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 Edible Plant Guide series will feature these commonly-seen plants:
This is the second of our Edible Plant Guide series which will feature these commonly-seen plants:
Common Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Common mugwort, also known as Felon Weed (Artemisia vulgaris) is a perennial, herbaceous plant that prefers dry, sandy, or loamy soil. Mugwort can be found in forested areas, lawns, roadsides, and coasts. Common mugwort is a tall plant that can reach up to 8ft (2.4m). Originating in Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa, mugwort now grows across the world.
Identification and Look-alikes
Mugwort is often confused with Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) and Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). Unlike its’ relatives, mugwort’s leaves are hairless on the top with silvery-white wooly fibers underneath. The easiest way to identify mugwort is by crushing and smelling its’ leaves. It’s mugwort if the leaf has a strong earthy and herbal scent, somewhat close to sage.
Is It Edible?
Yes! The leaves, young shoots, and roots can be eaten. Mugwort has a slightly bitter taste. The leaves and young shoots can be cooked, and the leaves and roots can be dried and made into tea. Leaves and roots should be harvested during the summer and fall, while the young shoots are best harvested in spring.
Mugwort is used as a bug repellent and cure for intestinal parasites. Many have used it to regulate menstrual cycles by increasing the chance of spotting and bleeding and stimulating uterine contractions. In Europe, mugwort is often used as a flavoring agent in beers. It has also been used as a substitute for tobacco and has been smoked in Ireland. It promotes gut health by relieving stomach cramps and encouraging appetite.
Mugwort is also used in moxibustion. Moxibustion is a traditional medicinal practice from China and other Asian countries in which mugwort is directly or indirectly burned on specific areas of the body. The moxa, a bundle of dried mugwort, is most often burned indirectly. Indirect moxibustion can take the form of a moxa cone being placed on top of a layer of garlic, ginger, salt, etc. Moxa can also be wrapped around an acupuncture needle in which it is rolled into a stick and held over the skin while burning.
Mugwort is full of flavonoids and vitamin C.
Not safe for pregnant people because mugwort can cause miscarriage. Mugwort is not safe to use for those who are breastfeeding. Those allergic to ragweed may also be allergic to mugwort. Thujone, a volatile oil found in mugwort, is toxic in high concentrations. High doses and mugwort oil should be used carefully.
Annual – A plant that completes their 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 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.