Wow, the weather has been absolutely lovely, sunny almost all the time. The caveat, of course, is that no rain means plants are dry and need to be watered daily, especially the Tomatoes and Cukes!
Actually, I might have to wrench up the Cuke plants. I sprayed the leaves the other day with water, dish soap and Tansy tincture. The bugs are furious, all over the leaves, creeping into the flowers too :( I checked today and it was hard to tell whether they were dead bugs on the leaves or whether even more bugs had flourished, especially as the temperature was hot and humid at 32C, not counting the humidity factor, might've been higher than that.
I noticed 3 small Cukes growing, so I'll wait and see if they grow. Hoping to spray the leaves again tomorrow. If the Cukes don't come in, I'm thinking about planting some Radishes. They have a short growth time, about 30 days, so I'd be able to get in 2 harvests if the weather permits. To be seen...
SO, blah-blahing aside about the garden woes, today was another foraging day. YAY!
I went to Bellefield with the purpose of collecting Goldenrod, Queen Anne's Lace and Red Clover --- unlike yesterday, which was more of a let's-see-what-fun-friends-there-are-to-discover adventure.
I arrived at the field mid-afternoon and noticed a new friend I hadn't seen since last summer: Chicory! Usually Chicory is a tall plant, but since they mow the lawn here periodically, she was a tiny thing almost hugging the earth floor.
On arriving at the field, I immediately started collecting some Queen A's flower heads.
Then I spotted a tall bunch of Goldenrod growing together and moseyed on over there.
Just like yesterday, Thistles were growing right in front of the Goldenrod, blocking my way!!
And unlike yesterday, I wasn't wearing pants and closed shoes, but shorts and sandals.
I had to maneuver carefully to get close to them.
Pollinator attractors, you say? My God, yes! Bees, wasps, beetles and tons of tiny black bugs were circulating over the flower heads.
Although it was still a bit early, with many flowers that had yet to fully bloom, I collected several flowering tops nevertheless. When I got home later, I made sure to open the paper bag and let the bugs find their way out ;) I checked my backpack, as several critters were roaming around in there....
I went back to collecting more Queen A flowers, and then started to bend down to collect the Red Clover blossoms.
It was HOT.
So hot that sweat was rolling down my face as I hunched over to pick the flowers.
I realized I had still been wearing my backpack, which was generating more heat than my body needed.
Taking it off, I was a bit cooler, although when I had the opportunity to be in some shade, I welcomed it wholeheartedly!
The right side of the field had healthier Red Clover plants compared to the left side. How come? The left sided ones were in full sun, with no shade plants to offer shade, whereas the right sided ones had tall plants that offered some shade protection. Big difference when you saw the left sided plants all burned up by the sun :( Not too much, not too little, just right :)
Still, after collecting a good deal on the right side of the field, I went over to the left and managed to find a good number of blossoms worth picking. Indeed, although most of the flowers were small, the harvest was most bountiful: try 6 dehydrator trays full!
It being so hot, I snapped a few pics and was about to go when I decided to take some flowering tops of Blue Vervain. Really, the root is what's most prized with her, but the tops can also be used as a suitable tea. What for, you ask?
Well, she has many different uses, and I'm planning on using her as an anti-spasmodic during my period for any cramps. She's also useful as a nervine, helpful with insomnia, headaches and migraines. I didn't know that her leaves were edible (cook first) or that her flowers are also edible!! I'll try them tomorrow :)
So fun and interesting to discover and learn new things every day :)
And speaking of which, when it comes to Goldenrod, she has quite the health benefits profile. Excellent for bladder/kidney issues such as Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), cystitis, kidney stones and nephritis--- and she's a diuretic :)
She's high in saponins and rutin (good for circulation/capillary health), is antioxidant, and she's a good one to use against....Candida!
Yep, she's both anti-fungal and anthelmintic, as well as astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory and styptic. You can see why she's often added to infused oils to help with skin issues, but drinking an infusion or having her as a tincture are other ways to get in her health benefits too :)
Tired and hot, I walked along the path towards the street. I stopped to hover and pick some Red Clover leaves and I noticed how these leaves called to me whereas the others hadn't. What made them so different?
These plants received more shade than the others and their leaves, while not having the same vibrancy as the ones at Buckthorn Woods, were nevertheless looking vibrantly green. While some add the leaves to tea with the flowers, I like to dry them and add them to the soup pot during the colder months.
I stopped to notice Tansy, now drooping and falling over, now with flowers starting to be spent. I then walked along the street, close to the field that was fenced in, and nodded to Motherwort as I passed by. I stopped to take a pic of the water gushing gently close to the field, then was about to pop onto my bike, when I suddenly spotted Lamb's Q. I grabbed some leaves, took a pic of a new plant right close to where I parked my bike, and had a look-see around.
Oh ho, lookee here, a Mallow plant! This one looked like an escaped Zebrina variety, one that could be found at the flower market. Her leaves were too small even for a nibble, as I mentioned, the lawn gets mowed every so often.
At home, I made a Queen Anne's Lace sun tea:
---> stuff flowers into a 1-liter mason jar. Pour boiling water to cover, then let steep 15-30 minutes. Strain. Sweeten with stevia.
This was the first time I tried Queen A as a sun tea. In the past, I dried her flowers and tried her that way. Key word being tried, as both dried or fresh, I'm not too keen on the carroty taste. I could see the liquid being used as stock for a soup or stew, however :)
After making sure all bugs had left the flowers, I divested a few leaves from Goldenrod, then stuffed the bouquets into vases to dry.
All in all, a good harvest day, with much good company and plenty of sunshine. And on that note, sunshine, I'll catch ya on the next adventure. Stay bright, ya here :)
PS. Enjoy the pics :)
Very exciting indeed! I got some books of plants that specifically grow in my area! 4 of them to be exact :0 They were a small investment, about $30 each, and I suppose I could have gotten them from the library, but what would fun would that be? I need guide books to take with me while I'm out in the field! I got one book on trees and plants that grow in the woods, another on plants that grow in wetlands, swamps and by the river, and the last 2 are on plants that grow in the city. I just got them yesterday and I've perused the ones in the city and just flipped through the other two. I'm excited about the one in the woods the most, I suppose, because I'd really like to be able to identify trees, what with me living in Canada and all---land of the trees!! Plus trees have good medicine and tasty berries :)
Rain has come again, which meant I was itching to go foraging but was unable to. Yesterday I collected some Sow Thistles and they were still wet. That's OK, though, because if you are foraging to eat plants, it doesn't matter. Like the Sow Thistles. I got them to use as juice. Yep, even those little baby leaves have some bitter kick to them, kinda like dandelion. But I tell ya, juice those big leaves with some fruits, and you got yourself some nice green juices :) Free food = beats buying kale and lettuce at the health food store, even if they are around $1 - $2 a head, what with it being the summer season. Plus, you can freeze those Sow Thistles for later use, throw them in soups when the weather turns cool again. Lovin' the Sow Thistles :)
Now that I have heavy-duty gloves, I might just go and try some Bull Thistles. Have to remove the spines and be careful of the prickles when I chop her up, but I'd like to try her in a juice. And there are some growing in Bellefield...if this rain would just let up already! Check this LINK out about her edibility: flower buds edible roasted, seeds ground are edible, root edible and high in inulin and leaves too are edible (sans spines). COOL!!
Yeesh. I went for the fridge that has a 2 door french-styled model and the fridge section is larger than the freezer one. Oh no, I was thinking at the time, I don't freeze anything! Everything is fresh! Exclamation points for emphasis here, but I'm also being sarcastic. At that point in time, it was true that I wasn't freezing food. But now that I'm into foraging, I'll be lucky if I can barely get anything in there ;)
Went for a walk along a bike path which is right beside a lake. I knew there were plants growing there but I didn't think to go and really take a look-see, silly me. I mean, WOWee, just guess what old friends were growing along there?
OK, before I tell ya, they usually say that plants that grow along the water are different than plants that grow in, say, the woods, or your backyard. Pfff, that rule did NOT seem to apply here, as here are some of the plants growing along the bike path/water:
Lady's Thumb is a new plant that I've found this year. She tastes like a mild green (she's in the buckwheat family) and both her leaves and flowers are edible! I found her growing in one of my containers, then saw several plants growing in an alleyway, and then again by the water. I suppose you could say she's been trying to get my attention! You can add her to your salads, soups and stews. She's very recognizable by her small cluster of flowers at the top (pink, but sometimes they are faded and then there is one kind that has white flowers) and this ink blot on her leaves that some claim looks like a lady's thumb. She also has some medicinal properties, including being a vermifuge (dry and use as tea). I think I'm going to juice her and add her to some smoothies!! Not too much, though, because she has oxalic acid (cooking neutralizes it so no worries there).
It was true that there were several plants that I didn't recognize, and that got me excited because it means I'm going to be going back there to take pics and make new friends! Yes, it's just so nice discovering new plant allies, but also that there is tons of FREE food and medicine around :)
Speaking of being around, since rain is around, it's a good time to do research on plants.
Check out this link on the edibility of Blue Vervain: seeds edible (but slightly bitter), leaves good in salad, soups and stews (probably throw them in a smoothie or green juice, too), root edible, flowers pretty up a salad. Plus she has tons of medicinal properties: being astringent, she is good to help quell diarrhea and heavy periods, and she's also useful as an emmenagogue and for hot flashes.
She's really known as being a nervine and for being fabulous at easing neck tension. You can read all about it in this excellent post from Anima Center HERE.
Nope, I've never seen her growing out in the wild (although she is purported to grow as such), but she is growing in one my large containers! She's a beut[y], what with her pink flowers and all. And she's edible! All parts, too: root, leaf, flower on salads. Can't wait to try her licorice-like root! Supposed to be diuretic, plus she has a few other medicinal properties. You get her seeds from Richters, if you're interested.
I've never mentioned Black Medic before, but she grows prolifically around here. You know you have her growing on your lawn because her small cluster of yellow flowers soon turns to black seeds. She's in the same family as alfalfa, although there have been reservations about eating her, because her seeds and leaves contain L-canavanine.
I've throw black medic leaves in salads. Not much taste, similar to alfalfa. The seeds can be ground and used as flour, according to my new-found book on herbs, and I plan on collecting some seeds once there's been some drier weather. Cooking is supposed to neutralize the l-canavanine in the leaves, so I guess I'll be adding that to my soup cauldron :)
Queen Anne's Lace/Wild Carrot
Yep, just like her name says, her root tastes like carrot. She's a biennial, so you want to get her root in the first year in the fall, or in the springtime. In the first year she's all leaves, but whether in the 1st or 2nd year, you can use her leaves raw, juiced or thrown in soups and stews. I'm not partial to the leaf stem, so I glide my forefinger and thumb along the stem to remove the leaves and just use the leaves.
Flowers are edible, but I'm not much partial to them either and you want to make sure you eat just the flower and not any of the bitter green stem; even cooked, it's not that great-tasting. You can dip the flowers in a tempura batter, fry and eat them that way, OR consider making a jelly out of them by 1st making a tea with the flowers. I've read using fresh flowers but I prefer making infusions instead, so I would dry the flowers first, pack them into a mason jar then add boiling water to the top. Lid and screw cap on, let sit 4-8 hrs, then strain out liquid and now use this liquid as you would in any jelly recipe (you know, add in pectin and a sweetener)! Or you could even try making jello with the tea...Oh, my! I've got to try that :)
Bellefield and Dandyfield, here I come!!
FYI: She looks like Poison Hemlock, which has a smooth, hairless green stem often streaked with red/purple. She smells stinky, too. In contrast, Wild Carrot has a HAIRY stem, smells carroty and since she often grows in bunches, many of them have a black/dark purple "dot" (a small flower) in the center of their white flowers.
Alrighty, I suppose that's enough info on the green allies for now. Don't wanta overload ya with info! Yes, that's right, these beauties are green allies that offer us beautiful gems of friendship, companionship, medicine and even food! No wonder so many folks adore them and pay homage to them in their gardens...
And then there's some of us who have fallen in love and go out "into the wild" to frolic about and discover hidden treasure.
Which we gladly share with others :))
Stay blissful, sunshine :)
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: