This post is WAY long overdue! I started writing a post about 2 weeks ago and have been busy ever since. Can you tell it's summer? Oh yes, summer is in full swing and there are many plants that you can choose from!
Lady's Thumb. She is an easy one to identify as she has this distinctive mark on her lance-shaped leaves that kind of looks like a thumb print. Her flowers grow in little clusters and are also rather unusual. The flowers can be pink or white. Usually you'll find her growing rather small, however the other day I found one growing on a busy street and she was about waist high at 3-4 feet!
Is she edible? Of course! I've never used her seeds, but her leaves have a pungent taste when eaten raw, so you chop them up and add them to salads. She makes a great spinach substitute (or use as you would any green) and you can steam the leaves or add them to soups and stews. She can be juiced and added to veggie smoothies as well :)
Gallant Soldiers. I confess: this plant must've been in my potting soil, because I found her growing in EVERY single one of my pots! The good news about her is that she is an edible weed! Her white petaled & yellow-centered flowers are quite distinctive: the yellow centers have small "pockets" that are reminiscent of honey comb while the 5 white indented petals are widely spaced and look like a mini tulip or a bear's paw shape (two ways you might find useful to conceptualize/help with ID). I use her leaves in soups, stews and stir-fries, and you can certainly toss them into salads and use them in smoothies and green juices. You can read more about Quickweed (another name for her) HERE.
Horseweed. This was a new plant I discovered just this year at work. She looks very much like Solidago, or Goldenrod before she flowers <-scroll down and you'll see a pic of the plant with just leaves, before she flowers) but there are hairs on her central stem. She also has many small flowers that start in June while Goldenrod has bushy yellow flowers that come out in late August. When you crush her leaves they give off a carrot-like smell.
She also starts off in a basal rosette and then grows to kinda look like a bottle brush, sort of looking like Horsetail or as her other name, Mare's Tail. The taste of her leaves is bitter, so she can understand why she makes a good vermifuge. You can read more about her medicinal uses here.
Is she edible? Young or old, I'd throw the leaves into the soup or stew pot. I'd also juice her, but not put too much in the juice, just like with Dandelion leaves. Since her flavor is similar to tarragon, you can dry and grind her leaves and use her that way. I've yet to do this, but I would dry her leaves whole and add in a small bunch to the soup pot come wintertime.
Note that one of her common names is Canada Fleabane (latin name is conyza canadensis/erigeron canadensis). She in the same family as Fleabane (erigeron philadelphicus) but they do not look the same.
I've kept this post to just talking about 3 plants, because I know it can get hairy when there are too many plants to identify! I'll continue to mention a few different plants with each new post.
Being in early -and starting almost to enter into- mid-summer, many plants are thriving, so there are many plants I can talk about! Indeed, I found a nice patch/ field that I am hoping to visit soon where I located---Comfrey! This is the 1st time I've ever seen her growing in the wild, and I want to go and get some in order to dry her for infusions and make oil (more about that in the next post!). It has been quite a rainy summer, in all truth, which has meant that foraging for herbs hasn't been ideal. However, I am hoping to take a day trip to a field a bit far away in order to collect Red Clover. I visited Bellefield the other day, or should I say what is now a big building of condos. Along the water, there are some Stinging Nettle plants in seed, which I would like to collect and use to make a mean green pesto! I also noticed some Motherwort and Jewelweed growing, as well as some Blue Vervain. I am mentioning these plants now, and I might talk about them in a future post, but it isn't my intention to collect these plants.
Of interesting note: on the way to the dance studio the other day, I came across a Lamb's Quarter plant as tall as myself (over 5 feet tall)! I always find it amazing when I see a plant growing in a "mini-form" (usually like on a lawn or the crack in a sidewalk, and the plant is small because it has been mowed down and then regrows) and then seeing the same plant growing in its full potential (like in a field or abandoned lot).
Anyway, sunshine, I am happy to report that the herbs are bountiful and green blessings are everywhere! Stay bright, because there are many more lush days ahead :)
I apologize in advance if this post doesn't have the same flavor as it did when I first wrote it. I had written this diary entry for half an hour and was about to add some tags to the post when I got logged out of the system. All those words describing my encounters with beautiful plant beings were lost....Alas, while the experiences are still there in my heart, I write now to recount to you as best I can what happened when I returned to Bellefield....
My purpose on going to Bellefield was to collect some Nettles for a future pesto. So, when I arrived at Bellefield, I immediately crossed the bridge and turned left (instead of right, towards the field). I walked down the path, hoping that there would be still be some Nettles, as I noticed that the patch growing close to the water had been mowed.
Ah yes, and it would seem that another patch growing along here had also gotten mowed...
Was it random or had someone pointed out that a crazy lady was coming along picking weeds?
Nah, while unusual, no one really cared about that kind of stuff!
I arrived at the Nettle patch and oh, what delight! I was able to harvest 3 large paper bags full of Nettle, 2 viable for tea and 1 with seeds that was good to add to the pot for a mean green pesto.
I was so appreciative, I kept thanking the plants, so happy that I was able to find good medicine and superfood! Indeed, turning around and walking a bit further along the path, I spotted some Sumac trees growing along a small hill. They invited me to come and take some of their berries.
I licked my finger, then licked a bunch of berries, then re-licked my finger again. Some of the berries were still a bit green, but the taste was pleasantly mildly sour.
They assured me that the berries were fine and I collected several drupes.
It seemed they were telling me which ones to pick, and I laughed, telling them I couldn't possibly collect them all as I wasn't that tall!
Smiling and glowing from their interaction and generosity, I skipped along the trail to visit the field. There, I spent the next little while collecting and talking to Red Clover.
You must be so happy that it has rained, I told them, seeing how many of the blossoms were now back to the usual purpley-pink hue, unlike last time when most were pink-colored and full of slugs.
Don't be silly, they chided me. We accept what Mother Earth has to offer us and she is always kind and knowing in her ways.
I was beaming with all the bounty of the flowers around me and did indeed collect a good bunch (about 4 dehydrator trays worth!).
I then spotted some pink Yarrow, and the color of these flowers were a darker hue than the usual pale ones I'd seen before. I got out my clippers and collected several heads of white, pale pink and dark pink flowers, smelling some as I went along. Aaah, Yarrow, such a looker, but not so sweet tasting (nope, definitely more antiseptic-like, yech!).
I stopped and looked briefly at the Milkweed plants, but they did not call me. I noticed some Mugwort and said hullo, then went to visit the patch of Plantain that had been so generous in the past. Interesting how this time everything had changed, they were silent in their energy, and so I didn't interact with them or take any of their leaves.
I noticed the Grape vines, now trailing over the fence, but they too did not call to me.
Getting out my camera to snap a few pics, who did I suddenly encounter but Tansy! Oh my, this was the first time I had ever seen her growing in the wild, and she seemed so happy to be growing where she was. I was happy to see her too, and gave her an energetic hug.
I snapped a few pics of Yarrow and Bull Thistle, the latter being taller than me (must've been around 5'7 or 8!).
I also noticed some other plants that I hadn't previously. In fact, in my last post I had mentioned that there were about 2 dozen plants growing in this one field, but I underestimated: 3 dozen is more like it!
Indeed, I took pics of Yellow Vetchling (I had mentioned her last post but didn't take a pic), Wild Parsnip, Blue Vervain, White Vervain, Queen Anne's Lace, Dock (now in seed), Green Coneflower, Jewelweed, Mugwort, Burdock and a plant that I have yet to identify. I also took a pic of a bee that came to inspect some pollen on my shorts :)
Returning home, I felt a pull by some plant growing beside the shed. No name came on the wind, but I was suddenly led to discover her name online with some writings by Susun Weed: Groundsel! I collected several plants beside the shed, then went and discovered more hiding behind the Tomato plants growing in my neighbor's yard.
Growing beside the Groundsel, there was also 2 Lady's Thumb plants, which I transplanted to one of my planters before divesting them of a few large leaves for a future pesto.
Groundsel is related to Ragweed, yet a taste of the leaves ensured me that it was fine to add to the pot for a pesto (meaning: steam greens, including those Nettles I collected earlier, first before pureeing in the food processor). Also means: nope, no allergies to Ragweed here!!
With the flowering tops, I made a tincture of Groundsel to use during period time to help with cramps:
---> Chop 1/3 off the flowering top of plants, then further chop into small pieces. Add to mason jar, cover with 100 proof alcohol, cap and let sit 6 weeks before straining into amber bottles. Usage and dosage: 5-10 drops 1x daily for PMS and cramps; 5-10 drops daily for 3 months to tonify the uterus so that you no longer get cramps/PMS. Not suitable for those with allergies to Ragweed.
I also made Sumac-ade, which is easy-peasy to make and tastes just like lemonade!
---> Simply take the berries off the stem and place in a bowl (you can toss in the stems if you like). Add enough tepid or room temperature water to cover the berries. Let sit 15-30 minutes, then place a coffee filter in a sieve and strain out the liquid. Ta-da, Sumac-ade that tastes just like Lemonade! Add stevia (or other sweetener) for a touch of sweetness.
I've posted this recipe in the recipes section with some variations Here :)
Finally, I put the Red Clover and Nettle onto mesh sheets in the dehydrator to air dry, then had a brilliant idea to dry Yarrow as cut flowers in a vase. No water needed, because the flowers will be used for future infusions and/or other wildcrafting recipes.
Keep that light burnin' now, sunshine, cuz there'll be more foraging adventures before ya know it :)
PS. Took a look-see and enjoy the pics :)
Came across a new plant while out for a jog: galinsoga parviflora , called Gallant Soldiers in Britain. Leaves and flowers are edible, can eat raw in salads, eat steamed, or add to soups and stews. I'm sure this is another green herb that could be dried and added to a wild greens powder.
How fun to discover new plants!!
Interestingly, when I saw her, I asked her name, and it came to me galinsoga. Strange, because when I've done that in the past, plants usually don't respond! But then I remembered I had most probably had a brief interaction with her last summer and it was a name my memory dredged up.
In any case, galinsoga is her latin name and I'm happy to have gotten better acquainted with her this year. Indeed, I'm going to be actively seeking her out and adding her to pestos AND drying her for future soups. YAY!
Also spotted some huge Lamb's Q growing right in the middle of these concrete raised beds in the middle of the road. In previous years, the city had planted flowers, but they had decided not to this year. Instead, good ol' weedy friends are growing there now. I was tempted to take Lamb's Q, but I know foraging plants close to the street is not recommended. I did take a sprig of Penny Cress, now all gone to seed, to plant next year. The seeds, just like Pepper Grass and Shepherd's Purse, can be ground and used as a pepper substitute
In the previous post, I had forgotten the name of 2 pea flowers, but while flipping through a foraging book for my area, came across the names: Yellow Vetchling or Yellow Flowered Pea and Everlasting Sweet Pea or Perennial Pea (pink colored). Toxicity is noted in large doses. I've tried a few while out and about as a trailside nibble. Not bad at all. Will have to look further and see what others have come across in terms of toxicity.
Have 2 unidentified plants to find out who they are: one looks like Flax, very distinct pattern of the leaves, but the flowers are so tiny. Another one I'm sure there were seeds in the compost, because I found her in almost all of my pots. Also distinct pattern of clusters of flowers growing on the central stem.
On further inspection, yes, it's definitely flax! I planted her in a flower box last year and some seeds must've remained in the soil. As for the other, not sure yet....but I did find another weedy friend that had made her home without an invitation: Lady's Thumb! While there are a few different persicarias in my area, Lady's Thumb has that easy-to identify splotch on the leaves. Of course she's edible and being high in oxalic acid, I naturally added her to the pot with other wild greens to make a most tasty pesto.
Yep, I've been making a pesto most days now. Last one I made had tons of Wood Sorrel and Common Sow Thistle. A bit much on the sour and bitter flavors, but that's OK. Tasted fine when eaten with sweet Carrot and Flax crackers, yummers!
Alrighty, darling sunshine dear, all for now...hope for more foraging adventures in the future, cuz the weather is sticky and hot!
Very exciting indeed! I got some books of plants that specifically grow in my area! 4 of them to be exact :0 They were a small investment, about $30 each, and I suppose I could have gotten them from the library, but what would fun would that be? I need guide books to take with me while I'm out in the field! I got one book on trees and plants that grow in the woods, another on plants that grow in wetlands, swamps and by the river, and the last 2 are on plants that grow in the city. I just got them yesterday and I've perused the ones in the city and just flipped through the other two. I'm excited about the one in the woods the most, I suppose, because I'd really like to be able to identify trees, what with me living in Canada and all---land of the trees!! Plus trees have good medicine and tasty berries :)
Rain has come again, which meant I was itching to go foraging but was unable to. Yesterday I collected some Sow Thistles and they were still wet. That's OK, though, because if you are foraging to eat plants, it doesn't matter. Like the Sow Thistles. I got them to use as juice. Yep, even those little baby leaves have some bitter kick to them, kinda like dandelion. But I tell ya, juice those big leaves with some fruits, and you got yourself some nice green juices :) Free food = beats buying kale and lettuce at the health food store, even if they are around $1 - $2 a head, what with it being the summer season. Plus, you can freeze those Sow Thistles for later use, throw them in soups when the weather turns cool again. Lovin' the Sow Thistles :)
Now that I have heavy-duty gloves, I might just go and try some Bull Thistles. Have to remove the spines and be careful of the prickles when I chop her up, but I'd like to try her in a juice. And there are some growing in Bellefield...if this rain would just let up already! Check this LINK out about her edibility: flower buds edible roasted, seeds ground are edible, root edible and high in inulin and leaves too are edible (sans spines). COOL!!
Yeesh. I went for the fridge that has a 2 door french-styled model and the fridge section is larger than the freezer one. Oh no, I was thinking at the time, I don't freeze anything! Everything is fresh! Exclamation points for emphasis here, but I'm also being sarcastic. At that point in time, it was true that I wasn't freezing food. But now that I'm into foraging, I'll be lucky if I can barely get anything in there ;)
Went for a walk along a bike path which is right beside a lake. I knew there were plants growing there but I didn't think to go and really take a look-see, silly me. I mean, WOWee, just guess what old friends were growing along there?
OK, before I tell ya, they usually say that plants that grow along the water are different than plants that grow in, say, the woods, or your backyard. Pfff, that rule did NOT seem to apply here, as here are some of the plants growing along the bike path/water:
Lady's Thumb is a new plant that I've found this year. She tastes like a mild green (she's in the buckwheat family) and both her leaves and flowers are edible! I found her growing in one of my containers, then saw several plants growing in an alleyway, and then again by the water. I suppose you could say she's been trying to get my attention! You can add her to your salads, soups and stews. She's very recognizable by her small cluster of flowers at the top (pink, but sometimes they are faded and then there is one kind that has white flowers) and this ink blot on her leaves that some claim looks like a lady's thumb. She also has some medicinal properties, including being a vermifuge (dry and use as tea). I think I'm going to juice her and add her to some smoothies!! Not too much, though, because she has oxalic acid (cooking neutralizes it so no worries there).
It was true that there were several plants that I didn't recognize, and that got me excited because it means I'm going to be going back there to take pics and make new friends! Yes, it's just so nice discovering new plant allies, but also that there is tons of FREE food and medicine around :)
Speaking of being around, since rain is around, it's a good time to do research on plants.
Check out this link on the edibility of Blue Vervain: seeds edible (but slightly bitter), leaves good in salad, soups and stews (probably throw them in a smoothie or green juice, too), root edible, flowers pretty up a salad. Plus she has tons of medicinal properties: being astringent, she is good to help quell diarrhea and heavy periods, and she's also useful as an emmenagogue and for hot flashes.
She's really known as being a nervine and for being fabulous at easing neck tension. You can read all about it in this excellent post from Anima Center HERE.
Nope, I've never seen her growing out in the wild (although she is purported to grow as such), but she is growing in one my large containers! She's a beut[y], what with her pink flowers and all. And she's edible! All parts, too: root, leaf, flower on salads. Can't wait to try her licorice-like root! Supposed to be diuretic, plus she has a few other medicinal properties. You get her seeds from Richters, if you're interested.
I've never mentioned Black Medic before, but she grows prolifically around here. You know you have her growing on your lawn because her small cluster of yellow flowers soon turns to black seeds. She's in the same family as alfalfa, although there have been reservations about eating her, because her seeds and leaves contain L-canavanine.
I've throw black medic leaves in salads. Not much taste, similar to alfalfa. The seeds can be ground and used as flour, according to my new-found book on herbs, and I plan on collecting some seeds once there's been some drier weather. Cooking is supposed to neutralize the l-canavanine in the leaves, so I guess I'll be adding that to my soup cauldron :)
Queen Anne's Lace/Wild Carrot
Yep, just like her name says, her root tastes like carrot. She's a biennial, so you want to get her root in the first year in the fall, or in the springtime. In the first year she's all leaves, but whether in the 1st or 2nd year, you can use her leaves raw, juiced or thrown in soups and stews. I'm not partial to the leaf stem, so I glide my forefinger and thumb along the stem to remove the leaves and just use the leaves.
Flowers are edible, but I'm not much partial to them either and you want to make sure you eat just the flower and not any of the bitter green stem; even cooked, it's not that great-tasting. You can dip the flowers in a tempura batter, fry and eat them that way, OR consider making a jelly out of them by 1st making a tea with the flowers. I've read using fresh flowers but I prefer making infusions instead, so I would dry the flowers first, pack them into a mason jar then add boiling water to the top. Lid and screw cap on, let sit 4-8 hrs, then strain out liquid and now use this liquid as you would in any jelly recipe (you know, add in pectin and a sweetener)! Or you could even try making jello with the tea...Oh, my! I've got to try that :)
Bellefield and Dandyfield, here I come!!
FYI: She looks like Poison Hemlock, which has a smooth, hairless green stem often streaked with red/purple. She smells stinky, too. In contrast, Wild Carrot has a HAIRY stem, smells carroty and since she often grows in bunches, many of them have a black/dark purple "dot" (a small flower) in the center of their white flowers.
Alrighty, I suppose that's enough info on the green allies for now. Don't wanta overload ya with info! Yes, that's right, these beauties are green allies that offer us beautiful gems of friendship, companionship, medicine and even food! No wonder so many folks adore them and pay homage to them in their gardens...
And then there's some of us who have fallen in love and go out "into the wild" to frolic about and discover hidden treasure.
Which we gladly share with others :))
Stay blissful, sunshine :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: