Crunchy Mama's Urban Homestead

Come learn about awesome plants on my homestead

Consuming Raspberry Leaves

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.

young raspberry leaves

 

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.

Raspberry Plant:

  • 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”)

Raspberry leaf set with 5 leaflets and another leaf set turned over to show the silvery underside

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.

poison ivy leaf set with a raspberry leaf set in lower left side of the photo

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Wild Edible Short – On Flavors

Whenever I talk to folks about eating wild edibles and the topic of dandelions comes up, I refer back to some advice that John Kallas gave in his AMAZING book Edible Wild Plants.  He wrote something to the effect of this: Most people like to eat meals that have a medley of flavors.

Don’t think that to include bitter wild edibles in your diet that you need to eat a plate full of dandelion greens!  YIKES!  That’s ridiculous.  If you are not fond of bitter foods, just include a tiny bit into your meal — mixed in with other foods (such as green smoothies).  For instance, I only put one or two chopped dandelion leaves (young ones) in my entire salad. Same goes for garlic mustard — just 2 or 3 leaves, chopped, go into my entire salad.  I still get the benefit of the bitter foods but I don’t have to endure my meal.  I enjoy the variety of flavors on my tongue.

For more of my posts on wild edibles, please click this link.

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I’m hiding

I love enjoying nature and working outdoors most of the year but July and August are like January and February to most other folks around my area.  I’d rather be inside reading a book.  Mid-summer’s heat, humidity and mosquitoes are just the pits!  I almost like January and February’s cold better because at least the bugs aren’t attacking me.  But I’m not complaining really.  It’s just part of the year’s cycle and so I adapt.

My garden is growing strong.  I have tomato plants that are well over 6 feet tall.  I can barely walk down the walk-ways.

The weeds are growing, too.  I’m a horrible weeder.  I do some here and there but I’ve never been consistent or thorough about it.  And you know what?  It hasn’t mattered.  Most of the weeds in my garden are edible anyway, even though there are some that I haven’t actually tried yet.  I happily pick wild spinach (aka lamb’s quarters) almost daily as well as purslane for salads.  I’m fine for them to go to seed — actually I want some of them to go to seed for new plants next year.

I’ve got at least two types of amaranth — haven’t gotten around to researching how exactly you prepare and eat the green shoots.  Same for black nightshade.  Not deadly nightshade (that would be belladonna).  Of course, there is debate about the edibility of black nightshade.  I plan on trying some of the ripe berries this year but I’ll probably wait until next spring to try some of the properly prepared shoots.

Back to weeding.  I’m not sure if it’s because I have very rich soil (thank you, chickens) or because it really doesn’t matter but having lots of weeds in my garden has not stopped my cultivated plants from producing bumper crops every. single. year.

So, I don’t put a high priority on weeding, especially when it is hot, humid and buggy.   The mosquitoes are merciless (even with my homemade bug-off formula) and I don’t like to be out in my garden except long enough to check the plants for growing (and ready) fruit and  for problems (such as pests or falling over and needed to be staked/trellised/tied up better).  I want to say that it was Steve Solomon who wrote that the best fertilizer is the gardener’s feet.  It really is good to check on the garden daily — which is why being on vacation for 6 days in early July was a dumb move on my part.  I won’t make that mistake again!

Protection from crazy, swarming mosquitos

Yesterday I had it with the mosquitoes and I determined that I would gear up this morning so that I would not get eaten alive.  I got my DriDucks rain jacket with hood on and a mosquito head net over that.  It WORKED!  Oh those b*st*rds tried like crazy to get me but they couldn’t get through the barriers.  It was hot but I’d rather have hot and sweaty than a bazillion mosquito bites.

 

 

 

So, I am hiding  inside  enjoying my time inside reading some really great books.  I’m almost done with Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes.  I will most definitely be reading through it again and will be posting more on it in the coming months.

But really I am researching and reviewing preservation techniques in anticipation of another bumper crop of food.  I already know how to can and freeze and do some fermentation.  However, I have borrowed a book called Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by The Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante.  The appeal to me of these techniques is that they use less energy to process and store than canning and freezing.  They also hold promise to taste better than canned food.  Personally, I’m not a big fan of canned food but it does have its merits.   And, lastly, they are uncomplicated; they do not require fancy or expensive equipment.  I’ll be sure to post on my successes and failures in trying these methods.

Some of the recipes that I have ear-marked are: cherry tomatoes preserved in oil, vegetable medley preserved in oil, Pistou (a French version of pesto), tomato puree balls stored in oil, and whole tomatoes preserved in brine.  I’m still reading through the book so I’m sure that there will be more recipes that I’d like to try.

Lastly, a few days ago I started 2 quarts of sauerkraut using only cabbage, caraway seeds and Real salt.  Thanks to my blogging buddy Survival Sherpa for the terrific post on how to make sauerkraut.  I’ll let you know how it tastes.

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PS I know y’all down South think I’m a wimp about the heat and bugs but at least I know my weaknesses. 😉  I suspect that I might be part Eskimo 🙂  Have  great day wherever you are!

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Succulent, Delicious Garden Weed: Purslane

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Welcome to another installment of Crunchy Mama’s Wild Food Adventures!  I am pleased to present one of my favorite summer wild edibles: purslane (Portulaca oleracea)!  I noticed purslane last year in my organic veggie garden.  It was prolific (because we had put an irrigation system in).  Once I found out that it was edible, I tried it and I really enjoyed eating it.  It is a mild-tasting, very slightly lemony, succulent vegetable that happens to be grown outside of the U.S., on purpose, to be eaten as one of the most nutritious vegetables around.  In the U.S., most folks call it a weed.

An acquaintence of mine mentioned that she developed an allergy to purslane.  So, I am going to give a variation of the warning that just about every wild food blogger (teacher, etc.) gives to his/her audience: Whenever you eat a food that you have never eaten before, you should only have a little so that you can see how your body reacts to the new food.  Additionally, you really should get solid confirmation from several reputable sources that the plant that you’d like to eat is what you think it is.  I often take videos and photos of plants that I am unsure of and post them in wild edibles forums such as the forum at Eat the Weeds and several wild edible Facebook groups.

Benefits of purslane:

According John Kallas, purslane is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and glutathione (140). Other sources say it is high in vitamin A and C.  If you grow it on purpose, it is drought-tolerant once established.  Because it contains mucilage, it is very soothing to mucus membranes in your digestive system.  Other foods and medicinal plants that contain mucilage are: okra, slippery elm, marsh mallow (not the white sticky sweet treat), chia seeds, flax seeds, and aloe.

Here blogger Meghan Telpner writes about the health benefits of mucilaginous foods.

Videos

Here is a video by YouTube user thejourneyoutdoors in which he shows purslane and a toxic look-alike which he calls spurge.  After digging around to find out the scientific name for the toxic plant, I found out that it is Euphorbia maculata (or prostrate spurge).  The biggest help to find out if a plant is spurge or purslane is if it has a milky sap.  Purslane has clear liquid inside.

Here is a video that I made in which I show another purslane look-alike.  I am pretty sure that it is prostrate pigweed or mat amaranth (Amaranthus blitoides). 

Here are a few more videos on purslane by fellow YouTubers.

My experiences with the plant and what others say about it

I have only eaten it raw in salads or just as-is when I am working in the garden.  However, I have read from several sources that you can cook it with other things and it will thicken the dish in the same way that okra would thicken a dish.  This is because it is mucilaginous.  The mucilage is released when it is cooked.

Purslane-containing recipes (along with other tidbits on purslane):

http://www.culinarymusings.com/2008/06/purslane-not-a-weed-but-a-wonder/

http://www.prairielandcsa.org/recipes/purslane.html

Tomato, Cucumber, and Purslane Salad

http://www.mariquita.com/recipes/purslane.html

http://www.gardenguides.com/115934-purslane-recipes.html

Pickled Purslane

Look-alike plants

Amaranthus blitoides images  — this plant is not toxic; I’ve read from some sources that they are edible but I have no experience with preparing and consuming them.

Euphorbia maculata images — this plant has milky sap and is toxic to include giving you a skin rash

Itemization for (or how to identify) purslane:

Identification: The stems are smooth and red and the leaves are spatulate-shaped and thick.  The leaves grow directed from the red stems, usually in clusters. The leaves have a glittery sheen to them (as compared to a clear shininess on A. blitoides — see my video for comparison).  The leaf veins are subdued, probably because it is a succulent plant. This is a sprawling plant (meaning it grows along the ground instead of upward).

Time of Year: Purslane likes hot weather.

Environment:  It will thrive in moist, fertile soil but it is drought tolerant.  It likes plenty of sunshine.

Method of preparation: You can eat the stems, leaves, flowers and seeds (but not the root).  Eat them raw or cooked.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this post, please click the “LIKE” button and consider subscribing via email, Twitter ,  Pinterest or your favorite reader.  P.S. more resources are listed below.

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Resources on purslane:

Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas (pages 129 – 140)

http://www.msuturfweeds.net/details/_/common_purslane_34/

Resources on “prostrate pigweed” or “mat amaranth” (Amaranthus blitoides):

http://gobotany.newenglandwild.org/species/amaranthus/blitoides/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranthus_blitoides

http://practicalplants.org/wiki/Amaranthus_blitoides

http://www.pfaf.org/User/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Amaranthus+blitoides

Resources on prostrate spurge (Euphorbia maculata) — the TOXIC one:

http://www.msuturfweeds.net/details/_/prostrate_spurge_38/

http://ontariowildflowers.com/main/species.php?id=604

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphorbia_maculata (The sap of this plant is a skin irritant and will cause a rash similar to Poison Ivy. Use gloves when pulling this weed.)

http://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/spotted-spurge (“Commonly there is a faint to prominent red splotch mid-leaf, but not always. Stems are up to 16 inches long, typically prostrate but occasionally ascending some, sparsely to densely hairy, often reddish colored, branching frequently, forming large circular mats.”)  That it is hairy is a big clue that it is NOT purslane.

Wow!  That’s a lot of information on purslane and its look-alikes!  Better to have more information than not enough when it comes to wild edibles.

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Today’s mulberry harvest! 18.5 ounces :)

From our mulberry tree in our front yard.

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Green Sour Butterfly Leaves (Wood Sorrel; Oxalis) — Crunchy Mama’s Wild Edible Adventures

Greetings, friends!  Next up in my wild edibles series is wood sorrel.  Wood sorrel might be mistaken by new foragers for clover but after reading this post you will know how to distinguish it from clover.  It is similar to clover in that it has three small leaves coming from the end of a small stem.  Wood sorrel, however, has three heart-shaped leaves and the veins in the leaflets radiate out from the base whereas clover has three egg-shaped leaves and the veins in the leaflet come out from various points from the center vein.  The wood sorrel flowers have 5 petals and the clover flowers have “lots of tiny pea-like flowers clustered together on flower heads” (Kallas).  Click here to see images of clover flowers.  Both clover leaves and flowers and wood sorrel leaves and flowers are edible but the taste difference is very distinct.

Wood sorrel between my fingers

 
Wood sorrel has a bright, sour, lemony flavor.  Clover does not have this sour flavor.  The sour flavor comes from a mixture of acids including oxalic acid; a common warning to those with kidney problems, gout, etc. is that they should avoid plants with oxalic acid.  Everyone should be aware that consuming vast amounts of foods with oxalic acid might cause problems (see below for more links regarding oxalic acid).  Many “normal” foods have oxalic acid but there are no big warning labels on them regarding oxalic acid (spinach, swiss chard, and beet greens, okra, figs, peanuts to name a few, according to http://juicing-for-health.com/oxalic-acid.html).  John Kallas writes, “[i]n spite of many authors claiming so, oxalates are not a problem for normal healthy humans eating a normally diverse diet.”  You will need to do your own research and decide what works for you. 
 
One of its nutritional benefits when consumed as part of a varied diet and in moderation (whatever THAT means — sarcasm) is that it is high in vitamin C.  Another source says that it is high in vitamin A.  Kallas reports that it is high in iron and calcium.
 
 
Other names it might be called are: sour grass, shamrock (although clovers are sometimes called shamrock so I would avoid calling wood sorrel shamrock), yellow oxalis, sour clover, or oxalis (after the genus that it belongs to).
 
I have personally only eaten wood sorrel as “trail nibble”, meaning that I just picked some leaves and ate them then and there.  Because of the oxalic acid, the surface of your teeth will feel strange for a few minutes.  It’s the same feeling that you would get after eating raw spinach leaves (for the same reason: oxalic acid). 
 
Poisonous look-alikes? No
 
Here is the itemization for wood sorrel:
 
Identification: Herbaceous (non-woody) plant with slender rhizomes; each leaf (green or plum-colored) is made of three heart-shaped leaflets that are an inch or less in length and they grow out from one point at the end of the leaf stalk (aka the petiole, pronounced PET ee ohl) and each leaflet has a crease along the middle and the leaflets can open and close depending on the weather (like a butterfly); the small flowers can be yellow or violet and have 5 petals. 
 
Time of year: spring through fall
 
Environment: Found in the lower 48 States. Likes partly shady areas and moist soil.
 
Method of preparation: You can eat the leaves, flowers and pods raw or cooked.  John Kallas recommends that when you snip off the leaves and flowers that you snip about 1/2 inch down the stem (from the leaves and flowers).  The stem is fibrous so you do not want to include much of the stem.  You can include some wood sorrel in your salad (maybe 20% of your greens) or you  can add them to soups or make a tangy sauce with them (see Kallas’ book for the recipes).  You can dry the stems, bundle them together with some clean string and make a tea by seeping the dried stems for a minute or two in hot water, according to Kallas.
 

Additional resources for learning more about wood sorrel:

John Kallas’ Edible Wild Plants pages 177-190 (This book is one of the BEST books on wild edibles! Go read the reviews!)

Green Deane’s http://www.eattheweeds.com/sorrel-not-a-sheepish-rumex/

Steve Brill’s http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Sorrel.html

http://www.american-lawns.com/problems/weeds/wood_sorrel.html

http://kingdomplantae.net/yellowWoodSorrel.php

http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/sorwoo68.html

More reading on oxalic acid:

http://juicing-for-health.com/oxalic-acid.html (“ORGANIC oxalic acid is essential for our body. It is the INORGANIC form of
oxalic acid that we need to be aware of.”)

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400344/Avoid-Vegetables-with-Oxalic-Acid.html

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Gorgeous, Delicious and Nutritious Violets! My Wild Food Adventures Series

I’ve said that ostrich fern shoots are my favorite wild edible but violets are a super-close second.  They are so lovely!  On my property, I have lots of Viola odorata.  Collecting Violets

The young leaves are mild and great in salads.  The flowers are mild-tasting with a hint of sweetness; you can just pluck and eat or gather some for a beautiful addition to your salad or sprinkle on your cooked and plated food.

Violets top my salad In this photo, I have a base of cut-up turnips topped with an avocado slice, tomato slices, garlic mustard leaves, and violet flowers and young leaves.

Here are some close-up photos that I took:

Violet flower Violet leave front Violet leave back

Violets & other plants

In this photo, you see a violet plant growing all by itself and so I just used some scissors to harvest the leaves.   Harvest Violets

Here is the itemization of the violet:

Identifying Features:

Flowers have 5 petals in a butterfly shape.  They grow as a single flower at the end of the stem.  There is a sharp bend where the flower and the stem join.

Leaves are heart-shaped; the sides often curl toward the juncture of the stem and the leaf.

Roots are fibrous and are NOT edible and actually toxic according to Teresa Marrone.

Time of Year: mid-spring to early-summer for the flowers and leaves (before they become tough from the summer heat)

Environment: Preferably moist soil with some shade.

Method of Preparation: You can eat the flowers and young leaves (lighter green) raw.  You can also cook the young leaves as well as older leaves as you would spinach.

Medicinal uses? Yes! Two Herbal Mamas has a video on how to make an oil infusion with violets. And on their blog they have a post which lists the medicinal qualities of the plant: “Violet…contains saponins, salicylates, alkaloids, flavonoides and volatile oils. The actions of this shy plant are anti-inflammatory, expectorant, diuretic, anti-rheumatic, laxative and stabilizes capillary membranes. Violet contains an enormous amount of Vitamin A. Chew on a violet leaf and spit it out on to your hand. Give the leaf a good rub. You will feel the slippery mucilage contained in this powerful plant. Mucilaginous herbs are moist, and soothe skin ailments and internal mucous surfaces.”

 

Poisonous look-alikes?  Larkspur and Monkshood— there blooms look similar perhaps to an untrained eye but you can absolutely tell the difference between them and violets in short order.

The larkspur bloom has a long spur on the rear of the bloom.  There are good photos here. The leaves are very different as well.  And, lastly, there are multiple blooms coming from one stem (unlike the violet which is one bloom on the end of the stem).

There are some good photos and information on monkshood here. Again, the leaves are very different than violet leaves; monkshood leaves are palmate while violet leaves are heart-shaped. While the blooms can be the same color as violets AND have 5 petals they are shaped differently.  According to the Wikipedia link at the beginning of this paragraph, “[the flowers] are distinguishable by having one of the five petaloid sepals (the posterior one), called the galea, in the form of a cylindrical helmet; hence the English name monkshood.”

According to Abundantly Wild by Teresa Marrone, you would be wise to collect violet leaves only when the plant is in bloom because the the leaves can resemble some poisonous plant leaves.   When the plant is in bloom, it will be easy for you to recognize and gather the correct leaves.

As with anything that you put in your mouth, you need to properly identify the plant. Here are more resources on properly identifying and eating violets:

Green Deane’s Eat the Weeds;

Eating Violets by The Urban Forager (Ava Chin);

Wild Man Steve Brill (great illustrations and close-up photos);

Elias and Dykeman’s Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide (pages 95, 96, 116);

Abundantly Wild by Teresa Marrone;

Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Great Lakes Region by Thomas A. Naegele

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