Plants that will be useful in the future are generally plants that have a knack to spread and survive. We often classify many of these types of aggressive, sturdy plants as weeds. (Perhaps after the apocalypse, we will call them valuable resources or gems).
White and Yellow Sweet Clover are examples of plants classified as “noxious weeds” by the MN DNR but which are actually both edible and medicinally useful. The seed pods can be cooked in a stew (as if they were beans), and are high in protein. The leaves are edible, and the flowers taste something like vanilla. Many parts of the plant are used as flavoring or seasoning in various recipes.
Like many edible plants, the survivor will want to harvest them fresh and young. Sweet clover contains coumarin (along with other plants like mullein), which adds effects to leaves when they are dried. Coumarin has an anti-clotting effect on one’s blood, but it can also be toxic. Consume carefully and in much moderation.
While flowering, the plant can be used to soothe and soften skin conditions and external ulcers, so the survivor should add it to his or her list of wound-alleviating ointments like plantain.
Where to Find and How to Identify
Sweet clover is valuable to the survivor in part because it is so common. It grows in disturbed areas and along edges, often lining roadways, ditches and abandoned fields. Which is essentially the landscape of the post-apocalyptic future.
Sweet clover is a biennial plant, flowering in the second year. When flowering, they grow erect, 3-5 feet tall. Leaves are small, split into three leaflets with sharp teeth, and the flowers line the top of the stem. The flowers have a strong aroma.
Jewelweed will be useful to the reader if he or she has previously encountered Poison Ivy or Stinging Nettle, also to be featured later on this blog. The sap of Jewelweed can soothe the irritation caused to the skin by touching these plants. The sap can also ease the suffering caused by bug bites or Athlete’s Foot.
As a side note, and perhaps even more importantly, the Jewelweed is also sometimes commonly called “touch-me-not” because the flowers can eject their seedpods somewhat enthusiastically when disturbed. This mechanism can be quite entertaining for children, and may also provide a depressingly brief yet rare moment of glee for the survivor whose life has become a nightmarish torrent of fear, anxiety and hopelessness.
ID and Other Notes:
2-5 foot tall annual herbacious plant. The stems are somewhat translucent and fragile. Leaves are serrated, hairless, ovate, and smooth. Orange jewelweed has a bright orange flower, usually clustered in groups of 2 or 3 off the upper leaves. They have 5 petals forming upper and lower ‘lips’.
Found in openings in moist woodlands, floodplains, or at the edges of paths, ditches, or swamps. Prefers partial shade/sun and fertile soil full of organic materials. Prefers wet or moist conditions; can tolerate flooding. The orange flowers can glitter in sunlight and have positive aesthetic effects. Can be planted by cuttings or by seed.