Marisa Lee

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since Mar 13, 2021
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Recent posts by Marisa Lee

Meg Knox wrote:All excellent advice thank you all! And sorry for my delay in replying.

So for context, the lot is a small one that we will be living on in an RV, with the intention to maybe build something. (Starting with chicken coop, greenhouses, lil smokehouse, and an outdoor kitchen! Then maybe some sort of eco house.)
It is almost entirely birch trees atm. Very tall ones, too. Lots of blueberries nearby and on the property already.

So far, without having lived off it, I'm considering a couple hugelculture beds by the side entrance to the property, and a greenhouse or two at the front by the road. (South side)
I wouldn't be prepared to put much of anything in this year, just kind of planning ahead for next. (I like to plan ahead a few year if i can lol!) I want some idea of what to research and consider, and this has all given me great ideas!
Once we're out there, I'll have to check out what neighbours have managed, collect a few wild plants, and see what I can experiment with.

I'd actually be really interested in fucking with some strange apple types. I read an excerpt from Michael Pollan's book The Botany of Desire, and learned a bit about apple diversity. There are so many bizarre apple types we've never seen, and every seed is unique! And apparently there's a guy who will send you random seeds for free, so why not! I figure some might be inedible (as very very many are considered), but might serve well as apple cider vinegar for cosmetic use or something. That's kind of my attitude with the whole place honestly: Fuck around and find out. I'm just looking to try out anything, and see what I can make of it.

Very excited to get started on my lil experiment, and very much appreciate the advice.

That all sounds delightful! My advice remains: get to know the land. Learn about the plants that are already growing there and how to use them, where the good light is, where it's soggy in the spring, and all that - as well as what you mentioned about learning from your neighbors and planning ahead. What an adventure.
1 day ago
For the record, I haven't tried all mine personally. I've never come across New Jersey tea, and I've never found any of the edible roots/tubers I listed in large enough quantity to where it seemed responsible to dig them up. Otherwise, I've consumed everything I listed and many of the plants you had already listed (which I didn't want to duplicate), even though I really do not think of myself as a big forager. I've mostly gathered them myself, but in some cases somebody else did or it was commercial (like sunflower seeds, granted, the seeds are from a cultivar, so it's admittedly a stretch, although I'm sure wild sunflower seeds are also edible).

If you're interested (anyone, not just the OP) in traditional plant uses, a good jumping off point is the database at which is a digital counterpart to Daniel Moerman's Native American Ethnobotany (book). You can search for a plant by common name (though this only works if you use the same common name as the DB) or binomial (sometimes outdated). Results can be further filtered by the type of use (like food or medicine). You can also search by tribe, but this also has limitations, for instance if I search for Ojibwe, some results will come up but others will not because they were recorded as Chippewa. Anyway, the reason I call it a jumping off point is that each entry lists a source, sometimes a book, sometimes a paper you can find a pdf of online for free. Go to those sources for further info. It's far from a complete database of everything published on the topic but is very helpful.
1 day ago
Some of the wild flavors growing near me (native plants):
wild ginger (re possible concerns mentioned upthread, just don't use alcohol extraction)
wild sarsaparilla
maple sugar/syrup
ramps (also supposedly wild garlic, prairie onion, nodding onion, but I never find these)
wild mint
wild bergamot aka bee balm, oswego tea
anise hyssop
wintergreen (insanely abundant, I made wintergreen liqueur this year and it is amazing)
spruce and other conifer tips
basswood - this might be a good vanilla substitute, steeping the dried flowers in vodka, as they smell incredible
sweetgrass - another possible vanilla substitute
wild tarragon and other artemisia species
prickly ash, though I have not come across it
fragrant bedstraw
cow parsnip (seeds dried and ground as a spice)
juniper berry (I use common juniper, a shrub, not the tree)
cress/mustard (some native, some introduced/invasive which I am more inclined to use since they need to be picked anyway, but this is a list for native flavors)
wood sorrel

Many of our wild fruits are pretty sour, which can be used as a seasoning/flavoring of sorts, but also makes me think of vinegar as a flavor enhancement. Vinegar can be made from local/wild ingredients. I also make a sauce from high-bush cranberries that is like a sweet-and-sour barbecue sauce. It can be made with strictly local ingredients: honey or maple syrup/sugar, wild ginger, vinegar. It's very good. The berries themselves, eaten raw, taste like pickle juice to me, and the sauce does not smell good while cooking! But it is great with meat and potatoes.
2 days ago
I ordered some strawberry blite seeds for this year, so hopefully we will both have good luck with it! It does grow wild here, but I haven't come across it yet.

Lingonberry is circumboreal, so what I have near me is the same species as in northern Europe. Same with woundwort (Stachys palustris), cleavers (Galium aparine), and fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium). They are all native to Wisconsin and Minnesota, where I grew up, maybe not Ohio though. I know cleavers is considered weedy in some places.

I would be happy to collect and send seeds this fall (or late summer, is actually when they go to seed). These northern plants need moist cold stratification, but you can do that artificially in the refrigerator. Fireweed especially can be tough to start from seed, but once established, it can take off. Both it and woundwort like a wet ditch.

I drink cedar tea. It's medicine, but also used as a beverage here. We simmer it twice, no boiling. The first water is poured off (save it for a bath), and you can see the oils on top of it - thujones - that have been released from the plant. The second water is what we drink. I'm not saying people should carelessly drink cedar tea, but sharing my experience. It's good. I like it hot, but I once had some with honey and cinnamon that had cooled to room temp - now that was really tasty. Ooh, now I also want wild bergamot / bee balm / Monarda tea. Haha. Mm yummy.
2 days ago
Oh yeah! I forgot (haha, already thinking of more), strawberry blite aka strawberry spinach.
3 days ago
This is an awesome thread. I worked on pulling together some additions and hopefully will not repeat what you've already got here. Some things like grapes and currants, obviously there are others in addition to what you mentioned being native to Ohio, but no reason to list all of them out so I did not. So anyway, along with much of what you've already listed, here are some food plants that grow near me:

Wild strawberry
Anise hyssop
Plantain (flowering tops used as a vegetable like asparagus soon after flowers fade and fruit/seed has just formed)
Various cress/mustard greens
Birch (cambium, syrup)
Cowslips aka marsh marigold - cooked only, not raw
Spring beauty aka fairy spuds
Cream pea aka pale vetchling (roots)
Woundwort aka hedge nettle (roots)
Sunflower seeds
Sweet-gale aka bog myrtle (spice/seasoning)

Fireweed (tea)
Sweet-fern (tea)
Goldenrod (tea)
Swamp tea aka labrador tea
New Jersey tea
White cedar (tea)

I'm sure there are tons of others eaten for greens or shoots or made into tea. Seeds, nuts, and tubers have probably been covered pretty well here, but would love to find out more of those as well. It'll be interesting to see what else gets added over time!
3 days ago

Peter Ellis wrote:
In terms of a plan of action - once you have a sense of the varieties you want to grow, I suggest getting nursery stock from local sources, so that you know the genetics fit your region. Get a few of each variety, plant these pioneers someplace where you can give them lots of tender loving care and use them as your nursery, propagating hundreds, even thousands more for planting out into wider areas of your landscape.

When you start having a good supply of your own home grown plants to distribute into your woods, it gets much easier to just stick a little tree seedling in the ground and walk away, leaving it to make it on its own - just like Nature does.


Step one: Observe and identify
Step two: Choose your plant varieties
Step three: Establish your own nursery stock so you can propagate the numbers you will need
Step four: Manage your existing woodland to favor varieties you desire. Use that process to introduce varieties you desire. (create a clearing and plant the edge communities, thin younger trees in an area and introduce desired canopy trees)
Step five: Watch and enjoy for decades, because we're creating multi-generational systems

Your entire post was very helpful and interesting but I love it. Thank you so much.

I have a good sense of what is present. My woods are primarily white pine, red oak, red maple, paper birch, balsam fir, big tooth aspen. (I'm fortunate someone planted a few sugar maples in the yard, too, and white spruce along the driveway.) My shrubs-vines are juneberry, sumac, hazelnut, dogwood, pin cherry, raspberry, dewberry, thimbleberry, bush honeysuckle, and honeysuckle vine. Oddly I do not have blueberries or sweet-fern, but I think they'd both do well here. Herb layer food/tea: milkweed, fireweed, wintergreen, fiddleheads/bracken, wild strawberry, etc.

So I guess I'm in step 2. I got some nice cuttings and plants yesterday at a swap - black elder, black currant (they both need more moisture than they can get on their own here, but I think they can do well in my garden), sunchokes, anise hyssop, and others. There are some (non-hybrid) American chestnut trees up here than never got the fungus, because they are isolated from the tree's natural range and were planted here before the fungus arrived. I am hoping to get a baby or two, think I have a hookup on that, or at least nuts that are hopefully viable. Walnut, butternut, or shagbark hickory would all grow here I think, so that's some decision-making to do, because I don't know enough about each to make a choice. We do not have beech here, but that would be cool to bring some in. Black cherry would be really nice, yet I could bring in sand cherry for free. Blueberries are a priority.

I should spend this spring-summer-fall getting to know the interior of my woods better, not just the edges, so I can identify places that make sense for trails and clearings to cut during dormancy. That'll be burned, as I have zero woodworking skills but that is a good point, to get value from it. I will also have to learn more about taking cuttings and propagating.

Thanks again!
3 days ago

D Tucholske wrote:That's mostly what I'm doing too.

If you live in the US:

--Use as a jumping off point to find native plants that you want in your area & do further research on the ones you like.
--I attempted to put together a list of all types of native edible in North America in its own thread, if it happens to help. Just keep in mind, it may not be perfect, but I think I got a mention of at least species of most native edibles in there.
--If you live far enough north to naturally experience a winter, there are some plants that require special soil conditions that your forest may or may not have anymore. If no, there's no real way to fix it & you'll have to artificially recreate those conditions.
--If you're going with seeds, collect the seeds you want throughout the year, keep them in your fridge & put them out roughly between late November- early February. Only sow root stocks or bigger seeds into the dirt, for the rest just incrementally throw them around.

If you live south of the snow line, then different measures may be in order. All in all, you don't have to do too much work to clear things out to encourage what you do want to grow, but some people work a lot harder to up their land's productivity with a few tricks here & there & turn it into a full on jungle. Just depends on how far you really want to take it.

Thank you! I pulled up your thread on native foods and will have fun looking through it. I may even have something to add, since I've done some work around indigenous foods & beverages in the past (catering small events & doing education).

I do get plenty of snow & real winters. If you look at a map of Wisconsin, I'm at the tip of that little peninsula that pokes up into Lake Superior. My soil does have some limitations - it's rocky, sandy soil on high ground, probably a bit acidic due to the pines. That's great for some plants, but a lot of our little fruit shrubs need more moisture. Those will have to be close to the house, where I can give them attention, not in the woods.

I will check out the site. I haven't used it before, even though I'm fairly wildflower obsessed. (I use to help me identify plants and then to check county maps and see if it's present, but both sites have their limitations.) Thanks for the recommendation and all your advice!
3 days ago

Thomas Elpel wrote:Lee,

I'm glad you enjoyed the book!

Have you played the card game too?

I'll have a sequel book and game out shortly, covering eight more plant families:

Shanleya's Quest 2: Botany Adventure at the Fallen Tree

I will also be teaching at Paul's PDC this June, so come join the fun!


Thomas J. Elpel

I just came across this thread while doing a little prep work for the rainy days during our 'outdoor ed' month of May with my kids, since I'm planning to use Shanleya's Quest book and game (and the Wildlife Web game). Anyway, I am wondering if your sequel, which I hadn't heard about before now, includes Ericacea/heath family. Here in northern Wisconsin, that is one of our most important plant families: blueberries, cranberries and other fruits, bearberry/kinnikinnick, and medicines like ghost pipe and swamp tea. The sample pages look great, I was just wondering if heath family is included, too.
3 days ago
Thanks all, for the ideas! Eino, your thread from a few months back is especially helpful! Thank you for linking to that. It'll be great to see how that develops in the coming years. I think my climate is not that different from yours, even though I am not as far north.

I live a few miles inland from Lake Superior, so we have fresh fish here, and wild rice from the lakes and slow rivers. There are a lot of orchards near me and some small farms raising beef and pork, sheep for cheese, etc. I keep chickens for eggs. One limitation is my forest drains well, being on high ground with a lot of sand in the soil. Many of our native fruit trees/shrubs like it wetter. Then again, I can grow what will do well on my site and acquire other things from neighbors on lower ground! I think it would make sense to invest in some nut trees, since they are not widely grown here yet should do well, walnuts, butternuts, hickory and chestnuts all grow here (native to areas south of me, but close enough that I do not mind planting them). I like the idea of getting more light to my hazelnuts too. They grow at the edge of the woods, yet the woods have encroached into their space. Oh! I also ordered spore plugs to grow mushrooms in my woods but need to prep logs and get that set up ASAP. They should fruit next year.

One thing you discussed in your thread is root crops for the forest. This makes sense to me. I will have to look into good options here. One I know of is wild ginger, which I am thinking of growing in a shady part of my yard, where rainwater runs off my roof and I can easily water it during a dry spell, since it needs more moisture than my woods provide. It grows at my dad's place, so I can transplant some for free. You mentioned marsh woundwort, a plant I'm familiar with, but did not how it's used. Can you tell me about it or point me to a source where I can learn?
5 days ago