Pineapple Weed

Scientific Name(s): Matricaria discoidea
Abundance: uncommon
What: flowers, leaves
How: raw, tea
Where: dry, abused soil such as dirt roads
When: spring, summer, fall
Nutritional Value: minimal

Pineapple weeds.
pineappleweed3

Whole pineapple weed plant.
Pineappleweed1

Closeup of pineapple weed yellowish-green flowers.
pineappleweed2

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
USDA does not have records of this plant appearing Texas but I have seen it in Harris county.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Pineappleweed

Pineapple weed is an amazing plant which seems to thrive in abused soil such as dirt roads, driveways, and other dry/sandy soil. Yet a very calming tea similar to chamomile can be made from the plant.

The crushed plant can be rubbed on exposed skin as a weak insect repellent.

Plantain

Scientific name: Plantago species
Abundance: plentiful
What: leaves, young seed pods
How: raw, steamed
Where: Sunny fields, urban yards
When: Spring
Nutritional Value: minerals, vitamin B
Other uses: Rub mashed leaves on insect bites to relieve pain/itching

Redseed Plantain (Plantago rhodosperma)
plantain

Plantain.jpg

plantain2.jpg

Close-up of plantain leaf.
PlantainLeaf

PlantainLeaf2

Really big plantains.
Plantain

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
PlantainTX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Plantain

Popping up in winter, plantain rosettes range from almost unnoticeable to quite large in size. The club-shaped leaves may have points along the edge and hairs. Look for it in yards, disturbed areas, and abandoned places receiving lots of winter/spring sun. One of the easiest ways to identify them is that their vein structure is "palmate" which means it has several thick veins running parallel from the base of the leaf to the end, kind of like fingers sticking up from the palm of a hand.

The young leaves have a mild "green" flavor but as they mature I personally find them too rough and stiff to be eaten raw. Cooking the older leaves makes them more tender. Juicing the leaves is a better way of using the mature plant to get their mineral and vitamins.

Plantains produce a cluster of seeds resembling a tiny ear of corn on a long stalk. When the seedhead is still young it can be eaten raw or used like tiny baby corn in a stirfry. As they get older these seedheads also get tough and are rarely eaten.

Medicinally, plantain poultices are the "go to" plant for skin issues such as scrapes, minor rashes, insect stings & bites, and minor burns. Plantain tea is very good at soothing sore throats, acid reflux, and ulcers as well as helping coughs be more effective at expelling "lung cheese".

Supposedly smoking dried plantain leaves reduces the urge to smoke tobacco but this effect has not been confirmed.

Plum - Chickasaw

Scientific Name(s): Prunus angustifolia
Abundance: common
What: fruit; pit
How: fruit raw, jelly/jam, or wine; pit gound and dried
Where: sunny fields
When: early summer
Nutritional Value: calories, flavonoids
Dangers: none

Ripe and unripe Chickasaw Plums.
ChickasawPlum3

ChickasawPlum2

Ripe Chickasaw Plums.
Chikasaw Plum1

Chickasaw plum thicket.
Plum Chickasaw

Close-up of branch.
Plum Chickasaw

Close-up of Chickasaw plum thorn.
Plum Chickasaw

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
Chickasaw Plum USDA TX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
ChickasawPlumNorAm

Forming thickets of large bushes/small trees across Texas, Chickasaw Plums are by far sweeter than Mexican Plums. They are covered with white flowers in the mid-to-late winter and the fruit is ready to pick by the beginning of June.

Small but very sweet, these plums can be eaten raw, made into preserves, or even fermented into wine. The pits contain a small amount of cyanide but Native Americans would grind the pits then allow them to sit for a few days. During this time naturally occurring enzymes would break down the cyanide. The ground pit material would then be boiled as a porridge or perhaps used as a seasoning.

Plum - Wild

Scientific name: Prunus mexicana
Abundance: plentiful
What: ripe fruit
How: raw, dried, preserves, wine, brandy
Where: Usually along edges of woods
When: fall
Nutritional Value: high in carbohydrates, vitamin A, and minerals

Mexican plum fruit
MexicanPlum

The white stuff on the fruit is wild yeast which can be used to make bread or alcohol same as store-bought yeasts.
MexicanPlumFruit

Mexican plum tree
MexPlumTree

Mexican plum tree trunk
MexPlumTrunk

Close-up of wild plum flower (photo taken February in Houston).
WildPlum

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
PlumMexicanTX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
PlumMexican

The fruit of the Mexican plum can vary wildly in taste from sweet to inedible. Other Prunus species can be found in Texas and all have edible fruit but toxic leaves and seeds/pits. Their leaves and seeds/pits contains cyanide so you shouldn't eat these parts. The amount of cyanide varies and in extreme circumstances the seeds can be roasted and then eaten if they are NOT bitter.

The gray powder on the surface of the plums is a wild yeast which can be used to start sourdough or make wine. To use wild plums to create a sourdough follow these steps:

Step 1. On day 1 combine 1 cup whole wheat flour with 1/2 cup cool, non-chlorinated water, and 4-6 undamaged, gray-dusted wild plums in a bowl and gently stir together. Cover with a towel and let sit somewhere warm and undisturbed.

Step 2. After 24 hours discard half the mixture but leaving the plums in the retained portion. Add 1 cup unbleached flour and 1/2 cup non-chlorinater water. Gently mix everything. Cover with a towel, let sit somewhere warm for 24 hours.

Step 3. By now (day 3) you may see some bubbling in your starter and it'll hopefully have a somewhat fruity scent. If the starter is bubbling it's time to remove the plums. You'll also have to start "feeding" it twice a day. For each feeding scoop up heaping 1/4 cup of the starter and combine it with 1 cup unbleached flour and 1/2 cup non-chlorinated water about every 12 hours. Unused starter should be shared or discarded.

Step 4. Keep repeating Step 3 for 3-7 days until it almost doubles in size between feedings and has a nice, tangy aroma.

Step 5. Start making sourdough breads! Move unused sourdough starter to the fridge, discarding half and feeding it 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water once a day. If you don't remove some starter every day it'll overrun your container and also likely become too acidic, killing itself. Humans aren't the only creatures that take over paradise and end up killing ourselves with our waste. Yeast does this, too.

For making wild plum wine you should get 101 Recipes for Making Wild Wines at Home: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Herbs, Fruits, and Flowers (Back to Basics Cooking)

Next plant: Pokeweed

Pokeweed/Poke Salat

Scientific Name(s): Phytolacca americana L.
Abundance: uncommon
What: young shoots & leaves, berry juice
How: young shoots & leaves boiled in three changes of water; berry juice boiled then made into jam/jelly
Where: woods, shady areas, sunny areas, fields
When: spring
Nutritional Value: vitamins
Dangers: all parts of plant contain different amounts of extremely toxic (fatal) alkaloid compounds, especially roots, stems, mature leaves, and seeds.

Young pokeweed plants, ready to be boiled then eaten.
YoungPokeweed

pokeweed

Young sprouts next to a more mature pokeweed. Red color has already appeared in the older pokeweed's stem, indicating it is now unsafe to eat, even after multiple boilings.
ToxicPokeweed

Flowering pokeweed. The berries will form on the white flowerspike seen at the top of the pokeweed plant.
FloweringPokeweed

Pokeweed berries are very dark purple-black when ripe. Usually they'll hang downwards from the plant. DO NOT EAT!!
PokeweedBerries

Young pokeweed berries. DO NOT EAT!!
YoungPokeweedBerries

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
PokeweedTX

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Pokeweed

Young, boiled pokeweed leaves & shoots are considered a special treat in the South and a canned version is occasionally available in grocery stores. The pokeweed leaves must be harvested before there is any noticeable red color in the leaves or stem, usually when the plant is still under about six inches tall. Even at this young age there are highly toxic alkaloids present so the leaves must be boiled in three changes of water to render them safe enough to eat. Boil for five minutes in each change of water.

The seeds are very toxic even after cooking, but the juice of the berries can be made safe by boiling. After boiling the berry juice can be made into a jam or jelly. The berry juice can also be used as a dye or even as an ink.

Prairie Parsley

Scientific Name(s): Polytaenia nuttallii
Abundance: common
What: seeds, leaves
How: seeds as seasoning; leaves cooked
Where: fields, borders, roadsides
When: winter, spring
Nutritional Value: low
Dangers: none

Prairie parsley plants in bloom.
Prairie Parsley

Prairie Parsley

Close-up of prairie parsley's 5-petaled flowers.
Prairie Parsley

Close-up of prairie parsley flower buds.
Prairie Parsley

Close-up of even younger flower buds.
Prairie Parsley

Close-up of flowers gone to seed.
Prairie Parsley

Prairie parsley stem.
Prairie Parsley

Close-up of stem. It's covered with short hairs.
Prairie Parsley

Prairie Parsley

Prairie parsley leaves have rounded lobbed and teeth.
Prairie Parsley

Prairie Parsley

Close-up of prairie parsley leaves.
Prairie Parsley

Mature prairie parsley leaves are compound.
Prairie Parsley



Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
Prairie Parsley USDA TX


North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Prairie Parsley USDA NA

Perhaps in the scheme of things it is good that Prairie Parsley isn't one of the higher ranked wild edibles. It's seeds can be used as a seasoning substitute for dill or carrot seeds and it's leaves can be cooked, usually boiled, as a pot herb but in both cases the flavor isn't anything over which to get excited. In times of starvation supposedly the root was also boiled or roasted but honestly, it would have been during some pretty rough times. The flavor is...not good.

The plant itself is rather distinctive and attractive to my eyes. It's most commonly seen growing along dry ditches of country roads in late winter through early summer. However, it can also be found in fields, along the borders of woods, and even in woodland glades. The plant itself rarely gets over three feet tall and has an open structure with relatively few, widely spaced branches. This plant has a two-year lifecycle, with the first year it existing as a rosette of leaves, not putting up it's stalk until the second year. The stalk is green with purplish-reddish "ribs" running its length along with coarse hairs. Leaves are arranged in an alternating pattern lower on the plant but seem almost opposite near the tips. This leaves are compound, have three or more deeply lobed leaflets. The small, yellow flowers grow in an umbel clusters, becoming quite noticeable in late March into May. Following the flowers, numerous flat seeds appear, starting out green and then turning brown as they mature and dry.

Medicinally, tea from the seeds was used to control diarrhea. Prairie parsley leaf and root tea supposedly has some blood, kidney, and bladder cleansing/flushing properties but to my knowledge this hasn't been confirmed by western science.

Polytaenia nuttallii leaves are food source for Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars (Papilio polyxenes asterius) while bees and assorted other butterflies seek out the nectar of Prairie Parsley flowers.

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