Wild Herbs of the Mediterranean Winter: Navelwort, AKA Pennywort

Wild Herbs of the Mediterranean Winter: Navelwort, AKA Pennywort

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In my foraging walks throughout late winter and spring, I’m all the time glad to seek out Navelwort (Umbelicus rupestris). It’s a fleshy, light-green plant typically rooted in damp previous partitions and piles of rocks. Navelwort, also referred to as pennywort, is changing into uncommon.

I acquire just a few of the juicy leaves to be used in my moisturizing formulation, the place they’ll add soothing, anti-inflammatory properties. Is navelwort edible? Yes, and if by likelihood I come throughout a spot the place navelwort grows abundantly, I’ll deliver just a few extra leaves residence to eat uncooked in salad – to be sincere, extra as a result of I benefit from the expertise than due to their taste, which is gentle and impartial.

For the hungry forager, now we have a submit a few tastier, extra simply discovered wild edible: beet greens.

The seventeenth-century herbalist Nicholas Culpepper knew and appreciated navelwort, saying this of it:

The juice or the distilled water being drank, could be very effectual for all inflammations and unnatural heats, to chill a fainting scorching abdomen, a scorching liver, or the bowels: the herb, juice, or distilled water thereof, outwardly utilized, heals pimples, St. Anthony’s hearth, and different outward heats. The mentioned juice or water helps to heal sore kidneys, torn or fretted by the stone, or exulcerated inside; it additionally provokes urine, is on the market for the dropsy, and helps to interrupt the stone. Being used as a shower, or made into an ointment, it cools the painful piles or hæmorrhoidal veins. It isn’t any much less effectual to provide ease to the pains of the gout, the sciatica, and helps the kernels or knots within the neck or throat, referred to as the king’s evil: therapeutic kibes (ulcerated chilblains) and chilblains in the event that they be bathed with the juice, or anointed with ointment made thereof, and a few of the pores and skin of the leaf upon them: it is usually utilized in inexperienced wounds to remain the blood, and to heal them rapidly.

According to the Plants For A Future Plant Database (PFAF), navelwort might be present in leaf all yr, in flower from June to August. The seeds ripen from July to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has each female and male organs) and is self-fertile. The flowers flip pink if the plant grows in a sunny spot.

Keep in thoughts that PFAF’s articles concern crops rising within the UK and Europe, not typically mentioning rising circumstances within the Levant. In Israel, the place I stay, navelwort has dried up and disappeared by July.

If you’re intrigued sufficient to attempt cultivating Navelwort, it’s (once more, by way of the PFAF database) appropriate for gentle (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, impartial and fundamental (mildly alkaline) soils. It can develop in semi-shade (gentle woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

I personally don’t consider cultivating navelwort; it’s too dry and scorching the place I stay. But once I lived within the cool north of the nation, the place there are nonetheless many uncultivated inexperienced spots and historic, fallen-down stone homes, I’d love to seek out the spherical leaves, that appear like a group of belly-buttons, poking up from some previous wall. Those historic Romans had a knack for naming issues: umbilicus that means navel, and rupestris, of the wall.

Or you’ll be able to think about  {that a} long-ago somebody poked a finger into the leaves to depart a dimple within the center.

I cherish navelwort not just for the makes use of I put it to, however due to its rising rarity. The locations that favor its progress are quick disappearing beneath city development.

It recollects a a lot earlier time, when a kindlier local weather allowed these harmless herbs to thrive undisturbed, and people of their foraging took solely what they wanted and left the remaining alone.


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