Showing posts with label Common. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Common. 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(s): Lobularia maritima
Abundance: common
What: seeds, flowers
How: raw
Where: flower beds, landscaping
When: Fall, Winter, Spring
Nutritional Value: Vitamins, minerals, phyto-compounds,
Dangers: beware of pesticides

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are arranged alternately along the stem.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are linear to lanceolate, usually measuring 1 to 2 inches long.

Leaf Venation: Venation is not prominent, with the leaf structure being simple and undivided.

Leaf Margin: Margins are entire, meaning they are smooth and unbroken.

Leaf Color: Leaves are typically a gray-green to bright green color.

Flower Structure: Flowers are small with have 4 petals. Blossom grow in dense clusters at the ends of stems.

Flower Color: Commonly white, although some cultivars may display pink or lavender hues.

Fruit: The fruit is a small silique (a type of dry seed capsule).

Seed: Seeds are tiny and contained within the siliques.

Stem: Stems are slender and branching, creating a mat-like or slightly mounded form.

Hairs: Leaves and stems are often finely hairy.

Height: The plant typically grows to a height of 6 to 12 inches.

Alyssum flowers in a flower bed.

Close-up of flower and seed pods.

Close-up of flower.

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

People are surprised to learn sweet alyssum is actually a mustard (Brassica family). It's "fairy spiral" arrangement of seed pods and the four-petaled, six-stamened (4 tall, 2 short) flower are the clue. Generally considered to be a cool-weather plant, sweet alyssum is found in many flowerbeds fall to spring. Come summer’s heat they wilt and are usually removed.

While the flowers have a wonderful sweet aroma, the name "Sweet Alyssum" is somewhat misleading when it comes to flavor of raw, young, green seed pods which have the same spicy bite of other mustards. This makes them a funky replacement for radishes in a salad. They also go well with meats where one would normally add a dash of horseradish. The flowers can be eaten any time but the seed pods have the best texture/mouth-feel when still soft and green. The flavor of the leaves is unpleasant to most people but can still be cooked in the same manner as traditional mustard greens.

Warning: Beware of pesticides when harvesting sweet alyssum from flower beds, though if you are following the law you will have already talked to the owner and he/she can tell you if the bed had been sprayed.

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.

Barbados Cherry

Scientific Name(s): Malpighia glabra and other Malpighia species
Abundance: common
What: flowers, berries
How: flowers raw or tea; fruit raw, jelly, jam, wine
Where: landscaping
When: spring, summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: vitamin C
Dangers: none

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are arranged oppositely along the branches.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are ovate to elliptical, typically measuring 1 to 3 inches in length.

Leaf Venation: Venation is pinnate, with a distinct midrib and smaller lateral veins.

Leaf Margin: Margins are entire, smooth, and sometimes slightly wavy.

Leaf Color: A glossy green, often with a leathery texture.

Flower Structure: The flowers are small and have a diameter of approximately 1 inch. They are typically arranged in clusters at the terminal ends of branches. Flowers have five club-shaped petals spaced widely apart.

Flower Color: The flowers are typically pink or rose-colored with a diameter of about .

Fruit: Produces a bright red, berry-like fruit, similar in appearance to a cherry.

Seed: Each fruit contains several small seeds.

Stem: Stems are woody, with a branching habit forming a dense shrub.

Hairs: There are no significant hairs on the leaves or stems.

Height: The plant usually forms a shrub up to 3 to 6 feet tall, sometimes taller under ideal conditions.

Barbados cherry bush.

Barbados cherry fruit.

Barbados Cherry


Close-ups of the Barbados cherry flowers.


Barbados cherry leaf.

Barbados Cherry

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.

Barbados cherries originally come from the Caribbean. When it was discovered a single berry contains the daily recommended dose of vitamin C it was quickly adopted by navies to help against scurvy and so planted in many places. The plant doesn't handle cold well, though it does fine in normal Southern winters if only a few hard frosts occur. They are evergreen, which increases their appeal in landscapes.

The flowers can be eaten raw or used to make tea. However, it is best to leave the flowers alone so as to maximize fruit production.
The fruit starts appearing in May and will continue to appear waves through the winter if the weather is mild. These berries range in flavor from somewhat sweet to very acidic, with the higher acid content also having the higher vitamin C. Eat the berries raw if they aren't too sour/acidic, otherwise use them in jelly, jam, juice or wine.

Many plant nurseries have Barbados cherries for sale. Plant in sunny, well-drained soil but do keep them watered. A layer of mulch will help prevent the roots from drying out. Single plants will produce berries but the fruit production will be much higher if two or more Barbados cherries of different varieties are planted within 4-16 feet of each other for cross-pollination.

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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