Impatiens Capensis, or the common jewelweed is a plant that’s native to North America and is found in wetlands in ditches and creeks. Another name for jewelweed is the spotted jewelweed or the spotted touch-me-not.
The name ‘jewelweed’ comes from the fact that, when held underwater, the leaves appear to be jeweled. It’s often found alongside its relative the yellow jewelweed (Impatiens Pallida) – which is less common – it’s also called the pale jewelweed or the pale touch-me-not.
It’s very nice to look at, there’s no doubt about that and it’s got a variety of medicinal uses; but is it edible? Well, that’s what we’re going to find out.
Is Jewelweed edible?
Yes, in moderation. Jewelweed contains calcium oxalate crystals which can make you sick if you eat too much of this plant. The seeds are edible, and the shoots can be boiled as a potherb.
Is Jewelweed Edible? Well…Sort Of…
The common jewelweed was brought to Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries. It spreads rapidly, and tends to outgrow/outcompete local jewelweed plants. This has led to some places classifying it as an aggressive weed.
Jewelweed typically blooms from late spring to early fall, and has bright orange flowers (there are some occasions where the flowers will be yellow). The stems are smooth, succulent and semi-transparent.
Leaves alternate along the stem system and the seed pods tend to go through explosive dehiscence – which means they eject seeds rapidly. This process is easily triggered in mature pods and has led to the name ‘touch-me-not’ being given as a light touch is all it takes to set them off.
There are a variety of medicinal uses for this plant (including as a fungicide), but as far as culinary uses go, it’s quite limited. The shoots can be boiled as a potherb, although you’d have to change the water twice to do so; and the seeds are also edible – they taste like walnuts.
That said, eating a lot of it isn’t recommended as it contains selenium and calcium oxalate crystals which can cause kidney stones and make you sick in large quantities. The high mineral content can have a laxative effect and cause an upset stomach.
Let’s break down each part of the jewelweed plant in depth to determine whether it’s edible.
While it’s technically possible to eat Jewelweed seeds, it’s not recommended. They are extremely small and require a significant amount to even constitute what you might call a light snack.
Plus, the seed pods burst open when they are ripe, making it difficult to harvest them efficiently. They don’t exactly taste like anything special, so it’s not worth the effort to try to collect them for sustenance.
Now, the leaves are also edible, BUT harvesting should be done early on while the plants are young, and the leaves need to be boiled before you can eat them. Older leaves can become bitter over time.
They can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach. They have a mild, earthy flavor with a slightly acidic undertone.
Jewelweed flowers are both beautiful and edible! They make for a lovely garnish or addition to salads and can even be used in teas. They have a sweet and very mild nectar-like flavor that is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters.
Some folks say that jewelweed flowers don’t taste like much at all! They definitely are not as potent as the leaves or seeds.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try your hand at making Jewelweed flower jelly! I’ve made this a few times before and I have to say, it tastes great on fresh baked sourdough bread.
While the roots of jewelweed are technically edible, they are not as appetizing as some of the other parts of the plant. They can be difficult to extract from the ground, and the flavor is somewhat bland. They are best consumed cooked and mixed with other ingredients, such as in a stir-fry or soup.
Jewelweed sap is notoriously juicy and is an excellent natural remedy for bug bites and stings. It has a long history of use by Native American tribes to alleviate issues like itching and inflammation.
While its sap isn’t toxic, I don’t recommend that you consume it. Its sticky nature makes it difficult for our digestive systems to process, which can cause abdominal pain and other digestive problems. It has plenty of other uses besides the edible ones, which I’ll tell you more about in a second.
What Are Some Other Uses for Jewelweed?
Let’s talk about the medicinal uses of jewelweed. There are quite a few, mostly aimed at exterior issues. For starters, the sap can be used to remove warts.
You can also the leaves as a remedy to treat rashes from poison oak, poison ivy, and/or stinging nettles – to relieve the itching, a poultice made from the juice of the leaves can be applied to the skin to treat bruises, insect bites, stings, and general skin irritation.
As far as interior uses go, jewelweed has been used as a diuretic to help with urination issues and as an emetic to induce vomiting…lovely.
Jewelweed is an Attractive Pollinator Plant
Jewelweed plants are popular plants for pollinators. Bees, ruby-throated hummingbirds, and butterflies will often help themselves to the plant’s nectar. Their visits typically allow for cross pollination which makes them great for woodland gardens.
Other animals that like to chow down on jewelweed include:
- Ruffed grouse
- White-footed rabbit
Jewelweed is considered a nice addition to a garden of native plants, and it’s easy to see why. I can’t really criticize people who let this thing grow in their gardens because we’ve got Kosmos flowers in South Africa which grow pretty much everywhere.
Kosmos flowers are also considered a weed, but nobody minds if they crop up in the garden because they’re pretty to look at.
As always, I hope you found this article informative and enjoyable. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you all again for the next one very soon!
Greg is a South African farmer and homesteader who’s been around animals ever since he can remember. He’s also an avid camper and hiker.