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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Edible Weeds

Well, the pictures I took did not come out. I will have to post links to pictures on the Internet of these plants but PLEASE don't go out and eat something based on these pictures. Get a good book from the library, and check it against another good book. Some plants have very similar looking poisonous relatives.

The class was great. We had about an hour lecture, and then we were split into groups to find the plants, cook them using a recipe, and then taken on guided tours to identify other plants. The speaker, Dr. Peter Gail, decided it was a better approach to give us six plants that would be common in our yards, their benefits, uses, etc. and give us a year to learn them and become accustomed to them. Then next year we will learn 5 or 6 more. He said if he just named every edible weed, we could get overwhelmed and not use any of them. I also learned a few extra plants because as we went on our guided tours with his staff, people asked about things that were really prevalent in their yards.

So the plants I learned about this year were;

plantain
This was funny to find out, because as a kid, I would make mud pies, and use the dried seeds of the plantain shoot as 'sprinkles' on my pies. I had no idea it was actually edible.

mallow
This looks very similar to gill over the ground, but the tour guide showed us the distinctions. Mallow is very popular in Egypt for a salad base.

dandelion
I think everyone has heard how great dandelions are. One of the recipes we got to try out was dandelion pita pizzas. They were very good!

sorrels (specifically oxalis)
This immediately makes me think of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, when she picks sorrel for a wedding bouquet and says it makes "Real nourishin' soup". That's what we did with it, made a soup with cream. It can also be used to make lemonade.

gill over the ground
This is good for making tea as it has a minty flavor to it.

amaranth
This one surprised me because I have ordered amaranth from the co-op before for making bread. I had no idea it grew wild around here or what it looked like. I believe the principle use of this is as a grain, but it is edible in the green as well.

lamb's quarters
Free and abundant substitute for spinach. Dr, Gail's family lived on this for quite a time after his father's death until his mother could get a job. They did everything you could think of to it- creamed it, had it in salads, used it in casseroles. We learned, though, that if the stems have red streaks to limit the amount you eat because that means they have absorbed excess nitrogen.

Purselane
They made a Mexican recipe with this one, but I didn't get to try it! This one is rich in Omega-3 oil.

The family that hosted the event has goats, so everything was made with goat cheese or cream (which meant we could eat it since we are lactose intolerant). It was very yummy. They also deep-fried battered queen Anne's lace, but I stayed away from it for two reasons: 1. I am allergic to it. I can't even smell those things without getting sick. 2. It is SO similar looking to hemlock, which will kill you, that I don't want to bother.

We were also given samples of the dandelion coffee substitute that Dr, Gail invented and sells. It was pretty good, but I didn't get to taste it straight up as they had made it into lattes. There were books for sale (I of course did not have my check book) which are available through the website. There are recipes and even a botany book that I think will be great for homeschooling. It was an awesome day!

5 comments:

Our Family of Five said...

This sounds like such a neat field trip!! What kind of place did you go to? A lab of sorts?

I have enjoyed reading some of your posts. :) God Bless.

Kate said...

Gill on the ground and mallow- what are the differences? And, do either of them go by the name creeping Charlie? I was told that is what is taking over our yard. I don't particularly care if it grows where the grass is suppose to be as it is rather green, but dh is not liking it much!
Alright, I googled it and it seems that gill on the ground is creeping Charlie- so how do I know if I have that or mallow?

motherofmany said...

Mallow has very pointy ruffles around the egdes, like teeth, and grows in clusters, like small bushes or trees. Gill over the ground (also known as creeping charlie, or ground ivy, or a few other names) has very soft scallops around the edges. Also, if you had both in your hand, one would be puffier with soft 'furr' and the other would be flatter with bristles.

What you have is most likely gill over the ground, as it creeps along. If you crush a little of it in your hand, you should smell mint. It will not be as strong as peppermint, but it will smell minty. Both are good for stomach ailments and digestion.

The speaker showed some slides, and one was of a line of people waiting for food after hurricane Katrina, and behind them was a giant feild full of these free foods. Why wasn't the government gathering it?

Also, Dr. Gail said the Bible says that even the birds do not worry about food, and people say, "where is the food God will give us all that we shouldn't worry?", and he said "You're standing on it!!!!"

motherofmany said...

This was a class of sorts offered by some of the farm agencies around here. It was held at a local farm, and the speaker came to tell us about edible weeds. They are planning to make it yearly because it was such a success.

He said something like 80-95% of what we call weeds are actually plants brought here as food sources and people forgot what they were used for. Stuff we pay to kill is sold in gourmet markets and very popular in foreign countries.

Have you heard the saying "A weed is a plant we just haven't found a use for yet"? Well, Dr. Gail re-worded it to say "A weed is a plant we have forgotten the use for!"

I'm not sure how to find out where an edible weeds class would be near your home. Maybe call your extension agent. This one was advertised in the paper.

Tanya said...

That is really neat. I have only heard of the dandelions of course. I have heard of someone making dandelion jelly. I haven't had the guts to try it though.