Dandelion

Scientific name: Taraxacum officinale
Abundance: common
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 protein

Single dandelion plant.
dandelion

Dandelion IGFB RPL

Dandelions are very persistent!
Dandelion Leaves IGFB9

Cluster of dandelion plants, flowers, and seed-heads.
Dandelions

Perfect time to harvest dandelion leaves, just before any flower stems appear.
Dandelion

You only want to use the yellow and white parts of dandelion flowers. Their green collar is extremely bitter and must be removed.
Dandelion

Close-up of Dandelion flower. Note how the stamens split into two curls at the top.
Dandelion

Dandelion flower stems are hollow, may have fine hairs, and end in a single flower.
Dandelion Stem

A mature dandelion root can be twelve feet long! This one was a little over one foot.
Dandelion Root IGFB12

The best part of dandelions for eating are the white leaf stems right at the top of the root, sautéed in some bacon grease!
Dandelion Harvest IGFB12

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.
DandelionTX

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

Dandelions are one of the superfoods of foraging due to their high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and protein as well as the multitude of ways to use them. However, these nutrients come at a cost, mainly the strong bitter flavor of this plant.

This bitterness can be tamed via several different methods. The easiest is just to boil the leaves in several changes of water to extract the bitter compounds. This will remove a small amount of the nutrients and the resultant leaves are not very visually appealing.

If you have access to milder greens with which to make a salad then "dilute" a small amount of shredded dandelion leaves with a much large amount of mild greens. 1 part dandelion + 9 parts mild greens is a good ratio.

Wilting the dandelion greens with hot bacon grease is perhaps the most flavorful method. The hot grease both destroys some of the bitter compounds as well as coats and "desensitizes" your tongue to the bitterness. This is my favorite treatment. Note that olive oil will also work though not quite as well.

Overwhelming the bitterness with (sour) vinegar and or salty (soy sauce) flavors also works. A strong vinegar/oil salad dressing with the dandelion greens works very well.

The yellow flowers can be used to make wine, tea, or dress up a salad. Remove the extremely bitter, green bracts from the base of the flower though.

To make dandelion coffee you first need to collect a large bowl of dandelion roots. Scrub them to remove dirt, then roast them in an oven at 400 degrees F until they turn brown. The dark brown the darker the resultant coffee. Grind the browned roots in a coffee grinder and then you can use the results as you would regular coffee grounds. While this tastes just like normal coffee it does not contain any caffeine.

Edible Dandelion Mimics:
Dandelion
Cat's Ear
Chicory
Japanese Hawkweed
Sow Thistle
Texas Dandelion
Wild Lettuce

Day Lily

Scientific name: Hemerocallis fulva
Abundance: common
What: leaves, flowers, flower pods, tubers
How: young leaves-raw or cooked; flowers/pods raw or cooked; tubers-cooked
Where: sunny areas, often in flower beds but have escaped
When: summer
Nutritional Value: calories, minerals, vitamins B & C
Dangers: The original species (Hemerocallis fulva) of day lilies is considered edible but due to extensive experimental breeding toxic forms of day lilies have been created. It is safest to only eat day lilies that you can confirm are Hemerocallis fulva at the time of purchase (it should say the species name somewhere on the sales tag).

Day Lily flowers and flower pods.
DayLily

Day Lily

Root tubers.
Day Lily Tubers

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

The flowers add a colorful splash to salads while the unopened flower buds are best battered then fried...but then everything is good battered then fried. Roast the tubers.

Magnolia

Scientific Name(s): Magnolia grandiflora
Abundance: common
What: flowers, leaves, maybe seeds
How: flowers pickled; leaves as tea; seeds...you're on your own!
Where: landscaping, woods
When: spring flowers, fall seeds, leaves all year
Nutritional Value:
Dangers: some sources list the seeds as edible others list them as poisonous

Magnolia tree. Note the green tops and brown undersides of the leaves.
Magnolia

Magnolia flower buds.
Magnolia

Flower beginning to open which I feel is the best time to pick them for use.
Magnolia

Open flower. Soon after they open the petals begin turning brown. I don't harvest them once several petals have become spotted.
Magnolia

After the flower petals drop away the fuzzy seedhead is revealed.
Magnolia

Come fall, the red seeds begin bursting out of the seedhead. The hard, red shell covers a light-tan interior.
Magnolia

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.
MagnoliaTX

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

Fifty million years ago Magnolia trees dominated the Earth. Today they are found in the southeastern United States and running down into Central and South America. Oh, how the might have fallen! Yet, there's some pleasure in knowing Texas has some of the last northern holdouts of this ancient race. Looking at these trees, with their giant, ambrosial-scented flowers and thick, leathery leaves, it's not surprising they come from the time of Eocene period, when global temperatures were much hotter than today and plant life thrived.

Look for these trees both as landscaping centerpieces as well as wild in the east Texas woods. They keep their large, somewhat oval leaves all year around. Flowers appear in mid-spring followed by the clusters of hard, red seeds in the fall. The bark is relatively smooth and gray with assorted discolorations of lichen. Mature trees can have round crowns forty feet across.

The strong scent of freshly-opened magnolia flowers can be overpowering and so the flowers themselves aren't eaten raw. Shredding the flowers then pickling using the pickled okra recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, produces something similar to pickled seaweed served at sushi joints. A number of bartenders and distilleries have been experimenting with magnolia flower infused gins to create Texas-specific cocktails.

The leaves, after drying, has a long history of herbal medicinal use to fight cancers. Testing by western science has revealed magnolia leaves contain several compounds that reduce the growth of blood vessels to tumors. Lots of work still remains in turning these into an accurate, predictable medicine.

In the fall the trees are covered with clusters of bright red seeds about the size of small jelly beans. Digging through the research on the edibility of these magnolia beans, one find them listed as both poisonous and edible.Being a scientist, I've eaten three of them so far. At the first bite they have a sweet, pleasant flavor but at the second bite my mouth tasted like it was flooded with gasoline. Bleeech! The seeds have the outer, red coat surrounding pale, tan nutmeat. I suspect that the sweet flavor comes from the coat and the gasoline flavor from the nutmeat or perhaps vice-versa. More experimentation with these beans is required.



50 Million year old! Fights cancers!
http://www.whsc.emory.edu/_pubs/hsc/08spring/pdf/HSMspr08_More_than_magnolias.pdf

Dead Nettle

Scientific Name: Lamium purpureum
Abundance: rare (in TX, uncommon elsewhere)
What: leaves, flowers
How: salad, smoothies, tea
Where: fields, disturbed areas, sunny, shade
When: winter, spring
Nutritional Value: vitamins, iron, antioxidants


Cluster of Dead Nettle plants.
Dead Nettle

Dead Nettle.
Dead Nettle

Root to tip of a Dead Nettle plant.
Dead Nettle

Close-up of Dead Nettle head before flowers are fully formed.
Dead Nettle

Dead Nettle are in the mint family and so have the square hollow stems and alternating opposed leaves of this family.
Dead Nettle

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.
DeadNettleMap_TX

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

I've only found one colony of Dead Nettles in Texas and as the USDA map indicates, it was up in East Texas. Dead Nettles look very similar to the very common Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) but Dead Nettle leaves are pointed triangular whereas Henbit leaves are "kidney" shaped at first then mature to very rounded triangles. Dead Nettles leaves have a somewhat purple shade whereas Henbit leaves are green. Dead Nettle leaves are somewhat more hairy than Henbit leaves, especially along the edges. Both have purple, tubular flower appearing in clusters at the top of the plant.

Dead Nettles are usually found in fields, yards, and disturbed areas such as roadsides and abandoned lots. In East Texas look for them at the same time Henbit is appearing, usually late winter/early spring. They seem to prefer sunny areas but can also grow in shade.

The leaves of Dead Nettle are added raw to salads but can be cooked, too. They have a mild, almost bland flavor. Some people add them to springtime smoothies along with Chickweed and other spring weeds. I haven't tried it yet but I'd bet they ferment well.

Dead Nettle seeds supposedly have some strong antioxidants but they are small and it'd take a lot of plants to produce enough seeds to do any good. You're better off spreading the seeds around to increase the population of this funky, purplish plant.

Desert Hackberry

Scientific Name: Celtis pallida
Abundance: common
What: fruit
How: raw, cooked
Where: dry, desert areas
When: late summer, fall
Nutritional Value: calories
Dangers: spines are sharp!

Desert Hackberry fruit when ripe.
Desert Hackberry

Close-up of ripe fruit.
Desert Hackberry

Thicket of Desert Hackberry trees. They grow with interlaced trunks and branches.
Desert Hackberry

Close-up of leaves.
Desert Hackberry

Note how the young branch "zig-zags" betweens leaf nodes and spines.
Desert Hackberry

Close-up of spines on young twig.
Desert Hackberry

Close-up of spine on mature branch.
Desert Hackberry

Desert Hackberry trunk.
Desert Hackberry

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.
DesertHackberry TX Map


North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
DesertHackberry NA Map

As much as I love Desert Hackberries, birds love them even more. The spiny thickets that these small tree form are are a safe, food-filled haven for all manner of small birds. Look for these thickets in arid, hot areas of south and west Texas, though in these environments they will likely cluster near water sources including dry gullies. The trees rarely get much over 15 feet tall. The small, oval leaves stay on the tree most of the year but can fall in extremely dry conditions.

The ripe fruit is quite sweet, orange in color, and its single seed is much softer than the hard stone found in Sugar Hackberry fruit. I each the whole thing raw, seed and nut combined. It can be eaten raw, mashed then baked into a calorie-laden snackbar, or boiled in some water to make a syrup. A truly industrious person could gather enough of the ripe fruit to make a bottle of wine or two if they were willing to fight through the plant's thorns...and deal with the resulting angry birds.








Devil's Claw

Scientific Name(s): Proboscidea altheaefolia and Proboscidea parviflora
Abundance: uncommon
What: young seed pods, seeds
How: seed pods cooked; seeds raw or cooked
Where: fields, disturbed soil, full sun
When: summer
Nutritional Value:


Devil's Claw plant (Proboscidea altheaefolia).
Devil's Claw
Photo compliments of Burr Williams.

Devil's Claw
Photo compliments of Terri Cox.

Close-up of Proboscidea altheaefolia flower.
Devil's Claw
Photo compliments of Burr Williams.

Close-up of seedpods. Note the fine hairs on the pod.
Devil's Claw
Photo compliments of Burr Williams.

Devil's Claw
Photo compliments of Terri Cox.

Mature seedpod starting to split open.
Devil's Claw
Photo compliments of Terri Cox.

Fully dried and split seedpod.
Devil's Claw
Photo compliments of Terri Cox.

Devil's Claw (Proboscidea parviflora) plant.
Devil's Claw Annual Brandy
Compliments of Brandy McDaniel.

Close-up of pink, annual Devil's Claw (Proboscidea parviflora) flower.
20160829_184905
Compliments of Brandy McDaniel.

Close-up of pink, annual Devil's Claw (Proboscidea parviflora) seedpods.
20160829_184919
Compliments of Brandy McDaniel.

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.
Proboscidea TXMap

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Proboscidea NA Map


Across the sandy, arid areas of west and south Texas grows Devil's Claw...though sometimes its hooked seedpods deliver it all the way to east Texas fields, too! This large weed, practically a bush, appears after a good rain and then grows throughout the hot summer. Proboscidea parviflora is an annual which grows to maturity and then dies over the course of the summer. This annual species has pinkish flowers. The perennial is Proboscidea altheaefolia and it's flowers are yellowish-white. It may die back in the winter but then returns from its deep, thick taproot. The leaves of both species are heart-shaped, have sticky surfaces, and smell bad. Mature seedpods can reach fifteen inches in lengths. Seeds are black in color but a white-seeded variety was also grown by Native Americans. The pods split into two or sometimes three sections when mature.

The young, tender pods are cooked (boiled, steamed, or fried) before eating...but frying them like okra is the best. Boiled or steamed Devil's Claw pods are kind of an...acquired taste. If they are starting to get tough just leave them on the plant until the pod matures. This is indicated by the pod turning hard, brown/black in color, and beginning to split. At this point collect the seeds. They can be eaten raw but roasting them first improves the flavor. Once roasted they can be boiled as a porridge or ground into a gluten-free flour.

The fibers of the mature seedpods were prized for weaving baskets.

Privacy Statement

I use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit this website. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, click here.