Summer is here! After a good spell of rain, the sunny weather has returned. And with it, many plant friends are making their appearance or growing bigger and stronger!
Wood Sorrel. This little one is easy to identify as she has 3 heart-shaped leaves and looks like clover. Her flower is white or yellow. She is high in oxalic acid, which means she's better to cook before consuming. HOWEVER spinach is also high in oxalic acid and we do add that to the salad bowl, hm? So yes, you can add some Wood Sorrel leaves and flowers to salads! Her taste is pleasantly lemony tart. In fact, if you happen to be gardening or are out and about and you're feeling thirsty, you can munch on a few leaves to quench your thirst.
I've made Wood Sorrel Lemonade in the past and I will probably make it again this summer. I'll share that recipe when I've gathered up a good bunch of leaves and have dried them 1st---so look for that recipe later on! :) For now, you can read more about her HERE. <--- FYI, this is an EXCELLENT site about wild weeds, with pics and their edible and medicinal value :)
Yellow Dock. I've spoken about Yellow (or Curly) Dock in a post before. Here is a good-sized plant. Note the dark green, curly leaves that are an identifying feature. Often there are red spots on the leaves, as she too is high in oxalic acid. Like spinach, she is a good source of iron and you definitely want to be picking her leaves and drying them for infusions, or using them fresh or dried and adding them to the soup or stew pot. I've juiced her leaves for green juices and added her leaves to the blender for green smoothies (you can strip off the leaves of the stems as you would for kale if you find the stems too fibrous OR steam the leaves first and then add to the blender). In the fall, those green seeds turn to brown and you can use them as a coffee substitute (delish!) or grind them down and use as flour in quick bread recipes (also delish!). More on that when we get to the fall season---for now, let us enjoy the summer!!! :)
Purple Loosestrife. She's considered an "invasive weed," being a plant that was introduced from Europe and went wild. The link I'm sharing where you can look at pics of her is from a site in Ontario, Canada. There are other pics of "invasive weeds"---which have edible and medicinal value on the site (NOT HOGWEED HOWEVER). Note that "weeds" = free edible food and medicine!! And the the word "invasive" means there is LOTS of that "weed," so you don't have to feel bad about collecting your fair share for food or medicine.
Loosestrife is considered an invasive weed in other areas, not just Ontario, FYI.
The leaves are edible and I juice them, add them to the blender for green smoothies and throw them into the soup pot. You can also make an infusion from the flowering tops for diarrhea, dysentery and heavy menstrual bleeding. Read more HERE.
Self-Heal. Also called called All-Heal, I've just gotten used to calling her by her latin name, Prunella. This is a TINY plant, so scooch down and look for purple flowers among the grass on lawns (although I have seen her growing in a clearing in the woods, tallest I've seen so far!). While the leaves are edible and can be added to salads or thrown into the soup pot, I always pick the flowers and 2 leaves right beside the flower and dry them for infusions. Prunella is called All-Heal as she is considered an alterative, which means she treats several conditions and is a general tonic for all body systems.
In TCM, she is considered a cold plant excellent for inflammatory conditions. She works primarily on the liver and gallbladder. You can even buy prunella mixed with honey (often sugar as well) in Asian markets. I like to use Prunella infusions to help flush the lymphatic system ---> great for detox, moving the lymph and helping with weight loss. I often add Prunella as a herb to assist others herbs in a formula.
There are a few other plants that I didn't take a pic of but that I noticed growing at work: Dame Rocket and Queen Anne's Lace. Dame Rocket is also called Sweet Rocket which has pink flowers and there's also Yellow Rocket with yellow flowers. They have a bitter taste and while both leaves and flowers can be added to salads, I use the leaves in soups and stews (dried or fresh) and add the fresh leaves to veggie green smoothies (like greens, cukes, tomatoes, etc. kinda like a V-8). Both rockets are in the cabbage family and you should know that her flowers have FOUR petals and LOOK like Phlox, BUT Phlox has FIVE flowers. Phlox flowers are edible (phlox paniculata), FYI, and you can add them to fruit salads. <---You can see pics of the flowers when you click on the links :)
I'll talk about Queen Anne's Lace in a future post as she in the carrot family and there are some look alikes that can be poisonous.
For now, I'll leave you to good weather and happy sun-shiney days...and Roses, lots of Roses! I got about 2 trays full in the dehydrator and the smell of Roses filling the air with her sweet scent was more than enough to put a smile on my face!!
I'm sure yours is happily smiling too, sunshine, so keep up that bright sunny energy, ya hear! :)
Motherwort, Bladder Campion, Vervain, Turtlehead, Toadflax, Green Coneflower, Wild Carrot, Goldenrod & More
Buckle your seat belt, ladies and gents, because it's gonna be a bit of a long one! Pics too, scroll down to see now!!
I've been back-to-back foraging for several days now! First it was all rain, and now it's just all sun! While that's good news for foraging, after a while the plants start gettin' dried out---no good for anyone!
Let's start with The Day Before: I collected some Sow Thistles growing around my shed and snapped some pics of the plants on my balcony garden. Then, a return to Bellefield. I took some pics of some new plants, as well as some insect friends: Shy, Sleepy and Spritely. Ladybug was the shy one, Japanese Beetle was the sleepy one and Cricket was the lively, spritely one. Oh yes, indeedy!
He hopped onto the paper bag I was using to collect Red Clover, and stood there waiting for me to take his picture.
His whole energy kept saying, "Well, are you going to take a picture of me? Me?! C'mon now!"
He was giving me his side angle. Then he turned to look at the camera squarely, to give me his front view. Through the camera lens it seemed we were face-to-face! Hm, a zen master in disguise, perhaps?!
I was feeling tired, detoxing from being on the juice fast. The energy of the field had shifted as well, it wasn't like the other day when I had come. The sky was overcast and I encountered a young boy walking his dog.
I didn't get any Yarrow or more St John's wort (as I had last time around), but I did find a few Prunella (Self-Heal) plants, as well some Motherwort. This time when I left, I took the path that led to the street, and growing at the edge of the field, there she was: Motherwort! I had brought my clippers with me, although I wished I had a better pair of gloves because Motherwort has prickly bits!
Yep, and that was the first thing I did after leaving Bellefield: get a thick pair of gloves ;)
I then went behind the mall, just to pass by, and---what a find! Someone's crabapple tree had a branch that had bent and there were apples right there for the pickin'! I was sure the people who owned the tree had noticed and would be cutting down the branch soon enough. Or not. Not everyone is into the sourness of crabapples, but I tell ya, even green crabapples can be turned into jelly. Or juiced. They kind of remind me of Granny Smith apples. Low in sugar, and that sourness helps to destagnate the liver.
Meantime, I bit into an apple and it was so good, because I needed a lil boost from fastin'! Nope, just chewed the apple and got the juice, then spit out (gross, yes I know), the pulp. Yep, they were green, tart crabapples all right. Yummy to my taste buds :)
I was able to collect 3 shopping bags full of apples!!
It was so much fun, too, that I thought I might go and ring the neighbor and ask if I could pick some apples from their tree, even offer them some money if need be. Heck, it was just part of the branch, and I was loaded with fruit! Made me envy all those who have fruit trees! Why, just one fruit, if she produced well, and a family could be set with apples for quite a while. Mmm, all the recipes one can do with apples. Apple juice, apple cider, applesauce, apple pie, dried apple bits to put into cereal and oatmeal, apple muffins, apple cake...
And on to Yesterday: I went to a new field, Dandyfield. I'm calling it Dandyfield because there are NO DANDELIONS growing in this field. Just like we think Iceland is cold or Greenland is hot, the reverse is actually true!
This field is actually an abandoned lot, but there are plenty plants 'round, that's for sure. The earth is rather gravelly, which might explain why there aren't any dandelions, although I did spot a few Wild Lettuce plants.
There were many Milkweed plants growing, many were starting to form their pods. I took several small ones and even some follicles (or seed pods).
I could feel the Jing, the essence, in those little guys!
More Mugwort. I see her growing everywhere, even in my pot on my balcony. She's a keeper, what can I say :)
Mullein, growing right in the pavement. Small baby ones, too. I think there were only 3 plants so I didn't bother them.
Sumac. LOTS of Sumac! They grow in colonies, apparently. Oh yeah, there was a whole family of them. I licked the Sumac to see if they were ready to harvest, but no, not just yet. They are a dark wine color, but they need to mature just a little bit more. Then it'll be lemonade time ;) Yes, she's one of the spices used in Za'atar.
Goldenrod. Bright yellow-colored flowers, they are just starting to flower. The time to get them is NOW, because soon the bugs will be all over 'em. Many uses: infused in oil as a muscle reliever; in tea she's helpful for urinary issues.
New England Aster. Pretty flower, the root is used in TCM for lung issues.
Chicory. A couple of plants, and their flowers were almost spent. Root roasted and ground as a coffee substitute.
Tons of this white plant, which I think might be Sweet White Clover.
If she is Clover Honey, she has a vanilla-esque taste, so she can be dried for tea or her seeds can be ground and used for flavoring, and young leaves before she flowers can be used as a pot herb, according to Green Deane. I bet she'd make a nice potpourri, too. Guess I'll be going back to check her out. And there were tons and tons of her in this dandelion-less field!
Bladder Campion. Interesting flower because of her balloon-shaped calyx. Root used in TCM for lung issues. Leaves also edible as a pot herb (boil for 10 minutes, then eat).
Queen Anne's Lace or Wild Carrot. Big white lacey flowers having a black center dot means that she's in her 2nd year, as Queen A is a biennial. You can eat her leaves, tempura her flowers, and get her root in the first year in the fall. Tastes like: wild carrot! Seeds taste like caraway. A sweetie, for sure :)
There were several trees, all of which have ripening fruits that will be up for the picking come August and September: Mountain Ash/Rowan Berries, Crabapples and I think a wild plum, no, a wild currant tree (to verify). I know the fruit tasted like a plum, although the tree told me, "The fruit ain't ready yet, sweetie." She was right :0
I then went to explore the woods nearby. Yep, I knew there were mosquitoes, so I was wearing pants, a long sleeved sweater and had brought my homemade insect repellent along: equal parts mugwort tea and apple cider vinegar (2 cups each I used) + 10 drops each essential oils of lemon, fir, eucalyptus, lavender, spearmint, rosemary and a few drops of cedar.
I spotted Chicory right away (leaves and flowers are edible, but bitter, known as I said as a coffee substitute) and took a few snapshots, but that was it.
The mosquitoes were fierce; they were out for blood, my blood! My insect repellent worked to ward them off for maybe 5 minutes and I had to keep moving. There was no way I was going to be staying here for long!
I managed to collect some Plantain leaves and some Red Clover leaves. As I had come here a few times last year, I was looking for Prunella and found but a few flowers. Looking around, I spotted a Crabapple tree and I think there was an Elderberry bush. Elderberry is great to make elderberry syrup for coughs, colds and sore throats. But she tastes so great, you can use "just because" :)
I quickly hurried along another path where, I remembered, Prunella had been growing last year. Sure enough, there were many violet sweeties growing there. I followed them to the point where I was almost alongside the road, and am happy to say that I collected quite a few! Once dried, she makes a very nice tea. Just add some stevia and some milk and you're set. Great to move the lymph in the body and help with weight loss. WIN!
I saw some familiar faces: Wild Parsnip, Cow Parsnip and eek---Baneberries, aka, Doll's Eye.
I still remember my encounter with her last year. There I was, all innocent-like, romping around with my field manual looking for "gold" in the forest. All seemed so inspiring, and friendly (except the mosquitoes). And then, there she was. And this feeling came over me. A shiver running up my spine, a cold feeling suddenly. Creepy energy oozed from those white berries with the dots that look like doll's eyes. Just look at that blood red stem that makes you think of blood...Blood and porcelain doll eyes in haunted movies. Stay away, stay far away!
Yes, she is poisonous. And yep, I left her well, well alone, all right!
Plants in the woods are not the same as those that grow in fields. I mean, they can be, but even the Red Clover and Prunella I found were growing more in clearings than in the denser, shadier areas created by the trees. So you have to watch out. Be mindful, know what you're doing. But then, you're only supposed to forage what you know for sure what is, is @ 100%. Wordy sentence? Eck, you get my meaning ;)
Before heading back home, I went behind the mall and guess what new plant I found? Toadflax! Also called Butter-and-Eggs. Pretty flower, good for dropsy (old word for edema). I collected several plants to repot and study them more at home! Got some Sow Thistle leaves and some rose petals, even a few buds. So rare I take buds, but the flowers have all made way to rose hips now. Yep, they are all in their green-colored stage, but I spotted one or two starting to turn red. You know what that means? Between the golden yellow of Goldenrod and the red of the Rose Hip, fall is on its way!
I know, I can't believe it's already mid-summer either :)
And on to Today: Back to Bellefield. Collected more Red Clover, lots of sweet-smelling White and Pink (yes, pink!) Yarrow in flower, bitter Motherwort in flower, and a bit of muggie (Mugwort).
NEW plants: Blue Vervain! She is flowering now, so it's the right time to get her special medicine :) She grows where there's water, which explains why I've never encountered her before. Her seeds can be ground like four and leaves (or the flowering tops) used for tea. I also got White Vervain. Here's what Susan Weed had to say about Blue Vervain:
"Use the tincture of fresh vervain flowers, 20-40 drops in water, before bed and as needed, to strengthen the nerves, relieve insomnia, dispel depression, treat nervous exhaustion, and moderate headaches, including migraines. (Vervain was a favored plant for the Maiden's altar and the moon lodge, where she was used to promote the onset of the menstrual flow, ease cramps, reduce flooding, and quicken desire.)"
A keeper for sure :)
Turtlehead. Very unique and pretty plant! She makes a bitter tea, but bitter = good for gallbladder and liver issues.
Green-headed Coneflower. Very tall, she was growing beside the creek. Pretty yellow flowers on a GREEN cone in the center with 3-parted leaves. So lovely.
Well, I think all plants are lovely :)
I go around telling each plant how beautiful she is, but then, as I've confessed on more than once occasion to many plants, I think each and every one of them is unique. And not just every "species," but every single plant is special. Even though all red clover plants or dandelion look the same, for example, each plant, every single of them, is...for lack of a better word, unique.
Finally, also identified 2 plants that were growing at work that I had brought home to study better: one is Loosestrife, helpful for IBS apparently, and another is Bellflower. Bellflower has edible flowers and her root tastes like parsnip, would you believe!
Oh, yes. All this foraging has made me rethink what I think of food. We have food that is sold in the grocery stores and farmer's markets, but who has gone and deemed such food as edible. For example, tomatoes were grown as ornamentals because people were wary of their solanine content. Now tomato sauce in pasta and pizza is so commonplace. No tomatoes in your household? You've got to be kidding me!
Foraging has made me realize that there is a whole world of other plants that we can be eating! It has made me rethink what we think of as food and what we don't. It has made me more conscious of the food that I put on my plate, and the food that I put in my mouth and feed my body. And my soul.
With all the talk of toxins in the environment and plant-strong nutrition, I see more and more that what is needed is to return to the land, to our roots. What is needed to counteract the damage that has been done and continues to assault our bodies is to grow our own food and herbs, and to eat "superfoods" which are right below our feet and in our gardens as "wild edibles." Indeed, we should relabel them as Wild Superfoods. They'll be the kinds and queens ruling in my garden, I can tell ya ;)
On that note, I'll be signing off and seeing ya next time, sunshine :)
Ps. Hover mouse over pics to view description.
Curiosity Got The Cat: