Ordered more seeds from Richters. My goal is to know most of the plants in Peterson's Field Guide of Edible Plants: Eastern and Central America, so I figured I should get acquainted with more plants! Started researching the new plants this morning.
I make a page for each plant: what parts are used, what are the medicinal actions (& what conditions it helps with), what nutrients the plant has (e.g. thujone, potassium, etc.), growing info & tips (e.g. annual, type of soil, how much sun, hermaphrodite, etc.) and a miscellaneous category for interesting tidbits, such as "lemony taste," or "used like cinnamon," or "eaten in small amounts OK." I also note down the Latin name, the family to which it belongs, the actions and meridians according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (e.g. cooling, bitter, lungs), and the methods used to prepare it (e.g. infusion in alcohol, dried for tea, best fresh, etc.). Will post the new plants and some info about them in a later post.
Went foraging after dinner time, around 6 o'clock. Big no-no usually as the leaves might be damp. They weren't, but it was still a no-no: got tons of mosquito bites, including a few on the bum! Ooh, my blood must be tasty!
Good thing there was also tons of plantain to help me out. She's nicknamed the boo-boo plant for a reason, ya know. I just boiled some water, placed in some leaves to soften for 1-2 minutes, then applied to my bites. Amazing!
I did the plantain experiment on myself last year (after having read about it, I wanted to try it on myself): plantain leaf on bug bite vs. bug bite alone. Guess whose swelling and redness went down faster? And who healed and went away faster? Yep, the one that got the plantain treatment! I'd keep plantain growing in your garden instead of mowing her down if I were you!
Oops. Turns out there wasn't that much plantain and I ended up repeating this experiment unwittingly again: right cheek applied with plantain, left check bites alone. A bit hard to be keepin' them on the rear, and you are supposed to reapply the leaves once they wilt and fade off. Didn't notice any change really, but will use plantain in the future...Hopefully not for more bug bites!
Just remembered that I do have some yarrow leftover from the winter and I think a tincture is a-callin'! So simple to make:
Easy Yarrow Bug Spray
Place yarrow in your size mason jar (they come in 250ml, 500ml and 1 liter). If you have fresh, roughly chop and fill slightly packed to the top. Yes, dried is fine, too: use less, about 1/2-2/3rds the jar. Pour vodka to the top, place on lid and screw cap. Store for 6 weeks in a cool dry place (shake it whenever you remember---I usually forget! but it turns out OK anyway!!). Strain out plant using a sieve lined with a coffee filter. Store yarrow in a dark amber bottle with a spray nozzle and spritz on yourself before encountering the bugs. Reapply as needed.
Variation: There are many other stinky herbs that bugs don't like, including calendula, wormwood, mugwort, citronella, mint, lemon balm, lavender, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, tea tree, catnip, geranium and others still. You can therefore make a nice combination of herbs in a big mason jar, add in the vodka, let sit, strain out and use. To the strained liquid, you can also make it more powerful by adding in the same essential oils---essential oil of catnip is expensive, for example, but reportedly highly effective.
There are other easy ways to make bug repellants that use essential oils, such as using 30 drops essential oils to 1 cup water and 2 tsp witch hazel. I tried this last year without the witch hazel and didn't find it that effective :( But I might repeat it again this year AND have another backup insect repellant with me. No fun foraging when bugs are are biting you, let me tell you! I know because it happened to me last year and I had to leave while I still had blemish-free skin left!
What goodies did I gather this time? Big violet leaves, dandelion leaves (flowers have turned all white and puffy), plantain leaves & strawberry leaves. Munched on a few wood sorrel leaves ---lemony sour taste! Stopped to smell the...no not roses, dame's rocket flowers. Aaaaaaah, what heavenly scent! What perfume! Surprised no one is selling essential oil of Mademoiselle Dame. I'd wear it :) But then, Cat's a wild kinda gal, anyway ;)
See you next time!
Flowers in the Pot of an Urbanite: ABCs (Anise Hyssop, Betony, Bee Balm, Chickweed, Celandine) and More!!
Rain day all day yesterday. Definitely not a day for foraging!
Did some gardening today. Planted some more Anise Hyssop, Spice Basil (a variety of holy basil) and Mallow. Plants are starting to grow, finally!
Might grow some Aloe Vera, but want to make sure the weather stabilizes to be consistently warm-hot. Would have to get some different soil, so not sure about that...
Blood root is doing well since I transplanted her in a flower pot. There's a few of them, actually, and they haven't flowered just yet.
(Wood) Betony and Bee Balm have baby sprouts, also 1st time growing. Both have flowers that make good tea and attract pollinators. Bee love :)
(German) Chamomile finally starting to shoot up. Nice. Got her seeds from the health food store. Have always found that she takes her sweet time growing in and that germination rates seem to be on the low side. My packet of seeds is gone because I planted seeds twice!
Chickweed is growing, she's small but so lovely in salads and in a mean green pesto with Nettle.
Comfrey. I planted several seeds and she would also seem to have a low germination rate. Anyway, one plant made it. Now I just have to find a really tall planter for her to grow in because she's a tall one!
Sweet dianthus. I really love the smell of clove flowers, and my sweet pink variety never grew in at all. I bought one other small dianthus plant and planted her in the middle of this big planter. She looks a little bit out of place and I may repot her elsewhere--- but I was mighty disappointed that the others I planted didn't make an appearance; unlike the other dianthus, Sweet William, although her flowers won't show 'til next year as she's a biennial.
Planted some Edelweiss but no sign of anything. I figure she might pop in during the colder days of fall...to be seen.
(Blue) Flax is coming in nicely. 1st time growing her. Can't believe I actually bought seeds when I have tons in the fridge! Well, when those seeds never came up, I decided to take my seeds in the fridge and plant them! Very nice, very nice indeed. Can't wait to see those pale blue flowers!!
Herbs are making an appearance: chives, coriander, dill, hyssop, lemon balm, mint, parsley, savory and thyme. Also got some radishes going but no bulb has formed yet. Mustard is doing quite well, thank you, with medium-sized leaves. Flowers are gorgeous and such lovely scent!!
Lamb's quarter, Epazote or Wormseed, Rest Harrow, Scullcap and Major Celandine are all peeping through. Lamb's quarter makes a great spinach subsitute; Wormseed is like Wormwood (who's doing very well, thank you, and has grown huge since she got a bigger pot---hope to see some flowers this year, because last year there were none!), excellent anthelmintic and grew her to help with gas when eating beans; Restharrow is used as a diuretic, but she's great to fix nitrogen in the soil, very pretty, too; Scullcap is known as an anti-cancer herb and Celandine is in the poppy family!
Lavender. I got a variety called Lady Lavender from Richters, but heard from a friend that they tested every kind of variety here and the only one that survives the winter is the true lavender, angustifolia. So I bought a few baby angustifolia plants and they are doing just fine...but I'd like to see them get bigger of course!! Such wonderful scent!!
Tons of baby Marigold coming in.
Marshmallow. Last year she didn't grow so well and I tried her in part and full sun. Her cousin, mallow, did really well, so not sure what the issue was. This year lots of baby plants are coming in, so I hope she grows big and strong, and flowers, too!
Hoping that Mimosa (or Touch- me- not) will make an appearance. No signs yet, but would be nice to see her growing here. Last time I saw her was during a trip to Cuba.
Mugwort, whom I fondly call Muggie, is shooting up like there's no tomorrow! And there isn't! There's only NOW!
Planted Nasturtiums just last week as the geraniums I planted fell through with the ups and down of the weather. Nothing yet, but I'm hoping they'll all make nice hanging baskets.
No sign of Pansy, would you believe?! Could be because of squirrels digging up earth in the pots.
Purslane is coming in! Love this omega-3 rich succulent!
No sign of St. John's Wort. :( I planted her last year as well and she did shoot up, but no flowers because she's a biennial. Still no sign of her and I planted new seeds again...Sigh. She makes such a pretty appearance around the end of June...although last year I harvested much wild St John's...Made much infused oil which I'm going to use as sunscreen this year. Ooh, which reminds me that I should get some vodka and make an insect repellant with Yarrow. Oh right, she's still in the baby stage...Might have to buy some then unless I can find a patch growing wild and free. And it does! Interesting how some grow her as an ornamental. Only seen her with white flowers, never seen other colors.
Stevia. I had her growing in a pot during the winter and her green central stem went from green to a woodsy brown. I put her outside---she was doing so well--- and then a cold spell came and lost most of her leaves. She seemed to be struggling since then, so I got a few other stevia plants and it seems that now the woodsy one has decided to peter on out. She grows so well indoors during the winter, she's really a sweetie I find! although I've never really relied on her leaves to sweeten dishes because it takes a lot of leaves to make a 1-liter infusion. I'd definitely recommend her as a houseplant during the winter, though :) Hope she flowers this year---never seen her in flower!
Not growing any veggies like tomatoes, peppers or cukes this year. Find tomatoes too acidic for me, peppers are OK, but in the same solanine family as tomatoes, so held off. Cukes got mold last year and they really need lots of room, hard to grow in a pot...
Zinnias are in sprout stage. Can't wait to try Zinnia Lemonade this summer!
Think that's all the plants that are growing on my 2 balconies---not bad for an urbanite gardener ;)
Going around my neighborhood, what finds! Went to mall to get some shopping done and then to sit behind alleyway behind mall. Sat in the sun enjoying my chocolate, birds singing and plants growing! What kinds of plants, you say?
Lamb's Quarter in baby stage. Ooh ooh, I hope she's able to grow big so I can collect her and eat her like spinach! I've seen the city come and rip out plants...Grrr...no such thing as weeds!
Dandelion of course, with tons of yellow flowers. Oozed white milky sap when I plucked off some of the heads---you'd never know someone had gone "foraging!" Sap is great to use on warts, BTW.
Johnny-Jump-Up or Heart's Ease. Just there, one little bunch of flowers, stunning me with her striking violet and yellow colors amongst all the rest of the greenery. I had seen her on a previous time when I had passed by, and she had the same kind of sweet energy, that kind of here-I-am, just-so, just-so-pretty-as-you-please!
So interesting that in previous years she was not growing there, had never seen her, just like the horsetail that was also growing in this alleyway...Interesting how plants come and go (even perennials), but some continue to come back all the time.
Like the coltsfoot. A few flowers still, but the leaves are starting to come in. There were a few flowers without leaves, which is when you want to get coltsfoot in the first place. Yep, the flowers come before the leaves grow in! Then you see these leaves which are supposed to look like coltsfeet, and you know pickin' time is over.
Vetch. I love adding a few of these violet flowers to my summer salad. Trail side nibble from the pea family any time!
Tons of Mugwort, which I'm going to add to some rice, fresh, but maybe steam some with the hostas that I collected from yesterday. Hostas are supposed to taste like asparagus. We'll see about that!
More Dame Rocket. So lovely, what scent! Tried the leaves and they have a sharp taste just like arugula. 4 flowers so you know it's in the Brassica family (any time you see a plant with 4 flowers = cabbage family = edible). I took off all her leaves and left her flowers in a vase on the kitchen table. Planed some others in a pot. What heaaavenly perfume!
Garlic mustard. White flowers, stinky garlic smell oh yeah, I've IDed you all right. No way I can mistake you for a cress. Pee-you. Great in stir fries and soups.
Saw some baby milkweed plants. I was going to uproot one but really why bother when there's so many, even if she does get whacked by the crazy lawn mower every week---I know of a few fields where tons of them grow. Lots of good recipes out there. You can use her flowers and seed pods...but more of that later, when the time is ripe for the pickin'!
Horsetail. I'm not 100% sure of this plant because she grows in wet areas, but she is very distinctive. Brought tons home and am going to grow horsetail to compare. Will continue to monitor the plant that's growing in the wild. Right now she's in vertical stage, but if her leaves (so stiff, like a broom) go horizontal, as they should as she matures, then I'd have a better reference. Only seen her once and she was growing on a mountain in a wet area. It was pretty dry where I saw her growing, right beside dandelion and in another area right beside mugwort. To be seen...
Bladder Campion. Not just an ornamental. Really pretty flowers, very distinctive with that "balloon" just before the flower. Definitely would look real pretty in the garden! And the one I saw was just growing there wild, not one person paying her any mind. She comes back year after in the same spot...never thought to harvest her root, but maybe I should collect some seeds and plant her...
Saw one white rose flower! Wow early for May, more sure to come! Not just white, but pale pink and dark wine ones too! Love those rose bushes, so many uses for rose! Like fresh petals on nut butter on toast! YUM! Can't wait!
Burdock. She's baaaaack! I just love burdock and most of her is either edible or medicinal (actually have a tea going right now with her seeds, which are a great diuretic). I remember a field that is no longer where many burdock plants were growing. Several were about the same height or just a little bit shorter than me and I felt like I just wanted to give them a hug! Love her purplish-pink flowers :) Last year I tried burdock petioles (leaf stalks) or the stems that attach the leaf to the thicker central stem. Just peel off the outer layer, chop and simmer for 15 minutes; then drain (still too bitter) and simmer again another 15 minutes. Done! Just like celery! Small leaves are edible too and of course the root, known as gobo in Japan, is delish! Bought some from the health food store this winter (pricey) but why bother when you can dig her root for free!
Saw some clover leaves, but didn't get any. Later. They'll be plenty. There always is!
Look alike dandelion plant which I'm pretty sure is sow thistle and not wild lettuce. Still a bit confused between the two but I believe the wild lettuce has thorns and this plant as I've observed her for a few years, usually grows right beside dandelion, has thistle like ragged leaves growing in a basal rosette like dandelion but the yellow dandelion-like flowers come out later (and many flowers for one plant compared to the 1 flower on dandelion) in summer. Leaves clasp stem, too, so I'm pretty sure she's an edible thistle, sonchus and not a latuca. Tried her flowers (OK) and leaves last year. Even steamed, the leaves were still tough BUT! I got an idea to juice them this year, so will try later this summer and see how that goes...I saw one plant last year she must've been 6 or 7 feet tall! I remember on a forest jaunt last year I came across a Canadian thistle---taller than me, boy, must've been 7 or 8 feet tall! And edible?! OOH, I contemplated and looked at heavy-duty gloves at the hardware store but for all that trouble...nah, I just enjoyed her company. And her many cousins who were also growing in the same vicinity...But who knows, maybe this year...eek! Those long spikes?! Um...maybe...
Coming back from my foraging jaunt, I happened to see my neighbor and he gave me a quick tour of his garden. Lovely plants, many of which I didn't know. Solomon's seal was one plant I remembered he has growing, as well as blueberries and raspberries, but the rest were names that I've now already forgotten! Oh yes, and a fig tree, lime tree and lemon tree. And there are some black hollyhocks...
Just reminded me that there are so MANY plants out there! How many are known? How many "varieties" of one type of plant, like thistles or clover?! And sometimes even botanists get confused or don't know whether a certain plant is edible or not. Infinite varieties like the infiniteness of animals or insects... or human minds...or the universe...each so distinct and unique in their perfect imperfections...
'Til next time!
I love foraging. No matter what mood I find myself in, it slowly slips away to one of wonderment and appreciation. Such wonders, such adventures...
Today at work, having the opportunity to have a job with a wild "garden," I collected some great finds:
Violet flowers, viola odorata, now giving way to violet leaves, and well protected by other towering plants, so almost growing in the shade, they can produce such big leaves as I've found in previous years, as big as my palm. Both violet and white flowers! They transplant pretty easily too as they propagate by runners. I have some growing in a flower box under a table and they are late to come, but they are coming back, those sweet perennials!
Hostas, yep edible, first try for me. I've had hosta flowers last year and they pretty up a salad but I'd describe the taste as nondescript...no taste really. Apparently they're known and eaten in Japan.
Yellow cress...first try also for me. I thought that this might be garlic mustard but then on Susan Weed's weed walk found in her weekly newsletter, there she was, yellow cress (or yellow rocket, or Barbara's cress, barbarea vulagris)
Dame rocket, also mustard family as yellow cress. I knew about her from last year but discovered her more as an ornamental than as edible but gonna try her leaves to see her taste. Above link to Susan's weed walk has pics of dame rocket, cress and garlic mustard.
Dandelion leaves ---of course, what garden would be without dandelion! And flowers, too, because although spring came late this year, it's still "early" spring and the flowers have the most energy. Have been using in my soups, green bits under the yellow flowers and all! Leaves too of course :)
Plantain leaves (plantago major). A few, but not many and still with tiny leaves. The neighbor has tons of plantain on their front lawn and already the bugs got to feastin' on them...The biggest I've ever seen was in a forest where few people passed. Otherwise, I find plantago lanceolata has bigger leaves, at least from what I've experienced so far.
Wild Strawberry leaves, great astringent plant, huge leaves like the size of my palm. Pretty white flowers peek out from the leaves...berries might be there. Or not. Since the grass gets mowed every few weeks. But a few flowers by the fence might go unscathed...Tasted a few last year; edible but no taste really.
A few wood sorrel (oxalis acetosella) plants, of which I took off a few sprigs and ate some leaves. Mighty good for relieving thirst, and time passes so quickly while foraging.
Spotted some red clover leaves (trifolium pratense). They'll be coming up soon enough but didn't bother to get any leaves. I'll wait 'til they get bigger.
Also collected a few plants that I don't know about. I collected a few just last week and already I've identified them: ox-eye daisy (yes, edible), lamb's ear lettuce (yep, also edible, also good as toilet paper substitute!) and cleavers! Been seeing cleavers everywhere since I started growing her...
It's a really good idea, I've found, to get some seeds, say from Richter's, then plant them and see what they look like when they're young and how they change as they mature and flower. That way, you can then go out foraging and bring home a specimen to compare it to what you are 100% sure is the real thing. I did this last year to confirm identification of a few plants, including Queen Anne's Lace, mugwort and lamb's quarter. Coincidentally, once you know what they look like, you start seeing them everywhere!
Of course, another good trick is to uproot the whole plant and give it a home at your house (either in a suitable pot or in the garden). I've done that with several plants (as previously mentioned, from work), but also many plants growing out in the "wild." This is another way to see how they change/look like as they grow and also to research the plant for proper identification. If you like the medicinal properties and/or edible benefits of the plant, you can also collect the seeds and then grow them in future years. I did that just the other day, when I spotted shepherd's purse growing in an alleyway. She's a styptic medicinally but she also has a sharp taste like arugula and can be added to salads for a bit o' bite :)
More adventures tomorrow!
Curiosity Got The Cat: