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Have you ever considered that there are edible plants and fruits around you "in the wild". We have been so accustomed to food from the store, or the garden, that we have forgotten about other plants, often considered weeds, that are also not only edible but also healthy. If depends where you are living what you will find. We will give you here some ideas based on the location we are living in: the Mid-Hudson Valley in New York state.
Most of the plants here have also medicinal properties, but in this article we only focus on the use as food.
Leading nutritionists have discovered that the type of fats is more important than the total fats consumed. The main concern about nuts has always been the fat and cholesterol content, but it is important to distinguish between saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats, found mostly in meat and cheeses, contain cholesterol and choke arteries with plaque. They are considered to be the "bad" fats. Nuts are plant products and are low in saturated fats and contain no cholesterol. Ninety percent of the fats in nuts are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated type. These unsaturated fats are the "good" fats. Eating fresh raw nuts will raise the percentage of unsaturated fats and lower the percentage of the "bad" saturated fats in the bloodstream. On average, one ounce of nuts contains 165 to 200 calories and 14 to 21 grams of fat, but ninety-three percent of the fat in walnuts and ninety percent of the fat in almonds is unsaturated.
Nuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber (one ounce of nuts has as much fiber as two slices of whole wheat bread), vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, biotin, riboflavin, niacin, and phytochemicals. Because of their protein content, they are listed as an alternative to meat in the USDA Food Guide Pyramid.
Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa)
The nuts are enclosed in a woody, spiny bur that is brown when ripe. We have one growing down the road. It probably sprang up wild. Every fall they fall down partially on the road, and are easy pickings. Just peel of the brown skin. Some people also peel off the inner skin as it is bitter. It is better to not do so, as the bitter taste and nutrients of the inner skin are very good for the digestion. Sometimes the husks are not fully open when they fall down. Be careful when prying them open, as the stickers are sharp! Low in fat and calories, chestnuts provide carbohydrates and small amounts of potassium and protein. Chestnuts are rich in starch, oils, and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and C; copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.
The shagbark is the most common of the hickories and is an important timber tree with a narrow, open crown. It is found all over the eastern United States ranging from bottomlands and moist slopes to the drier slopes and ridge tops. The fruit is a brownish nut with a thick shell and a sweet kernel, enclosed in a thick, splitting husk.
The nuts are easy to gather when they fall down, and most trees have a great yield. The nuts have to be cracked with a nut cracker. The inside nut is not always easy to get, and a fine knife is required to pry the "flesh" out. But it is worth it! They taste very good. The squirrels and chipmunks know that too!
There are some other varieties of hickory with slightly different shapes of nuts. Apparently hickory nuts are the wild variety of pecans.
Hickory nuts are a good protein.
We haven't found any beech trees here in Woodstock, NY, but where Dirk came from (Flanders, Belgium) there were plenty around. In the fall they produce numerous beechnuts. It is a lot of work to gather all those tiny nuts, but they are well worth it!
The mature beechnuts readily fall out of the husk-like seedpods. You can eat these dark brown triangular nuts by breaking the thin shell with your fingernail and removing the white, sweet kernel inside. Beechnuts are one of the most delicious of all wild nuts. The kernel has high oil content.
Hazelnut or Wild Filbert (Corylus species)
We haven't found any hazelnuts around here, but there were plenty where Dirk came from (Flanders, Belgium), mostly cultivated varieties. They produce well, and the nuts are delicious. They have a high oil content.
Hazelnuts are found over wide areas in the United States, especially the eastern half of the country and along the Pacific coast.
The walnut itself has a thick outer husk that must be removed to reach the hard inner shell of the nut. Walnut meats are highly nutritious because of their protein and oil content.
|Black Walnut (Juglans
Walnut meats are highly nutritious because of their protein and oil content.
There is a Black Walnut tree growing down the street. I first noticed it because of the green husks on the road in the fall. They are hard to miss, as they are large and bright yellow-green. I made a tincture out of the husks. Black Walnut tincture is a good disinfectant for skin problems. It is also used internally for getting rid of parasites. L
I later learned that black walnuts are edible, that is, the meats inside the shell of course. Limit your intake of Black Walnuts to two or three a day, as the nutmeats have a little bit of the same substance that is in the hulls, your body can handle a small amount and gets rid of it. The Black Walnut is composed of an inner nutmeat, surrounded by a hard corrugated round shell composed of two fused halves. This in turn is surrounded by the thick green outer husk. A brown-black dye will easily seep from the moist husk into the skin of your hand, rendering them stained for a couple of days. The husks were traditionally used for stain or dye.
Black Walnut nutmeats look just like regular walnuts, but are much tastier. It has a rich, wonderful taste with a particular flavor, making it worth the extra effort of removing the green husk, staining your hands (and anything else it touches) and cracking the shell open with a hammer (no, a nutcracker won't do!). It is easier to remove the husks while they are still green as once darkened they become mushy making it difficult to remove them from the shell without an even bigger mess. Wear good rubber gloves, with no holes in them! Sap will seep out and stains within seconds.
The berries here all are a good source of ellagic acid which is known for it's cancer-fighting abilities.
We haven't found any wild blackberries around, but wild raspberries keep springing up on our property. Their fruit is small but good. We have planted a cultivated variety in the garden with bigger berries. They multiply like crazy sending up shoots. We also have a cultivated variety of blackberries (no spikes) which produces heavily, except when there is a prolonged and hard frost in the winter which kills the second year canes which are the ones that make the berries.
These plants are worth having!
Blackberries abound in antioxidants, including anthocyanin pigments which are responsible for the purplish-black color of the berries. Additional antioxidants in blackberries are vitamins C and E; all may provide protection against cancer and chronic disease.
Raspberries are an excellent source of vitamin A, C, B2, B3, B5, B6, manganese copper, zinc, magnesium, folate, biotin, and potassium.
We are at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains (New York state), and many varieties of blueberry shrubs are found in abundance on the mountainsides. Their fruits may be dark blue or black and have many small seeds.
Although high in Vitamin C, their antioxidant properties mainly come from their high content of anthocyanins, a group of flavonoids that are three to four times more potent than vitamin C.
They like to grow on wide open, sunny places. there is nothing like the taste of a wild strawberry! Their fruits are small, but the taste makes it worth finding them. They are high in vitamin C. They come in the spring and don't last long.
Elderberry is a many stemmed shrub. It grows to a height of 6 meters. Its flowers are fragrant, white, and borne in large flat-topped clusters up to 30 centimeters across. Its berrylike fruits are dark blue or black when ripe.
There are not that many around in our area, as the deer eat their leaves destroying the plants. But we managed to find one in a protected spot, rooted a branch and put it in our fenced in garden. They are abundant in Belgium, and Dirk used to gather them there by the bag full and make syrup. Very good and medicinal during the winter.
Both flowers and fruit are edible. The flowers are best for making a tea and the fruits are a bit too sour to enjoy off the bush, but good as syrup.
Their fruit is extremely rich in vitamin C.
(Molus nigra and alba)
There are a lot of mulberry trees around here, they go wild, sprouting up from seeds. Some of them produce better than others depending on their location. There are a couple in the middle of town, along a meadow where the flea market is. Nobody seems to bother with them, although they are bearing heavily. Perhaps it is because they are messy, and the darker colored ones stain your fingers and mouth. But they are sweet, and tasty! Don't go mulberry picking in a white shirt!
Mulberries are edible raw or cooked. They can be dried for eating later.
When eaten in quantity, mulberry fruit acts as a laxative.
Mulberries are high in vitamin C, iron, magnesium, potassium, and riboflavin.
Greens and Flowers
Dandelion is everywhere in the world. Dandelion grows to a height of 12
inches. Dandelion's leaves and root may have benefits on liver, gallbladder,
kidney, and joint health. Dandelion may also be a blood purifier.
You can also eat dandelion flowers, or use them to make wine, before mid-spring, when the most flowers bloom. Use the flower’s yellow parts. The green sepals at the flower’s base are bitter.
Nasturtiums are a great herb to have around the garden, not only can you
eat the whole plant which is high in vitamin c and benefits your health,
it is an attractive flower and adds color to any garden. This is such an
easy plant to grow and it doesn’t need a lot of tending. Dry places won't
do, however, and they need sun.
Nasturtiums are rich in Vitamins A and C, iron, iodine and phosphorus.
Chicory is growing all over our property, actually it is found all over the region. It springs up in the garden too, where it grows even better due to the fertile soil. They bloom in the morning and all day if it's cloudy, bringing wonderful color to the meadow.
All parts are edible. Eat the young leaves as a salad or boil to eat as a vegetable. Cook the roots as a vegetable.
The roots also make an excellent coffee substitute, (without the caffeine), when roasted in an oven until dark brown and brittle, ground, and prepared like coffee; use roughly 1-1/2 teaspoons chicory for each cup of water. The very young leaves can be eaten fresh in salads and the older, bitter leaves can be boiled in several waters and eaten.
Chicory is a good source for potassium, vitamin A and C, folate, and calcium.
These plants, which grow 90 centimeters to 150 centimeters tall, are abundant weeds in many parts of the world. All amaranth have alternate simple leaves. They may have some red color present on the stems. They bear minute, greenish flowers in dense clusters at the top of the plants. Their seeds may be brown or black in weedy species and light-colored in domestic species. They also do well in the garden.
All parts are edible, but some may have sharp spines you should remove before eating. The young plants or the growing tips of older plants are an excellent vegetable. Simply boil the young plants or eat them raw. Their seeds are very nutritious. Shake the tops of alder plants to get the seeds. Eat the seeds raw, boiled, ground into flour, or popped like popcorn.
Amaranth is a good source for vitamin A, B6, C, riboflavin folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. It also contains oxalic acid, which inhibits the absorption of calcium in the same meal.
Burdock likes to grow on waste areas or along a field path. The first year the Burdock plant produces only green leafy growth. It is during the second year that it produces the long sturdy stems with annoying burrs. This plant has wavy-edged, arrow-shaped leaves and flower heads in burr like clusters. It grows up to 2 meters tall, with purple or pink flowers and a large, fleshy root. Peel the tender leaf stalks and eat them raw or cook them like greens. The roots are also edible boiled or baked.
Burdock Root contains vitamins A, B complex, C, E, and P. It contains high amounts of chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, and zinc, and lesser amounts of calcium, copper, manganese, and selenium.
We transplanted some wild nettles and now have a nice nettles patch near our garden. They are beneficial to the garden as well as us. We eat them mostly in the spring for two months (moons) after the shoots first appear. They are still edible but not as good after the flowers appear, and these are not eaten. The stinging element is on the underside of the leaves. It is no longer stinging after the leaves have been cooked. We cook them for an absolute minimum of time, just until they have thoroughly wilted. About a minute or less. Cook either in a small amount of water and cover, or in garlic and butter or oil. A tea is excellent, and also is very healthy for your scalp, and thickens the hair.
Nettles are maybe the most nutritious green plant on the planet! a real power food! Many of the benefits are due to the plant's very high levels of minerals, also the intensely green chlorophyll that they have. They're a good source of beta-carotene, and B complex vitamins. Nettles also have high levels of easily absorbable amino acids. They're ten percent protein, more than any other vegetable.
The material in this site is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for consultation by a healthcare provider. Please consult your own physician or appropriate healthcare provider about the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your own symptoms or medical conditions.