Since my last post, so many things ---as usual!--- have happened. So let's get right into it!
Foraging by the Mall. I had the opportunity to pass behind the mall and see what was growing. I found some Violets, Sow Thistles, Dandelion and Coltsfoot leaves, the same plants as I've found in previous years. Last year there was a nice patch of Garlic Mustard, but not this year. Indeed, I find every year there tends to be a few plants that are prolific. Last year it was Garlic Mustard. The previous year it was Lamb's Quarter. This year...I'm not quite sure yet. To be discovered!
I also passed by the area close to the mall parking lot and saw lots of Mugwort growing. She's one that comes back year after year! Speaking of which, when I went to burlesque class, whom did I happen to see growing on a little patch of lawn? Mugwort! And several friends :) Side note: um yes, burlesque. Subject not related to plants however ;)
Mugwort. At this stage, she's quite small, as I've found Mugwort growing up to 5- 6 feet. Being a vermifuge like well-known Wormwood and being really bitter like Dandelion, you want to tincture the flowering tops one to use as medicine. You can then use the tincture to help dispel worms or take 30 drops 20-30 minutes before meals to help with digestion (bitters = increase in hydrochloric acid in the stomach and help with bile from the liver). I confess that I use the leaves (easier to collect before she flowers although I've used leaves once she's in flower) and dry them to add a small handful to soups and stews. You can also add a few chopped up leaves to a salad, much as you would with bitter Rue or Dandelion leaf.
Mugwort is the chosen herb in TCM for moxa, a fat incense stick that is used to dispel damp conditions by bringing it close to certain points on the body. Being antimicrobial, she can also be used to clean the air of bacteria when used as a smudge. Indeed, Mugwort (whom I fondly call Muggie) can be a great boon to those who practice energy medicine or massage, when you want to dispel bad vibes and energy from a room.
Being an invasive perennial, you'll be sure to find her growing somewhere near you (OK, well at least where I live up in the Northeast of the country!). I'll post more pictures of her later one, when her tiny flowers are in bloom :)
Plantain. Dandelion was of course hanging out on this same patch of lawn, as was Plantain. The Plantain leaves looked rather tough, as you can see by their wrinkled appearance in the photo. When it comes to tough leaves, I dry them to make infusions and I have dried them to use in future soups, especially during the winter months (funny how when you puree everything in a soup, you have no idea what's in there but it sure tastes yummy! all the more reason to add in some greens to the pot!!). I've juiced tougher leaves as well and you could certainly use them in a herbal vinegar. For salads and smoothies, you want smaller, more tender leaves. And while it is true that the best time to find tender leaves is in the spring or early summer, I've found tender leaves all throughout the season, especially on mowed lawns, as the leaves get cut back and have to produce new ones.
Plantain is called the boo-boo plant for good reason: if you have a cut or scrape or insect bite, take a leaf or two (you'll be eyeing for those bigger, tougher ones but any size will do) and chew it up in your mouth. Then spread this mush (yes, it's called a spit poultice and it's your own saliva so it's OK) onto the affected area. Being a cooling and vulnerary plant, Plantain will help to take out the redness, stinging and swelling. You can continue to repeat this process several more times, as the water will evaporate and the mushed up leaves will fall off. I've done with great success on insect bites: one insect bite had Plantain, the other didn't. The one that got treated started healing right away and healed faster as well. Plantain made me a believer!!
I should mention that if your boo-boo happens to take place at home, you can take a leaf and place it in boiling water, just enough to soften it and then place it (cool the leaf enough to handle first, like on a rack) onto the affected area. I should also mention that her vulnerary and cooling properties are used in an infusion for all kinds of internal inflammation, especially benefiting those with IBD, IBS, Crohn's, Colitis and other conditions. Best paired with soothing Marshmallow root and/or Slippery Elm bark.
Burdock. Doing this kind of healing with a plant, you'd almost think of it as a sort of bandage, wouldn't you? And Burdock leaves, even a young Burdock plant like this one, can be used to help with bandaging large wounds if you're out in the field and get hurt. Now, I've never used her leaves as toilet paper (Mullein leaves are softer for that), but I've seen it mentioned before!
Burdock is biennial plant, which means in the 1st year she stays small and low to the ground. In the 2nd year she shoots up a big central stem and has pretty purple flowers. Many know about her because of her tacky, velcro-like seeds which stick to clothing, pets, bags and anything else they come in contact with!
There are actually 2 types of Burdock, lesser and major, and that just means that there is a small version and a bigger version of the plant!
Burdock is quite nifty, I must add, because her:
Cleavers. Sometimes you'll see it written as Clivers, but it's still the same plant. This was actually the first time I've seen Cleavers growing "in the wild" ---> meaning that this patch of lawn was close to a busy street on one side and close to a small wild forest area on the other.
I love the rough texture of Cleavers strangely and have never been bothered by it. She's a great one for weight loss, as a diuretic and to detox the lymphatic system. You can dry her at any time, before or after she flowers, for infusions. She's easily juiced, and you can even cook her like spinach and then her use as you would spinach: in an egg frittata, to soups and stews, casseroles and pates, with pasta...or what have you.
Lamb's Quarter. Speaking of spinach, Lamb's Q is another spinach substitute. She's had a bad rap by some being high in oxalates, but there are many foods which contain oxalates, spinach and chocolate being two of them! I don't worry much about it and steam Lamb's Q or throw her into the soup pot. I've also juiced her and added her to smoothies. You can also dry the leaves and seeds and then grind them to a powder (like a "greens powder") and add to baked goods or smoothies for extra nutrition. Yummers! Free food!
FYI: This is a good tip which you might find be useful to help you identify plants. Get some seeds (such as from Richters) of different wild plants and plant them in your garden OR in a pot. You'll then be able to see how they grow at different stages. When you go out in the field and think a plant might be, like in this case, Cleavers, you can then bring a sample of the unknown plant and compare it with the one you have growing. I have been doing this with several plants, and am now able to positively identify, for example, Queen Anne's Lace, Lamb's Quarter, Cleavers, Chickweed, Purslane and many others. Just be sure you offer the proper care for your wild plants and be aware of how invasive they can be (container gardening might be best) ---> I've been growing Comfrey, which has a long tap root, in an old, tall garbage pail!
Seeing as how this post has gotten long, I'll tell you all about my encounters with old and new friends at my herb and tell you have seeds I've sown in my balcony garden next time around. 'Til then, sunshine, keep burnin' bright :)
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.
Got in the last of my seeds sowed! Is it too late to plant strawberries? Aw, shucks! Oh well...
So, here are the last of the herbs I planted:
Pleurisy root. Yep, she's a show stopper. I fondly write "bee love" next to plants that attract pollinators, and she's one of them! Well, she is also called Butterfly Weed :)
Elecampagne. Wow, didn't know she gets up to 6 feet! She's known as a pulmonary, which means she helps you out with lung issues, like asthma, cold, flu, etc. Because she has a demulcent nature, that slipperiness acts as a lubricant for sore throats and dry lungs.
Boneset and her cousin (Sweet) Joe-Pye-Weed, also called Queen-of-the-Meadow and Gravelroot. I talked about these in a previous post, where Boneset is used to break a flu and both are used as diuretics. Joe-P, well, I shoulda mentioned she's a sweet gal. Her leaves give off a vanilla smell when you crush them...Bee love, for sure! She's also supposed to be a helpful herb for cancer.
Pennyroyal. Being in the mint family, she's great for gas (carminative) and to help with digestive issues (stomachic). She's also antispasmodic, so good to help with menstrual cramps (emmenagogue).
I spoke of Valerian last time, although I finally got to planting her.
Anise Hyssop. I just love this licorice-scented plant! Beautiful flowers on a long stalk, such a great addition to salads to help with digestion. I usually add mint and some wild greens --- plus fruit, maybe some seeds and a touch of lemon juice--- to my salads!
That was yesterday! Today I bought a mint plant because I had 3 types of mint and they died! I never thought a mint plant would actually not come back, but winter was pretty harsh this time around. I don't even know what variety she is, but I'll be happy to add her fresh leaves to impart a refreshing taste come mid-summer in my salads; or maybe in a cold tea, too :)
My neighbor noticed that my mallow plant, malva sylvestris, is flourishing quite well. I have several plants growing in a large pot and I was going to give her one (gave her one last year and although supposedly a perennial, she acts as an annual, at least where I am), when I spotted some malva at the farmer's market. She was most delighted to see that an elf had left a gift on her doorstep (a really early Christmas gift, ha ha!). But elves are known for being tricksters, mischievous...
And speaking of mischief, I decided to plant my strawberries seeds after all. They are Alpine Strawberries, sometimes hard to germinate, or so I read, so I used ALL the seeds in the package! They can grow inside, so I figure that come October, I'll be having berries while everyone is hankering after pumpkins ;) Never been so gun-ho on pumpkins, anyway, once a year pumpkin muffins and cookies is just fine for me...But pumpkin seeds? Mmm, quite tasty indeed!
One last tidbit: wrote to Richters about the backordered seeds. Agrimony came in, but it could take weeks before Horehound and Motherwort come in. While I canceled my order for those last two, that means I may have to find a home for one more plant! UH-OH. Think I have a repurposed bowl and a small pot left. Wouldn't know where to put her anyway! But if she comes, yea! I'll find room for her, somehow I always do!
PS. Smiled when I saw Lamb's Quarter growing in the cracks in my neighbor's driveway. She was out pulling these "weeds," and despite me telling her about its spinach-like taste and having her try it, she was not sold! Just like she was not sold on all her Forget-me-nots growing in her garden, which I helped to pull out yesterday. Funny, because they covered all the empty spaces in her garden, and now, having pulled them all, my neighbor has to go shop for plants to fill up said empty spaces! The flowers of Forget-me-nots are edible, BTW. I tried them yesterday, and they don't have much taste, but they would sure pretty up a cake, cookie or even a salad with their delicate appearance! I'm adding the lamb's quarter as well as some dandelion leaves I collected yesterday from my neighbor's garden (growing FREEly, thank-you), to my soup, along with some radish leaves, daikon radish, beets, carrots and fresh basil which I purchased from the health food store today. Mmm-mmm, wild dinner awaits in celebrated bounty...or something of the sort ;)
Curiosity Got The Cat: