culinary herbs indigenous to eastern US

jomer2000April 3, 2009

Hi all

My first time posting. I've got a question about culinary herbs native to the US. Are there any? I'm particulary interested in the east. I'm supposing the mint family, but I'm sure there are more. Also, are there any herb natives that are safe for humans that may not be widely used for cooking?

Thanks for any and all help.

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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

You would be able to get thyme to grow well and survive winters here. Also garlic chives and a few others, I have not tried.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 8:01PM
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Other than the leek like plants called Ramps in some parts of the hills I can not think of any culinary herb that is native to the eastern US. There are probably some locally occuring but most are not native in the US.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 9:56PM
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I jumped the gun on my previous post. Depending on where you are some of the violets are native and can be used food. Look for a native american herbal to see the plants listed. Many like thyme which is native to meditterian are listed. One of the reasons for this are that the researchers did not know where the plant originated and two the plant has been used so long that it has escaped into the wild.

Cress is another that may be native or not.

Think of horses as an example. Most consider them native but in reality were brought back to this county by explorers. There is some evidence that they were native to this continent but died off. Problem with indigenous and native plants is that they may have been indigenous but were replaced by another plant of the same family that grew better. Most of the posters here look at the Herb/hebal Forums but you may want to post in the Native Plants Forum if you have not already done so.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 10:17PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Most certainly there are many plants native to the eastern US that are used as food or for seasoning food! Check out the foods eaten by the various Native American peoples if you want some examples and lists of various plants.

Here are a few plants native to the east that could be used as food or food seasoning: wild strawberry, cranberry, blueberry, sassafras, mints, bee balm, sumac (berries make a "pink lemonade"), raspberry, ramps, maple (maple syrup is great for seasoning & cooking), elderberry, violets, black walnut, butternut, beech (beechnuts), hickory, hazelnuts, sunflowers, cherry, juneberries, spicebush, wintergreen, wild grape, cattail, sweet birch, milkweed, jerusalem artichoke, various wild mushrooms, goldenrod, persimmon, and more.

There are plenty of plants that have become naturalized in the eastern US like dandelion and burdock but they are not native. I tried to avoid listing any of these plants above. If you include those, the list will get bigger and more varied.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 12:52AM
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HI again,

Thanks for the responses. I had an idea this forum would be the place to go.
I don't know if anyone's interested in the reason behind my questions, but here it is. I have a Scot-Irish, German (w/ a touch of Cherokee) heritage. The cooking methods handed down usually involve putting something in a pot of water and boiling it until it surrenders or frying it. I don't mind the frying too much. (That's my Southern heritage coming through.I grew up and live in Maryland)
I've become a fan of Italian (and various Mediterranean) cooking. I'm especially fond of the extra steps that turn something simple into something else altogether. Ex: eggplant parmesan. Slicing, soaking, coating, frying eggplant; layering with other ingrdients, bread crumbs on top, baking, etc. I have a feeling if eggplants were native to Ireland, I might never have tried one.

Anyway, I'd like to come up with recipes using native ingredients prepared with Italian, Greek,Moroccan(sp),etc.
This is an outgrowth of coming up with recipes with my son. We would sit around and one of us would introduce an
ingredient, then each come up with another ingredient, spice, method. We've come up with some winners. A lot of them never saw a frying pan. But, you get the idea.
Well, sorry if this was too long, but I do thank one and all for the ideas.

ps: I'd welcome anyone weighing in on this theme with thoughts about a particular herb, etc.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 9:46AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Here are some books on "wild foods" that may give you some ideas:

Peterson's Field Guides: Edible Wild Plants by Lee Allen Peterson
Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons
Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by "Wildman" Steve Brill with Evelyn Dean
Billy Joe Tatum's Wild Food Field Guide and Cookbook ed. by Helen Witty
Native Harvests by E. Barrie Kavasch
And to some extent, Spirit of the Harvest by Martin Jacobs and Beverly Cox

I would also look for books on the traditional foods eaten/recipes of the various Native American nations throughout the east. These may be harder to come across but definitely a learning experience.

Here's one for your Cherokee ancestry - Cherokee Plants by Hamel & Chiltoskey. Mostly focuses on medicinal uses but an interesting read!

You might also try a book like The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery by Page & Wigginton. It has recipes and how-to's on cooking before there were 24-hour supermarkets!

I would also suggest looking into "3-Sister" gardens - gardens planted by various Native American peoples, like the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of my area. These gardens had corn, beans, squash, and often sunflowers as well. These foods were core to the diet of these peoples. Check out the the link below, it has videos of how some traditional Iroquois foods are prepared - very cool!


Here is a link that might be useful: Friends of Ganondagan video page

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 10:22AM
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