Wild Edibles on Distant Hill
A Very Useful Plant
Salidago, commonly called Goldenrod, is a genus of over 100 species of flowering perennial plants in the aster family. The majority are native to North America, with just a few species native to South America and Eurasia.
The pollen of Goldenrod is often unfairly blamed for causing hay fever in humans. However, the true culprit is the wind-dispersed pollen of Ragweed (Ambrosia sp.), which blooms at the same time as goldenrod. Goldenrod pollen is too heavy to be easily blown about, with the plants relying on insects for pollination.
The flowers of Goldenrod are an important source of fall nectar for bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies. The leaves are also used as a food source by the larvae of many butterfly and moth species
Humans have put Goldenrod to good use over the years. Native Americans used the seeds of some species for food. They also chewed the leaves to relieve sore throats and chewed the roots to relieve toothaches.
Solidago virgaurea, European Goldenrod, is used today as a kidney tonic by herbalists to treat inflammation and irritation caused by bacterial infections or kidney stones.
One of the more interesting uses of Goldenrod took place in the early 20th century, when Inventor Thomas Edison experimented with goldenrod to produce rubber. Edison created a fertilization and cultivation process to maximize the rubber content in each plant. His experiments produced a 12-foot-tall (3.7 m) plant that yielded as much as 12% rubber. The tires on the Model T given to Edison by his friend Henry Ford were made from goldenrod.
"The Diamond of the Forest"
Chaga Mushrooms are nothing like the common soft Mushroom. They are almost as hard as wood. Known in Russia as the “Gift from God” and the “Mushroom of Immortality,” chaga have been used medicinally for thousands of years. The Japanese call it “The Diamond of the Forest,” while in China it is known as the “King of Plants.”
Chaga mushroom, Inonotus obliquus, is also known as clinker polypore, cinder conk, black mass and birch canker polypore. It is a parasitic fugi on birch and other trees. The sterile conk is irregularly formed and has the appearance of burnt charcoal. It is not the fruiting body of the fungus, but a mass of mycelium, mostly black due to the presence of massive amounts of melanin.
Documented as early as 4600 years ago, Chaga was used by Asian folk medicine practitioners to maintain a healthy life energy balance or “Chi”, preserve youth, promote longevity, and boost the body’s immune system. It was ingested by the local people of the Siberian mountains as a Chaga Tea, with a flavor that resembles coffee. It was also smoked, or applied to the skin.
Laboratory studies on extract of chaga mushroom have indicated possible future potential in cancer therapy, as an antioxidant, in immunotherapy, and as an anti-inflammatory. For medicinal use, an extract is needed to make the active components available to humans.
An Edible Gem
Gem-studded puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum, are also known as common puffball, warted puffball, or the devil's snuff-box.
Puffballs are considered to be a good edible mushroom when young, when the gleba or inside is still homogeneous and white. Nutritional analysis of pufballs indicates that they are a good source of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and several micronutrients.
In maturity, the top of the puffball sloughs away, revealing a pre-formed hole called the ostiole, through which the spores can escape. Mature puffballs release their powdery spores through the ostiole when they are compressed by touch or falling raindrops. A single puff like this can release over a million spores.
A December Harvest of Cranberries
A December harvest of cranberries from the bog at Distant Hill Gardens. The frosts have sweetened the berries a bit, but they still have a tartness that goes well with our sweet homemade maple syrup.
Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines in the subgenus Oxycoccus of the genus Vaccinium. They can be found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler regions of the northern hemisphere. They are an important commercial crop in Canada and the United States.
The Health Benefits of Cranberries are many. Cranberries and cranberry juice have been found to help prevent urinary tract infections. They also have been shown to have anti-cancer properties. The cancer-preventive benefits of cranberries are known to extend to cancers of the breast, colon, lung, and prostate.
We Have Two Native Species Of Cranberries
Large Cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon (syn Oxycoccus macrocarpus), is the species shown here and the one grown commercially.
Small Cranberry, Vaccinium oxycoccosis, is quite similar to the large variety. Both are native to the northeastern United States and Canada.
Identifing Features the Two Species
- The size of their fruit: A quarter to half inch long (.635 - 1.25 cm) on Small Cranberry, and a half to one inch (1.25 - 2.5 cm) on Large Cranberry.
- The leaf edges: Generally rolled under on Small Cranberry and flat on the Large Cranberry.
A Poisonous Native Plant (unless you are a bear)
Jack-in-the-Pulpit is one of those red-berried plants that families with small children should avoid planting in their gardens. All uncooked parts of the plant are poisonous to humans. However, the corms can be eaten by humans if processed correctly, and Black Bear, who happen to love the corms of Jack-in-the-Pulpit, can eat them without a problem.
An Edible Mushroom at Distant Hill
Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), are shown here growing on a dying sugar maple at Distant Hill Gardens. They are one of the easiest edible mushrooms to identify. Often found growing in large numbers, it usually doesn't take long to collect enough for a meal or two. In this case, I shared half of the find with a friend and still had enough to freeze for later.
Their name comes from the fact that they resemble oysters in looks, and some say in flavor. According to Wikipedia, the genus Pleurotus is one of the most commonly cultivated edible mushrooms in the world.
More Than Just a Tasty Mushroom
Oyster mushrooms are not just tasty, but they are good for you too. They contain chemicals that help to lower your cholesterol.
And Pleurotus fungi have been used in mycoremediation of some oil based pollutants. They help decompose the oils. The key to mycoremediation is determining the right fungal species to target a specific pollutant. Certain strains have actually been reported to successfully degrade various chemical weapons.
There any no poisonous look alikes in North America or Europe. However, the poisonous Omphalotus nidiformis, which grows in Japan and Australia, is sometimes mistaken for an oyster mushroom.