Monday, July 19, 2010
Edible Weed ~ Hydrocotyle bonariensis
This is Hydrocotyle bonariensis. Although it's considered a weed in many southern states, it's actually native to that area! I found some in my uncle's garden in Texas and thought it was Rau Ma (Centella asiatica or Gotu Kola). Long story short I dug up a few rhizomes and planted it in my garden in Seattle. I used to drink Rau Ma juice as a kid and have seen the juice offered in a few Vietnamese deli's and restaurants here. But I really wanted to grow my own.
Although this isn't Rau Ma, it smells exactly like it when crushed. Hence my miss identification. I've actually only seen the plant once, when I was 5 or 6... The scent never left my memory. It's much like smelling freshly crushed Pandan leaves (Pandanus amaryllifolius), you never forget such a sweet and unique scent.
The rhizome cutting I took from Texas grew very quickly and I was able to harvest some leaves today for juicing. I had my doubts that this was the "right" plant but I juiced/ate it anyways... stupidly of me! DO NOT EAT ANYTHING UNLESS YOU'RE 100% SURE IT'S EDIBLE! Luckily for me this was...
The leaves I juiced was very close to what I remember, only it had a slightly bitter aftertaste which is not inherent in the Centella asiatica leaves. Also the fragrance from fresh Rau Ma juice would enveloping your nostrils, but this juice only had a hint of that intensity. From those two facts I knew I had the wrong plant... of course by now I had already drank 1/4 cup worth (about 6 crushed leaves) and had forced my husband to drink as much... Oops! No... no tingly feeling yet... no nausea, headaches or impulses to vomit... my throat is not itching. "Goooooooood!" I thought. Hubby had the poison control number handy.
I sat down and did a hardy search to I.D. the plant. It wasn't hard, I found it within a few minutes. I also have some plant classification experience. I should have done this BEFORE ingesting the plant! Instead of being Centella asiatica it is Hydrocotyle bonariensis and it's also edible. From doing the search I found an interesting article about edible weeds:
Weeds as a future source of human consumption.
Hydrocotyle bonariensis pureed and strained.
Both Centella asiatica and Hydrocotyle bonariensis have beneficial medicinal purposes. But as a medicinal herb it has many different properties, some of which may adversely effect your particular condition... please read up on any supplements before you take it.
Sure it looks pretty now... Hydrocotyle bonariensis juice. Strained Pureed leaves mixed with water and a spoonful of sugar for taste. I wouldn't recommend it... slightly bitter and it might kill you if you I.D. the wrong plant! (LOL I laugh because I'm not dead) But now I am on a search for the real Centella asiatica plant. Saw some seeds on Ebay... I think this post needs a Part Deux!
I just wanted to make a quick note about collecting plants from the wild... unless you're qualified AND permitted to do so please don't do it. Also please take special care if you're foraging for edibles, be sure you know what you're eating and what's on your food. Many plants in urban settings are contaminated, especially aquatic plants like water-cress (and the one I've harvested). These aquatic plants are like sponges that soak up any chemicals, poisons and parasites around it. Not to mention plants that live below the waist might have been urinated on. I collected my sample from my uncle's garden, to be more precise his vegetable patch. I also took the sample home and grew a new batch of foliage from it... I didn't eat the sample directly. I made a huge mistake in ingesting the plant before I was 100% sure of what it was! That was really stupid, please don't do what I did! Here's a great Universal Edibility Test for those of you who are interested.