Thursday, April 4, 2013

The First Wildflower

Speaking of local food, foraging in your backyard is the ultimate in local food.

I feel slightly embarrassed, because I have no idea what this plant is.  I suspect it is edible but I am not going to try to eat it.
All I can tell you is that it is low to the ground, that the tiny purple flower is blurry because my iPhone couldn't handle the closeup.  Just think, our last snow was Monday.  Today, it got down to 22 degrees.  And now I found a wildflower.

It's the first wildflower of spring in my upstate New York back yard.

I thought these plants were "henbit" but I looked in Google images, and I don't think this is henbit.

Spring greens are an old tradition in the United States and all over the world.  When I lived in Arkansas, they would sell something called "poke sallet" in local markets.   The people who were raised in traditional ways would gather these greens, which are the early leaves of the pokeweed plant.  We have pokeweed even here in upstate New York; I've found it growing in my front yard more than once.  Here, it grows several feet high.  In Arkansas, it can grow the size of a large bush.  When older, it is poisonous.

The "sallet" indicates the green needs to be cooked.  This particular green was boiled, in three changes of water, to get the bitterness out. Some would then add salt pork to the final boiling. I tried cooking it once (that huge bag shrunk down to almost nothing, too) and it was OK, but I didn't think it was worth the work (and I didn't even have to forage for it.)  But many of the natives were fond of it first thing in the spring.  A nearby canning company, Allen Canning, used to pay gatherers to bring in the poke leaves and then they canned and sold it commercially.  I was saddened to discover they discontinued the canning of poke in 2000.

Although I have done some wild food gathering in my life (wild strawberries and blueberries, wild amaranth, lamb's quarters, elderberries, black walnuts, wild persimmons) I've never really gotten into the greens.

So, I do not intend to eat my little wildflower, but would still be curious to know if it is edible.

Anyone know what it is?

7 comments:

  1. It's hard to know what to eat, and if you fertilize and weed-poison your yard, there's no food there. I have eaten a salad with violet leaves and flowers, which are blooming now in South Carolina, and various other weeds, none of which I know well enough to eat. I'm not fond of greens, which are an acquired taste, but I imagine that people who grew up with them find them tasty.

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    1. You reminded me of violets - my husband has a 101 year old aunt who used to pick her "spring tonic" which included violets. I tasted a salad she made once with the violets - to me they tasted like soap. But until last year she never even took any medications - it makes you wonder. (Incidentally, we use no chemicals in our yards or lawn but I still wouldn't eat weeds from them.)

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  2. It certainly looks like the edible flowers but I do think you are wise to let it be in nature. Nice post.

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    1. Thank you. I forgot to mention violets (which I know this is not) - some years we have small purple violets that come up and we used to have wild Johnny Jump Ups, too.

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  3. It looks like an edible flower but you never know so it is best to let it look great in nature.

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  4. pretty sure it's the darling harbinger of spring...veronica persica, aka Persian Speedwell, Bird's Eye Speedwell, Gypsyweed

    i've been nibbling on it since i was a child. a bit bitter raw

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  5. I googled veronica persica and that is what it is. Thank you! It's still blooming - the flowers are tiny but your ID was right on the mark.

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