These wild radishes were in full bloom this past weekend on Amelia Island which is right on the Florida-Georgia boarder. They haven’t been blossoming locally (200 miles to the south) but now is a time to start looking for their greens.
The greater mustard family — Brassica — is forager friendly. There are no toxic mustards. Whenever you identify a Brassica — and that’s easy by the blossom — no matter where you are in the world you have an edible. For our purposes there is little difference between a wild radish and a wild mustard. They are used the same way, all parts edible: Leaves, stems, seeds, roots. Where they differ is in where the blossoms are located — distributed along the stem or clustered at the end — the shape of the seed pods, and growth pattern. Radishes have bumpy seed pods which is why they are called the Jointed Charlock. Mustards have smoother seedpods, why it is called just Charlock. Radishes also tend to bend and twist a lot rather than grow straight and tall like mustards. While one can eat them raw they can be tough on the tummy that way. Boiled into greens wild radishes and mustard can be very tasty. The root has a jacket that you can cut along one side then peel off. What’s left can be boiled. Dicing helps. To read more about the wild radish go here, for the wild mustard, here.
This was also the time to visit the island to collect juniper berries. As you may recall from previous newsletters not all junipers are low-growing ornamentals. At least two are trees and that’s the source of juniper berries on Amelia. Every Juniperus silicicola and Juniperus virginiana I saw was heavy with “berries” which are actually small cones. (We will set aside the argument amongst botanists whether there are really two species, a variation, or not even a variation.) Juniper berries are used to flavor game dishes as well as gin. They are also medicinal. To read more about them go here.
I spent the weekend on the Island helping a friend celebrate her birthday at the Blue Heron Inn. I was also there to scout out locations for future foraging classes. One possible location was Egan Creek Greenway. On my first walk through I noticed about three dozen edible species, if one counts mushrooms as well. Because the water is brackish it also supports salt-tolerant edibles such as Glasswort. If there is enough interest in a class there I’ll probably hold two classes on the same weekend, one in Jacksonville and one on Amelia Island.
While there I also went on a tour of “Victorian” homes in the area. At one a 12-gauge shotgun was on display. When I asked about it I was told the original “lady” of the house once used a shotgun to stop the destruction of an ash tree on nearby Ash street. Workmen wanted to cut it down to make way for a trolly. Her armed opposition got them to move the trolly a street to the south. Later the trolly service died and the tree still lives. The historian pointed out the tree she saved. It does indeed make the road bulge around both sides of it… except it’s not an ash but rather a very large live oak… Cute story … not unlike one from Owensboro, Kentucky where a woman really did stop a road crew at gun point when their road widening threatened the world’s largest Sassafrass Tree. Her double-barreled insurgency forced the governor to intercede and save the tree.
Botany Builder #30: Peltate, shield-like. When the ancient Greeks fought they did so in a line holding a spear-like pole in the right hand, and a round shield in the left held by a handle in the middle. In fact the Greek word for “okay” means “in line.” Usually a peltate leaf has the stem attached to middle on the underside, like the common dollar weed. Websites say peltate comes from the Dead Latin “Pelta” meaning a small light shield. No. It comes from the older Greek word Peltos, meaning shield. Greeks were defending themselves with peltos centuries before the Roman’s came along.
From The ETW’s Archives: Is this Plant Edible? That is surprisingly not an easy question to answer. Where, when and what is rather important. To read more about that go here.
Though your foraging may drop off during the winter it’s a great time to study wild edibles with my nine DVD set. Each DVDs has 15 videos for 135 in all. They make a great Christmas gift. Order today. Some of these videos are of better quality than my free ones on the Internet. They are the same videos but many people like to have their own copy. I burn and compile the sets myself so if you have any issues I handle them personally. There are no middle foragers. And I’m working on adding a tenth DVD. To learn more about the DVDs or to order them click here.
This is a reminder the Florida Herbal Conference 2014 will be held in Deland in February. Among the speakers will be David Winston, an herbalist and ethnobotanist with over 40 years of training in Cherokee, Chinese and Western herbal traditions. He has been in clinical practice for over 34 years and is an herbal consultant to physicians, herbalists and researchers throughout the USA and Canada. Also for the third year in a row I will be leading weed walks at the herbal conference. The walks are usually first thing in the morning when the air is cool, camp fires warm, and the coffee hot. Although it is the Florida Herbal Conference it draws teachers and students from all over North America.
Because there are five Tuesdays this month there will be no newsletter December 31st. Time to take a mini-vacation from the keyboard.
To donate to the Green Deane Newsletter or Website click here.