Newsletter 20 December 2016

by Green Deane

Two wild edibles but be careful, one stings mightily. Photo by Green Deane

Stinging nettles sting and our local edible nettle might be the second-worst on earth for stinging power. The most powerful stinging nettle is in New Zealand (Urtica ferox) which kills animals and has claimed at least one human life. Our nettle, Urtica chamaedryoides, has a sting like a giant wasp and can burn for days or more. While its common name is a deceptive, “Heartleaf Nettle” its botanical gets to the point, “Stinging Dwarf.” Quite edible but you must handle it with care. If this particular species stings me it is not only extremely painful but a welt develops and the site is sensitive to temperature changes and water for more than a week. The irritant compounds are histamines and acetocholines.  Apparently I am quite sensitive to them though I can eat the plant raw or cooked (crushing the needles disarms them.) Also don’t confuse this plant with another stinging plant called the Spurge Nettle, Cnidoscolus stimulosus.  That has an edible root but the leaves are usually not eaten. To learn more about the Heartleaf Nettle go here.

Common sow thistle, photo by Green Deane

Also making their seasonal debut are Sow Thistles. While the species can be found almost every month of the year they favor our winter and spring. The two most widespread species are the Common Sow Thistle and the Spiny Sow Thistle. Both are edible raw when young and also cooked. However, the Common Sow Thistle remains edible a while longer than the Spiny Sow Thistle which can get stiff as the season goes on. It also gets soft prickles. What is a little unusual is they are among the few wild edibles with white sap that we can eat. Sow thistles are easy to find, easy to identify, and tasty as well. They are one of my favorite winter time green. You can read more about them here.

Herbal educator Deb Soule, a speaker  at the 2017 Florida Herbal Conference

Now’s the time to make sure you have a place at the sixth Florida Herbal Conference in February. Because you are a reader of this newsletter you can also get $30 off your registration. And if you register before the end of the year you get an additional $25 discount. That’s a total of $55 off the usual registration fee if you sign up before January 1st and use the registration code GREENDEANE. To read more about the conference and to register go here. This will be my sixth year attending the festival teaching about wild edible plants. There will be many herbal teachers from around the state and nation. Featured keynote speakers are Deb Soule and Guido Mase. The conference’s numerous classes range from Clinical Herbalism to Garden Medicine. Recreational activities at the Lake Wales site include yoga, singing, drumming, and canoeing. Ms. Imani and Beautiful Chorus will provide music. A wide array of artisans and crafters will also have booths at the conference.  Camping is included in registration, and indoor cabin lodging and weekend meal plans are also available.  Proceeds of the conference will benefit United Plant Savers. Again, to read about and register go here. 

Killing unwanted grapes Photo by Green Deane

I am often asked how do I know if an area where I am foraging has been sprayed. Most of the time, it’s easy to tell: Either the plants are dead or missing. A good example of “dead” is this fence near a city park. It was sprayed to kill of the dominant species on the fence, in this case our native grape. The damage is easy to see and is restricted. More deceptive are areas where there are no dead plants and there are plenty of green plants growing, such as a lawn. The key is what green plants? Usually an herbicide takes out a wide spectrum of plants leaving mostly grass and ornamentals. Said another way when I see a lawn with lots of grass and happy shrubs but no weeds that area probably has been sprayed to kill off weeds. There are no “stock” rules. Just look around and access what you see.

Panera, Winter Park

This Friday, December 23rd, will be my sixth annual Urban Crawl. This is a free foraging class held in downtown Winter Park, Fla. We meet at 10 a.m. in front of Panera, 329 N. Park Avenue (that’s on the north end of Park Avenue, not the south end.) We wander around Winter Park proper for two to three hours, starting and ending at Panera. We also manage to pass a Starbuck’s in the process and spend some time on the Rollins College campus. One of the reasons for the urban crawl is to show foragers that there’s a good selection of edible even downtown. It also gives us a chance to discuss and use our skills to identify areas that might be sprayed or other wise contaminated. No reservation necessary. There is free parking west of Panera in the parking garage, levels four and five.

Classes are held rain or shine.

Foraging Classes: Except for hurricanes foraging classes usually are held as scheduled. We’re hungry when we are cold and wet so foraging classes are held when it is wet and when it is cold.

Saturday, January 7th, Blanchard Park, 10501 Jay Blanchard Trail, Orlando, FL 32817. 9 a.m. We meet by the tennis courts.

Sunday, January 8th, Bayshore Live Oak Park, 2200 East Lake Road, at Ganyard Road, Port Charlotte. 9 a.m.

Saturday January 14th, Dreher Park, 1200 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach, 33405. 9 a.m. We meet north of the science center.

Sunday, January 15th, Wickham Park: 2500 Parkway Drive, Melbourne, FL 32935-2335. 9 a.m. We meet at the dog park inside the park.

To learn more about the classes, go here.

The Nine-DVD set includes 135 videos.

All of Green Deane’s videos are available for free on You Tube. They do have ads on them so every time you watch a Green Deane video I get a quarter of one cent. Four views, one cent. Not exactly a large money-maker but it helps pays for the newsletter. If you want to see the videos without ads and some in slightly better quality you can order the DVD set. It is nine DVDs with 15 videos on each. They make a good Christmas gift. Many people want their own copy of the videos or they have a slow service and its easier to order then to watch them on-line. They make a good gift for that forager you know. Individual DVDs can also be ordered. You can order them by clicking on the button on the top right of this page or you can go here. If that link is not working — there have been some site issues — you can use a donation link and email me your order and address.

Do you know this introduced ornamental? You would if you read the Green Deane Forum.

Want to identify a plant? Looking for a foraging reference? Do you have a UFO, an Unidentified Flowering Object you want identified? On the Green Deane Forum we chat about foraging all year. And it’s not just about warm-weather plants or just North American flora. Many nations around the world share common weeds so there’s a lot to talk about. There’s also more than weeds. The reference section has information for foraging around the world. There are also articles on food preservation, and forgotten skills from making bows to fermenting food. You can join the forum by clicking on the button on the upper right hand side of this page.

This is Newsletter 237.

If you would like to donate to Eat The Weeds please click here.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

farouk January 3, 2017 at 23:03

Dear Green, I told myself how fruitful it is to make a comment while still I’ve two comments awaing moderation! I do like always to keep in touch with so useful “Eattheweeds”.


farouk January 1, 2017 at 04:11

Happy new year to you Green and to all who share and enjoy company of ” Eattheweeds “.


Green Deane January 4, 2017 at 05:53

Thanks, you, too.


farouk December 27, 2016 at 07:58

Thanks for the good advice that came in your article:” Sonchus Sow Thistle, in a Pig’s Eye” telling foragers as a general rule of foraging for wild food not eat plants with white sap (or white berries) and never eat anything wild without positive identification and verification it is edible. Exceptions to the white sap rule as mentioned are: figs, Ground Nuts, Sow Thistles, and various wild lettuce. I notice, in general, white sap can be used to make home cheese.It is known that our stomach contains the enzyme called rennin, which may also be technically manufactured and sold in farmacies; though I coud’nt obtain that neither in Quater nor in UAEs. Hence, like many people, l make my cheese using vinegar – you can’t miss the suitable site – just google. Interestingly, some one from Nigeria has attempted making cheese using the toxic sap of “Calotropis Percera”and had assumed a certain method of purifying the product.
The old heurestic way of thinking acts as an innate incentive enhancing a person to do some good. Analogous to the example you gave of the Hawk’s eyes, a Sudanese example of our early ancestors : When a child had his damaged tooth removed, he would be encouraged to wrap it with some sorgum seeds and a piece of charcoal and throw them high in the sky towards the sun while saying loudly” I’m giving you the donkey’s tooth, so that you may give me the gazelle tooth”,or most worthy is the holy verse: ” And whatever God ye send forth for your souls ye shall find it in Allah’s Presence – yea, better and greater, in reward and seek ye the grace of Allah, for Allah is oft- forgiving, Most Merciful.”


Nancy Stalvey December 27, 2016 at 00:05

Do you have your March schedule yet? I’ll be in south Florida March 15 – 19 so if I know where you will be having a class, I can coordinate my trip home to be able to go. Loved the one I went to in Jacksonville.


Green Deane December 27, 2016 at 06:27

I can hold a class in West Palm Beach on the 19th of March.


Tommy December 20, 2016 at 15:31

Hi I went to Drahre park this past weekend from 30 min away and found it must have been canceled. I would like to go in january, Please call. Thanks,
Tommy Taylor


Green Deane December 23, 2016 at 03:47

Yes it was cancelled because it is a 200 mile drive and no one contacted me to tell me they were attending. I have you down for January.


Dee Century December 20, 2016 at 14:37

Hoping to schedule one of your walks here on Sanibel on SCCF lands for my Weeds and Seeds volunteers and/or the public. Would pay you for the walk and maybe a free cottage to stay overnight….how about in February or March?

Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation


Green Deane December 23, 2016 at 03:48

Contact me at I spent three days in your area once looking at plants. The weekend of Valentines I am teaching at Earthskills, and the last weekend in February I am teaching at the Florida Herbal Conference.


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