Plants you didn’t know where Edible

Bloch’s Farm Green Lake, WI

            Gallium odoratum commonly known as Sweet woodruff can be identified by having dark green foliage with leaves in tiered whorls of six-eight leaves. Sweet woodruff leaves and flowers make a wonderful tea and May wine. The favor has a strong vanilla taste. Dried woodruff leaves keep their scent for years. In Germany they were used to flavor jams, jellies, brandy, beer, sausage, and sherbet. The best time to harvest the leaves are right before and right after the flowers are blooming.

Juniperus virginiana Eastern red cedar. The foliage of red cedar is dark green to blue green in color. The leaves are of two types: one type is scale-like, opposite, dull pointed, closely appressed to the twig, about 1/16 inch long; the other leaves are awl like, about 1/4-1/2 inch long, pointing away from the twig. The twigs of red cedar appear to be four-sided or square. The buds are very tiny, usually hidden by the leaves. The bark is very distinct, thin, reddish brown in color and peeling off in long shredded strips. Now I understand that most people do not want to spend their time prancing around the woods foraging for wild berries. Surprisingly enough the eastern red cedar is much easier to find then you’d think. Around here in south central Wisconsin the cedars grow like wildfire. They can be found anywhere along roadsides, in open fields, and surrounding old homesteads. The berries are actually small cones that have scales far too small for the eye to see. Only female trees produce the berries. Male trees just have little brown cones. Although juniper berries are most famously known for flavoring Gin, they have many other uses as well. The Comanche and Lakota Native Americans used these berries crushed as a spice for soup, wild game, and stews. The berries can be eaten dried, fresh, chopped, or powdered to bring out a sharp peppery flavor that balances the richness of winter game, meats, stews, and soups. Juniper berries are also a traditional ingredient in making German Sauerkraut and pickle well on their own.

Plantago major Plantain Many know this plant as a pesky weed that pops up in our lawn.  Plantain is not native to this area. The Native Americans called this weed white man’s foot as it seemed to follow wherever the settlers went. What many don’t know is that this weed has many medicinal properties as well as being loaded with nutrients. Plantains grow as a rosette. They have a cluster of leaves in a circle pattern around a shared center (like a rose). The rosettes are close to the ground and the leaves are narrower near the stem widening out towards the middle. Plantain is a relative of spinach. It is a good source of protein, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Vitamin E. It also has important minerals such as calcium, potassium, and iron. Most prefer to cook its leaves until tender just like preparing spinach. The seed pods are also edible and can be prepared like asparagus. Smoothies and pesto are also a great way to incorporate this plant into a diet. Known as the soldier herb plantain can be used to treat bites, stings, cuts, rashes, and even snake bites. It can prevent infection and stop bleeding.

I feel like I have learned so much after researching just these three plants and I hope you have too. Always remember proper identification is very important when searching for wild grown plants. Bloch’s Farm is now open for the season everyday 8am to 6pm. Call us at 920-294-6000, visit our website and ‘Like’ us on Facebook!

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