Food: Wildcrafting: Capturing wild food: Jewelweed, a fun and silly plant to play with
The technique is to surround the dangling seed pod with your fist, being careful not to brush against it as you get into position. Once your fist is loosely closed, move just enough to brush up against the pod and it will explode its seeds into your hand. The darker seeds are the ripest, but the small green ones are also edible. Discard the expended curled seed pod.The seeds taste a bit nutty, mild, and interesting. Some describe the flavor as like a walnut. I think they are milder than that. You won't capture enough for even a serious snack, but they are really fun to enjoy both the capture and the nibble as you walk in the woods.
Another common name for jewelweed is touch-me-not. It is related to the Impatiens in many gardens.
Miller Woods was full of jewelweed last time I was there, but any wet area is likely to have it. Look for the orange flowers, lobed leaves, and it is the only exploding wild edible you will encounter in this area.
Jewelweed is better known as an antidote and treatment for poison ivy. Applied just after exposure it can prevent the skin reaction from the poison ivy's urushiol. If you do have an outbreak of poison ivy, the juice ftom the stems and leaves will ease the irritation, and in my experience will also make the rash heal more quickly. Jewelweed juice also eases bee stings, wasp stings, mosquito bites, and minor skin irritations.
Just by rubbing the plant between your fingers or against your skin you'll get a lot of juice. You can put it in the blender with a small amount of water or use a juicer. The juice can't be saved by freezing - it does mold easily - but can be added to salves or even homemade soap.
The plant is edible, but high in selenium, so only the early spring shoots are eaten and then only with at least one change of water which is then discarded. I did eat some many years ago, and I didn't find it appealing. I've had friends make and drink a mild infusion (leaves and stems steeped 20 minutes in a closed container) as another way to prevent poison ivy. Anecdotal information says this can help.
Jewelweed is a beautiful, helpful, and prevalent plant. And if you don't want to eat the seeds, carefully pick the seed pods without touching them, and throw it at your closest friend. Just for fun. It is a soft explosion that is likely to make anyone laugh.
Photos by Linda Diane Feldt in Mary Beth Doyle Park