This week's wild edible is Smartweed!
-Smartweed is also known as knotweed, lady’s thumb, and water pepper.
-The edible parts of this plant are the leaves and stems. Roots of some varieties may also be edible. This plant contains a fairly high amount of capsicum; the same chemical that gives hot peppers their spicy kick. If you are sensitive to spicy foods this plant may not be for you. Some species may also be vasoconstrictors, so if you have high blood pressure you may want to restrict your intake.
-This plant loves wet, damp, marshy areas and is usually found growing is large colonies.
-Most of the time this plant will only reach about 2’ in height. They have thin long branching stems that are segmented by nodes that will change the direction of growth giving it a zig-zag growth pattern. The lance-shaped leaves grow alternately, are about ½” wide, and will have a spot in the middle of the leaves that can sometime resemble a “V” shape. This “spot” can be anywhere from a darker green up to a deep purple or brown depending on the variety.
-You can identify this plant by its small flower clusters on the tip of each stem. These flowers can bloom from early spring all the way up to the first frost of fall. The flowers are very small, about 1/8”. These flowers can be white or pink in color. White flowers tend to grow in thin strands along the stem, while pink flowers tend to grow in clusters at the tip (although this isn’t always the case for either).
-While this plant can be eaten (in moderation), it’s best use is as a seasoning for dishes due to its spicy/peppery flavor. Natives have also been said to use the pink flower heads as bait for trout fishing.
-This plant has some medicinal properties such as: treating epilepsy, hemorrhages, bloating and gastrointestinal distress, for postpartum healing, respiratory support, fighting bacterial infections, and reducing swelling and redness.
**Some sources say this plant can cause skin irritation and swelling. This is most likely due to the high amount of capsicum. Please test this plant in a small area on your skin before consuming. Also if you are allergic to capsicum or it causes discomfort please avoid this plant.
**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.