This week's wild edible is Persian Speedwell!
AKA: Bird's Eye Speedwell, Birdeye Speedwell, and Winter Speedwell
Persian speedwell is quite the little weed. It's Latin name, Veronica Persica, is derived from a story about a young girl who is later found out to be St. Veronica. As the story goes, the young St. Veronica used this plant to wipe the blood from the face of Jesus on his journey to Calvery. The story goes on to say that as a result of St. Veronica using the speedwell plant on Jesus, some of the healing properties were transferred over to this plant.
What it looks like.
Persian speedwell is a sprawling ground cover that branches out in many directions. The first thing to look for when identifying this plant is the tiny blue flowers. The flowers grow solitarily, one to a stalk, and grow to be about 1 cm in diameter. They are a pale blue color with deep blue veins and have 4 petals that turn whitish as you get towards the center. They like to open up on sunny days and can continue to flower from January to December if conditions are right.
The leaves overall, are oval in shape with a lobed or toothed appearance. They grow in pairs opposite to each other and bunch up towards the end of the stalk, giving a whirled look. All the leaves are covered in tiny silver hairs, but do not sting.
The stems of Persian speedwell are rounded in shape and flexible. Along these stems will be "nodes", where groups of leaves will be growing. Where these nodes touch the ground, roots can form. This is how the plant spreads out to make ground cover. Smaller stems will shoot off in a vine-like fashion from the these nodes. Some of these stems can reach up to 28" long. The stem is also covered in small silver hairs, but again, they do not sting.
Persian speedwell has a tendency to grow in, around, and over other plants due to the curving nature of its vining structure. Be sure that ALL of the plant you are identifying or harvesting is Persian speedwell as it could have very well engulfed another toxic plant such as poison ivy.
When and where to find it.
Persian speedwell prefers to make its home in moist, fully sunned soils, but can grow in sandy, loamy, or even clay soils. This plant does not grow well in the shade. In the right conditions it can grow and bloom year round, but for most places it is a spring annual and will continue flowering through the year.
This plant is actually a fairly common wild edible in much of the US, growing in just about every state. Good places to look for this plant are dry river beds, abandoned gardens, open wastelands, and pastures.
Persian speedwell can be a very bitter plant, especially the mature ones. That is why it is recommended to eat this plant for sustenance only during times of famine or necessity. With that being said, the leaves and shoots of this plant are indeed edible. If you plan on eating this plant be sure to get the younger, more tender leaves and shoots. They seem to be less bitter. They also can make a good addition to many dishes as they are rich in many vitamins and minerals.
A great option is to add them fresh to salads or green smoothies. Some people like to cook them like collard greens. Other people will substitute this plant for black tea as a great healing, herbal tea that has a slightly similar taste to traditional black tea. In fact, it was used historically as a black tea substitute in France because it smelled similar to black tea. They called it Europa Tea because of the smell and distant similar taste it had to black tea.
Historically, this plant is said to have a couple medicinal properties. When used as a tea, some of the medicinal properties are: an astringent, an expectorant (clearing mucous), helping bad skin, soothing sore throats, a digestive aid, and a blood booster.
It is also said to help eyesight, clear sinuses, relax muscles (especially the neck and shoulder areas), treat dysmenorrhea (painful or strong menstruation cramps) and hemorrhaging.
**Warnings, Disclaimers, and Precautions**
Please be sure to read ALL of this section!!
** There are a few different types of speedwell plants. Some of the other more common ones are ivy speedwell and corn speedwell. Be sure to identify the plant you are working with as PERSIAN speedwell. Ivy speedwell has less lobes on its leaves (usually around 3) than Persian speedwell. Corn speedwell has much smaller leaves than both ivy and Persian speedwell and is a much smaller plant overall compared to the two.
**When identifying plants you are unfamiliar with, please use 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.