Somewhere in my reading I came across the Erythronium or the dogtooth violet. I can’t remember for sure where, maybe in a wildflower book. If I had to guess it would be from one of the books written by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, most likely I read about it in A Year at North Hill : Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden. It doesn’t really matter where I found out about it, I’m just glad I did.
I ordered bulbs for erythronium ‘Pagoda’ last fall and they arrived nestled in one of the boxes of my 2500 bulb order. I double checked my invoice with the included items, everything had arrived and I didn’t think about these boxes in the garage for a few days. When unpacking and organzing the bulbs a week later, I noticed the pack of Erythronium said “PLANT NOW!” (yes in all caps with an exclamation point- oooops). I grabbed by trowel and planted most of them in the east facing side flowerbed and a few in the north facing bed by the back door.
Erythroniums are native to the Northern Hemisphere and prefer forest and meadows with slightly acidic soil. They can take part to full shade which is one of the reasons I purchased them. Being surrounded on three sides by very large trees, I have an abundance of shade here at Chiot’s Run. I’m often struggling to find something besides hostas that will thrive in the shady corners of the garden. Since there are forest natives I knew they’d love the conditions in those beds, they are essentially just like the forrest floor.
This little plant isn’t of the viola family even though it’s nickname suggest it, it’s of the lily family (Liliaceae). It’s nickname “Dog Tooth Violet” comes from the corms which are white and shaped like a dog’s tooth. It also has a host of other nicknames as well. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of the corms when I planted them so I can’t show you what they look like. You’ll have to take my word that they did in fact look like giant canine teeth.
Erythronium is usually grown as an ornamental garden plant, but it’s also edible. The leaves and flowers may be consumed raw or boiled. The corm can also be ground and used as a starch. From my research, it was often used for making thin noodles. In Japan the ground corms are used to thicken sauces and make tempura. It’s been used medicinally as well, the leaves can be dried and used in teas, or they can be crushed and used as a poultice. It is high in alph-methylene-butyrolactone which prevents cell mutation and may help fight cancer. Native American Indian women were said to use the raw leaves as a contraceptive, Roman soldiers used it for foot related issues and it was used throughout the ages as a diuretic, fever reducer, to treat gout, to aid in decongestion, and to help reduce ulcers and shrink tumors.
I won’t be eating mine any time soon, I want them to multiply and grow into lovely little patches. You can believe I’ll be trying to find a few other varieties, which are different sizes and colors, to add to the garden though and when I get a good patch going I’ll try eating them in a variety of ways.
Have you found any new and interesting plants recently?Filed under Around the Garden | Comments (12)