bringing up from the soil. This will be one of your best sources of iron and an excellent blood tonic. It has two outstanding qualities--it will stimulate and heal disorders of the liver and gallbladder. Diabetics should eat up to 10 stems daily. Decorate your salads with the yellow blossoms. Besides chopping the raw roots in your salad--roast the roots and then make tea by simmering these roots for the best coffee substitute available that will have no side effects from caffeine, but will be a mineral rich drink that can keep you in good condition because the liver is the detoxifying organ of the body.
Internet excerpt--"...Dandelions are very tasty, exceedingly versatile, highly nutritious and as we all know, incredibly abundant! Fresh dandelion leaves can be eaten raw in salads, added to a stir fry, or boiled or steamed like spinach. They have a "bitter greens" taste, like endive (especially once the flowers are out) but boiling them in a change or two of water can help take away that bitter taste. They make a great addition to soups or stews, either when fresh or after they've been dried. The flowers also make a tasty and colorful addition to salad (just remove the green part off the back) or can be sauteed battered and fried like a fritter, and the unopened buds can be sauteed in butter and garlic for a tasty side dish. As for nutritive value, you can't get any better. According to Wildman Steve Brill, "The leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They're higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc by using a tasty, free vegetable that grows on virtually every lawn." Now you tell me, why would you want to spray poison all over your lawn to get rid of such an amazing plant?! Hate them? I LOVE Dandelions!! Give them a try and you will too.
Except from our "Emergency Food" page--
A dandelion is one of the few milky plants that is considered safe to eat. All parts of it (unlike some other plants) can be eaten. If any children are reading this, DO NOT PICK AND EAT ANY PLANTS WITHOUT YOUR PARENT'S PERMISSION!
- 10-15 dandelion leaves has the same amount of calcium as a 6-8 ounce glass of milk.
- Linda Runyon called dandelion flowers, "pure calcium". I take that to mean that they are extremely high in calcium.
- 3.5 ounces of dandelion root has a whopping 407 calories and supplies 92% of daily recommended fiber. 8 ounces of dandelion roots can give a man almost half of his daily calories. It is starchy like a potato. You can bake it or roast it like a potato or eat it raw--chew your food thoroughly to get all of the nutrition out of it.
- Dandelion is good for the blood, liver, and kidneys.
- I have read that up to 10 stems a day is good for diabetics.
- If you eat the leaves raw, they have a "bitter" taste, but that's because it is a deep digger that brings up those vital nutrients from the soil. I prefer to chop it up and let it get lost in a salad or cook it down with mild greens. It may not be my favorite stand alone meal (yet easily covered up), BUT IT IS HEALTHY AND IT MAY BE PART OF THE FUTURE FOR ME, MY DAUGHTER, AND MY CHRISTIAN PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!! REVELATION 13:17 CLEARLY TEACHES THAT WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO GO TO THE GROCERY STORE. Unprompted by me, my daughter likes to go outside with her pocket knife (may be overkill, I think scissors would work much better), a bowl, a fork, and some salad dressing. She'll collect her field salad AND EAT IT!!!!!!! Do you hear the message of this? If you forage regularly now, you and our children will be used to it. Don't start out reading 100 books on the subject. That is too overwhelming. If you know what a dandelion is, then you can start with that. I am going to add just a few more common wild edibles to this section. They may well be in your yard or neighborhood park. We focus on plants in our own yard. I determined to know the names of the trees on my property. When I hear something about one of them, my ears perk up and I am in a position to do an experiment. I don't need to know how to prepare saguaro cactus buds, there are none here. But tell me about the dandelions, and Lamb's Quarters that I used to ignorantly pluck up, and you have my attention.
- Many weeds--like dandelion--have worldwide distribution. With this empowering knowledge at hand, no matter where you are you can, "look down and eat up!". What you are getting here is survival information at the hour that you need it, which is BEFORE you need it. When the economy collapses, I have no intention of going to the government GMO cheese line for a handout. I am equipped to know what wild plants that I can eat that will give me my calcium requirements. A combination of 6-10 different wild edibles can ensure that your body's needs are met.
- Dandelion delivers high nutrition in a day when synthetic fertilizers and worn out soils produce nice looking, but nutritionally stripped down produce.
- Dandelions can be added to a delicious green drink (an apple and/or banana, greens, 2 ice cubes, 1 cup of water/milk in a blender) or to your "green flour" (dried greens ground up in a hand grinder) for a good tasting green, fiber rich green pancake. [Aside: I have two hand grinders--one for big hard seeds like corn and beans and one for smaller seeds like oats and wheat. I've also used a mortar and pestle to grind and another time used two big stones we have found outside. Don't limit yourself to electricity or what gadgets you can buy. Learn to use your ingenuity. Many of us Americans, like me, are raised "industrialized" and have lost the ability to improvise. The study of the scriptures has led us back to ancient ways of doing things.]
The comfrey plant has virtue. I have cut comfrey down to the ground and in days it is back with an amazing amount of growth. I was so amazed that I took a few leaves, with no roots on them and stuck them in the ground to see if they would grow--and maybe two out of three did. If you leave a little piece of root in the ground, you'll have another plant. It grows in a clump and does not have a spreading habit, but if you do not get all the root or if you till in the leaves, you can get unexpected plants. For some, comfrey can become a weed. I've taken a lot of pieces off of my mother plant in order to start new plants. I just take the trowel and divide the root. Comfrey is a gorgeous plant. I've dried comfrey and powdered it using it in my green flour. To dry it, I like leaving it in the sun on a dry sunny day. I'm told that a sunny car window is a good place to dry plants. I've eaten the fuzzy leaves raw in a salad with other greens. Comfrey is one of those, "refuse not to grow" plants that I seek to specialize in. I give it no special care other than planting it in the right spot--sun, but not too much sun and a somewhat moist (not soggy) environment. I read that dried it is similar to legumes in terms of protein.
Extract from Green is the Color of Health!--Comfrey is sometimes known as "knitbone tea" because it is a cell proliferant and so heals broken bones and wounds very quickly (do not use on puncture wounds, use plantain instead). Excellent source of natural calcium and also the much needed Vitamin B-12. Use the leaves, blossoms, and roots in salads or in tea. Use to heal ulcers, cancers, asthma, and lung conditions, etc. The saying is "a leaf a day keeps illness away". If comfrey were used for no other reason than to help keep the blood stream pure it is worth the effort of getting a root and growing your own plant.
Extract from the internet--
Comfrey root contains significant traces of allantoin, which helps regenerate skin cells. The root is also rich in skin-soothing mucilage. Comfrey root tea can be taken for coughs and stomach upset.
Like comfrey root, comfrey leaves contain allantoin and mucilage, though not as much mucilage as the root. Minerals and chlorophyll lacking in the root can be found in the leaves.
For the more patient potion makers, herbalist Lesley Bremness suggests stuffing a dark jar with a 1-inch-square size of dried comfrey leaves, and storing them for two years. At the end of that period, the resulting oil-like liquid can be put into a small container and used for eczema and other skin conditions.
While opinions vary on the advisability of consuming comfrey, folk recipes call for using the younger leaves in salads, or for cooking the leaves and stems like spinach. Few recipes for the root exist, other than as an medicinal tea.
More comfrey extracts...EXTRACT #1:
For more than 3,000 years, as far back as the Greeks and Romans, herbalists have made numerous claims concerning the powerful medicinal properties of comfrey. It was commonly known as "knitbone" because of its effectiveness in accelerating the healing of broken bones. It was also used to treat various ailments such as ulcers, dysentery, diarrhea, indigestion, gum diseases, tuberculosis and other lung diseases, whooping cough, cancer, and arthritis. Comfrey leaves are rich in allantoin, phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium, trace minerals, calcium, and vitamins A, B-12 and C.
Species of the Month: Comfrey by Douglas Barnes
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale). What better plant to feature as Species of the Month than this herbaceous member of the Boraginaceae family?
It grows up to 150 cm tall and 60 cm in diameter in warm climates. The optimum growth is in climates where day and night are equal (i.e. the tropics). There, production of 100 to 200 tons per acre (roughly 250 to 500 metric tons per hectare) is possible! However, it will grow in temperate regions. It prefers full sun and soils rich in nitrogen and humus, so interplanting with nitrogen fixers and mulching is a good idea. You can expect to get at least 10 years out of one plant, and a well-attended plant might outlive you!
It is protein rich with reportedly 20 times the protein content of soy beans. It is used as a pig fodder successfully in amounts up to 80 to 90% of the diet! For poultry, it can reduce the need for other feed (be that your concoction or processed feed) by 50%. Egg quality will improve with yolks being brighter. Cows don't bloat when eating comfrey like they do with clover. And too much clover can taint the milk -- not a problem with comfrey. Also, mastitis is reduced in cows fed comfrey. Wilted comfrey mixed with straw fed to sheep at a ratio of one part comfrey to one and a half parts straw increases the digestion of the straw. The flowers make it useful as bee fodder. It is used in zoos as fodder for many (expensive) animals. Its tremendous production rates make it a great elephant feed.
Comfrey has deep roots that help it to draw up nutrients from subsoils. This characteristic makes it a valuable nutrient cycler. It accumulates nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, copper, sodium, sulfur, chromium, molybdenum and lead (the latter might make it useful in cleaning roadside soils contaminated by the use of leaded gasoline). It can be used as a green manure, and its ability to be cut right down to the ground a few times a year helps in this respect. It can be used as a compost activator.
It can be made into a liquid plant feed:
Place harvested comfrey in a sealable bucket
Weigh down the comfrey with a stone
Wait 1 or 2 weeks
Drain out the juice and dilute it 10 to 1 with water and water your plants with it
You can also use it to fill niches to suppress weeds.
Traditionally the whole plant has been used. Young leaves can be added to salads in small quantities to boost nutrient uptake. The stems can be blanched and eaten like asparagus. It is the only known plant source of vitamin B12.
Contains allantoin, which assists in the repair of damaged tissues. It is used as a poultice for cuts, scrapes, burns, skin conditions, ulcers, broken bones, strains and aches. It can help with digestive problems. The juice from leaves can be rubbed into the coats of dogs with mange. [Our note: leaf can be seeped for tea]
The full catalogue of uses is:
- Vulnerary (wound healer)
- Astringent (contracts tissue making it useful to treat bleeding, peptic ulcers, diarrhoea, shrink mucus membranes, etc.)
- Expectorant (dissolves mucus making it useful in treating phlegm)
- Emollient (smoothes and softens skin)
- Demulcent (treats inflamed, irritated tissue by coating it -- e.g. treating a dry cough)
- Antiseptic (helps treat or prevent infection in wounds)
- Nutritive (along with its protein and minerals, it contains vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, E and 28,000 IU of vitamin A per 100g)
- Styptic (helps stop bleeding)
- Antioxidant (from the rosmarinic acid it contains)
- Pest Control
Slugs go for comfrey, so you could use it to attract slugs away from plants. If you really want to go all out against slugs, grow a ring of comfrey around your garden, separating the garden with an electric fence. The comfrey will attract the slugs from the garden. Then run pigs in the comfrey. The pigs will love both the comfrey and the slugs. And the pig urine and manure will attract in even more slugs, hopefully depleting your local population for a while. In place of the pigs, poultry could be run as well.
Comfrey does contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which have the potential for liver damage. There have been warnings put out against the use of the herb, but evidence of incontrovertible documented toxicity is lacking. In the book "The Safety of Comfrey," J.A. Pembery found no reported cases of pyrrolizidine poisoning from comfrey. He did find one case of pigs in Germany being poisoned by nitrates in comfrey, but not by pyrrolizidine. Lab tests on rats suggest that to cause harm to humans, one would have to eat about 20,000 leaves. Certainly from anecdotal evidence, many people have eaten comfrey without reservations for decades and been very healthy. Still, to err on the side of caution, limit consumption. Also, drying the comfrey reduces the amounts of alkaloids.
Comfrey is an herb native to wide swaths of Europe, long known for its soothing medicinal properties. Many over-the-counter skin ointments and homeopathic products include this herb for its healing qualities. One of the effects of comfrey when applied topically is to increase the rate of cell division, so that wounds and burns heal more quickly. A woman in my area posted an advertisement last year looking for fresh comfrey. She had a skin condition that hadn't responded to any treatment she had tried. She used some of my Bocking 14 comfrey to make a tea that she soaked her arms in and later told me that the comfrey helped more than anything else had. She just sent me an email asking if my comfrey had any leaves up yet this year. Comfrey also reduces inflammation, swelling, and irritation. If you enjoy home remedies or making herbal salves, comfrey would be an excellent addition to your garden.
There's an ongoing debate as to whether or not comfrey can be safely consumed, even by animals. There is apparently some level of toxicity for the liver, both in humans and in animals. I am definitely not recommending that anyone consume any part of the comfrey plant. However, some studies suggest that a toxic dosage would only be reached after consuming huge quantities of the leaf or root. Comfrey is very widely used in Japan as an animal fodder, without any ill effects, evidently. And I have spoken to several homesteaders who regularly give small quantities of comfrey leaf to their chicken or duck flocks and even to pigs. I myself have fed my laying hens comfrey leaf about once a month in modest quantities. The chickens absolutely relished the stuff. Since comfrey leaves are very high in protein, this isn't surprising. I never observed any detrimental effect on the hens after feeding them comfrey leaves.
But comfrey has yet other virtues beyond healing and animal fodder. Comfrey is a bioaccumulator plant whose long roots mine minerals and nutrients from very deep in the soil. (There are reports of comfrey roots reaching as much as ten feet deep into the ground!) Other culinary and medicinal herbs grown adjacent to comfrey have been observed to contain higher levels of essential oils and flavor than herbs of the same type not grown next to comfrey. Comfrey leaves can be cut and used as excellent green manures for other garden vegetables. The first leaves put out by comfrey plants each spring were traditionally used specifically with the planting of potatoes, to give the potato plants an early boost of nutrition and growth.
Comfrey is particularly known as an excellent companion plant in fruit orchards, especially apple orchards. With its tall and densely growing leaves, it will easily outcompete other nearby plants, reducing the need for weeding. Though it likes full sun, it can also tolerate the shade under fully grown trees. This contributes to its utility in orchards.
Although comfrey will not spread aggressively if left undisturbed, it is quite tenacious once it is established. And if the earth around it is tilled, new plants will grow from broken off fragments of root. If you want to eradicate comfrey from a particular spot, it will likely take some doing. So choose a spot to plant it with care. I have heard tales of gardeners cutting comfrey to use as green manure when planting other crops, only to find that the cut leaf took root and established itself in the new location. I haven't seen this happen [Update: I have seen this happen], but then I take the precaution of letting all comfrey cuttings intended for green manure wilt in the sun for a few hours after cutting.
Along with its utility as a green manure, comfrey is equally valuable as a foliar feed ingredient. Foliar feeding is a natural form of fertilizing that uses weeds or other plants in a fermented liquid state. Like all anaerobic fermentation, a foliar feed made from comfrey leaves will smell atrocious. But it produces a natural, concentrated liquid fertilizer that can be diluted and applied to the leaves of many vegetable and flowers.
The comfrey varieties I have planted have large, somewhat oval, slightly hairy leaves that grow up to about 18" tall. Near the base of the leaf stalk the hairs sometimes develop enough heft that they become small prickles, much like a summer squash vine will produce. But they are not particularly bothersome. In their second year comfrey plants put out borage-like flowers for a long time from late spring to to midsummer. They vary in color apparently, but my plants' flowers are purple. Most varieties of comfrey do not reproduce themselves well from seed, but will readily grow from root divisions. There are several varieties of comfrey, all of them fairly hardy perennials. Some varieties are hardy up to zone 3, but most are hardy to zone 4 or 5. The Bocking 4 variety was specifically developed as a green manure, while the Bocking 14 was developed as animal fodder.
This is such a useful plant that I recently ordered a third variety, common comfrey, and plan to divide the roots of each type of comfrey I grew last year. It will allow me to make good use of the shaded areas of my property where very few edible things will grow. Instead, I'll harvest the fertility of those spots and transport it to my garden beds in the form of comfrey leaves. I can scarcely credit so many wonderful qualities packed into this one plant. Comfrey has medicinal uses, can feed livestock, and greatly enhances the fertility of my garden soil. On top of that, it is an attractive plant that has few pests and provides a bit of food for bees. I can hardly think of a non-edible plant that I would consider so essential for a sustainable garden as comfrey.
If the long term fertility and health of your garden soils are of concern to you, look into comfrey!
Comfrey has been cultivated since about 400 BC as a healing herb. The word comfrey, derived from the Latin word for "grow together", reflects the early uses of this plant. Greeks and Romans used comfrey to stop heavy bleeding, treat bronchial problems, and heal wounds and broken bones. Poultices were made for external wounds and tea was consumed for internal ailments.
Comfrey (Symphytum spp.) is native to Europe and Asia. Although comfrey has been used as a food crop, and as a forage crop, in the past 20 years scientific studies reported that comfrey may be carcinogenic, since it appeared to cause liver damage and cancerous tumors in rats. Comfrey-pepsin capsules, which are sold as a digestive aid in herbal and health-food stores in the USA, have been analyzed and found to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These alkaloids cause liver damage in people and are a potential carcinogen. Huxtable et al. (1986) cited cases of hepatic veno-occlusive disease that were produced by using these capsules. These reports have temporarily restricted development of comfrey as a food crop.
Three plant species in the genus Symphytum are relevant to the crop known as comfrey. Wild or common comfrey, Symphytum officinale L., is native to England and extends throughout most of Europe into Central Asia and Western Siberia. Prickly or rough comfrey [S. asperum Lepechin (S. asperrimum Donn)], named for its bristly or hairy leaves, was brought to Britain from Russia about 1800. Quaker, Russian, or blue comfrey [S. x uplandicum Nyman (S. peregrinum Lebed.)] originated as a natural hybrid of S. officinale L. and S. asperum Lepechin. This hybrid was called Russian or Caucasian comfrey in reference to its country of origin. Cuttings of this hybrid were shipped to Canada in 1954 and it was named Quaker comfrey, after the religion of Henry Doubleday, the British researcher responsible for promoting comfrey as a food and forage. The majority of comfrey grown in the United States can be traced to this introduction.
Prickly comfrey was evaluated for its value as a forage by the USDA and numerous state experiment stations more than 80 years ago. Comtrey yielded less than some common forage crops and its high water content of 85 to 90%, in comparison to 75 to 80% for alfalfa, made forage preservation difficult. The extensive hairs on comfrey leaves restricts its use as a forage. Fresh leaves are eaten by pigs, sheep, and poultry, but are frequently unpalatable to cattle and rabbits. Cattle and rabbits will eat the wilted forage. Horses, goats, chinchillas, and caged birds are also fed this forage. In a grazing trial in St. Paul, MN, comfrey was judged to be poorly palatable in comparison with several other plant species. This is probably due to the presence of hairs which wilting alleviates.
Wild comfrey was brought to America by English immigrants for medicinal uses. The allantoin content of comfrey, especially in the root, has resulted in its use in folk medicine for healing wounds, sores, burns, swollen tissue, and broken bones. Allantoin, found in milk of nursing mothers and the fetal allantois, appeared to affect the rate of cell multiplication. Wounds and burns seemed to heal faster when allantoin was applied due to a possible increase in number of white blood cells. Comfrey has been reported to promote healthy skin with its mucilage content that moisturizes and soothes, while the allantoin promotes cell proliferation.
The allantoin applied to external wounds is either a 0.4% solution or a 2% ointment. An effective allantoin formulation is difficult to prepare from comfrey due to the low and variable content of this substance. Hart (1976) reported that dried comfrey leaves contain 0.1 to 1.6% allantoin while dried roots have 0.4 to 1.5%. Since fresh leaves are 85% water, they could not contain more than 0.2% allantoin. It would require anywhere from 8 oz to 8 lb of dried comfrey leaves per quart of water to produce a 0.4% solution that would be effective.
Comfrey produces large amounts of foliage from late May until hard frosts in October or November. This crop has been used as a salad green and potherb because it was considered a good source of protein and a rare plant-derived source of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is produced usually by soil bacteria and fungi or in the small intestines of some animals. Humans usually obtain this vitamin from eggs, dairy products, and meat. However, a study on the nutritional value of comfrey conducted in Australia in 1983 found that you would need to eat more than 4 lb/day of fresh comfrey to obtain the minimum daily requirement of B12. Eating such large amounts of comfrey, a poor source of vitamin B12, is inadvisable due to the potential health hazards.
Protein content of comfrey dry matter (15 to 30%) is about as high as legumes. Robinson (1983) reported specific amino acid and mineral content of comfrey. Hart (1976) mentioned that comfrey has lower amounts of eight amino acids that are essential for humans than turnip greens or spinach, but more than cabbage. Comfrey, like most green vegetables, is deficient in methionine and is also low in phenylalanine. Three ounces of dried turnip greens or spinach, in comparison to 20 oz of dried comfrey, supply adults with the total daily requirement of all essential amino acids, except for methionine. Comfrey also tends to have high ash content.
III. Growth Habit:
Comfrey is a herbaceous perennial plant with short, thick, tuberous roots, a deep and expansive root system: Comfrey begins growth in early-April and by early May compact clusters of young leaves are visible in the crown of the old plant. Within a few weeks, the leaf blades with long petioles have grown to over 12 in. high. Basal leaves are large, lance-shaped, stalked, and coarsely hairy. The stem elongates rapidly and reaches a height of over 3 ft. Upper leaves do not have long petioles and are attached closely to the stem.
Flowering starts in late May or early June and continues until fall. Leaves on flowering, erect stems are sessile or decurrent, and decrease in size up the stem. The bell-shaped flowers with pedicels are in terminal cymes or one-sided clusters. Flowers of common comfrey are usually creamy yellow, but white, red, or purple types have been found in Europe. Prickly comfrey has pink and blue flowers while Quaker comfrey has blue, purple, or red-purple flowers. Seed production is rare, and crops are usually established from root cuttings and crown divisions. Vegetative growth does not cease with the start of flowering, and the plant will add new stems continuously during the growing season. The plant will grow rapidly after harvest and flower again. Comfrey crowns and roots are very winterhardy in northern Midwestern environments.
Comfrey is an Old World, old style medicinal herb once believed to cure almost anything, including, especially, broken bones. In fact, an older common name is "knitbone", and the genus name means "grow together" in Greek. Comfrey has been used as a healing herb since at least 400 B.C. The plant itself is a rampant, clump forming perennial with coarse, hairy leaves and clusters of pink or violet flowers on stems that start out upright, then invariably fall over. Stems and petioles are winged. Leaves are ovate, to 10 in (25 cm) long. The plant forms a clump up to 5 ft (1.5 m) tall and just as wide. Comfrey has a large tap root and seeds itself freely, to the point of being invasive. However, sterile, non-invasive cultivars are available.
Russian comfrey (Symphytum X uplandicum; a.k.a. S. peregrinum) is a cross between common comfrey and a species from western Russia, S. asperum.
Symphytum officinale occurs naturally throughout Europe, where it grows in moist meadows, along streams and ponds and along roadsides. S. asperum is native to the Caucasus Mountains of western Russia. Common comfrey has escaped from cultivation and become naturalized virtually everywhere it will grow.
Light: Grow comfrey in full sun, or partial shade in hot climates.
Moisture: Comfrey likes a rich, moist soil. It is not tolerant of prolonged drought.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3-9. Comfrey is a herbaceous perennial that dies to the ground in winter and comes back when warm weather returns.
Propagation: Sow seed in spring. Comfrey is easily propagated by root cuttings and division, and sterile clones that do not produce seeds must be so propagated.
Jack's friend has a large comfrey plant growing in an urn that she keeps on the patio where she can easily pick leaves to put in the bath for a soothing soak.
Apparently comfrey really does have beneficial medicinal effects. Extracts from comfrey root and leaves contain a compound (allantoin) that, when used topically, seems to speed up the healing of wounds and burns by increasing the rate of cell regeneration. Comfrey also seems to have antibiotic properties. Comfrey extracts are used in ointments and creams marketed to help healing of varicose veins, bruises, burns and rheumatism. Commercial soaps, shampoos, and skin creams with comfrey are available. Comfrey extracts are used in homeopathic medicine for muscle and joint ailments.
Comfrey is used as a cover crop and a fertilizer. The long fleshy tap roots take up nutrients and minerals from the soil better than most plants, and these are made available in the leaves which can be composted, made into a fertilizer tea, or merely used as a mulch around other crops. Used as a fertilizer, comfrey is apparently an excellent source of organic potassium.
In the garden, comfrey thrives in a semi shady, moist environment and makes a good ground cover for a semiwild or woodland setting. Note, however, that the plant can become invasive. Every little broken off piece of root can start a new plant.
You can make your own comfrey extract. Mash up some fresh leaves in a blender and apply directly to burns, wounds, or even healthy skin to promote the growth of new cells and tissue. Dried leaves and roots can be ground up and steeped in hot water to make an ointment. (Don't boil, however, as that will destroy the active ingredient, allantoin.) Add ground comfrey roots or leaves to the bath water for a soothing, beautifying soak.
Various parts of the comfrey plant have been shown to induce cancer in laboratory rats. Taken internally, comfrey and its extracts can cause severe gastric distress, and may also cause liver damage in humans. Contact with the fresh leaves can irritate the skin for some people.
Is Comfrey Getting a Bad Rap?
Kerry Luskey Smith, Former Owner, Kerry's Herbals
There has been a lot of press in recent years about the dangers of comfrey. The FDA has recently "cracked down" on companies which sell comfrey-based products. There have been orders to remove their products from the market, injunctions, and the requirement of warnings to customers regarding the dangers of comfrey. So what's it all about? Is comfrey really dangerous, as the FDA would have us believe?
Yes, comfrey does contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs). Yes, PAs have been found to cause liver damage when given to newborn rats. But were these studies indicative of comfrey as a whole, and realistic human use? One such study isolated the PAs, and injected them multiple times interperitoneally to 2-week-old rats over a period of 7 weeks. Liver damage was found.¹ Thus, it was extrapolated that comfrey, as well as other herbs which contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, causes liver damage.
What they failed to take into account is what herbalists have known for centuries. First, ANY substance, in great enough quantities, is harmful. The amount of PAs given to the newborn rats in that 7-week period was the equivalent of over 5,600 comfrey leaves, if given to a "man-sized rat."(2) Secondly, you cannot isolate one component and assume that the herb, in its entirety, will have the same action. Herbs are not like pharmaceutical drugs, which are often made up of one or two components. Herbs are made up of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of different components. Each component works synergistically with the others to create the herb's healing effect. Isolated PAs are not going to have the same effects as the herb as a whole. Tea, almonds, apples, radishes, and mustard all contain properties that, when isolated, are shown to be poisonous.(3) Does this mean we should avoid all of these foods because they're dangerous or toxic?
Another problem with the studies which were done on comfrey is that the researchers often did not differentiate between the different species of comfrey. Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) contains up to 5 times the amount of PAs as common comfrey (Symphytum officinale). However, in one study, the names S. x uplandicum and S. officinale were used interchangeably. In addition, the root contains a much higher level of PAs, as many as 10-20 times the amount found in mature leaves.
So, what to do with this information? Is comfrey safe to use or not? That is something each individual must decide for oneself. There are things you can do to ensure you're using comfrey responsibly and as safely as possible. Find out what type and part of the plant is being used in the preparation. Is it the root or the leaf? Avoid using comfrey gratuitously. There are many recipes for "nourishing pregnancy tea" that contain comfrey. Is it really necessary? In most instances, no. Comfrey is almost without peer at healing wounds, ripped tendons and broken bones, but in many situations, it can easily be substituted with another herb. Both calendula and plantain are excellent for healing wounds, as well. Be aware of the differences between topical and internal use. When used topically, the PA absorption is much less, compared to ingestion. Also, as an alkaloid, PAs are not easily water soluble, so an infusion is going to have a much lower concentration of PAs than a tincture.
Also keep in mind who profits and doesn't from the use, or defilement, of comfrey. When herbs are used in place of drugs, the pharmaceutical companies lose money. There are many drugs on the market, used by millions on a daily basis, which have been shown to cause liver damage when overused or misused. Acetaminophen is routinely given to people of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, yet its liver toxicity has been proven many times in research. Herbal remedies have the benefit of thousands of years of usage, compared to only a few decades, sometimes only a few years, with pharmaceuticals.
Herbs should always be used with care and consideration. Anything that has the potential to heal, also has the potential to harm. Use common sense and always check with knowledgeable and reputable sources if you're unfamiliar with an herb's safety and usage guidelines. As with anything, consult with your health care provider before taking an herbal remedy if you're taking any other prescriptions or herbs.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
From the internet, "Pine needle tea is wonderfully refreshing and ridiculously high in Vitamin C! (4-5 times as much as OJ!) The catkins (new growth buds) can be eaten right off the tree as a snack, used in a salad or candied. White Pine catkins have an almost sweet lemon taste. (Does that make sense?) Pine nuts are all edible too, though on most of the eastern pines the nuts are smaller than the ones you buy in the store (they come from the Pinyon Pine) and you always have to fight the squirrels and other small animals for them! But when you can get them, they sure are tasty. You can eat them raw, roast them, add them to salads or stir-frys, into soups and stews, even grind them into nut-butter. They're very high in healthy fats and protein.
Pine pollen (that yellow powdery stuff you see covering your car for about 2 weeks in the spring) is super-nutritious and can be added to flour, soups and stews, mixed into ash cakes or sprinkled on top of food.
Even the inner bark (cambium) of a pine can be eaten if you're in a tough spot. It can be eaten raw, boiled like noodles, or dried and pounded into flour. It's high in sugars and several different vitamins. Apparently the Lodge and Red pines are the best options if you've got them in your area. I've tried the cambium layer of the pitch pine roasted, and it wouldn't be my first choice of survival foods, but it's good to know it's there if I ever need it! [if removing bark, remove it vertically. Stripping a bark from a tree's circumference/girdling a tree can kill it.]
ChickweedFrom the internet--I was just introduced to chickweed this spring and am I ever glad! I prefer the basal leaves, but they're all edible. Another great addition to my spring salads -- chickweed apparently doesn't dry well so it's best used as soon as it's been picked. It's high in calcium, potassium and iron and has some traditional medicinal purposes as well. Chickweed is a cool weather plant; once the summer heat hits it's gone until the fall. You can find it sometimes during the winter I've been told, and I have no reason to doubt it.
From my files--The round fleshy leaves and succulent stalks can be used as a mild salad green. Has few calories and is good for dieting and is high in riboflavin as well as Vitamin A and C. Thoreau stated that men frequently starve when the necessities of life are passed by. Source of Omega-3.
From the internet--"There's a great self-published cookbook out there called "Purslane Pesto", and if you ever see a copy snap it up (or contact me so I can!) Among the many other great wild edible recipes it has a one for making a yummy pesto using this delicious weed. Purslane grows abundantly where I grew up and when I found out that not only was edible it was so very tasty I couldn't believe that I wasted so many childhood hours ripping it up out of the gravel lane and from unwanted spots in the rock garden. I could have been eating it instead! High in both Vitamin C and alpha-linolenic acid (one of those highly sought-after Omega-3 fatty acids) Purslane is a crispy succulent that has a wonderful spicy, peppery taste. It can be eaten raw or cooked and I have seen it recommended that you harvest purslane in the morning or evening, not in the heat of the day, to get the best flavor and juiciness. There are more and more "mainstream" recipes that include purslane and a quick Google search came up with about 37,000 links, so more and more people are catching on to this one. Give it a try and help your heart with those extra Omega-3's!"
A Penny for my Thoughts. . . about Lambs Quarters:
Natures Treasury of Vital Nutrients
By Stephen Hoog
It has relatives that are more well-known, like spinach, beets and quinoa and some less known ones like epazote, strawberry blite and Jerusalem oak. It is one of the most nutritious plants available. It grows in abundance in the mid-Atlantic states; yet it is mostly unknown. Its name is lambs quarters and it is willing to transform into human form.
The origin of its name is unclear. One theory says that the mature leaf looks like a cut of lambs meatthe quarter. Mutton tops, one of its common names, seems to support this thought. But another theory relates it to lammas quarter an English festivalalthough the plant associated with that holiday is actually orache, another relative. The Latin name is Chenopodium album, meaning white goosefoot, referring to the shape of its leaf and to a mealy white powder appearing on both sides. In Canada it has been widely known as pigweed and bacon weed because it was often fed to pigs.
Lambs quarters is found over North America, Europe and Asia in waste places, edges of pathways, overgrown fields, urban parks and most gardens. Thought to be brought here from Europe, there is evidence it may be native to Canada. Lambs quarters apparently was not well known among American Indians before European settlers came, but it was quickly adapted into their diets, used as a potherb and as a medicinal herb internally for genital itch and stomachache and externally for gout, pleuritis and edema.
The plant reaches a height of 1 to 4 feet normally but in rich soil may reach 5 to 6 feet or more. Its stem is slender and grooved, and a mature plant will have red around leaf joints and axils. Young leaves are simple and alternate and are long and thin. They grow to be more oval or diamond shaped and develop edges that are wavy. The small green flowers come in dense spikes in the upper leaf axils. They later contain up to 75,000 small black seeds, which, when scattered, may lie dormant for several years before sprouting. There is no distinguishable aroma to this plant.
In temperate climates lambs quarters appears in mid-spring. It is one of a number of plants which help transform poor soils by putting out a deep root system to break up the soil and bring nutrients to the surface. This root system also allows it to be resistant to drought. Lambs quarters can be a good mother weed, if controlled, for common vegetables, encouraging and supporting their growth.
The leaves are a great source of beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Like other green plants, lambs quarters aids the liver in the production of bile and contains an oil which helps emulsify hardened animal fat in the heart and arteries. The plant is high in calciumabout 309 mg per 100 gramsone of the highest amounts in green leafy vegetables. The leaves do contain oxalic acid, which inhibits calcium utilization, but the calcium levels are so high it is still a good source. They have 4.2 grams of protein per 100 grams again, one of the highest. Lambs quarters is also rich in potassium, B-vitamin complex, vitamin C and fiber. It is one of the plants richest in folic acid, especially important for pregnant women. The seeds also contain calcium, protein and potassium as well as niacin and phosphorous.
The whole plant can be eaten when young. The leaves are good in spring and early summer. After that, the upper leaves are best. Its better than spinach and never bitter (unless you are from the Midwest where everything turns bitter when hot weather comes). The leaves can be used raw in salads or cooked in soups, stews, casseroles, simply steamed or sautéed. Lambs quarters dries well and can be reconstituted or powdered for use in winter. It is very good in raw cheese or tofu dishes like quiche, as its wild flavor and high mineral content go well with the cool, neutral tasting high protein foods. The leaves can be chopped and mixed with pancake batter or steamed with cabbage and drizzled with ume or rice vinegar. A quick, light stew with pasta, tofu, cabbage and carrots, with soy sauce or miso as flavoring, also works.*
In summertime flower heads can be used in casseroles and breads. They are very delicious. The seeds are harvested in the fall by rubbing the flower heads, collecting them in a large bowl, then blowing out the chaff. They can then be cooked with oatmeal or kamut flakes or ground into flour for inclusion in pancakes or bread.* Napoleon used them like that for his army when supplies were short. It is not necessary to have an army to commandeer this abundant, nutritious and tasty plant. All it takes is some curiosity, some will power, a small cutting knife and a pot of water; and you will be rewarded beyond your dreams.
Internet exerpt--"Lamb's Quarters taste remarkably like spinach, but earthier, and are one of the healthiest wild plants around. They contain calcium, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, several B Vitamins, Vitamin C and other trace minerals as well."
Amaranth is a nutritious relative of lamb's quarters. It has been called the most nutritious vegetable by some and is a good source of vegetable protein. Here is a caution from the internet--used around the world for its stalk and leaves as nutritious food (has a very high source of vegetable protein) although re-heating cooked greens is said to change the nitrates to nitrites so should be cooked with care for children and those who have kidney issues as it blocks absorption of calcium and zinc.
Both the broad leaf and narrow leaf are valuable for a salad green and can be found all summer growing in lawns. The narrow has been found even in winter. Rub on bee stings, insect bites, snake bites, and poison ivy or cuts. It is considered one of the most sacred herbs. It will even heal old open wounds if plantain leaves are used as a fresh poultice every day. It has also been used for disorders of the respiratory organs, whooping cough, T.B., eczema and herpes. The seeds when ripe are as rich in B1 as rice polishings.
Plantain is a perennial herb, thought to be of Eurasian origin and now naturalized throughout the world. Plantain is considered a common and noxious weed by some and a miracle plant by others.
Plantain is very easy to cultivate, it succeeds in any soil and prefers a sunny position, some forms have been selected for their ornamental value. It is an important food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies. Plantain grows from a short, tough rootstock or rhizome, which has a large number of long, straight, yellowish roots, is a basal, rosette of large, broadly oval, dark green, leaves. The 4 to 10 inch long smooth, thick, strong and fibrous leaves have 3 to 7 or more ribbed veins, abruptly contracting into a long, petiole (leaf stalk) which is reddish at the base. The leaf margin is of Plantain is entire, or unevenly toothed. The flower stalks, are erect, long, slender, densely-flowered spikes. Each tiny flower is brownish and bell-shaped with four stamens and purple anthers. Flowers bloom most of the summer. The fruit is a two-celled capsule and containing four to sixteen seeds. Harvest fresh young edible leaves in spring. Gather Plantain after flower spike forms, dry for later herb use.
Plantain Medicinal Properties and Herbal Use
Plantain is edible and medicinal, the young leaves are edible raw in salad or cooked as a pot herb, they are very rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. The herb has a long history of use as an alternative medicine dating back to ancient times. Being used as a panacea (medicinal for everything) in some cultures, one American Indian name for the plant translates to "life medicine." And recent research indicates that this name may not be far from true! The chemical analysis of Plantgo Major reveals the remarkable glycoside Aucubin. Acubin has been reported in the Journal Of Toxicology as a powerful anti-toxin. There are many more highly effective constituents in this plant including Ascorbic-acid, Apigenin, Baicalein, Benzoic-acid, Chlorogenic-acid, Citric-acid, Ferulic-acid, Oleanolic-acid, Salicylic-acid, and Ursolic-acid. The leaves and the seed are medicinal used as an antibacterial, antidote, astringent, antiinflammatory, antiseptic, antitussive, cardiac, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, haemostatic, laxative, ophthalmic, poultice, refrigerant, and vermifuge. Medical evidence exists to confirm uses as an alternative medicine for asthma, emphysema, bladder problems, bronchitis, fever, hypertension, rheumatism and blood sugar control. A decoction of the roots is used in the treatment of a wide range of complaints including diarrhoea, dysentery, gastritis, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhage, haemorrhoids, cystitis, bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, coughs, asthma and hay fever. It also causes a natural aversion to tobacco and is currently being used in stop smoking preparations. Extracts of the plant have antibacterial activity, it is a safe and effective treatment for bleeding, it quickly stops blood flow and encourages the repair of damaged tissue. The heated leaves are used as a wet dressing for wounds, skin inflammations, malignant ulcers, cuts, stings and swellings and said to promote healing without scars. Poultice of hot leaves is bound onto cuts and wounds to draw out thorns, splinters and inflammation. The root is said to be used as an anti-venom for rattlesnakes bites. Plantain seeds contain up to 30% mucilage which swells in the gut, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. The seeds are used in the treatment of parasitic worms. A distilled water made from the plant makes an excellent eye lotion.
Plantain Herbal Folklore and History
Native Americans carried powdered roots of Plantain as protection against snakebites or to ward off snakes. Plantain was called Englishman's Foot or White Man's Foot as it was said to grow where ever their feet touched the ground - this is referred to in Longfellows 'Hiawatha.'. Some old European lore states that Plantain is effective for the bites of mad dogs, epilepsy, and leprosy. In the United States the plant was called 'Snake Weed,' from a belief in its efficacy in cases of bites from venomous creatures.
"Medicinal" herb tea: For colds and flu use 1 tbls. dry or fresh whole Plantain (seed, root, and leaves) to 1 cup boiling water, steep 10 min. strain, sweeten. Drink through the day.
Healing salve: In large non-metallic pan place 1lb. of entire Plantain plant chopped, and 1 cup lard, cover, cook down on low heat till all is mushy and green. Strain while hot, cool and use for burns, insect bites, rashes, and all sores. Note: used as night cream for wrinkles.
Another Excerpt--"Mmmmmm, Plantain... Like spinach, but better! Where to begin with this one? Delicious edible that can be eaten raw in salads or cooked up like spinach (or added to spinach), used in stirfrys, thrown in soups and stews -- just make sure you get the young leaves, as they get bitter as they get older. Some folks like to take out the "ribs" because they find it too stringy, but my experience is that it depends on what varietal of plantain you're harvesting, as there are many different varieties and they all look, taste and prepare up a little bit differently. But hey, feel free! The seeds have a sort of a nutty flavor, and can be ground up into a flour that you can add into muffins or pancakes or ash cakes, or just eat the seeds raw or throw them in a salad or stirfry. This one is very high in Vitamin B and Riboflavin.
Plantain is also a great plant to know as a "first aid kit in a leaf". It has way too many medicinal qualities for me to list here (I have only 5000 characters left to use!) and I'm focusing this lens on edible plants, not medicinals, but just cause it's so very cool, I'll include this link to a page that lists a bunch of them.
Here's just a few of the basics:
- It's a great styptic, meaning it stops bleeding and promotes fast healing of damaged tissue.
- It has contains a powerful anti-toxin and works great for bee stings! If you get stung, grab a few plantain leaves, chew them up (get lots of saliva mixed in there with them) and stick them on the bite as a poultice. (Back in the olden days it was apparently used to treat snake bites.)
- It is antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflamitory and antispasmodic, meaning that you can use it one way or another for almost anything! (I've even heard that, when prepared correctly, the seeds can be used as a laxative and the leaves make a killer wrinkle remover...)
A friend just told me recently that plantain is not native to North America, but a European import. He said it was known by Native Americans as White Man's Foot, because wherever white people set foot, plantain started to spread soon after!"
From the internet--"Both White and Red Clover are high in protein, and are always easy to spot once the flowers begin to bloom. The flowers have a nice sweet taste -- when I was a kid on the farm we used to pick the petals and suck on the ends for a sweet taste-of-honey treat. The leaves can also be eaten raw, but I've read that some people have a bit of digestive trouble from eating too much, so most references suggest boiling them for a few minutes before consuming. They're at their tastiest when they're young -- before the flowers come out. The dried flowers and seeds can be ground into flour, which is a great way to add extra protein to lots of baked goods, or can be sprinkled over stuff like rice to add a bit of extra flavor and nutrition. You can also add the dried flower heads to teas and infusions. I've read many references to clover as a traditional medicine, so this is one of those that's probably best used sparingly rather than an everyday addition to your diet. Sure is a great spring treat though!"
Acorns played an important role in American history as one of the main foods in the diet of Native Americans from coast to coast. The Apaches and Comanches of West Texas, the Tonkawas of Central Texas, and the Caddoan tribes of East Texas all harvested acorns (Newcomb 1961). Most Native Americans and early settlers used acorn meal as flour, as an ingredient in mush or pounded with meat, fat, and berries to make pemmican.
Nutrition: Acorns have protein (about 8 percent) and fats (37 percent) and are high in calcium and other minerals (Crowhurst 1972; Fleming 1975). "Acorns leave a sweetish aftertaste, making them very good in stews, as well as in breads of all types. They are rich in complex carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins while they are lower in fat than most other nuts. They are also a good source of fiber" (Clay, 2004).
Species: Raw acorns, depending on the species, have a mildly to strongly bitter taste from tannic acid. The Texas oaks reported to have the sweetest taste include Emory oak (Q. emoryi), which is so mild it can be used without processing, white oak (Q. alba), plateau live oak (Q. fusiformis), bur oak (Q. macrocarpa), and chinkapin oak (Q. mulenbergii). The acorns of each of these oaks (mostly white oaks) mature in one year, which may account for their lower tannic acid content. Red oak acorns (like Texas Red Oak) take two years to mature.
My family and I have been known to gather tons of acorn. In the past my Great Aunt Mary had a room in her house where we would deposit all of the acorn we gathered. This was a 10'x12' room, with a four foot board across the doorway. This room was always full of acorn. As children we used to fight for the right to jump into the acorn and stir them up. Anyone bigger than a child would crack the hulls. This had to be done twice a week so that moisture didn't build up and that the acorn dried properly. Traditionally our people stored acorn in 'Chukas', acorn graineries made of cedar and California laurel. These are cylinder in shape and raised above the ground on stakes about three feet. Stevenot, 2004
Collect the ripe acorns from the ground or spread a sheet under the tree and shake the limbs. Collect three times as many as you think you'll need - expect at least half of them to be molded or infested with insects. "I spread them out as a layer thick on an old sheet which I have laid on a roof, corner of the yard, or some other out-of-the-way dry, sunny place. This lets them sun dry and prevents any possible molding before I get them shelled. It will also kill any insect eggs or larvae, which might beinside. If you cannot lay the acorns out in the sun, spread them in a single layer on cookie sheets in a very slow oven for an hour." (Clay, 2004)
Shell the acorns as you would any nut. A nutcracker works fine on larger nuts, but you many need to slip open the shell of smaller acorns with a knife. Remove their kernels. If a thin brown corky layer clings to the light-colored flesh, peel off the layer.
To prepare acorns for eating, you need to remove as much tannic acid as possible by leaching with water. Besides being unpalatable, raw acorns consumed in large quantities over time can cause kidney damage. The Indians set the acorns in a basket in a clean fast-flowing stream. (Patty Leslie Pasztor shares that they may have used cactus pouches to hold acorns for leaching.) The water rushing through the basket would leach out the tannins in a day or two. Since most of us do not have a clean fast-flowing stream nearby, we need to boil out the tannins. Toss the nuts into a large pot, and cover them with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for about 15 minutes. The water will turn brown as the tannic acid is extracted from the kernels. Throw out the water and replace it with fresh water. Re-boil the acorns, throwing out the brown water several times until the water is clear. The boiling process takes about two or three hours, though the time varies with the amount of tannic acid in the acorns. When you are finished, the acorns will no longer taste bitter and will have turned a darker brown. The nuts have a flavor similar to boiled chestnuts.
Unless you want to use them wet, you need to dry out the nuts. Spread them out on cookie sheets and roast them in an oven at about 200 degrees F for an hour. You can eat the roasted nuts or chop them up to use as you would any chopped nuts. They can be dipped in sugar and eaten as candy. (Peterson, 1977)
You can also coarsely grind the acorns before leaching. Place the ground acorns in a large crock or glass bowl. Then add boiling water to cover and let stand an hour. Drain and throw away the brownish, unappetizing water. Repeat. Then taste the meal. It should have a bit of a bitter tang and then taste sweet as you chew a piece. Continue leaching out the tannin until the meal is mild tasting. Press and squeeze the meal getting out as much of the water (and tannin) as possible. Spread the damp meal out in a shallow layer on a cookie sheet or on trays of your dehydrator. In the oven, you only need the pilot light or the very lowest oven setting. As it begins to dry, take your hands and very carefully crumble any chunks that hold moisture.
To prepare acorn flour, run the whole or coarsely ground nuts through a food grinder or blender. If the flour still is damp, dry it in the oven for 30 minutes. Then regrind the flour, if needed, to the fineness you want. Use it in breads, either by itself or with other flours. The traditional method was to use a stone (mano in the southwest) hand grinder to crush the meal on a large, flat stone (metate). Use: "I think processed acorns taste like a cross between hazelnuts and sunflower seeds, and I often include acorn meal in my multi-grain bread recipes. Adding half a cup of acorn meal to a two-loaf bread recipe and reducing the flour, as needed, works quite well. Because the acorn meal is a natural sweetener, I only use a bit of honey to feed the yeast while softening it, relying on the acorn meal to give sweetness to the bread." (Clay, 2004) As acorn meal is very dense, you will have to add yeast or such to get your bread to rise when adding it.
Recommended Daily Allowance
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is the daily dietary intake level that is considered sufficient to defend against vitamin deficiency diseases.
Today, the term "Recommended Daily Allowance" is replaced by new terms "Daily Intake" and "Percent Daily Value" (% DV). % DV is often shown on the label of vitamin supplements. It indicates how much each vitamin is contained in one serving compared to the recommended daily intake.
For example, the recommended daily intake of vitamin A for an adult is 5000IU. If one serving of vitamin supplement contains 15,000IU of vitamin A, its % DV for vitamin A would be 15,000 / 5,000 x 100% = 300%.
Recommended daily intake (recommended daily allowance) of Vitamins A-K is listed below (for adults only):
Vitamin A 5,000 IU Vitamin C 60 mg Vitamin D 400 IU Vitamin E 30 IU Vitamin K 80 mcg Thiamin (vitamin B1) 1.5 mg Riboflavin (vitamin B2) 1.7 mg Niacin (vitamin B3) 20 mg Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) 10 mg Vitamin B6 2 mg Folic acid (vitamin B9) 400 mcg Vitamin B12 6 mcg Biotin (vitamin H / vitamin B7) 300 mcg
Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated and flushed out. Drink 8 big glasses per day or half of your weight in ounces, e.g., 140 pounds, drink 70 ounces per day.]
According to the American Heart Association, the average American takes in 15 grams of fiber. Several organizations recommend 25 - 30 grams a day. The American Dietetic association recommends 25 - 35 grams a day. If your intake is 15 grams or less and you want to increase your fiber intake, increase it gradually. If you jump from 15 to 35 grams a day, it may cause stomach cramping and gas. Make sure you also increase your water intake when you start increasing your fiber intake. This will also reduce any cramps you get. I enjoy uncooked oatmeal in what we call, "Mother Cereal" oats, grapenuts type cereal (organic or homemade) raisins, nuts, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, mixed in a plastic pourable container. It keeps the digestive system working smoothly. Sometimes I'll add banana slices.]
IU - international unit, a measure of vitamin activity determined by biological or chemical analyses.
mg - milligram (1/1000 g)
mcg - microgram (1/1000 mg):
We can consider the recommended daily allowance / recommended daily intake as the minimum nutrient requirement for healthy people to ward off vitamin deficient diseases. However, these values do not represent the amounts of vitamins required for optimal health, which vary among individuals based on their age, diet, health conditions, exposure to toxic chemicals and lifestyle.
Recommended daily allowance / recommended daily intake is also not equivalent to the safe dose of vitamins. In general, vitamins have high safety limits, which can be several times to hundred times more than the recommended daily intake. Water soluble vitamins (vitamin C and vitamin B complexes) have a higher safety limit than fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). Excess water soluble vitamins can be excreted readily in the urine whereas excess fat soluble vitamins are accumulated in the liver and can be harmful.
Since the recommended daily intake represents the minimum nutrient requirement to avoid vitamin deficient diseases, it is quite common for vitamin supplements to contain vitamins and minerals above the recommended daily level (i.e. % DV higher than 100%). It is safe to consume these vitamin supplements according to product label. However, consumers should not increase the recommended dosage themselves without the supervision of health care professionals.
Excerpts from the internet--
Poke makes a terrific perennial addition to your vegetable garden. However, getting it into your garden can prove troublesome. Growing it from seed isn't practical. To germinate, poke seeds must pass through the digestive tract of birds (That's why poke mysteriously appears in places it never grew before). If you're brave and have lots of time on your hands, you can process the seeds for germination, which includes soaking them in suphuric acid! Poke frequently grows alongside urban and suburban roadways. However, automobile exhaust, antifreeze, oil, and other leaking fluids, and lead dust from detached wheel weights can contaminate any roadside plant.
The best part: Long after insects and critters have eaten your spinach, collards, and other garden greens, your poke plant will stand boastfully unaffected. It is also drought resistant. No need to worry with bug sprays, sevin dust, neem oil, and so forth. Poke fends for itself.
The Allen Canning Company of
once canned and sold poke, but abandoned it in the spring of 2000. Health concerns? Safety issues? Nah. They just couldn't find enough people to harvest it in quantities to make it worth the bother. Siloam Springs, Arkansas
...whatever you do, cook it before eating! Consumed raw, poke salad will make you sick as a dog. Then again, so will a belly full of raw chicken and uncooked rice. Severe cases of "poke poisoning" could be life threatening, but choking down a fatal quantity of raw poke leaves is an unimaginable feat. More typically, someone adds a few raw leaves to a salad or fails to cook it properly and two hours later, Wham! The reckless gourmand is galloping toward the nearest toilet.
The stuff that makes you sick is concentrated in the root, stems, and to a lesser extent, the veins of larger leaves. Many people warn not to eat large leaves, or leaves from a plant more than knee high. However, you can pick large leaves, strip them away from the thick veins, and cook them with no problems. That's a lot of work, though -- best to allow some larger leaves to remain so the plant can thrive, and pick the small leaves as they regrow. After a few seasons, a well-tended poke plant will reach heights of ten feet or more and provide a family with all the poke salad you need.
So how does it taste? Some people compare it to asparagus. Nah, not even close. Although the taste is unarguably unique, it is similar to spinach.
Begin with a "mess" of poke salad: enough leaves to fill a shoebox or plastic grocery bag.
- Wash and rinse the leaves.
- Add to cook pot and bring to boil. As soon as it is boiling, drain and refill with water. Do this two more times.
- After boiling and draining three times, squeeze out the excess water.
- Place boiled poke in a mixing bowl and stir in two eggs.
- Add bacon grease to a skillet on medium heat.
- Cook the poke until the egg is done, stirring frequently.
- Salt to taste.
- Optional: cook with a half cup of chopped onions.
Modern Healthy Variation
- Olive oil instead of bacon grease.
- Soy-based bacon bits for the bacon flavoring
- Free-range eggs.
- Spike instead of salt
...The root has also been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, tonsillitis, mumps, glandular fever and other complaints involving swollen glands, chronic catarrh, and bronchitis.
Anti-AIDS drug? In recent times, poke has been found helpful in the treatment of diseases related to a compromised immune system. Even more amazing, new research has revealed that it contains a possible cure for Pediatric Leukemia. The Pokeweed Antiviral Protein, properly administered, kills leukemia cells! In one study, 15 out of 18 participating children attained remission. Studies continue.
- The pokeweed family includes several enormous South American trees and some unusual serpentine vines of the tropics.
- Poke comes from the Algonquian Indian word "pakon" or "puccoon," referring to a dye plant used for staining.
- Poke is sometimes spelled polk. The leaves were reportedly worn by enthusiastic supporters during the campaign of James K. Polk, 11th president of the United States.
- Poke contains vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
- Poke contains steroids that resemble cortisone, making it a helpful treatment for skin conditions like psoriases, acne, and fungal infections.
- During the War Between the States, soldiers fashioned quills from feathers and used ripe pokeberry juice for ink. Some of these letters can be found in museums today, as legible as they were on the day Sherman burned Atlanta.
The United States Declaration of Independence was written in fermented pokeberry juice (hence the common name 'inkberry'). Many letters written home during the American Civil War were written in pokeberry ink; the writing in these surviving letters appears brown. A rich brown dye can be made by soaking fabrics in fermenting berries in a hollowed-out pumpkin.
Time is short: