Showing posts with label Western Canada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Western Canada. 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.


Scientific Name(s): Maranta spp. and Sagittaria spp.
Abundance: uncommon
What: tubers, young leaves, young flower stalks
How: boiled, roasted
Where: marshes, water
When: tubers all year, best in late fall and early winter; young leaves in early summer; flower stalks well before flower buds have opened.
Nutritional Value: carbohydrates
Dangers: Beware the similar-looking arrow arum, (Peltandra virginica) plant which has an arrowhead-shaped leaf and produces tubers same as Sagittaria species.

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves are alternately arranged along the stem, typically emerging from the water or mud.

Leaf Shape: Arrowhead-shaped (sagittate), measuring 4 to 12 inches long and 2 to 6 inches wide.

Leaf Venation: Venation is palmate, looking like a spider, starting at where the stalk meets the leaf and branching out to the edges of the leaf.

Leaf Margin: Margins are smooth and entire.

Leaf Color: The leaves are generally a glossy green, sometimes with a slightly bluish hue.

Flower Structure: The flowers are arranged in whorls on a spike, with each flower having three white petals and three green sepals.

Flower Color: White, often with a yellowish center.

Fruit: Produces small, round, green fruits that turn brown as they mature.

Seed: Seeds are small, numerous, and contained within the fruit.

Stem: Stems are long, thick, and can be either submerged or emergent, depending on the water level.

Hairs: There are no hairs; both the stems and leaves are smooth.

Height: The emergent stems and leaves can reach 2 to 3 feet in height above the water surface.

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

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

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

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

A stand of wapato plants.

Close-up of wapato flowers.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Toxic Arrow Arum leaf.

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): Cardamine hirsuta
Abundance: common
What: leaves
How: raw when young, cooked when older
Where: moist shaded yards, borders, and woods
When: fall, winter (in Houston), spring
Nutritional Value: Vitamins A,Bs,C,K and minerals

Medicinal Summary:
Leaves - contain lutein which is important for eye health (eaten)
Leaf Arrangement: The leaves are arranged alternately along the stem.
Leaf Shape: The leaves are pinnately compound, consisting of small, rounded, lobed leaflets. Each leaflet is approximately 0.5 to 1.5 inches in length and 0.25 to 0.75 inches in width.
Leaf Venation: The venation is pinnate, with veins running along the length of each leaflet.
Leaf Margin: The leaflets may have a toothed margin big enough to appear as lobes.
Leaf Color: The leaves are green.
Flower Structure: The flowers are small and have four petals, forming a cross-like structure. They are arranged in loose clusters at the tips of the stems.
Flower Color: The flower color is white.
Fruit: The fruit is a slender, elongated pod (silique) that develops from the flower. The grow in a spiraling pattern at the ends of stems.
Seed: Seeds are small, elongated, and can vary in color, often brown.
Stem: The stems are slender, erect, and may have fine hairs.
Hairs: Fine hairs may be present on the stems and leaves, contributing to a slightly hairy or textured appearance.
Height: Cardamine hirsuta typically grows to a height of 6 to 12 inches, with variations depending on environmental conditions.

Wood bittercress


More young bittercress plants.


Closeup of seed pods and flowers.

Close-up of seedpods.
Bittercress IGFB RPL

Bittercress Seedpods IGFB5

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.

Bittercress pops up when most everything else is brown. Look for it yards, flowerbeds and assorted border areas where low growing plants aren't swallowed up by taller stuff. I've been known to buy a potted plant on clearance just because it had some nice bittercress growing in the pot.

Bittercress comes up with a rosette of deeply lobed leaves and small, white flowers which twist up the stem like a spiral staircase. After the flowers come long, thin seedpods which explode open on touch once they've matured and turned brown.

Bittercress has a wonderful horseradish flavor that is great for spicing up sandwiches and salads. The young leaves can be eaten raw while older, larger leaves can be cooked like traditional mustard greens. The seeds are too small to be ground into a mustard-style condiment but the tender, young seedpods are as good or better than the young leaves for a raw blast of flavor.

The leaves and seedpods must be chewed for a bit for the full, powerful flavor to develop. Their taste doesn't come from chemicals found in the plant but rather from the product of these chemicals as they undergo a reaction initiated by chewing. Chewing smashes the cell walls, releasing the compounds so they can react with the oxygen and water in your mouth, resulting in the excellent horseradishy punch.

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.

Burr Clover

Scientific Name(s): Medicago polymorpha
Abundance: plentiful
What: seeds
How: raw or roasted, ground into flour
Where: sunny fields, lawns, and neglected areas
When: late winter through summer
Nutritional Value: starch

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are alternate arrangement where each leaf emerges individually at different points along the stem.

Leaf Shape: The compound leaves are trifoliate, meaning each leaf is composed of three leaflets. These leaflets are obovate to oblanceolate in shape, broader at the tip and narrowing towards the base.

Venation: It exhibits pinnate venation, with a central vein in each leaflet and smaller veins branching off to the sides.

Leaf Margin: The margins of the leaflets are toothed, especially near the tip.

Leaf Color: The leaves are generally a bright green color.

Flower Structure: The flowers are small and grouped in tight clusters. Each flower is typical of the pea family, with a banner, wings, and keel.

Flower Color: The flowers are yellow.

Fruit: The fruit is a coiled pod that resembles a burr, hence the name burclover. It often has spines or hooked hairs.

Seeds: Each pod contains several small, kidney-shaped seeds.

Stem: The stems are slender, can be either prostrate or ascending, and are often branching.

Hairs: The plant, especially the fruit, may have small hairs or spines.

Height: Medicago polymorpha typically grows to a height of about 6 to 24 inches, depending on environmental conditions.


Close-ups of Burr Clover flowers.


Burr Clover seed pods.

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.
This map is very incomplete.

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

Burr Clover is often mistaken for regular clover but these leaves are coarse, rough-edged and grow off prostate runners all branching out from a central taproot. The edible seeds grow one per seedpod and can be eaten raw or roasted then ground into flour once they turn black.

Being mostly starch, it should be possible to use Burr Clover seeds to produce alcohol. The starch must be broken down into simple sugars for the yeast. The easiest way to do this to combine the crushed seeds with the amylase enzymes found in saliva…in other words, the traditional “spit beer” made by many primitive cultures where a starchy material is chewed and then spit into a large pot to ferment for several days to produce a weak alcoholic drink. Luckily, high concentrations of the necessary enzyme are also found the sprouts of barley and other grains, which can be bought from brewer supply stores.

Like most clovers, Burr Clover forms a symbiotic partnership with rhizobium bacteria which allows it to turn atmospheric nitrogen gas into a form usable by plants. This makes it a beneficial plant to let grow in your garden as it fertilizes nearby plants with this nitrogen.

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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