Other Names: Green amaranth, Pigweed, red root, carelessweed, choohugia (Pima name).
Characteristics: Annual herb. Averages 2 foot, but may reach 6 feet or more. With bristly seed heads, clustered on multi-branch stems from a central stalk. Flower seeds are black and shiny; leaves are smooth and veined with slightly toothed margins. Eastern amaranth seed heads or “flowers” are denser and shorter than the Western species. Western varieties may have long, spindly, bristly seed heads, and white seed pods with black seeds inside.
Primary Uses: Culinary, cosmetic. Use leaves and stems like spinach, eaten raw, steamed, sautéed, cooking liquid is drunk. Leaves are also dried and ground for flour. They are used in soups and stews. Seeds are used raw or dried for baked goods, cereal, mush.
Nutritional Value: High in vegetable protein. High calcium and vitamin E.
Cosmetic Value: Astringent, wrinkle cream.
Collection and Storage: Use entire plant. Harvest lower leaves and branches in summer as vegetables. Refrigerate or freeze; dry. Wait until plant is full grown for large seed heads. Amaranth seeds are easily collected in autumn by tapping the seed head over a bowl, even in summer on the desert.
Linda Says- The first time I saw amaranth I couldn’t believe my eyes! Tall, wondrous plants heavy with seeds bordering pasture and barn areas. There were hundreds of these “weeds” some bent over from the weight of their seeds. In less than 20 minutes I bundled enough amaranth for a week’s supply of fresh vegetable and almost a winter’s supply of flour. It did not take long to discover the wonders of amaranth in brownies, as a cooked green, or as a gruel.
Amaranth Vegetable Bread
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
6 cups all-purpose flour or 10 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups cooked, drained amaranth greens
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Place flour in a large bowl and mix in the yeast. Add the greens and mix by hand, kneading the dough for 3 minutes. Cover and let rise 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Punch dough down and form into 2 loaves. Place on a baking sheet and let rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake loaves for 40 minutes, or until they sound hollow when tapped. Serve hot. These loaves freeze well.
Makes 2 loaves
Linguine with Amaranth Cream Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 cups soymilk or cow’s milk
4 tablespoons rice or wheat flour
1 cup crushed dried young amaranth
1 pound linguine, cooked until al dente
In a large frying pan, melt the butter and sauté the garlic over low heat for about 10 minutes. In a saucepan, mix the milk and flour to make a thin paste. Add the flour mixture and amaranth and heat until smooth and thickened, about 3 minutes. Serve over the linguine.
Serves 2 to 3 as a main course
When I homesteaded in the Adirondack wilderness, the intake of calcium and protein was my main interest. Reading references about wild foods became a very necessary occupation when I went to the town library.
Red clover is one wild food that is high in vegetable protein and calcium. Red clover buds are sold in health food stores as a tonic for the body.
I began by putting red clover leaves between two pieces of whole wheat bread and pretending it was cheese. After a week or so, I began to forage freely on red clover leaves and buds for my sweet candy.
Little did I know the plant would eventually supply casseroles, teas, stir-fry and flour for baking. For a few months, red clover was added to spaghetti sauce and cream sauce for a halfway normal diet.
When foraging for any plant be sure include careful, 100 percent identification. For a complete set of foraging rules, please see below in the Dandelions section, “Rules of Foraging”. For red clover, rub the plant on your upper gum and wait 20 minutes for any reaction. If no reaction, make a weak tea then consume small sections of this new plant.
You may be fortunate to have a weedy backyard. If not, locate an access field and call to inquire how long ago the field was cultivated and what was grown there as far back as five years ago.
Most chemicals are washed down below the quick-growing weed root system and wild food roots are in the first 4 inches of topsoil as a rule. Hardy and fast-growing, these plants are the very ones the agricultural system needs to eradicate.
Clover: Trifolium pratense (red clover), Trefolium repens (white clover), Legume Family, LeguminosaeTrefolium pratense (L.)
History: Throughout all cultures; a Native American vegetable.
Characteristics: Biennial or perennial herb. Red clover reaches height of 10 inches or more, with hairy stems. Red or purple blossom with oval nectar sections; elongated leaves form trefoil with white vein when mature. White clover reaches height of 2 inches or more. White blossoms have dozens of nectar filled sections; round leaves form trefoil at end of stem.
Location: Fields, roadsides, backyards.
Collection and Storage: Plants are most succulent in spring and early summer. Gathering a winter’s supply of clover takes only a few minutes. Clover can be frozen by placing it in a single layer on freezer wrap, folding over 2 sides to hold the clover in place, and freezing. After the clover is frozen, roll the paper to make a compact package, fasten, and label. Dry seed heads separately for an attractive potpourri.
Parts used: Leaves, blossoms, stems, roots. All can be used raw or cooked, dried or frozen.
Medicinal Value: Red clover is used as tea for cough, whooping cough; blood tonic or purifier. Clover syrup used for chest congestion and bronchitis.
Hot Clover and Rice
1 cup milk or water
2 cups washed clover leaves
4 cups fluffy cooked rice
Add rice to a greased baking dish. Stir in clover and water (or milk). Stir again and serve hot. A protein delight. Serves 4.
Clover Sprout Muffins
3/4 cup partly cooked clover sprouts
1-1/4 cup whole wheat flour
5 teaspoons baking powder (optional)
1 tablespoon sugar (or honey)
1 cup milk or water
1 egg (optional)
2 tablespoons melted shortening (author uses water, no baking powder or egg, and sesame oil)
Stir flour, baking powder and honey together. Add milk or water and egg. Mix well. Add sprouts and melted shortening. Bake in a well-greased muffin tin at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Serves 3.
(Medicinal remedies suggested by this column are intended to be used solely at the discretion and responsibility of the user.)
CAUTION: Always check identification of wild foods with photographic sources. Some wild foods are toxic to humans. So when in doubt: DON’T! Also be aware of the use of chemicals in your lawn and neighbor’s lawn.
Cattail Family, Typhacerae
Other Names: Supermarket of the swamp, punk, upakiotipa (Crow Indian).
History: Native to North America, Europe, Asia. Cattail has been used for food throughout recorded history by people in all countries where it is found.
Habitat: Bogs, swamps, wet areas.
Characteristics: Perennial herb. Grows in wet areas to a height of 10 feet or more. Stalks have hot dog-shape heads, pollen flag in early spring. Very tall slender leaves with 1 vein.
Primary Uses: Culinary, medicinal. Roots are dried and ground for flour. Early shoots are eaten raw. Stem pith is eaten raw, boiled, and pickled. Early green heads are eaten raw, cut and cooked as ear of corn. Early brown heads are ground for flour. Pollen is used as nutrient additive. Leaves are used for basket weaving, mats, other crafts.
Nutritional Value: Plant holds about 30 percent complex carbohydrates; highly nutritious.
Medicinal Value: Flower heads used in tea for diarrhea control. Collection and Storage: Pollen collected in spring; shake into a paper bag. Stems harvested before the cattail flowers, whenever possible. Roots dug from winter to early spring. Gather fluff from mature heads for excellent insulation or stuffing for jackets. The fluff floats and is waterproof, and serves as excellent tinder and torch. Can be used as cotton.
Caution: If water purity is in doubt, use purification tablet and soak plant in solution.
Caution: Pollen fluff may cause skin to break out in hives.
Cactus Family, Cactaceae
Other Names: Jumping cactus.
History: Native to North America. Used by Hohokam, prehistoric desert people. Indian women used baskets, sticks, and wooden tongs made from saguaro ribs to gather the buds. A firepit was dug in the desert floor, and the buds and joints were placed in a mesquite fire, roasted, and split in two to eat the succulent insides.
Characteristics: Treelike cactus with many branches. Cholla cactus has dozens of individual egg-shaped barbarous sections extending from tree-like stems reaching heights of 3 feet or more. Flower is light rose color, fruit is green and smooth.
Primary Uses: Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic. Edible flowers, seeds, fruits, and bud extensions. Fruits are eaten raw, boiled, or baked. Dried for long-term storage. Fruits used in soups, casserole.
Nutritional Value: High in calcium and iron.
Medicinal Value: Gel applied on skin burns.
Cosmetic Value: Gel used as skin softener.
Collection and Storage: Use tongs and paper bags to collect fruit, leaves, and flowers of cholla. Spines and glochids are removed in any of several methods. Indians used flash fire, holding a flame under the burr to remove the glochids, so that they could be opened easily and handled with the fingers. Another method is to place burrs in one paper bag and transfer to another several times. Dry cholla buds on screens in the sun. Cover with cheesecloth if birds pick at them. Dried buds are stored in paper bags until needed. When needed, reconstitute in water about 3 to 4 hours, then boil for one-half hour.
Evelyn Neithammer (1974) found that the easiest way to clean cholla buds is to fill each of 2 saucepans one-third full of clean gravel. The buds are added and the gravel and buds poured from one pan to the other four or five times, or until rid of spines and glochids. (Glochids are minuscule, dense pockets of small barbs which protrude from the pads of prickly pear cactus. They are small but mighty protection against antelope, deer, and cattle of the Western plains.)
Caution: Spines and glochids will penetrate skin with a voracious sting and burning sensation. Do not touch the cactus with bare skin.
Caution: All cholla, prickly pear, and saguaro cactus is “protected plant, by State of Arizona,” but it is legal to pick fruits and buds of the species in this field guide for food. The rare crested saguaro is completely protected, so NO fruits or parts may be taken. Be sure to check the regulations in your state.
CAUTION: Always check identification of wild foods with photographic sources. Some wild foods are toxic to humans. So when in doubt: DON’T! Also be aware of the use of chemicals in your lawn and in your neighbor’s lawn.
Birch Family, Betulaceae
Other Names: White birch, paper birch, yellow birch, golden tree.
History: Native to North America. Scandinavians boiled, baked and added birch sawdust to their breads. Loggers say that their white birch sawdust used to be taken to American bread companies. Native Americans used birch dust for tea, and the strong inner bark was fashioned into many crafts. The Cree Indians folded birch bark and bit patterns into it,then unfolded it. Hundreds of Confederate soldiers were saved during their retreat to Monterey, Virginia, when they used birch bark as food.
Habitat: Woods, roadsides.
Characteristics: Deciduous tree. Alternate simple saw-toothed leaves. Papery bark of white and yellow birch peels in curls.
Primary Uses: Birch is an excellent cabinetmaking wood; it makes strong hardwood furniture. Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic. Inner bark, sap, twigs, buds, and young leaves eaten raw as emergency food; dried and ground for flour. Sap is drunk raw for nutritious liquid. Twigs are used to make wines, dried for tea or crispy treat. Buds eaten raw. Young leaves steamed, sautéed, cooking liquid drunk.
Nutritional Value: High in minerals, calcium and phosphorous. High in potassium and beta carotene.
RULES OF FORAGING
These rules are for your own protection when investigating plants that are new to you. If followed closely, they will protect you in the field.
- DO NOT collect plants closer than 200 feet from a car path or contaminated area.
- NEVER collect from areas sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals.
- DO NOT collect plants with RED STEMS, or red striations or stripes.
- ALWAYS BE FAMILIAR with all dangerous plants in YOUR area of collection.
- POSITIVELY IDENTIFY all plants you intend to use for food.
- Take a piece off the plant and roll between your fingers. SNIFF CAREFULLY. Does it smell like something you would eat? If it doesn’t, DISCARD IMMEDIATELY. If it does, go to rule 7.
- Take another piece off the plant and roll until juicy. RUB the tiny piece on your gum above your teeth.
- WAIT 20 minutes.
- DOES YOUR GUM ITCH, BURN, TINGLE, SWELL OR STING? If no reaction occurs, go on to rule 10.
- Take another piece of the plant and put in a teacup. Add boiling water and steep for 5 minutes. SIP SLOWLY for 20 more minutes. WATCH FOR NAUSEA, BURNING, DISCOMFORT.
If no reaction occurs, you may ingest a small amount.
- WAIT ANOTHER 20 MINUTES and watch for any reaction.
- Keep all samples AWAY from children or pets.
- Store all seeds and bulbs AWAY from children and pets.
- Teach children to keep all plants AWAY from their mouths and DO NOT ALLOW children chew or suck nectar from any unknown plants.
- AVOID smoke from burning plants. Smoke may irritate the eyes or cause allergic reactions QUICKLY.
- BE AWARE of your neighbor’s habits with chemicals, pesticides and herbicides.
- BEWARE: heating or boiling doesn’t always destroy toxicity.
The above referenced from Linda Runyon’s National Field Guide The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide. Other publications include: A Survival Acre, Wild Food Cards, Coloring Book, available online here at OfTheField.com/resources, or from Wild Food Co., 101 Train St., Suite 1, Dorchester, MA 02122, or e-mail <http://www.privatedaddy.com/?q=GFlycw5laRshEAlzM3IYI2F4OVpQcQ-3D-3D_19>.