When cool-weather greens sprout they are often members of the mustard family, some of which can not only tolerate cool weather but taste better after a light freeze. But one early green was valued by Natives American exactly because it was not a spicy mustard member: Henbit.
Henbit is mild in flavor, some even say slightly sweet though I’ve never detected that. It’s often found mixed in this time of year with chickweed and stinging nettles. In fact in some places you have to careful picking Henbit to make sure you don’t get bitten by nearby stinging nettles. A member of the mint family, Henbit (so called because hens like to eat it) has a square stem and mint blossoms. It does not smell minty, however, nor does a close relative called Dead Nettle. The Dead Nettle does not sting despite the name. It looks very similar to Henbit except it’s more purple in coloring whereas only the tiny Henbit blossom are on the purple side. Another identifying characteristic of Henbit is that young scalloped leaves do not have stems and older leaves do. You can read about them here.
Chickweed is one of the easy finds now and is in all growth stages locally. You can see it from just starting to seeding. This is the seasonal “chickweed” that populates the Internet with thousands of recipes. It is not our local “West Indian Chickweed” which is here most of the year but used in similar ways. Chickweed is easy to identify if one actually looks for specific identification characteristics. The plant most commonly misidentified as chickweed is a Richardia called Florida Pusley. The two species really don’t look much alike but people do mistake them. This brings up a persistent problem: People making a description fit a plant. If a description says a plant has a single line of hair it means exactly that. Covered with hair does not mean a single line of hair. In this case chickweed does has a single line of hair and Florida Pusley is fuzzy. You can read more about chickweed here.
There was a research report this week that touches upon foraging and reminds us of one common species, Purslane. Purslane is a weed found throughout the world. It’s high in vitamin A, vitamin C and melatonin. Melatonin is a chemical (and a brain anti-oxidant) with many uses in the body. One of them is that it helps set our wake and sleep cycle. That’s a good reason to eat purslane for supper not breakfast. Sleep, at the right time, can be a major factor on health.
One of the functions of sleep is to signal the body to do maintenance such as make repairs and get rid of malfunctioning cells. If sleep is interrupted many times over a long time things that were not repaired can promote disease from cancer to diabetes. What can interrupt sleep repair? Eating late at night can. It tells the body it’s morning and time to stop repairs. For example women who do not eat between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. have a greatly reduced rate of breast cancer, by more than 50%, regardless of their diet. Why? Because by not eating at night their maintenance processe is not interrupted. Thus over time the women who fast at night make more repairs and have less disease rates. That brings us back to this week’s report.
Researchers found that two insecticide, Carbaryl and Carbamate, can mimic melatonin. They can interrupt the sleep cycle which interrupts repair which can foster diseases. Carbaryl is still used in the United States but Carbamate is not. However, Carbamate is used in Mexico which produces a lot of food consumed in the United States. And although it is not used in the United States anymore Carbamate residue is found in our food supply. While more research is called for the working theory is when these insecticides mimic melatonin our natural cycle is altered and that reduces repair rates and affects metabolism. The study at also reminds us to be careful foraging where there might have been spaying for insects. You can read the original article here.
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. My schedule is light through February because I will be teaching at two conventions.
Saturday January 28th, Red Bug Slough Preserve, 5200 Beneva Road, Sarasota, FL, 34233. 9 a.m.
Sunday February 5th, John Chestnut County Park: 2200 East Lake Road, Palm Harbor, FL 34685. 9 a.m.
Sunday, February 12th, Jervey Gantt Recreation Complex, 2390 SE 36th Ave., Ocala, FL, 34471. 9 a.m.
Sunday, February 19th, Blanchard Park, 10501 Jay Blanchard Trail, Orlando, FL 32817. 9 a.m.
To learn more about the classes, go here.
Now’s the time to make sure you have a place at the sixth Florida Herbal Conference in February. This will also 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.
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.
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. 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.
This is Newsletter 242. As there are five Tuesdays in January, there will be no newsletter week.
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