This week's wild edible is Creeping Charlie!
-As the name may suggest, this plant is a vining ground cover. It is also known as ground ivy, gill-over-the-ground and many other names. The edible parts are the leaves and young flower tops which can have a slight minty or peppery taste and are great in salads, soups, drinks, pies, and many more.
-This plant grows quick and likes to fan out in clusters or patches. It can be found in shady, moist soils in woodlands, along forest edges, or the edges of meadows.
-Being a ground cover plant, Creeping Charlie tends to stay low to the ground, but the flowering stems can reach upwards of 8 inches in the spring and early summer. The leaves of this plant are a slightly lobed “kidney” or horseshoe shape and . In spring, tiny purple “trumpet” shaped flowers can adorn these plants.
-A young mallow plant can often be mistaken for Creeping Charlie, but mallow often has slightly toothed lobes in almost a circular pattern, whereas Creeping Charlie is a horseshoe or heart shape with rounded lobes and usually has tiny hairs covering the plant (sometimes it can be smooth). Creeping Charlie is part of the mint family, so crushing it will release a minty smell which can aide in verifying its identity.
-This plant is thought to have some medicinal properties that can include, but is not limited to: an expectorant, a vulnerary, diuretic, an astringent, slightly antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, juice from the leaves are used as a remedy for stinging nettle,
-other common uses of this plant are: a replacement for hops in beer to clarify, flavor, and preserve the beer, preventing scurvy due to high levels of vitamin C, and helping bruises to heal more quickly.
**A poisonous look-a-like to this plant is Carolina Geranium. While not deadly, Carolina Geranium can make you sick and cause some stomach problems due to astringent compounds. The main difference between these two plants is leaf shape. Carolina Geranium has deeply lobed leaves that almost have a lace-like appearance to them, while Creeping Charlie has a solid leaf structure that is only slightly lobed and sometimes hairy.
**When identifying plants you are unfamiliar with, please use as multiple references, as well as help from experts when available. Unless you are 110% sure what a plant is, it is best to avoid it completely.
**If you plan on using any plants for medicinal uses, consult a healthcare professional, as well as botanist familiar in the field of wild plants. And as always, use as many references and expert opinions as possible when identifying a plant.
**Be sure to avoid any plants growing near roads, around chemicals, other poisonous plants, or polluted/contaminated water.
**As always, be sure to use the Universal Edibility Test to ensure the plant is the correct plant and to help identify any unknown allergies you may have.