Don't you love those posts that start with "there's good news and bad news?"
To be honest, it's mostly good news, but let's start with the ho-hum first.
The ho-hum in question was passing by the environment day event in my neighborhood. Note the word passing by, because that's exactly what I did. I went to check on the plants being sold by the horticultural society: the ones that were left weren't looking too great and there wasn't that much choice. I spotted some Iris plants and some Girl Guides helping out, did a quick tour of the other booths (yep same as last year), stopped by one booth briefly to see if they had seaweed fertilizer (nope, just worm castings), debated on the worm castings, and left.
Now on to the good news: I picked up a few more Strawberry plants and managed to find 2 coir baskets. I'm happy to say that both baskets and all lovely ladies are enjoying themselves on the sunny back balcony :)
I also did some planting: I decided to plant both Mallow plants I purchased (I'll pick up another one for my neighbor and maybe some more goodies for me, hee hee! <- once I get started, you know!! and I have a pot that I purposefully left empty "just in case" for a few other friends :) ), both Yarrows (had to remove a few yellowed leaves due to the cold weather), and the 3 Mint plants along the side of the house. All are doing well and thriving.
I also transplanted a bunch of Sweet Cicely seedlings,the seeds from which I got from Richters. She requires a cold stratification period first, so I put all the seeds from the package onto some paper towel, folded it up, wet it, placed it into a plastic bag and stored it in the fridge for 2 months. I never added any additional water and there always seemed to be moisture in the bag.
After 2 months, when I thought to transplant the seeds, my intuition told me to wait. I put the seeds into a mini seed pot with soil, added water and some plastic cling wrap to cover the earth. Another 1 to 1 1/2 months passed. I took out the seed pot, added water, and what with the warm spring temperature in the house, within 1 week the seeds started sprouting. The shoots look just like grass, very cool indeed!
Not sure of the germination rate, it seemed that all, or if not all most of them, sprouted. Richters says the germination of Sweet Cicely can be difficult and they recommend germinating the seeds within 6 months of receiving them, in other words, the viability or shelf life of the seeds is around 6 months. I'd say up to 1 year, as I bought these seeds last spring and only soaked them this year, in February. Needless to say, I was quite delighted at their appearance, and I can tell that they will grow up to be strong plants. They are perennials and Richters notes that they do come back year after year. You can read the pdf from Richters about Sweet Cicely HERE.
Leaves and stems are supposed to be used like a sugar substitute, like Stevia I'm guessing --- can't wait to try and make recipes! Ooh, food adventures and new plant friends, what delights!! Will keep you posted on how things turn out :)
Other good news is that the seeds I purchased from Richters are on their way. Don't expect to get them 'til Tuesday, which means Monday might be a good day to explore the flower market and get in a few more friends. I remember seeing Pennyroyal there. She's in the Mint family and I think she'd be a good choice for a nice shady spot beside the house.
That also reminds me that I planted a few other seeds there: Shepherd's Purse, Dame Rocket and Violet. I got the seeds from Shepherd's Purse from a wild edible plant that came to stay with me for a bit, nice friend! Same story with Dame Rocket, only she was a "home girl," having been found growing in the garden at work. As for Violet, not sure where I got the seeds, maybe the local big box store or Richters. But wherever I got her from, last year she was blooming in full sun and there were flowers and leaves galore! I spent most days picking a few leaves from her or just sitting beside her and enjoying her company.
When the flowers turned to seeds, too late I realized that in order for them to be viable they had to be black, not brown. Then the cold weather came and I was hoping some of the green seeds would turn color, but they didn't. Oh well, live and learn --- a must where gardening is concerned ;)
More about Violets: when I came to work yesterday, I had noticed the lovely white-flowered ones peeking out from behind some tall bushes and winking me on over. Today was a better day to come for a visit, and I was enthralled by all the Violets, both white and violet. It seems the violet ones flower first and then the white ones follow suit. The ones that are situated behind bushes or other taller plants end up with enormous leaves, some almost as big as my palm! They are a rich, dark green color and make an excellent demulcent tea (dry leaves and flowers first, then infuse 4 hours), especially for those with leaky gut. Instead of tea, I add the dried leaves to the soup pot, then puree everything.
If you're into honey, you can infuse the fresh flowers to help with colds and sore throats during the colder months.
Violet Syrup Sore Throat Soother
To do: Simply add the fresh flowers into a mason jar to the top (be sure there is no moisture on them, so wait 2 days after it has rained to pick them). Add in the honey to cover them and use the handle of a wooden spoon or a bamboo skewer and stir to ensure all flowers are coated with the honey. Add more honey to the top of the jar, put on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain out honey using a fine mesh sieve, pushing down on the flowers in the sieve to strain out as much honey as you can. Then, store your honey in a clean mason jar and enjoy :) If you're wondering what size mason jar to use, how much flowers you have will depend on the size. The flowers are small and don't take up that much space, so I'd look to use a 250ml/1cup or 500ml/2cup mason jar. But if you have loads of flower, a 1 liter mason jar will be right up your alley ;)
Dosage: Add 1-2 tsp to a cup of warm water and drink to relieve sore throat.
Since the garden project seems to still be on at work, I gathered up a few Violet plants to take home. They are really low maintenance plants and that love the shade. Although they can be prolific as they have divide by runners, their root systems are so shallow that you can pretty easily pluck them up and transplant them where you want them to grow.
Ah, the garden project.
Digging up grass is not my idea of a good time.
With a a shovel and a pitchfork, I dug up a little patch of grass to reveal bare soil. I sighed and reminded myself why I had recommended to my boss the no-till NO WORK method!! I went to fetch the cardboard boxes I had laid aside, only to discover half of them missing. I took the ones remaining and laid them out on the edges to show my boss where HE can have the pleasure of putting muscle to bone ;) The good news is that the clients seemed intrigued, so I think a garden will be definitely be in the works :)
What will be planted? The usual easy-to-grow culprits, like Cukes, Lettuce, Spinach and Tomato. AND, I think also Potato. I have 4 Potato plants with shoots about 8 inches long growing in my cupboard. Not being a Potato grower, I did a bit of research and there were different viewpoints about whether to chit (cut) them or not and whether to remove the sprouts or not. I rather fancied the person that said to do both, plant as is and chit and compare the results, but I think I'm just going to plant them all as is and see what develops.
Thinking to also add a few, um, wild edibles to the landscape. The soil is quite sandy in some areas, but I thought, perchance, some Mullein, Dock and Queen Anne's Lace might enjoy a sunny view? I'd to make sure they are planted quite close to the house, because the lawnmower doesn't take any notice of such plants, neither does the one driving the lawnmower ;) Yes, I noticed that the lawnmower had been passed due to the absence of the brilliant mat of purple flowers from Creeping Charlie. There were but a few close to the wall of the house, the rest....smooshed like everything else :(
3 last bits of good news to mention: besides the cold stratification of Sweet Cicely, I had the done same thing with Rose seeds. They are tiny seedlings, very fragile still, but I have a pot full of soil waiting for them to grow into big and strong plants.
Also noticed lots of tiny seedlings in the pots, just 1 week since I've planted them. How exciting! I noticed Dill, Basil, Sweet Trefoil, 1 baby Stevia, 1 baby Thyme, Tansy, Cleavers, Purslane...oh, so many! A few like Mustard and Chive had none, it might be because the seeds are too old. If nothing appears, aaaaaah! The fun of finding other plants that need a home! Some of the plants on the front balcony are also sprouting, Candy Tuft and Borage are two that I noticed just this morning.
Last great tidbit: collected a few edible goodies from work: red Tulip petals to eat with tomorrow's meal and Dandy leaves to add to the juicer in the morning. Mr. Wilson will be pleased, as there's not a speck of dirt to be found on them ;)
Alright, sunshine, off to enjoy the bright sunny day, full of promise and many delights :)
PS. And oh, the delights! Lilacs are blooming --- what scent! And yes, you can make a lovely tea with them, like this recipe or jelly, ice cream and other goodies, see Here for some ideas. Plantain, I found you! And so have the bugs, because they've left their holey tell-tale signs ;) And Hostas! Young Hostas are called hostons, but they are edible at every stage, including the flowers. I picked a good fistful full of young leaves to add to the steamer basket tomorrow :) You can read more about Hostas and other edibles, including Dame Rocket, in my article Here.
Thyme, Honey: 4 Methods to Make Sore Throat/Cough Remedy, Mullein & Garlic Oil for Earache/Swimmer's Ear & Benefits of Diatomaceous Earth
I finally got in the last of the gardening: that's right, I harvested Tansy! Ha ha!
She was the last plant left outside and I was waiting for her to flower. This morning, when I awoke, I could see her on the balcony from outside my bedroom window.
It was time, she told me.
I noticed that some of her leaves had yellowed and some of her flowers were still in bud form, although a few had gone into flower. The yellow flowers are rather nondescript, they look like yellow buttons (hence her nickname, Golden Buttons) but it's going to be interesting using her as cinnamon substitute! She's considered a bit toxic, sort of like cinnamon or nutmeg or clove: a teaspoon or less, easy does it!
I got 2 Mint and 1 Thyme plant from the health food store. Oh boy, were they all root bound, poor them! From the one Thyme, I divided her into 4 new plants, and gave all the plants, including the 2 Mints, a good haircut.
I decided to get some new plants after having to oust out several infected plants (such as Nettle and Chickweed) onto the cold balcony because of Fungus Gnats and White Flies.
I must say that Diatomaceous Earth works wonders! I sprinkled it on top of the soil and even on the leaves of the plants.
I see a few gnats flying around here and there, but much less than before. It's a great anti-fungal that even us humans (yes, you and me) can take for parasites and candida.
Have I tried it?
The taste is not that great, best mixed in with a smoothie or juice to hide the taste, but it DOES help. Follow the instructions on the package: 1 tsp daily for 1 week or 10 days, then take 5 days off, then upgrade to 1 TBsp for the next 10 days. Take 5 days off, then continue @ 1 TBsp or do 2-3 Tbsp. You want to follow this 10 days on/5 days off schedule because many parasites follow this growth cycle. On the 5 days off, they are making babies and laying their eggs, and on the 10 days on you are doing the treatment with all kinds of anti-parasitic herbs!
You stop when your symptoms of gas, bloating, etc. stop. This can take up to 9 cycles and -of course- means you are following an anti-parasite/candida diet, as well as taking other measures, such as Wormwood, Black Walnut, garlic and doing enemas/colonics or herbs that flush those bugs out (like psyllium or bentonite clay or both or...).
OK, got carried away with those bugs, but they can be awfully pesky!!
Back on track: wanted to share a few recipes, no foraging today, but might go for Wild Grapes & Burdock roots later this week:
Anti-Cough & Sore Throat Thyme Honey (4 methods)
Method 1 Fresh Honey Infusion: Place FRESH Thyme leaves in a mason jar, rather loosely packed. How much thyme you have determines the size of the jar (1 cup, 2 cups, 4 cups etc). Add in a thick honey, and stir to coat the leaves. Add in more honey and stir to coat again. Pour more honey to the top of the jar, place on lid and screw cap and let sit 4-6 weeks. Strain out honey using a fine mesh sieve. You can use any jar (clear glass or amber) and keep in the cupboard.
Method 2 Dried Honey Infusion: Same as in Method 1, only now use 1-2 Tbsp DRIED Thyme for every 1 cup of thick honey. Let infuse for minimum 5 days (very mild) up to 4-6 weeks (now there's the potency we want!).
The difference in the methods? Using Fresh herbs makes the honey runny. Using dried herbs is preferred by some to lessen the occurrence of botulism.
Either way: add 1-2 tsp of honey to a warm cup of water and drink to help soothe dry cough and sore throat.
Method 3 Tea Infusion + Honey: Make an infusion with Thyme leaves: place 1/2 oz Fresh thyme leaves in a 2 cup mason jar, then pour boiling water to the top. Put on lid and screw cap and let sit 4-8 hrs. Strain. Add in 1 cup thick honey and stir to combine. Yes, it will be runny, honey ;P But that's just fine, that's OK! Store in the fridge for up to 2 months. To use: 1-2 tsp in a cup of warm water as needed, to soothe a sore throat and ease dry lungs/coughing.
Method 4 Thyme Oxymel (oxymel = acid + honey):
This method takes longer but boasts using probiotic-rich apple cider vinegar (ACV).
Place FRESH chopped thyme in a mason jar (size depends on how much herb you have) and pour equal* amounts of apple cider vinegar (ACV) with "mother" AND honey over the thyme to the top of the jar. Place on lid and screw cap and let sit 4-6 weeks. Strain.
*You can also try using 3 parts ACV + 1 part honey.
* You can also try using 1 part ACV + 3 parts honey.
To use: you mix this with oil and use as a medicinal dressing over salads, take 1 -2 tsp straight up as needed, OR add 1-2 tsp in a cup of warm water OR even add 1-2 tsp to a cup of warm soup...as you prefer.
Note: everyone has their own preference when it comes to honey. Clover and wildflowers are rather neutral, but go with what you like (e.g. I'm rather partial to the more expensive but wonderful manuka honey!).
Note: You can use these SAME 4 methods with OTHER herbs.
Rosemary, oregano, mullein, garlic, elecampagne & elderberry. You can use 1 herb (also called using a Simple) or go for a combination of herbs. These herbs are pretty common for helping with sniffles, runnys, achoos and other cold and flu symptoms.
A second recipe I wanted to share has to do with swimmer's ear. Yes, it's true: I got swimmer's ear from being in the shower! I thought it nothing at first, just water in the ear, but then it persisted.
What did I turn to?
My first thought was Mullein flowers, but I had none on hand. It's exceptionally rare that I get an ear infection, which is why I don't make my own Mullein oil.
My second thought was Garlic oil, which is easy to make in a pinch.
Here are 2 recipes you can use for swimmer's ear (whether from the pool or the shower) or earache:
Mullein Oil Ears Be Good
Fill a mason jar with Mullein flowers. Mullein flowers have a special way of growing, FYI. First, the flowers at the bottom of the stalk start blooming. Then the flowers continue to open at the middle of the stalk and then at the top of the stalk. Let's just say that the flowers all take their time blooming ;)
What that means is that you start collecting flowers as they flower/open. Good news: Mullein often grows with her other Mullein sisters (meaning you'll often find more than 1 growing together or not far away). Since the flowers open at different times, no worries: put however many flowers you have in a mason jar and cover with olive oil. Place on lid and screw cap and let sit in the cupboard. As you get more flowers, just add them to the jar and add more oil to make sure that the flowers stay coated in the oil. When your jar is full, let it sit 4-6 weeks, then strain and store in dark amber bottles. To use: gently warm the oil first. Lie down on a bed on the side opposite the infected ear. Place several drops in your ear and wait 10-20 minutes. Put a cotton ball on the ear and go about your business. You can also let the oil drain out of the ear as well. You can repeat this process 2-3 x a day. Stop if it's not helping and switch to another remedy (there are many out there, from using ACV to using a hair blow dryer to colloidal silver).
Peel and chop the cloves of 1 bulb of garlic and place in a crockpot or double boiler. Cover the chopped garlic with olive oil. Warm the oil gently on low for 1 - 2 hours, making sure the oil does NOT boil. Let the oil sit 8 hours or overnight. Strain out the garlic and store in a dark bottle. Use similarly as with the Mullein oil.
Note: I like to keep this oil in the fridge, then warm it when I need it.
Bonus: Since this is garlic-infused oil, it can also double and be used to make...ta-dah, garlic bread!! Even in the fridge, the oil doesn't harden (as olive oil is wont to do), but that's OK: simply drizzle over warmed up bread and enjoy!! Sure, you can also drizzle the oil first and then warm up the bread in the oven ;P You can also add the garlic oil to soups and stews or even pair this oil with ACV and pour over salads. YUMMERS! :)
Hope you've enjoyed all the great recipes, sunshine! I sure have :)
Ps. Keep you posted on any future foraging adventures, BUT IF NOT, look out for other great Wildcrafting Recipes!!!
Curiosity Got The Cat: