Fool-proof wild edible/medicinal plant ID method

Discussion in 'Foraging' started by Grizzleyette___Adams, Jul 21, 2018.

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  1. Jul 21, 2018 #1

    Grizzleyette___Adams

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    Hermit on the mountain Neighbor

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    In the hands of the inexperienced, guidebooks and videos can be dangerously confusing when it comes to properly identifying wild edible and medicinal plants. (There are so many look-alikes, and some are deadly!)

    So what is a budding wildcrafter to do? Aside from finding a knowledgeable mentor, one sure way to identify certain plants is to grow them from seed. That way you can observe plants in all stages and seasons of life, from seedling to maturity.

    As a bonus you will have on your home turf, a source of naturalized plants that will readily re-seed themselves, or spread from rhizomes (roots), or are perennials (come back every year). Some are beautiful enough to occupy a place in your flower garden, or functional enough to deserve a spot in the corners of your garden.

    There are a few seed companies that sell seeds for wild edible and medicinal plants (and more). Some are generous with sharing lots of free information about how to grow and use them.

    Here are some of my favorites:

    https://sheffields.com/

    https://strictlymedicinalseeds.com/

    https://www.rareseeds.com/

    Do you know of any other seed companies you could add to this list (preferably have personal experience with)?
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2018
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  2. Jul 21, 2018 #2

    Peanut

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    Yes, grow them, watch them grow day by day, learn all their phases. I did it the hard way, took almost 10 years but now I know over 2000 edibles and medicinals, even when they are tiny… It’s much easier to learn them if you grow them.

    Any guesses as to what this is…

    It’s one of the most potent medicines in my arsenal… Lots of folks grow it in their flower beds and have no idea how powerful it is…

    Monadra sprout.jpg
     
  3. Jul 21, 2018 #3

    TMT Tactical

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    @Peanut OKAY, I will bite, what is it?
     
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  4. Jul 21, 2018 #4

    tiffanysgallery

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  5. Jul 21, 2018 #5

    Terri9630

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    A type of mint?
     
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  6. Jul 21, 2018 #6

    Peanut

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    It's Monarda fistulosa aka Lavender beebalm. It's in the mint family and so is basil. Some plants change radically as they grow, others retain the same look.
     
  7. Jul 21, 2018 #7

    Meerkat

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    Somehow we lost all our mint last winter. Just lost Rosemary plant this spring. Need to pay more attention to them I guess.

    GrizzleyE.I'll check these out and see if any look familiar here.



     
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  8. Jul 21, 2018 #8

    Woody

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  9. Jul 23, 2018 #9

    Grizzleyette___Adams

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    I cannot get enough of this precious plant! There are patches of Monarda fistulosa (aka Lavender bee balm, aka wild bergamot) growing in my woods, but I wanted some closer to my door, so this year I am growing it for the first time in my garden.

    Next year, I will try an experiment and cut the plant back right after it flowers, then side-dress it with extra worm castings and compost, and keep it well watered so that I may get a second flowering. This will be good news because the most potent high thymol parts of the plant are the flowers and the leaves just before the flowers bloom.

    This plant is a marvelous all-purpose antiseptic which is especially valuable as a mouthwash to keep gums healthy, and as a gargle for sore throats. It is a good wash for wounds and many kinds of skin disorders, be it fungal or bacterial attacks on the skin. A poultice of the crushed leaves compressed onto a bleeding wound helps to slow the bleeding.

    I like to steep the leaves and flowers in hot water to make a tea for colds, flu, fever, coughs and upper respiratory problems. It is also good for nausea and diarrhea. A strong bee balm tea is great for rubbing onto sore muscles. As a bonus, inhaling the steam while making the tea will help ease sinus problems.

    In the old days, this plant was also known as “Indian Perfume” because it smells so nice.

    I adore the chopped leaves in salads because of its wonderful flavor which reminds me of a blend of thyme and oregano in a lemony, peppery way!
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
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  10. Jul 24, 2018 #10

    Peanut

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    Among native herbalists Monarda fistulosa is known as “Sweet Leaf”. It was used by all Native American tribes in N. America but for one. According to the writings of Matthew Wood (native american herbalist extraordinaire) it is, and was, one of the 6 most important medicinal plants among all tribes for millennia. It has more uses than feathers on a duck.

    I, and many others in the past, have used it for pit viper bites. Sweet Leaf has the amazing ability to move internal fever (snake bite, gun shot wounds, horrible injury) to the surface (skin) and dispel it. This speeds healing, fever kills many of our bodies chemical responses to injury.

    Personally, I have also used it for a particular kind of head ache, exhaustion head ache, at the back of my skull and neck.

    Funny thing… the one tribe who didn’t use this plant were the Cherokee. They used Monarda didyma, Scarlet beebalm, a cousin of lavender beebalm… They are very similar in many respects but they are still different.

    Example: lavender beebalm is great for headaches at the back of the head. Scarlet beebalm is great for headaches at the front of the head, sinus headaches is a good example.

    All mint family plants are “Nervine’s”. All the monarda’s are mints. They have a powerful effect one our nervous system. Sweet Leaf is the only known cure for “Meniere's Disease”. It’s the degeneration of one’s inner ear nerves. One has ringing in the ears, loss of balance, can’t walk for days at a time. My dad has it.

    Sweet Leaf can actually regenerate nerve growth in the inner ear. It’s done wonders for my dad.

    Funny thing… @Grizzleyette___Adams

    Everyone else will think it’s weird but you will understand. When I was learning plants, I would drive miles of gravel roads and photograph every plant I saw that was blooming. I’d spend the evening in university plant data bases and in a plant forum trying to identify it. The easiest time to ID a plant is when it’s blooming. I learned hundreds of species that year.

    The day I saw sweet leaf was different, it was high up on a bank beside a gravel road. I knew in my heart this plant was not only medicine, but very important medicine. Don’t ask me how I knew, I just knew…

    I didn’t take a picture to look up on the net. I took a plant home that had no mature seeds, (photo below). In 6 years this was the only time I did this.

    The next year the plant came up in my yard... it followed me home, I didn’t plant any seeds… Now you think I’m crazy, but this sort of thing happens in the plant world, however strange it may seem to regular folks, this plant attached it's self to me. I have no way to explain this in rational terms folks would understand. Plant folks... they get it.

    This plant has become a very important part of my medicine and how I approach illness.

    Monarda wild 2.jpg
     
  11. Jul 24, 2018 #11

    Grizzleyette___Adams

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    Yep, I get it, Peanut...same here. I've had bloodroot and other (seedless) wildlings "follow" me home too many times to be a coincidence.

    When I first met wild bergamot/bee balm/Monarda fistulosa in the woods and rubbed the leaves in my fingers, the smell of the bruised leaves is what grabbed my attention. Although I knew nothing about this plant at the time, I knew it had to have many healing properties. The more I learned about it, the more I fell in love with it! Whenever I visit wild patches of it in the woods, it's like greeting an old friend every spring.

    Now my goal is to get to know--and grow--as many of the Monardas as I can! Thank you for that interesting bit about the different properties that affect different types of headaches.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
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  12. Jul 24, 2018 #12

    Grizzleyette___Adams

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    WOW!!!! OK, this part of your post grabbed me hard enough to get my full attention!

    Do you suppose--just maybe--that this herb might improve my hearing? I have moderately severe nerve deafness. How exactly do you prepare this plant for your dad, how much, how often, etc.??????
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
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  13. Jul 24, 2018 #13

    Grizzleyette___Adams

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    Hermit on the mountain Neighbor

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    The Monarda you give to your Dad is the "Sweet Leaf" kind? As in...

    https://strictlymedicinalseeds.com/...ategories=1&attributes=1&tags=1&sku=1&ixwps=1

    Bergamot, Sweet Leaf (Monarda fistulosa), packet of 30 seeds: $3.95
    Family: Mint (Lamiaceae)
    Hardy to Zones 3 to 10

    (Sweet leaf bergamot) Herbaceous perennial native to western North America, the original accession from Pine Ridge in South Dakota.

    also available here: https://www.groworganic.com/hh-oregano-de-la-sierra.html

    Bergamot - Sweet Leaf - Monarda fistulosa var menthaefolia

    Herbaceous perennial native to western North America, also known as Oregano of the Sierras, Sweet Leaf, Mintleaf Bergamot, Mountain Monarda, or Bee-Balm. Lovely showy flowers and pungent, minty leaves. Fantastic fresh cut flower and tasty tea herb.

    30 seeds per packet. $3.99 (They get it from the above source, Strictly Medicinal)

    -----------------------

    and not this one, right?

    Bergamot, Lavender (Monarda fistulosa), packet of 100 seeds: $2.95.
    Family: Mint (Lamiaceae)
    Hardy to Zones 3 to 10

    Herbaceous perennial native to western united states.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
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  14. Jul 24, 2018 #14

    Peanut

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    Again, its a nervine, helps regrow nerves. I gave my dad a standard tincture of sweet leaf blooms and leaves. Nothing Matt Woods didn't write about in plain detail... :)

    M. Wood writes a great deal about N. americans use of this plant. They actually viewed the wild species as 3 species depending on where they grew. Interesting reading...
     
  15. Jul 24, 2018 #15

    Grizzleyette___Adams

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    How often? How much does your Dad take?
     
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  16. Jul 24, 2018 #16

    Peanut

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    Less than 14 drops per day of monarda tincture... standard, out of the Matthew Wood books.
     
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  17. Jul 24, 2018 #17

    Grizzleyette___Adams

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    Thanks! I've enjoyed this thread to the max! And I will be adding more of Mr. Wood's books to my library. (I only have one of his books at the moment, The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines.)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2018
  18. Jul 28, 2018 #18

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    Last edited: Jul 28, 2018
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  19. Aug 13, 2018 #19

    Grizzleyette___Adams

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    Friends, please be careful where you get your wild edible & medicinal plant information. The sad thing is, many articles, books, websites, and forum posts are worn-out repetitions of what some authors have read on the internet and in other books...and believe it all to be true.

    The unforgivable thing is that some of the parroted misinformation can be downright dangerous.

    I can help you find sources with good reputations. I will come back later with more in this thread, but for now here are some excellent books to try. (Sometimes you can save a bundle with Amazon's used books...but be aware of the seller's ratings; if they have poor ratings leave them be, and just get the book new straight from Amazon.)

    Note: These two books were the very first ones I learned plant identification from many years ago, but now they are also available for other regions as well. (Peterson's are the "gold standard" and are best-selling field guides of all time!)

    I prefer the older versions of the first book listed here, which include detailed drawings of critical identification features. But, I also like the newest version for more detailed usage information.

    Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America, Third Edition (Peterson Field Guides) 3rd Edition by Steven Foster and James A. Duke

    From the Amazon description page: "Medicinal plants are increasingly well regarded as supplements and sometimes as alternatives for prescription drugs. Steven Foster and James A. Duke have used recent advances in the study of medicinal plants and their combined experience of over 100 years to completely update the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. The clear and concise text identifies the key traits, habitats, uses, and warnings for more than 530 of the most significant medicinal plants in the eastern and central United States and Canada including both native and alien species. Seven hundred plus images, the organization-by-color system, and simplified warnings make identifying medicinal plants fast and easy.
    Sponsored by the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute."




    Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America (Peterson Field Guides) Paperback – September 1, 1999

    by Lee Allen Peterson and Roger Tory Peterson

    "More than 370 edible wild plants, plus 37 poisonous lookalikes, are described here, with 400 drawings and 78 color photographs showing precisely how to recognize each species. Also included are habitat descriptions, lists of plants by season, and preparation instructions for many different food uses."


    As companion books to the critically important Edible Wild Plants book, I recommend any of Samuel Thayer's books for detailed information and uses of selected plants.

    Although I have been a wildcrafter for decades and have TONS of books on the subject, I have learned lots more from Thayer's books. I highly recommend all three! I guarantee that he will make you fall in love with the idea of eating wild edibles.

    Beginners and experienced wildcrafters will like Samuel Thayer's Nature's Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Wild Edible Plants. He covers 41 plants in this edition, including tons of important information about acorns.

    His book, The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants, covers 32 plants.

    His latest book, Incredible Wild Edibles, covers 36 plants and is very good, too.


    It took me a long time to commit much of the info that I learned from books into "muscle memory," meaning actual use. I highly recommend that you start slow with basics such as fool-proof acorns, hickory nuts, mulberry, etc. Learn how to use them in your everyday diet (I love my acorns!).

    Take your time getting to know your wildlings. Observe the plants in all phases of growth. Make SURE that the plants fit the Peterson's Field Guide descriptions EXACTLY. "Close enough" won't cut it, and this kind of thinking can fool you into believing that a poisonous look-alike is safe.

    Do not rush the process but get started with learning this new skill ASAP. Don't wait for hard times because, as you can imagine, that will be the worst time to learn survival skills.
     
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  20. Aug 13, 2018 #20

    Grizzleyette___Adams

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    Another good way to identify wild edibles and medicinals is to learn from an experienced two-legged guide.

    Some possible ways to find one:

    Facebook has tons of foraging/wildcrafting/plant identification groups in just about every state. Join a few and ask around...but make sure that the person doing the teaching is reputable and not some airy-fairy, blow-smoke-up-your-backside wannabe. I have heard more than a few individuals who have spouted ridiculous and dangerous info. Always double check everything you learn with the Peterson's Guide book (mentioned in the previous post).

    Also, check out https://www.meetup.com/ Plug in your search terms to find like-minded groups of people in your area. You may be able to find knowledgeable people by networking through local groups.


    Youtube is another way of learning how to identify wild edibles and medicinals, but oh maaaannnn, there's a lot of crap and misinformation Out There, and not enough emphasis on deadly look-alikes. Often it's just enough information to get you killed, or very sick.

    Be careful with Youtubers...

    OK, that will be my next project: find reliable Youtubers who do a good job of teaching the right stuff, and share it here in this thread.
     
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  21. Aug 14, 2018 #21

    ssonb

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    And don't forget Euell Gibbons books like Stalking the wild Asparagus.
     
  22. Sep 8, 2019 #22

    Grizzleyette___Adams

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    I highly recommend getting a field guide to poisonous plants and studying it well. Study it as if your life depends upon it because it very well could save you from mistaken IDs. I cannot stress enough how common it is for wild edible and medicinal plants to have poisonous look-alikes. Some are deadly.

    I got a used (but like new) edition of this book from Amazon.com and highly recommend it for North American plants. Got it for $9 (shipping included).

    [​IMG]
     
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  23. Sep 8, 2019 #23

    Bacpacker

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    That looks like a good book Griz. I have several by Petersons. IMO they are the best at showing and explaining the methods and topics.
     
  24. Sep 8, 2019 #24

    Peanut

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    I have a few Peterson guides also... good books. They make a point of being accurate in what they write.
     

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