Have been so busy lately. I started writing a blog post a couple of days ago and never got back to it 'til now. So many plant things have happened in just a few days, which means time to catch y'all up :)
I got the seeds from Richters and planted Nettle, Cilantro, Pansy, Hollyhock, Comfrey, Bergamot and Chervil. I also added the Violets I got from work to a flower box in the shade (I noticed that one of them had gotten uprooted by an unruly squirrel and had to be repositioned---all other plants not being bothered by squirrels, thank goodness!).
Speaking of that shady spot behind the balcony, when I was adding the Nettle seeds to a large basket-turned-planter, I found the basket to be rather shallow, so will have to see how Nettle fares. I'm excited to see how Hollyhock turns out and can't wait for Comfrey to showcase her big, beautiful leaves and bee-lovin' flowers :) She can be hard to germinate from seed, but I made sure to add a few extra to each hole. Chervil will be an interesting one. I've seen her growing once when I went on an herbal walk on the mountain downtown, but I'm sure she grows elsewhere. Which is why I'm hoping to spot her while out foraging and make some comparisons. She's kinda like Carrot leaves, so you know she makes a mighty fine green or veggie juice :)
I do know of another spot where Chervil can be found: at the flower market! Yep, I thought I was all was done with my balcony garden... 'til I just so happened to pass by. Actually, my intention was a simple one, just to get a couple of plants for my neighbor. And I did, I did! I got her a Mallow plant because hers from last year didn't come back (despite being a perennial, she acts like an annual, but perhaps a good mulching and she'd come back again) and a lovely Spanish Lavender. She loves the smell of Lavender, as most people do, and this was a variety she doesn't have growing in her garden.
For myself, there were so many, I wanted to get one of each! So fun to see all the colors, the smells, the textures of the leaves, the taste... and make new friends :)
I debated on Cinnamon Basil (even though I do have 2 varieties growing, maybe, just maybe, I might go back for one as the combination is really nice), Lavender (so lovely smelling, what can I say), and Mums (there are really just so many types, who can choose but one?!). Despite already having 2 varieties growing, it was the lovely striped Golden Sage that instantly caught my eye. Same story with Mint, although I think I have 3 different types, and this time I got one called Starlight. I also picked up a Lemon Thyme (yep, got the common variety growing already, she's in seedling state) and a Lovage. Lovage can be used like Parsley, and I planted her where Chive should be growing but isn't. When I poked around in the soil to tuck Chervil in, I discovered 2 Chive seedlings hiding in the soil, so perhaps she will come along after all. Anyway, they can share the same pot, no bother at all!
I did get a Mum after all :) --- too many "alls!" That was the last plant I got, and I debated on orange or yellow flowers. Both appealed to me ~but of course!~ yet I went with the yellow-flowered ones. Mums are edible, you know, and medicinal. The flowers are used in TCM to help with liver issues, and also with eye issues similar to the herb Eyebright. The leaves can be steamed or cooked and are often added to stir fries. I've had her stir fried and steamed, and of course added the dried leaves to my soup cauldron pot :)
All of the pots are now accounted for, except one. I realized that I had plunked in a marker with Sorrel, but haven't added any seeds. The Rose seedlings haven't advanced much, I'm afraid, so I'm going to give them a few more days. If they show progress, the spot is for Rose. If not...well, the flower market will be there until the end of June, so plenty of time to find some more friends. Space will of course be a problem if I bring home too many :( However, I am thinking that my neighbor might enjoy a Mum, perhaps one with orange flowers, as she does like to share her garden with me and she knows I'm an adventurous kinda eatin' gal ;)
Of course, there are other places that sell flowers, and I'm thinking of a certain hardware store as I write this where I've bought her a Hibiscus plant each year. She brings in the plant during the winter and leaves her in the basement and the plant continues to thrive and even flower. The only thing is that with the wonky weather these past few years, she's put out the Hibiscus plant too early in the season, only to have her loose all her leaves and not make a comeback :(
I've purchased Mimosa seeds from the same store and wonder if she's a hard one to germinate or if it was just the exceptionally wet and rainy weather we had last year that meant only 1 of the seeds germinated. Not only that, the plant seemed to stay young, didn't seem strong at all. Too bad, because during a stay at Cuba, I remember how tall and 'frady she was. Yes, she's also known as the shy, sensitive or bashful plant, touch-me-not, because when touched she closes her leaves (see more here). She's also in the pea family, so fixes nitrogen in the soil and is used in Ayurveda for many medicinal ailments, including kidney issues, wound healing and cancer (read more here).
Anyway, my neighbor was bemoaning the fact that the fence that borders with her neighbors on the other side needs to be replaced. The neighbors were supposed to do it in early spring, but now that time has advanced and the plants are out and about, that means she will have to rip up her plants for them to do the work. Fall would be a better time, I was telling her, perhaps they could forestall it. She shook her head no, and I could tell that she wasn't happy that her beautiful flower garden with her Peonies and Phlox would be gone (both of those are edible, FYI :) ).
And yes, on to foraging! I took a glance at Bellefield while I was on my bike yesterday coming back from a shopping spree at the thrift store (what treasures! what fun! got 3 big goodie bags full of tops, dresses and purses, too bad I didn't have the time to go to this other thrift store this lady was telling me about, all items just $2!!) and noticed that the earth at the front of the path leading to the field was laid ready for planting. I felt a bit of fear. I see this "no trespassing" sign, but then I shoo-shoo that away, because I've been there before. Still, it has been a concern of mine because foraging is so new that I was even thinking about asking the city for a license to go foraging in abandoned fields. A bit strange, I have to admit, because who knows who owns the land (it may be the city, it might not be), and getting arrested for picking Dandelions (which is what happened to Wildman Steve Brill and how he got famous) seems really silly.
I haven't actually done that much foraging, but then I was thinking when I was photographing the Garlic Mustard and Gill-Over-Ivy (see pics below) that I'm not much of a spring forager. Violet, Coltsfoot and Dandy flowers are all edible and can be infused in honey to help with coughs and colds, but that's not my health issue. I already mentioned not being keen on Garlic Mustard or Cresses, such as Barbara's Cress, but then I got to thinking, well, why not? They'll all be added to the soup pot, and it all gets pureed, I don't even know what wild greens are in there, so go and get 'em!
I say go get 'em because while I photographed Garlic Mustard (there was Cress in the background), I didn't collect any :( And the weather has been sunny bright and nice for the past few days, perfect for foraging! I did collect a few Dandy leaves for juice, which I added to the juicer this morning with some Cantaloup, mmm good!
I was also thinking while staring at the patch of Garlic Mustard how each year the "weed of choice" has changed in that same spot. Last year, it was Lamb's Quarter. The year before, Sow Thistles were a-plenty. And the year before that, Vetch was ruling the roost. Each year is something new and different, life is always changing, you see. And it's so fun to see what you get now, to appreciate it now, because that Garlic Mustard ain't going to be around that much longer ;) Yep, that means I'm going to bring my pruners and hope to do a little clipping come Sunday or Monday or whenever the opportunity is ripe...
Foraging did take place at work today, and oh, such beauties! I shook hands with Yellow Dock, so happy to see that there are 4 plants there. I collected several Dandy leaves (I'm thinking of you, Mr. Wilson ;) ), a bunch of Violet leaves with a tiny bit of flowers, a smattering of Strawberry leaves as big as your palm (great to add to a green juice or the soup pot, or dry and make an infusion for diarrhea), and a large bunch of Hosta leaves. Oh my, oh yes, those Hostas! I'm thinking to add to a soup. Maybe save some for tomorrow's juice. Hostas are in the same family as asparagus, so a veggie juice or smoothie would be better than a fruity one.
Noticed the Sow Thistles are starting to come out and there were a few plants I didn't recognize...but I'm slowly starting to put my botany to work. It was strange, you know that light bulb moment? I was pouring over my notes (I'm a bit behind, but that's OK) and it suddenly dawned on me to look at flowers and leaves according to their shape, to classify them according to...the patterns I've been learning. I know it seems like a duh, no kidding kind of thing, but going out in the field and not having any botany training meant I just knew what the plants looked like because of my herbology classes and any new plants got identified by "matching," by me matching them according to my ID books.
Now, I've got quite a few field guides, but I do find that ones for your specific region are really helpful. When I discovered a new plant, I'd pour over several of my books to get an ID, usually starting with the color of the flower, and then making sure the plant was the same by IDing it using several sources (i.e., several field guides). Doing the botany pattern recognition by families is going to save me a lot of time, I can see. When there is no flower, it is harder to identify, but even when there's none, I've started looking at how leaves are arranged, their shape, the pattern of veins...It's a good start, I'm seeing. Wish I had learned some botany before, but glad to be getting into it now...Thinking about getting a magnifying glass as well so I can more details than my naked eye...
Which brings me back to what I was saying about not being so much of a spring forager. Some of the plants are harder to identify because the leaves pop up first, then the flowers. Summer, aaaah...flowers abound! Of course, summer is often divided into early, mid and late summer, and by late summer, in September, it can also be construed as early fall, which is the time when roots and seeds start getting to be looked at and collected. I love Dandy, Burdock and Dock roots, but digging up roots is such a pain! Seeds are OK to collect, depending on the plant. Nah, I'm more of mid-summer kinda gal, when the heat is out, and beautiful flowers like Hibiscus, Borage and Mallow call me hither, when juicy fruits pair lovingly with greens in salads (or in juices), and when wild greens like Sow Thistles, Dock, Wild Lettuces and Dandy call my name and ask me to come and sit and appreciate them. And those wild flowers...so many! Like Yarrow, Red Clover, St. John's Wort, Chicory, Queen Anne's Lace...
Oooh, the foraging season is on!
:( and that reminds me of what happened to Apple Blossom Field, all the Queen Anne's and Crabapple trees gone, gone, gone. They still have the for sale sign up, but they completely totaled the land. All plants, trees and cement blocks were ripped out and the land is a big flat nothing. Wonder if they'll be building condos there, because it seems the last few places where I was going foraging have all become some kind of residence now. Boo-hoo. I'm thinking maybe I need to move out to real suburbia, as in, a town outside a major city. Or have two houses? Or more countryside trips? Or...We'll just stay in the present moment and enjoy the balcony garden ;)
There might or might not be a garden at work. Sheesh, seems the boss is remiss to tear up the LAWN, because how will the lawn get mowed? Um, it won't. Because there will be lovely veggies that you can eat and feed your tummy instead? I don't know what the insistence towards grass is, I really feel it has more to do with certain programs that were taught and the RESISTANCE TO CHANGE. Funny how in the past most of us were farmers and eating weeds and such was normal and now so little of us grow our own food, let alone know how to grow it or where it comes from or how long it takes for things to grow and yet so many eat crap food and have all kinds of health issues. Go figure? Nah, the link between diet and health has been well established....
Alrighty, sunshine, 'nuff blah-blabbings for now! See ya next time and keep that bright light shining :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: