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arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) - harvesting and uses  RSS feed

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Location: Missoula, MT
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Similar to the Oregon grape (Mahonia aquilfolia or M. nervosa) thread I started, I'd like one to pull together pictures and information all about harvesting and using arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata).


(Picture from this post.)

A friend posted this great article about using the plant, Arrowleaf Balsamroot Provides Medicine and Nutrition for the Lean Times, by Stephen Christensen, MD, and while I've heard all parts of the plant are edible, I have only found the seeds to be mildly pleasing to eat (albeit tiny) the rest of the plant is BITTER. Since I really love this abundant spring perennial on our property, this article gave loads of ideas on how and why to use the plant more than just nibbling the seeds.

Christensen writes:
If you have a bent for chemistry, you might be interested in some of the compounds that are believed to confer Balsamroot’s salutary powers. According to Michael Moore, author of Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, both the stems and roots of Balsamroot contain an array of flavonoids, including 7-methyl-ether and 6-hydroxykaempferol, inulin, glycans, resins and terebinthine principles (mainly in the root), and caffeic acids similar to those found in Echinacea.

Though I'm most excited to use the dried leaves to help heal wounds as Christensen suggests. We are talking about making an herbal wound healing powder out of arrowleaf balsamroot, yarrow, lavender, oregon grape, comfrey...I'm not sure what else.


(Our "caldera.")

Also, from this post came another great suggestion:
Dennis Lanigan wrote:Jocelyn, Many of my friends have cut up the roots and gently heated them in some raw honey. Here's an example of this: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.652955961402093.1073741826.158010274230000&type=3

You may also want to check out Michael Moore's Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West which also describes how to make this arrowleaf balsam honey. It's amazing for lung problems and colds. http://www.amazon.com/Medicinal-Plants-Mountain-Michael-Moore/dp/0890134545


Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has a page dedicated to arrow-leaf balsamroot, which includes more natural history and uses of the plant. Here's one excerpt:
Native Americans relied on all parts of arrow-leaf balsamroot for food. Young leaves and shoots were peeled and eaten raw, boiled or steamed. The peeled roots have a bitter, strongly pine-scented sap. When cooked for several days (roasted or steamed) the root became edible and was often ground into meal and mixed with grease and made into cakes, or mixed with powdered berries and eaten with a spoon. The small, sunflower-like seeds were dried or roasted and pounded. The plant was also used for medicinal purposes, with the leaves being used as a poultice for burns, the roots boiled and the solution applied as a salve for wounds, cuts and bruises, and a tea derived from the roots used as a treatment for tuberculosis and whooping cough. Today, it is added to muffins, breads and granola, and can also serve as an emergency survival food. Modern herbal practitioners may use the root as an immunostimulant or expectorant.




How do you use this lovely plant?

 
Liz Hoxie
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Location: Ellisforde, WA
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Jocelyn, you mentioned that the leaves are bitter. If you waited for the plant to bloom that may have been the reason. Try the young leaves and shoots, that may help. If you still use the bitter ones, try scrambling eggs into the steamed greens.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Location: Missoula, MT
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Liz Hoxie wrote:Jocelyn, you mentioned that the leaves are bitter. If you waited for the plant to bloom that may have been the reason. Try the young leaves and shoots, that may help. If you still use the bitter ones, try scrambling eggs into the steamed greens.

I tried the leaves last year and now I can't recall if it was before they bloomed though I thought it was. I will try again. Thanks for the tip, Liz!

I know this for lambs quarters (Chenopodium album) and sheep sorrel (Rumex acetocella) which turn really awful tasting after they seed, though it's not as much of an issue with our dandelions (which are simply less bitter after a good rain), so I forgot. The reminder helps!

 
Liz Hoxie
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The bitterness tends to hit ALL leafy greens as they bolt. My mother would see a lettuce plant starting to bolt, pull it up, and harvest the whole plant. Usually at the end of the season we'd have a BIG wilted lettuce salad. The bitterness was part of the flavor.
 
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