söndag 14 februari 2016

Wild plants

The diversity of plants in the lappish woodlands is not great, on top of that the diversity is declining thanks to reduced smallholders. Many valuable habitats are lost when meadows and pastures grow back. Also in the forest many habitats disappear when the forest companies turn forests into pine and spruce monocultures.

Still there is many plants growing here that can be used. During the two years that the farm have been resettled we have used many of these wild plants for food, medicine and other purposes. Below I have listed these plants and written about the plant and how we have been using it.

English name (Latin name)                                                                                              
Swedish name

Alpin bistort (Bistorta viviparia)                                                                                      
This herb is quite common in the mountains above the treeline. Below the treeline it is dependent on meadows that are kept open since it cannot compete in the long run with stronger herbs like Tufted hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) and Cow-Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris). Therefore the herb is in decline below the treeline. The Alpin bistort were growing sparingly on the Hill when we moved here, now it thrives since we keep the meadows open.
You can use most parts of the plant to food. The seeds above the white flowers is actually sprouting buds and can be used to spread the plants since they easily start to grow. The buds are very tasty to eat, with a nutty taste and they are and are very easy to collect. The roots are small but have a very sweet taste and can be eaten as they are. Also the leaves have a good taste and can be eaten as salad.

Arctic bramble (Rubus arcticus)                                                                                      
We have Arctic bramble growing on the hill but I have not seen any berries. This herb is quite common in northern Sweden but it is seldom you find any fruit here of some reason. I have only seen the pink sweet tasting berry in eastern Finland (Etelä-Savo).

Except for the berry the leaves can also be used for tee or salad, they might not taste the best but can be mixed in a salad with other herbs.

Aspen (Populus tremula)                                                                                                 
There is one big and beautiful aspen tree on the farm but except of that one there is not so many big aspen trees on the hill. We did have plenty of small aspen sprouts that had been invading the meadows, but most of them have been removed. In the surroundings there is many aspen trees, on top of the mountain behind the farm we do have a nice forest of aspen trees.

The bark and buds can be used for food but do not contain so much energy. We have mostly been giving aspen branches to the rabbits and of course used the wood for firewood.

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)                                                                              
This plant look very similair to lingonberry. The berry do not taste so much and have a mealy consistent.

Beard lichen (Usnea)                                                                                                       
There are several species of Usnea but they can be used in the same way. They can be used as food in the same way as Island moss but if I can choose I would rather eat Iceland moss since it taste better.

Beard lichen contain usnea acid that is useful in the treatment of burn wounds.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)                                                                                       
Bilerries grows in plenty in the forests around the farm. We use mainly the berries but also the leaves for tea. In winter we collect the branches and give them to the rabbits, they really like the branches. In berry season the chickens eat a lot of bilberries, they find and eat them even if they do not dare to venture too far into the forest.

Birch (Betula)                                                                                                                   
There are two different birches growing here Downy Birch (B. pubescens) and Dwarf Birch (B. nana).We mostly use Downy Birch since it is more common around here.

We prefer to use birch firewood since it burns steady and long with no sparks. The wood is also suitable for carving. The leaves are used for tea and also for washing since it contains saponins. The inner bark can be eaten but we have not eaten so much bark here. Every spring we tap the birches of sap, its very good to drink and sometimes we boil away the water to make syrup. The sugar content is quite low so you have boil away a lot of water to get syrup.

Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata)                                                                                     
This plant grows close to the water or in marshlands. This plant is not edible but the leaves and roots have some medical properties. I do rarely use this plant but usually I dry some and store in our herb pharmacy.. The herb is extremely bitter especially the root. The root and leaves can be used for indigestion.

Bog Bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum)                                                                            
This plant is similar to bilberries, the bush is bigger and grows in more moist areas than bilberries. The berry is bigger and blue as the bilberry but white inside. We have only used the berries that taste a little bit pale but is good when mixed with other berries.

Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)                                                                                 
This small plant grows on the bogs with beautiful white flowers. The berry is very delicious and easy to store since it contain the conserving agent bensoic acid. We usually conserve the berries by mashing them and put them into a jars, since we do not need to boil the jam we do not lose vitamins. The leaves are a bit bitter but can be used for tea.

Clover (Trifolium)                                                                                                           
There are two clover species on the farm, Red clover (Trifolium pratense) and White clover (Trifolium repens). We mainly use the sweet tasting flowers for eating, we also mix the leaves into salads. Like all legumes clovers can fixate nitrogen from the air to enrich the soil. Therefore they are suitable to use as green manure.

Common chick-weed (stellaria media)                                                                           
This is a small herb with tiny white flowers. The whole plant can be eaten as it is. Its one of the most tasty plants that we use for salad.

Common Club rush (Shoenoplectus lacustris)                                                               
This sedge grows in the water with long green stems with small bunches of brown flowers. The base of the stem is edible and taste a little bit like cucumber, its a bit tricky to harvest the stem since you have to reach down to the bottom of the plant that usually is under water.

Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)                                                                               
One of our most important wild plants for food is cow parsley. It grows in abundant on the farm. The leaves are good to eat, they taste a little bit like carrot leaves. We dry a lot of theses leaves for winter consumption. The root smells very strongly of parsnip but is not edible as it is. Before you can eat the root you need to boil it for around 20 minutes and throw away the water. I have tried to eat the root without boiling and I threw up.

Corn mint (Mentha arvensis)                                                                                          
I have only found this herb on the wet meadows, I was quite surprised to find it there. Its the most common wild mint in Sweden. The mint aroma is weaker than most of the other mint species.

Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus)                                                                                  
This small berry plant grows on the bogs. The berries look a bit like lingonberries but are bigger and more intensely red . The taste is very sour, they taste better if picked after the first frostnights. We do not pick so muck cranberries since there are so many other berries that taste better and are easier to pick.

Creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense)                                                                                
The flower-buds are quite tasty, they have a nutty taste. The leaves are nice ti use in salaf after the thorns have been removed. The top of the stem is very tasty after removing the thorns, it taste like cucumber.

Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum)                                                                                     
The berries are very watery and is not suitable for making jam but we make very tasty raw juice out of them. We just crush the berries and squeeze out the juice and store in glass bottles. The juice keep for quite a long time.

Curled dock (Rumex crispus)                                                                                        
The best part of this plant for food consumption is the seeds that should be picked when they are still green. The rest of the plant contain oxalic acid especially old leaves should be avoided. We have been eating younger leaves and the yellow root.

Dandelion (Taraxacum vulgare)                                                                                   
According to me this plant have one of the best tasting root of all the wild roots we eat here. The root is very bitter raw but after boiling and throwing away the water it taste good. We have also made a powder out of the root by drying, roosting and grinding it. The powder smells very good almost like caramel. We add the powder to hot water to make a nice drink. We also use the leaves flowers and flower buds raw or cooked.

Field horsetail (Equisetum arvense)                                                                             
This plant strengthen the skin and is good to have in water that is used for foot baths. As for food the spring buds are edible. I have also heard that the small rot tubers are edible and taste like hazelnuts but I have not tried this yet.

Germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys)                                                            
This is a small herb with small blue flowers. We use the leaves for tea, sometimes we ferment the leaves before using them for tea.

Glittering woodmoss (Hylocomium splendens)                                                           
We use this moss as insulation between the logs when building log houses.

Grey alder (Alnus incana)                                                                                           
There are two species of Alder in Sweden but only Grey Alder grows here. Its a nitrogen fixating tree and can possibly be planted close to the gardens to increase the yields. The alder grows close by but I have not found any on the farm. I think it might be a good idea to plant some on the farm. The wood is easy to carve but is not so hard.

Wooden chips from Alder is good to use when smoking fish or meat since the wood contain low levels of tar. The leaves can be used for tea.

The bark can be used for tanning.

Ground-elder (Aegopodium podagraria)                                                                     
This plant is not native to Lapland and you find it mostly in gardens where it can become an persistent weed. We have found this plant in the neighbour village but so far it do not grow on the Hill and we want to keep it that way. The leaves and stem are very aromatic and can be used as food raw or cooked.

Heather (Calluna vulgaris)                                                                                           
Heather grows in abundant in the forest. The flowers are small and purple. We use heather in tea, it is said to have a calming effect.

Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica)                                                                                
This actually no moss its lichen, a symbiosis between an algae and a mushroom

Iceland moss its the best lichen to use as food around here, but it contains some acids that needs to be neutralised before eating. To neutralize the acids you need a strong alkaline like lye from deciduous trees. Its also necessary to boil the lichen for a couple of hours or at least one to make the carbohydrates more digestible.

I have used this lchen instead of pasta to make a wild lasagne and it turned out to be quite a tasty meal.

Juniper (Juniperus communis)                                                                                     
The blue cones that looks like berries have a strong spicy taste and we use them mostly as a spice in food, we also make a fermented beverage out of them. The needles are used as tea. The wood is hard and good for carving, its very pleasant to carve with juniper since it smells very good. We use the aromatic wood chips as incense and also when we smoke fish.

Labrador tea (Rhododendron tomentosum)                                                                
This herb grows on the bogs. You can feel the smell of this plant when you are close to a bog where Labrador tea is growing. You can make an aromatic tea of the leaves but it is a bit poisonous and can give you a headache and hallucinations according to some. I have never got any hallucinations out of this plant but may be I need a larger dose for that.

It is said to be a mosquito repellent, when I walk through a bog where Labrador tea is growing I usually grab some leaves and rub into my face then I smell good but I am not sure that it has any mosquito repelling effect.

Lady´s mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)                                                                          
We use the leaves as salad, they taste a little bit bitter and are best to mix with other leaves. Lady´s mantle also have some medical properties but we have only used is for food.

Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)                                                                          
Lingonberry is very good to make jam from since it contains the natural conserving agent bensoic acid. I would say that cloudberry and lingonberry is the most important berries for us since they contain a lot of vitamins and are easy to store.

Marsh Lousewort (Pedicularis palustre)                                                                   
This is a semi parasitic plant that means that it steal some of its nutrition from the neighbours. The leaves are quite small and its not really worth the effort to go out on the bogs to collect them but they are edible. The roots can also be eaten but they are also quite small.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)                                                                        
Meadowsweet grows on moist meadows. We have plenty of this herb on the farm. The leaves and the flowers contain salicylic acid, a derivative of this compound acetylsalicylic acid also known as Aspirin is widely used as conventional medicine. Salicylic acid have a similar effect but less powerful. The leaves contain quite low concentration of salicylic acid and can be used as a nice sweet tasting tea. The flowers contain much higher concentrations and is more suitable to use as medicine.

Melancholy thistle (Cirsium helenoides)                                                                   
This thistle grows in plenty on the farm. This is one of the few thistles that do not have thorns on the leaves. We use the leaves as salad.

Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)                                                                     
This is a small plant with nice white flowers. The leaves are quite small but I think they are worth the effort to pick since they taste very good.

Peat moss (Sphagnum)                                                                                               
We dry and store peat moss to use as toilet paper since it can absorb a lot of moist and is antiseptic. Its superior to toiletpaper and a bonus is that you do not need to feel responsibly for the forests that needs to be cut down to manufacture shitpaper.

Pine (Pinus sylvestris)                                                                                                
One of the dominating tree around her is Pine. We use this tree in many ways. As for food we use sometimes the innerbark but more often we use the needles as tea, the needles contain some sugar. Also the rabbits like to eat pine needles in winter time.

The pitch are very useful since it antiseptic, it can be used on wounds and tooth pain. Mixed with wax and oil you can make a nice ointment out of the pitch.
The wood is not suitable for outdoors fires since it contain tar. We have also extracting the tar by
dry distillation.

Plantain (Plantago major)                                                                                           
This is a useful medical herb. Its rich content of mucous substances and silicon gives it wound healing properties. Its good to use for external wounds and also internal for problems with the stomach and throat. If you pick the seeds and put them in water you will soon have a mucus soup.
The leaves are good to eat as they are.

Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)                                                                                          
Raspberries grows in plenty on the farm, but usually the chickens eat them before we get a chance. Every year we pick and ferment a lot of leaves to use as tea. The raspberry leaves do not taste so much as they are but after fermentation the tea have a very rich taste.

Red-stemmed feathermoss (Pleurozium Schreberi)                                                 
We use this moss as insulation between the logs when building log houses.

Reed (Phragmites australis)                                                                                       
There is not so much reed growing in the nearest perch lake therefore we usually go to the pike lake to harvest since the reed grows in plenty there.
We have been using mostly for the storage clamps instead of straw. Next year I want to tru to use reed as building. I have been building and living in simple huts made out of reeds in my younger days.

As for food reed are not so useful. The only thing worth mention might be the sugar rick roots. But they are difficult to collect and you have to extract the sugars from the roots by boiling since the roots are to fibrous to eat.

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)                                                                                           
We have several Rowan trees on the farm. The berries are very bitter to eat as they are, they do taste a little better after the first frost. We usually make jam from them, but they need to boil quite long with a lot of sugar to be good to eat. Dried berries do not taste as bitter and usually we dry some berries for winter. The berries contain a lot of vitamin C.

The wood is very beautiful with a chocolate coloured core wood with slightly yellow wood around. We use it to carve beautiful spoons. The wood is also very hard and are suitable to make handles for axes and pegs for wooden rakes.

Spruce (Picea abies)                                                                                                      
The bark, needles and pitch can be used in the same way as pine. The wood contain less tar and is more suitable as firewood, even if it burns fast and sparks a lot.

We have mostly used spruce as firewood but that is because we have so much spruce growing everywhere. We use pine and spruce when we build log-houses.

The bark can be used for tanning.

Sorrels (Rumex)                                                                                                            
Two kind of Sorrels grows on the farm Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and Sheep's sorrel (Rumex acetosella). They can be used in the same way. The leaves and flowers can be eaten as they are and have a sweet sour taste. This plant should not be usd everyday since it contain some oxalic acid.

Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)                                                                                    
Nettles are very important herb for us. We eat the leaves raw, dried or cooked very often. We have seen that a daily consumption of nettles leaves have reduced allergic problems. The seeds can also be collected and used for food. The stems have very strong fibres and we have made cords from the fibres.

Sundew (Drosera)                                                                                                          
There are two species of Sundew Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) and Great Sundew (Drosera longifolia) around here that can be used in the same way. These two plants are carnivores, insects get caught on the sticky leaves and then enzymes breaking down them. The enzymes also dissolve mucus and therefore are good to use if you coughing up phlegm.

Sweet vernal-gras (Anthoxanthum odoratum)                                                          
This is a small common grass that still is easy to miss if you do not know what to look for. When you chew the grass especially the root base you will sense a mild sweet taste. The taste comes from a chemical compound known as kumarin. We do not use this grass so much except for chewing it then and then. The grass is mostly used to give aroma to liqueur.

Tormentil (Potentilla erecta)                                                                                       
This is the first place I have lived on there I have not found tormentil. This plant is an important medecin plant therefor I have been collecting it on a farm quite far north from here. In swedish this plant is called blood root due to the blood coloured root. The root contains very high content of tannic acid. The root is good to use for stomach aches. I slice the root and then dry it to store.

Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca)                                                                                        
This is a legume that can fixate nitrogen from the air. The plant has small bean capsules with small beans inside, the beans are edible.

Willow (Salix)                                                                                                               
Sälg, Vide
The genus salix is the one of the most numerous genuses in sweden, They can be trees, shrubs and small plants. On the farm we have two members of this genus Goat willow (Salic caprea) and Dark.leaved willow (Salix myrsinifolia). There are more species in the surrounding marshlands and lakeshores.

As well as the meadowseet the leaves and bark from salix contain salicylic acid and can be used as aspirin.

The leaves and buds are edible raw and are very rich in vitamin c.

The bark can be used for tanning.

Wild Pansy (Viola tricolor)                                                                                        
This herb looks like a miniatyr penseé. The flowers are edible and taste like Jenka (a chewing gum that was around when I was a kid)

Willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium)                                                                     
This herb grows in plenty and can take over meadows if they are not cleared. The flowers are a bit aromatic and can be used for tea also the leaves are good for tea. I usually ferment and dry some leaves from willowherb. The most important part for us is the rhizome. The rhizome is high in energy and quite easy to collect. You should boil it and remove the inner marrow before eating to make it taste less strong. The taste is strong and burning a little bit like chilli. I call it the chilli of the north. After removing the rhizome its easy to dry it for conserving.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)                                                                                   
This is a medicine herb that have wound healing properties but I have not really any experience of using this as medicine.

We use the spicy leaves to mix in salad but since its a medicinal herb it should not be used on a daily basis.

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