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Monday, July 14, 2014

Dandelions, Stinging Nettles and Clover, Oh My!

Three weeds of annoying persistence, with secrets hidden within their simple (and in one case painful!) leaves.

Clover

Clover is an incredibly tasty wild green that people in almost every part of the North American continent walk past without much notice. With over 300 species in an incredibly broad range across the world, this simple little plant is most commonly recognized here in the United States as White Clover and Red Clover (named for the color of their blooms). When most people think of clover, they think of hay and food for animals.  The two species of clover I just mentioned above are the most common and are edible!

"Livada" by Snezana Trifunovic - User:Tsnena.
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
"Trifolium repens" by Forest & Kim Starr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons.
Yes, I said the humble clover is downright tasty. Once upon a time, when I still had a cabin in an area that I enjoyed, I used pick fresh clover and young dandelion leaves to help supplement my salad preps. Clover has a slightly sweet taste and the blossoms are edible as well.

Something to note about red clover: it's a source of many valuable nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. There is also a slowly growing body of evidence that suggests that red clover can help lower blood pressure (something to note for those of you who may take medicine for such a thing).

Preparation

  • Seeds and dried flowers from clover can be mixed into flour supplies for breads and other grain stocks to add a boost of nutrients as well as extend the amount of food available for use. 
  • Young clover and flowers are eaten raw. 
  • Steamed clover makes a great substitute for spinach, too. Steam until just welted, season to taste, and dig in!

"Brennnessel 1". Licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike
3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Stinging Nettle

My apologies for the itch that may have erupted from your memory. If you were anything like me growing up, stinging nettle was your nemesis when adventuring. However, until a few months ago I was not aware that this bastard plant... was edible. Yes, edible.




Preparation

  • Bring the water to a boil and drop them in.  They are tender almost immediately and ready to take your favorite seasonings.  It's a top wild source for Vitamin A and C. HOWEVER, only use plants a foot tall or less.
  • Older Nettle plant stems can be used for fiber making. 
  • Nettles can also be a source of vegetable rennet. Yes, rennet as in cheese-making rennet.  You boil the plant until there starts to be a oily extraction on top of the water.  I've heard numbers from 2/3 a cup to a cup and a half of chopped nettles for roughly a tablespoon and a half.  The amount of cheese that much will render, the numbers are scattered from 1 lb to 8 lbs of cheese.


Dandelions

"DandelionFlower" by Greg Hume.
Licensed under Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons.
Now, dandelions are once again being recognized as food and have been cropping up in articles everywhere. So I'm not going to delve into them here; instead, I'll just give you several links to the articles as those folks have broken down the plant better than I could.



All three of these plants will often be found in the same meadows and fields.  Once you brush up on what they look like, they will be a welcome treat in the spring and early summer after a long winter of dried and canned goods.

The Fine Print


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