Thanks for posting this! I had just begun harvesting Virginia Waterleaf this season; it's wildly abundant down along the creeks where it occasionally floods.
I'm curious if anyone can help me figure out if I have different species growing here, or just variations of H. virginianum.
They all seem to grow in the same areas right around each other. The size variations depending on location also seem to pretty dramatic. The ones growing right along the creek bed in nice sandy soil seem to get significantly larger than elsewhere, but also I've noticed (and not just for this plant) that there are natural hugel-ish situations where some old partially buried logs create little micro-niches of fertility.
Another observation, fwiw, is that they don't seem to mind sharing space with black walnuts! They actually seem to occupy the same niche that wood nettles (Laportea canadensis) occupy a month or so later. At this point there always seems to be some Spring Beauties nearby (Claytonia virginica), as well as honewort (Cryptotaenia canadensis) that's starting to come up now and many violets as well (Viola sororia). There are many places in the woods where almost everything I can see on the ground right now is edible!
Whenever I'm out hiking I'll eat them raw. I find the 3rd one down, with the "water marks" to be drier and hairier while the other two are quite good and mild. Just a hint of a terpene or something you might find in carrot tops, but not nearly as strong as with honewort. I've been eating a lot of them cooked and they hold up pretty well. When cooked the hairiness reminds me of eating cooked stinging nettle, and honestly if someone had served me this and told me it was stinging nettle I probably would've believed it! They can have a fairly long stem that can be a bit fibrous, but not in a bad way.
I decided to try and blanch and freeze a bunch to see how it holds up in those conditions and if it's something I could preserve for year round eating. About 2 quarts worth of packed fresh leaves fit nicely on a cookie sheet after blanching for around 90 sec and then cooling. (Collecting that much maybe took around 30 min of casual browsing). After freezing it on the sheet it all fit pretty nicely in a gallon ziplock bag. I had some 1lb bags of frozen organic spinach from Aldi's and it seemed to be around the same quantity, but I didn't weigh it. I'll try to eat some after a few weeks and I'll let you know how it tastes!
Does anyone have any info regarding nutritional or medicinal info? I've googled it a couple times with no luck. Since it's a wild green I'm assuming it's "real good for me", but I'd love to know more specifics and also if there's any concern with eating too many. I've had a few fairly large servings a number of times over the past few days without noticing anything to be concerned about.
Hope that's all helpful or whatever.