Plants talk to me. They tell me things. Sometimes. They whisper secrets, and tell me how to use them. Sometimes they show me swirling colors of what they really look like when I close my eyes before I go to sleep. They tell me that what my eyes see is not the same as what bugs see, and really what is it that I see?!
This year, I was looking at Dame Rocket, that wild weed. Her flowers have such a magnificent scent! I asked her if I could make a perfume with her, but in my question was this method that I had done before, in other words, I wanted t o make an oil infusion using her flowers. She said that not much scent would be captured that way...and that led me to seeking some ways that I could capture her scent, as well as the scent of other wild ladies, such as lilac!
I stumbled upon a yahoo group for perfumery and began perusing some documents. Yes, I'd heard of Everclear, and I suppose making a perfume using alcohol would be a better solution. Or using effleurage, which is using fat (lard). Both methods talked about soaking the flowers at their peak of scent for 1-2 days, removing the spent flowers and then repeating the process until no more scent could be captured.
I'm sure there are other ways of doing it; I haven't gotten that far in my perfume journey. But it's a start!
Funny thing is when I went to fetch the Dame Rocket flowers at work, they smelled stinky! They were all looking at me like, oh, you just want our flowers huh? Well there! I dunno, I haven't figured it out yet; my intention was to capture their sweet scent, no offense intended!! I'll ask the other Dame Rocket plants I saw and see what they have to say. Perhaps the time has passed, as already some of the flowers were missing on the stems. Perhaps the time to make perfume for them is no longer ripe, the window of opportunity is gone.
Now, Lilacs however, they should be good to go! The tree on the neighbor's lawn got quite a trimming last year, so she's blooming late, in June instead of in springtime May.
The weather has been iffy at times, and like in recent past years, I no longer start any seeds inside. While there was no snow in either April or may, the good weather came in May then petered out to some cold days and nights.
I did collect some Garlic Mustard leaves, although I'm not so fond of the taste. I tried to make Dandelion flower jelly using coconut sugar and while it turned out okay, be prepared for some slight bitterness! On pancakes with fruit I'm sure it would work though :)
I've collected Violet and Plantain leaves at work. At my bf's house, he had tons of good ol' Chickweed growing in his planters on the balcony. And you know what them herbalists say, plants that you be needing are growing right under your feet! Or on your balcony :) He works in construction at the moment, so lots of boo-boos come out. Of course I made the poor lad an infused Chickweed oil to turn into a salve. That'll help with the itching! Guess I should add in the Plantain. Can't add in Marigolds just yet, they come out later in the fall.
I planted many seeds in some flower boxes on my front balcony. Not much has popped out yet, and to be honest, I didn't feel the same pull to garden as I have in past years. Perhaps because I know where to find plants not too far away, like Nettle at a little hideaway close to some condo buildings; Wild Aster, Yellow Dock and Red Clover at a field close to a supermarket; Red Clover and Yarrow along the river's edge...and oh yes, I discovered some Red Clover, Vetch, Dandelion and Sow Thistles behind the mall! Then there are the Rose petals, which I started collecting in early June. I've collected some Red Clover leaves, but the blossoms just came out this week. I've seen them growing in many different places in the city, but I'm not interested in getting them so close to busy streets!
I was saying I haven't seen that many seedlings come up. Nasturtium and Borage so far, yes, and I found Lamb's Quarter, that wild spinach, growing in a few pots (probably seeds in the compost). I planted Comfrey and Nettle and the rest of the plants are herbs: Parsley, Coriander, Mint, Anise Hyssop, Dill, Oregano, Thyme, Tarragon, Rosemary and Sage. I was surprised to find Mint seeds and decided to go ahead and see what comes up. I saw some seedlings in the pot, but it could be Chickweed as that one tends to crop up in many places!
I planted a couple of Cucumber and Bell Pepper plants in the soil directly close to the house, as well as some Radish seeds. It gets the afternoon sun, so we'll see what shall be! As you know, I live on the second floor, so this is a tiny plot of land behind the front balcony. My old landlord sold the house, and the new landlord doesn't mind that I ripped up the grass along the side of the house, put in a little fence and planted a few things. So far one Nettle plant has returned from last year, several Pansy plants and lots of moss! As it's quite shady, especially the area closest to the balcony, I planted 3 varieties of Mint plants (Spearmint, Pineapple and Peppermint) and several Malva plants that I got from my neighbor's yard. Interestingly, the Malva plants last year in that mostly shaded area did just fine, so I decided to plant some new ones this year. There's no shortage of them, as Malva is a quite the sharing, self-seeding kinda type! ;)
I went through my seeds and decided to plant some herbs that my herb teacher had talked about but that I never personally got acquainted with: Joe-pye weed, Elecampane and another herb for the lungs (oopsy, forgot now). Nope, not Mullein, I know what she looks like, I've seen her soft leaves and her weird growing pattern of yellow flowers! No guarantees if anything will turn up, we'll see. Ah yes, it was Echinacea! My neighbor has some that comes back year after year that I've love to dig up for the roots and tincture or use as antiviral cold and flu tea, but alas, she loves seeing her flowers come up every year!
Hmm, that got me thinking that she has tons of Fleabane and Peonies and they might make a nice perfume!! Yep, more research on perfume making is definitely in my future!
Herbs I'll be testing soon:
• Fleabane, flowers to be used as an emmenagogue, aka for period cramps (leaves I throw into the soup pot with other good tasting veggies like carrots and beets). Read HERE for tons of more info about her.
• Hawkweed. Flowers are said to be a diuretic, so I'll see how my body reacts and compare that to when I use Prunella, which is a gentle but effective diuretic
• Ox-eye daisy. While edible, she smells like...Valerian, or what I call the stinky-poo weed. Yeah, that's why flies like to come and take a snooze on the flowers! Leaves can be thrown into the soup pot with other veggies and the flowers make a milder soothing nervine tea like chamomile. Yep, think of Marguerites (another name for her) like a mild version of Chamomile. Haven't tasted the tea yet, we'll see what she tastes like!
• Herbs to use in Sangria recipes. Sangria is basically using wine as a menstrum to steep fruits in to get their flavors, kinda like making cucumber or lemon water where you soak the veggies in water overnight and strain. Nice for weight loss and those hot summer day. So far, I used both Elderberry and Hibiscus flower in THIS sangria recipe, which came out quite lovely. I do find it can get a bit pricey between the wine and using herbs, but if you collect your own (and make your own wine!) you can minimize the cost.
• I might try using Mugwort to make beer. Not a beer person myself, but the bf is, so he might like it. Better than Dandelions, which he sees now with new eyes thanks to this wild foraging lady, but still not so keen on eating it. Ah, don't worry, he'll be eating it in a purred soup and never know it til I tell him later heheh! Well, I did spike the Sangria with Dandelion root tincture. Extra alcohol, dear, and a little help for the liver! :P
Well, that's a good start for this year, sunshine! Lots of that coming this way, cuz days are getting longer and summer will be rollin' 'round the corner in a few weeks. Stay bright, sunshine, stay bright :)
It's been a short and sweet week for foraging. I've been extremely busy this week as I started doing--- ballroom dancing! It's been exciting to say the least, and although I've only gone to 2 dance lessons, I'm already hooked!!
While the weather was nice on Tuesday and Wednesday, I had no time for foraging. As luck would have it, come Thursday when I thought to re-visit Buckthorn Woods, it rained.
I decided to collect a few wild edibles from my neighbor's lawn and it was NOT a good idea. Foraging during the rain or just after it's rained is a really bad idea, unless you and mosquitoes are bosom pals. While I've been getting better acquainted with those in the insect world, mosquitoes and I have yet to come to a mutual understanding ;)
Of course, the really obvious thing about rain and foraging is that the plants are wet. That means your hands get wet, with wet bits sticking to them so that you have to brush them off on on your pants. Your feet get wet and/or dirty, in my case both as I went out wearing sandals. Plus, they had mowed the other day, so I was leaving grass footprints wherever I went.
On the plus side, I did manage to gather up a small amount of Pellitory, Wood Sorrel and Malva for the next pesto. I ended up adding in 3 stalks of Broccoli, 2 cups of Green Beans and 1 cup of fresh Basil leaves. I had a bit of pesto remaining from 2 days ago, where I had added too much Lentils and it was quite thick, so I pureed the lot together and it was just the right consistency and greeny taste I was looking for. Pestos, gotta love 'em! :)
And speaking of which, my next mini-foraging jaunt was at work today, where I found many Strawberry and Violet leaves peeping up at me from between tall blades of grass. I collected a few Dock leaves and just a few small leaves of Dandelion and Common Sow Thistle --- too much and the whole pesto will have you making that scrunched up bitter face!
Ah yes, that's right, I almost forgot to mention that my other neighbors invited to take a peek-see in their garden. They are the only house on the block that has a rambling front garden, key note rambling, as it's a bit unkept!
I went over the other day and was invited to take some of their Hibiscus flowers for tea.
And oh, I did, I did!
Great big white showy flowers with pink centers, some hot pink fuschia ones and a few red ones. Hibiscus flowers are edible and make for a stunning centerpiece atop a salad, I kid you not!
I don't eat the stamens, and if you are allergic to pollen, you might want to be choosy about which flowers you take. I chose to eat the hot pink ones, the taste was just marvelous with that pesto I mentioned previously. They did have some pollen in them, unlike the white ones which I dried for future infusions.
Being a cooling plant, the flowers make a tangy tasting tea, great for those hot summer days to quench your thirst. And being in the Malvaceae family, Hibiscus root can be used similarly to Marshmallow root, great to help heal those with leaky guts.
While the neighbors had many other goodies growing, including Habanero peppers, Zukes and Tomatoes, I partook of a good bunch of fresh Basil, Parsley, Chive and Mint. Except for the Mint, they were all pureed into a pesto that was really one of the better tasting ones I've made :)
Alas, fall is almost upon us with the end of August and the beginning of September, yet the weather continues to remain hot and steamy. While a bit too hot for my tastes, no complaints, because before long the cooler days of fall will be here, not before long melding into the snowy days of winter.
Next week looks most promising for foraging, and I still have a hankering to gather up some more Red Clover blossoms. Also on the list is:
On to the next great foraging adventure, so keep up that radiant light, sunshine :)
PS. No pics this time around, but maybe on the next go, m'dear :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: