7 Lesser-Known Wild Plants You Can Eat!

Categories: Food

Photo:  Laura Berman Greenfusephotos.com 

There is no excitement like the feeling of learning and knowing what kinds of edibles lurk in your own neck of the forests and fields, and then running into them and putting that fantastic knowledge to good use.  You find it, you understand it's uses and how to convert it into an edible format and to use it in your recipes.  The local grocery store contains just a sampling of what is found in nature, usually selected for their flavors.  Nutritional content is more an more prevalent with a large elderly population, and healthy foods are seemingly more and more expensive.  This kind of knowledge feels more valuable with the cost of healthy foods.  

1- Amaranth Quit the quinoa and kick the kale*, there’s a new superfood in town. Amaranth is a wonderful multi-purpose plant that should be on everyone’s plate. Though underappreciated in the contemporary West, amaranth is hardly a recent discovery. Like kale and quinoa, this ancient crop has served humanity for millennia. However, its uses aren’t limited to the kitchen. Read on to learn some of the other ways this humble plant can improve our lives. *Don’t actually, these things are great.Botanical name: Amaranthus  read all about Amaranth and its many uses here.

2- Chicory 

Chicory is the roasted and ground root of the cultivated plant species, Chicorium Intybus, subspecies Sativum. Common names include 'large rooted chicory' and 'chicoree a café'.

Coffee chicory is grown in many parts of the world, with the largest producers in France and South Africa.. The root is grown and harvested much like sugar beets.The roots are pulled from the ground with specialized equipment, cut into small pieces, kiln dried, roasted, ground and packaged.

High concentrations of the carbohydrate inulin are caramelized during roasting and converted into d-fructose (fruit sugar). It also contains between 4 and 6 percent protein and a small quantity of fibre. The caramelized fruit-sugar gives chicory its distinctive dark brown color while increasing sweetness and reducing the bitterness that is characteristic of the raw root. Roasted chicory contains none of the volatile oils and aromatics that are contained in roasted coffee. It also contains no caffeine. It does however yield 45 to 65% of soluble extractive matter, while coffee yields only 20 to 25%. This difference explains why less coffee and chicory can be brewed while still resulting in a beverage that looks (and tastes) quite strong.

The roots of other subspecies of Chicorium Intybus are used for the production of the 'forced', grown in the dark, vegetable known as Belgian or French Endive also known as 'chicon' and Witloof chicory.The root is also used as a 'feedstock' for the manufacture of inulin, which is used as sweetening agent for lowfat and reduced calorie foods. The leafy portion of the plant is often used as animal fodder in Europe, while in the U.S. it is generally considered a noxious weed. The blanched (to reduce bitterness) leaves can be used as a salad green.

Commercially available coffee chicory is not derived from the root of the endive plant. Endive is the sister species Chicorium Endivia, popularly known as the salad green 'escarole' or 'curly endive'.The root of Chicorium Endivia has undoubtedly been used in the past as a coffee subsitute, but it is not commercially used for that purpose today.

Source:  orleanscoffee.com

3- Curly Dock: Stare out across the empty lots and fields on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado, and you will see scattered clumps of dark green leaves towering above the grass. In spring the not-yet-flowering offspring of older plants are in rosette form, while others emerge from the base of last year’s dried flower stalks. Later in the season, mature plants can send up multiple stalks, becoming even bushier and more apparent than they were as rosettes.

The plant is curly dock, a rhubarb relative in the buckwheat family known alternately as sour or yellow dock. The “curly” moniker comes from the wavy or crisped margins that often characterize the leaves and “sour” speaks to their pleasing, lemony flavor.  

Yellow dock is an herb. The leaf stalks are used in salads. The root is used as medicine.
Yellow dock is used for pain and swelling (inflammation) of nasal passages and the respiratory tract, and as a laxative and tonic. It is also used to treat bacterial infections and sexually transmitted diseases.  Some people use yellow dock as a toothpaste.  Historically, yellow dock has been used for skin diseases, skin inflammation(dermatitis), rashes, a vitamin deficiency called scurvy, obstructive jaundice, and psoriasis with constipation. Yellow dock contains chemicals called anthraquinones, which work as stimulant laxatives.  Source:  Webmd

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