Category Archives: Wildcrafter

Kids Activities: Yucca Uses: making soap!

Want to have some fun with your kids making soap out in nature? Here’s how to make cleansing suds from yucca spines. 

Yucca roots and spines both contain the compound saponin, which has detergent properties. It will not only suds up and help to clean your skin and hair, but anything else you decide could be a just a little bit fresher! 

Roots vs Spines? 

The roots contain more saponin, and thus more sudsing potential, but harvesting your soap that way means death for the plant you take it from. I prefer to harvest some of the green spines- it may be more work for me, but means less damage to the plant. 

Soaping up in the field: 

1. Cut spine(s) from the plant, being careful to move slowly and avoid their sharp edges! OUCH! (Careful! Don’t get cut by your soap source!)

2. Pound and scrape the spines between 2 smooth surfaced rocks to break open the surface of the spine and separate the fibers. 

3. Once the fibers are adequately separated and no sharp edges or points remain, the yucca is ready to suds up. 

4. Add water and rub it between your hands. The first suds will be green as the spines give up their chlorophyll, then gradually turn clear/white as you continue rubbing and adding water. 

There you go: all clean!

Soaping up at home:

1. Gather up your spines as before

2. Use a knife or sharp rock to scrape off green waxy skin of the spine and save it to the side. 

3. Put your scrapings into a sealable container with water and shake vigorously for a few minutes to combine the saponins with the water. 

4. Pour the mix through a filter or mesh to separate out the scrapings. 

5. Store in the container of your choice- tip: hand soap pumps can work great! 

6. Enjoy your natural suds for anything from shampoo to dishwashing detergent. 

SAFETY NOTE: always test the first time of any topical plant use with a small patch of non-vital skin to make sure you’re not one of those with the rare but serious reaction!

 

 

Stinging Nettles: Incredible Wild Edible

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Meandering my way along the creek on my daily foraging walk, what should I spy but sun reflecting off of a patch of gorgeously spikey green leaves… Stinging Nettles!

I practically cackled with glee.
Forage basket already full of wild edibles, I eagerly shuffled rose hips, mint, dandelion flowers and greens to the side to make a prized spot for my new bounty.

Despite the fact that I left my trusty gloves behind on the kitchen counter I forged forward and reached in carefully to harvest the stinging foliage- a bit of pain is a small price to pay for a great dinner!

Many people would rather avoid an encounter with a stinging nettle, thinking of them as an annoyingly itchy weed, not as the deeeelicious gourmet wild edible they are!

Their loss.

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STINGING NETTLES are chock full of vital nutrients- carrying a rich bounty of vitamins A, K, several important B vitamins, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorus and loads of other beneficial minerals and phytonutrients… And BONUS: they actually taste good!

They remind me of a lighter, more delicate version of Spinach. So simple to prepare: you can have them ready to eat inside of minutes… (they are oh soooo good with pastured butter and a little bit of sea salt and pepper!)

Here’s one of my favorite Stinging Nettle Recipes:

Stinging Nettle Omelette
3 eggs
2 cups Tender Stinging Nettle Stems and Leaves (freshly collected if possible)
1/2 roughly chopped Shallot
1 tbs pastured butter
1 cup water
Sea Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)

What to do:
-In a small sauce pan add water and nettles.
-Bring to low boil for 10-15 minutes. (Add more water as necessary.)

-Drain and save the nettles to the side.

NOTE: to retain the nutrients that would otherwise be lost in the cooking fluid, you can reserve this liquid to add to your soups and stocks.

-Chop the nettles finely.
-Beat the eggs and stir in the nettles.
-Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
-melt butter in a small skillet.
– pour in egg/nettle mix and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, until partially set.
– flip with spatula (or if you’re fancy, flip with the skillet)
-cook for another 1-2 minutes
-reduce heat to low, continue cooking another 1-3 minutes (to desired doneness).
– DEVOUR!

Where and how to Harvest Stinging Nettles

You’ll usually find Stinging Nettles all over the US in nitrogen rich soil, so look near the edges of fields, where cattle graze, or (conveniently for us) human houses and gardens…

Harvest when they are young and small- at under 1 ft tall they are usually pretty tender. The tiny spines will loose all their sting after a good boil or sautee in butter- all the better for you to dig in… YUM!

(Note: you might want gloves to harvest them)

Handy Plant: Making Yucca Soap

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Careful! Don’t get cut by your soap source!

Ever want to have a quick way to clean up in the field? Luckily the yucca is a widespread plant across much of the Southwestern US. Here’s how to make cleansing suds from yucca spines.

Yucca roots and spines both contain the compound saponin, which has detergent properties. It will not only suds up and help to clean your skin and hair, but anything else you decide could be a just a little bit fresher!

Roots vs Spines?
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The roots contain more saponin, and thus more sudsing potential, but harvesting your soap that way means death for the plant you take it from. I prefer to harvest some of the green spines- it may be more work for me, but means less damage to the plant.

20140301-145651.jpg
Soaping up in the field:

1. Cut spine(s) from the plant, being careful to move slowly and avoid their razor sharp edges! OUCH!

2. Pound and scrape the spines between 2 smooth surfaced rocks to break open the surface of the spine and separate the fibers.

3. Once the fibers are adequately separated and no sharp edges or points remain, the yucca is ready to suds up.

4. Add water and rub it between your hands. The first suds will be green as the spines give up their chlorophyll, then gradually turn clear/white as you continue rubbing and adding water.

There you go: all clean!

Soaping up at home:

1. Gather up your spines as before

2. Use a knife or sharp rock to scrape off green waxy skin of the spine and save it to the side.

3. Put your scrapings into a sealable container with water and shake vigorously for a few minutes to combine the saponins with the water.

4. Pour the mix through a filter or mesh to separate out the scrapings.

5. Store in the container of your choice- tip: hand soap pumps can work great!

6. Enjoy your natural suds for anything from shampoo to dishwashing detergent.

SAFETY NOTE: always test the first time of any topical plant use with a small patch of non-vital skin to make sure your’e not one of those with the rare but serious reaction!

Wild Rose Hip Tea

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There is an abundance of amazingly delicious and nutritious wild foods directly outside your back door. One of my favorites is wild (or even domestic) rose hips. You can make jam, jelly, syrup or just a simple tea out of these lovely “rose berries”.

A rose hip forms after a rose has been successfully pollinated. Gradually the bulb underneath the flower swells and turns into a bright red or orange fruit with a thin layer of pulp surrounding the seeds and fine hairs of the core. After the first frosts, the pulp becomes slightly soft, sweet and fruity- and enormously rich in vitamin C. When German submarines interfered with citrus shipments to England during World War II, the British turned instead to Rose Hips as their source of this vital vitamin.

Rose Hip Tea is my favorite form of this lovely wild food. It’s deliciously refreshing and packed with vitamins and minerals. I love it as a wonderful wintertime pick-me-up anddrink it just about daily throughout the colder months.

Making tea from fresh hips:

1. Place your (washed) rose hips into a small pot and cover with water.
2. Bring the water to a boil for 3-5 minutes. (Depending on strength tea desired).
3. Turn off the heat and use the back of a spoon to smash open each rose hip.
4. Let them steep in the water for up to 20 minutes.
5. Turn the burner back on to rewarm your tea. Pour your delectable beverage through a coffee filter into your waiting mug.
6. Enjoy your sweet and fruity delight!

Prepping the Rose Hips for storage, making tea from dried hips:
1. Harvest rose hips sometime after the first frost of the year (it’s wise to use protective gloves, since their thorns can really cut you up!)
2. Dehydrate them either in a dehydrator or the sun.
3. Grind hips in food processor into a rough consistency to help separate the outside skin and pulp from the fine inside hairs. Do not over-grind, as this will make it difficult to sieve out the pulp from the hairs in the next step.
4. Tip your rose hips into a metal sieve, and gently shake back and forth to remove the hairs. They should all easily fall through, leaving you with just the skin/dried pulp. You don’t need to remove the seeds as well- unless you have more time than you know what to do with! NOTE: these hairs used to be used to make itching powder, so this is a necessary step!
5. Store for use as tea (or for making jelly or syrup!) in an airtight container. Use a tea ball or small cheesecloth bag to brew your tea. Let it boil for 5-7 minutes depending on strength desired. Let them steep in water for 20 minutes.

Yum!