Transformational Gardening

Disclaimer: Foraging can be fun, rewarding and provide health benefits. As a novice forager, I will be sharing my foraging experiences. However, in order to be safe, always consult with local foraging experts and guidebooks before beginning foraging. Children should learn to forage safely by being guided by experienced adults. Never ingest anything unless you are certain of the identification and safety of the plant. Some plant species are inedible and some are poisonous.

August 2009 Foraging Experiences

(Back to: July 2009 Foraging Experiences)

August 1, 2009

Jewelweed (Spotted Touch-me-not) (Impatiens capensis)

On the trail this afternoon. I wanted to find Hopniss/Groundnut (Apios americana) near a stream. I couldn't find it, but I spotted Spotted Touch-me-not, also known as Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). The juice inside the leaves and stems is an antidote to poison ivy and stinging nettles. I rubbed arms with the juice, somehow hoping it would act as an insect repellent, but no luck. According to the Peterson Field Guide for Edible Wild Plants of Eastern/Central North America the green shoots (up to 6 inches high) can be boiled for 10-15 minutes in 2 changes of water and served as cooked greens.

The flowers are very distinctive, making identification fairly easy. However, most of the pictures online and the guidebooks show the stems as pale-green and translucent. But the stems on this plant were redish-brown. The 1912 Wildflowers of New England book states on page 26 that the “plant grows from two to five feet in height, having a reddish, smooth branching stem along with the leaves alternate.”

There were other plants I saw, but did not take the time to positively identify. The picture on the left may be Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). The picture on the right may be Purple-flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus). The Purple Loosestrife was all over the trail, but the Purple-flowering Raspberry was only 50 yards up the hill past the Jewelweed. I’ll have to go back another time to take more pictures.

August 4, 2009

Purple-flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus)

A few days ago, I saw Purple-flowering raspberry while on the trail, but wasn’t sure of the identification. I went back to that same location today intending to pick a stem and a couple of flowers to take back and confirm the identity. Unfortunately, when I pulled on the stem, the whole plant came out of the ground! Good thing I have an SUV to shuttle the plant back and identify it.

Purple-flowering raspberry has large, maple-like leaves, a thornless stem and several large purple flowers with a beige center. One of only a couple of Rubus species in the Eastern U.S. that does not have thorns. The large leaves have a leathery feel to them. It flowers sometime between June and September and the tart red berries appear between July and September. There were no berries on these plants. I'll go back in a couple of weeks to see if the berries appear.


Jewelweed (Spotted Touch-me-not) (Impatiens capensis)

Picked a bunch of Jewelweed stalks and leaves today to make Jewelweed topical tea. It is to be used externally only on poison ivy and nettle stings (if I ever locate nettle). It can be put on prior to going into a poison ivy-infested area or carried in a small container to put on the skin after contact with poison ivy or nettles. Apparently, it can be used to treat athlete’s foot and other skin inflammations.

The first images on the right was taken from Wikimedia as I wanted to get a clear image of the flower. The picture of the flower below and to the far right was taken a few days later with my new iPhone 3GS camera. That image is much clearer than the two images two the below and to the left taken with my old iPhone 3G camera.

August 9, 2009

Eastern Hemlock (Canadian Hemlock) (Tsuga canadensis)

See the July 7, 2009 foraging experience for Eastern Hemlock for the discussion on the clear differences between the Eastern Hemlock tree and the toxic Canadian Yew (Taxus canadensis) shrub.

I went out and purchased a new iPhone 3GS yesterday so that I could take better quality close-up pictures. It has a 3 Megapixel camera with autofocus and you can select desired part of the image to focus on. So, today I hit the trail to try the new camera.

There were an extremely large number of Eastern Hemlock trees growing near the White Pines and the American Beech trees. I have been drinking White Pine (Pinus strobus) tea on and off for the last couple of months, but have wanted to collect the Eastern Hemlock tree needles and see what that is like. The book, Foraging New England states:

It’s not easy to grab the little leaves one at a time. But if you grab a stem, close your hand and slide it down the stem, many leaves will come off in your hand. I collected about 5 cups of leaves and made a large pot of Eastern Hemlock tree tea. I added about 3 cups of Eastern Hemlock needles (and some twigs) to about a 2 quarts of boiled spring water. I covered and let steep on low heat for 20 minutes. The tea was very bland. So I let the needles steep in the tea overnight and the flavor was much stronger. With a little bit of honey, it takes okay, but not as good as the White Pine tea in my opinion. If you’re a hearty, New England woodsman, let the tea steep overnight (unheated) and try it without honey.

Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Beginning foragers should make no attempt to collect and use yarrow.

Yarrow is an important medicinal herb for helping to heal nervous system disorders, colds and the flu. Yarrow tea is made by pouring very hot water over fresh or dried yarrow leaves and steeping. I did not collect the leaves and make yarrow tea this time. Perhaps later this year.

I had been reluctant to add this plant or any plant with bunches of little white flowers as there are very poisonous plants topped with bunches of little white flowers. A beginning forager could mistake Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) for Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). In fact, the book Peterson Field Guide for Edible Wild Plants of Eastern/Central North America, when referring to plants with white umbrellalike clusters of flowers and finely cut leaves, states:

The truth is that that yarrow is quite a bit different than poison hemlock. The book, Foraging New England states that there are no toxic species similar to yarrow. The only similarity to poison hemlock is the bunches of little white flowers at the top of the plant.

Yarrow has many tiny white 5-petal flowers forming a flatish cluster at the top of the plant. Stem is hairy. Finely-dissected, lanceolate (lance-like) leaves on the stem. “Millefolium” means thousand-leaf in reference to its fern-like foliage. Leaves have a pleasant, fern-like odor when crushed. Notice how the leaves alternate up the stem (so that there are not two leaves opposite each other).

Poison Hemlock leaves are much branched and look more like parsley or carrot leaves. Below are two images so that one can see the major differences between the leaves of Yarrow and the Poison Hemlock. I recommend using the books, Peterson Field Guide for Edible Wild Plants of Eastern/Central North America and National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers: Eastern Region to help to identify plants correctly.

Yarrow Poison Hemlock

Wintergreen (Checkerberry, Teaberry) (Gaultheria procumbens)

I took some pictures of Wintergreen with my new iPhone 3GS. You can clearly see the white flowers hanging down from the stem. It should not be long before the red Wintergreen berries begin to grow. I took some leaves from the Wintergreen plants that had white flowers and noticed that the wintergreen smell and taste is not as strong in those leaves. They may be because the plant’s energy and chemicals are being directed towards creating the flowers and berries. Wintergreen leaves were chewed (but not swallowed) by Native Americans to increase aerobic endurance. I wonder if that holds true when there is somewhat less wintergreen flavor in the leaves.

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

Below are a few pictures taken with my new iPhone 3GS of the American Beech tree. Notice the big, serrated, alternating leaves on the stem. The veins are parallel to each other. The tree bark is smooth. The tree is often found growing in New Hampshire along with the Eastern Hemlock tree (Tsuga canadensis).

August 10, 2009

Partridge Berry (Checkerberry, Squaw Vine, Deer Berry, Winter Clover) (Mitchella repens)

Went to the park this afternoon and worked on my laptop from the picnic bench. That’s the way work should be every day! After work, I took a hike up the trail to where I had found Partridge Berries in July. Nibbled on the berries while taking some better-quality pictures with my new iPhone 3GS.

On every hike, I try and take a picture or two of flowering plants that I might be able to identify later with one of the plant guides, particularly the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers: Eastern Region. It is very difficult to identify some plants! The first two images below I believe might be White Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba). The image below on the right might be White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata, also known as Aster divaricatus). It does not look like the Bigleaf Aster (Eurybia macrophylla, also known as Aster macrophyllus) as the leaves are not quite so broad. If I really want to know if this plant in an Aster and which one, I just found out that there is an "Aster Workshop" listed on held at College of Holy Cross in Worcester, MA on September 19, 2009 from 10:00am until mid-afternoon.