Friday, May 27, 2011

Jewelweed Time

Jewelweed, Impatiens canadense, has grown to just the perfect height for picking. Look for this rather unassuming plant in wet areas, along streams and brooks and even roadside ditches.

As a potherb, jewelweed falls into a category of its own. It offers only a brief timeframe for harvesting and has what I consider a unique taste.

To pick, gather whole plants. It’s best to trim each plant at the base, but if you simply pull it up intact, then just trim the roots with a pair of scissors. As long as the plant is somewhere between 2 and 4 inches tall, it can be used whole…stem and leaves together.

To prepare, simmer about one inch of water in a saucepan, add rinsed jewelweed and stir. It only takes a minute or two to cook. Then drain and add spices to taste.

Jewelweed grows in dense colonies and pulling entire plants does not harm the colony in the least. The stuff self-seeds with a vengeance, which accounts for its alternate name, “wild touch-me-not.” When the ripe seedpods sense any kind of pressure, as from a human thumb and forefinger, it literally explodes, sending seeds out in a great burst of energy.

A spring-like mechanism inside the seedpod unwinds upon receiving the signal to let go and that’s what makes the thing burst open. It’s one of the marvels of nature and rates up there as a true wonder.

Later in summer we can discuss alternate uses for jewelweed. But for now, at least for the next week or so, it’s time to enjoy the culinary aspects of this marvelously-hardy and useful wild plant.

Before closing, let me say how pleased I am with my new book, Tom Seymour’s Forager’s Notebook. It’s another release from Just Write Books, Topsham, Maine.

Hardcover, my Forager’s Notebook contains lots of old-time, money-saving hints, a yearly calendar consisting of five weeks per month (this makes it open-ended and good for any given year), a “wild plant of the month” and lots more.

Look for a cover photo and more detailed information on this blog…coming soon. Meanwhile, let me say again that I really like this book and have begun using it myself for my “wild” notes.

1 comment:

  1. I have the orange jewelweed like you show here, but I also have a red or purple flower that looks much like it only without the spots. It has whorled leaves in groups of three. Is it a jewelweed as well. By the way a friend introduced me to your blog. I've been identifying the wildflowers in my yard, up over 70 now I think. We live in Hope, Maine. Counted over 180 lady slippers in our woods and over 70 painted trillium this spring.