Posted by Alexis
Emily suggested that there might be some interest in the edible weeds found in the gardens. Foraging for weeds and researching how people have used them (ethnobotany) are favorite hobbies of mine. I will be highlighting a few of the common weeds over time, starting with yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta).
Oxalis stricta, from Wikimedia Commons.
Common English name: yellow wood sorrel
Other common names (Kindscher 1987):
-“hade-sathe” (Omaha and Ponca; refers to all wood sorrels and means “sour herb”)
-“skidadihorit” (Pawnee; refers to all wood sorrels and means “sour like salt”)
-“aw-tawt-an-ya” (Kiowa; means “salt weed”)
Native to North America and in Illinois
This is one of my favorite plants to snack on while I am weeding my garden. The lemony taste is really refreshing, and it makes a nice reward for diligently fighting the inevitable: WEEDS! However, the plant contains oxalic acid (much like spinach, rhubarb, or chocolate) and should not be consumed in excess. An excess of oxalic acid can inhibit calcium absorption and should especially be avoided by people with kidney stones (Peterson 1977).
At first glance, the wood sorrels (Oxalis spp.) look like many clovers, but note their three heart-shaped leaflets. In addition to its yellow flowers, yellow wood sorrel differs from other wood sorrels (such as violet wood sorrel, Oxalis violacea) in that its seed pods are erect and its stalks are bent. Yellow wood sorrel has small yellow flowers that have five petals each. In the Andes, a related species (Oca, Oxalis tuberosa) is cultivated for its edible tubers. The tubers of our local wood sorrels are also edible but not very large (Kindscher 1987).
While I have personally never had wood sorrel that survived beyond my garden, Peterson (1977) suggests that the leaves could be added to a salad or used to make a cold drink. To make the cold drink, steep the leaves in hot water for 10 minutes, add sugar or honey, and chill.
Non-humans also like to eat wood sorrels. In the Americas, the genus Oxalis is the host plant of Galgula partita, a moth in the family Noctuidae (Robinson et al. 2010). The genus hosts other insects worldwide.
Wedgling moth, Galgula partita, by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren.
Kindscher K. 1987. Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie: An Ethnobotanical Guide. University Press of Kansas: Lawrence, KS.
Peterson LA. 1977. Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America. Peterson Field Guide Series, no 23. Houghton Mifflin Company: New York, NY.
Robinson GS, Ackery PR, Kitching IJ, Beccaloni GW, Hernández LM. 2010. HOSTS - A Database of the World's Lepidopteran Hostplants. Natural History Museum, London. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosts. (Accessed: 6 July 2017).