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Why plant identification is important for your rural life, can be broken down into two main categories. Is it toxic, or is it safe? Knowing if a plant is safe helps protect you and your family. Slowly building a knowledge of plant identification is how you can implement this.
Your knowledge may also include trees and their uses. Don’t try to learn everything at once. Take your time to familiarise yourself with one plant or plant family and build from there.
Types of Toxicity
The importance of plant identification includes knowing the types of toxicity that plants may possess. We can break these down into two main types. Contact or Ingestion. You also need to know which parts of the plant are toxic and what the potential symptoms could be.
Part of everyday rural life may involve correct plant identification. Also knowing which plants are safe for your animals needs to be understood.
Many plants have a contact toxicity, stinging nettle, poison ivy and poison oak are three that we hear about the most often. However, contact dermatitis does not have to be a chemical rash sue as that caused by stinging nettle. Plants such as holly or roses can cause skin damage. Though plants such as holly and roses are not thought of as toxic, the damage they cause to your skin can become infected or induce an allergic reaction.
Part of the reason for learning accurate plant identification is to be able to correctly inform the medical staff of what plant was involved.
Growing your own food and foraging are both activities that you may wish to do. An important part of your rural life may be the identification of which plant or plants could be edible. Some are only edible after some form of processing. For others it may only be certain parts that you can eat.
An example of this is acorns, which need processing to remove the tannins before you can make a coffee substitute or flour from them. Developing a list of safe plants is the best way to start foraging, choosing those that you can guarantee to get correct every time.
You may have plants or trees on your property that are not safe for humans but maybe a usable food source for your animals if you keep them. Similarly there may be plants that are toxic to some animals but not others. A good example of this is beans. Uncooked beans contain hemagglutinin, this is toxic to chickens. So if you keep chickens you have to ensure that you keep them away from foraging for food around your bean beds.
As you expand your homestead ensure that you take a fresh look at any plant on your property each time you introduce a new animal. This should ensure that you slowly build the knowledge you need while protecting your animals.
Foraging can be great fun for your family. It can also be a useful way to supplement your food supply. When you first start your new rural life, begin with the identification of the plants already on-site, to build your starting plant knowledge.
Many plants are edible and a combination of books and courses can help with not only learning which are safe, but also potential recipes to try with them. Even plants as difficult as stinging nettle can have culinary and other uses.
Where to Begin
With both foraging and learning the identification of plants the best place to start is with what you already know. Take a walk around with a notebook and write down all the plants you know. Only write the once you are 100% certain you can correctly identify. This may surprise you when you see how many you are actually familiar with. Include trees as once you delve into the world of natural foods, you will find that many trees have elements that are edible for both animals and humans.
Following this create a second list of those that you are 75% certain about. You can even try a third list of plants and trees that you are only 50% certain of the identification for.
Build Your Knowledge
With the plants and trees you are 100% certain you can identify correctly. Your next step is to work through the list and note any uses edible or otherwise that you know. Double-check this knowledge to ensure that it is accurate. While you double-check also research further possible uses. This will help you solidify your knowledge of these plants.
Building on this you can start looking at the plants you are only 75% certain of. Learn how to correctly identify the plants in this list so you can move them to the 100% list.
Your goal in this, is to develop your plant and tree identification knowledge to the point that you know what grows on your property and its uses. By starting small and not being overwhelmed you can learn how to use each plant or tree to your best advantage.
You will be surprised by how much your land can actually provide once you have the knowledge to tap into this resource. There is potential in many places that over half of the plants growing are a useable resource in some form.
Many plants have medicinal properties, as you research the plants on your property you may come across this. Building this knowledge is different from building the knowledge needed for foraging. Many medicinal uses of plants require some form of processing first. You can also pre-make many to be used at a later date.
Homeopathic and natural remedies are on the increase in recent years, your land may hold the potential to be a well-stocked pharmacy with the application of a little knowledge
Tinctures are created by soaking the necessary parts of a plant or tree in vinegar or alcohol. This creates a concentrated extract of the active parts from within the plant. This not only creates a stronger form but also acts to preserve the extract for an extended period of time
Herbal teas are infusions. This is simply taking the plant parts either crushed or uncrushed and soaking them in boiling water. This needs to be done each time and is perhaps the simplest method of using plants medicinally.
A decoction is very similar to an infusion. the difference is with a decoction you start with cold water and then slowly brought to the boil. Decoctions tend to be used for hard parts of plants such as bark. Infusion may be used for thin leaves or flower petals.
A poultice is usually created by warming the plant elements then wrapping them in cloth and applying it to the affected area. Another option is to create an oil, or balm by soaking the plant material in oil for weeks or months. Both of these methods have the potential to create contact reactions as you are directly applying the material to the skin.
Using plants for food or medicinally carries risk. Allergic reactions, or incorrect identification are two very common problems. Make sure you are certain of your identification and of the plant’s use and safety.
When first starting or when using a new plant for the first time it is also advisable to carry out small tests to ensure that you or your family members do not react to the active parts of the plants.
Many plants and trees have other uses beyond food or medicinal properties. An obvious one would be the wood from trees. This can be used to create things, either buildings, furniture or utensils. Fuel from burning the wood itself or from creating charcoal.
Trees such as pine can offer other things such as turpentine, resin, and pitch and for many years were used for these. Plants such as stinging nettle has been used to make thread and cloth for clothing. As you build your knowledge around the plants on your land you will develop anew understanding and appreciation for what they can offer you.
These books are all affiliate links
Wild Lettuce is also Known as Opium Lettuce. For a good reason.
While it doesn’t contain any opiates, it has similar side effects when used – it acts directly on the central nervous system (CNS) to lessen the feeling of pain, just like morphine.
Lost Ways 2
In The Lost Ways 2 you’ll discover almost all the edible and medicinal plants in North America, including a powerful painkiller, a driveway antibiotic weed, a back-pain relief plant, and a lot, lot more…
The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies
Discover the Forgotten Power of Plants with Dr. Nicole Apelian
You’ll find 800+ beneficial plants and remedies in “The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies”. It includes recipes of tinctures, teas, decoctions, essential oils, syrups, salves, poultices, infusions and many other natural remedies that our grandparents used for centuries. What’s also special about this book is that it has between 2 and 4 high definition, color pictures for each plant and detailed identification guidelines to make sure you’ve got the right plant.
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