Arrow-wood

Scientific Name(s): Viburnum dentatum
Abundance: uncommon
What: berries
How: raw
Where: sun, partial shade, woods, landscaping
When: berries ripen in early fall
Nutritional Value: flavanoids

Viburnum shrub in September with ripe berries.
ViburnumPlant

Closeup of ripe arrowwood berries
ViburnumBerries

Closeup of arrowwood leaf. The teeth along its edge give it the name "dentatum".
ViburnumLeaf

Closeup of flowers in early summer.
Virburnum1


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.
ArrowwoodTX

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

Arrow-wood shrubs are a common sight both in the woods and among landscaping. They grow 5’-9’ tall with multiple stems and thick foliage, ending up fairly round in shape. The inedible flowers appear in the spring and look almost identical to elderberry flow clusters. The long, straight, hardwood suckers were used to make arrows by Native Americans.

The dark blue-purple berries of arrow-wood are sour/sweet tasting but have only a thin layer of edible flesh over a large, inedible seed. They taste best as soon as they ripen, making an excellent nibble while hiking in the early fall. There is record of making jelly from the berries but I have not tried this personally. As the arrow-wood berries age they lose a lot of their flavor, becoming dry and mealy.

Next plant: Arrowhead

Arrowhead/Wapato

Scientific Name(s): Maranta spp. and Sagittaria spp.
Abundance: uncommon
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
Dangers: Beware the similar-looking arrow arum, (Peltandra virginica) plant which has an arrowhead-shaped leaf and produces tubers same as Sagittaria species.

Arrowroot tuber (photo courtesy of Samuel Thayer).
Arrowhead Tubers ST IGFB25

Arrowroot plants have many long veins radiating outwards from the center (palmate).
Arrowroot

Arrowroot leaf and flower stalk with white flowers and unopened buds.
Arrowrootflower

Note the spider-like (palmate) pattern of veins in the arrowhead-shaped leaves.
Arrowroot2

A stand of wapato plants.
Arrowroot1

Close-up of wapato flowers.
WapatoFlower

Arrowroot seedpods in the fall. One pod forms for each flower.
Arrowhead

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.
ArrowheadTX

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

Found in marshes, rivers, lakes and ponds, the arrowhead plant’s distinctive leaf and flowers are easy to spot. Most arrowhead plants have three-pointed leaves shape like an arrowhead, with either the top point bigger and broader than or the same as the two downward pointing points. The vein pattern in the leaves of Sagittaria species is palmate, which means the leaves have numerous thick veins running from the stem out to the tips and sides. This pamate venation is important to distinguish the edible Sagittaria from toxic Arum species.

Traditionally arrowroot tubers are freed from the mud by tearing them from the roots while walking barefoot in the water. The tubers float to the surface where the can be collected. They are prepared for eating by first peeling the bitter outer skin, followed by cooking any way you would cook a potato. The young leaves are harvested and boiled before they've had a chance to unroll/unfurl. The flower stalk is cooked like asparagus but it must be harvested before its flower buds have opened. Note, any plants harvested from water must be cooked to avoid imbibing any toxic pathogens.

Note that arrowhead tubers do not store very well, unlike traditional potatoes. If you want to keep them make sure you are storing only perfect, undamaged tubers and place them in moist, clean sand in a cool, dark place.

Young, still curled leaves that are either above or below the surface of the water make an excellent cooked green. Treat them like spinach. The young flower stalk before the flower buds appear can be used in the same manner as the leaves.

TOXIC MIMIC: ARROW ARUM PLANT
Arrow arum plants (Peltandra virginica) grow in wetlands, and have a leaves-with the same arrowhead-shape as the edible Sagittaria, as well as similar tubers. All parts of the arum plants are filled with calcium oxalate which will cause painful burning sensations in the lips, mouth, and throat if eaten. To tell the difference between arrowhead plants and Arum arrowhead plants look at the pattern of veins in the leaves. Toxic arrow Arum leaves have only three main veins, one each running out from the center out to the points of its leaf. From these three main veins branch out smaller veins, much like you see in a "normal" leaf of other plants. The edible arrowhead leaf has many veins radiating out from the center of the leaf where it connects to the stem, making it kind of look like a spider. These veins meet up again at the tips/points of the Sagittaria leaf.

Toxic Arrow Arum leaf.

























Next plant: Balloon Vine

Balloon Vine

Scientific Name(s): Cardiospermum corindum
Abundance: uncommon
What: young leaves; vine tips
How: cooked
Where: fields, borders, dry, moist
When: spring, summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: minor
Dangers: none

Ballon vine plant in the fall.
BalloonVine2

Balloon vine leaf.
BalloonVineLeaf

Balloon vine leaf and green seed pod "balloon". Seed pod/seeds are NOT edible.
BalloonFlowerPod1

Dried balloon vines seed pods.
DriedBalloonVine

Balloon vine seeds.
BalloonVineSeeds

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

Across fields and disturbed areas of Texas and the South, Balloon Vines are taking hold. Keep an eye out in sunny fields, especially along ditches and other areas where water may collect. Balloon vines are easily spotted by their small, puffy, pointed seed pods. These pods are mostly air with the fruit located in the center. If the weather stays warm these vines can produce these balloon-like seed pods all year long so you may see white flowers, young, green pods, and dried, brown pods all on the same vine.

Balloon vines are an invasive species from Asia and can quickly cover and kill native plants. This makes a good argument for eating them! The edible parts are its young leaves and vine tips. These are cooked before eating, though to be honest I don't know why. That's how they do it in Asian countries, which is a good enough reason for me.

The puffy seed pods are not eaten, nor are the seeds contained in these "balloons". However, both the leaves and seeds were used medically in India and Asia, along with the roots. Leaf poultices were used on skin wounds and infections as well as minor muscle and joint problems like strains, sprains and arthritis. Tea made from the leaves was traditionally used against stress and bronchitis. Tea from the root was applied topically to treat hemorrhoids. The seeds were crushed for a tea given to relieve fevers and joint pain.

Next Plant: Bamboo/Rivercane

Bastard Cabbage

Scientific Name(s): Rapistrum rugosum
Abundance: invasive
What: young leaves, flower buds, flowers, young seedpods
How: raw, cooked
Where: sunny ditches, fields, disturbed areas
When: late fall, winter, spring, early summer
Nutritional Value: minerals, vitamin C, antioxidants
Dangers:

Full plants seen along a roadside.
Bastard Cabbage

Bastard Cabbage

Bastard Cabbage

A single stalk of Bastard Cabbage. Note the alternating leaf pattern.
Bastard Cabbage

Close-up of flowers and flower buds.
Bastard Cabbage

Close-up of seedpods. Note the "beaks" extending from the tips of the pods away from the stem.
Bastard Cabbage

Close-up of the stem and unopened flower buds. Note the hairs.
Bastard Cabbage

Mature leaf of Bastard Cabbage.
Bastard Cabbage

A seedling of Bastard Cabbage.
Bastard Cabbage


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.
BastardCabbageTX

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

There's a yellow-flowered invader lining the roadsides and taking over fields of Texas and the rest of North America and it's name is Bastard Cabbage! Wow, that was a lot of "and"s in that previous sentence. Oh well. These plants prefer cool weather, fall through spring, during which time they're unfortunately everywhere. On the plus side, being a member of the brassica (mustard) family, pretty much all parts of this invader from southern Europe are edible.

Starting at the top and working our way down the plant, it's flowers have the standard mustard-family structure of four petals (yellow in this case) in an "X" arrangement surrounding six stamens, four of which are long and two stamens are short. The flowers grow in bunches off the stem and before they blow the highly-packed clusters look like tiny heads of broccoli, which is also a member of the mustard family. Below the flowers are seedpods arranged in a spiral up the stem. Note the "beak" jutting out from the top of the seedpod away from the stem.

The stem itself is somewhat hairy branched. The leaves at its base are large, broad, deeply lobed, and form a rosette whereas the leaves closer to the tops of the stems will be elongated, narrow, and unloved or very shallowly lobed. Underground, bastard cabbage forms a heavy taproot, similar to that of horseradish.

How do I eat this invasive species? The flowers and green seedpods I like raw straight off the plant or added to salads. The broccoli-like flower buds are also eaten raw or cooked like broccoli florets (drizzled with cheese!) The younger, tender leaves are cooked like turnip/collard greens, sautéing them with some garlic and bacon. The younger, tender parts of the stem do well when cooked/steamed like asparagus. I have yet to experiment with the roots but suspect a low-grade "horseradish" sauce could be made from them.

Basswood/Linden

Scientific name: Tilia americana
Abundance: rare
What: flowers, leaves, buds, inner bark
How: leaves raw in salad, buds to nibble, flowers for tea, cambium (inner bark) raw or boiled for calories
Where: Sunny edges of woods
When: buds in late winter, young leaves spring/summer, flowers summer, cambium all year
Nutritional Value: Leaves contain vitamins and minerals, inner bark has carbohydrates
Other uses: cordage from bark, not a good firewood

Basswood tree used in urban landscaping.
Basswood

Basswood leaf and flower/nut bract (long, narrow leaf-like thing).
Basswood

Basswood flower cluster and flower bract.
BasswoodFlowers

Close-up of Basswood flowers.
BasswoodFlowers2

Basswood leaves and seedpods.
Basswood2

Basswood2

Basswood

Basswood leaves.
Basswood3

Almost-ripe Basswood nuts in the fall.
Basswood

Ripe Basswood nuts.
Basswood

Basswood bark.
BasswoodTrunk

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.
BasswoodTX

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

Stately basswood trees range from 60 to 120 feet tall with shallowly-furrowed, somewhat greyish bark and round crowns. There are thirty species in North America with Tilia Americana and Tilia caroliniana being the most common in Texas. Basswoods prefer loose, well-drained soil with access to moisture, in particular river flood-plains and in low areas of woods.

The sweet sap, running in the spring before the leaf buds open, can be boiled down into a syrup or just drank as-is. Be sure to sterilize your tools before using them to cut or drill into the tree to collect sap or inner bark. This reduces the chance of a fungal infection striking the basswood.

A very delicious, spicy tea is made from the small flowers of basswood trees, which appear in the spring. The flowers can also be eaten raw. Bees love these flowers and often the tree can be found just by listening for the buzz of the hundreds of bees collecting its nectar. The resulting honey has a flavor imparted from the basswood nectar.

The young leaf buds and leaves can be eaten raw and have a slightly sweet flavor similar to the flowers. These parts can also be cooked like pot-herbs.

In the fall the nuts make a good trailside nibble while hiking, but only eat the inner meat, not the nuts’ outer shells.

The calorie-rich cambium layer, just under the bark, is stripped, finely diced, and boiled into a porridge-like mush to eat any time of the year. In Europe towards the end of World War II basswood sawdust was added to bread to try and produce enough loaves to fill everyone’s belly.

This cambium layer can be used to make strong fibers that can be woven into rope, containers and crude cloth. This inner bark must be soaked for up to two weeks to rot away the majority of the plant’s cells, leaving behind just the fibers. The wood itself is great for carving and for making the body of guitars.

Next plant: Bay Tree

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