Lotus

Scientific Name(s): Nelumbo lutea
Abundance: uncommon
What: nuts, tubers
How: nuts raw, roasted, pounded into flour; tubers raw, roasted, candied, baked.
Where: still water
When: nuts fall, winter; tubers late summer, fall
Nutritional Value: nuts protein, carbohydrates; tubers starch
Dangers:none...well, occasionally alligators in Texas.

Lotus plants. In shallow water they often stand out a foot or more above the water.
LotusGrove2

Lotus

Close-up of a lotus leaf. They are intact circles, unlike the cloven form of regular water lily pads. Lotus pads can grow to over two feet in diameter. Microscopic, hydrophobic hairs on the surface of the lotus pads cause water to bead up and run like mercury.
LotusLeaf

LotusLeaf

Small lotus pad in spring. Note the two lighter hemispheres mark at it's center.
SmallLotusLeaf

Lotus tuber. Raw it tastes kind of like a muddy, fibrous potato.
LotusRoot

Lotus flower.
LotusFlower

LotusFlower1

Lotus seed pod ready for picking.
Lotus

Lotus seedpods and nuts after drying in the wild.
LotusPods-Seeds

Cracked lotus nut. The small, green plant germ (plant embryo) is very bitter and must be removed. The nuts are very hard to crack.
CrackedLotusNut

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.
LotusAmericanTX

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

Common in many shallow, still water, lotus are often mistaken for some sort of large water lily. The main differences between lotus and water lilies are lotus "pads" are round & intact whereas water lily pads have a cleft or gap in the pad and so aren't a complete circle. Also, lotus pads grow up to a foot out of the water on strong stalks while lily pads stop growing at the surface of the water. Lotus seedpods look like weird, green showerheads pointing up at the sky while green and then drooping face down towards the water when brown and dry. The tubesrs are thick, long, segmented and MUCH tastier than water lily tubers!

Lotus nuts were a much-beloved food of Native Americans due to the flavor and high-energy content. After cracking and removal of the small, bitter, green plant embryo the seeds can be eaten raw, roasted, roasted then pounded into flour, or candied. Toasting, boiling, then mushing up the seeds gives a hearty porridge that reminds me of Malt-O-Meal.

Lotus tubers can be somewhat of a challenge to harvest. The tubers grow during the summer at the end of the lotus runners. Follow a pad stem or seedpod stem down to its base runner then follow this runner to its end. These tubers can be eaten raw, roasted, or candied by boiling in a concentrated sugar solution. Mix a little ginger in with the lotus root when you candy it for a real treat!

Lyreleaf Sage

Scientific Name(s): Salvia lyrata
Abundance: common
What: leaves
How: raw or cooked when young, tea after flowers form.
Where: Full sun, borders and light woods
When: winter, spring
Nutritional Value: Low

Young plant (eat at this stage). Note the purple veins and leaf stems.
LyreLeafSage

Lyreleaf2

Close-up of leaf. Note the hairs.
LyreleafSage1

Mature lyreleaf sage with flower stalk (less tasty at this stage).
LyreleafSage

Lyreleaf Sage flower stalks usually split into three stems.
LyreleafSage3

Close-up of lyreleaf sage flowers.
Lyreleaf Sage Flowers IGFB16

Stem after dropping flowers.
Lyreleaf Sage Stem IGFB23

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.
LyreleafSageTX

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

Lyreleaf sages quickly cover the ground wherever they show up giving rise to it's other common name, "Cancer Weed". As winter turns to spring these purplish plants send up flower stalks which split into three stems, each with multiple long, thin, small light violet/purple flowers. One quickly learns to spot beds of lyreleaf sage by the large beds of these flowers. Being in the mint family, the flower stem is square. Both the stem and leaves are hairy.

Young lyreleaf sages have a weak, somewhat minty flavor when young. It is good in salads or in cooked dishes where a bit of mint flavor is wanted. After it flowers the dried plant can be used to make a weak mint tea. Like all mints, it has a square stem and can be very invasive.

The youngest leaves are used raw in salads but as the plant matures I find the leaf texture is improved by cooking.

Native Americans were the first to notice how this plant spreads across an area like a cancer and following their belief that "like cures like" they thought it could be used to treat cancer. Western science has not put much effort into determining if it does have any special anti-cancer properties but it is generally believed to not fight cancer.

Mallow - Marsh

Scientific name: Althaea officinalis
Abundance: rare
What: roots, young leaves, flower buds,
How: Leaves, roots, stem, and flowers contain a mucilage-like material which can be used to thicken soups and stews. Flowers can be eaten raw. Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked with other greens or boiled alone. Roots are peeled, sliced then fried. Flower buds can be raw or cooked. All parts of the plant can be made into tea, seeds are roast and ground for a coffee substitute.
Where: Moist areas
When: Young leaves in spring, summer; roots all year, flowers in summer.
Nutritional Value: Roots high in starch, rest of plant contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals

Marsh mallow flowers and flower buds, both of which are edible.
Marsh Mallow

Marsh mallow (plants grow up to four feet tall). Note last year's dried seedpods.
MarshMallowPlant2

MarshMallow1

Marsh mallow leaf.
MarshMallowLeaf2

Close-up of marsh mallow leaf. Note the fine hairs which give it a velvety feel.
MarshMallowLeaf1

Marsh mallow flower.
MarshMallow3

MarshMallow4

Marsh mallow flower buds before blooming.
Mallow - Marsh

MarshMallow2

Tender seedpods taste kind of like okra.
Marsh Mallow

Dried marsh mallow seed pods which have split open, revealing their seeds.
Mallow Marsh

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

Marsh mallows are usually found in shady, moist areas but on occasion they can be found in sunny, moist areas, too.

To make original marshmallows, peel roots and slice them into thin wafers then boil 20 minutes in minimum amount of water. Remove the root slices, add sugar or other sweetener and boil down fluid until very thick. Whip this hot fluid like egg whites then drop globs onto wax paper, after they've cooled dust them with powdered sugar.

The seeds can be roasted then ground in a coffee grinder for use as a substitute for real coffee. It tastes pretty good, though does not have any caffeine.

Young leaves and tender flower buds can be used to thicken soups, stews, curries, and other sauces. The tender flower buds can also be pickled like okra. Opened flowers can be used in salads or made into tea though these are best the first day they've opened.

The dried root has been used in herbal "tobacco" substitutes.

Mallow

Scientific name: Malva neglecta, Malva parviflora
Abundance: common
What: leaves, young shoots, roots
How: raw, steamed, sauteed, tea. leaves and roots produce a thickening agent
Where: sunny, fields, yards
When: spring, summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: very high in minerals, vitamins A & C, and protein.

Young Mallow sprouts.
Mallow

Mallow leaves and flowers.
MallowFlower

Mallow

Mallow - Neglecta

Close-up of the Malva neglecta flower and "cheese" seedpod.
MallowCheese

If not mowed, these mallows can become small bushes.
Mallow Neglecta

Mallow Neglecta

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.
MallowMalvaNeglectaTX

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

Don't mistake young toxic. Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) for Mallow seedlings. Creeping Buttercup leaves have deeper clefts and a shinier, light-green color. If you aren't sure what you have, wait a few weeks to see how the plant grows. If it develops yellow flowers and sharply cleft leaves it's the toxic Creeping Buttercup.

Young, toxic Creeping Buttercup.
Creeping Buttercup

Mature, toxic Creeping Buttercup.
Creeping Buttercup

Driving through Giddings, TX always excites me because that's where I start seeing Malva neglect. The coarse, hairy plant appears in forms ranging from small, scraggly yard weeds to thick, lush, large beds along country roads. Leaves will range in size from under one inch to over two inches across. The green, scalloped leaves quickly become unmistakable after a few encounters, allowing the forager to pick them out from quite a distance. Unless knocked back by a very hard frost these mallows will continue to grow all year long. They do seem to do a bit better in cooler months, however.

The flowers of Malva neglecta are mainly white with pinkish or purplish stripes which can end up coloring the entire flower. After the flower comes the "cheese" which is a round seedpod. These seedpods are a good nibble when still green and tender. Later on when the pods turn hard and brown the seeds can be collected and eaten but they are quite small.

These mallows are "superfoods" rich in vitamins, minerals and protein. It's mature leaves are rarely eaten fresh as they are stiff and rough and have a bland taste that is easy covered by others flavors. A popular way of consuming this plant is to dry it then crumble it into smoothies, soups, stews, or other foods with sauces.

Mallow - Rose

Scientific Names: Hibiscus spp.
Abundance: very rare
What: flowers, leaves, seeds, seed pods, roots
How: flowers raw, young leaves raw or cooked, seeds roasted. Tender seed pods are cooked. Roots are diced then roasted.
Where: sunny areas, often used in landscaping
When: spring, summer, fall
Nutritional Value: Flowers high in antioxidants; seeds are high in protein & starch; leaves high in minerals; roots contain starch.

Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus palustris) plants grow up to five feet tall.
RoseMallow2

Mallow2

Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus palustris) flower and bud.
MallowMeasure

Closeup of flower buds (green fruit).
MarshMallowBuds

Closeup of Rose Mallow flower (petals may be white to pink in color).
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RoseMallow1

Closeup of Rose Mallow seeds inside pod (brown fruit).
MallowSeeds

Halberd-Leaved Rose Mallow (Hibiscus militaris) plant and flower buds.
MarshMallow

Close-up of Halberd-Leaved Rose Mallow (Hibiscus militaris) leaf.
RoseMallowLeaf

Close-up of young Halberd-Leaved Rose Mallow (Hibiscus militaris) flower bud.
RoseMallowFlowerBud

Rose mallows are usually found in moist, sunny areas but on occasion they can be found in shady, moist areas, too.

The seeds can be roasted then ground in a coffee grinder for use as a substitute for real coffee. It tastes pretty good, though does not have any caffeine.

Young tender leaves can be cooked like spinach but I find them a bit too rough/stiff to use raw. The flowers are good raw or added to tea. The tender, young flower buds and seed pods can be used like okra, either friend, pickled, or added to Cajun and African foods. The flowers work well in salads.

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