Welcome Friday Foragers! Did you get into your backyard or back alley to explore? Did you find anything you recognized? This week, we'll explore some common plants and trees and how we can ID and use them for their nutrition and their medicine.Last week on the blog, I covered the Ground Rules of Foraging. If you missed it, please take a read and make sure you are being a Responsible Forager!
First things first – before we pick we have to know when it's the right time to harvest a plant. Let's take Dandelion as an example. The leaves of Dandelion are very nutritious and make a therapeutic diuretic tea. The flowers are also edible and can be sauteed, candied or turned into wine. The root can be dried and used as a tea beneficial for the liver. When we forage Dandelion, we want to pick the leaf, flower or root at different times of the year, when the plant is putting most of its resources or energy to that part of the plant. So, Spring is the best time to pick the leaf, when it is new and fresh. Late Spring and early Summer is best for harvesting the flower, when they are new and bright and just recently opened. For the root, we would wait until the plant is sending its energy back down into the ground to survive the winter, so Autumn or early Spring because it's a perennial plant, (as opposed to annuals or bi-annuals that only live for 1 or 2 seasons).
Walking the streets of the city, one of my favourite things to pop in my mouth right now is Mulberries.
These delicious berries come in a range of colours from white to red to deep purple. There are over a 100 varieties of Mulberry tree, but the ones we most commonly see in Toronto are the ones that have deep purple berries. You'll often see the tell-tale sign that a mulberry tree is close-by when you spot dark stains on the sidewalk. These berries are high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and an antioxidant called resveratrol, which has been studied for its cardiovascular benefits. Mulberries can be collected and enjoyed fresh, or you can preserve them by making jams and syrups, or you can freeze them to add to your smoothies throughout the year.
Another easy herb to identify is Red Clover. This plant offers both nutritive and medicinal properties. The young leaves and flowers can be eaten- add to salad or lightly steam. There is a delicate sweet nectar at the base of each little petal on the flower bud that I love to gently bite for a treat when I'm hiking in the woods. Seeds can also be dried and sprouted and added to salads. My favourite way to use red clover is to dry the flowers and use for tea.
I add Red Clover flowers to a nutritive blend with other herbs that are rich in minerals. Red clover is high in calcium, potassium and niacin and is used medicinally as a blood purifier and for coughs.
Lamb's Quarters grows in almost every back alley in Toronto and is easy to identify. The leaf is dark green but has a milky white 'powdery' look closer to the base of the stem. The leaf is often described as having a shape like a goose's foot. It can grow to about 18 inches.
This nutritional powerhouse is high in iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, copper, vitamin C, A, B1, B2, B3, B6 and K. Young leaves can be added raw to salads and older leaves can be steamed or sauteed. Seeds can be sprouted, dried and then ground into flour.
Another treat if you find yourself in a ravine is Wild Grape. The young leaves can be enjoyed raw and are often used as a wrap, (think Greek stuffed grape leaves with rice and herbs, drizzled in olive oil). Easy to identify with its characteristic curling tendrils, like a pea, and its climbing vines and large, heart-shaped and lobed leaves.
Later in the summer, the tangy, tart sweetness of the wild fruit is amazing to discover on a walk! Leaves are high in calcium, iron, manganese, vitamin A, K and several B vitamins.
Motherwort is an incredible source of medicine. This plant is good for the female reproductive system and for the heart, (its Latin name is Leonurus cardiaca or Lion's heart). Part of the mint family, it has a characteristic 4-sided stem and small purplish pink flowers.
This plant makes a therapeutic tea for menstrual pains and delayed menstruation and is beneficial for rapid heart-beat and heart conditions due to anxiety or tension. To make a tea, collect the top third of the plant and dry. Once thoroughly dried, store in a cool, dark place in an air-tight container for up to 1 year. Brew 2 Tbsp of dried plant and steep for 15 minutes.
Next week, we'll explore more plants we can Urban Forage and I'll share some of my favourite recipes! If you liked reading this post and want to be notified when I post new content, subscribe on the homepage! Thanks for reading and HAPPY FORAGING!
Note: Medicinal benefits of plants are intended for informational purposes, if you have a medical condition, please consult a professional.
Sources: Linda Runyan, 'The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide.' David Hoffmann, 'Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies.'