Eastern Agricultural Complex: An Eric Toensmeier Video.

This is a very informative video about Native crops from before Mexican and European crops arrived. These plants have a lot of uses and I forage the wild forms of many of them. With a vulnerable unsustainable food system like our current one, these plants may once again play an important role in feeding us in the future.

Just a quick note, this is not a how to video, some of these plants need special preparation and or harvesting knowledge before they are good to eat. For instance, when it says that black nightshade leaves and berries are good to eat, that is true but they both need to be harvested at the proper stage of growth or they could be harmful.

Eric Toensmeier is the author of Perennial Vegetables, and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens. Both of Samuel Thayer’s books cover a number of these plants, and Carrol Deppe’s book Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties has a great chapter on how to domesticate wild plants.


Preserving Nettles (and Other Greens) in Early December.

Stinging nettle plants in December.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) plants.

As I mentioned in the last post, my family and I have been sick for over a month. We aren’t quite back to 100%, but finally getting there. Since I wasn’t getting much foraging done we started eating greens that I had dried earlier this year before we normally would have. So last Sunday, when it was nice out and I was starting to feel better, I went for a nice walk in the park and harvested some wild greens to make up for the ones we had already eaten.

I gathered stinging nettle, sheep sorrel, and mullein leaves and dried them.

Close up of me holding the top section of a  nettle plant.
Top section of a nettle plant.

I pick my nettles without gloves. As Samuel Thayer says in Nature’s Garden it isn’t about being a tough guy, you just have to understand how to handle the plants. He describes how to avoid getting stung while handling them in great detail. I also don’t really mind the occasional sting that much, which is fortunate, because I don’t pick them as carefully as I could. Anyway, however you choose to harvest them, you want the young growth at the tips, and always deactivate the stingers by cooking (or some other method) before eating them.

Nettles are great cooked or in tea, and are supposed to be extremely good for you.

dried Sheep sorrel, nettle, and mullein leaves stored in jars.
dried Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella), nettle, and mullein (Verbascum thapsus)leaves.

After drying my greens, I put them in jars, label them, and store them in a dark place. I will use the nettles and sheep sorrel in cooked dishes as well as tea. The mullein will just be used as a medicinal tea the next time we are sick. Rebecca Lerner recently wrote a nice post on mullein uses and identification here.

Thanks for reading, I hope this reminds people that there are still plenty of foraging opportunities out there.


* My photos and text are meant to inspire you and help you learn to recognize new plants (and occasionally mushrooms and other woodland creatures), but they are not meant to be used to identify these species by themselves. I try to always reference where I get my information, but for more recommendations check out my “resources” page.