Showing posts with label Coastal Beaches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coastal Beaches. Show all posts

Acorn - Oak

Scientific Name: Quercus spp.
Abundance: common
What: nuts
How: leach out tannins with lots of water then grind to flour, roast nuts then grind for coffee
Where: oaks (white, red, live, burr, post, pin, etc)
When: fall
Nutritional Value: protein, minerals, fats and carbohydrates
Other uses: tanning leather
Dangers: very bitter if not tannic acid isn't leached

Medicinal Summary:
Galls - astringent, hemostatic; antibacterial; antifungal, may reduce symptoms of Parkinson's disease (tisane)
Acorns - astringent (tisane)
Bark - astringent (tisane)

Leaf Arrangement: Simple, alternate leaves along the stems.

Leaf Shape: Highly variable, ranging from lobed to unlobed, depending on the oak species.

Leaf Color: Green foliage, with variations in shades.

Leaf Margin: Leaf margins can be entire or serrated, depending on the species.

Flower Structure: Inconspicuous , small, green flowers in the form of catkins.

Flower Size: Individual flowers are typically very small, less than 0.25 inches.

Fruit (Acorns): Acorns are the distinctive fruit of oaks, varying in size from 0.5 to 2 inches.

Seed Size: Seeds within acorns vary in size, usually less than 1 inch.

Bark: Bark color and texture vary among oak species, often becoming rougher and deeply furrowed with age.

Height: Oak trees can range widely in height, from 40 to 100 feet or more.


Bur oak acorns are the biggest at over 1" across.

Shelled acorns.

These are the oak flowers (on catkins) that eventually become acorns.

Assorted oak leaves.

Bur oak leaf.

An oak gall, created by chemical warfare between a type of wasp and the oak tree.

Stately oak trees can grow over 100’ tall and hundreds of feet in diameter under ideal conditions. Their bark ranges from smooth to deeply fissured. Branches tend to give oak trees a round or oblong shape. They usually prefer full sun and loose, well drain soils but with fifteen different species to choose from in Texas along, there’s a good chance you’ll find an oak somewhere nearby.

The calorie-laden acorns of oaks have supplied fats, oils, and protein to mankind for thousands of years. A one ounce (28.3g) serving of shelled acorn meat contains about 110 calories in the form of 6.8g of fats and 1.7g of protein, plus a small amount of calcium. Acorns can be ground into a gluten-free, high-protein flour good for making flat breads and batter-style baked goods as well as to thicken stews and to make gravy. Roasted acorns have been used as a substitute for coffee grounds, but all that can be said about that is the resulting liquid is brown and bitter, any similarity to it and coffee is strictly due to the desperation of the brewer.

Acorn must have their tannic acid leached out before consumption. Luckily tannic acid is very water-soluble and easy leach out by placing the shelled, crushed nuts in a mesh bag then submersing them in running water for several days. An easier method is to coarsely chop them in a blender or food processor then repeatedly running them through a coffee maker until they no longer taste bitter. The hot water will extract the tannins but do not allow the acorns to cool between flushes or the tannic acid will bind more tightly to the acorn meat. Also, do not grind the acorns finely before leach them as a flour-sized particles will clog the filter.

Unfortunately, the fats and oils in acorns turn rancid fairly quickly. Fresh ground acorn flour will go bad in as little as four weeks if exposed to air and warm temperatures. Freezing the flour, especially if vacuum-packed (a messy process) can stretch its usable life to six months. You are better off freezing the un-shelled acorn and just leaching and grinding as you need it. Frozen, vacuum-packed acorns still in their shell can last up to a year.

White oaks (Quercus alba) produce the least bitter nuts, followed by Red oaks (Quercus rubra) but even both of these need the tannins leached from their acorns. White oak acorns mature in one year while Red oak acorns take two years to complete their growth. Pin oaks (Quercus palustris) are related to Red oaks while Bur oaks (Quercus macrocarpa) are related to White oaks. Live Oaks (Quercus fusiformis) produce the least desirable acorns as they are hard to remove from their shells and are very bitter.

To use acorns as a caffeine-free coffee substitute coarse-grind them then roast them at 400F in an oven to a dark brown color. At this point you can use them just like ground coffee.

The oak gall wasp likes to lay its eggs under the tender bark of new oak twigs. Doing so somehow triggers the formation of a round oak gall. The oak tree doesn't like this much and starts pumping assorted chemicals into the gall to try and kill the wasp larva. The end result is a small, hard ball loaded with medicinal properties. These galls were crushed and then used to make ointments, tinctures, medicated oils, and teas to fight infections inside and outside of the body. The crushed oak galls were also combined with iron salts in vinegar to create a very dark, non-fading ink.

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.


Scientific name: Amaranthus spp.
Abundance: common
What: young leaves, seeds
How: Young leaves raw or cooked, seeds eaten raw, roasted or ground into flour
Where: sunny fields, disturbed areas
When: summer
Nutritional Value: Grains supply protein, calories, and minerals. Leaves vitamins A & C along with minerals calcium, iron, and phosphorous, and also fiber.

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves are alternately arranged along the stem.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are generally broad, lanceolate, or ovate, with lengths ranging from 2 to 6 inches and widths of 1 to 3 inches.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate venation exhibits well-defined veins extending from the midrib to the leaf margins.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margin is entire, displaying a smooth and continuous edge.

Leaf Color: The upper surface of the leaves is a vibrant green, while the underside may have a slightly lighter shade.

Flower Structure: Flowers are arranged in dense, elongated clusters called inflorescences, with each flower having a diameter of approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Each flower has three to five petals and is located at the tips of the stems.

Flower Color: Flowers may be green, red, or purple, depending on the species, matching the foliage color.

Fruit: The fruit is a small, dry capsule containing numerous seeds, measuring around 1/8 inch in diameter.

Seed: Tiny, spherical seeds vary in color from light tan to dark brown and measure around 1/16 inch in diameter.

Stem: Sturdy and erect stem with a height ranging from 2 to 4 feet. Some species may have thorns, such as Amaranthus spinosus.

Hairs: Some amaranth species may have fine hairs on the leaves, stem, or both. Check for pubescence or trichomes, especially on the undersides of leaves.

Height: The amaranth plant typically reaches a height between 2 and 4 feet, forming a distinctive upright growth habit in the wild.

Amaranth (Amaranthus powellii)

Another type of amaranth.

Another variation of amaranth.

Red amaranth (often used as decorative plant).

Another amaranth.


Still more amaranths.

Amaranth Prostrate Pigweed IGFB4

And yet more amaranths.
Amaranth Flowers IGFB2

Amaranth Leaves IGFB15

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.

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

A variety of amaranth species can be found across Texas and the South. Shapes range from prostrate, creeping vine-like weeds to striking, tall, cultivated forms. The most distinctive feature of all amaranths is their spikes of tiny, clustered flowers which are the same color as the rest of the plant. Amaranths are most commonly found in sunny, disturbed areas and wastelands such as abandoned lots and roadsides. Bright red versions are often included in landscaping.

Amaranth leaves can be eaten raw or used as a spinach substitute in any dish. The leaves are high in vitamin A & C, assorted necessary minerals and also fiber. The youngest leaves have the best flavor and texture, but even the large, old leaves can be chopped up and included in any food needing a vegetable.

Amaranth seeds are very rich in carbohydrates and up to 16% protein by weight. Better still, the seeds contain the amino acid lysine which is very rare for plants but vital for human health. A single plant can produce as many as 100,000 of these wonderful, slightly nutty-tasting seeds. They can be eaten raw but toasting and then grinding into flour releases the most nutrition. The ornamental varieties are just as productive as the wild one but are more attractive. Amaranth seeds have even been used to make a gluten-free beer.

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

Balloon Vine

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

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves of Cardiospermum corindum are arranged alternately along the stem.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are compound, usually with three leaflets, each leaflet being broadly ovate to heart-shaped, measuring approximately 1 to 3 inches in width.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate venation, with veins running from the base to the tip of each leaflet.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margin is typically serrated or toothed.

Leaf Color: The leaves are green.

Flower Structure: The flowers are approximately 1/4" across, with four petals, and occur in clusters.

Flower Color: Flowers are typically greenish-white.

Fruit: The fruit is a distinctive, papery capsule with three inflated chambers, resembling balloons.

Seed: Inside each inflated capsule are small, black seeds with a white band running partway around the seed. 

Stem: The stem is typically climbing or trailing, and it may have fine hairs.

Hairs: Appears hairless or extremely fine hairs.

Height: Cardiospermum corindum can climb to significant heights but is often seen trailing along the ground or climbing on other vegetation.

Ballon vine plant in the fall.

Balloon Vine flower. They can keep producing flowers while the temperatures are still warm.

Balloon vine leaf.

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

Dried balloon vines seed pods.

Balloon vine seeds.

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

Balloon Vine on the left, Ground Cherry on the right.

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.

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

Bull Nettle

Scientific Name(s): Cnidoscolus stimulosus, Cnidoscolus texanus
Abundance: common
What: seeds, taproot
How: seeds raw, roasted; root baked
Where: sunny fields
When: summer, fall
Nutritional Value: protein, calories
Dangers: entire plant is covered in stinging hairs similar to stinging nettle.

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves of bull nettle are arranged alternately along the stem.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are deeply lobed, often resembling a maple leaf, with pointed tips.

Leaf Venation: The venation is palmate with each lobe having its own prominent, central vein.

Leaf Margin: The margins of the leaves are serrated or toothed.

Leaf Color: They are typically bright green in color.

Flower Structure: The flowers of bull nettle are small and white, arranged in clusters.

Flower Color: Predominantly white, sometimes with a hint of green or yellow.

Fruits: The plant produces spiny fruits 3/4" in diameter, that contain the seeds.

Seeds: The seeds are small and hard, approximately 1/2" long, with a brown mottled skin. 

Stems: The stems are covered in stinging hairs, which can cause irritation upon contact.

Roots: Large tuber up to two feet long and eight inches wide, with 1" diameter side-roots coming off the tuber.

Hairs: The hairs on the stem and leaves are one of its most notable features, delivering a stinging sensation when touched.

Plant Height: Bull nettles typically grows to a height of 1 to 3 feet.

Bull nettle plant.

Bull nettle flower.

Bull nettle leaves.

Bull nettle leaf stem.

Bull nettle seed pod which hold the tasty seeds.


Bull nettle plant.

Digging up a Bull Nettle root.
Bull Nettle

Holy crap!!
Bull Nettle Root3

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.

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

Usually found in sunny, loose-soiled fields and other disturbed areas, these small, leggy bushes rarely grow more than two feet tall. The stinging hairs which cover bull nettle stems, leaves, and fruit offer a great protection against man and beast. While the pain they inflict is fierce, it often lasts less than an hour. The white blooms begin appearing in early spring and continue on through mid-summer. The green seed pods track the flowers by about a month.

Strangely enough, bull nettles are often commonly found growing near sassafras trees in Central and East Texas woods such as the Sam Houston National Forest. Bull nettles prefer full sun so finding them in the woods is odd, especially only in the presence of sassafras. Perhaps the sassafras root system both loosens the soil and releases some chemical which aids the bull nettles growth.

This plant, though armed with a similar defensive mechanism, is not related to stinging nettle. It's leaves are not edible in any way.

Harvesting the delicious seeds is best done using BBQ tongs or thick leather gloves to remove the seed pods from the plant. Then place these pods in a brown paper bag and wait a while (days). The pods will dry and then rupture, releasing the seeds which can then be toasted for a wonderful treat. The roasted seeds can also be pounded/ground into something similar to cornmeal and used in the same manner.

Digging up the taproot can be tricky. First, carefully cut away the top part of the plant with a machete or other long blade, then dig a hole 18" deep approximately one foot away from the stem of the plant. Carefully shave away the soil on the plant-side of the hole until you see the earth-colored root. At this point carefully remove the dirt from around the fragile root until you can lift it from the soil. Peel the root and then either roast or boil it like a potato. It will retain a bit of firmness rather than turning as soft as a potato. Through the root’s center runs a strong fiber core which needs to be discarded.

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

Curled Dock, Yellow Dock

Scientific name: Rumex crispus
Abundance: plentiful
What: very young leaves, seeds
How: leaves may be eaten raw; roast seeds or grind seeds into flour
Where: fields, disturbed areas, stream and pond banks
When: summer, fall, winter, spring
Nutritional Value: leaves are high in vitamin A&C, minerals, protein; roots high in iron and other minerals
Dangers: contains small amounts of oxalic acid, limit intake to what you'd normally eat of spinach

Medicinal Summary:
Root* - laxative; appetite stimulant; antibiotic, antifungal; antidiabetic type II (poultice, tisane, tincture)
*root must be allowed to dry 8 months to 1 year for medicinal properties to develop

Leaf Arrangement: Basal rosette with a few alternate leaves higher on the stem.

Leaf Shape: Lanceolate to oblong, with a distinctive wavy or curled margin, typically 4 to 10 inches long. Edges of youngest leaves will be curled inwards towards the center of the leaf.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate, with a central midvein and several branching side veins.

Leaf Margin: Curled or wavy, giving the species its common name.

Leaf Color: Green to dark green, with reddish veins on occasion.

Flower Structure: Small, grouped in whorls along elongated, upright flowering stalks.

Flower Color: Greenish to reddish-brown, not particularly showy.

Fruit: A small, triangular, winged achene.

Seeds: Enclosed within the fruit, typically brown, and triangular in shape.

Stem: Erect, often reddish, and can grow 2 to 4 feet tall.

Hairs: Generally smooth, without significant hairiness.

Height: Typically ranges from 2 to 4 feet in height.

Young leaves are edible raw at this point.
Curled Dock

Remove the ribs from ones this age before eating the leaves raw.
Curled Dock

Curled Dock

Probably need boiling now.
Yellow Dock.jpg

Dock plant.

Curled Dock

Curled Dock root.
Curled Dock Root

Mature curled dock seedheads (early summer) have a distinct "rust" color.


Curled Dock

Close-up of curled dock seeds.

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.

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

Dock is a rich source of vitamins and minerals and the leaves, though tangy in flavor, taste mild enough to eat young leaves raw up until the flower spikes appear. After that but it can become tough and somewhat bland. Steaming, boiling or sautéing improves the texture of large, mature leaves. Mix it with milder greens to cut the flavor more. My Polish friend raves about creamy dock soup from the old country. Her version takes a lot of work, mine involves just dicing up young dock leaves (about 1/2 cup) and tossing them in a can of cream of mushroom soup. Add crumbed bacon and diced potatoes to really jazz it up!

The papery sheath holding the seeds is hard to remove so it is usually just left on the seeds, though be warned consuming large quantities of the sheath fiber will do wonders (not all good) to you digestive output. Imagine eating a really, really big bran muffin...topped with Ex-Lax. To remove this outer shell, toast the seeds to make the shell brittle, then "grind" them between the palms of your hands to shatter the shell off the seeds. Take this shell/seed mixture and go outside during a light wind and pour the mix back and forth between two bowls, allowing the wind to blow away the lighter shell material. This is called winnowing.

The seeds can be roasted then eaten as a snack or ground into flour, boiled into porridge, added to bread, etc... Really, their use is limited only by your imagination! My favorite way is to mix them with cream cheese and slap it on a Ritz-style cracker. They add a nutty, quinoa type flavor to soups and stews.

Tea made from dried roots of curled dock has been used medicinally as an anti-cancer agent though little research supports this use. The roots' antibacterial and antifungal properties are well documented, as both a wash or applied as a poultice. Mashed-up fresh roots were used to treat minor skin issues such as scraps, rashes, and abrasions. It has anti-inflammatory powers when taken internally. I personally use a vodka-based tincture of chopped curled dock root as a "bitters" for mixed drinks. Woo hoo!

Buy my book! Outdoor Adventure Guides Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.

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