By MyKyah Vessels, Alliance for Watershed Fellow
Do you ever see people picking plants in parks or on sidewalks? They’re foraging!
Foraging is the practice of exploring an area to pick wild plants, often for food or medicine, but also for craft and other raw materials. It’s an important practice in many cultures, especially in many of the communities which live around Tacony Creek Park. We often see neighbors foraging in the park!
Foraging is also a fun hobby that many people picked up during Covid. It may be intimidating to start foraging if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for. That’s why we are introducing a series of edible plant guides, written by our Alliance for Watershed Education Fellow, MyKyah Vessels. MyKyah will lead two edible plant walks this month: Saturday, August 14 and August 21. You can register here or here!
This is the finale of our Edible Plant Guide series which will feature these commonly-seen plants:
Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta)
Native to eastern North America and Canada, Oxalis stricta (Common Yellow Wood Sorrel, Sour Grass) is an annual herbaceous plant that likes dry, improvised soil. Wood Sorrel can be found in lawns, roadsides, and fields. Outside of North America, Common Yellow Wood Sorrel is naturalized in Europe and Asia.
Identification and Look-alikes
Often confused as a clover (Trifolium), Yellow Wood Sorrel is easily identified by its three heart-shaped leaflets with a crease down the middle. Their flower has five petals, and their seed pods look like mini okra.
Is it Edible?
Yes, the entire plant can be eaten. Wood Sorrel has a tart, lemony taste and is added in salads and paired with fish. The plant can be steeped in hot water to make tea.
Because Yellow Wood Sorrel is high in vitamin C, it has been used to treat scurvy. Various Native tribes have used Yellow Wood Sorrel to reduce fever. Yellow Wood Sorrel is used as a dye and leaves a vibrant yellow color. Oxalic acid is considered a mordant, setting the color into the fabric or paper you wish to dye.
Oxalic acid is toxic in high quantities; those with gout and or kidney stones should stay away from oxalic acid.
Annual – A plant that completes its life cycle in one year. When the new season comes, an entirely new plant grows from the seed of the previous plant.
Biennial – A plant that lives for two years. They flower during their second year of life and after the third, a new plant grows.
Bract – A modified leaf underneath or surrounding the flower.
Cholagogue – Stimulates and increases the flow of bile.
Deciduous – A tree or shrub that sheds its leaves.
Herbaceous – A plant stem with little to no woody tissue.
Mordant – A chemical that binds a natural dye to a natural fiber.
Moxibustion (Mandarin: 艾灸)- Is an external treatment in Chinese Traditional Medicine and other countries in East and Central Asia in which bundles of dried Mugwort or wormwood are burned over the body.
Perennial – A plant that lives for more than two years. It survives by its roots when the top portion dies back or is evergreen.
Petiole – The stalk that supports the leaf and connects the blade to the stem.
Wild Edible, “Wood Sorrel” by Eric Orr
Aunt Jenny the Home of Crafted Living Blog, “Botanical Dye with Weeds: Oxalis” by Pinky Wittingslow
ScienceDirect, “Antioxidants in spring leaves of Oxalis acetosella L.”
Native American Ethnobotany Database