Once again, so many things have been happening in the plant world around me! Although I wasn't able to attend my herb class this weekend, I have been seeing lots of other plants to share with you! Some of these plants I've seen growing close to the subway, on the lawn at work, on my neighbor's lawn, and beside a huge bus depot. In short, wild things are growing all over the place! However, the ones that you want to pick should NOT be close to the road. It's OK if a field or deserted area is close to the road, but you want to gather the plants that are the farthest from the road. You also want to avoid areas where people walk their dogs (for the poop contamination, yep) and beside railroads, the latter because of heavy metals. You can read Green Deane's 2 cents on where to forage HERE.
Living in the city, I use my intuition about where to forage. I might take a few plants close to a parking lot, but it also depends on the purpose. For example, I might use Mugwort as a smudge plant, so I wouldn't be ingesting it. Or perhaps I'm gathering Milkweed flowers to dry for potpourri. Or perhaps I'm not sure about the ID of the plant, so I will transfer her to a pot, let her grow, and use my field guide books to ID her.
My personal favorite places to forage are abandoned areas where few visit; my neighbor's garden; the lawn at work; the abandoned "raised beds" behind the local mall (a place where some cars do pass, but it's not used that much); and abandoned areas that are close to the road, but within a fair distance that foraging is OK.
So, let's get into some new plant friends that I haven't talked about this season yet!
Daisy Fleabane. She looks like a daisy, and yes she in the same family as Daisy, that is, Asteraceae. She has small white rays and in the middle, a shocking color of yellow. Sometimes you can find her with pink rays instead of white. Either way, her leaves are edible and you'll be wanting to cook them. I like adding them to the soup or stew pot. I've used the dried flowers in an infusion to help with menstrual cramps and being astringent, you can also use her for diarrhea. Make sure when you dry her flowering tops that she isn't about to die, as all you'll get is white fluff, and that's not so nice for tea! Her taste isn't bad, although I confess I mix her in with Red Clover and Rose in infusions, which are two herbs I often combine for menstrual cramps.
FYI: being a weed that you can find in lots of fields, feel free to forage away!
Oxeye Daisy. I mentioned Daisy when talking about Daisy Fleabane above, and yes this weed has many parts which are edible! Leaves and root can be thrown into the soup pot; leaves and flowers eaten raw in salads; root pickled. Some say it has a pungent taste, and I confess I'm not found of her "stinky" smell, which reminds me of the "pooey" smell of Valerian. I add both flowers and leaves to the soup pot and have yet to try pickling her root. The pungent smell makes me think of using her flowers and leaves in an herbal vinegar, which is something I have yet to try.
FYI: I've seen her growing on many a-lawn as an "ornamental," as well as wild in fields. Depends on the area, I suppose, because I don't always find her growing in every field I visit.
Vetch. Also called Hairy Vetch, I found this one growing in a Rose bush (she is a climbing plant), hence those leaves you see are of Rose, not Vetch. There is one set of her leaves on the LEFT and in the BACK of the picture, where you see two opposite, lance-like leaves (all similar in size) growing up the central stem (you can also look at this pic here). Being in the Legume family, she is often grown to help fix nitrogen for the soil and for fodder crop. Her flowers make a roadside nibble, and I've added some of her purple flowers (so pretty! just remove them from the stem first) to salads and to THIS FLAX CRACKER RECIPE.
I've also dried her and paired her half-half with dried lavender in sachets to put in your "unmentionables" drawer. This idea was told to me by Vetch herself, and if you understand plant spirit medicine and that plants do indeed communicate, then you can appreciate what a wonderful joy it was to discover such a beautiful use for her! I gave the sachets as gifts and they were well received :) You can find that recipe HERE.
Note that according to the PFAF Database, her leaves are said to be edible, however I've never eaten them or used them in anyway. Seems I will have to be poking my nose around and finding out what a fellow Vetch plant has to say on the matter ;)
Rose. I've mentioned Rose in a previous post, and foraged some petals just today. Notice that there are 3 different varieties in the photos above :) They all smell great, and I love eating the white petals fixed as a single layer on toast (add your fave nut butter, jam or spread, then place the petals in a single layer on top of the spread).
I wanted to mention HOW you should take off the petals. You see the central part in the 2nd picture, the part that looks like small cilia or hairs with a cream center surrounded by a ring of white? That part will turn into a Rose hip, or fruit, so if you yank the whole flower off the stem, it won't be able to do so. What you want to do is remove ONLY the petals, and gently. I cup my hand over a flower to enfold the petals and then gently use my finger to pull them off. The petals should all easily slip off into your hand. If they don't, then it means the flower isn't ready to give up her petals and you should wait for that particular flower---and move on to all the flowers are ready to give up their petals!
While some do collect Rose buds and use that for infusions (being higher in vitality and energy), I've never had an issue using only the petals in infusions or for any herbal recipe (such as for perfume, massage oil, toner or face cream).
Oh, I don't want to talk about too many plants at once, because I know it can create information overload, however there are still so many other plant friends that I have seen and would like to talk about! Suffice it to say that I saw Galinsoga (also called Gallant Soldiers) in leaf state; flowering Evening Primrose (she's a biennial); Sumac leaves, no drupes (or berries) yet; fairly large Yellow Dock plants (I love those spinach-tasting green leaves cooked!); and Lady's Thumb in leaf state.
I will mention one other plant that I have yet to have the pleasure of tasting, and that is:
Bladder Campion (pics below). She's a queer looking plant, which makes her easy to identify as she has this balloon shape which kind of looks like a bladder (I suppose). Her young leaves (BEFORE flowering) can be cooked and eaten like spinach. I'd add them to the soup pot, as some bitterness has been noted. After flowering, her leaves can be stringy and bitter, and blanching first is recommended to help with the bitterness, throwing out that water and then cooking her up a second time. I think her older leaves would be fine in pureed soups or even in green juices or smoothies, but I would have to try first. Interestingly, being high in saponins, her root can be used as a soap substitute.
To be honest, I've only seen her growing in one area (which was along a fence close to an alleyway) and her unique appearance made it easy to ID her in foraging guides.
I'll get back to some of those plants I merely mentioned in a future post. I'm also hoping to be able to share with you some of my plants that are slowly coming up in my balcony garden (Lamb's Quarter seems to be quite the rage in a majority of the pots!) and my experiences with my WILD community garden that was left to go to grass...not fun, removing grass! But there were some interesting weeds growing there, a-ha!
For now, sunshine, stay clean and bright, because the foraging days ahead will be burning on! :)
Summer is here! After a good spell of rain, the sunny weather has returned. And with it, many plant friends are making their appearance or growing bigger and stronger!
Wood Sorrel. This little one is easy to identify as she has 3 heart-shaped leaves and looks like clover. Her flower is white or yellow. She is high in oxalic acid, which means she's better to cook before consuming. HOWEVER spinach is also high in oxalic acid and we do add that to the salad bowl, hm? So yes, you can add some Wood Sorrel leaves and flowers to salads! Her taste is pleasantly lemony tart. In fact, if you happen to be gardening or are out and about and you're feeling thirsty, you can munch on a few leaves to quench your thirst.
I've made Wood Sorrel Lemonade in the past and I will probably make it again this summer. I'll share that recipe when I've gathered up a good bunch of leaves and have dried them 1st---so look for that recipe later on! :) For now, you can read more about her HERE. <--- FYI, this is an EXCELLENT site about wild weeds, with pics and their edible and medicinal value :)
Yellow Dock. I've spoken about Yellow (or Curly) Dock in a post before. Here is a good-sized plant. Note the dark green, curly leaves that are an identifying feature. Often there are red spots on the leaves, as she too is high in oxalic acid. Like spinach, she is a good source of iron and you definitely want to be picking her leaves and drying them for infusions, or using them fresh or dried and adding them to the soup or stew pot. I've juiced her leaves for green juices and added her leaves to the blender for green smoothies (you can strip off the leaves of the stems as you would for kale if you find the stems too fibrous OR steam the leaves first and then add to the blender). In the fall, those green seeds turn to brown and you can use them as a coffee substitute (delish!) or grind them down and use as flour in quick bread recipes (also delish!). More on that when we get to the fall season---for now, let us enjoy the summer!!! :)
Purple Loosestrife. She's considered an "invasive weed," being a plant that was introduced from Europe and went wild. The link I'm sharing where you can look at pics of her is from a site in Ontario, Canada. There are other pics of "invasive weeds"---which have edible and medicinal value on the site (NOT HOGWEED HOWEVER). Note that "weeds" = free edible food and medicine!! And the the word "invasive" means there is LOTS of that "weed," so you don't have to feel bad about collecting your fair share for food or medicine.
Loosestrife is considered an invasive weed in other areas, not just Ontario, FYI.
The leaves are edible and I juice them, add them to the blender for green smoothies and throw them into the soup pot. You can also make an infusion from the flowering tops for diarrhea, dysentery and heavy menstrual bleeding. Read more HERE.
Self-Heal. Also called called All-Heal, I've just gotten used to calling her by her latin name, Prunella. This is a TINY plant, so scooch down and look for purple flowers among the grass on lawns (although I have seen her growing in a clearing in the woods, tallest I've seen so far!). While the leaves are edible and can be added to salads or thrown into the soup pot, I always pick the flowers and 2 leaves right beside the flower and dry them for infusions. Prunella is called All-Heal as she is considered an alterative, which means she treats several conditions and is a general tonic for all body systems.
In TCM, she is considered a cold plant excellent for inflammatory conditions. She works primarily on the liver and gallbladder. You can even buy prunella mixed with honey (often sugar as well) in Asian markets. I like to use Prunella infusions to help flush the lymphatic system ---> great for detox, moving the lymph and helping with weight loss. I often add Prunella as a herb to assist others herbs in a formula.
There are a few other plants that I didn't take a pic of but that I noticed growing at work: Dame Rocket and Queen Anne's Lace. Dame Rocket is also called Sweet Rocket which has pink flowers and there's also Yellow Rocket with yellow flowers. They have a bitter taste and while both leaves and flowers can be added to salads, I use the leaves in soups and stews (dried or fresh) and add the fresh leaves to veggie green smoothies (like greens, cukes, tomatoes, etc. kinda like a V-8). Both rockets are in the cabbage family and you should know that her flowers have FOUR petals and LOOK like Phlox, BUT Phlox has FIVE flowers. Phlox flowers are edible (phlox paniculata), FYI, and you can add them to fruit salads. <---You can see pics of the flowers when you click on the links :)
I'll talk about Queen Anne's Lace in a future post as she in the carrot family and there are some look alikes that can be poisonous.
For now, I'll leave you to good weather and happy sun-shiney days...and Roses, lots of Roses! I got about 2 trays full in the dehydrator and the smell of Roses filling the air with her sweet scent was more than enough to put a smile on my face!!
I'm sure yours is happily smiling too, sunshine, so keep up that bright sunny energy, ya hear! :)
In my last post, I said I would share with you what I sowed in my balcony garden. But I think that will wait, as I went on another mini-foraging adventure!
I was off to dance class, when I suddenly felt pulled by some plants growing in a small disturbed area close to the street. I veered off the sidewalk and followed the pull of the plant. I didn't realize her name at first, but I recognized her. I nodded and suddenly was swept away in the world of plant friends.
There, growing beside some cement blocks, was of course Dandelion. I spotted some Vetch, but no purple edible flowers had bloomed. Those flowers, by the way, make a roadside nibble and I've dried them and paired them with Lavender in sachets. I'll take some pics of her later on when she's in flower :)
I continued to look about and noticed a large Burdock plant, a tiny Plantain plant, and some Red Clover leaves.
When it comes to Burdock, a lot of people can identify the large leaves because they look like Rhubarb. But it's really those sticky, velcro seeds that are the tell-tale sign that she is a Burdock plant. And guess what? Sure enough, I had a few balls sticking to my pant leg after hunching down to pick up several handfuls of large Violet leaves!
Who else was growing in this tiny abandoned area?
I spotted some Thistles and Sow Thistles. I've juiced both of them before, and then added that green juice to the blender with fruits to make a wild, delish green smoothie! The Thistle isn't that bitter, but Sow Thistles are, as bitter as Dandelion. They look like Dandelion too. I'll post more pics during the summer. If you do juice them, just a few large leaves will do ;)
There was also a large vine growing there, a Grape Vine in fact. The leaves are edible and if you've ever had Greek food, then you may have eaten Dolmades, which are stuffed vine leaves. In other words, you can parboil the leaves for 2-5 minutes to soften them, then use them as wrap "bread." Feel free to add whatever you want on those leaves before rolling them into a wrap: tuna salad, hummus, lentil pate, curried rice or whatever catches your fancy!
I've eaten the Grapes, rather sour, as a trail side nibble and also made jello with them. I'll talk more about that later in the fall, when the Grapes are ready to eat :)
Ah, did you notice that I didn't tell you the name of the plant that called me to this area? Why, when I went back the way I came and passed her again, it was then her name came to me: Goldenrod!! In one of the areas where I go foraging, which I've called Buckthorn Woods because there are so many Buckthorn trees, there are tons and tons of Goldenrod plants that flower in late August. The yellow flowers are a gorgeous late summer sight signifying that autumn is on its way. There are many uses for Goldenrod, by the way, and for now suffice it to say that the leaves are edible. I cook them and add them to soups, stews and in pates. While you can freeze the leaves for future use, I've never done so (having only so much room in the freezer), but I have dried them and then added them to the soup pot with delish results :)
Note that Goldenrod has been blamed for causing seasonal allergies, which is NOT true. You can read more about that and her edible/medicinal uses Here.
By the way, the species that grows in Canada is known as Solidago Canadensis.
Walking up to the street to the dance studio, I spotted two other friends: baby Lamb's Quarter growing close to the sidewalk (which I was tempted to take as she tastes like spinach, but growing so close to traffic, it's NOT recommended) and the tallest Toadflax/Butter 'n' Eggs that I've seen to date, growing right beside a hedge.
I have read about using Toadflax as a diuretic herb, yet when I tried making an infusion with her, my body was NOT interested at all. I have read to use the leaves before she flowers and it was true that I used the leaves WHILE she was in flower, so that might have been an issue. Truthfully, I am not called to her (or rather, she has not called to me), but perhaps others have a better relationship with her than I have. I didn't take a picture of that particular plant, but I did take a pic of some smaller Toadflax growing behind the local mall.
Finally, I spotted a Peppergrass plant. The picture isn't the best, so check out these pics and read more about her Here. The young seedpods are heart-shaped and can be dried and used as a pepper substitute. The leaves are edible and can be tossed into the soup pot or into salads.
Lastly, I'm sharing with you a touch of virtual scent: a few flowers of Rose! I spotted a few buds and even a few opened flowers among several Rose bushes. It was a delightful sight that warmed my heart :)
I love Rose for so many reasons:
Well, that's all for now, sunshine! Now that June is here and summer is around the corner, keep it light, keep it bright :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: