Incredible Edibles

Posted by Staci Sweeney on

Did you know almost all yards have edibles?? Down here in South Louisiana we have an abundance of wild edibles from wildlife to vegetation. In fact When people mention Louisiana most people think New Orleans with her flamboyant personality, amazing hospitality, and most of all her extremely flavorful cuisine. Our cuisine uses a large variety of herbs and spices as well as what is know as the holy trinity of cooking, which is bell pepper, onion, and celery. We also tend to use a lot of File' (pronounced Fee-lay) which is a main ingredient found in our gumbos. File' is actually the ground up leaves of the sassafras tree which you don't see around much anymore. We also like using Bay leaves in our gumbos and pasta sauces. Bay leaves come from bay laurel trees and can still be spotted in a number of yards.

The other edibles found in abundance in our yards are dandelions and dollar weeds. Everyone knows them and most people despise them and look at them as unsightly weeds in their manicured lawns. Don't poison those weeds!!

 

The dandelion is very edible and has some amazing health benefits. The flowers can be tossed into a salad and the roots can be made into a bitter  tea or tincture and used to detoxify the digestive system. Dandelion Root was and still is a main ingredient in stomach bitters. Stomach Bitters was commonly used in the Victorian era and into the depression as an aperitif before meals and to alleviate nausea and bloating. In fact my daughter who is an anthropology major had gone on a dig last summer and actually found an old bottle of stomach bitters.

I make my own stomach bitters and use them quite often, and as horribly bitter as they are they clear up any nausea in a matter of seconds. 

 

Our next lovely edible "weed" is dollar weed or Pennywort. Dollar weed loves moist conditions and if you have dollar weed in your lawn or garden you may be over watering or your yard may not be draining properly. However, instead of poisoning the dollar weed pick them and toss them into a salad with the dandelions. Dollar weed as I'm told, has a cucumber like taste with the stem being more bitter than the leaves. I haven't actually sampled dollar weed as of yet, mainly because I rarely have any around my yard, However, if I find some I won't hesitate to throw it onto a salad.

 

Purslane  is another nifty little garden edible. purslane can often be found in shaded, moist garden beds, where it creates a nice unassuming ground cover. This wonderful little "weed" is said to contain more Omega 3 Fatty acids than any other leafy veggie. That's right even more than spinach and Kale. It's a great addition to salads and stir-fry. Purslane is a succulent with a crispy texture and can be eaten raw or cooked to add a peppery flavor to almost any dish.

 

Nothing Like a field of Clovers in the spring time. Bees absolutely ADORE clover!! Everyone has childhood memories of sifting through the clover patches to find that lucky 4 leaf clover or sitting in the clover patch on a bright spring day with friends tying the clover flowers together making necklaces and crowns. 

What most of us didn't realize at the time is that clover, both leaves and flowers, are edible and used in a variety of meals. Small amounts of clover leaves can me chopped up and used in salads or can be sauteed and added to dishes for a green accent. Likewise the flowers, both red and white, can be eaten raw or cooked, or can be dried and used in teas. 

 

This unassuming funny looking weed is plantain, not to be confused with plantain fruit that looks like brown bananas.  This Plantain can be found in yards and is not only a medicinal plant that can be used topically to treat burns, stings, rashes and wounds, but is also a great edible green for the dinner table. 

The young leaves can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, or sauteed. While the older leaves can be a bit tough they too can be cooked and eaten. The Seeds of the plantain which are produced on the distinctive flower spike can cooked like a grain or ground into a flour. 

Chickweed can be used for both food and medicine. In fact, chickweed is somewhat of a folk medicine used to help people loose weight. The leaves,stems, and flowers can be eaten raw or cooked where it adds a delicate spinach like flavor. Chickweed can also be used as a poultice to treat minor burns, cuts, and rashes. I tend to use chickweed along with a few other herbs in a tea to help me loose weight, which works if I actually remember to drink it. 

These Gorgeous berries are French Mulberry or beauty berries. While they are not a weed since they are a bush we tend to see them here in the woods. These gorgeous bushes like to hide among other trees. Mine tend to hide in the wild blackberries so I can't pick them as easily. The French Mulberry, for me anyway,is not easily spotted unless the berries are ripe. These wild berries are slightly hard and have a slight sour taste. However, that doesnt stop us from making beauty berry jelly or jam out of them. While they can be eaten raw, i wouldn't recommend it. They can also be used in teas and have laxative like properties.

 

You normally wouldn't look at a Loblolly Pine tree, or any other pine tree, and ponder their existence and uses any further than they make pine cones which the squirrels love to use as projectiles as you walk by.  However, they do have some really awesome uses. The thick milky white sap can be used as a temporary filling for a cavity until you can get to the dentist. The milky sap stuff actually has an anti-inflamitory  and antiseptic property which helps to soothe the affected tooth. The Pine needles can be turned into a hydrosol and used as a facial toner. the resin has been used to treat skin aliments and has also been used internally to treat kidney disorders,and  respiratory issues. However, I do not recommend using Loblolly pine internally without the supervision of a medical Doctor and someone who is skilled at extracting the turpentine from the pine resin itself. As with all medicinal herbs and plants it is Extremely important to speak with your Doctor before using them. 

 

 

Last But Not Least, the incredible edible rose. While roses don't grow wild anymore and I'm pretty sure they were never considered a weed, I'm adding them anyway. Roses were one of the most valued medicinal plants in monastery gardens in the middle ages. When we look at roses today as a medicinal we tend to focus on the fact that they contain high levels of vitamin C or the value it holds as healing skin.  However, a closer look reveals that rose petals are astringent and can be used as a wash to help stop bleeding from cuts and scrapes. Rose water is used in many cosmetic applications to help soothe the skin. the fragrance also helps to relieve stress as it is a nervine. Rose petals are also very edible and can be used as a dessert with sugared petals or it can be used in salad and teas, 


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