I have an amazing amount of wild spinach (Chenopodium album) and that makes up the bulk of our greens but I also pick a few other types of leaves including young grape leaves and young raspberry leaves. In this post, I’ll write about just the raspberry leaves. I’ll save the grape leaves for a future post.
I like to consume some of the leafy greens in my diet in the form of green smoothies (the other part in salads; I’m not a big fan of sauteed greens). My green smoothies consist of a few cups of washed greens and a few cups of frozen (or unfrozen) fruit and water. My favorite fruits are frozen blueberries and frozen bananas but we also use pineapple, mulberries, raspberries, melons, peaches, grapes, etc. I also started sprinkling some cinnamon and kelp granules into our smoothies. You can taste the cinnamon goodness but thankfully not the kelp. Sometimes I will put in some coconut milk. What turned me on to green smoothies was Victoria Boutenko’s book Green Smoothies Consuming more leafy greens really resonated with me. The benefit of increasing the amount of veggies in one’s diet is hard to argue with. One of the most surprising things that I learned from her book is that greens are actually high in protein. Sweet!
I choose young raspberry leaves and young grape leaves. The raspberry leaves that I choose are just an inch or long; and, of course, they come as a set of three. They are a much lighter and brighter green than the old leaves. I simply pluck off the set of three with my thumb nail and middle finger. I don’t take any of the thorny stem. I have tasted the leaves plain and they really don’t have much of a taste. I don’t put these in my salads or eat them as “trail nibble” because I do not think that they have a good mouth feel. As a side note, raspberry leaves can be dehydrated and later steeped for tea. Here are the benefits of the tea, according to Traditional Medicinals.
If you are new to gardening and/or wild edibles, you should definitely know what poison ivy looks like (for a variety of reasons). I mention this because of the one similarity that raspberry leaves and poison ivy leaves have: the leaves grow in sets of three. Perhaps you have heard the phrase: “leaves of three, let them be”. This is good advice for people who are new to identifying plants. However, as you examine the two plants side by side you will see some very distinct differences. I will list out the characteristics of each.
- thorny stem/cane grows upright for a few feet before making an arch back down to the ground as the stem continues to grow (note: some plants may be thornless)
- leaves grow in sets of three (but sometimes five)
- leaves have lots of small “teeth” along the edges (they serrated)
- the underside of the leaves are silver-colored
- leaves are astringent (pop a young leaf into your mouth and you won’t taste much but the leaf will give your mouth a very mild but strange sensation which someone called “cotton mouth”)
Poison Ivy (info taken from this webpage of the site Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac Information Center (linked below))
- “It can appear as a ground cover, a shrub, or as a vine growing up a tree. Older vines are covered in fibrous roots resembling hair that grow into the supporting tree.”
- “It has dull or glossy compound leaves on a long stem that are divided into 3 leaflets, each 2-4″ (5-10 cm) long. The leaflets can be slightly lobed, and are a dark waxy green, above, and light, fuzzier beneath. A short stem sets off the end leaf.” My note: the leaves can also have a burnt orange color.
- “Poison ivy grows throughout eastern North America…[and] can be found in Bermuda and the Bahamas. Poison ivy…grow[s] in open woods, thickets, fence rows, stone walls, roadsides, and waste places. On roadsides, it tends to be ground cover, and in sandy coastal areas, it tends to be an erect shrub. In woods, you’ll mostly see the vines on trees.”
This site is dedicated to poison ivy: Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac Information Center. I highly recommend the Poison Ivy Tutorial on their site to better familiarize yourself with poison ivy. Another nice article on poison ivy (by Twin Eagles Wilderness School) is here. And this pdf from jim mcdonald with close-up, color photos.