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.

September 2010 Foraging Experiences

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(Forward to: October 2010 Foraging Experiences)

September 11, 2010

Bittersweet Nightshade (Climbing Nightshade) (Solanum dulcamara)

The following pictures of the Bittersweet Nightshade flower were taken on June 2, 2010.

Pennsylvania Smartweed (Pennsylvania Knotweed, Pink Knotweed, Pinkweed) (Polygonum pensylvanicum) (synonym: Persicaria pensylvanica)

Curlytop Knotweed (Dock-Leaved Smartweed) (Polygonum lapathifolium) (synonym: Persicaria lapathifolium)

September 12, 2010

Spiny Sowthistle (Sonchus asper)

Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum) (Also known as: Swida amomum)

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

September 13, 2010

Forked Bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum)

White Goldenrod (Silverrod) (Solidago bicolor)

September 14, 2010

Well, my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 camera is dead. It keeps giving me the message, “System Error (Focus)”. I have tried all sort of things to fix it and could not. I sent it off to Panasonic for a replacement which I hope to get soon. So, now it‘s back to out of focus pictures or taking 5,000,000 pictures to get one good closeup from my iPhone. It‘s all okay, though, because I get to be outside!

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)

I love it when the trail guide on site lists some of the exact species that are on the trail. Makes plant identification much easier!

Japanese Barberry shrub that grows 3 to 6 feet tall often with many spiny branches. The spines are thin, long and sharp! The branches are deeply grooved. At each node there are 2 - 6 spatula to oval-shaped leaves. The leaf margins are untoothed (entire). The flowers (not pictured) appear in mid-Spring to early Summer. Red fruit appears in the late Summer and early Fall and can last through the Winter.

Japanese Barberry is very similar to Common Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) except that the leaf margins of Japanese Barberry leaves are untoothed while the leaf margins of Common Barberry leaves are finely toothed.

Ripe Japanese Barberry (and Common Barberry) fruit is edible, but very sour. Reportedly, it is very good for jams and jellies and for juices after diluting and sweetening. The berries are high in Vitamin C.

Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

This was another plant listed on the trail guide.

Norway Maple has lobed leaf typical of other maple trees. The leaves are opposite with 5 to 7 lobes that have sharply-pointed tips and several teeth. The spaces (sinuses) between the main leaf lobes are rounded. The Norway Maple leaf is very similar to the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) leaf. But the Norway Maple leaf has more teeth. Look at the second picture and notice the several pointed-tipped teeth on each lobe and then compare that to a picture of the Sugar Maple leaf lobe with little or no teeth that can be seen at the Calphotos Sugar Maple web page.

Reportedly, Norway Maple trees, like other maple trees, can be tapped for maple syrup. The sap of the leaves is milky, but the syrup is clear.

September 17, 2010

Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)

Oriental Bittersweet is a very aggressive, non-native invasive vine. It often covers other trees. Even when there are no other trees to cover, the long vines can climb around each other and grow to significant heights (over 10 feet).

The leaves are opposite and somewhat roundish. The leaf margins are toothed and the leaf tip is pointed to rounded. The berries (fruit) grow in clusters of 3-7 in the axil of the leaf. Female flowers (not shown) also grow next to each leaf axil. The fruit has a yellow covering (see picture). This covering splits open in the Fall to reveal the red berry.

A similar species, American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) has female flowers and fruit in terminal panicles (clusters) at the end of the stem (not in each leaf axil). The fruit covering tends to be more orange for American Bittersweet. Finally, the leaf shape for American Bittersweet tends to be less round, but that is not a reliable way to differentiate the species.

The berries are bitter-tasting and not edible for humans.

September 18, 2010

Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

Winterberry bushes are in the same “Holly” genus (Ilex) as Inkberry (Ilex glabra) and Mountain Holly (Ilex mucronata). Winterberry is known for its bright red berries that add a firey color to the landscape, especially after the leaves fall off the bush in the Fall. The berries stay on the bush all Winter.

The leaves are alternate and grow densely on the branches. The margins are sharply-toothed. The fruit is bright red and glossy -- only present on the female plants. The fruit is held close to the stem, singly or in pairs. The bark is brown to dark gray and is smooth with some lenticels (pores).

The berries are not edible for humans, but birds will eat them.

These images were taken of a Common Winterberry bush several miles from the pictures above.

September 19, 2010

Cardinalflower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)

Fox Grape (Vitis labrusca)

Harvested a large amount of Fox Grapes today. The plumb, juicy ones are very sweet and tastier than supermarket grapes. But the pulp is a little chewy.

There are some key differences between the Fox Grape and the Riverbank Grape plants (See Riverbank Grape plant pictures here.) Notice that the leaf of the Fox Grape has much smaller teeth and lobes than the Riverbank Grape leaf. The back of the Fox Grape leaf has a whitish or copperish colored hairy or felt-like surface. The back of the Riverbank Grape leaf has some hairs, but not many. The grapes of the Riverbank Grape tend to be small (more like supermarket grapes) and more sour-tasting. The grapes of the Fox Grape tend to be larger and more sweet, especially if fully ripe.

Wild grape plants are not vines that are herbaceous and die off each year. They are “liana” which are woody, vine-like growths that do not die back each year. All of the wild grape species have tendrils for climing that are opposite a leaf. All wild grape species have maple-like leaves.

The grapes of Riverbank Grape tend to be higher in tartrate crystals which can be irritating to the digestive system for some individuals. The grapes of Fox Grape have lower levels of tartrate crystals. To get rid of tartrate crystals, mash the grapes into juice. Let the juice settle overnight. In the morning, a sludge will appear at the bottom of the jar that contains much of the tartrate. Carefully pour off the juice and discard the sludge.

Pipsissewa (Prince‘s Pine) (Chimaphila umbellata)

September 20, 2010

It is the height of the berry-picking season and I am working hard to identify new berry plants before the season ends. If I can identify them this year, then I can visit the plants in different seasons to learn what they look like. Want to be careful not to work too hard and burn out, but I do want to learn plants this year and focus more on collecting/using the plants next year. A few days ago, I saw a Glossy Buckthorn plant and went back today to take pictures, but if was gone. I will go back tomorrow at lunch and see if I can track it down.

Purple Chokeberry (Aronia prunifolia) (Also known as Photinia floribunda)

There are three varieties of Chokeberry in New Hampshire: Purple Chokeberry (Aronia prunifolia). Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) and Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia). However, the scientific names are some sort of botanical nightmare. Some botanists have put Chokeberries under the genus Photinia with differing species names. Some have put Chokeberries under the genus Pyrus. It is probably easiest to call them Chokeberry or Aronia.

One very distinctive identifying feature of the Chokeberry leaves is that they have tiny black hairs on the midrib (middle vein) of the upper leaf surface. If you click on and expand the picture on the right (you may have to click a second time to expand it further), you will see tiny black hairs on the midrib.

The leaves of Chokeberry are alternate. Notice also that the teeth on the leaves are very small and rounded (crenate). The leaf is smaller at the bottom and wider at the top. The top of the leaf has a short, pointy tip. The veins start out pinnately at the middle vein (perpendicular to the middle vein), but then turn upwards and run parallel to each other and the middle vein (arcuate). The flowers (not shown) are white with four petals.

Some botanists believe that Purple Chokeberry is a cross between the Black Chokeberry and the Red Chokeberry. Red Chokeberry has signficant matted hairs on the backs of the leaves and the flower stems. Black Chokeberry has hairless backs of the leaves and flower stems. The Purple Chokeberry has some hairs on the backs of the leaves and a thin gray or white mat of hairs on the flower stem.

Chokeberry has been found in recent research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help regulate the proper weight and glucose levels.

Chokeberry is a fruit that can be used to make a pressed juice. The pulp is bitter so it is best to mash the fruit with Spring water and then press through a bag such as a jelly bag. The juice can be used to make jelly. I pressed the picked berries into juice and squeezed through a bag to avoid getting the pulp. The taste was excellent! See the images of the picked berries and juice below.

September 21, 2010

Glossy Buckthorn (European Alder Buckthorn) (Frangula alnus) (Synonym: Rhamnus frangula)

September 24-26, 2010

I went to a Fall Foraging class with
Arthur Haines of the Delta Institute. The course was on Friday (7pm-9pm), Saturday (8am-9pm) and Sunday (8am - Noon) with a lecture, extensive plant walks/harvesting that included very detailed plant identification and use information. In addition, we learned to process wild rice, acorns, Autumn Olive berries and made a double extraction of Chaga.

Pictures from the class can be seen on the following web page:

It was a fun class and I learned quite a bit about processing calorie-dense food ingredients such as acorns and wild rice.

September 30, 2010

Chaga (Cinder Conk) (Inonotus obliquus)

Chaga harvested on October 18, 2009. Tea and tincture made on September 30, 2010.