This is a blog about the pursuits of Naturalist Alan Russo to incorporate all things Natural, especially Plants, into his daily life. Living close to Nature has always been a passion of mine and I try, with natures help, to live a Healthy lifestyle for myself and for the Earth.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lambs Quarters

A Patch of Lamb's Quarters
  Lambs Quarters (chenopodium album) is one of those plants that has taught me a lesson. When I first got interested in plants, I resisted learning the Scientific names of plants. Not that I didn't like science, on the contrary, I loved Science! I guess I felt learning the Science would would keep me from getting to know the plant on a personal, more spiritual level. Than I started teaching and soon learned that common names are confusing because different people from different places call the same plant different things. Some of the names Lambs Quarters is known by are Pigweed, (because it was raised to feed Pigs) Goosefoot (because it is a member of the Goosefoot Family and has leaves shaped like a gooses webbed foot)
  Where I come from many people call Lamb's Quarters, Pigweed, where I live now the plants know as Pigweed are many different plants from the Amaranth family. Very confusing, and possibly dangerous, when trying to learn to use plants as food or medicine.
 Lambs Quarters is also one of those plants that are considered "weeds", and most will do away with it if they see it. Yet, like most other "weeds" Lambs Quarters is really a very nutritious vegetable. According to Euell Gibbons, lab analysis shows, Lambs Quarters is one of the top nutritious Wild Edibles you can find. One hundred grams of plant contains; 4.2mg of protein,  100mg iron, 11,600 IU vitamin A, 80mg ascorbic acid (vit C) and 309mg calcium. (all bioavailible, unlike milk which almost none is bioavalible . Some thoughts on drinking milk:  http://yougoddabekiddin.blogspot.com/2011/08/not-milk.html). As you can see this "weed" blows away many of your widely accepted Veggies.
White powdery look of the new leaves
 Lambs Quarters is pretty easy to ID. One of the distinguishing characteristics is the white powdery looking new leaves. The mature leaves are triangular in shape and deeply lobbed. The stem has purple where the branching stems meet the main stem:
Purple at the base of the branching stems.
and  the main stem is often vertically stripped light/dark green. I have seen the stem of some plants have some purple stripping also.
  Speaking of purple, you are able to find seeds for a purple variety of  Lambs Quarters in most Organic Seed Catalogs. I bought some this year and am growing them in my herb garden:
Purple Variety
 One word of caution. I have read many times that Lambs Quarters will take up and store toxic heavy metals from polluted soil. I don't know if this is one person parroting another, or if there is a real concern here as I have never seen the original research on this. But just to be cautious be sure you are harvesting in a non polluted area (which you should be doing anyway). This includes areas like the average toxic green lawn that has been sprayed or fertilized with petroleum based fertilizers.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Lady's Thumb

Lady's Thumb Flower Spike
 Lady's thumb is another one of those plants that many people recognize but considered a "weed". It can be quite invasive and will take over a garden in no time flat if allowed to go to seed but I think it is a very pretty plant when it is naturally on the landscape.
 Lady's Thumb ( Polygonum persicaria ) is a member of the Smartweed or Buckwheat family and there are many species the have similar characteristics. Called Smartweed because some of the species are sour in taste, though Lady's thumb itself lacks that characteristic. The "Thumb" part of the name comes from the prominent reddish brown triangle mark in the center of each leaf that looks like a thumb print.
"Thumb" print on the leaves
Another prominent feature are the Reddish "rings" around the stem where the leaves attach, and
Reddish Rings around stem
of course, the most prominent feature is the pink flower spikes that are so familiar in the summer time. (see first photo)
 The leaves flowers and stems of the Lady's Thumb plant are Edible. I remember when I first learned that the flower spikes were edible and I used to use them as a trail nibble when takings kids on hikes though the woods. Of course most of them thought I was crazy but others were brave enough to try them. Now that I have used the plant more extensively, the flowers are my least favorite part. The leaves don't have a strong taste so it is a good Wild Edible to show those who are wary of eating wild things.
 I have read that some American Indians used the plant as medicine but I have no experience with the medicinal qualities of this plant.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Grape Vine Fun

 Grape vines are just incredible plants. There is just so many things you can use them for, from eating the fruit and leaves to making baskets and dying wool. Grapes, of course, are the most important and delicious part of the vine and the one that most people think of when you mention Grape Vine. The leaves are also edible and many cultures take full advantage of this part of the vine.
 One part of the vine most people don't know is edible are the Tendrils. The Tendrils are that part of the vine that wraps around things to support and hold up the vine as it climbs. I think the Tendrils are just plain fun to eat and I use them as a snack when ever I run into them whether on the trail or in my yard. Kids love to eat Tendrils and have a ball when you show them that they ere edible. One cool thing about Tendrils is the fact that they try to wrap themselves around anything that they touch, this sometimes makes for some interesting shapes. Another reason I like the Tendrils is that they are sour in taste and I like sour. Try to get the newest most succulent ones as they get woody as they get older and stronger.
 Be careful, there are many Vines that use Tendrils to climb, so not all Vines with Tendrils are Grape Vines. Some vines even have grape like fruit but are not Grapes. Some vines are toxic or even poisonous so be sure what you have is a GRAPE Vine and not something else.Have Fun!