FORAGER FRIDAY

Forager Friday with Diego. In season now: Wild oat

Sometimes microclimates dispersed in a city would allow for the odd early showing of plants that otherwise would come about later. This is the case for this image down here:

Wild oat, avena fatua

This is wild oat,  closely realted (some botanist even say a sub-species) of the commercially available oat (the one you cook your porridge with). This is a common sight of disturbed land and in this case it was spotted along the train tracks in Western Sydney. Indeed a favourable situation for the plants as it has advanced to the point of producing the seeds, far ahead of a more suitable time later in the year, when the wether is warmer.

So let's rejoice and learn more about this biblical plant.

Name: Wild oat, Drake, Flaver, Jangali jau, Potato oat, Tartarean oat

Latin name: Avena fatua

Description: A stout, erect annual grass that grows to 1.2 m high.  The stems are robust and the basal leaves are hairy.  The upper leaves are flat and 45 cm long by 15 mm wide.  The flowers are in heads up to 40 cm long with a typical ‘dangling’ look. The seed has a dense covering of hairs.  It is a temperate plant, growing in pasture land and commonly found on disturbed soils. The seeds can stay in the soil for years, sprouting whenever the conditions are right. It is regarded as a common weed of cultivated lots.

Edibility: The whole plant is edible, the stalks can be enjoyed when green, sucking the sap out of them for a sweet, straw tasting treat. The seeds are hard to collect as they drop promptly. They have been used to make bread, cooked in soups and when roasted do make a pleasurable coffee substitute.

Medicinal properties: The seeds are diuretic, emollient and have a cooling effect.

Other uses: The straw has a wide range of uses such as for bio-mass, fibre, mulch, paper-making and thatching roofs.

A little folk lore: "Sowing wild oats" is a phrase used since antiquity (apparently the roman started referring to it in Republican time, 200BC) From Wikipedia> The origin of the expression is the fact that wild oats, notably A. fatua, are a major weed in oat farming. Among European cereal grains, oats are hardest to tell apart from their weedy relatives, which look almost alike but yield little grain. Historically, growers could control the weed only by checking the crop plants one by one and hand-weeding. Consequently, "sowing wild oats" became a phrase to describe unprofitable activities. Given the reputation of oat grain to have invigorating properties and the obvious connection between plant seeds and human "seed", it is not surprising that the meaning of the phrase became a reference to the destructive sexual liaisons of an unmarried young male, which result in unwanted children born out of wedlock.

The many long stories that the weeds tell us..

Happy weekend everyone.