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! :)
Motherwort, Bladder Campion, Vervain, Turtlehead, Toadflax, Green Coneflower, Wild Carrot, Goldenrod & More
Buckle your seat belt, ladies and gents, because it's gonna be a bit of a long one! Pics too, scroll down to see now!!
I've been back-to-back foraging for several days now! First it was all rain, and now it's just all sun! While that's good news for foraging, after a while the plants start gettin' dried out---no good for anyone!
Let's start with The Day Before: I collected some Sow Thistles growing around my shed and snapped some pics of the plants on my balcony garden. Then, a return to Bellefield. I took some pics of some new plants, as well as some insect friends: Shy, Sleepy and Spritely. Ladybug was the shy one, Japanese Beetle was the sleepy one and Cricket was the lively, spritely one. Oh yes, indeedy!
He hopped onto the paper bag I was using to collect Red Clover, and stood there waiting for me to take his picture.
His whole energy kept saying, "Well, are you going to take a picture of me? Me?! C'mon now!"
He was giving me his side angle. Then he turned to look at the camera squarely, to give me his front view. Through the camera lens it seemed we were face-to-face! Hm, a zen master in disguise, perhaps?!
I was feeling tired, detoxing from being on the juice fast. The energy of the field had shifted as well, it wasn't like the other day when I had come. The sky was overcast and I encountered a young boy walking his dog.
I didn't get any Yarrow or more St John's wort (as I had last time around), but I did find a few Prunella (Self-Heal) plants, as well some Motherwort. This time when I left, I took the path that led to the street, and growing at the edge of the field, there she was: Motherwort! I had brought my clippers with me, although I wished I had a better pair of gloves because Motherwort has prickly bits!
Yep, and that was the first thing I did after leaving Bellefield: get a thick pair of gloves ;)
I then went behind the mall, just to pass by, and---what a find! Someone's crabapple tree had a branch that had bent and there were apples right there for the pickin'! I was sure the people who owned the tree had noticed and would be cutting down the branch soon enough. Or not. Not everyone is into the sourness of crabapples, but I tell ya, even green crabapples can be turned into jelly. Or juiced. They kind of remind me of Granny Smith apples. Low in sugar, and that sourness helps to destagnate the liver.
Meantime, I bit into an apple and it was so good, because I needed a lil boost from fastin'! Nope, just chewed the apple and got the juice, then spit out (gross, yes I know), the pulp. Yep, they were green, tart crabapples all right. Yummy to my taste buds :)
I was able to collect 3 shopping bags full of apples!!
It was so much fun, too, that I thought I might go and ring the neighbor and ask if I could pick some apples from their tree, even offer them some money if need be. Heck, it was just part of the branch, and I was loaded with fruit! Made me envy all those who have fruit trees! Why, just one fruit, if she produced well, and a family could be set with apples for quite a while. Mmm, all the recipes one can do with apples. Apple juice, apple cider, applesauce, apple pie, dried apple bits to put into cereal and oatmeal, apple muffins, apple cake...
And on to Yesterday: I went to a new field, Dandyfield. I'm calling it Dandyfield because there are NO DANDELIONS growing in this field. Just like we think Iceland is cold or Greenland is hot, the reverse is actually true!
This field is actually an abandoned lot, but there are plenty plants 'round, that's for sure. The earth is rather gravelly, which might explain why there aren't any dandelions, although I did spot a few Wild Lettuce plants.
There were many Milkweed plants growing, many were starting to form their pods. I took several small ones and even some follicles (or seed pods).
I could feel the Jing, the essence, in those little guys!
More Mugwort. I see her growing everywhere, even in my pot on my balcony. She's a keeper, what can I say :)
Mullein, growing right in the pavement. Small baby ones, too. I think there were only 3 plants so I didn't bother them.
Sumac. LOTS of Sumac! They grow in colonies, apparently. Oh yeah, there was a whole family of them. I licked the Sumac to see if they were ready to harvest, but no, not just yet. They are a dark wine color, but they need to mature just a little bit more. Then it'll be lemonade time ;) Yes, she's one of the spices used in Za'atar.
Goldenrod. Bright yellow-colored flowers, they are just starting to flower. The time to get them is NOW, because soon the bugs will be all over 'em. Many uses: infused in oil as a muscle reliever; in tea she's helpful for urinary issues.
New England Aster. Pretty flower, the root is used in TCM for lung issues.
Chicory. A couple of plants, and their flowers were almost spent. Root roasted and ground as a coffee substitute.
Tons of this white plant, which I think might be Sweet White Clover.
If she is Clover Honey, she has a vanilla-esque taste, so she can be dried for tea or her seeds can be ground and used for flavoring, and young leaves before she flowers can be used as a pot herb, according to Green Deane. I bet she'd make a nice potpourri, too. Guess I'll be going back to check her out. And there were tons and tons of her in this dandelion-less field!
Bladder Campion. Interesting flower because of her balloon-shaped calyx. Root used in TCM for lung issues. Leaves also edible as a pot herb (boil for 10 minutes, then eat).
Queen Anne's Lace or Wild Carrot. Big white lacey flowers having a black center dot means that she's in her 2nd year, as Queen A is a biennial. You can eat her leaves, tempura her flowers, and get her root in the first year in the fall. Tastes like: wild carrot! Seeds taste like caraway. A sweetie, for sure :)
There were several trees, all of which have ripening fruits that will be up for the picking come August and September: Mountain Ash/Rowan Berries, Crabapples and I think a wild plum, no, a wild currant tree (to verify). I know the fruit tasted like a plum, although the tree told me, "The fruit ain't ready yet, sweetie." She was right :0
I then went to explore the woods nearby. Yep, I knew there were mosquitoes, so I was wearing pants, a long sleeved sweater and had brought my homemade insect repellent along: equal parts mugwort tea and apple cider vinegar (2 cups each I used) + 10 drops each essential oils of lemon, fir, eucalyptus, lavender, spearmint, rosemary and a few drops of cedar.
I spotted Chicory right away (leaves and flowers are edible, but bitter, known as I said as a coffee substitute) and took a few snapshots, but that was it.
The mosquitoes were fierce; they were out for blood, my blood! My insect repellent worked to ward them off for maybe 5 minutes and I had to keep moving. There was no way I was going to be staying here for long!
I managed to collect some Plantain leaves and some Red Clover leaves. As I had come here a few times last year, I was looking for Prunella and found but a few flowers. Looking around, I spotted a Crabapple tree and I think there was an Elderberry bush. Elderberry is great to make elderberry syrup for coughs, colds and sore throats. But she tastes so great, you can use "just because" :)
I quickly hurried along another path where, I remembered, Prunella had been growing last year. Sure enough, there were many violet sweeties growing there. I followed them to the point where I was almost alongside the road, and am happy to say that I collected quite a few! Once dried, she makes a very nice tea. Just add some stevia and some milk and you're set. Great to move the lymph in the body and help with weight loss. WIN!
I saw some familiar faces: Wild Parsnip, Cow Parsnip and eek---Baneberries, aka, Doll's Eye.
I still remember my encounter with her last year. There I was, all innocent-like, romping around with my field manual looking for "gold" in the forest. All seemed so inspiring, and friendly (except the mosquitoes). And then, there she was. And this feeling came over me. A shiver running up my spine, a cold feeling suddenly. Creepy energy oozed from those white berries with the dots that look like doll's eyes. Just look at that blood red stem that makes you think of blood...Blood and porcelain doll eyes in haunted movies. Stay away, stay far away!
Yes, she is poisonous. And yep, I left her well, well alone, all right!
Plants in the woods are not the same as those that grow in fields. I mean, they can be, but even the Red Clover and Prunella I found were growing more in clearings than in the denser, shadier areas created by the trees. So you have to watch out. Be mindful, know what you're doing. But then, you're only supposed to forage what you know for sure what is, is @ 100%. Wordy sentence? Eck, you get my meaning ;)
Before heading back home, I went behind the mall and guess what new plant I found? Toadflax! Also called Butter-and-Eggs. Pretty flower, good for dropsy (old word for edema). I collected several plants to repot and study them more at home! Got some Sow Thistle leaves and some rose petals, even a few buds. So rare I take buds, but the flowers have all made way to rose hips now. Yep, they are all in their green-colored stage, but I spotted one or two starting to turn red. You know what that means? Between the golden yellow of Goldenrod and the red of the Rose Hip, fall is on its way!
I know, I can't believe it's already mid-summer either :)
And on to Today: Back to Bellefield. Collected more Red Clover, lots of sweet-smelling White and Pink (yes, pink!) Yarrow in flower, bitter Motherwort in flower, and a bit of muggie (Mugwort).
NEW plants: Blue Vervain! She is flowering now, so it's the right time to get her special medicine :) She grows where there's water, which explains why I've never encountered her before. Her seeds can be ground like four and leaves (or the flowering tops) used for tea. I also got White Vervain. Here's what Susan Weed had to say about Blue Vervain:
"Use the tincture of fresh vervain flowers, 20-40 drops in water, before bed and as needed, to strengthen the nerves, relieve insomnia, dispel depression, treat nervous exhaustion, and moderate headaches, including migraines. (Vervain was a favored plant for the Maiden's altar and the moon lodge, where she was used to promote the onset of the menstrual flow, ease cramps, reduce flooding, and quicken desire.)"
A keeper for sure :)
Turtlehead. Very unique and pretty plant! She makes a bitter tea, but bitter = good for gallbladder and liver issues.
Green-headed Coneflower. Very tall, she was growing beside the creek. Pretty yellow flowers on a GREEN cone in the center with 3-parted leaves. So lovely.
Well, I think all plants are lovely :)
I go around telling each plant how beautiful she is, but then, as I've confessed on more than once occasion to many plants, I think each and every one of them is unique. And not just every "species," but every single plant is special. Even though all red clover plants or dandelion look the same, for example, each plant, every single of them, is...for lack of a better word, unique.
Finally, also identified 2 plants that were growing at work that I had brought home to study better: one is Loosestrife, helpful for IBS apparently, and another is Bellflower. Bellflower has edible flowers and her root tastes like parsnip, would you believe!
Oh, yes. All this foraging has made me rethink what I think of food. We have food that is sold in the grocery stores and farmer's markets, but who has gone and deemed such food as edible. For example, tomatoes were grown as ornamentals because people were wary of their solanine content. Now tomato sauce in pasta and pizza is so commonplace. No tomatoes in your household? You've got to be kidding me!
Foraging has made me realize that there is a whole world of other plants that we can be eating! It has made me rethink what we think of as food and what we don't. It has made me more conscious of the food that I put on my plate, and the food that I put in my mouth and feed my body. And my soul.
With all the talk of toxins in the environment and plant-strong nutrition, I see more and more that what is needed is to return to the land, to our roots. What is needed to counteract the damage that has been done and continues to assault our bodies is to grow our own food and herbs, and to eat "superfoods" which are right below our feet and in our gardens as "wild edibles." Indeed, we should relabel them as Wild Superfoods. They'll be the kinds and queens ruling in my garden, I can tell ya ;)
On that note, I'll be signing off and seeing ya next time, sunshine :)
Ps. Hover mouse over pics to view description.
Curiosity Got The Cat: