And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
Catherine’s Foraging Journal
Of the myriad of species collected, Francisca relied on Hemp-Agrimony above all others, collecting the leaves and flowering tops in August, before they opened and dried. Vitamin C in plants such as Hemp-Agrimony staved off scurvy and colds during the long Vosges winter without fresh fruits.
A tea made from Hemp-Agrimony leaves or dried flowers treated colds and sore throats, reduced fever, and relieved stomachaches. The bruised leaves applied directly to the skin healed wounds or infections, or rubbed on domestic animals repelled insects. Placing the leaves in a bath relieved aching muscles and joints and a compress of the leaves relieved headaches. Even the roots from the plant were used as a laxative.
Commonly found in wet soil near swamps and thickets or along freshwater streams, Hemp-Agrimony is a tall woody plant, growing between two and five feet high with long, toothy leaflets. The leaves grow in familiar tiered hemp-style in pairs of three lobes. Reddish stems covered in downy hair with clusters of tiny pink or white flowers that burst forth from July to September.
Hemp-Agrimony is no relation to Agrimony, a plant with yellow flowers, nor is it related to Cannabis Hemp, though the shape of the leaf is similar. All parts of the plant is poisonous if eaten and should only be ingested as a tea.
Source: Weiner, Michael A., Earth Medicine, Earth Food. MacMillan Publishing Co, Inc. (1980) Print
Wild Spinach or Lambsquarters
Prolific, abundant, and delicious, the top edible “weed” is Wild Spinach. It grows with little effort in almost any disturbed soil, and is one of the most nutrient dense plants ever analyzed. It is rich in potassium and magnesium, and has more vitamins A and C, riboflavin, and calcium than domesticated spinach.
Identification: The leaves of the Wild Spinach are arranged in a starburst pattern, and vary in shape from narrow and pointed, to rounded and triangular. They may grow up to four feet tall, though they lose flavor as they age. The waxy coating on the leaves makes water bead and deters insects.
Poisonous look alike: The Hairy Nightshade. The leaves on these two plants are similar, but the nightshade is hairy, while the wild spinach is not. They are also easily discernable by their flowers. Hairy nightshade flowers are white, while wild spinach flowers are green and inconspicuous. Another way to identify Wild Spinach is to spray the leaves with water and look for droplets.
Harvesting: Thin the patch by pinching shoots close to the ground and placing the baby shoots in a bowl of water to keep them from drying out. Harvest larger plants by pinching the upper stem. If the stem pinches off easily, it is tender enough to eat. If the stem is old and woody, pluck only the leaves, though pruning the woody stem will stimulate new growth. If the leaves are too old, they may become bitter, but are still usable cooked with onion, garlic, or in a stew.
Source: Kallas, John. Edible Wild Plants, Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate. Gibbs Smith Publishing (2010) Print