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Aralia Racemosa (American Spikenard)  RSS feed

 
Kota Dubois
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I met a very interesting person who does a lot of wild foraging. He claimed that the berries of this plant are an excellently delicious fruit. I've tried to research it on the net and in my foraging handbooks and it seems to be not recommended and it also seems that the natives never used it either.

Does anyone have any personal experience with this fruit?
 
Carol Taylor
Posts: 7
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I found a couple of places where it's been eaten or the taste described so I'm assuming it is edible. Most sites just seem to parrot the line "not considered edible". See http://www.scribd.com/doc/61177356/12/MATRIMONY-VINE-Lycium-vulgare (page 12). I wish I had a copy of the original text; we've lost so much that our grandparents knew!
 
Donovan Wentworth
Posts: 14
Location: Michigan - Zone 6a-5b
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The University of Michigan's Native American Ethnobotany Database lists many, many uses for this plant but only a couple examples of it being eaten in any way.

"An aboriginal Menomini dish was spikenard root, wild onion, wild gooseberry and sugar," and "Young tips were relished in soups [by the Potawatomi]" are the only examples of it as a food source.

There are only six examples of the berries being used in any way, and all are in combination with the root for medicinal purposes. The Cherokee used berry and root infusions of the plant as "diaphoretics" (herbs that induce/encourage perspiration), antiseptics, and tonics. The Choctaw used the berries and root as expectorants (drugs used to expel phlegm from the lungs), stimulants, and pediatric aids "for many children's complaints". Many other cultures used the roots for just about every medicinal purpose imaginable, ranging from settling upset tummies to inducing abortions.

This database is a great resource, but unfortunately it doesn't go into enough detail about how the Natives prepared and used these plants for all these different things.

So that doesn't necessarily answer your question about whether the berries are edible, but it seems that the Natives didn't really eat them. Perhaps they are edible but the Natives just valued them more for medicinal purposes, or perhaps they didn't consider the berries very good to eat. I don't have any personal experience with the plant myself.
 
Donovan Wentworth
Posts: 14
Location: Michigan - Zone 6a-5b
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Plants for a Future has a profile for it, and it cites The History and Folklore of North American Wild Flowers by T. Coffee as saying the fruit are edible and good tasting. It cites Coffee as well as S. Facciola's Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants as saying that the berries can be made into jelly.

But someone made this comment at the bottom of the page:
'I would be cautious about the edibility of A. racemosa berries. I have checked several other sources, and none list the berries as edible. Indeed, several specifically state that the berries are "inedible." One authoritative source I've checked is Lee Allen Peterson's EDIBLE WILD PLANTS, Eastern/Central North America (the "Peterson Field Guide" to the subject). He is not one of those who specifies the berries as "inedible," but he does not list them as one of the edible components of A. racemosa.'

It seems that if Peterson excluded something as obvious as the berries from his list of edible parts, he must have considered them inedible. Also, there is no record that I've found of Native Americans eating the berries as food. So it seems that the jury is still out.
 
Carol Taylor
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I figure if they were edible in 1914 (the source I cited before) then I would at least try them now! I've found that too many of the newer books (even experts) often wrote "what every knew" but that was often mistaken. Then everyone else picks up the refrain. I've know wildcrafter who have found a couple of re-discovered wild edibles sifting through sources this way.
 
Cassandra Mieslik
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The information about this plant is somewhat incorrect from the forager. A. Racemosa does not set berries. A. hispida does. All are in the Ginseng family, all are listed as using the root & leaves in the form of a infusion (tea) for many medicinal conditions.
references: Peterson 's Edible Wild Plants and P. Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants
 
Donovan Wentworth
Posts: 14
Location: Michigan - Zone 6a-5b
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Check this out. Those look like berries to me.
 
Sylvain Picker
Posts: 11
Location: Montreal, Canada
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I have eaten Aralia Racemosa fruits many times and me and my friends have found it to be super delicious. This is a magnificent perennial that grow in rocky hardwood forests, its make a very nice landscaping element. This plant is easy to grow from seeds that you sow in the fall to naturally get the needed stratification during winter. It is a ginseng family plant and I think the roots where once used as an ingredient for root-beer. It grows at the edge of forests and you will also find it along trails.
 
Isaac Hill
gardener
Posts: 357
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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I think it also depends on your definition of "edible"...
 
Cassandra Mieslik
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Checked on your site reference, good pictures. Thanks . I did look into more of my references, my mistake, they do list a red-purple berry for Aralia R. Also I noted a reply that "edible" has to do with each person's taste, some berries that are listed as edible taste terrible! I agree with that, has happened to me lots of time when I've picked different berries from wild plants.
 
Sylvain Picker
Posts: 11
Location: Montreal, Canada
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Cassandra Mieslik wrote:Also I noted a reply that "edible" has to do with each person's taste, some berries that are listed as edible taste terrible! I agree with that, has happened to me lots of time when I've picked different berries from wild plants.


What I have noted from my experience of one year of eating Raw is that our taste is something that is heavily "disturbed" by junk food. Taste is something that have to be trained. The best advice I think, if you want to appreciate wild plants tastes is to eat small quantities of them on a regular basis. A good example would be wild mushrooms: it took me a long time to appreciate their taste raw, the first trials where not pleasant and it took months before I could have pleasure eating them.

Most importantly, the point that I want to make here is that the taste of wild food will give you a superior pleasure than the one you would get from any industrial food, but your tatste buds have to be trained back, or kind of cleaned of the damage that chemical foods has done to them.
It's not that wild fruit taste terrible, it's just that our taste buds have been trained into thinking that the totally horrible taste of modern industrial food is good !
 
Cassandra Mieslik
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After 40 plus years of eating wild plants, I still think some of them taste 'terrible'. I do realize that people who eat a SAD diet have a difficult time adjusting to the taste of wild foods, what you grow up with taste good to you. Plus the chemicals that are added to factory food causes a craving for them, both in people and pet food.
As for wild mushrooms, I do little gathering of them, it's too easy make a mistake. I would go 'rooming' with my grandmother for them and depended on her telling me the rights ones to eat, but she has been gone since the 70's.
 
mary yett
Posts: 74
Location: Manitoulin Island - in the middle of Lake Huron .Mindemoya,Ontario- Canadian zone 5
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There is a long tradition of making wine ( and vinegar) from spikenard berries. My herbology teacher made this wine herself, but never had enough volume to share, so I have not tasted it. She claimed that spinkenard wine was very intoxicating and should only be consumed in very small quantities. She also said it was medicinal and very good for any lung complaint or inflammation in general.
 
Cassandra Mieslik
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Mary, there seems to be a general agreement that Spikneard can be used a lot of ways, I've found most berries are an excellent anti-inflamatory and can be made into wine or vinegar, how strong the wine is depends on how you make it. Vinegar is an easy way to use berries, so is steeping them in vodka, and adding a sryup to finish it.
 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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may be because of oxalic acids.

a lot of stuff the natives didn't use out here was because of that. or they would only use fresh tips or plants (think lambsquarter)

wine and other fermentation may "drop" out stuff that crystalizes easily...
 
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