Friday, November 25, 2011

Foraged: Partridge Berry

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens) is also known as squaw berry, two-eyed berry, twin berry, and  running fox. It is a woodland plant found throughout eastern North America. This is an easily identifiable plant due the fact that it creates two flowers for every berry; the ovaries of the flowers fuse, creating two spots on each berry. Guidebooks seem to be fond of describing its habit of laying "prostrate on the forest floor". File this one under edible but not ideal; you can eat the berries, but they are mealy and bland. Apparently you can make jam with the berries as well as tea from the leaves and berries. (Having tasted the berries, I would not vouch for the jam.) Supposedly Native Americans used the plant during the final weeks of pregnancy to ease childbirth and English colonists made a tea that was used as an aid in childbirth and to relieve menstrual cramps. Partridge, grouse, turkeys and other game birds eat the berries, as do skunks, white-footed mice and foxes. (You can file this under "useless information I will never need" if you want... but I like knowing this stuff. And maybe some day I'll make that jam just for the hell of it, even though I know it will probably taste awful.) It is an evergreen plant that is a non-climbing vine and can be propagated via cuttings and best of all... I hear it does great in terrariums. (I kind of let this poor little guy wilt a little... he spent the night tucked away in my sketchbook.)

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