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Burnweed (Erechtites hieraciifolia)

Burnweed as Food


American Burnweed is an underrated and unappreciated wild edible. Although Burnweed has no history as a food source here in America, everywhere else in the world that it grows it is eaten. It’s a common food in all of Asia and most of Europe. It is a strong flavored plant, but the flavor is good in my opinion. It is somewhat comparable to mint and tarragon

The younger leaves are milder than the older ones and can be eaten raw. The leaves, young and old, can be cooked as a green and are really tasty. My method for cooking them is really simple. Heat some butter in a frying pan. Throw in a handful of leaves and fry for a few minutes. When all the leaves are wilted and covered in butter they are ready to eat.

The stems of the plant are traditionally pickled and are delicious. Making them is simple as well. Cut young stems into 6 inch sections and stick in a jar. Pour in pickling spices and cover the whole mess with apple cider vinegar and a little bit of water. Let that sit for a couple weeks and you have a real treat.

Burnweed as Medicine


Although this plant was not used as a food in native America, it was used as a medicine. One of the common names of this plant is Pilewort. That’s because it was used to get rid of piles, which, nowadays we call hemorrhoids. Oil was extracted from this plant and applied directly to affected area. Apparently it was very soothing.

Algonquin peoples made a strong decoction from this plant to treat Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac. I haven’t tried this myself but I will in the future. A number of early North American sources indicate medicinal uses of the plant in treatment for hemorrhage, wounds, skin diseases, dysentery, and cholera, but note that it may cause nausea. In fact the oil was used to purposefully cause nausea as it’s listed as a purgative and emetic.

Have you used this plant as a food or medicine? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments. Also i would be glad to answer any questions. If you would like to learn more about this and other great plant foods and medicines, come spend a day training with us at our Plant Identification course. If you REALLY want to learn more spend a few days with us at our Wildcrafter course.

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