Sea Buckthorn

Hippophae rhamnoides

preview hoep 00011 elaeagnus rhamnoides sanddornToday in Europe we find wild growing sea buckthorn shrubs only in three areas: along the coasts of North and Baltic Sea, the Alps and the Carpathians and their foothills. These areas are remnants of a much wider distribution after the last Ice Age about 10 000 years ago. Later reforestation caused a retreat of sea buckthorn towards coastal areas as well as rugged mountainous landscapes as this plant needs a lot of light and raw ground.

This shrub deserves a closer look for two main reasons: Due to it’s high content of nutrients, it is considered as one of the main wild fruit species, and is now also grown more and more commercially (containing, among other things far more vitamin C than lemons!); also, the plants play an important role today in bioengineering. The sufficiency of the plant and its vigorous root system (as pioneer plants at raw soils) they make it an effective weapon against soil erosion in dry regions and organic matter degradation.

Sunflower

Helianthus annuus

preview hoep 00013 helianthus annuus sonnenblumeA close inspection of the huge blossoms rsp. the ripe seeds of sunflowers reveals two striking facts: One is, that the seeds form a peculiar spiral-shaped pattern: Two spiral vortices overlap each other. One vortex turns clockwise, the other one turns counterclockwise.

The second discovery requires a very focused examination, determining, how many single spirals are forming the two vortices. It can be concluded that the two spiral vortex are constructed of a different number of single spirals. They increase in the course of the size growth of the bloom basket, coming to a maximum of individual spirals once the ripening of seeds is completed.

By the way: In most cases, there are 21 single spirals in one direction and 34 single spirals in the other direction. With larger sunflowers even 34 and 55 single spirals can be counted. Do those numbers look somewhat familiar?

Watercress

Nasturtium officinale

preview hoep 00017 nasturtium officinale brunnenkresseLike many other marsh and aquatic plants the watercress grows long shoots that are rooted in the gritty bottom of a stream or a ditch in the mud again and again and therefore can anchor well even with stronger currents. The mostly dark green, feathery leaves and the light tendril-like branches of the hollow stalks help to distinguish the plant from other aquatic plants. The leaves either float on the surface or grow up to 12 inches in height. Flowers and seeds are formed particularly at sunnier places.

In humid forests and along small streams with good water quality one can find watercress, usually without too much effort and collect the tasty spice plant – this is assuming that the plant can be identified beyond any doubt. This is not just for children an exciting and delightful affair.

You should try especially the young, bright green leaves of the upper stem region because they are tender and taste the best. The blooms can be eaten too.

Wild rose

Rosa spp.

preview hoep 00022 rosa wildrose hagebuttenRoses are not only valuable ornamental plants, but also offer the possibility of using blooms and fruits in the kitchen. Especially the hips, the fruits of various wild roses, and many garden varieties are more interesting for children than the blooms. This has probably something to do with that rose hips can be very different depending on the kind of rose. There are various fruits in reds, oranges and browns. Also, they vary in shape, from pea to walnut size and lengthwise oval and pear-shaped.

The most common and best known use constitutes the rosehips tea, for which all types of rosehips are suitable. Mainly species such as the bright pink flowering dog rose (Rosa canina) and the slightly darker flowering alpine rose (Rosa pendulina) are used. The fruits can be used fresh and dried.

Wild Strawberry

Fragaria vesca

preview hoep 00012 fragaria vesca walderdbeereFruits will usually gain childrens attention a lot easier than vegetables or herbs do, even though the season for fresh strawberries, raspberries or cherries is only a few weeks. Strawberries are often on top of their list of favourite fruits. In late spring the maturation of wild strawberries starts - still one of the most popular wild fruit species.
In earlier centuries, the widespread use of strawberries was as medicinal plant. This fact has been almost forgotten. The key ingredient of the leaves (and roots) is a tanning agent, which is why the tea prepared from it can be used especially for gargling and rinsing of inflamatory mucous membranes. This tea also helps against stomach and intestinal disorders, especially diarrhea. If the medical effect is not desired and strawberry leaves are rather used as ordinary „house tea“, it is advisable to collect very young leaves only and perhaps dry them, as they contain relatively little tannin.

Other than tannins, the leaves also contain other ingredients such as salicylic acid, phytochemicals (flavonoids and leucanthocyans) and small amounts of volatile oil. The ripe fruits, especially those of the wild strawberries are rich in vitamin C, fruit acids and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, cobalt and phosphorus.

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