Wild herbs give us rare vital substances and valuable medicinal substances. Wild herbs grow for free in the forest, in parks, on meadows, along roadsides, of course in your own garden, and even in the cemetery.
Wild herbs: original and powerful
The term wild herbs refer to plants that are not cultivated by humans, that has never been the focus of breeding activities, and therefore still contain the entire spectrum of vital substances of an original and powerful wild plant.
Wild herbs can be annuals, but for the most part, after winter dormancy, they sprout again from the roots every spring, bloom, develop seeds and finally retreat back into the ground.
However, some wild herbs are still there under the snow cover in winter, where they bravely survive or continue to grow in mild regions even during the cold season, e.g. B. Chickweed, daisy, and dandelion.
Wild herbs don’t need humans
Wild herbs are characterized by the fact that they thrive without human care, which is rarely the case with cultivated plants. Wild herbs are extreme survivors. They often defy long periods of drought as well as poor soil conditions.
They are almost never attacked by insects or fungi, which is why wild herbs – should you want to settle them in your garden – do not require any defensive measures in the form of chemical sprays.
Not even artificial fertilizers appreciate wild herbs. On the contrary: synthetic fertilizers promote rapid growth and excessive water retention, which automatically reduces the nutrient density of the plant in question.
Wild herbs are therefore robust, resilient, bursting with health, and extremely full of life. They transmit all these enviable qualities to whoever eats them.
Wild herbs: It couldn’t be healthier
Wild herbs delight with an unusually high mineral and vital substance content. Although the corresponding values have only been determined for a few wild herbs so far, the existing ones show: wild herbs leave cultivated vegetables far behind.
Let’s take lettuce, for example. Its potassium content is 224 mg per 100 grams of lettuce. It also contains 37 mg calcium, 11 mg magnesium, and 1.1 mg iron (although these values can of course vary depending on the type of soil and cultivation method).
The daisy alone has almost three times the potassium content. It also contains five times more calcium, three times more magnesium, and around two and a half times the amount of iron compared to lettuce – and the daisy is still more in the middle when it comes to the wealth of vital substances among wild herbs.
The white goose foot, the French herb, and the stinging nettle, on the other hand, show (see table below) what is possible in the field of minerals in the world of wild herbs.
Wild herbs are full of vitamin C
Lettuce is of course an extreme example and – if grown in conventional greenhouses – is particularly low in vital substances. But even the most vital substances rich cultivated vegetables such. B. broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or kale cannot compete with wild herbs.
Although their vitamin C content is the absolute leader among cultivated vegetables (105 mg kale and 114 mg broccoli and Brussels sprouts), these values are at the lowest level compared to the vitamin C richness of wild herbs.
Stinging nettle provides 333 mg of vitamin C, burnet 360 mg, and goose cinquefoil 402 mg. The situation is similar with vitamin A, and when it comes to proteins, wild herbs are far superior to cultivated vegetables.
Wild herbs are rich in protein
While the average pure protein content per 100 grams of vegetables in cultivated vegetables is 1.3 grams, with kale leading the list with 3 grams, followed by lamb’s lettuce, leeks, and lettuce, wild herbs contain an average of 3.5 times the amount of protein.
Among the front runners here is mallow, the particularly unloved but extremely tasty weed called goutweed, goosefoot, and winter cress.
Wild herbs are full of bioactive plant substances
Wild herbs also usually taste much more aromatic and spicier than cultivated salads. This is because, in addition to a much higher content of vital substances and minerals, they also contain much more bioactive plant substances.
Flavonoids in wild herbs
Flavonoids are another group of highly effective plant compounds. Some cultivated vegetables and fruit also contain flavonoids.
However, they are usually found in the outer leaves of cabbage or in the skins of fruits.
Both are often removed and thrown away in the conventional preparation of food so that the average person can hardly enjoy them. Wild herbs, on the other hand, contain enormously high flavonoid concentrations.
There are many thousands of species of flavonoids. Most act as extremely powerful antioxidants, protecting our cells from the attacks of free radicals and therefore effectively preventing cancer.
Some flavonoids protect against flu viruses, others have an antibacterial effect and prevent or heal infections (e.g. procyanidins help with urinary tract infections) and still others protect against cardiovascular diseases and harmonize the blood cholesterol level.
Flavonoids are found in varying amounts in almost all wild herbs, e.g. B. in the wild pansy, in the lady’s mantle, in the wild mallow, in the plantain, etc.
Are wild herbs dangerous?
The bioactive plant substances mentioned are naturally contained in the plants for a specific reason.
Many – it is believed – serve the plant as “protection against feeding”. So the plant produces bitter substances, or tannins, to discourage herbivorous animals from eating them. This applies in particular to insects and fungi, rather less to mammals.
However, some people—those who believe nature is terribly evil and quite dangerous to humankind—believe that the bioactive plant compounds are very unhealthy, downright harmful, to the crown of creation, just like they are for creepy crawlies.
They praise the merits of plant breeding, through which our cultivated vegetables were created, from which a large part of the “bad” secondary plant substances was bred away.
The purpose of bioactive plant compounds
Since plant-eating animals are not in the least bit impressed by the plants’ alleged “protection against grazing”, cheerfully devour the food provided to them by nature and wild herbs have also been part of the natural food of humans for millions of years, the thesis “secondary plant substances are dangerous” is hard to be taken seriously.
Rather, the purpose of the plant substances is that the animals (and also the people) eat as diversely as possible, i.e. not too much of a single plant, but many different plants in one meal. Humans and animals then benefit from many different plant substances, so that their health can optimally benefit from their outstanding value.
We also know from the animal kingdom that animals that are unwell or infested with worms also consume so-called poisonous or medicinal plants. This means that nature has a richly laid table for us for every situation and it is far more dangerous NOT to include wild herbs in your daily diet.
However, the more people believe the tale of “dangerous plant substances”, the better for those who like to collect wild herbs, since the rush in the woods and fields is kept within pleasant limits.
It is best to collect wild herbs yourself
In the meantime, you can also order wild herbs from special mail-order companies and have them delivered to your home by post. Of course, the freshness and thus the effectiveness of wild herbs that you collect or possibly even grow yourself cannot be surpassed.
Only then can you be sure that the plants are free from spray residues, animal excrement, and fertilizers.
Another benefit of “wildcrafting” (as the craze for collecting wild herbs is called in the USA) is that this is the only way you will learn to distinguish edible from inedible wild herbs.
Knowledge of wild herbs makes you independent
This knowledge of wild herbs can also be extremely useful in real times of need. It doesn’t have to be a famine, even a multi-day strike by the truck drivers is enough to sweep the supermarkets empty in no time.
While others sooner or later panic and plunder the last reserves of their neighbors, you can stroll comfortably in the park and look around for something to eat. Knowledge of medicinal plants is similarly priceless.
Those who can obtain and prepare effective medicine from nature themselves live much more independently than those who are dependent on doctors, pharmacists, and the pharmaceutical industry for every health problem – no matter how minor it may seem.
Equip yourself and your family with wild herb knowledge and preferably with wild herb supplies.
Recognize wild herbs
The best way to get to know wild herbs is on herbal hikes led by a herbalist. You can also become a herbalist in no time with the help of identification books (e.g. “Edible Wild Plants” by Fleischhauer, Guthmann, and Spiegelberger).
If you still have problems identifying certain plants, you can photograph them and use the photos to ask experts in relevant Internet forums for advice.
Collect wild herbs
The best time for collecting wild herbs is early morning after the dew has dried or in the evening if the weather is dry. Because you should avoid conventional farmland, fertilized meadows, pastures with cattle, popular dog walk trails, parks where pesticides and/or herbicides are sprayed, and areas with heavy traffic, it may not be easy to find optimal “hunting grounds” in some regions.
Whenever possible, it is worth visiting more remote forest and meadow landscapes or actually thinking about your own garden.
Someone may have a neighbor who furiously clears “weeds” from his garden every week. In most cases, weeds are wonderful wild herbs, so the act of weeding (with the subsequent destruction of the wild herbs) can be seen as highly paradoxical since crop plants poor in vital substances are eliminated for the sake of high-quality wild herbs, while mankind is starving from a lack of vital substances and having to swallow expensive vitamin pills to remedy the same.
So why not at least use and eat the weeded wild herbs? So ask your neighbors to give you their spoils. Then you don’t even have to harvest your valuable wild herbs yourself.
Many wild herbs can also be grown in pots on the windowsill or in balcony boxes without any problems.
Store wild herbs
If you can’t use your collectibles right away, place the plants in sealed plastic bags in the refrigerator. For the pesto, salads, and other fresh plant dishes, however, the wild herbs should be eaten or processed as soon as possible after collection.
Dry wild herbs
If you want to dry wild herbs for tea or spice mixtures, then it is best to do this in an airy, shady place. The dried wild herbs must not turn dark (which they often do when they are dried in the sun) but should remain noticeably green.
Wild herbs are best dried in a dehydrator (e.g. Sedona dehydrator).
You can also hang your wild herbs in several bundles, tied upside down on a covered window grille, on a drying rack, or in your attic, especially if they are in large quantities. To be on the safe side, put small labels on the wild herbs on which you write the name of the plant and the day it was collected.
Dry the herbs until they crackle and fall apart easily when you touch them.
If you put your herbs in jars before they are completely dry, they can become moldy, which is to be avoided at all costs. Wild herbs with mold growth – even if it is only slight – must be completely disposed of immediately.
Once the wild herbs are dry, store them in sealable, labeled jars or hanging cloth bags in a cool, dry, dark place.
Wild herb uses
In addition to the possible uses mentioned, such as salads, soups, pesto, green smoothies, spice mixtures, and tea, wild herbs can also be steamed into spinach-like vegetables or used for fillings, herb butter, herb cream cheese and to enrich egg dishes. Some flower buds (e.g. dandelion) can also be pickled like capers.
And if you don’t have enough time to pick them yourself, you can buy some herbs in powdered form from specialist retailers and mix nettle leaf powder or dandelion leaf powder into the smoothie, for example.
Wild herbs medicine cabinet
Herbal books show the endless possibilities for using wild herbs as medicine.
Wild herbs can be processed into powder, teas, cold water extracts, fresh plant juices, syrup, ointments, herbal wine, herbal oils, and tinctures.
Tinctures are alcoholic herbal extracts that are very easy to make and often keep for years, so they are also very suitable for storage or for unique and useful gifts.