Showing posts with label Coffee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coffee. 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(s): Mahonia trifoliolata
Abundance: common
What: Berries
How: raw, cooked, jam, jelly, wine, syrup, roast seeds for coffee
Where: Hill Country, dry grasslands
When: Spring
Nutritional Value: Vit. C

Medicinal Summary:
Leaves - anti-nausea (tisane, tincture, chewed)
Root/Wood - antimicrobial; antiviral; antidiarrheal, immortality (tincture, oxymel)

Leaf Arrangement: The compound, trifoliate leaves are alternate along the stems.

Leaf Shape: Mahonia trifoliolata leaves are compound, typically with three leaflets.

Leaf Venation: The leaflet venation is pinnate.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margin is serrated  to almost lobed with sharp, stiff points.

Leaf Color: The leaves are usually green, and there might be variations in color on the top and underside. Veins are a lighter gray or milky in color.

Flower Structure: The flowers are arranged in clusters and have a bell-like shape. The diameter of an individual flower is typically around 1/2 inch (1.27 cm). The flowers smell like honey.

Flower Color: Mahonia trifoliolata flowers are yellow.

Fruit: The fruit is a red, football-shaped, berry-like drupe.

Seed: Seeds are small, usually contained within the berries.

Bark: The bark is grayish-brown and may be rough. Inner wood is yellow.

Hairs: Some parts of the plant, such as the undersides of leaves or stems, may have fine hairs.

Height: Mahonia trifoliolata can reach heights of 3 to 8 feet (0.9 to 2.4 meters) depending on environmental conditions.

Agarita shrub.

Agarita flower buds (picture taken in February in the Hill Country).

Open agarita flowers (picture taken in February in the Hill Country).

Closeup of ripe and almost ripe agarita berries.

Closeup of agarita leaf.

The inner wood of agaritas is a deep yellow color due to the medicinal compound berberine.

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.

The evergreen agarita is a common 2’-6’ shrub found across Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Its unusual, three-part leaves are grey-green, very stiff and pointy so harvesting their fruit can be a bit painful. The yellow flowers appear in late winter followed by red, edible fruit in the spring. Agaritas prefer dry areas with well-drained and somewhat alkaline soil along with full sun to partial shade. The shrubs usually gather around mesquite and other small trees. I haven't seen any out standing alone.

In Spring agarita shrubs are loaded with small, bright red berries. These sweet, slightly tart berries can be eaten raw or cooked in any manner one would prepare any berry such as jam, jelly, or wine. The juice from these berries has a pleasingly complex sweet and sour flavor. The small seeds can be roasted then ground for a caffeine-free coffee substitute.

Agaritas have multiple medicinal uses. The leaves can be chewed fresh or dried to help relieve nausea, especial that accompanying hangovers and motion sickness. A tea made from dried leaves will also offer relief. The yellow wood of the roots contain anti-bacterial and anti-viral compound berberine along with bitter components to help with digestion and other stomach issues such as diarrhea. The root wood is usually finely shaved and then made into a tincture with vodka.

Berberine may inhibit the shortening of chromosomal telomeres during cellular replication, which in turn prevents the physical aspects of aging. For this reason, I've started including it in my Immortality Elixir

Allegheny Chinkapin

Scientific Name(s): Castanea pumila
Abundance: rare
What: nuts
How: raw or roasted
Where: sandy, shaded areas near water
When: fall
Nutritional Value: calories, protein
Dangers: nut husks are very prickly

Leaf Arrangement: The Chinkapin tree typically exhibits alternate leaf arrangement along the branches.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are generally long, narrow, and sharply toothed, with lengths ranging from 3 to 6 inches.

Leaf Venation: Prominent veins are visible on the leaves, contributing to their overall structure.

Stem Characteristics: The stems are usually slender and multiple-trunked. Exact measurements can vary, but diameters may range from 0.5 to 2 inches.

Flower Spike: In the spring, the tree produces long clusters of small, tan-yellow flowers, adding visual appeal. Flowers can be around 0.2 to 0.4 inches in size.

Flower Structure: Individual flowers are small and lack showy petals. Colors can include tan-yellow.

Seed Head: The Chinkapin tree forms sharp, spikey pods containing small acorn-like nuts in the fall. The length of the seed head can range from 2 to 4 inches.

Seed Characteristics: Nuts are small, round, and lack tannins, providing a sweet, nutty flavor. Diameter may range from 0.5 to 1 inch. Colors can include brown.

Height: The Chinkapin tree typically ranges in height from 10 to 20 feet, with variations based on age and growing conditions.

Hairs: Some Chinkapin tree varieties may have fine hairs on the undersides of leaves. Inspect the leaves for pubescence.

Nuts: The nuts consists of spiky husks protecting the small acorn-like nuts. Colors of the husks may include green, turning brown as they mature.

Bark: The bark is textured, contributing to the tree's resilience. The color can vary but often includes shades of gray or brown.

Allegheny Chinkapin leaves.

Close-up of leaves.

Nut pods in the fall, having dropped some of the nuts.

Close-up of pods with and without nuts.

Close-up of shelled nuts. This picture was taken a month after they had ripened and so they've begun to dry out but are still edible.
Allegheny Chinquapin

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.

To stumble upon a stand of Allegheny Chinkapins is to stumble upon treasure. These large, usually multi-trunked bushes/small trees suffered from Chestnut Blight leading to reduced numbers across much of North America. A rare stand can still be found growing under larger trees in the sandy soil of tall banks overlooking water. The sandy soil gives them the drainage they need to avoid root-rot while the larger trees partially protects them from the fierce Texas sun. The long, narrow, sharply-toothed leaves, deep green on top and pale underneath, are arranged in an alternate pattern along the branches. In the spring long clusters of small, tan-yellow flowers hang from the tree. By fall these clusters have been replaced with sharp, spikey pods, each containing what looks like a small acorn.

Harvesting these nuts takes some work as they cling to the tree and are protected by the sharp, spiny remains of their outer husks. One usually has to carefully pick nuts off the shrub/tree one by one. You are likely to find some of the nuts have already germinated while still attached to the tree. Don't eat these but instead carefully plant them nearby.

Allegheny Chinkapin nuts lack tannins or other bitter compounds and so have a sweet, nutty flavor when eaten raw. Being so rare, limit yourself to just a nut or three. Take a few more to plant in similar locations so as to try and bring back this amazingly delicious treat. Animals love these nuts so getting them before squirrels, raccoons, possums and the such is tricky.

Like chestnuts, Allegheny Chinkapin nuts can be roasted to give almost a chocolatey sort of flavor. Place the uncracked nuts on a cookie sheet in an oven at 350F. After five minutes pull out a nut, crack it open and taste it. The roasting time is a personal preference but if the nuts' shells begin cracking it's definitely time to pull them out.

If you do over-roast the nuts they can still be used to make a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Grind the shelled nuts in a coffee grinder then either use them as is or combine them with real coffee to make a pot of brown, somewhat bitter fluid.

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: Cichorium intybus
Abundance: uncommon
What: Leaves, roots, flowers
How: leaves raw or cooked; root roasted then ground into a coffee substitute; flowers can be eaten raw or pickled
Where: Sunny areas, ditches, abandoned yards
When: early spring otherwise leaves are too bitter
Nutritional Value: Leaves contain vitamins A, C, K

Medicinal Summary:
Root - diuretic; antibacterial; laxative; sedative; appetite stimulant (tisane, tincture)

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves are arranged in a basal rosette at the ground level, with alternate arrangement along the flowering stems.

Leaf Shape: Basal leaves are spatulate to oblong, with sharp lobes, while stem leaves are lanceolate and no or very shallow lobes.

Venation: This plant features pinnate venation, with a central vein and smaller branching veins.

Leaf Margin: The margins of the leaves vary, with basal leaves having irregular, lobed, and dentate (toothed) margins, and stem leaves more often having entire margins.

Leaf Color: The leaves are a bluish-green color.

Flower Structure: Chicory flowers are daisy-like, composed of many small florets, all of which are ray florets. Each petal widens outwards and ends in several short spikes, shaped similar to Bart Simpson's hair.

Flower Color: The flowers are predominantly blue.

Fruit: The fruit is an achene, which is a small, dry fruit that does not open to release the seed.

Seeds: Seeds are small, brown, oblong, and slightly ridged. Each has a "flying parachute" like dandelion seeds.

Stem: Stems are tough, branching, and rough-textured, often with milky sap.

Roots: Forms a thick taproot that can grow to several inches in diameter and over a foot long.

Hairs: Chicory leaves are smooth on top but have fine hairs underneath.

Height: It typically reaches heights of 30 to 45 inches.

Chicory plant before growing flower stalks.

Chicory flowers along a stem. The long, narrow leaves around the flowers are wild onions hiding the chicory leaves.

Close-up of chicory flower.

Chicory leaves are smooth on top but hairy underneath.
Chicory Leaves

Chicory root.
Chicory Roots

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

Look for chicory in old, abandoned fields and farmhouse yards. It also shows up quite plentifully in road ditches but that's not a good place to harvest plants. In Texas chicory is a cool-weather (fall/winter/spring) plant but across the rest of North America it can be found most of the summer.

The young leaves can be eaten raw in salads, though they do have a strong, somewhat bitter taste. This bitterness increases once the plant flowers. See "Preparation Tips for Bitter Greens" for ways to cut the bitterness of these greens.

Unlike dandelions, chicory will produce multiple blossoms along a stiff, somewhat woody stem. These flowers are eaten raw or pickled. One could probably make tea from them but it won't have the flavor or medicinal properties of dandelion flower tea.

Chicory roots can be used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Roast the roots to a dark brown color in an oven at 400F. The darker the color the more roasted flavor they will have. After roasting coarsely grind the roasted roots before using to brew coffee.

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

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: Galium aparine
Abundance: plentiful
What: seeds, leaves, stems
How: seeds roasted for coffee, leaves/stems raw though better cooked; tea from stems & leaves
Where: fields, yards, woods, sunny areas
When: Fall, Winter, Spring
Nutritional Value: Vitamin C
Other uses:
Dangers: They can be eaten raw but their tiny hairs irritate most people. Cooking them removes this problem.

Medicinal Summary:
Leaves/Stem - soothes minor skin inflammations; heals wounds, burns, poison ivy, bruises, dermatitis, and sprains; diuretic; anti-inflammatory; antibacterial; antifungal; immune system enhancer; soothes gastrointestinal and urinary tract inflammations; flushes kidney stones; laxative; antiviral; high in vitamin C (poultice, tisane, tincture)

Leaf Arrangement: Galium aparine has whorled leaves, typically with 6 to 8 leaves per whorl around the stem.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are narrow and lanceolate, resembling a lance tip in shape.

Venation: This plant exhibits a pinnate venation pattern.

Leaf Margin: The margins are entire, meaning they are smooth and unnotched.

Leaf Color: The leaves are a bright green color.

Flower Structure: The flowers are small and clustered, with typically four and sometimes five petals per flower.

Flower Color: Flowers are usually white.

Fruit: The fruit of Galium aparine is a small, dry, and covered in tiny, clinging hooks. Its is a schizocarp that splits into two seeds when ripe.

Seeds: The seeds are small, round, and covered with tiny hooks or bristles.

Stem: The stem is square-shaped, slender, and it has tiny hooks or bristles, which aid in climbing and clinging to other plants and objects.

Hairs: The plant is covered in small hooks or bristles, which gives it a rough texture and enables it to stick to clothing and fur.

Height: It typically grows to about 1 to 3 feet in height.

A single strand of a Cleaver plant, ready to be steeped in hot water.

Cleaver seedlings which can be eaten raw at this point.

Young Cleavers past their raw edibility stage.

A mass of mature Cleavers.


Close-up of Cleaver leaves.

Cleaver Leaves

Close-up of cleaver flower.

Mature Cleavers.

Cleaver seeds.
Cleaver Seeds IGFB8

Fresh Cleaver tea!
Cleaver Tea

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.

These common weeds pop up in late fall and by spring they form huge clumps of clingy, vine-like plants. In some circles cleaves are known as "backpacker colanders" as a large clump of them can be used as a field-expedient colander for straining pasta of rinsing berries.

Cleavers are covered with tiny, stiff hooks which allow them to cling to most fabric and pet hair, leading to their other common name Velcro Weed. The leaves of very young Cleavers are rounded but as the plant matures the leaves grow long and slender. Mature stems are square with noticeable groves. Seeds are small, round, and very clingy!

Cleavers are often used as a source of vitamin C in assorted bottled fruit juices and the same vitamin C benefits can be acquired from cleaver tea. Take fresh, green cleaver leaves and stems and chop them up before steeping in hot water for 10 minutes. The resulting tea will have a beautiful green color. Cleaver tea has a mild "green" taste which can be made more interesting by adding leaves, flowers, or bark of more flavorful plants.

Only the youngest, smallest Cleavers can be eaten raw and they can't have developed any of their "stickiness" yet otherwise they'll stick to your throat when you try to swallow them. When still tiny and unstick they taste like peas. Slightly older Cleavers, while still tender, make a good boiled greens addition to your meal. Be sure to drink or somehow use the resultant broth as it's rich in vitamin C. If after boiling 10 minutes the Cleaver stems are still stiff/woody the plant is too old to eat but the broth will still be good to drink.


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

Medicinal Summary:
Flower - wound healer (salve, infused oil)
Root/Leaves - diuretic; antibacterial; laxative; sedative; appetite stimulant (poultice, tisane, tincture)

Leaf Shape: The leaves of a dandelion are spatulate to oblong, often deeply lobed with the asymmetrical lobes pointing back towards the base of the leaf, giving them a jagged appearance.

Venation: Dandelion leaves exhibit pinnate venation, with a central vein running the length of the leaf and smaller veins branching off to the sides.

Leaf Margin: The margins of the leaves are irregularly toothed or lobed, often described as dentate or runcinate (sharp lobes).

Leaf Color: They are a dark green color, sometimes with a hint of red or purple.

Flower Structure: Dandelions have a single flower head on a hollow stem; each head is actually made up of many tiny flowers called florets. Stamens tops are split, often into two spirals.

Flower Color: The flowers are bright yellow supported by a dark green calyx.

Fruit: Small, dry, one-seeded fruits (achenes) attached to a parachute-like structure called a pappus.

Seeds: Each with a pappus for wind dispersal, resembling a small, brown, elongated seed.

Stem: Hollow, leafless, and milky, typically 6 to 24 inches tall.

Stem: The stem is hollow, smooth, and exudes a milky sap when broken.  

Roots: Extremely long (12 feet!) taproots that are tan on the outside and white/off-white inside. Surface of root will be covered with fine rootlets.

Hairs: There are no hairs on the leaves of the dandelion but the flower stems may have fine hairs.

Height: When in flower, dandelions typically reach a height of 2 to 18 inches.

Single dandelion plant.

Dandelion IGFB RPL

Dandelions are very persistent!
Dandelion Leaves IGFB9

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

Here's another great source on how to grow and use dandelions: Gardener's Path - Dandelions

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

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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