I am adding Wild Edibles and Medicinals to my fascination list.
Our neighbor who owns the land on the back side of our hill stopped by last night. We got to talking about Hogweed that is invading New York – it was on the news the other day [http://albany.wnyt.com/news/environment/agency-warns-ny-beware-giant-hogweed/67816]. Hogweed is a giant weed that looks similar to Queen Anne’s Lace, but this thing grows 8 ft.+ tall and its sap can burn you. So far, we haven’t seen any around here.
It turns out our neighbor is an herbalist – not by profession, but she’s way into it and has been identifying, collecting, drying, eating and healing with herbs for years. We walked around the backyard and she identified St. John’s Wort for me.
She told me that if you dry cattails you can burn them to keep bugs away, and that the red berries from the Staghorn Sumac makes a great tea. I’ve heard that the sumac berries are edible, and some cultures grind them into a spice, and I know that the poison sumac is more bushy with white berries… but I had poison sumac rash as a teenager, so I’m very hesitant to eat anything sumac-related. We also talked Dwarf Ginseng, Garlic Mustard, Ink Berry, Heals-All…
I can’t remember what she said about them. But my interest was peaked, so I will be buying a guidebook to wildflowers/wild herbs.
There are so many things growing in the fields and woods – it will be fun to figure out which things are edible and what to do with them. I want to know if this is Wild Oregano (as I believe – it smells like oregano and online pics of the flowers peg it as wild oregano) or Wild Mint (as my neighbor assures me, and I should believe her because she’s been doing this for years – but the skeptic in me wants to be convinced).
When my Nan (favorite person on earth) passed away three years ago (on July 6th, and today, July 8th is her birthday), I acquired some of her books, and among those books is a huge volume, Sturtevant’s Notes on Edible Plants, copyright 1919. I hadn’t been interested in identifying plants until now – the book will make a great companion guide… but as a novice, I need pictures.
My neighbor and I met at 7:00 AM this morning, at the top where our property meets, so that she could show me a few things in her woods. First you walk through her field, then you see the fabulous view, and then into the woods.
We both brought our dogs (me, 2 dogs, she, 3 dogs) and their greeting went well at first… but 3 of the 5 dogs have not been fixed… and so the humping games started and NEVER stopped. Do you know how annoying that is? My dogs are not around other dogs very often so they haven’t learned that when the other dog growls at you it means “BACK OFF.” I was so irritated by my dogs, plus I must have gotten about 100 mosquito bites and every two minutes a black fly would dive right into my eye (I looked in the mirror when I got home… and had dead black flies in my eyelashes!!!)
Anyway, despite the dog nonsense, we did see a few things: a Jack-in-the-Pulpit;
Jewel Weed, which is an antidote for poison ivy/oak;
Yarrow is an antiseptic for wounds:
this is something we are both going to try to identify:
and she gasped because she found wintergreen and has been looking for it for a long time (it smelled amazing).
I also snapped more fungus pictures, but I will spare you – somehow it has become my thing this summer, If you want to see more, go to the “OK, I’ll Admit it, I have a Fungus Fetish” post, July 2, 2011.
It was an interesting morning walk, and I’m sure I will call upon my neighbor for her wisdom, but it wasn’t the peaceful morning walk that I am so used to. I know the horndogs enjoyed themselves.