Over the weekend I did quite a bit of hiking. And besides the hazards of tiny little insects that burrow into your skin and fill up on your delicious tasty blood, there are also various plants to watch for. Some are healthy options that can work in your afternoon salad and others, well not so much. The main picture above is lemon basil from a hike off Topanga Canyon. Smells pretty darn good too! The smaller pictures are from a hike in Newhall.

Poison oak comes in various shapes and sizes to always keep you guessing. The standard phrase “Leaves of Three, let them be” is not always accurate as wild blackberry leaves also grow in threes. However, the blackberry leaves are closer to a saw blade with thorns on the stems and poison oak does not have thorns or saw blade style leaves. Yes, some kinds of poison oak have irregular, oval, reddish, shiny leaves.

Mugwort for some evolutionary reason, tends to grow close to patches of poison oak. If you have brushed against poison oak, pick a few leaves of mugwort, crush them in your hands with a little bit of water and rub them on the area. It binds to the urushiol preventing or lessoning the chances you break out in blisters etc.  I’ve also found that Fast Orange (hand cleaner) and Tecnu work about the same in removing the oils from your affected area. Tecnu is petroleum based so I am sticking with Fast Orange for now. What’s super cool about mugwort is the double duty it does as an insect repellent. Rub a few leaves on any unprotected skin beforehand and laugh in the face of danger. And  grab a few extra leaves to make a medicinal tea at home or to add to a salad. The native Indians had many uses for mugwort – and some tribes would even eat the first baby leaves of poison oak to build an immunity to it over time. To be clear, not me. EEK!

Miners lettuce, is crunchy, pleasant tasting, mild and earthy. The plant got its name because the Gold Rush miners ate it to stave off scurvy, which is caused by a Vitamin C deficiency.

Sticky monkey orange flowers are also somewhat edible. The leaves have a very, very strong unique flavor, mildly bitter while reminiscent of mint.

The flower has some nectar which is also slightly sweet! The base of the flower has a volatile oil which has a sticky quality to it.

Disclaimer: Do your own research regarding edibility of the plants in this post. While I have eaten miners lettuce, I have not tried any of the others and will probably never ingest poison oak. Ewe!

See ya soon…