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What is your most unexpectedly good find?

 
Posts: 55
Location: Oregon
8
forest garden foraging homestead
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I'm trialing lots of new to me plants this year. Just got my first goumi berries and they're growing on me. My Japanese yam overwintered (to my surprise) and my daylilies are just starting to produce buds. And I just sowed achira seeds, which hopefully germinate and become a useful staple for us.

What species or varieties have become unexpected favorites for you? What is it you like about them?
 
pollinator
Posts: 146
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada -- Zone 5a
58
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I love the Hopi Red Dye Amaranth I planted 4 years ago. It's one of those plants you only have to plant once (even though it's an annual). Every year those gorgeous reddish burgundy seedlings come up here and there in my garden. They're easy to spot and pull (or hoe) where you don't want them, but I always leave some to grow. In the late summer garden they are tall (4 or 5 feet) and red and stunning, especially with the late afternoon light filtering through them. They add a gorgeous accent the the rest of the garden. Although I've mostly used them for beauty, I also mean to use them for useful things. It is a dye plant, so I want to play with that. Also the seeds are edible, but I haven't found a good way to clean/process the seed.

I'm also a huge fan of Green Zebra tomatoes. Beautiful, unusual, prolific, flavourful. We like to make green tomato soup out of them, and green salsa, among other things.

Lovage. What a great perennial herb! It's almost as tall as me, and stands in for celery through much of the summer in things like egg salad, potato salad, tuna salad, soup, etc. When it blooms, it attracts so many pollinators. Lots of biomass at the end of the season. Hardy and easy. Also the stems are wide and hollow, so I like to dry them and distribute them in the various gardens for any insects that want to make their homes there.
 
Mathew Trotter
Posts: 55
Location: Oregon
8
forest garden foraging homestead
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Heidi Schmidt wrote:I love the Hopi Red Dye Amaranth I planted 4 years ago. It's one of those plants you only have to plant once (even though it's an annual). Every year those gorgeous reddish burgundy seedlings come up here and there in my garden. They're easy to spot and pull (or hoe) where you don't want them, but I always leave some to grow. In the late summer garden they are tall (4 or 5 feet) and red and stunning, especially with the late afternoon light filtering through them. They add a gorgeous accent the the rest of the garden. Although I've mostly used them for beauty, I also mean to use them for useful things. It is a dye plant, so I want to play with that. Also the seeds are edible, but I haven't found a good way to clean/process the seed.

I'm also a huge fan of Green Zebra tomatoes. Beautiful, unusual, prolific, flavourful. We like to make green tomato soup out of them, and green salsa, among other things.

Lovage. What a great perennial herb! It's almost as tall as me, and stands in for celery through much of the summer in things like egg salad, potato salad, tuna salad, soup, etc. When it blooms, it attracts so many pollinators. Lots of biomass at the end of the season. Hardy and easy. Also the stems are wide and hollow, so I like to dry them and distribute them in the various gardens for any insects that want to make their homes there.



I started a bunch of lovage from seed this year and just translated it in various spots around the food forest. Can't wait until I get a harvest from it.

I'm doing Rio San Lorenzo amaranth this year. There photos look gorgeous. I've had to be stingy with seed this year, but I imagine I'll be bringing it around this year so I can have it coming up everywhere.
 
author
Posts: 37
Location: Devon, UK
43
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We have had some great finds that found us! Our project on cultivating and harvesting medicinal trees and shrubs is based on a UK site which was occupied with conifers for over 40 years. We think it was an insurance company that originally planted the Sitka spruce in rows. The canopy was pretty solid so that very little grew in the shade amongst the fallen pine needles. After clearfelling and planting up with native and introduced trees we have discovered new species of all kinds popping up on the forest floor. Our main activity in the early years was keeping back the more vigorous plants and brambles from overtaking these native species. I remember dancing around when I first found a little damp patch of Skullcap which is a brilliant anti-inflammatory medicinal herb. Unfortunately this particular herb patch did not hang about for long so I have had to resort to cultivation in a herb bed on the allotment. Looking back I should have paid more attention to seed saving to try and encourage that patch. But many other native UK medicinal species have also appeared over the years including Ground Ivy, Meadowsweet, Selfheal, Valerian and more to keep me busy harvesting. The latest discovery was Goldenrod, this is the Solidago virgaurea a European native, yellow-flowered up to about 70 cm. This is a plant which can do well in dry woods. It is a different plant to the more vigorous North American Solidago canadensis which can grow up to 200 cm tall. Both are excellent plants to harvest in flower and dry for tea for urinary complaints such as cystitis, being diuretic, antispasmodic and antiseptic. Note: If you are likely to harvest Goldenrod, take care not to confuse with yellow-flowered Ragwort which is toxic, smells unpleasant, and has deeply cut green leaves.
Solidago-virgaurea.jpeg
Solidago virgaurea
Solidago virgaurea
 
Heidi Schmidt
pollinator
Posts: 146
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada -- Zone 5a
58
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I started a bunch of lovage from seed this year and just translated it in various spots around the food forest. Can't wait until I get a harvest from it.

I'm doing Rio San Lorenzo amaranth this year. There photos look gorgeous. I've had to be stingy with seed this year, but I imagine I'll be bringing it around this year so I can have it coming up everywhere.



I looked up the Rio San Lorenzo... that is a beauty! I'm going to find the seeds for next year. I must grow it!

One thing about lovage... for herb/eating purposes, I can't imagine ever needing more than one plant! It's so huge. Though mine is in full sun. My friend's lovage is in a shady area, and it's half as big. My partner is a lovage convert and talks about growing fields of lovage (not that we currently have fields) or privacy screens of lovage (even though they die back to the ground in winter).
 
Mathew Trotter
Posts: 55
Location: Oregon
8
forest garden foraging homestead
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Anne Stobart wrote:We have had some great finds that found us! Our project on cultivating and harvesting medicinal trees and shrubs is based on a UK site which was occupied with conifers for over 40 years. We think it was an insurance company that originally planted the Sitka spruce in rows. The canopy was pretty solid so that very little grew in the shade amongst the fallen pine needles. After clearfelling and planting up with native and introduced trees we have discovered new species of all kinds popping up on the forest floor. Our main activity in the early years was keeping back the more vigorous plants and brambles from overtaking these native species. I remember dancing around when I first found a little damp patch of Skullcap which is a brilliant anti-inflammatory medicinal herb. Unfortunately this particular herb patch did not hang about for long so I have had to resort to cultivation in a herb bed on the allotment. Looking back I should have paid more attention to seed saving to try and encourage that patch. But many other native UK medicinal species have also appeared over the years including Ground Ivy, Meadowsweet, Selfheal, Valerian and more to keep me busy harvesting. The latest discovery was Goldenrod, this is the Solidago virgaurea a European native, yellow-flowered up to about 70 cm. This is a plant which can do well in dry woods. It is a different plant to the more vigorous North American Solidago canadensis which can grow up to 200 cm tall. Both are excellent plants to harvest in flower and dry for tea for urinary complaints such as cystitis, being diuretic, antispasmodic and antiseptic. Note: If you are likely to harvest Goldenrod, take care not to confuse with yellow-flowered Ragwort which is toxic, smells unpleasant, and has deeply cut green leaves.



We have lots of ragwort here, which I've been cutting back as it flowers to encourage other things to take its place.

There are lots is wild things here that I'm planning to save seeds from or transplant rhizomes to places where I can encourage their continued presence. Native berries, self heal, mullein, wild ginger, miners lettuce, and much more.
 
Mathew Trotter
Posts: 55
Location: Oregon
8
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Heidi Schmidt wrote:

I started a bunch of lovage from seed this year and just translated it in various spots around the food forest. Can't wait until I get a harvest from it.

I'm doing Rio San Lorenzo amaranth this year. There photos look gorgeous. I've had to be stingy with seed this year, but I imagine I'll be bringing it around this year so I can have it coming up everywhere.



I looked up the Rio San Lorenzo... that is a beauty! I'm going to find the seeds for next year. I must grow it!

One thing about lovage... for herb/eating purposes, I can't imagine ever needing more than one plant! It's so huge. Though mine is in full sun. My friend's lovage is in a shady area, and it's half as big. My partner is a lovage convert and talks about growing fields of lovage (not that we currently have fields) or privacy screens of lovage (even though they die back to the ground in winter).



I got the Rio San Lorenzo from a local company. They said it was tied for their best yielding variety. Between that and how gorgeous it is, I couldn't say no.

I'll be sharing or selling a lot of the lovage eventually. I and I'm expecting to be able to feed 1-2k people from our property alone, once the food forest is fully planted and established (from my quick back of the envelope math from yields I've seen in similar climates.) In the meantime, anything that doesn't get used for cooking, etc., will be chop and drop for my fruit trees. I've basically been putting in lovage in place of comfrey while I'm waiting for my comfrey to get established enough to start spreading it around the property.
 
Posts: 467
Location: Richwood, West Virginia
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Anyone experienced with the Perrenial Winged Bean with edible tubers? Out performs cowpeas in nitrogen production according to the article. Might be optimistic of me to try it in zone 5 tho.




 
Mathew Trotter
Posts: 55
Location: Oregon
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Burl Smith wrote:Anyone experienced with the Perrenial Winged Bean with edible tubers? Out performs cowpeas in nitrogen production according to the article. Might be optimistic of me to try it in zone 5 tho.






It's on my list of things to try, but I don't think it will do well in our maritime climate. Even if it did, I don't think it would perennialize here. I'll just be happy if my runner beans perennialize, to be honest.
 
Posts: 22
Location: Mont Clare, PA
3
food preservation fiber arts bee
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Hi All!
Ilive in a suburban area, in a 20 acre, condo community that is spread out in smaller buildings with only 1 and two story condo units.
It's wooded , and 10 years ago...quite heavily wooded.
There is a giant Catawba tree about 30 to 40 feet from my second story balcony. Since living here, I have found several medicinal herbs, but I am not savvy about tree medicine, and am willing to learn.
We have maples, juniper, cedars, pines, tulip trees, pin oaks, and I introduced willows, a few different varieties.
There are much more, and there is a few acre wooded area next to the property, where a foraging couple often ventures into, and someday I will ask to join them.
There is red raspberry growing below me, and stinging nettle, Jerusalem artichoke, plantain ( not the banana type), yarrow, and all sorts of goodies, that I want to learn more about.
Just a side note: as a member of the garden club, it took 5 years, but we successfully stopped the twice a year dumping of lawn chemicals on this property. The lightening bugs have returned!
The best part of living here are the mature trees!
I will also be looking into learning more about them, and their medicinal gifts.
Thank you.
 
Margie Curtiss
Posts: 22
Location: Mont Clare, PA
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I forgot to add, that this area used to be a Apple orchard, and I have seen Apple trees and a pear tree...both on private property. Sneaking to snag a few ripe pears, was my greatest find!
 
pollinator
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One of my better finds has been sylvetta arugula.  It's a type that can be perennial in many areas.  I'm right on the border of the perennial zone.  If it's planted outside some years it comes back strong in the spring, other years it dies off.  I would guess it depends on how hard the winter was.  However, I've now planted it in my greenhouse which provides enough winter shelter even though I don't heat it to keep the plants alive so come spring I get a huge bounty of greens surging forth from the established roots.  I also like this plant because while the spring leaves are the most abundant and tender I can still be harvesting this all year except winter when the tops die back.  My biggest problem now is figuring out new ways to use the abundance in meals!
 
pollinator
Posts: 171
Location: Northwest Missouri
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I found young elderberry plants growing near a spring deep in the woods. I'm guessing a bird must have "deposited" seeds there, but don't imagine there was enough light for them to thrive so I happily re-homed them into my hard. Also found red columbine growing on the property. I've been in these NW Missouri all my life and NEVER seen one. I didn't even know MO had columbines. Anyway, they and some wild phlox have also been re-homed into a flower bed because natives win!
 
Mathew Trotter
Posts: 55
Location: Oregon
8
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David Huang wrote:One of my better finds has been sylvetta arugula.  It's a type that can be perennial in many areas.  I'm right on the border of the perennial zone.  If it's planted outside some years it comes back strong in the spring, other years it dies off.  I would guess it depends on how hard the winter was.  However, I've now planted it in my greenhouse which provides enough winter shelter even though I don't heat it to keep the plants alive so come spring I get a huge bounty of greens surging forth from the established roots.  I also like this plant because while the spring leaves are the most abundant and tender I can still be harvesting this all year except winter when the tops die back.  My biggest problem now is figuring out new ways to use the abundance in meals!



Sylvetta arugula is on my list, but it's lower down. I forage so many wild greens that planting greens hasn't been as much of a priority as getting calorie crops in. Eventually...
 
Mathew Trotter
Posts: 55
Location: Oregon
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Matt Todd wrote:I found young elderberry plants growing near a spring deep in the woods. I'm guessing a bird must have "deposited" seeds there, but don't imagine there was enough light for them to thrive so I happily re-homed them into my hard. Also found red columbine growing on the property. I've been in these NW Missouri all my life and NEVER seen one. I didn't even know MO had columbines. Anyway, they and some wild phlox have also been re-homed into a flower bed because natives win!



Columbines are amazing. I got some from a friend way before I had a spot to put them and never managed to get them in the ground somewhere. I'll have to see if they're still growing wild up where we used to find them as kids.

Still waiting to see if my elderberries make it. I stuck a bunch of cuttings into a pot and got a bit of root development right before an unseasonable heat spell that killed them all. Went and grabbed some more cuttings and stuck them directly in the ground, but they were so far along at that point in the season that I don't know what they'll do. No signs of growth, yet. Might have to grab some more next year when I have a proper spot for them.
 
pollinator
Posts: 282
Location: Chicago
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When we moved into the house the yard was mostly just bare dirt, with a few neglected plants around the edges. In an awkward corner between the house and a fence there was a scraggly black raspberry— the kind that grow wild in the upper Midwest. I let it grow, and over the years have propagated it so I have three patches of berries along the western fence and get gallons and gallons of berries off them each summer.  

They’re my favorites berries, great flavor, clean, easy to pick, no pests or diseases. Cutting back the canes and arranging the supports is a chore, but it’s  just a few hours of work over the course of the whole year.
 
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Discovering that wild violet greens can be foraged. I knew about the flowers, but the leaves have a much longer season and yield.

I'm getting to the point where most of the weeds cropping in my garden beds make their way in my kitchen: chenopodium (goosefoot), wood sorrel, dandelion and plantain, and now violet greens. And clover stays there as "chop and drop" mulch, so it also plays a role. I now weed with my harvest basket!
 
Mathew Trotter
Posts: 55
Location: Oregon
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Mk Neal wrote:When we moved into the house the yard was mostly just bare dirt, with a few neglected plants around the edges. In an awkward corner between the house and a fence there was a scraggly black raspberry— the kind that grow wild in the upper Midwest. I let it grow, and over the years have propagated it so I have three patches of berries along the western fence and get gallons and gallons of berries off them each summer.  

They’re my favorites berries, great flavor, clean, easy to pick, no pests or diseases. Cutting back the canes and arranging the supports is a chore, but it’s  just a few hours of work over the course of the whole year.



I have red and golden raspberries so far. Planted them in heavy clay and mulched heavily. This is the first year that the mulch has finally broken down enough that the berries are starting to look happy. They've been slow to establish in that poor soil.

I know where there is a patch of black raspberries. I'm patiently waiting for them to grow under the fence so I can snag a few canes.
 
Mathew Trotter
Posts: 55
Location: Oregon
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Kena Landry wrote:Discovering that wild violet greens can be foraged. I knew about the flowers, but the leaves have a much longer season and yield.

I'm getting to the point where most of the weeds cropping in my garden beds make their way in my kitchen: chenopodium (goosefoot), wood sorrel, dandelion and plantain, and now violet greens. And clover stays there as "chop and drop" mulch, so it also plays a role. I now weed with my harvest basket!



I knew the flowers were edible, but I didn't know the greens made for good eating.

Honestly, the edible weeds grow faster than I can eat them. Most of them end up as mulch or chicken food. I might go out of my way to preserve some if there wasn't one weed or another growing year round.
 
Kena Landry
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Mathew Trotter wrote:

I knew the flowers were edible, but I didn't know the greens made for good eating.

Honestly, the edible weeds grow faster than I can eat them. Most of them end up as mulch or chicken food. I might go out of my way to preserve some if there wasn't one weed or another growing year round.



Yes. They have a very mild taste, but they bulk up well a salad or sauteed greens.
 
gardener
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Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
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Loads of wild patches of st John's worts on clear cut forest lands. Mad amounts, to dry and give away. Wild patches of valerian by country roads, enough to make tinctures for many. A friend claims she passed her driving license by taking loads after failing many times before because of being too nervous.
drying-st-johnstwort-on-ceiling.jpg
[Thumbnail for drying-st-johnstwort-on-ceiling.jpg]
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