Reclaimed Edibles

Janos’ Plant Profiles, Part I: Spiny Sow Thistle

The full profiles will be posted to, and updated, on the Wild Cookery Forum. I have planned to do these for at least the past year, but have never quite gotten around to it. So without further ado…

Janos’ Plant Profiles, Part I: Spiny Sow Thistle

Common Plant name: Spiny Sow Thistle

Hoity Toity (Dead Latin) Name: Sonchus asper

Classification: Choice Edible Plant

Identification: This plant, a member of the Asteracea Family, has spiny, serrated leaves that curl along and around the stem of the plant. When in bloom it has yellow flowers which look dandelion-like superficially. It’s quite spiny, and prickly to the touch, and you may mistake it for an actual thistle if you aren’t familiar with the two plants. But it’s spines are softer and nowhere near as rigid as a real thistle. The spines are also part of the leaves, and not separate from it and detachable such as with an actual thistle. You can eat the smaller leaves raw without any problems. The older ones however, may be prickly enough that they need to be trimmed or cooked before consumption.

Juvenile Plant Photos

Here are some little guys:

Sonchus asper - Young Juvenile

Sonchus asper – Young Juvenile

Sonchus asper - Juvenile

Sonchus asper – Juvenile

Sonchus asper Juvenile comparison

Sonchus asper Juvenile comparison

Sonchus asper - Juvenile plant in nature

Sonchus asper – Juvenile plant in nature

Flowering Plant Photos

(Pictures to be added when in season)

Plant in Seed Photos

(Pictures to be added when in season)

Uses: You nom it of course! The leaves, buds, flowers, new shoots, and upper part of stem are all edible. Young and tender here is much better than old, tough, and rank. Especially on latex exuding plants. The leaves can be eaten at any time equally well, though younger is typically more tender and less bitter. I like to get the flower buds before they open and use the top section of the plant as kind of a ‘sonchusparagus’ I’ve also cooked and eaten small roots before along with the greens, but can’t officially recommend that as I haven’t been able to find any reference material on it’s use.

Nutrition: Sonchus asper are quite rich in Fiber, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Copper, and Manganese. Equal to, or more so than most common domesticated vegetables.*

Preparation: Typically I’ll boil these, no matter what part it is, for 15 minutes or so, drain, and then use like any other foundational green. In fact one of the spring delicacies my family looks forward to every year is fresh spiny sow thistle greens mixed with wild garlic greens and mushrooms over rice. It’s a seasonal spring treat that everyone raves about.

Preparation Photos

Sonchus asper and Dandelion leaves

Sonchus asper and Dandelion leaves

Wild Greens Noodle Medley - Two kinds of sonchus, dandelions, wild garlic, chicory, plantain, thistle, dock, and sprinkled with ox-eye daisy petals

Wild Greens Noodle Medley – Two kinds of sonchus, dandelions, wild garlic, chicory, plantain, thistle, dock, and sprinkled with ox-eye daisy petals

Cautions:

There are some unreliable sources that classify this plant as a ‘Noxious Weed’. That’s fair enough, as I classify those sources as pretty darn noxious myself.

I’m sure it’s possible to get a rash from this plant. Maybe even a severe one if you’re that one in a million who has such an allergic reaction. But let’s interject some reality here. Will it likely happen to you? Probably not. You’ll probably be struck dead with a micrometeorite first, or hit by lightning. I collect these barehanded, and even eat them raw from time to time. Guess what? Nothing happens. If someone has issues, they are probably also allergic to other ‘milky’ latex exuding plants, such as dandelions and wild lettuce. I highly doubt most are allergic to this plant in particular.

But that doesn’t mean that one in a zillion people won’t be affected by something like this, so use caution.

There’s the token safety disclaimer. Use caution when picking if you are allergic to other latex exuding plants. Some people are allergic to peanuts too. For the rest of us, it’s a fantastic nutrient dense wild food.

The vast majority of all people will find this plant to be delicious and nutritious.

References:

* Dr. John Kallas, PhD, “Edible Wild Plants” – Pps 358 – 359.

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Categories: Food Health, Foraging, Green, Janos' Plant Profiles, Nature, Nature Photos, Organic, Organic Gardening, Reclaimed Edibles, Wild, Wild Cookery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Dock Roots Edible?

We’re talking about the Rumex with long taproots, such as Rumex crispus, commonly called curly dock, and Rumex obtusifolius, the broad-leaved dock. However, both plants have in the past been called ‘yellow dock’ from the color of the roots, which even William Cook notes are practically indistinguishable from each other. (The roots, not the foliage.)

So, are these dock roots edible?
The short answer is yes. They do however contain oxalic acid. Then again so do many other foods that people regularly consume, but which do not come with toxic warning labels, such as spinach, rhubarb, and *gasp* CHOCOLATE!!!

But can they be made into a mainstay food source by leeching out the oxalic acids and tannins?

This is a concept that’s been kicking around in my head for years. After much research, I simply could not find very many real references as to whether the root has been used as food in the past. One must note however, that the vast majority of the foods that the northeastern native Americans used were not recorded. Even though these plants are not native to North America, they still could have used them, as like any people, they were very opportunistic when new plants arrived.

Also, people tend to get trapped in tradition. Sometimes something is seen only as a food, or as a medicine, when in reality it can be and has been both, in the past.

So this concept of utilizing dock roots as food has intrigued me for quite a few years now.

Though I must say, having access to non-frozen ground and roots, a foraging forum pal of mine, Mozartghost, is doing the majority of the hands on testing on this, to which I salute him! 🙂

(Ye can read the original thread and ongoing discussion here.)

Most of the credit indeed goes to him for having the same concept and having the drive to go hands-on and do some real world experimenting.

It’s amazing how things that no one else seems to have thought of before eventually coalesce between a few people, and a ball gets rolling. I don’t think we are discovering anything new here. Simply RE-DISCOVERING knowledge that our ancestors likely had as common knowledge, but which has been lost to time.

Kind of like how people in South America could lose whole stone cities to the point that they’re covered in jungle, and they have no idea how to read or write, or even speak the language of their ancestors. (I also find it funny that it took Europeans to decipher the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, as the native peoples had no idea what they said.)

Such could be the case here. Things are lost, and no one is left who remembers the many, varied, and real uses of many plants.

A lot of people would not bother with figuring out whether or not dock root is edible due to the oxalic acid content, and due to their being ‘better’ plants elsewhere for foraging purposes. Excuses abound.

But MANY foods throughout history have required extensive preparation beforehand before consumption. Sometimes for months or years beforehand. This is pre-planning at it’s finest, and taking advantage of a possible food source that most others would outright ignore.

Corn-based fuel was ignored for years until it became cheaper than petroleum based fuel. But when it was first approached it was seen as too costly. That’s not to say I agree with the food as fuel initiative, but it does highlight how something was seen as too costly or too bothersome… until the real world economy price point made it so.

So this may not be ‘useful’ now in a practical sense. But when that bag of potatoes quadruples in price, and then doubles again, it just may be handy to know. 🙂

DISCLAIMER: This is a private attempt to reclaim a possible lost food source for the good of most of humanity without certain pre-existing medical conditions which would preclude them from participating in consumption of said possible lost food product. This writer makes no claims of edibility, and in fact, urges people in the strongest possible terms to NOT participate in this experiment. If you do, you do so at your own risk, and claim all responsibility for your own actions onto yourself and agree to indemnify this writer, this blog, and everyone but yourself from any possible consequence of your actions.

So don’t get any ideas like this. 😉

Categories: Foraging, Reclaimed Edibles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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