So far in our research and taste-testing, we pretty much have the makings of a spinach salad replacement figured out. Everyone has taste-tested Dandelion leaves, Dandelion flowers, chickweed, plantain, and purslane. Based on the research I’ve been putting into these plants and creating a spreadsheet to compare nutritional value, uses, and medicinal value, it will be wise for our salads to rotate among these greens.
Plants we haven’t taste-tested yet, but that sound both promising and grow in our area, are burdock and cattail. So far we’ve only had a small burdock in the house when we were preparing the oil infusion for my daughter’s horse. I didn’t realize at the time, that I unceremoniously tossed food out the window when I was done!
Supposedly, burdock flowers and leaves taste similar to artichoke! The only way I’ve ever eaten artichoke has been in vegetable dips and I’ve always enjoyed it that way. This might be a free (minus travel) way to enjoy such a dip at a cheaper price. The roots are apparently eaten like carrots and cooked in all the various ways carrots are in Japanese recipes. So there’s a potential carrot replacement.
Speaking of carrot replacements, apparently one can do that with dandelion roots too, although I haven’t tested that theory yet. Forage educators say not to dig up the roots from areas where pesticides and sprays may have been used over the past 3 – 5 years. So that eliminates the dandelion roots in our lawn. However, if we find the plant where there hasn’t been sprays or pesticides, that will be something to test with everyone as well. If these tests pass, we’ll have a free carrot replacement. Another carrot replacement is Queen Anne’s Lace, if it grows in this area. I need to confirm that still. I believe I’ve seen the poisonous counterpart around (no purple flower in the middle and spread out clumps rather than tight clumps of flowers). So if those grow here, maybe so does Queen Anne’s Lace? Have to look that up. Supposedly, researchers say this plant is the precursor to the modern carrot.
Many articles I’ve read about the cattail boast about it being a multi-food plant that can be enjoyed year-round. The roots apparently make a decent, gluten-present flour whether by soaking/separating or by pounding to release the starchy contents. The lower part of the stalk supposedly reminds people of cucumber when eaten as a trail-side snack. The lower parts of the leaves apparently can be added to salads, and young cattail heads can be cooked and eaten like corn on the cob! Those heads remind others of asparagus if the plant is really young. The pollen apparently makes decent flour as well and can replace corn starch and regular flour as a thickener in soups, gravies, stews, etc. Needless to say, I have to find the time to head out and get a few cattail plants, roots and all, to not only see what the others think of it, but what I think of it too!
If cattails pass the family taste-test, my daughter wants to make wild pasta. I just ran across a noodle recipe for green pasta using dandelion leaves rather than spinach! Needless to say, possibilities are playing around that could save us money on buying flour as well!
These various plants have medicinal qualities that we’ve already used as far as Dandelion stems go. The oil infusion made for Bella is very high in anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties thanks to the burdock, plantain, and chickweed that was used. Both the narrow-leaf and the broad-leafed plantain can be chewed up and applied on the spot as a poultice to aid in blood-clotting, cleansing, etc for wounds. One blogger joked that this was great because of how proliferantly it grows around areas where children play!
I’ve found a number of recipes for dishes that use various plants in this list. Many of the baking recipes could be interesting if regular wheat flour with it’s heightened gluten content is replaced by cattail flour with it’s wild gluten content instead. I make basmatti rice milk these days and have heard that the pulp is referred to as rice flour. Imagine drying both cattail and rice flour for use in baking instead??? Cattail pollen added in for good measure?
One researcher I chanced across while busy reading and bookmarking various sites, muses that so-called “Primitive” mankind probably ate far better than so-called “modern” mankind today!
The fact that many recipes for skincare products have you grinding this and that till it’s very small has me on the lookout now for a hand-grinding flour mill. It appears there are several designs for sale in ample quantity on eBay and Amazon. Some users have figured out how to remove a particular bolt on some of them in order to attach a regular hand-drill to speed up the process. This would mean that if we gather seeds from these various plants, we could add their flour to the mix as well! It also means that some of the seeds which research revealed have been used by various cultures for spices and flavourings, could be used for that in our house as well. Just need a grinder!
Those saddle bags I was talking about the other day are now fully-pinned and ready to be sewed together! Straps to stabilize the bags on the horse’s tack have been made and ready to be fitted as well. Soon, my daughter will be exercising her horse will foraging for the cupboards in the kitchen.
The sheer number of recipes available for the dandelion plant alone have me eager to find a massive patch of them to harvest! If we can make the time to go shopping in the forest, and make the time to prepare, preserve, mill, and create, we could save money on skincare, cough medicine, salad greens, carrots, cucumbers, flour, maybe even adding new spices to the mix!
Now to go see that BC list of weeds. . .