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Eat Only What is Absolutely Identified


Dandelion While everyone recognizes the dandelion’s radially configured, yellow flower composed of many long, strap-shaped ray petals, it’s more important to detect the leaves before the flowers appear. The dandelion


is hairless, with a white, milky sap that pervades the entire plant, and the leaves grow up to 10 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. Large, sharp “teeth” point toward the leaf base (dente de lion is Old French for “tooth of the lion”).


Sheep Sorrel The leaf looks like a sheep’s face—there’s a pointed “nose” at the tip, and two spreading “ears” (lobes) perpendicular to the arrow-shaped leaf’s broad base. Spreading via runners, this hairless plant begins as


a basal rosette (circle of bottom leaves) 1.5 to 3 inches long, then develops a slender, branched, jointed flower and leafstalk, usually up to 9 inches tall, but sometimes as high as 14. Confirm field book identification by tasting a leaf; the distinct, attractive, lemon-like flavor accounts for the name sorrel, Old French for sour.


Cattail One of the easiest wild edibles to recognize, cattail does resemble a cat’s tail (or a sausage). Its fuzzy, brown, cylindrical, mature flower head—a spike 1 inch across and up to 6 inches long—grows atop an erect, jointless stem 4 to 9 feet tall. Cattails spread mainly from under- ground rhizomes—long, horizontal, underground stems that give rise to many stalks. The seeds assure long- range dispersal.


Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) Sheep sorrel provides vitamins A, D, E, B complex and C, cal- cium, iron, magnesium, sulfur, zinc, potassium and phospho- rus plus the flavonoid rutin. Kids love this European perennial on account of its great flavor.


Cattails (Typha spp.) Immature cattail flowers are a good source of protein and essential fatty acids (both rare in plants), as well as a number of trace minerals. The pollen provides the same nutrients, plus vitamin A. People pay premium prices for bee pollen, an energizer, in health food stores. Cattail pollen is identical, except that people, instead of bees, gather it, and it’s free.


Renewable Bounty Wild edibles are a renewable natural resource that requires no husbandry from mankind; all we have to do is not build houses and parking lots on top of them. In addi- tion to providing nutritious food, many of these plants have a rich, global his- tory as remedies and healing agents. They are the forerunners, and in some cases still the source of, virtually all modern medicines. Of course, use of pictures is es-


sential in accurately identifying wild plants. My illustrated books and the Internet are handy and portable resources. A good place to start is For- aging.com and the Green Links section of my website.


Nature provides us with an open-ended


curriculum to study in every season. Explor- ing local parks and uncultivated areas shows what they have to offer. Foragers will return home embracing an abundance of viable vegetables at the height of their goodness, with a deeper feeling and appreciation for humanity’s role in Earth’s ecosystems that is unobtainable in any other kind of classroom.


Steve “Wildman” Brill is a natural- ist who specializes in edible and medicinal wild plants. He leads tours throughout the greater New York area for school, day camp and museum groups, as well as the general public. His books and DVDs include TheWildVegetarian Cook- book. Connect at Wildman SteveBrill.com.


natural awakenings August l 2010 19


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