Mid-may is technically late spring, although the cool weather has retarded the growth of plants at the moment. Still, old friends are slowly making their way to the surface, to rise and shine and offer up their bounty again!
There have been a few days with brilliant sun, and one day I took the opportunity to "forage" ---aka "weed"--- my neighbor's garden!
What manner of goodies, or shall I say plant friends, did I find?
Violets. I mentioned in my last post that you can infuse the flowers in honey, although I am not one who does that. Instead, I love to add the mucilaginous leaves to salads, soups, smoothies and stews. Because of that slippery feel to the leaves, I DON'T use them in green juices. I like to add the leaves either fresh or dried to soups and stews and use fresh leaves in smoothies. I also dry the leaves and flowers and then add a tiny bit to herbal infusions, especially infusions that are bitter or astringent (e.g. horsetail infusion). Adding a touch of mucilaginous herbs is HIGHLY recommended in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as it helps to protect tender mucous membranes and helps to alleviate the body from getting too dried out (in TCM speak, it helps to protect the yin).
Gardening-wise, Violets are VERY easy to grow and they make one of the BEST plants to grow in the shade!! I have found leaves as huge as my palm when I've found Violets hiding among some other plants and also along a forest trail. Definitely consider planting some Violets, Pansies or Heart's-ease if you have a shady patch in your garden :)
Creeping Charlie. Gardening-wise, if you have a patch of empty earth, consider planting this creeper. That's right, Charlie is a real creeper and will creep all over that bare earth in no time! Being in the mint family, as I mentioned in the last post, you can add the flowers and leaves to soups, stews, salads and even smoothies. I also mentioned that she has a particular taste (<-don't mind me, I call all plants "her" in reference to the divine Mother Earth as opposed to calling a plant an object "it") which is rather astringent. Thrown into a smoothie with fruits or into a soup or stew, trust me when I say you won't even taste her. For soups and stews, may I recommend that you puree them and add in some sweet veggies like carrots, beets and potatoes. It's my go-to trick for adding bitter herbs to a big pot, cooking everything up and then pureeing. Once you do that, no one will have a clue what goodness is in that puree!!
Dandelion. Speaking of which, Dandelion is a good one to add to soups and stews and pureeing makes all the difference! I add the greens fresh or dried to soups and stews. I like to juice the greens with some other less bitter greens like kale or chard, then take this green juice and blend it up in the blender with some sweet fruit like mangoes or some veggies such as carrots and tomatoes. Again, the taste of that sweet fruit or veggie masks any bitter taste from the greens!! Oh and if you were wondering why on earth we should be eating dandy greens: because they are exceptionally good for your liver and are high in Vitamin C and many minerals. Dandy greens are FREE FOOD...and your neighbors will be more than happy to let you weed their garden for free!! Free food for you and a happy liver---win, win!! Remember that you can dry the leaves, store them in a paper bag and then use them during the colder months :)
Plantain. Really, perhaps we should just call her Plantago, because when we say plantain people think of that fruit that looks like a banana. Plantago has small leaves which are cooling and likes compacted soil. Where there's one, there's more! Leaves are quite small at this point, but they are perfect to add to salads because they are tender---they toughen as they age. Fresh or dried, add them to soups and stews, and add the fresh leaves to smoothies and green juices. I also add them to infusions for their healing and cooling properties. They are a green which is recommended to help those dealing with digestive inflammation, such as Crohn's, colitis, IBS, etc. You can even take the dried leaves, grind them to a powder and then pack them into empty capsules (you can buy the capsules online or sometimes at health food stores).
Forget-me-not. These blue flowers are such a pretty addition to the garden, but they do spread and can be rather invasive. The flowers don't have much taste, but they do pretty up a salad and make an OK garden nibble. I had a flower or two while I was perusing the garden :)
Malva or Mallow. This wild one is in the malvaceae family and all plants have a soothing, mucilaginous property that is sought after by those with inflamed intestines. She's another one that you can dry ALL parts of her and use her to help offset the drying effect of bitter and astringent herbs. You can find her growing in the wild and she's often sold at flower markets. Some of them have pretty striped flowers while others are solid colors, like solid pink or purple.
I like adding the leaves fresh or dried to soups and stews, and adding the fresh leaves to smoothies or chopped up in salads. Some of the leaves can be as huge as your palm and make for excellent leafy green wraps!! That'll be later in the season, though, because at this point they are still small and need to grow.
I transplanted 2 of them into a shady area of a little plot of land close to my house and I will see how they fare in the shade.
Tulips. Tulip petals are edible, yes! They make for tasty additions to salads and I like to stuff them with pate. The inner part is NOT edible and you do NOT want to eat flowers (any flower) from the flower shop. No pesticides or herbicides, please! Tulips do come in different colors and that means each color has a different taste I rather fancy the red and yellow ones, which are reminiscent of bell peppers. The white ones aren't bad tasting and the pink one I tried wasn't to my liking. I spotted an orange on on the way to work today but I'd have if I could have a nibble to see what that one tastes like! See which ones tickle your taste buds!!
Garlic Mustard. I spotted a plant the other day and have yet to have a peek-see behind the mall, where I found a big patch last year. Some people say the leaves are less bitter BEFORE they go into flower and I do tend to agree. HOWEVER, if you are adding them fresh or dried to soups and stews, you won't notice the difference in taste. Some do add the leaves to salads and some add them to herbal vinegars. You can also dry the leaves and then grind them to a powder and use as a garlic powder substitute. This plant does have a window of time where you can pick her, FYI. Generally, by June she's all dried up with the heat, so befriend her now while she's around :)
Hostas. Yes, these plants which many plant for their ornamental and hardy nature, are edible! They are in the same family as asparagus and are quite tasty! When young and furled like in the photo, they are called hostons. At this stage and when the leaves are growing in, they are the best tasting. I add them fresh to soups and stews. I've also juiced them with veggies, but prefer them cooked. When they are older, the leaves toughen up and they get holey with snail bites. I've still juiced them and have even added some of the bigger leaves (cooked) to pate recipes and have found them to be a bit more on the bitter side, but still tasty. There are different varieties but they are all edible! Knowing this, you can plant them in your garden and have FREE FOOD all season long! The flowers are also edible, although not much in the way of taste, and I've added them to salads to pretty them up.
Strawberry Leaves. The white flowers are out! And yes, the leaves are edible! I add them at any stage to salads, soups and smoothies. I also dry them, store them in paper bags and then add them to soup recipes as "greens" during the colder months. They do have an astringent property about them and you can dry the leaves, make an infusion and drink to help with diarrhea. Blackberry leaves in an infusion, FYI, make a much better medicine for diarrhea.
As I write this post today, I know there are other plant friends that I am sure I will talk about in future posts. Friends like Creeping Bellflower, Lamb's Quarter and Sow Thistles --- all of which have leaves to add to the soup pot, juicer or blender! And then there's Red and White Clover...and perhaps some Yarrow...ah, but such encounters will have to be seen!
Enjoy the good weather while it's here, sunshine, and keep burning that light steady on :)
Oh happy mother's day!
It's mid-may now and the Dandelions are in bloom, beautiful, bright, yellow bursts of color covering green lawns! While some people make good use of the flowers by making Dandelion wine or steeping them in honey, I prefer to start gathering up the leaves. The energy at this point is concentrated in the flowers, but the leaves are still highly nutritious and I add them to my smoothies, juices and soup recipes. When the leaves are young they aren't that bitter, so a good handful or two can be added to most recipes. When the leaves are older, 2-4 large leaves is all you'll need! You can also add the smaller leaves to salads for a touch of bitter goodness as well :)
Besides Dandy friends, I found several other lovelies peeping up from the lawn at work. The time to collect Violet flowers is NOW, and while I've seen white ones on my neighbor's lawns, the ones at work were all purple. I gathered up some flowers as well leaves, although the leaves are still quite small at this stage. Again, like with Dandelion, you can steep the flowers in honey for the cold and flu season, which will help with sore throats, or dry them and use them as tea or put them with lavender to make smelly sachets for the closet. I use the leaves in soups and smoothies. They have a mucilaginous quality which is soothing for inflamed intestines. They are slightly laxative, but most greens have that cleansing effect, so nothing much to worry about. Add a handful or two of fresh leaves to smoothies. I like to also dry the leaves and then add them to soups come the colder months.
ill-over-ivy, also called Creeping Charlie, was another viable weed I spotted. She makes a good cover crop and the purple flowers are a pretty sight to be seen! She's also medicinal and being in the mint family, she has what I call an "antiseptic" taste. I personally prefer to add her fresh or dried to soups, but many add her to salads. Juicing or adding her to smoothies are two other options.
Red Clover was another one I noticed, however I didn't pick up any of those chevron-stained leaves as they were all too small. I did pick up a tiny bunch of Strawberry leaves, as well as a small bunch of Yellow Dock leaves, both of which I will dry and add to soups in future months. These were both plants that I planted last year in the "garden," a sandy plot of earth which did not do very well. Weeds, however, are finding themselves a nice home, and I'm happy to report that the many Queen Anne's Lace seeds I planted have popped forth. While she might look like parsley, she's a Queen A alright ;)
I found a few baby Plantain leaves, not much more than a nibble, but I do so hope they will have a chance to grow into bigger leaves (what with the lawnmower making its appearance every now and again, what's a forager to do but to make do between cuttings!). I also spotted what I believe is a St. John's Wort plant. I looked briefly, but I would have to verify if there are holes in the leaves. If yellow flowers pop up by June, then that'll make a positive ID for sure!
In the front yard, the Periwinkle plants had purple flowers that were twinkling at me while the one lone Tulip plant had already lost its flowers, now scattered on the ground. You can add a few Periwinkle flowers to pretty up your spring salad :)
Another spring flower that I noticed growing close to the mall and what I thought was Dandelion was really...Coltsfoot! Every year I notice those yellow flowers, which are in bloom for about 2 weeks, and yet every year I never collect any. Last year I decided to collect some "just in case," and wouldn't you know, I still have the small bunch from last year! I suppose I could always collect some and ask my herby friends if they have need of any...Oh, why yes, didn't I mention? My herb teacher will be in town this summer and we'll be going on weed walks once a month! The 1st one is happening in 2 weeks, at the end of May, and I can't wait to reacquaint with old friends and discover new ones!
Speaking of which, since Bellefield and Appley-Blossom field got totaled, I'm going to have to go further out and visit a new place in order to find Red Clover and other edible and medicinal goodies. That means I'm seeing a bit more biking in my future this summer!! Will also be nice to revisit Buckthorn Woods and see what friends are waiting to say hello over there!
To new foraging adventures, surely, sunshine! Stay bright now, ya hear, cuz there's lots more fairy memories to be had :)
One Backyard: Edible & Medicinal Clovers,Dock, Fleabane, Hawkweed, Plantain, Prunella, Sorrel, Strawberry Leaf & Violets --- Clover Perfume, Massage Oil, Herbal Vinegar & Sorrel Lemonade Recipes
When you see a lawn, do you think, oh that's someone's backyard, just some grass there? Or do you look closer and see a plethora of plants, waiting to share their energy/food and medicine?
So here are some pics I took at work. See the variety of living plants in just a small plot of land :) Here we go:
White Clover, triofolium repens. Gather the blossoms on a dry day when there hasn't been any rain. You can make a standard infusion with them, although she isn't as medicinal as Red Clover (useful to help with menstrual cramps). Instead, where she shines is in her scent:
To Make White Clover Perfume:
---> Place the flowers slightly packed into a small mason jar (250ml/1cup or 500ml/2 cups works just fine). Add oil to cover the flowers (olive oil or grape seed oil is fine), then use a thin bamboo skewer or the handle of a wooden spoon to make sure flowers are coated. Add more oil to the top of the jar, put on lid and screw cap and let sit in the cupboard for six weeks. Strain out oil by placing a coffee filter into a sieve to catch any tiny pieces. If you like and there are still flowers around, you can make this perfume oil have a stronger scent by repeating the process: add fresh flowers to a mason jar + your infused oil. Cap off with additional olive/grape seed oil to the top, then wait another six weeks. Place the oil into small vials with a roll on (a small sieve can help get the oil in the bottle, as can a pipette), then label and use for yourself or give as gifts. Optionally, you can add in a few essential oils of your choice that you think might work nicely with the delicate scent of White Clover (vanilla is one that comes to mind :) ). Enjoy!!
If you're wondering if I have some White Clover oil infusing right now, the answer is...YEP! I've used this same simple technique of infusing one flower into oil with Lavender and Rose petals...I love the delicate scent and so have others :)
Too much work for all that?? I hear ya. Better yet, just pluck the blossoms and add to the top of salads to make 'em pretty. Smell nice, taste is OK too :)
Good ol' Dandelion, taraxacum officianalis. What do you do with the leaves? Yep, I juice 'em! I replace about 1/4 of my other greens with Dandelions, add them to the juicer with some apples or melon and I'm good to go in the morning! They're chock full of minerals, vitamins, chlorophyll, and they've got that magic I'm-so-hardy appeal that's sure to be shared with you too :)
I add the leaves, fresh or dried, to soups and stews, and I use the dried leaves to make a wild green powder, which you can then add to smoothies and baked goods for extra nutrition. Even better, add the powder with some other greens that you've dried and powdered and make your own wild greens protein powder. Sure, feel free to add in hemp, rice protein, pea protein, etc. to the green powder.
Oh, yeah, to turn the leaves from dried to a powder? Best to use a high speed blender. Works every time. Then store the powder in a glass air tight container. A mason jar works fine too :)
Wood Sorrel, oxalis stricta (note that there are other varieties). The flowers have come up yet in this photo, but they will and they'll be yellow. How to use? Not being a stem kinda gal, I remove the leaves and toss into the soup or stew pot. Note the word oxalis, as she does contain oxalic crystals which can irritate some people. Cooking neutralizes them, however.
Since she tastes kind of on the lemony side of things, think LEMONADE.
To Make Wood Sorrel Lemonade:
--->Get a bunch of Wood Sorrel, with flowers or without and let them dry. Then make a standard 2 cup infusion. Strain and add in 2 cups water, plus the juice of 1 or 2 lemons, as you prefer. Add stevia to taste, if desired. Great served cold on a hot summer's day.
Oh yeah, and if you're ever out and about and feeling parched, munching on a few leaves helps to quench your thirst :) Good ol' common garden Sorrel :)
Wild Strawberry, fragaria vesca. Leaves are great to add to soups and stews, fresh, frozen or dried. Can also add fresh leaves to salads. Use dried leaves and make a standard infusion for diarrhea (drink throughout the day).
Red Clover, trifolium pratense. These are just the leaves, however the flowers are out and about as of the month of June. They'll still be around by July, sometimes even as late as August and early September. Note the characteristic chevron that appears on all 3 leaves. Usually, the rule of thumb is leaves of 3, let it be. But this is clearly an exception to the rule, and the striking pattern makes Red Clover easy to identify.
The leaves can be used fresh, frozen or dried and added to soups and stews. Fine to add to salads, too. She's also a good one to add to a herbal vinegar, as is Strawberry Leaf, Self-Heal, Plantain, Dandelion leaf, Stinging Nettle, Mugwort...pretty much any wild edible green is fine.
To Make a Herbal Vinegar:
---> Chop your choice of wild green edibles with scissors into small pieces, then place into a mason jar. The size of the jar will depend upon how much greens you have (I'd say a 500ml/2 cup jar would be a good size, 1 liter if you have a lot). Pour apple cider vinegar with mother to cover the herbs, stir with the handle of a wooden spoon to ensure all gets covered with the vinegar, then add more vinegar to the top. Place a small piece of cling wrap to cover the lid, then put on the lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks in the cupboard. Strain out the liquid using a fine mesh sieve and store in a glass container of your choice. Great to use over salads or in any dressing/sauce/recipe where vinegar is called for :)
Self-Heal or All-heal, prunella vulgaris. I love drying her and using her for tea (I do mean a standard infusion). Great to flush toxins out of the lymphatic system and for water retention (e.g. during periods). She's a low growing plant, doesn't grow very high. And those labia-looking petals fall out when you go to pluck up the flower, so do be gentle.
Note the fine hairs where the flowers are situated? You won't see them with the naked eye, but a close up camera or magnifying glass are both good tools to have in the field with you. You can add the leaves to soups, stews and salads, although they isn't much to them. Fine to add to a herbal vinegar for extra minerals, vitamins and nutrition.
Plantain, plantago major. Ah, the boo-boo plant. Where there's one, there's more. And more's the better. Any time you got a boo-boo, like an insect bite, sting or scrape, chew the leaves up (yes, in your mouth, called a spit poultice) and place over the wound. Replace when it dries out. Just great to get rid of itching and you'll notice the wound heals much faster had you not used trust ol' Plantain. I'd keep this plant around the garden if I were you and make sure to find her if you're ever out in the field and need some boo-boo remedy.
Of course, you can also make a salve with her leaves and pair her with healing Comfrey (a few salve recipes here). And she also makes a great massage oil, helpful with St John's Wort and even Goldenrod (the flowering tops of both those plants). Massage oil is good for relaxation, but also helps with sprains, strains, sore muscles and even nerve damage.
To Make Relax Me Massage Oil:
---> Simply chop 2 parts St John's Wort (flowering top) with 1 part chopped Goldenrod (flowering top) and 1 part Plantain leaves. Place in a mason jar (a 500ml or 1 liter mason is a good size here) and add olive oil to cover the herbs. Stir with the handle of a wooden spoon to ensure oil covers all herb. Add more oil to the top of the jar, put on lid and screw cap, and let sit 6 weeks in the cupboard. Strain out the oil using a sieve (best if you place a coffee filter in the sieve first to catch tiny particles) into clean dark amber jars. Label and use on sore, stiff and achy muscles.
Just an FYI: St John's comes out in the summer while Goldenrod comes out later, late August and September. Feel free to make an infused oil with the Plantain and St John's, then make another infused oil with the Goldenrod and add the 2 oils together. OR, you can just make an oil with Plantain + St John's OR just St John's by herself. Up to you. Aren't you glad there are options and choices?!
Last good tidbit about Plantain: yep, edible, you can add fresh, dried or frozen to soups and stews. Small leaves are good in salads, larger ones can be juiced or even added to smoothies. Dried, she makes an excellent tea to remove boo-boos on the inside, aka, helpful to heal inflamed intestines such as leaky gut. I'd drink the tea daily with other herbs like Violet leaf, Marshmallow root and Slippery elm if you have leaky gut.
Violet, viola (sp.). There are several types of Violets, but they all taste mildly of wintergreen. The ones that I've seen where I live (up in the Northeast) have had either white or purple flowers, except for Johnny-jump-ups, which are tricolor. The leaves are usually heart-shaped, but sometimes they are more rounded. Some varieties have hairy leaves and stems.
Due to their mucilaginous quality, a few fresh leaves (and flowers) can be added to salads. Fresh or dried ones can be added to soups and stews, where that mucilage will be a welcome boon to soothe irritated intestines. If you have leaky gut, I'd add a good bunch of leaves when making soup, or even add some fresh ones to your morning smoothie (their mucilaginous quality doesn't make them so nice for green juices). Dried, the leaves make an excellent healing infusion. To the infusion, you can add Plantain and (chopped or powdered) Marshmallow root, plus mint for some extra cooling power. Drink throughout the day to help heal leaky gut.
Yellow Dock (the tall one in the middle), rumex crispus. I find that Dock leaves remind me of Spinach and both are good sources of iron. I prefer to dry the leaves and then add them to soups and stews come colder weather time, but they are great steamed on their own or added to smoothies and green juices.
Just like Plantain, where there's one there's usually more, and the seeds on 1 plant are plentiful! Last year there were perhaps 2 plants in the backyard and there are now about 1/2 a dozen :)
The root is a bright yellow when you dig her up in the fall, and that taproot can be quite long. A bit of digging required, yep, but the good news is that the root is even higher in iron than the leaves and has been used to help with iron deficiency. I'll talk more about the root later on in the fall (and also about the brown seeds which are edible and can be used like flour) :)
The pics above are of different kinds of rockets, plants that are in the mustard or Brassica family. 4-flowers are usually a sign of a mustard family plant...and the smell? Mmm, like sweet, heavenly perfume! When the flowers are spent, long seed pods with tiny seeds are left (yep, you can open the pods and use them like mustard seeds, even make your own homemade mustard if you can gather enough of them).
Leaves and flowers are edible, fine to add to salads, fresh, frozen or dried leaves to soups and stews. And if you're making yourself a veggie juice or smoothie, you can most certainly add in some leaves to the brew!
From L to R: Daisy Fleabane (erigeron philadelphicus), Forget-me-not (myosotis (sp)) and Orange Hawkweed (pilosella aurantiacum).
Daisy Fleabane. The leaves are edibles, although their hairiness may make them less than thrilling in salads. Better to add the leaves to the soup/stew pot and put them through the juicer.
Forget-me-not flowers make beautiful splashes of blue in the garden and since they grow in mats, they can be great to fill up those bare and empty spaces. The flowers (although bland and small) are edible and can be tossed into the salad bowl or soup/stew pot or used to decorate muffins and cupcakes.
Hawkweed or Mouse-ear. Flowers edible raw in salads, leaves are hairy, best to add to the juicer or to the soup/stew pot. The dried flowers and leaves can be made into an infusion and used as an emmenagogue, cholagogue, diaphoretic, expectorant and diuretic.
And finally, the Buttercup, NOT EDIBLE. Here's a good read about it and why holding a Buttercup under your chin will reflect a lovely shade of yellow (nope, nothing to do with whether you're a Butter lover or not).
See you next time, Sunshine :)
SPRING IS HERE!!
The sun is shining, there's zero chance of snow on the horizon. No clouds, just blue sky and folks are out about doing their spring cleaning thang: cleaning out the garage, getting the bikes oiled and tuned up, taking off the winter tires, and getting out the top soil! I smelled someone having a BBQ on my way to the mall, where the local supermarket had several pallets of top soil. Only topsoil, unfortunately, but bags had already left the pallet and were getting some good use somewhere.
No need for hat, scarf or gloves, even a jacket was a bit much. I had myself started with my own spring cleaning by taking out the spring clothes and starting a pile of items to donate, but after seeing someone in shorts, I may have to rethink the wardrobe and take out some summer goodies already!
Aaah, spring! Yesterday the Tulips were peepin' through and today I saw Periwinkle. Yes, a few Periwinkle flowers on a salad is just fine. Toxic in high doses, but then, just how many flowers do you wanna eat? A few make a salad pop and the taste is not much, like a road side nibble, but with a lot of colorful appeal :) They look like Violet flowers, but not quite, and like Coltsfoot, you notice the flowers first before the leaves. A bit like Violet with a slight mucilaginous quality and both are laxative, but as I said, a few and no harm will it you do...
And you knew that Tulips were edible, right? Oh, yes indeed, and they taste different depending upon what color they are. NOW, the petals are edible but the inner bit with the stamens are NOT. I remove the inner bits and then stuff them, you know, like mini squash blossoms. Best eaten the same day, because like other edible flowers, they don't keep long. Sure, you could always take off the petals and then freeze 'em and throw 'em in a soup come winter time ---I'm rather biased when it comes to soups, I confess, because I throw so much in my soup pot cauldron!!
The soup I just made had half of wild greens, like Motherwort leaves, Plantain leaves, Violet leaves, Wild Carrot leaves, Mallow leaves, Red Clover leaves and Goldenrod leaves. 'Course, I added in some root veggies and Italian herbs to smooth out the taste of all that greeny goodness ;) Woulda been nice to add in some sundried tomato, but they were out at the grocery store. Maybe next time I'll add in some Yarrow leaves, forgot about them!
Soups are always good, even in the height of summer you can make cooling soups like Gazpacho or green smoothies. I find the concept of a green smoothie much like pureed soup, only that greens are blended with fruit and it's drunk cold and not warmed up. Greens are always HOT, as you may have noticed, at ANY TIME of the year. Greens are the new black, is what I say. Always trendy, always in!!
And speaking of soups, they'll be lots of yummy plants to look out for during the spring time: baby Violet, Dandelion and Plantain leaves; Garlic Mustard, Mustards like Dame Rocket and Barbara's Cress (think of them like mustard greens, flowers are edible and can be used in salads), Wild Leeks (also called Ramps) and Japanese knotweed. Small Hostas when they are furled (called hostons) are a tasty treat ~yes, add to soup~ and don't worry, they'll grow back in no time. If you're wondering about taste, kinda like asparagus.
Most of the wild edibles like Dock, Wild Lettuces and Sow Thistles will have small green leaves that are just slightly bitter, great for soups, fine to chop and add to salad. As the plants grow, you'll still want to be eyeing those leaves for that bitter element: they make excellent greens to add to green smoothies and green juices. Dandelion, Violet, Plantain, Wood Sorrel, Lamb's Quarter and so many others also make yummy green juices and smoothies which I'll be writing about as the months progress :)
Also be on the look-out for spring flowers such as Linden, Coltsfoot and Violet, which you can dry and use for infusions later for colds and flus. Dandelion flowers should be a-plentiful soon enough. They're edible (sure, the lil green bits on the back of the flower are a tad bitter, so what) and you can infuse them in honey and vinegar, or add them to salads and soups. Some people like to fry them with a batter (tempura batter) and make fritters while others like to chop 'em and add 'em to pancakes and quick breads like muffins and loaves.
Two years ago I infused Dandy flowers in honey. Notes: make SURE they are absolutely dry (wait 2 days after the last day it has rained). They will make the honey runny and yep, slightly bitter. I wasn't too crazy 'bout it, even being the Crazy Cat Lady Who's Mad Keen on Bitters ;)
Last year I added some flowers to pancakes and smothered the tops of them in a rare treat of molasses and brown rice syrup. After eating pancakes my belly was plumb stuffed full! Right, exactly why I only eat such rich treats but once a year ;)
Not sure what fun concoction I'll do this year. I had gotten the idea about drying the flowers and using in part as a flour, but like Goldenrod flowers, timing is crucial as they'll burst into fluffy seeds right there as they're drying if you pick them too late.
Dandy flowers always make me think of timing and the preciousness of time. Suddenly, they are all there, bright fields of yellow flowers abundantly and beating against every hot brick wall and fence of every store and house everywhere. And the window of opportunity to enjoy them is so short: 2 weeks maybe, and then !poof! all gone. Funny how so many people curse that blasted weed Dandelion, but there's nary a flower to be found come summer. Well, there are rare exceptions but yellow flowers in summer are usually Sow Thistle and Wild Lettuce dandy-look alikes. Edible, too, and slightly bitter, almost...dandelion-ish. Here are some Dandy ideas fer ya :)
Hoping to get some compost tomorrow. Going to have to plant more seeds as it seems so many have not popped out into seedlings. I know the soil is poor in nutrients, it's the same potting soil as last year's, but it could also be the seeds, they might be old. I usually plant more than 2 seeds per space to make sure I have enough, but this year I planted exactly 2 seeds and I shoulda been a lot more generous!! That's alright, because once I get the compost I can plant directly into the pot and it'll save me the extra work of having to transplant them....
Aaaah, SPRING is here and summer lovin', hot diggity do and fairy fun are all on the menu! And gardening, foraging and the rest of it too, of course ;)
Enjoy the sunny beat of spring, sunshine :)
Why Cat F***ing Loves Plants: Much More Than Wood or Sheep Sorrel, Sweet Borage Flowers or Edible Begonias
I fucking love plants! And foraging!! And Mother Earth!
Now before you get your knickers all in a tizzy or give yourself a wedgie or whatever it is you do when you get that twisted feeling inside, let me just tell you that no, cussing is not really done around here, but when it happens, it's used for effect, so take notice!
As I was saying, I just LOVE plants. Don't even ask how the week was spent (yes, rain, you ninny) because these pages have been blank, no posts written...BUT, yesterday was a nice day AND I wasn't at work.
Although it had poured buckets almost all day the other day, yesterday was perfect. So I went for a look-see, and found some good "finds!"
There was Vetch, whom I spotted first, and I took several gorgeous purplish-blue sprigs from her. I saw Goldenrods growing (they'll be out later in August with their showy yellow flowers). There was dandelion (but not as much as you'd have thought there should've been), 2 kinds of thistles and yep, that family of Lamb's Quarter I had been telling ya'll about, 'cept this time someone had gone and thrown manure over several of the plants. I really can't say I understand it, but I went and collected the leaves and seeds from many of the other lamb's quarter that were around that smelly earth.
Sigh, so yes, I did end up getting a bit of the manure on my feet (I was wearing flip flops), but whatever, I just dusted it off and washed up when I got home. It was worth it because there was so much lamb's quarter! I collected about a medium-sized Ziploc baggie's worth! Yes, technically you should use a paper bag when foraging, but all I had on me were a few plastic baggies. The lamb's quarter I was collecting, FYI, is the white variety, chenopodium album, also called Fat Hen, Dirty Dick, Dirtweed, Baconweed and Mutton Tops. Poor lamb's quarter! Such horrid names! They have it tough, those "weeds." Good thing there's people like you and me who are open to plant exploration, and therefore can reap mega benefits!!
There was Wood Sorrel, oxalis stricta, or common wood sorrel with YELLOW flowers. I've erroneously mentioned her in previous posts as oxalis acetosella, WHITE-flowered wood sorrel, but I meant the yellow-flowered variety. Oopsy. Well, there are many varieties after all.
Like just this morning, I was nibbling on Sheep Sorrel. Now there's one plant you'd like to have around. Her leaves are a pleasant lemony taste, she self-seeds readily, and her root is used in the famous Essiac tea, known for helping with cancer.
Back to yesterday...The wood sorrel had large clover leaves and I just love eating a tiny handful to nibble on. She helps to cut thirst, so if you're ever out foraging without water, you can get rehydrated by munching on a few leaves. She does have oxalic acid, but so does spinach. Whoop-de-do. No one even mentions the oxalic acid content in spinach, unless you have stones and you're recommended to avoid it. More like: spinach? Oh yeah, Popeye! Well, all greens have protein in them, mister, so just you be aware of that!
Wood sorrel has a lemony taste like sheep sorrel, but the latter has a tangier taste. There were a few plants that I didn't know the names of, but I forgot my phone/camera at home. There's an FB group called Plant Identification where you can post a pic of a plant that you want IDed. I still have a few plants growing at home that I've yet to identify, so I'd like to take pics and submit them and know what they are!
Then I spent about an hour and a half at the Flower Market. The two men there have been selling flowers from various growers for the past 4 years right in the front of the local supermarket. They'll be packing it up this weekend as the growing season is well under way (and it hasn't been much of a growing season at that, what will all the rain); hence many of their plants were on liquidation. I, of course, popped by to see what plants I could squeeze somewhere into my balcony garden.
I tell ya, many of the seeds I planted did NOT come through. I thought about writing to Richter's (perhaps I still might) to give them feedback about their seeds. It might just be all the weather to blame...I've been finding that plants that I planted in one pot have been showing up in another! Like Chamomile where there should have been Greater Celandine...
Mugwort and wild carrot were creeping up a little too much in several pots, and while I gave a hug to my huge muggie just the other day, I actually took out several mugwort and wild carrot plants. They were "disturbing" the other plants that were trying to grow there! I used them in mean green pestos, of course---but really, I never thought I'd be "wrenching up the weeds" as so many others do!
Speaking of mean green pestos, I made 2 new ones just today: one with baby Sow Thistle (also called Wild Lettuce), basil and tarragon and one with mugwort, lamb's quarter and parsley. Yummers! I've been adding seeds to give them texture, but I'm thinking about revamping them so they are lower in fat.
I know, I know, I am working on writing and putting my recipes into ebooks (hence COMING SOON written elsewhere on this site a propos de said ebooks). These ones would be classified as mean green pestos, although I don't know if anybody would buy them with that kind of title! That's just my quirky sense of humor: I love greens, have indeed changed my taste buds to like, yes LIKE BITTER-TASTING GREENS. To a certain extent, of course. I don't mind a sprig of wormwood, but a sprig, mind you :) Helps to get the digestion going, gives a hand to the liver. Kills parasites too. Why not indeed :)
Still, there are different shades of bitter, after all :)
I ended up speaking with J and R, the two men at the Flower Market, for about an hour yesterday. They were saying this season they found that many people seemed too impatient to want to plant anything, however the veggie plants and herbs sold so well, they could have easily sold much more. I took it as a positive sign that people are more interested into eating healthy food! Yea!
I made J & R try the few wild edibles I had gathered---they weren't too impressed, not being salad-lovin'-kinda gents, but they said that the wood sorrel had a nice lemony feel. I do, too, as I mentioned, although I can taste the sweetness in the Vetch, which is in the pea family. I have a sensitive nose, so perhaps my taste buds are more attuned to the plant world as well :)
I ended up getting Tarragon, Marjoram (also called wild oregano), Vervain or Verbena and a Begonia plant. J told me begonias are edible and I remember reading about that somewhere. I didn't have my phone to check further, but I got her anyway. She has a lovely reddish-orange color, so even if I can't eat her (it's not really recommended to eat plants from nurseries because of the common use of pesticides and herbicides, and although this was a flower market, I wouldn't be surprised if chemicals were used to initially grow the plants), I can still enjoy her as an ornamental!
Well, I checked and Begonia X Tuberhybrida (tuberous Begonias) are edible indeed. Her name is Non-Stop Orange and apparently she'll continue to produce flowers if given light even during the dark nights of winter. Hmmm. Well, she's just got just the one flower at the moment and she's rather tiny, so I think I'll let her just concentrate on getting herself to grow big and strong. You can read more about how to grow Non-stop Begonias here and BTW, there are other Begonias that are edible besides the tuberous one (like Wax Begonias). You can read more about them here and check out a video about how to make a tartelette with Wax Begonias by Green Deane here.
That reminds me suddenly (off-topic from the previous paragraph entirely!) that R was saying that they didn't sell many perennials this year, that people came and were saying, "Ah, these plants? I already have them." Aka, how boring. That got me telling J & R about maybe offering up some new plants, like Burdock! They weren't sure what Burdock was at first, but then when the velcro plant was identified, they knew!
I told them that last year the Herbology Association had named Burdock "the plant of the year" and that many parts of the burdock plant were either edible or medicinal. The root, for example, is known in Japan as gobo and eaten fresh in soups and stews. Medicinally, the dried root is used to mop up chemicals and toxins from the body, thus helping the liver in its detoxification efforts, as well as being a liver tonic. Expensive, too, I was telling them, sold in health food stores a few sticks for 8 bucks!
Then I got to telling them about dandelion, another good herb for the liver (the root). J laughed and said, "Dandelion? I've got tons of dandelion if anyone wants any!" I said, sure, I'd come and get some! Heck, they sell dandelion leaves in health food stores, not to mention in capsules---which is just dried dandelion leaves turned into a powder. So much dandelion around, anyone can just dry the leaves on newspaper, powder the leaves in a high speed blender or coffee grinder, and then put the powder into capsules (which they sell at health food stores and elsewhere). Dandelion leaf makes an excellent diuretic, FYI.
I must say, I was on High Vibe after collecting plants, chatting about plants and eating plants, plus bringing home new plant friends! On the way home, I stopped to collect a few Milkweed buds and to get a few rose petals. The roses aren't doing so well this year, but there are still several buds that are blooming, so there will be flowers to come.
I know many people use rose buds for rose tea, but I never like taking the buds at that "stage of the game." You take the buds off and that bud never has a chance to make a fruit, or rose hip, and I love rose hips! Packed with Vitamin C, they're great to make rose hip jelly, although I like using her to make a rose hip oil for my face. I gave some to my elderly neighbor one year, and she noticed a pleasant difference to her skin :)
So, yes, you can just take the petals off the roses and make rose PETAL tea instead. It's so easy too, because when you go to take the petals, they all just fall off in your hand and the center bit (which turns into the rose hip) is left untouched. If the petals don't give, then you know they aren't ready to be picked. Simple! Well, I think so :)
And besides all this foraging, and talking about plants and growing plants, is, well, plants.
As they are.
This morning, for example, I sat on my balcony and pruned tarragon and marjoram, my newcomer plant friends. I gave a hair cut to chickweed and took some leaves off lamb's quarter. I took the flower heads off chamomile and took some leaves from marshmallow. And come lunch time, lunch was heavenly! Lemony sheep sorrel leaves melted in my mouth, wild green pesto on flax bread + wild green soup filled my belly and the pièce de résistance? Borage flowers! Such sweet, sweet taste!
I find you can't get fresher than growing your own, whether it's herbs, veggies, fruits, wild edibles, whatever.
There's THE plant, right there in your garden, whatever that garden looks like, from a large, sprawling garden to a few herbs growing in a kitchen window box or even to a balcony garden like mine. And then you eat a few leaves or flowers from this plant... and suddenly, this vibrant energy from this living plant brims over into that freshly picked leaf or flower and rushes lovingly and sharingly this vitality into you.
And you feel....
A symbiotic relationship exists between you and her.
You care for her, nurture her, keep her contented, watered, fed, loved.
And she in turn shares with you all her blessings....and sometimes her secrets, too :)
She is in a symbiotic relationship with the sun, the soil, the insects; in a symbiotic unity with the whole. She reminds you that you are also eclipsed in this universal energy, that there is indeed a mystery in rain water that can not be glimpsed by your mere gardener's hand, but that must be experienced with the heart of the person to whom this hand is attached.
She reminds you that the part can never be more than the whole, which is why when the part rallies against the whole, misery ensues, and one feels alienated and separated from the whole. One conspires all one's energy to be in misery...
And yet being here now -she reminds you that- in this place, in this space, one feels whole.
One never left home.
In a bite of freshly picked leaf or flower, one can relax into one's being and take the jump into silence....
Enjoy the freshly picked bounties of summer! 'Til next time, sunshine!
Being with plants always makes me happy.
Suddenly, before I encountered my green fairy friends, a dark storm of irritation arose from out of me. From out of nowhere. If you watch yourself closely (aka, meditate), then you'll realize that emotions exist out of your unconscious or from something on the conscious level that you don't want to face. Although you may try to blame it on other people (you know, something your parents or the society did), step up and take responsibility for your actions. You are responsible. You create your reality. You get what you want, what you create, even if it is misery. So if you aren't happy with where you are at, look inside for where you missed, for what's missing.
Of course, negative and positive emotions are just two poles of one energy, so when the negative emotions come up, just watch them and let them subside. Just like a rollercoaster, no emotion (negative or positive) can last long, and you'll see that once the storm has passed, the clouds are breaking and the sun is shining through.
That's exactly what happened to me today. I didn't try to interpret the irritation (OK, maybe once, when my mind linked to a TCM classification that I have some liver issues going on). I just felt irritated that I was irritated!
Then I went to the mall to run some errands. Lo and behold, hello, hello, what do I see, but beauties growing up bigger and stronger. Lamb's quarter, oh yes indeed, and big wood sorrel leaves, so tasty and lemony, and big dandelion leaves (of course) too. I asked the plants who wanted to be in my soup I had going on in the crockpot and proceeded to take leaves from several lamb's quarter plants. Really, it was like a family of lamb's quarter was growing in just one little area! I munched on a few sprigs of vetch flowers (not quite at their highest potency just yet) before whizzing on back home.
After parking my bike, what sight befell my eyes but dandelion seeds, twinkling like crystallized light on the green grass. Oh yes indeed, fairies must surely fly on dandelion "wings." Dandelion seeds weren't just in the grass, they were lying there in all my pots where the earth was exposed. Sssh, fairies have come to visit! While I couldn't accommodate them all and must have taken out at least 100 seeds out, I told them to go and find other homes, to help out other fine people!
Rain, rain has made it not so interesting for foraging, but I brought a new beauty home. Her name is chrysanthemum, and she got a pretty new orange purse repurposed/upcycled as a planter. The orange color of the purse really pops, making an interesting and attractive garden piece --- perhaps even a conversation piece?!
I went and visited all my plants to see how they were doing. They had invited me the other day, but the rain made things not such good timing. Today I perused all the plants, oohing and aahing over who had grown bigger, who had flowered, who had finally made the jump and put forth little seedlings, and who had found homes in pots that were never officially planted. Although many would frown upon finding "weeds" in their pots, I always smile at seeing who is growing in another's pot. Lamb's quarter was growing with lavender and chickweed was growing with marjoram, for example. I let them grow together, so long as it's a symbiotic relationship. I did take out a nettle that was growing with yarrow, because nettle takes up so much room and yarrow gets "annoyed." So I just plucked her out and put her with her nettle family growing in another pot.
Yes, should I have a garden one day (would be quite nice), I should have a sign that says, "Weeds, walk this way," with all reverence being used for the word "weed!" And perhaps another, "Gnome place like gnome," and another still, "Where fairies do indeed roam."
I was positively buzzing and bubbling with happy energy after such a lovely visit---all right, some positive energy might be attributed to the chocolate I ate, a gal's best friend!
Speaking of which, there's a smell of Italian herbs in the air, more specifically, coming from two crockpots in the kitchen. There's going to be another mean green soup ahead, this time with violet leaves, dandelion leaves, wood sorrel, plantain, sorrel, mugwort, radish leaves and fresh rhubarb; some carrots and beets and some pumpkin from last year's fall; and finally, ah ha! some special herbs added to the brew: dried dandelion root, burdock root, bupleurum root, astragalus root...
Yes, yes, let us be rooted in the earth! Let us be well nourished by plant spirit energy! Let us be thankful and appreciative for the bounty that plants bring, for the beings that they are, for the energy that they share! Let us be receptive and open...and dance with the fairies on dandelion wings!
Crystallize the energy.
Find the thread of meditation in all.
It is more than enough.
Curiosity Got The Cat: