Chickweed & Stinging Nettles

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Chickweed & Stinging Nettles

Post  Shep on Thu Mar 26, 2009 11:14 am

In addition to dandelions (whole books have been written on this herb), chickweed is now flowering and stinging nettles are at the perfect size for picking. I once asked a herb farm owner what the most popular, best selling herb in America was. He said, "far and away, it's stinging nettles." I was amazed to hear that, since it grows abundantly along creek and river banks in eastern Kansas. Get out there and find out what you can eat in the woods. Chickweed and stinging nettles are not only edible when properly prepared, they have long treasured medicinal values as well. Remember not to gather stinging nettles without gloves - or you'll be sorry. Their name is not given without good reason.

Shep

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Re: Chickweed & Stinging Nettles

Post  Charlene on Tue Apr 28, 2009 7:14 am

Actually, nettles can be gathered without gloves, with care. It is somewhat easier when they are tall enough to have a little space between the leaves. The technique is to grasp the stem quickly and firmly with the thumb and forefinger, so as to evaporate the stinging acid immediately. It also requires being open to listening to the plant, and not minding a mild sting here or there. I gave it a try for the first time last weekend, when I noticed that our Kansas nettles are of the "eastern" variety, less hairy than those on the west side of the Cascades (and I found myself out in the woods without gloves). It worked pretty well, though the stems were tough enough that I was wishing for a pair of scissors. One of these days I will introduce mature nettle stems to my spinning wheel and make some yarn!

Charlene

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wild edibles ID

Post  tlcfh on Tue Apr 28, 2009 9:53 am

John and Charlene,

Can either of you recommend a good ID source. I don't know what some of the plants you talk about look like. Dandelions and violets yes, and I recognize mature poke and nettles when I see them, but sorrel? no. Do you know of any good websites with photos that show the plants in various stages?

Thanks!

And Charlene - no one has ever shared their secret morel sites with me either... Don't blame 'em really, I'm sure if I ever found some I wouldn't want to reveal their location either.

We may have morels at the farmers' market this Saturday. I'll know for sure on Thursday.

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Re: Chickweed & Stinging Nettles

Post  Charlene on Tue Apr 28, 2009 10:17 am

Peterson and Audubon are my favorite field guides for ID only. I would also like to find a comprehensive book about the plants of the plains (there was an excellent one for the PNW) organized by family...but I haven't found that yet. If you can locate a "pasture and range plants" book it can help you identify the grasses and other plants without showy flowers.

Books about wild edibles are pretty easy to find and most are pretty good. Just read the introduction and make sure the author actually EATS wild plants. It is too easy for information to become distorted if it is second-hand.

What are your favorite field guides, John?

--Charlene

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Ks. Plant ID books

Post  Shep on Sun May 24, 2009 7:46 pm

I have two shelves full and overloaded with herb books. My main complaint about herb books goes like this: you can find good books with great photos to identify plants, but you get very little useful information about how to use them. Then you can find books about how to harvest and prepare various wild edibles, but with crude black and white drawings. You really need the combination of both. Some videos are helpful, but too few in number and often without enough detail to provide the viewer with confidence in the field. Guess I ought to make a comprehensive video . . . hmmmmm. Yea, in all my spare time.

In addition to the field guides mentioned previously, there are several books that can provide good information. Although the best information is often found by spending time with an experienced forager. My distant cousin Homer "Steve" Stephens (H. A. Stehens) was a botanist and had a cabin on the Ross Biological Reservation (ESU) near my home. He wrote "Trees, Shrubs, and Wood Vines In Kansas," the first book of its kind with black and white photos. The book notes what counties in Kansas various species can be found. It's a great reference source and still available. He showed me around years ago and helped give me some pointers. He was a great seed saver and has preserved thousands of native plants through his long term research.

Kelly Kindscher wrote two volumes about Kansas wild edibles: "Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie" and "Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie." While there are only line drawings, the author traces the native American Indian uses of many widely available Kansas plants.

Euell Gibbons wrote many books well worth the read, including "Stalking the Wild Asparagus" and many others.

I like Christopher Nyerges "Guide To Wild Foods" as a basic primer on edible wild plants. He has written several books and articles and is now the editor of the magazine "Wilderness Way" that chronicles the historic uses of American wild plant use.

"Tallgrass Prairie Wildflowers,"a Nature Conservancy book, while not giving much information about edible plant uses, does have great photos packed throughout its pages.

That's why foragers have big backpacks - to carry all those books they need to identify and use the wild edibles. Note: video players take up a lot of space in a backpack and are difficult to set up in the woods. And buying those extra long extension cords is a real bummer.

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Re: Chickweed & Stinging Nettles

Post  mafiafran on Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:29 am

Can either of you recommend a good ID source. I don't know what some of the plants you talk about look like. Dandelions and violets yes, and I recognize mature poke and nettles when I see them, but sorrel? no. Do you know of any good websites with photos that show the plants in various stages?




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