A Brief Look At Edible And Medicinal Plants

edible and medicinal plants of the west

Edible and medicinal plants of the West, also known as the Cascadian Zone, is an informative, full-color photographic map of the world’s most diverse and fascinating edible and medicinal plants. Composed by internationally acclaimed botanist Robert Koche, this ground-breaking work of art portrays the range, color and texture of our planet’s culinary delights.

From Montana to New Mexico to California to the Great Lakes, the edible and medicinal plants of the West are an amazing, colorful window into our food, medicine and biomedicine heritage. Each plant has been carefully categorized and depicted in detail. This fascinating book offers a glimpse into the botany and ecology of some of the world’s most common and varied edible plants.

Herb Gardens

A chocolate doughnut on a plate

Herb gardens in the United States have long rivaled those of Europe and Asia in the variety and complexity of their naturalistic flavor. In North America, by way of example, the edible and medicinal plants of the West abound. The west of the country is home to maple syrup, peanuts, cranberry, red bell pepper, sage, sweet potato, and a host of other “gruzellickei” – or sour, salty or sweet products.

Native peoples and traders brought these plants from various parts of the Old World to the new world. By the early American pioneers, farmers and herbalists alike were blending these berries, root and stem material, bark, fruits and leaves to create mouth-watering products. It was not until later, when settlers began making wine from the New World vines that cider became a family name.

Planting Vineyards

A house covered in snow in front of a building

When the pioneers began planting vineyards and making cider they were also cultivating plants that gave them all the food and fiber they required for survival.

Among these plants were wheat, which could be found in the wild in states such as Connecticut, and rye, which were almost certainly the first wheat to be harvested in the New World. Most likely, too, there were already plants such as corn, hemp, wildflowers, squash, melons, pumpkins and vegetables that provided the essential vitamins and nutrients the settlers needed to survive and thrive on a harsh and unforgiving desert.

There is no telling how far back the earliest crops were cultivated by man. All we do know is that eventually all of these plants were gathered together and sown to provide the food and fiber the settlers would need.

Feeding Growing Population

As the westward drive continued, the plants spread out more, bringing with them not only the grains used to feed the growing population but many plants with medicinal value. One crop that gained popularity along the route westward was a strange looking plant that looked like a cactus but was in fact a berry with smooth skin and a seed inside.

This strange looking plant, known as the ‘mosaic apple’, became the apple of the west. It is said to have been discovered by a Spanish explorer and brought back with him and this accounts for its name. It was a valuable food and it was soon eaten by the settlers and became a tradition to chew the seeds to aid digestion and promote good health.

The early travelers to the west brought with them an incredible amount of knowledge about the world around them. With this they learned that plants provided some sort of healing power and, because of this, they were drawn to them. As the westward push continued, more plants were collected and placed in stores. These included not only edible plants but medicinal plants as well. It is fair to say that without these additions, the very idea of store bought medicine would not have happened.

Getting Rid From Diseases

The edible parts of plants were not the only things gathered and stored though. Some plants were gathered for their leaves and flowers or for parts used in medicine. One of these is the potato, which became known for its use in making potatoes soup and also for being a source of Vitamin D, although this vitamin came from a different kind of potato plant. Other edible and medicinal plants of the west are the beets, which provide us with boron, which prevents blood clots and also the hoe which is useful for getting rid of soil borne diseases.

Some plants were not only edible but also used in cooking. These include the pecan, the hickory, the artichoke, the cress, the artichoke weed, the butternut, the white cheddar, the sweet cabbages, the fennel, the kidney bean, the annatto and even the yellow summer savory. All these medicinal plants have been used in American cooking and are still used today, although there has been a great deal of cross breeding and reformulation of recipes to make them more successful. It is interesting to note that because of the very limited scope of edible plants, all kinds of herbs and spices are still used.

As you can see, it is impossible to talk about edible and medicinal plants of the west without touching upon their use as ingredients in cooking and medicine. Not to be left out are the medicinal mushrooms, which are perhaps the most widely used of all the medicinal plants.

Final Verdict

Not only do they form a large part of our mushroom dishes, they have a wide range of uses in medical practice. They can be used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis, as well as being used for digestive disorders, cancer, rheumatism, high blood pressure, acne, varicose veins, piles, influenza and asthma, as well as being an effective treatment for insect bites and stings.

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