Hackberry

Scientific name: Celtis spp. (occidentalis, laevigata)
Abundance: plentiful
What: berries
How: raw, dried, preserves
Where: moist, sunny areas
When: fall when berries are red, orange, or purple
Nutritional Value: calories, protein

Ripe hackberry fruit.
HackberryBerries
HackberryFruit

Unripe berries
Hackberry

Sugar Hackberry (Celtis laevigata) tree.
Hackberry2

Sugar Hackberry (Celtis laevigata) tree trunk.
Hackberry3

Another Hackberry tree.
Hackberry

Close-up of hackberry bark "scales/warts".
HackberryBark

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.
HackberryTX

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

Most of your ancestors owe their lives to the fruit of the hackberry tree. It is the oldest-know foraged food, going back over 500,000 years to the grave of Peking Man. Found on every continent except Antarctica, every culture that arose around hackberry trees utilized them as one of their main sources of calories...until us now. Now it is considered a "trash tree" and considered to be an annoyance. We have forgotten how it kept so many humans alive for tens of thousands of years.

The ripe fruit of hackberries are less than 1/4 inch in diameter and consist of a thin, sweet skin surrounding a large, hard seed. This edible seed is rich in protein and fats, but is extremely hard. Trying to crush the seed with your teeth can easily result in a broken tooth. You are better off crushing up the berries in a mortar & pestle to make a sweet, energizing paste. This paste can be toasted into a bar, making it nature's original "power bar". The seeds can also be crushed/blended with water, left over night and then strained to make "hackberry milk" which is similar to "almond milk". If you don't have a way to crush the seeds then just eat the skin/flesh off then spit out the seed. These berries ripen in the fall but will often remain on the trees and edible well into spring.

The wood of the hackberry tree is weak and brittle. It does not make good firewood, carving material or lumber. However, it did make acceptable archery bows. After a storm the ground beneath hackberry tree is usually littered with broken branches, making a mess. They can grow up to 80' tall in moist, sunny locations such as along lakes, ponds, or streams. Hackberries also seem to thrive in urban environments though they only live 20-30 years. Their gray bark is usually covered with lumpy, scaly wart-type growths that are made of layered sections.

Heal's All

Scientific Name(s): Prunella vulgaris
Abundance: uncommon
What: leaves
How: raw, tea, cooked
Where: borders, woods, fields, wastelands, full sun, light shade
When: spring, summer
Nutritional Value: medicinal compounds
Dangers: none

Bed of heal's all plants while flowering.
HealsAllBed

Heal's all bed before flowering.
Bed of Heal's All.

Individual heal's all stalk.
Heal's All herb

Heal's all plant.
Heals All

Close-up of heal's all flower stalk before flowering.
Heal's All herb flower stalk.

Close-up of heal's all flower.
HealsAllFlower

Note the "beard" on the flower's lower lip petal.
Heals All

Heal's All seedlings in January in Houston, before producing a stem or flowers.
Heals All

Heal's All in the summer after going to seed.
OldHealsAll

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.
HealsAllTX

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

Usually found in somewhat moist, woody areas, Heal's All is a rather unassuming plant for most of it's life. Appearing in late winter, it's first call to attention occurs with the appearance of its unmistakable, pyramidal flower stalk in mid-spring. It isn't a solitary plant and so much prefers being surrounded by many of its fellow Heal's All plants.

Heal's all is often considered to be the best all-around medicinal plant. Other names for it include selfheal, heart-of-the-earth, and woundwort. According to legend and also Peterson's Guide to Medicinal Plants heal's all will take care of problems with lungs, liver, kidneys, blood, joints, cancers, ulcers, tumors, swellings, and back trouble. The usual method of ingestion is as a leaf tea or alcohol extraction. I also like chopping the leaves up and adding them to any rice I am cooking.

The plant can be air-dried for later use. as tea, but the alcohol extraction is best done with fresh leaves. The dried leaves & flowers can also be smoked as part of an herbal "tobacco" mixture.

Henbit

Scientific Name(s): Lamium amplexicaule
Abundance: common
What: leaves, stem, and flowers
How: raw, cooked, or tea
Where: sunny yards, urban areas
When: late fall, winter (in Houston), spring
Nutritional Value: vitamins, iron, antioxidants

Henbit
Henbit1

Henbit

Single Henbit plant.
Henbit

Close-up of top portion of Henbit before flowers appear.
Henbit Seedling IGFB12

Close-up of top of Henbit when flowers are just beginning to appear.
Henbit

Close-up of Henbit flowers. They're really odd-looking.
Henbit

Closer close-up of Henbit flowers.
Henbit

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.
HenbitTX

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

Clumps of henbit begin showing up yards in mid-winter. Rarely standing over 10" tall, it's spindly form, odd-shaped leaves, and small, purple tubular flowers make it very noticeable against the brown, dead winter grass. Looking closely will reveal the oppositely-placed leaves and square, hollow stem of the mint family. It likes yards and other open, sunny areas where it can grow dense mats.

The whole plant is edible either raw or cooked though the stems can become stringy as the plant matures. It has a mild bitter/spinachy flavor. Chickens love this stuff so if you have backyard chickens start collecting Henbit from your neighbor's yard (after asking permission, of course). They'll love your chickens even more if you weed their yards.

Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) is often mistaken for Henbit. The leaves of edible Dead Nettle's have longer petioles and are thicker than those of Henbit.

Dead Nettle stem and leaves.
Dead Nettle

Close-up of Dead Nettle head.
Dead Nettle

Hericium Mushrooms

Scientific Name(s): Hericium erinaceus, H. coralloides, H. americanum
Abundance: rare
What: mushroom
How: cooked
Where: woods
When: fall, winter, spring
Nutritional Value: beneficial compounds

COLLECTING MUSHROOM REQUIRES 100% CERTAINTY. WWW.FORAGINGTEXAS.COM ACCEPTS NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR IDENTIFICATION ERRORS BY ANY READERS.

Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus) form "snowball" shapes with spore tubes over 1cm long. Pick when white, not yellow/brown.
Mushroom - Lion's Main Hericium erinaceus

Mushroom - Lion's Main Hericium erinaceus

Mushroom - Lion's Main Hericium erinaceus

Bearded Tooth (Hericium americanum) form long-toothed "waterfalls".
Hericium americanum

Hericium americanum

Close-up of Hericium americanum spore tubes.
Hericium americanum

Past-ripe Hericium americanum turn brown but the inner white parts are still edible.
Mushroom - Hericium americanum, commonly known as the bear's head tooth fungus

Bear's Head Tooth (Hericium coralloides) grow like H. americium but with shorter spore tubes.
Mushroom - Hericium americanum, commonly known as the bear's head tooth fungus

Mushroom - Hericium americanum, commonly known as the bear's head tooth fungus

Hericium coralloides commonly known as the bear's head tooth fungus

Hericium coralloides commonly known as the bear's head tooth fungus

Walking through hardwood forests on a cool day after rains you see an odd sight...a furry looking snowball stuck to a dead tree...or maybe something that looks like coral but far from the see. A closer examination reveals it is a Hericium mushroom, distinctively made of a cluster of spore tubes and lacking any noticeable cap. They only grow on dead or dying wood so if one of these delicious mushrooms appears on a tree in your yard, be warned.

You want to collect these while they are white or at most slightly off-white. As they mature to a yellow/brown color they are now longer worth eating. These mushrooms must be cooked, with my favorite methods simply cutting them up into 1" pieces then sauteeing them in butter until they become just a little crispy at the edges. Once cooked, their flavor is reminiscent of lobster.

Hericium mushrooms are known to contain several compounds that have been found to help with cognitive functions such as memory/recall as well as mood issues such as depression and anxiety. There's also some evidence that they reduce the plaque in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. This is an amazing family of mushrooms!

Shagbark Hickory

Scientific name: Carya ovata
Abundance: uncommon
What: nuts
How: raw, roasted
Where: Woods, Landscaping
When: fall
Nutritional Value: Vitamin A,E,K,B6; fats, minerals
Other uses: Wood is great for tool handles

Hickory nuts.
Hickory
hickory2.jpg

Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) tree.
ShagbarkHickoryTree

Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) tree bark.
ShagbarkHickory

Top of Shagbark Hickory leaf.
HickoryShagbarkLeafTop

Bottom of Shagbark Hickory leaf.
HickoryShagbarkLeafBot

Flowers of Shagbark Hickory (taken March in Houston, TX).
ShagBarkHickFlowers

Water hickory (Carya aquatica) nuts are too bitter to eat.
WaterHickoryNuts

Water hickory bark (inedible hickory).
WaterHickoryBark

Hickory leaves. Note the compound leaf has nine or less (but always and odd number) leaflets while a pecan leaf will have 11-17 leaflets.
HickoryLeaf

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.
HickoryTX

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

Related to pecans and walnuts, Shagbark Hickory trees aren't nearly as common but when found the nuts are quite tasty. Only the Shagbark species of hickories are edible whereas the Water Hickory (Carya aquatica), though more common, are too bitter to eat.

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