Showing posts with label Tea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tea. Show all posts

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.


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

Leaf Arrangement: Basswood trees typically have alternate leaf arrangement along the branches.

Leaf Shape: Leaves are generally large, heart-shaped, with lengths ranging from 4 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 the trunk can reach diameters of 2 to 4 feet.

Flower Cluster: Basswood trees produce fragrant, pendulous clusters of small, pale-yellow to cream-colored flowers in late spring or early summer.

Flower Structure: Individual flowers are small and have five petals. Flowers can be around 0.2 to 0.3 inches in size.

Seed: The seed is enclosed in a papery wing, forming a structure known as a samara. The wings can measure around 1 to 2 inches in length, looking like a leaf. A several seed capsule pairs, all branching from a single stem, dangle down from the leaf-like wing.

Seed Characteristics: Seeds are small and brown, typically located at the center of the samara.

Height: Basswood trees can reach heights of 60 to 80 feet, with variations based on age and growing conditions.

Bark: The bark of young trees is smooth and light gray, becoming more furrowed and darker with age. Bark color can range from light gray to dark gray-brown.

Hairs: Young shoots and leaves may have fine hairs, but mature leaves are generally smooth. Inspect young shoots and leaf undersides for pubescence.

Fruit: The fruit consists of the winged samaras, which are produced in clusters as described above, and become tan to light brown as they mature.

Basswood tree used in urban landscaping.

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

Basswood flower cluster and flower bract.

Close-up of Basswood flowers.

Basswood leaves and seedpods.



Basswood leaves.

Almost-ripe Basswood nuts in the fall.

Ripe Basswood nuts.

Basswood bark.

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.

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.

Buy my book! Idiots Guide 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.
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.


Scientific name: Rubus spp.
Abundance: plentiful
What: flowers, berries
How: open mouth, insert flower/fruit, then chew
Where: Sunny wastelands, borders between woods and fields, blackberry plants grow as tall, vertical canes.
When: Spring
Nutritional Value: Vitamins K, E & C, folate, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, calories from sugar
Other uses: wine, jelly, tea
Dangers: sharp thorns

Medicinal Summary:
Root/Leaves - anti-diarrheal, soothes gastrointestinal inflammations, soothes skin inflammations (tisane)

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

Leaf Shape: The leaves are typically compound and consist of three to five leaflets. Each leaflet is generally oval in shape, pointed at the tips, with a length of 2 to 4 inches and a width of 1 to 2 inches.

Leaf Venation: The venation of the leaflets is pinnate, with prominent veins running from the central midrib to the edges.

Leaf Margin: The leaflets usually have serrated or toothed margins, which can be sharp.

Leaf Color: The upper side of the leaves is dark green, while the underside may be a slightly lighter shade of green.

Flower Structure: Blackberry flowers are typically composed of five distinct petals arranged in a radial pattern. They are located in clusters at the tips of the stems.

Flower Color: The flowers can be white or pinkish-white.

Fruit: The fruit of the blackberry is an aggregate of small drupelets, forming a cluster. Each drupelet contains a seed.

Seed: The seeds are small, typically around 0.1 inches in length, and have a dark color.

Stem: The stems are long, stiff, arching canes that are often covered in fine prickles or thorns. Older stems have a square/angular shape rather than being round, with a cross section of approximately 1/4".

Hairs: The stems and leaves may have fine hairs, especially when they are young, contributing to a slightly rough texture.

Height: Blackberry plants can vary in height, but they typically grow to a height of 3 to 10 feet, with arching canes that can reach the ground and root at the tips.

Blackberry flowers

Close-up of Blackberry flowers.

Close-up of unripe Blackberries.

Blackberries in various stages of ripeness.


A thick Blackberry cane.

Close-up of the tip leaves of a Blackberry cane. Dried, they make excellent 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.

Blackberry brambles seem to line every roadside, abandoned wasteland, field edge and stream bank in East, Central, and Gulf Coast region of Texas. Other Texas regions also have them if enough water is present. The thorny blackberry canes makes passing through these plants a painful experience. Even the petioles of the leaves can have these spines. The canes begin producing new leaves in late winter, followed by many white flowers in March-April. The appearance of these flowers in Houston tell me it's time to do my taxes! The berries appear 6-10 weeks after the flowers. By mid-summer the blackberry canes will be brown and dried, seemingly dead though if the summer is mild the'll last into the fall.

A delicious tea can be made from blackberry flowers and/or its young leaves. I recommend using the leaves rather than flowers so as to not reduce the amount of fruit produced. For tea, pick young healthy leaves in late morning after any dew has dried but before the sun has had a chance to evaporate the volatile flavoring oils out of the leaves. Dry the leaves before use for a richer flavor. Keep the pot or mug covered so the volatile flavors stay in the tea rather than float out into your kitchen. The combination of blackberry and Yaupon holly leaves makes a most excellent and vitamin-rich tea rich.

The more sun and water the berries get the bigger and sweeter they will be. In dry or cloudy years or if growing in shady areas the berries will be small and tart. Blackberries will be at maximum ripeness when they are swollen and flat black. Shine black fruit are not quiet ripe yet and so won’t be at their maximum sweetness. These berries are fantastic raw, made into jelly, jam, or wine, boiled down into a syrup, made into cobbler or mixed into ice cream. Seriously, any dessert you have in mind can be made with blackberries!

An individual cane will only bear fruit in its second year. Once you've harvested the cane’s berries cut and dispose of the cane to make next year’s berry harvest easier. Beware of snakes and fire ant mounds hidden by the thick brambles as you pick the berries.

The technical name for this type of plant structure is a "cane" but I put it under "Vine" to make it easier to find by beginners.

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): Eupatorium perfoliatum
Abundance: uncommon
What: leaves
How: medicinal tisane, tincture
Where: wet soils, sun to shade
When: summer, fall
Nutritional Value: none
Dangers: the difference between poison and medicine is dosage. Large doses can cause severe diarrhea or other issues. Limit intake to 3 cups of tea, made with 1/2 teaspoon dried plant.

Medicinal Summary:
Leaves/Flowers - sweat inducer; fever reducer; reduces symptoms of colds; anti-inflammatory; pain reducer for rheumatism and arthritis; appetite stimulant (tisane, tincture)
Leaves - stimulate healing of sprains, strains, and broken bones (poultice)

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves of Boneset are arranged in pairs along the stem in a way that makes it appear as if the stem pierces through the center of each leaf.

Leaf Shape: Boneset leaves are lance-shaped, measuring about 3 to 6 inches in length and 1 to 2 inches in width.

Leaf Venation: The venation of Boneset leaves is pinnate, with prominent central veins and smaller branching veins.

Leaf Margin: The leaf margins are serrated with toothed edges.

Leaf Color: The leaves are typically medium to dark green, with no significant color variation between the top and underside of the leaf.

Flower Structure: Boneset produces clusters of small, white flowers arranged in a dense, flattened, and slightly rounded inflorescence at the top of the stem. Each flower head measures about 0.2 to 0.3 inches in diameter.

Flower Color: The flowers of Boneset are white.

Fruit: After flowering, Boneset produces small, dry, and one-seeded fruits called achenes.

Seed: The seeds (achenes) are small, brownish, and elongated, with a length of about 0.1 inches.

Stem: The stem of Boneset is upright, sturdy, and usually unbranched, with a slightly hairy or rough texture.

Hairs: The stem and leaves of Boneset have fine, short hairs.

Height: Boneset plants typically grow to a height of about 2 to 4 feet, though they can sometimes reach up to 6 feet when in bloom.

Boneset plants (and me).

Boneset leaves. Note how the stem seems to pierce the long, canoe-shaped leaves rather than having to distinct leaves, one on each side of the stem.


Close-ups of the leaves/stem.

Boneset – Version 2

Boneset stems are hairy/fuzzy.

Boneset flower-cluster buds are hairy.


Boneset flowers clusters.

Closer view of boneset flowers.

Still closer view of boneset flowers.

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.
Boneset USDA TX

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

Boneset is a rather unique and easily identified plant. Appearing in the summer, there stiff, straight, hairy stems grow up to about four feet tall, with some branching occurring in the last foot or so. The really distinctive feature is its leaves. These long, narrow, pointed leaves are opposite each other on the stem but their bases fuse together so as to look like the stem grew through the center of an almost canoe-shape leaf. These dark green leaves are almost shiny but wrinkly on top and their undersides are mildly hairy. The edges of the leaves are toothed and the veins are pinnate with branching of the secondary veins of the main, center vein. In late summer the ends of the stem and branches have clusters of many white, hairy flowers, each about 1/4 inch across.

Look for boneset in low, damp, sunny areas such as roadside ditches and along creeks, or next to ponds in fields. Goldenrod is often nearby. They can also be found growing along moist borders of woods, with hardwoods being a more likely companion than pines.

Boneset is used medicinally rather than as a food but is NOT okay for pregnant women. Boneset tea made from the flowers and leaves helps induce sweating, helps break fevers, and relieves respiratory problems of head colds and other illnesses, including coughing. It helps with inflammations, easing some of the pain of rheumatism and arthritis. The bitter flavor of the tea also stimulates the digestive juices, triggering hunger in someone who hasn't been wanting to eat. As mentioned in the Dangers at the top of the page, due to low concentrations of some toxic compounds, limit your intake to three cups of the tea per day, made with 1/2 teaspoon of dried boneset leaves and flowers. A tincture can also be made from boneset and 80-90 proof alcohol. Boneset tinctures should be taken 1-4mL up to three times a day.

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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