Edible Plants of New York: Why violets are more nutritious than spinach 

GoBotany

Wild plants are some of the most exciting foods to eat. They are free, nutrient-dense, and fun to gather. In particular during the late spring, leafy greens and flowers are on the menu.

Have you ever eaten from a place other than a grocery store, a restaurant, or a deli? Do you know who your gardener, farmer, or forager are? I do!

It’s my hope that you will soon feel empowered to find out that your forests, fields, and wetlands will and always be your grocery store too.

Why is it important to forage?

One of the reasons I believe foraging is great, is because it offers us a chance to eat different kinds of foods.

Wild plants contain a host of unique natural chemicals, fiber, and stimulating compounds that are defiantly worth looking into. This is one reason why the natural supplement industry is growing so rapidly. It’s because people are waking up to the fact that wild, or organically-grown plants and mushrooms have the power to impact our bodies in a good way.

It’s the way that these wild organisms live, that make them so delicious and nutritious. In short, they have to survive harsh conditions sometimes, and this make resilient!

To know more about the plant we are about to talk about, I would like to touch briefly upon some scientific terms.

What is a species?

According to Wikipedia, “A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction.”

From Wikipedia

Are violets a species?

Here in New York, a common species is Viola odorata (seen below). “Viola” is technically the genus, and “odorata” is the species name. Violets are in the Violaceae family.

According to our friends at GoBotany, there are thirty or so species of violets living in New England, and 1,000 of them globally.

Viola odorata can be found in “anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), meadows and fields”.

GoBotany

How do you eat violets?

I enjoy eating the young leaves and the flowers of violet. In particular, i’ve been picking the youngest leaves and putting them in my smoothie! Check out my youtube channel to learn more.

What does violet’s nutrient profile look like?

Thomas Zennie and Dwayne Ogzewalla in 1977 compared the Vitamin C and ProVitamin A levels of wild plants in Oho. They found that violet leaves had up to 20,000 Units of ProVitamin A/100 g, and 264 Units of Ascorbic Acid/100g.

They then compared the number 20,000 and 264 with the following data form “common garden fruit and vegetables”.

Do you notice any differences in these cultivated vegetables?

Not one of these common vegetables in the above table even comes close to the previous mentioned violet. It wasn’t clear whether these cultivated plants were produced organically. It’s my inkling however that these wild plants would still beat out the cultivated varieties.

What are the medicinal and traditional benefits of consuming violet?

In a one study, called the “Effect of the Aqueous and Hydro Alcoholic Extracts of Viola odorata L. on Biochemical and Histologic Liver Parameters in Diabetic Wistar Rats”, the researchers said, “According to our results, the concentrations of 100 mg/kg of the aqueous and hydro-alcoholic extracts of violet significantly decreased the number of Kupffer cells. Additionally, 100 and 400 mg/kg of the aqueous extract significantly decreased inflammatory accumulations.”

Many indigenous groups have been documented to eat violets as well. According to the North American Ethnobotanical Database, the Blackfoot use the plant as a pediatric aid. In particular, they find that this plant helps with respiratory ailments.

What’s next?

I would encourage you all to go out tomorrow and look for this plant. It may just be growing naturally right outside your front door.

If you have any more questions about this plant, please reach out to me at lionmanconsuting@protonmail.com. Check out our new website too!

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Edible Plants of New York: Why I think garlic-mustard is one of the best underestimated superfoods


Garlic-mustard is one of my favorite plants. A great resource to learn more about local plants in northeast North America, is GoBotany! Here is some ways that the organization describes garlic-mustard:

Latin name: Alliaria petiolata (Bieb.) Cavara & Grande

Facts: Garlic-mustard is an invasive species originating in Eurasia and rapidly spreading through much of North America. It was originally imported in the nineteenth century as a kitchen garden herb and salad green. The leaves, which have a sharp, garlic-like flavor, can be eaten raw or boiled. It is most aggressive in roadsides and shady, moist, rich forests, and may form dense colonies.

Habitat: Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), floodplain (river or stream floodplains), forest edges, forests

Flower petal color: white

Leaf type: the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)

Beyond describing the plant in this way, i’ll share with you how I consume garlic-mustard. Two ways I enjoy eating garlic-mustard is in smoothies and in pesto.

In smoothies, I’ll gather the greens and place them into the blender. I add coconut milk, wild blueberries, green bananas, more herbs, olive oil, almond butter, etc,.

In pesto, one needs only to replace the cultivated garlic clove (technically a bulb) with a large handful of garlic-mustard leaves. All parts of the plant are edible, so feel free to add in the stem and the flowers!

Moving on, according to Hayley et. al, in their 2013 paper, called “Phytoliths in Pottery Reveal the Use of Spice in European Prehistoric Cuisine”, there is evidence found in the pottery of the Late Mesolithic Ertebølle culture and the Early Neolithic Funnel Beaker culture.

The Ertebølle culture comes the southern Scandavia area, in the time period of 5,300 B.C.E. — 3,950 B.C.E. The Mesolithic is a time period where agriculture generally wasn’t developed yet. People in the Ertebølle culture were mainly hunter-gatherer’s and fishing people. I find it validating that these people were cooking garlic-mustard over 5,000 years ago.

Finding any information on Google Scholar about the health benefits of garlic-mustard is a challenge, given the bias and rhetoric around calling this plant an “invasive”.

However, we know that plants in the Brassicaceae family (and garlic-mustard is in it) are full of anti-cancer compounds. Go ahead and look for yourself!

I was able to find from Plants for a Future, a description of the other benefits of garlic-mustard:

“The leaves and stems are antiasthmatic, antiscorbutic, antiseptic, deobstruent, diaphoretic, vermifuge and vulnerary.”

This all means that it can help your respiratory system, can prevent scurvy, has anti-microbial activity, has a laxative effect, can expel worms from your body, and helps your veins!

In conclusion, I love this plant! I think it offers us a stark contrast of what we’re taught by modern society about what’s safe, healthy, and affordable. By interacting with the plants like garlic-mustard, we can go into our local woods and find food, medicine, and enjoyment! We don’t have to rush to the grocery store or even a local farm for some of our staples.

I think it’s now modern and cool to forage! Please do responsibly and in sovereignty.

If you have any more questions about this plant, please reach out. Give our new video a watch as well. Thanks for reading!

Photo from Wikipedia


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Why I Traveled to the Amazon in 2017

Twigs and I decided that we needed to a break, and we wanted to experience some of the last, untouched tribes in the world. Twigs loved researching, so he soon got back to me with news!

“I found them! ” I recalled him saying in a paradoxically relaxed tone.

“We’re going to visit the Achuar people. They live deep in Ecuadorian rainforest.”

I nodded my head. I was ready. It was December, 2017 and I soon found myself in a passenger airplane, taking off from the city of Macas, Ecuador.

As we flew in the air all I could see was a sea of forest, in all directions. I was at home!

Our guide, Muchelala jumped out of the plane after it landed, and onto the grassy runway. I remember the baking sun, and a friendly black dog running towards us.

We got our stuff and were settled in a mosquito protected tent, and began to relax. Of the next few days, Twigs and I would laugh about our new life here.

“Where was all the action?”

“Why are we just hanging out all day?” I exclaimed one morning. We had nothing left to do! We had already swam in the river, eaten catfish and yucca for lunch, and had bananas for a snack.

What was left? Well, we had to play with the dogs, hang out in the hammock, read Stephen Buhner’s book on plant intelligence, and of course drink the famous chicha.

You might ask, “What’s chicha?”

Well readers, it is the most incredible drink in the world!

This is how it’s made. All of the women, young and old, would head out each day to the yucca (also known as cassava) patch nearby to gather these tubers. They had these awesome baskets that they would throw over their backs, and rest on their foreheads.

With their baskets full, they’d return to tend to the fire. The fire was somehow always alive. To do this, they had a simple system of laying three logs, in a triangular fashion, with the embers in the middle of them. When they needed the fire to increase, one would simply need to push the logs into a tighter triangular.

The next thing the women did was to fill their pot with water at the river. Then, they would boil the water and let the yucca simmer for about an hour. The women would then pour off the hot water, and place the yucca into a wooden container that looked like a canoe (for a child). They would take a large handful of the cooked yucca and start chewing, while at the same time, begin to mash the yucca with a large wooden pestle. After a few good chews, in would go the chewed up watery mix.

It would take a few days to be ready. With the heat of jungle, the drink would soon be bubbly, and good to serve to the family. This is what we mainly drank! I became used to it over time. Think of it like a combination of kombucha, kefir, and coconut yogurt, but with lots of chunks.

In conclusion, I learned that the Achuar people weren’t “barbaric” or “lost”. They were found, and do currently live a peaceful and prosperous life in their large forest. These people weren’t untouched by the burden of modern society, and have benefitted from their contact with outsiders.

There are many more stories of our adventures in the Amazon jungle, alongside these amazing and kind people. Perhaps soon I will share more. For now, I leave you with the following quote.

“The world’s most primitive people have few possessions, but they are not poor. Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it is a relation between people. Poverty is a social status. As such it is the invention of civilization.”
― Marshall Sahlins

Thanks so much for reading.


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Why I Planted 150 Trees in 1 Day

April 19, 2022

Deforestation is ramped in my community. We’re located about 25 miles north of New York City. Now, I have nothing against cutting down trees. Trees provides people when they’re standing and when they’re lying on the ground.

“Growing up” in Chestnut Ridge was a blessing. We lived on a lake, and during the summers, I fished with my friend Matthew all day, everyday. The lake is surrounded by a healthy forest, comprised mostly of beech, maple, and oak trees.

What I didn’t realize luckily as a child was that this place, this wonderful home, was in fact an oasis.

When you drive, or walk, or ride a bike through our town today, you can see signs like,

“Coming soon! A new school!”, and “We want you to shop here, in the soon-to-be, newest plaza!”

The signs could read instead, “Coming soon, an expansion of the concrete world into your no longer protected oasis.”

Now, I am learning that it can be damaging to one’s own psyche to put labels such as “good” and “bad” onto your environment. I’m sure the plaza and the school will offer new light in some way to Chestnut Ridge. After all, New York State is covered in 61% forest! That should mean that in every 10 towns, six of them should be completely forested.

So, what I do on the first day of Spring in 2022? How did I show my love and gratitude for our home?

I planted with my friend, 150 fruit and nut trees!

My friend, Jesse, who owns a landscaping company called the Freedom Forest, supplied us with young, hybrid chestnuts, hybrid hazelnuts, and black and English walnuts.

We had a blast. In one lush spot with the most beautiful and dark soil, we planted about 75 trees. We were calling out to each other in smiles, “Hey, check out this soil!”

I was certainly tired after this event, and I didn’t need to go to the gym afterwards. My hands were crusted and blackened. My head and heart was filled with imaginative wonderings of nuts falling to the ground for a thousand years to come.

There isn’t good and bad in this world. There is just good.

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