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 :)
Aaaah! SPRING! Yes, there is definitely a change in the weather :)
I've been in a rabbit hole for the past several days researching about filming and lighting and it's been rather cloudy, but today when I stepped out...oh, how lovely :) I noticed the local big box store has put out their garden plants and the flower market is now back again in front of the supermarket. Sweet...
Time to get to planting for sure! That's what's on my to-do list for this weekend, you bet!
And while I was out and about, of course I was noticing what plant allies my eyes did meet :)
Tiny little blue flowers were peeping up at me from my neighbor's lawn: Creeping Charlie! She's in the mint family and has an antiseptic taste. I suppose I could add her to the soup pot (free food, after all), but I've never been attracted to that taste. Still, that taste test was how she tasted raw, thrown into the soup pot and all becomes a bit medicinal puree!!
Dandelion flowers are out! Not quite at their prime just just yet, but I did see a lawn littered with several yellow flowers. Most of the flowers, due to the weather, have very short stems, but I suspect the taller ones will be along soon enough. I caught sight of a few Dandelions from last year, sans flowers, but didn't feel tempted enough to forage them for juice. Nah, they've got to be big and dark and greeny green. And bitter, loads of bitter, because why else would I be juicing them? ;)
Violet seems to be spent already, can you believe? I saw but a few dried up ones...I'll check at work to see how they are faring over there.
Passing behind the mall what did I see but the Compositae flowers of Coltsfoot! I find Coltsfoot is just a great example of a ray flower, and these ones were shining their yellow rays right at me! Some of them were tinged with purple --- how fascinating and marvelous! No leaves were to be seen at all, which is exactly when you want to forage Coltsfoot, before the leaves appear. Anyway, the flowers don't last long at all. Just like Dandelion, you've got maybe a window of 2 weeks to pick 'em. I collected a few handfuls just in case, for someone else, because to be honest, I don't have lung issues, which is what she's used for. Coltsfoot flowers are edible, but I'm not hankering for salads these days.
Garlic Mustard!! I saw this spidery, kidney-shaped leaf and for some reason I was thinking Violet. I don't know why, because there was nary a flower to be seen. Perhaps that's why, because Garlic Mustard is often seen with this 4-petalled flowers, and that's a tell-tale sign she's in the mustard family and edible. Anyway, once I had a whiff and put a leaf in my mouth, I knew... good ol' Garlic Mustard. I'm not one to use heating garlic in my cooking, but on one of the FB foragers group the other day, there was mention about drying it, grinding it and using it as a garlic powder substitute. Garlic Mustard has a mucilaginous quality, good to add to salads for a bit of pop and to soothe tender digestive mucosal linings. There were quite a few plants out, and I collected about 2 trays worth in the dehydrator. Garlic Mustard does get more bitter as she grows, and you can also freeze her for later use in soups and stews. Want to know more about her? She Here and Here :)
Alright, sunshine, leave you with that for now...'til next time, stay bright :)
Going around my neighborhood, what finds! Went to mall to get some shopping done and then to sit behind alleyway behind mall. Sat in the sun enjoying my chocolate, birds singing and plants growing! What kinds of plants, you say?
Lamb's Quarter in baby stage. Ooh ooh, I hope she's able to grow big so I can collect her and eat her like spinach! I've seen the city come and rip out plants...Grrr...no such thing as weeds!
Dandelion of course, with tons of yellow flowers. Oozed white milky sap when I plucked off some of the heads---you'd never know someone had gone "foraging!" Sap is great to use on warts, BTW.
Johnny-Jump-Up or Heart's Ease. Just there, one little bunch of flowers, stunning me with her striking violet and yellow colors amongst all the rest of the greenery. I had seen her on a previous time when I had passed by, and she had the same kind of sweet energy, that kind of here-I-am, just-so, just-so-pretty-as-you-please!
So interesting that in previous years she was not growing there, had never seen her, just like the horsetail that was also growing in this alleyway...Interesting how plants come and go (even perennials), but some continue to come back all the time.
Like the coltsfoot. A few flowers still, but the leaves are starting to come in. There were a few flowers without leaves, which is when you want to get coltsfoot in the first place. Yep, the flowers come before the leaves grow in! Then you see these leaves which are supposed to look like coltsfeet, and you know pickin' time is over.
Vetch. I love adding a few of these violet flowers to my summer salad. Trail side nibble from the pea family any time!
Tons of Mugwort, which I'm going to add to some rice, fresh, but maybe steam some with the hostas that I collected from yesterday. Hostas are supposed to taste like asparagus. We'll see about that!
More Dame Rocket. So lovely, what scent! Tried the leaves and they have a sharp taste just like arugula. 4 flowers so you know it's in the Brassica family (any time you see a plant with 4 flowers = cabbage family = edible). I took off all her leaves and left her flowers in a vase on the kitchen table. Planed some others in a pot. What heaaavenly perfume!
Garlic mustard. White flowers, stinky garlic smell oh yeah, I've IDed you all right. No way I can mistake you for a cress. Pee-you. Great in stir fries and soups.
Saw some baby milkweed plants. I was going to uproot one but really why bother when there's so many, even if she does get whacked by the crazy lawn mower every week---I know of a few fields where tons of them grow. Lots of good recipes out there. You can use her flowers and seed pods...but more of that later, when the time is ripe for the pickin'!
Horsetail. I'm not 100% sure of this plant because she grows in wet areas, but she is very distinctive. Brought tons home and am going to grow horsetail to compare. Will continue to monitor the plant that's growing in the wild. Right now she's in vertical stage, but if her leaves (so stiff, like a broom) go horizontal, as they should as she matures, then I'd have a better reference. Only seen her once and she was growing on a mountain in a wet area. It was pretty dry where I saw her growing, right beside dandelion and in another area right beside mugwort. To be seen...
Bladder Campion. Not just an ornamental. Really pretty flowers, very distinctive with that "balloon" just before the flower. Definitely would look real pretty in the garden! And the one I saw was just growing there wild, not one person paying her any mind. She comes back year after in the same spot...never thought to harvest her root, but maybe I should collect some seeds and plant her...
Saw one white rose flower! Wow early for May, more sure to come! Not just white, but pale pink and dark wine ones too! Love those rose bushes, so many uses for rose! Like fresh petals on nut butter on toast! YUM! Can't wait!
Burdock. She's baaaaack! I just love burdock and most of her is either edible or medicinal (actually have a tea going right now with her seeds, which are a great diuretic). I remember a field that is no longer where many burdock plants were growing. Several were about the same height or just a little bit shorter than me and I felt like I just wanted to give them a hug! Love her purplish-pink flowers :) Last year I tried burdock petioles (leaf stalks) or the stems that attach the leaf to the thicker central stem. Just peel off the outer layer, chop and simmer for 15 minutes; then drain (still too bitter) and simmer again another 15 minutes. Done! Just like celery! Small leaves are edible too and of course the root, known as gobo in Japan, is delish! Bought some from the health food store this winter (pricey) but why bother when you can dig her root for free!
Saw some clover leaves, but didn't get any. Later. They'll be plenty. There always is!
Look alike dandelion plant which I'm pretty sure is sow thistle and not wild lettuce. Still a bit confused between the two but I believe the wild lettuce has thorns and this plant as I've observed her for a few years, usually grows right beside dandelion, has thistle like ragged leaves growing in a basal rosette like dandelion but the yellow dandelion-like flowers come out later (and many flowers for one plant compared to the 1 flower on dandelion) in summer. Leaves clasp stem, too, so I'm pretty sure she's an edible thistle, sonchus and not a latuca. Tried her flowers (OK) and leaves last year. Even steamed, the leaves were still tough BUT! I got an idea to juice them this year, so will try later this summer and see how that goes...I saw one plant last year she must've been 6 or 7 feet tall! I remember on a forest jaunt last year I came across a Canadian thistle---taller than me, boy, must've been 7 or 8 feet tall! And edible?! OOH, I contemplated and looked at heavy-duty gloves at the hardware store but for all that trouble...nah, I just enjoyed her company. And her many cousins who were also growing in the same vicinity...But who knows, maybe this year...eek! Those long spikes?! Um...maybe...
Coming back from my foraging jaunt, I happened to see my neighbor and he gave me a quick tour of his garden. Lovely plants, many of which I didn't know. Solomon's seal was one plant I remembered he has growing, as well as blueberries and raspberries, but the rest were names that I've now already forgotten! Oh yes, and a fig tree, lime tree and lemon tree. And there are some black hollyhocks...
Just reminded me that there are so MANY plants out there! How many are known? How many "varieties" of one type of plant, like thistles or clover?! And sometimes even botanists get confused or don't know whether a certain plant is edible or not. Infinite varieties like the infiniteness of animals or insects... or human minds...or the universe...each so distinct and unique in their perfect imperfections...
'Til next time!
Curiosity Got The Cat: