by Karen Joslin
If you're interested in food foraging, then you should know about rattlesnake roots. Several Betony (Stachys) species produce edible tubers that look like the rattle on a rattlesnake's tail.
Members of the mint family, the leaves look similar to mint leaves and the plants spread just as profusely. Here in the Southeastern U.S. where Florida Betony thrives, many people consider it a nuisance because it can easily take over the yard and it's difficult to eliminate.
Of course, if you harvest and eat the tubers that'll help. Where I am, April to May is when the tubers are in season. In cooler climates, fall is harvest time.
You'll need to do a bit of research to find out if edible species grow in your area and the best time to dig up the tubers. Edible Stachys grow in various parts of the world, so you may be in luck.
To save yourself a bit of work, check local farmers' markets at the right time of year. I've got plenty growing wild in my yard, but I've got enough other yard work to do that I'm happy to support local farmers instead.
With a mild flavor and delightful crunch similar to a radish, rattlesnake roots are excellent raw. Eat them out of hand, on a salad, or as a crudite with a dip.
Because they don't keep long, pickling is a popular method of preparing rattlesnake roots when you've got a bumper crop. I like pickled rattlesnake roots on a salad, or sometimes just to snack on.
(Try my recipe for Rattlesnake Root Fridge Pickles.)
A few other suggestions I've read about but haven't tried:
* In stir-fries
* In soups
* Cooked with cream sauce
* Cooked and seasoned with butter, garlic and/or onion
Here are the edible species, listed by scientific name along with each one's common names:
Please note that hundreds of other Stachys species exist, most of which either aren’t edible or aren’t tasty enough to bother. (I’m specifically talking about the tubers, not other parts of the plant.)
Although Stachys officinalis tubers won’t kill you, they taste bitter and might make you vomit.
Also note that plants in the Prenanthes/Nabalus genus are sometimes referred to with common names that include "Rattlesnake Root" in them. According to folklore, these plants could repel rattlesnakes and treat poisonous snake bites.
Prenanthes/Nabalus and Stachys plants look very different, including the roots. I haven't read anything about Prenanthes/Nabalus roots being edible.
So, as always when foraging, make sure you know exactly what you're harvesting before you eat it.
Please join the conversation, and kindly treat others as if they were a friend you intend to keep.
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