Please remember that Forage Friday is presented as trivia and not to be mistaken for medical advice.
Also, a social media comment on an unrelated post concerning the ethics and legality of foraging has led me to remind the readers that I presume you are either foraging your own land, have permission of a landowner or are experiencing a food emergency in a survival situation. Furthermore, make sure you have the right ID on any plant that you intend to eat. While I strive to provide accurate information mistakes happen so never rely on a single source and always double check.
As a youth one the first guide books I ever consulted was a Reader’s Digest guide to North American Wildlife. The book was full of hand drawn or painted images of common flora and fauna of our wonderful landscape. One that stuck out to me was “Purple Avens” and the description made it sound like wild chocolate. It wasn’t until a few days ago that I actually encountered a form of Avens in person. But, I’d missed the flowers in bloom somehow even though I must have nearly stepped on them several times. They were growing on the edge of the highland delta at Muddlety Creek. What’s more, the first photo I took of them captured them by accident. And so began several sessions of internet Image searches confirm the identity and I’m still not settled on which type of Avens I have here.
I’d spent countless hours memorizing the small rendering of Purple Avens (AKA Water Avens) in that Reader’s Digest guide however that image shows only the mature plant in bloom. It doesn’t have an image of the spiked fruit and it doesn’t really mention that there are other varieties of Avens. The same goes for the Peterson’s Field Guides. It finally occurred to me that paper was the limiting factor in how much information could be stored in a shelf full of books. The publisher and editors had to make choices about what to leave out in order to keep everything in one volume. Fortunately for us the internet isn’t restricted that way.
My current understanding is that there’s really only minor differences between the types of Avens. All types seem to be edible. The young leaves are said to be useful as a potherb and not to be very strong flavored. The roots however are where the flavor is.
Multiple sources indicate that the Avens species do tend to hybridize and that this can effect the flavor. Purple Avens is supposed to have a flavor that’s like chocolate but not quite chocolate whereas the other Avens species are described as tasting like cloves or cinnamon. Peterson’s recommended that adding milk and sugar in a tea made from the fine roots was the best way to enjoy them. Obviously the roots could be dried, ground to a powder and sprinkled like a spice.
A few sources say that avens has even been used to flavor and preserve liquor.
The clove/cinnamon flavor of certain avens seems to come from a compound inside the roots that converts into eugenol. Which makes me think that it may be able to sooth a toothache in the same way cloves do. Traditionally some Avens have been used as an anti-inflammatory, to relieve sore throat, treating digestive problems and as a wash to treat skin infections as well as hemorrhoids. The variety most mentioned in traditional medicine is Herb Bennett.
Lastly, there is a somewhat dangerous lookalike in Thimbleweed ( Next Image) so it’s pretty important to be sure what you’re collecting should you choose to do so.
The biggest difference that jumped out for me was that Thimbleweed has a more oval shaped fruit where the Avens is more round. The Avens has a fuzzy stem but the stem of thimbleweed is smooth. Bare in mind that the 2 photos are taken in different stages of development for each plant and the presence of pedals could make the difference in how easy it to tell them apart. Avens can be harvested year round but it’s recommended as a winter harvest because that’s when all the life is stored in the root.
As always, my intention for Forage Friday is to provide you with something that’s interesting to read and inspire you to do further research while showing you my latest photos. And that’s going to wrap up Forage Friday #118. Good night friends and be blessed throughout your days.
For those who have been following me on Facebook and know of the struggle content providers have to get circulation from big tech I’ve been recommending for people to adopt MeWe as a social media platform. One of the problems I’ve run into on MeWe is that people don’t know how to navigate the platform. So to help with that I’ve created a permanent page on my website as a basic Basic Beginner’s Guide To MeWe I’ve tried to anticipate all basic questions there and You can bookmark the page to have as a reference and if you have any questions or suggestions don’t hesitate to contact me. I do still have a day job and I help admin several pages on both platforms so replies might be a little slow but I will answer you.
We also have the Lloyd’s Lens Photography Discussion Group on MeWe that is set up as a fully functional community. There you’ll not only be able to see and connect with me but you can also make your own posts and interact with each other.
I want you to join my group on MeWe: https://mewe.com/join/lloydslensphotographydiscussiongroup
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