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Most outdoors people understand the multipurpose value of a good bandana...sun shade, sweatband, pot holder, emergency sling, filter, basket...the uses are almost endless! Now add a few more...helping you identify the 12 most common and useful edible and medicinal plants in North America! Need some wild antibiotic or source of vitamin C? It's on here, along with much more!
The Foraging Bandana Story
In 2018 the wilderness survival gear company Wazoo Survival approached Dr. Nicole Apelian (two-time contestant on the History Channel's show "Alone") and me (Dr. Mark Merriwether Vorderbruggen) with a challenge to create an actually useful foraging bandana covering the best flora and fungi to know for surviving in the wilds (and suburbia!) of North America. These plants and mushrooms had to be easy to find, really easy to identify, and simple to use. After much discussion, she and I succeeded!
Dr. Nicole Apelian is a renowned herbalist, biologist, anthropologist, researcher, mother, survival TV celebrity (Alone and Surviving the Stone Age: Adventure to the Wild), traditional skills instructor, and author.
Following an unexpected diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2000, Nicole applied her scientific research skills towards her own personal wellness. She focuses on holistic wellness, which includes nature connection, gratitude, diet, and herbal remedies.
Scientific name: Arctium minus, Arctium lappa
What: young leaves, flower stalks, 1st year root
How: young leaves raw, as tea, stir-fried, or boiled in 2-3 changes of water; peel green skin of plant stalks to reveal inner white core which is eaten raw or cooked; root of 1st-year plants less than 1" in diameter and must be peeled then boiled in two changes of water until tender; roasted roots for coffee
Where: open fields, sunny areas, woods
When: leaves in spring, flower stalks in summer, roots summer and fall
Nutritional Value: Roots contain some minerals, vitamins C & B6, and some calories. Leaves contain many vitamins and phytochemicals.
Scientific name: Taraxacum officinale
What: leaves, flowers, roots
How: young leaves in salad or boiled; flowers are used in wine; roots are roasted to make a coffee substitute or boiled for twenty-thirty minutes before eating
Where: yards, sunny
When: spring, early summer
Nutritional Value: Vitamins A, B, thiamine, riboflavin, minerals, and even a small amount of protein.
Scientific Name(s): Maranta spp. and Sagittaria spp.
What: tubers, young leaves, young flower stalks
How: boiled, roasted
Where: marshes, water
When: tubers all year, best in late fall and early winter; young leaves in early summer; flower stalks well before flower buds have opened.
Nutritional Value: carbohydrates.
#4. Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Scientific Name(s): Trametes versicolor, also called Coriolus versicolor
How: tea, tincture
Where: dead trees
When: spring, summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: medicinal - antibiotic
Scientific name: Acer spp.
What: Inner bark, seeds, leaves, sap
How: Boil inner bark or dry into flour, cook seeds, young leaves raw or cooked, boil sap down to syrup
Nutritional value: sugar in sap, protein and carbohydrates in seeds, minerals in leaves, carbohydrates in inner bark.
#6 Stinging Nettle
Scientific name: Urtica dioica, U.chamaedryoides, U. urens
What: leaves and young stems
How: cooked greens, tea
Where: woods, borders, abandoned areas, woods, sunny and shady areas
When: spring, early summer
Nutritional Value: Rich in vitamins A,C,D,K, many minerals, and high in protein.
#8 Wild Violet
Scientific name: Viola species
What: Leaves, flowers
How: Leaves and flowers raw (great in salads), tea from flowers
Where: small, heart-shaped flowers in shady, moist areas
When: Winter (in Houston), Spring, early summer
Nutritional Value: very rich in vitamin A,C.
Scientific name: Plantago species
What: leaves, young seed pods
How: raw, steamed
Where: Sunny fields, urban yards
Nutritional Value: minerals, vitamin B. Medicinal - skin repair.
Scientific name: Typha latifolia
What: Tubers, shoots, male portion of flower, pollen
How: Tuber starch granules are removed by hand from fibers, young shoots cut from tubers, older stems can be peeled back to get soft, white edible pith, male (top) part of flower steamed before it become fluffy, pollen from male section is shaken into paper bag from flower and use as flour
Where: Shallow water
When: Tubers in winter, shoots in spring/summer, pollen and flowers in spring
Nutritional Value: Young shoots have low amounts of minerals. Pollen is high in protein. Tubers are high in calcium, iron, potassium, and carbohydrates.
Other uses: Fluff is good tinder and insulation, leaves can be woven into baskets and used to thatch huts.
#11 Prickly Pear Cactus
Scientific name: Opunita species
What: fruit (tunas), pads (nopalito), flowers, juice
How: peeled pads can be pickled, fried, made into jerky; fruit can be raw or blended into a smoothie/icee drink; juice from strained fruit can be drunk, made into ice cream, mixed drinks, preserves.
Where: sunny fields
When: fruit-late summer, pads-all year though younger pads taste better.
Nutritional Value: vitamin C, some minerals and omega-3 fatty acid.
Scientific name: Salix species
What: twigs, inner bark
How: tea made from chopped up twigs; inner bark is an emergency food and is eaten raw or dried and ground into flour
Where: woods, water, sunny fields, landscaping
When: twigs highest in salicylic acid in early spring; inner bark any time
Nutritional Value: inner bark contains carbohydrates. Medicinal - outer bark contain salicylic acid, the original, natural aspirin.
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