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305Re: [pfaf] From Argentina...

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  • Ken Fern
    Jun 9, 2003
      Dear Andrea,

      Here is some information on those plants that I hope you find helpful.

      Stellaria media.

      This is probably he best edible from your list and also the most useful
      plant there. Its edible uses are as follows:-

      Young leaves - raw or cooked as a potherb[2, 7, 9, 12, 52, 54, 183]. They
      can be available all year round if the winter is not too severe[85]. Very
      nutritious, they can be added to salads whilst the cooked leaves can
      scarcely be distinguished from spring spinach[4, K]. The leaves contain
      saponins so some caution is advised, see the note on toxicity at the top of
      the page. A nutritional analysis is available[218].
      Seed - ground into a powder and used in making bread or to thicken
      soups[172, 183]. 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[K]. The seed contains 17.8% protein and 5.9% fat[218].

      This is also an important medicinal plant, its qualities are listed below:-

      Chickweed has a very long history of herbal use, being particularly
      beneficial in the external treatment of any kind of itching skin
      condition[238]. It has been known to soothe severe itchiness even where all
      other remedies have failed[254]. In excess doses chickweed can cause
      diarrhoea and vomiting[254]. It should not be used medicinally by pregnant
      The whole plant is astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic,
      expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary[4, 7, 9, 21, 54, 165, 222].
      Taken internally it is useful in the treatment of chest complaints and in
      small quantities it also aids digestion[254]. It can be applied as a
      poultice and will relieve any kind of roseola and is effective wherever
      there are fragile superficial veins[7]. 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[254]. Chickweed is best harvested between May and July, it can be
      used fresh or be dried and stored for later use[4, 238].
      A decoction of the whole plant is taken internally as a post-partum
      depurative, emmenagogue, galactogogue and circulatory tonic[218]. It is also
      believed to relieve constipation and be beneficial in the treatment of
      kidney complaints[244]. The decoction is also used externally to treat
      rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers[4, 218, 222].
      The expressed juice of the plant has been used as an eyewash[244].

      Some care has to be taken with it, however, as the Cautions on the plant's
      use indicate:-

      The leaves contain saponins[7, 65]. 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. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and
      hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams,
      lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish[K].

      Spergula arvensis

      This is also edible, but not many people would find it either appetizing or
      productive enough to want to eat it. The details are as follows:-

      Leaves and young plants[105]. No more details are given.
      Seed - cooked. It can be dried and ground into a meal then used with flour
      for making bread etc[2, 61, 106]. The seed is rich in oil[105]. A famine
      food, it is only used when all else fails[177]. The seed contains saponins
      so some caution is advised. See the notes above on toxicity.

      Like the plant above, it contains saponins and so some caution is advised.

      As regards Bromus mollis and Holcus lanatus, although these species do not
      appear in the PFAF database, like virtually all grasses their seeds are
      edible. However, I think it would be a very hungry and desperate person who
      would try to get their food from plants such as these since the seeds are so
      small and fiddly to harvest.

      Methods were developed in the past, though, to harvest and utilize foods
      from all different sources, including from a range of plants bearing small
      seeds. It was very common for the so-called primitive peoples to collect
      seeds from meadow-like environments, usually by women walking amongst the
      plants carrying a large plate and a stick, using the stick to hit the plants
      and dislodge the seeds which would then fall onto the plate. Whilst
      individual seeds would have been very small and fiddly to harvest, it was
      possible to harvest quite reasonable quantities which would then have been
      ground into a powder and cooked together in a kind of mush. Very commonly it
      would have been fermented to improve both its flavour and digestibility
      prior to cooking. One of the simplest ways of doing this, practiced in many
      areas of the world, was to spit into a paste made from the powdered seeds
      and leave it in a warm place for a day or so. Don't ask me what it tasted
      like, I've never really fancied food prepared in this way!!!!

      By the way, of the other two plants you mentioned, Rumex acetosella makes an
      excellent addition to the salad bowl and is also very productive.

      Hope this is of some help to you. If you want to know more about a wide
      range of useful plants then you can look them up in our on-line database at

      My best wishes

      Ken Fern

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Drakaika" <drakaika@...>
      To: <pfaf@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Monday, June 09, 2003 4:39 PM
      Subject: [pfaf] From Argentina...

      > My name is Andrea Cordone, and I live in Cordoba,
      > Argentina. I want some information about the follow
      > species: Bromus mollis, Holcus lanatus, Spergula
      > arvensis, Stelaria media... Are there edibles?
      > All these species was find in the stomach of European
      > mummys. The scientists find other species like Rumex
      > acetocella and Viola arvensis.
      > These species grown spontaneusly en Cordoba, La Pampa,
      > Buenos Aires and other areas of Argentina.
      > A kiss for all, and thank you,
      > Andrea Cordone
      > ___________________________________________________
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