Monthly Archives: July 2013

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Latin Name: Stellaria media

Family: Caryophyllaceae

chick

 

 

 

 

 

Description: An annual herb, it lies along the ground and has slender stems. There is a single line of white hairs which run up the stems until they reach a joint. The stems are round in cross section. The leaves occur opposite and the lower leaves have stalks, are oval and taper to a short point, 1-3 cm long and 5-10 mm wide. Leaves are pale underneath. The flowers are white in a flat topped arrangement with central flowers opening first. The fruit is an oval capsule with red-brown seeds inside. There are several closely related plants referred to as chickweed, but which lack the culinary properties of plants in the genus Stellaria. Plants in the genus Cerastium are very similar in appearance to Stellaria and are in the same family (Carophyllaceae). Stellaria media can be easily distinguished from all other members of this family by examining the stems as it has fine hairs on only one side of the stem in a single band. Other members of the family Carophyllaceae which resemble Stellaria have hairs uniformly covering the entire stem.

Stellaria media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edibility Rating out of 5: 2

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 3

Edible Uses: Young leaves – raw or cooked as a potherb. They can be available all year round if the winter is not too severe. Very nutritious, they can be added to salads whilst the cooked leaves can scarcely be distinguished from spring spinach. The leaves contain saponins so some caution is advised, see the note on toxicity.  Seed – ground into a powder and used in making bread or to thicken soups. It would be very fiddly to harvest any quantity of this seed since it is produced in small quantities throughout most of the year and is very small. The seed contains 17.8% protein and 5.9% fat.

cchickweed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warnings: The leaves contain saponins. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins. Should not be used during pregnancy or during breastfeeding.

Medicinal Uses: Antirheumatic; Astringent; Carminative; Demulcent; Depurative; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Expectorant; Galactogogue; Kidney; Laxative; Ophthalmic; Poultice; Refrigerant; TB; Vulnerary.

Medicinal Information: Chickweed has a very long history of herbal use, being particularly beneficial in the external treatment of any kind of itching skin condition. It has been known to soothe severe itchiness even where all other remedies have failed. In excess doses chickweed can cause diarrhoea and vomiting and it should not be used medicinally by pregnant women. The whole plant is astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary. Taken internally it is useful in the treatment of chest complaints and in small quantities it also aids digestion. It can be applied as a poultice and will relieve any kind of roseola and is effective wherever there are fragile superficial veins. An infusion of the fresh or dried herb can be added to the bath water and its emollient property will help to reduce inflammation – in rheumatic joints for example – and encourage tissue repair. A decoction of the whole plant is taken internally as a post-partum depurative, emmenagogue, galactogogue and circulatory tonic. It is also believed to relieve constipation and be beneficial in the treatment of kidney complaints. The decoction is also used externally to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers. The expressed juice of the plant has been used as an eyewash.

Resources:

Wikispiecies

Catsear (Hypochaeris)

Latin Name: Hypochaeris

Family: Asteraceae or Compositae

catshead

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description: The rosette growth habit, irregularly lobed leaves, and bright yellow flowers are all characteristics that help with the identification of common catsear. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) resembles catsear but has an unbranched hollow flower stalk (peduncle) much more divided leaves with the tips of the lobes pointing towards the base of the leaf and the flowerheads borne singly at the ends of the long, unbranched, leafless stalks (scapes) arising from the centre of the rosette. Crepis capillaris (L) Wallr (smooth hawkesbeard) can also be distinguished from Hypochoeris radicata in that Hypochoeris radicata has unbranched and/or slightly branching stems whereas Crepis capillaris has grooved stems that are branched from the base or above and upper leaves that are stem clasping. Hypochoeris radicata has obviously hairy leaves. Furthermore, the pappus is mounted on a long slender beak on all seeds whereas Hypochoeris glabra (smooth catsear) occurs in similar habitats but the leaves are generally hairless but sometimes have short, rigid marginal hairs or with sparse, coarse hairs on the upper surface and along the lower midrib. The outer most seeds do not have a beak so the pappus is directly attached to the seed. The pappus of the inner seeds is usually on a long beak.

Edibility Rating out of 5: 2

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 1

head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edible Uses: All parts of the catsear plant are edible; however, the leaves and roots are those most often harvested. The leaves are bland in taste but can be eaten raw in salads, steamed, or used in stir-fries. Older leaves can become tough and fibrous, but younger leaves are suitable for consumption. In contrast to the edible leaves of dandelion, catsear leaves only rarely have some bitterness. In Crete, Greece, the leaves of a variety called pachies (παχιές) or agrioradika (αγριοράδικα) are eaten boiled or cooked in steam by the locals.[4]
The root can be roasted and ground to form a coffee substitute.

Hypochaeris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warnings: None known for humans. This species is suspected of causing stringhalt in horses if consumed in excess.

Medicinal Uses: Pectoral

Resources:

Wikispiecies

Cathead (Emex australis)

Latin Name: Emex australis

Family: Polygonaceae

Emex australis

Emex australis

Latin Name: Emex australis

Family: Polygonaceae

 

Description: A small herb. It is like a dock but the stems trail along the ground. It is an annual plant. The leaves are 3-10 cm long on very long stalks. Male and female flowers are separate. The seed pods are large and spiny. The seed pods are about 1 cm long. They have 3 sharp spines

Edibility Rating out of 5: 1

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 1

Emex australis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edible Uses: Young leaves cooked. The leaves contain oxalates and are laxative in large quantities.

Warnings: The 3-cornered seeds can be very painfull if stepped upon, They are renown to pierce through bycicle tyres.

Medicinal Uses: When eaten in quantity, the leaves have a laxative effect upon the body.

Resources:

Wikispiecies

Bullrush (Typha)

Latin Name: Typha

Family: Typhaceae

Description: It is a plant which continues to grow from year to year. It is 2 m high and spreads to 50 cm across. There is an extensive network of fleshy white underground stems or rhizomes. These produce aerial shoots. The stem is erect, stout and round in cross section. The leaves are bluish-green and narrow. They can be 2 m long. The flowers are brown, in erect spikes at the ends of stalks. The flowers are green at first, then turn brown. The flower spike is 30 mm across.

typha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edibility Rating out of 5: 4

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 3

Edible Uses: Roots – raw or cooked. They are usually peeled before use. The roots can be boiled and eaten like potatoes or macerated and then boiled to yield a sweet syrup. They can also be dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickener in soups etc or added to cereal flours. Rich in protein, this flour is used to make biscuits, bread, cakes etc. The root contains a lot of fibre. One way to remove this fibre is to peel lengths of the root that are about 20 – 25cm long, place them by a fire for a short while to dry and then twist and loosen the fibres when the starch of the root can be shaken out. Young shoots in spring – raw or cooked. An asparagus substitute. Base of mature stem – raw or cooked. It is best to remove the outer part of the stem. Young flowering stem – raw, cooked or made into a soup. Tastes like sweet corn. Seed – cooked. The seed is rather small and fiddly to utilize, but has a pleasant nutty taste when roasted. An edible oil is obtained from the seed. Due to the small size of the seed this is probably not a very worthwhile crop. Pollen – raw or cooked. A protein rich additive to flour used in making bread, porridge etc. It can also be eaten with the young flowers, which makes it considerably easier to utilize. The pollen can be harvested by placing the flowering stem over a wide but shallow container and then gently tapping the stem and brushing the pollen off with a fine brush. This will help to pollinate the plant and thereby ensure that both pollen and seeds can be harvested. Flowering stem – cooked. Tastes like sweet corn

Typha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warnings: None known

Medicinal Uses: Anticoagulant; Astringent; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Galactogogue; Haemostatic; Miscellany; Tonic.

Medicinal Information: The pollen is astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, galactogogue, haemostatic and. The dried pollen is said to be anticoagulant, but when roasted with charcoal it becomes haemostatic. It is used internally in the treatment of kidney stones, haemorrhage, painful menstruation, abnormal uterine bleeding, post-partum pains, abscesses and cancer of the lymphatic system. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women. Externally, it is used in the treatment of tapeworms, diarrhoea and injuries.

Other Uses: Biomass; Fibre; Insulation; Miscellany; Paper; Soil stabilization; Stuffing; Thatching; Weaving.

Resources:

Wikispiecies

Buckshorn Plantain (Plantago coronopus)

Latin Name: Plantago coronopus

Family: Plantaginaceae

Description: A low hairy herb. It has a long tap root. It usually grows over 2 years. The leaves grow from the base and spread out. The leaves are highly divided. They are in a ring around the stem. The leaves are green but can turn red with age. The leaves vary in size and shape but are often 4-10 cm long. The flowers are small and occur in large numbers. They form a dense narrow spike. This is 1-8 cm long. It is in a long hairy stalk.

buck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes: It is a commercially cultivated vegetable.

Edibility Rating out of 5: 3

Medicinal Rating out of 5: 2

Edible Uses: The very young shoots are used in tossed salads. It needs to be picked while young when there is a ring of young leaves but no flower. One of the nicer tasting members of this genus, the leaves are fairly tender and have a slight bitterness. Some people blanch the leaves in boiling water for a few seconds before using them in salads in order to make them more tender. This leaf is one of the ingredients of ‘misticanze’, a salad mixture of wild and cultivated leaves that originated in the Marche region of Italy.

Plantago coronopus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warnings: None known

Medicinal Uses: None known

Resources:

Wikispiecies

Blue Flax Lilly (Dianella caerulea)

Latin Name: Dianella caerulea

Family: Xanthorrhoeaceae

flax

Description: A plant which keeps growing from year to year. It forms mats. It grows to 0.5 m high and spreads to 0.3 m across. The stem is erect. The leaves are long and strap like. The clasp the stem at the base. They can be 75 cm long with rough edges. The flowers are blue in loose clusters at the ends of branches. The flowers are star shaped. The fruit are shiny blue berries. They are 7-12 mm long.

Notes: It adapts readily to cultivation and is commonly seen in Australian gardens and amenities plantings.

berry

Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. The fruit is up to 1.5cm in diameter. Roots – The length of rhizomes are pounded and roasted.

Dianella caerulea

Warnings: Please make sure you are looking at the right plant as some Dianella ( like D. tasmanica) are reputed toxic.

Medicinal Uses: None Known

Other Uses: Basketry; Fibre.

Other Information: A very strong silky fibre is obtained from the leaves. The leaves are also used in making baskets.

Blowfly Grass (Briza maxima)

Latin Name: Briza maxima

Family: Poaceae

Description: An annual grass. It grows 60 cm high. The flowering stalk usually has 3-8 large spikelets. They droop at the tip.

blowfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edible Uses: The seeds and leaves are edible. The seeds are crushed and cooked and used in porridge and bread.
The young flowering spikes are eaten raw as a snack.

Warnings: None Known

Briza maxima

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medicinal Uses: None Known

Resources

Wikispecies

 

Amaranth (Amaranthus viridis)

Latin Name: Amaranthus viridis, A. retroflexus

Family: Amaranthaceae

9353743831_46f03d5996Description: An erect smooth branched herb without thorns. It is 30 to 60 cm high and grows from seeds each year. The stems are slender. The leaves are broad near their base and narrow near the top. Usually the leaves have notches. Leaves are 1-3 cm long with exceptionally long petioles. The flowers occur in the angles of the leaves and the seeds are small and brown or black. The spikes are not bristly.

Amaranth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes: Amaranthus viridis is used as a medicinal herb in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, under the Sanskrit name Tanduliya.

Edible Uses: Leaves – cooked as a spinach. The leafy stems and flower clusters are similarly used. On a zero moisture basis, 100g of leaves contains 283 calories, 34.2g protein, 5.3g fat, 44.1g carbohydrate, 6.6g fibre, 16.4g ash, 2243mg calcium, 500mg phosphorus, 27mg iron, 336mg sodium, 2910mg potassium, 50mg vitamin A, 0.07mg thiamine, 2.43mg riboflavin, 11.8mg niacin and 790mg ascorbic acid. Seed – cooked. Very small, about 1mm in diameter, but it is easy to harvest and very nutritious. The seed can be cooked whole, and becomes very gelatinous like this, but it is rather difficult to crush all of the small seeds in the mouth and thus some of the seed will pass right through the digestive system without being assimilated. The seed contains 14 – 16% protein and 4.7 – 7% fat. Amaranthus viridis is eaten traditionally as a vegetable in South India, especially in Kerala, where it is known as “Kuppacheera” കുപ്പച്ചീര. In Greece it is called vlita (βλήτα) and is one of the varieties of “horta” or greens known in Greek cuisine which are boiled and served with olive oil and lemon. It is also eaten as a vegetable in parts of Africa.[1] In Jamaica it is eaten as a vegetable and is known locally as callaloo (not to be confused with callaloo of most other countries). The leaves of this plant, known as massaagu in Dhivehi, have been used in the diet of the Maldives for centuries in dishes such as mas huni.[2]

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Medicinal Uses: Astringent; Vermifuge.

Medicinal Information: A decoction of the entire plant is used to stop dysentery and inflammation. The plant is emollient and vermifuge. The root juice is used to treat inflammation during urination. It is also taken to treat constipation.

Other Uses: Yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant.

Resources

Wikispecies 

Yellow Burweed

Latin Name: Amsinckia species

Flower detail by WikispeciesOrigin: North and South America.

lternative Name(s): Amsinckia, Fiddleneck.

Family: Boraginaceae.

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Dry open slopes and flats, often in disturbed soil.

Edibility Rating: 1 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 0 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Annual herb to 1 m high. Stems vary from hairless, to hairy with stiff hairs only, to hairy with stiff hairs and minute hairs. Leaves lanceolate, covered with bristly hairs; basal leaves in a rosette, to 20 cm long, with a short stalk; stem leaves reducing in size towards flowerhead and stem clasping. Nutlets with wart-like projections or wrinkled, 2–3.5 mm long.
Flowers: Surrounded by bristly sepals that are 2–5 mm long, linear-lanceolate and united at the base only. Flower tube 5–10 mm long. Flowers spring.The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by Y-shaped cotyledons; yellow flowers in caterpillar-like spikes; trumpet-shaped flowers hairless or with 5 hairy projections closing the throat, evenly lobed at the end of the flower tube, anthers not projecting from the tube and on short filaments; fruit consisting of 4 hard brown to black nutlets (each nutlet contains one seed).

Yellow Burweed

Dispersal: Spread by nutlets, mostly while within the bristly sepals.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts:Leaves; Seed. Fresh juicy shoots. No more details are given. Seed – raw. The parched seed is ground into a powder then made into cakes and eaten without being cooked. If this species is like most other members of the family Boraginaceae, the seed is likely to ripen over a period of time and individual seeds fall from the plant when they are ripe. This will make harvesting any quantity of seed very fiddly and time consuming.

 

Medicinal Uses

None known

Other Uses

None known

Notes: Widespread weed of cultivation and disturbed land, particularly in sandy soils. Plants flower sequentially, producing fruit over a long period, usually dying by early summer. Introduced to Australia in the mid 1800s; probably transported from North America in hay.Yellow Burweed is difficult to separate into individual species, there is inconsistent variation in flower length, colour, constriction in throat of flower and position of anthers.

Wild Radish

Latin Name: Raphanus raphanistrum

Foraging for Wild radish, western Sydney

Foraging for Wild radish, western Sydney

Origin: Native to Mediterranean region.

Family: Brassicaceae.

Known Hazards: None known.

Habitat: Woods and scrub in dry rocky places.

Edibility Rating: 2 (1-5)

Medicinal Rating: 1 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics: Erect annual, or less often biennial, herb to 1 (rarely to 1.5 m) high. Leaves variable, with bristle-like hairs; basal leaves to about 30 cm long, lobed with terminal lobe much larger than lower lobes; upper leaves shorter and highest leaves often undivided. Fruit with up to 12 seeds. Seeds ovoid to globe-shaped, to 3 mm long, net-like veins on surface, red to yellow-brown. Taproot wiry to over 1 m deep; laterals roots fibrous.
Flowers: In branched racemes. Flowers late winter to summer.The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies.

Wild Radish

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by heart-shaped first leaves (cotyledons) on seedlings; white to yellow or mauve petals often violet-veined, sometimes veins indistinct. Fruit to 9 cm long (including beak), and strongly constricted between seeds, breaking into 1-seeded ribbed units at maturity. Stems with bristle-like hairs.

Dispersal: Seed spread by animals, wind and water. Mostly spread by agricultural products containing the seed.

Edible Uses

 

Flower by Anita Gould

Flower by Anita Gould

Flowers; Leaves; Seed; Seedpod. Young leaves – raw or cooked. A somewhat hot taste, they are finely cut and added to salads or used as a potherb. It is best to use just the young leaves in spring, older leaves soon become bitter. Seed – raw or cooked. A very pungent flavour, the seed can be ground into a powder and made into a paste when it is an excellent substitute for mustard. The sprouted seeds have a somewhat hot spicy flavour and are a tasty addition to salads. Flowers – raw. A nice addition to salads. The flower buds are used as a broccoli substitute, they should be lightly steamed for no more than 5 minutes. Young seedpods – raw. Crisp and juicy, they must be eaten when young because they quickly become tough and fibrous. An edible oil is obtained from the seed.

 

Medicinal Uses

Antirheumatic.