Foraging Wild Roots: Wild Carrot

Over the years I've introduced several wild edibles into my yard. For example, last year, I scattered some Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) seeds in a few garden beds, covered them lightly with leaf mulch and walked away. A couple weeks ago, I noticed that the beds were looking lush with green growth and figured it was time to get my hands in the soil to check on the roots.

Photo of Wild Carrot Taproots

Compared with shovel-dug Wild Carrots that I've unearthed from more compacted ground, these decently-sized, pale yellow taproots came up with a steady tool-free tug.  Freshly dug Wild Carrots may lack the crunch and orange-color of typical cultivated carrots, but their flavor and aroma is similarly pleasant. I chopped up the roots and added them to soups and stews with much satisfaction.

Note: In Foraging Wild Shoots: Wild Carrot, I point out that Wild Carrot is closely related to some seriously poisonous plants. Please read that post, and be sure you are 100% confident in your identification skills before gathering and eating any part of this plant.

Vultures Overhead

I've only seen Black Vultures twice, and both times a handful of them were with large numbers of Turkey Vultures near Cold Spring Park in Woonsocket, RI. The park borders the Blackstone River and is about a half mile from the Massachusetts border. I'm not sure what attracts all the vultures to this particular spot, but I'm sure they have their reasons. During both of my visits, vultures were both soaring overhead and perched on large buildings to the north.

TUVU's have huge wingspans (around 6 ft)

Turkey Vultures (bird code: TUVU) are usually easy to spot. They are large, dark birds found soaring up high, often flapping very infrequently. Depending on the lighting, the trailing edge of their wings appear noticeably pale (note: the photo doesn't show this). They hold their wings at an angle and tend to rock in flight as if trying to maintain balance. Spend a few minutes watching one and you'll see what I mean. Turkey Vultures occur throughout New England where among raptors only Bald Eagles are larger.

BLVU's have stubby tails and shorter wingspans (around 5 ft)

Black Vultures (bird code: BLVU) are similarly large, though not as large as Turkey Vultures. In the air, they are distinguished by their stubbier tails, shorter wings, and more frequent flapping.  Their wings are also two-toned, but pale only near the wing tips (note: the photo doesn't show this). They are possible in all the New England states, but are quite rare north of Massachusetts.

Wild Plant Medicine: Common Juniper

Earlier this fall, I gathered a small jar of Common Juniper (Juniperus communis) berries (technically berry-like seed cones). I set them aside for a couple weeks to dry out, and then yesterday I put them back into a jar and covered them with vodka.  The alcohol will draw out various medicinal properties from the berries, as well as act as a preservative.  In about a month, I'll strain out the berries, reserving the alcohol extract, or tincture, for various medicinal purposes.  According to Arthur Haines, extracts of this plant can be used to effectively treat staph infection.

Photo of Common Juniper berries

While gathering the berries, I learned just how sharp the needles on this shrub are. My hands got poked repeatedly, and eventually I learned to handle the branches with more care.

Photo of Common Juniper needles
Sharp needles are green on top and flashy white-striped on the bottom

Look for Common Junipers growing in open areas as spreading shrubs. Where I live, they are often found growing under powerline rights-of-way (though I tend not to gather too much food or medicine from those highly charged, and potentially chemically treated areas). In southern New England, the related Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) -- a small to medium-sized tree -- is often more common, but as one heads north, Common Juniper increases in abundance.