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 :)
I have a confession to make. It's a little...secret. A fault of mine, I suppose.
Here goes...I always seem to underestimate how long it will really take me when I'm out gardening!!
(sarcastically) Oh, I know, terrible.
I thought that I didn't have much gardening left to do. Suddenly, when I found myself stepping on dirt on my kitchen floor, with more earth on my kitchen island, I could see it was a low-earth (as opposed to "high-tide") gardening day.
While Sweet William got a pruning and was left to stay in the pot to come back next year (she's a biennial and her flowers are sweet, like a sugar substitute---you want to grow her, I tell you!), Yarrow also got a pruning but her leaves were left to dry. I tinkered with making another tincture with her leaves, but the real medicine is in her flowers. Yarrow is also a biennial, I'm sure of it. Well, at least in my pot she is!
I hauled up the whole plants of Marshmallow and Mallow (mine is the sylvestris type). The root is what's used as medicine, really to soothe inflamed intestines with their mucilaginous quality, but also to repair a leaky gut with their vulnerary ability. I use both the same way AND I use the whole plant, including stem, leaf and root.
I chopped the stem from the root, then chopped leaf and stem with the pruners into small bits. Easier to store that way. I then gave a good washing to the roots, then chopped them into bits as well. All are on mesh sheets of my dehydrator, air drying.
Some do use a scrub brush (zero water) on roots, but I'm not keen on the method. I've done that before, and let me tell you that tea tasted like it had dirt in it! Yeah sure, I know about the benefits of soil-based probiotics. But this is different. It's a root that gets decocted, then drunk. Think the friendly guys have gone bye-bye with all that boiling!
I pruned Comfrey, they are both doing very well in their tall homes, thanks very much for asking. Nettles in both pots had mold on the top surface of the earth. When I went to remove it, I also noticed my not-so-friendly friends, aka fungus gnats. I put diatomaceous earth on the surface and placed both plants outside. I may just leave them to overwinter. I have another pot with some Nettle that is just fine.
Wouldn't you know, but I even made a tincture. No of course I wasn't planning to! But guess who I found when I was pulling up Mugwort, root and all? Sheep Sorrel! Whowhee! You remember I was talking about her intricate root system in a previous post? Yep, she sure decided to send runners everywhere, and I even got a few leaves for tomorrow's steamed-veggie-bowl lunch!
Mugwort Root & Sheep Sorrel Tincture
Dig up roots in the fall. Remove as much earth as you can, then use water to wash off the rest of the earth. Chop roots into small pieces using pruners or scissors. Fill a mason jar to the top with the roots. How much roots you have will determine what size jar you use. Pour 80-100% proof (alcohol content: 40-50%) to the top, place on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain and store in dark amber bottles.
Do note that Sheep Sorrel contains oxalates, so shouldn't be used for those with kidney stones.
Why would you use this tincture?
I could smell the thujone in the Mugwort chopping up those roots. Yahoo! There's medicine in that there bottle, as Mr. Wilson might perchance say ;)
Funny, but true, I also sowed seeds, despite that the winter weather is coming. 4 containers of Chickweed, to be exact! I mentioned in a previous post Chickweed's affinity for mopping up fat: she dissolves fatty tumors and plaque in blood vessels, plus she's an appetite suppressant, so great for weight loss. She's another blood purifier, helping to flush toxins from the body, as well as helping to reduce swollen glands. You can also use Chickweed to help with asthma and pneumonia, to help lubricate joints and to deal with chronic cystitis.
Yep, you can tell that my love for her means I'll soon be putting love to pen when I write about her in a future article :)
I also sowed some Cleaver and Echinacea. I wanted to plant the more potent variety of Echinacea, which would be angustifolia, but she seems finicky to grow, so I went with purpurea. Hey, I'm just happy if she'll come along, because growing in a pot is quite confining compared to the big open garden ;)
Echinacea is one that many people know of being most useful for colds and infections.
Cleavers is less known, but is an excellent herb for helping with lymphatic issues, including swollen glands and edema. You can also cook cleavers like you would spinach and her roasted seeds make a coffee substitute. Well, she is in the same family as coffee.
Now my gardening tasks are really reduced: 'mum is still outside, but I think I will giver her to my neighbor to put in garden as she is a perennial. I have 2 baskets of Nasturtium still flowering and enjoying the cooler weather, so will wait for her to make more seeds. Otherwise: that's it! My big chore is to remove the earth from the empty pots and store it in bags, then place pots and earth in the shed. A messy job, I know.
Foraging awaits! Look for my adventures next time, sunshine :) And enjoy that fall weather, ya hear ;)
Hollyhock/Marshmallow/Mallow for Leaky Gut, Benefits of Chickweed, Comfrey & Cleavers + Vanilla Extract & Stevia Glycerin Recipes
September 22, the first day of fall. How did you end up spending this day to mark the new season?
I spent yesterday and today gardening. I thought about going foraging for Red Clover and some Rose Hips, but gardening tasks awaited!
I don't know if you have a garden, but I spent hours today with just my little balcony garden! Seems like there is always something to do in the garden. I'm sure when I have my own garden, I'll easily spend the whole day fussing about in it :)
Here were just a few of my gardening tasks:
I bought two tall planters and repotted my Comfrey plants to bring them in during the colder months.
Comfrey has had a bad rap recently---banned in Canada in health food stores at the time of this writing, but you can still buy seeds and grow her yourself. And you want to, because her leaves and flowers have great medicine: she is a vulnerary par excellence, both internally and externally. That means sprains, strains, broken bones as well as inflamed intestinal bits benefit from her healing action.
Parts not to use: root. Since she does contain PAs (pyrroazaline alkaloids), you can use her leaves before she flowers and when she is in in flower. It's common to harvest comfrey, usually the top 1/3 of the plant, when she is in flower. You CAN use comfrey for EXTERNAL APPLICATION after she has flowered. I'll probably write more about her healing actions in another diary post.
I noticed several yellow bugs on Mallow, and hauled up leaf, stem, root and all! The mallow I have growing is malva sylvestris, but there is also Common Mallow, or malva neglecta. The flower, leaf, stem & root of either one can be used like Marshmallow root to make a tea which helps to heal inflamed mucous membranes.
Naturopaths encourage the use of Marshmallow tea to help heal leaky gut, but you can use Mallow as well. Hollyhock root can also be used similarly.
To make this tea, you have to decoct it. That means you use 1 ounce herb + 4 cups water. Place in a ceramic or glass pot, covered. Let come to a boil, then simmer on low for 20-30 minutes. Strain and drink tea!
I had several Sheep Sorrel plants growing in a pot and I first chopped off all the greens ---which I'll steam and eat tomorrow---then hauled up the roots. As I mentioned in a previous diary post, Sorrel roots are used in the famous Essiac Tea, but you can make a decoction and drink the tea like that, too.
I bought an Aloe Vera from the health food store yesterday and she was in sore need of a repotting! They were marketing her as a great food to use, and while that's true (and much, MUCH better to use her fresh than when bottled with citric acid, which is not a friendly ingredient to the kidneys), many people know Aloe Vera for her healing properties, especially for burns and sunburns. Of course, you can also use her to help with cuts, sores and other skin abrasions.
I had previously bought another Aloe Vera plant from Walmart. I know, I know, definitely not the best place to be buying plants. I haven't used any of her medicine, in fact, two of her leaves seem to be drying up and dying. I did repot both Aloe Veras, and we'll see how they fair growing inside now that cooler days loom ahead.
I pruned the leaves from Purslane and put the stalks in the compost. Yum! Omega 3-rich food for tomorrow's lunch! Purslane is frost tender, you bet. She's a succulent, definitely a desert plant. Even growing her inside during the cold months, she'll growing readily, then feel it's too cold, and die. I had to plant Purslane seeds 3X this year because the cold winter seemed to linger and linger. We even had snow in April, sniff sniff. What happened to April showers bring May flowers? Harrumph, snow showers = a very short gardening season, so appreciate what you can ;)
Out of all my plants that I had repotted this year, Oregano was the sole one that never got any attention. Until today. And boy, was she root-bound. Since I've been figuring out what plants I will be bringing inside to grow during the winter months, I thought I'd have Oregano, Thyme and Marjoram all growing in one big pot together. But, nuh-uh, Oregano needed all the space to herself in just one pot! I placed Thyme and Marjoram in another pot together, but I may just add them with Sage if I run out of room. Only so much space in my apartment, and while there is a lovely sunny patio door, only so many plants can crowd around to enjoy the light!
Yesterday saw Nettle growing in 3 pots getting a pruning. They are all growing so well since I moved them to the front balcony where they get the afternoon sun. I think they were frying in the heat being on the back balcony with the morning and mid-day sun. Nettles are in the mint family, and I have found in my experience that part-sun seems to suit the Mint family better than full sun.
Yesterday (and the weekend, too) saw me pruning Lemon Balm. Oh, Lemon Balm! I was supposed to make Lemon Balm candy with your fresh leaves but I forgot! I dried you in the dehydrator to enjoy your spicy, lemony goodness in tea and to add to my soups...Ah well, I have a bit of fresh Lemon Balm that I harvested just today, so I may try that candy recipe yet!
Yes, that was another one of "gardening tasks" today: taking out the dried herbs from the dehydrator and placing them in paper bags and jars to keep for future days. That's the other part of gardening and foraging: first you harvest, then you have to cut them into smaller bits, OR clean the roots, OR remove the leaves from the stems, then dry them onto racks in the dehydrator or on newspaper or parchment paper, OR you make medicine, like tinctures, oils and vinegars.
My friend noticed that I was drying some herbs on flyers I received in the mail and asked if I was worried about the ink from the flyers going into the herbs. Oops, I never thought about that! Time to make the switch to soy-based parchment paper!
I had plants on every single step coming up the front balcony.
Gone. All gone.
Instead, just before coming up the stairs are 3 plants to greet you: Chrysanthemum, that good old fall favorite, which I will use her flowers to make a perfume; Yarrow, first year still in leaf, and I'm pretty sure she acts like a biennial plant because of the Canadian climate; and Mallow, tons of flowers and so far seemingly aphid/bug free. I added in two friendly straw farmers to welcome the fall season: Farmer Wilson and Farmer Asoka! :))
Speaking of that Chrysanthemum plant, oh-my-goodness. Yes, I used dashes to separate the words for emphasis, but I could have used periods instead to muster in that frustration and work I experienced trying to get her out of the purse. Yes, I had a Chrysanthemum plant growing in a hot orange purse, a showy color to greet you as you came up the driveway. Well, mum certainly has big roots and she was root bound growing in that small space, I can tell ya. Not only root bound, it seemed her roots were stuck into the fabric lining and there was a hole in the bottom of the purse that she was trying to escape a leg, er, root, out of.
Trying not to hurt/damage her while getting this mass of soil and roots out of a purse was a daunting experience: dare I use shears to cut the purse open? Dare I use a purse as a planter again? Should I just leave mum in the purse or continue slowing using one hand to pull up on her roots while holding and pulling in the opposite direction on the bottom of the purse?
She finally gave, thank god, and I threw the purse out. Small plants would be OK growing in a purse, I suppose, but a plant with a shallow root system, perhaps like Chickweed. Mum was most certainly happy when I put her in a huge pot to let her continue growing her flowers, which are still in bud form and seem to just be waiting for that opportunity to flower. Can't wait, mum!
Chickweed, speaking of, I ordered more seeds. Tincture of Chickweed is supposed to be great to help with cysts of any kind, including ovarian cysts and fibroids. You can also add her to green smoothies and green juices, make pesto with her and even drink her tea. Oh yes, being high in saponins, her tea is great to help mop up fat and is a boon to weight loss! She's also high in minerals and is super easy to grow, plus she tastes like a mild salad green. I have 2 pots growing with Chickweed, but decided to order more seeds as she also loves the shade. Yes, great plant for those shady areas AND she makes great ground cover. Just win-win-win all around. Did I mention you can also cook her like spinach? Great to use in quiches and such! Yum!
I also ordered Cleavers because all the Cleavers (or Clivers) seeds I sowed never took. Not one. I blame the weather, of course, because not only was there snow in April still, June was an exceptionally wet month. Summer didn't finally show up until July. Plus, many of my other seeds that I sowed also didn't grow in. Cleaver tincture is great to work on the lymphatic system, helping to detox the body of toxins and also helpful for any lymphatic swelling, including edema and water retention. She can be quite aggressive in growing, just like the mint family, but no worries if you have her contained in a pot, as I will be.
I also ordered some Stevia seeds, which are pricey, but oh-so-worth it. I've been buying my Stevia plants from the non-organic flower market every year, but wanted to have some on hand when needed. Stevia is an annual, you see, although she does grow remarkably well indoors during the winter. She really likes sun, a lot of sun and full sun. I buy a Stevia plant in June and by the next year around the spring, even though she's been growing well all the time during the winter months and now the sunny spring weather has come, she starts to not look so good and dies off.
Even in a pot, she does really well. Because her leaves are not organic, here is what I do when I first get Stevia (and what you can do, too): first, I take off her larger leaves. She's like mint in that there will always be a set of 2 smaller leaves that grow where 2 larger leaves are growing. I take off the larger leaves, then, when these smaller leaves have grown into bigger leaves, I take these off too. I compost all of these leaves (I don't use them).
I place Stevia in a big pot, with organic soil, and fertilize her 1-2 X a week with an organic kelp/fish oil solution. Full sun of course, as I mentioned. When the 3rd set of leaves are large (with 2 baby leaves growing underneath), I now harvest and use those leaves and all future leaves then on. I dry the leaves and then use them to make infusions.
The standard to make an infusion is 1 oz + 4 cups boiled water in a 1-liter mason jar. Lid and screw cap on, then sit let 4 hours (or up to 8 hours), strain and use. Leftover refrigerated 2-3 days. Stevia can get bitter when left to infuse for so long, so I've used her after steeping for 30 minutes to 2 hours. I don't weigh my herbs when making infusions or decoctions, but I'm sure I've used more than 1 ounce to make a really strong infusion.
With this Stevia liquid, I then use her to sweeten tea, and in my cake, muffin, bread, jello, jelly and candy recipes.
Another way to use Stevia is to make a glycerite. If you've ever purchased vanilla, you'll notice that vanilla is often sold with alcohol as an ingredient. Why? Because this is just a vanilla tincture! You can actually make your own more cheaply than buying the store-bought version:
Easy-Peasy Vanilla Extract Recipe
Use fresh vanilla beans, slightly packed in a mason jar and pour 50% alcohol to cover. Lid and screw cap on, let it infuse for 6 weeks. Strain and keep the tincture/extract in a dark colored bottle.
The size of mason jar you use depends how much vanilla beans you have. I'm figuring you'll be using a tiny jar, because even fresh vanilla are rather pricey :)
If you don't care for the alcohol, you can make vanilla glycerite, which is sold as vanilla glycerin. Same process as above:
Easy-Peasy Vanilla Glycerite Recipe
Use fresh vanilla beans, slightly packed in a mason jar. Add in food grade glycerin to the top. Put on lid and screw cap and let sit for 6 weeks. Strain and store the glycerite in a dark, amber bottle.
OK, but what about Stevia glycerite? Same thing:
Stevia Glycerite Recipe
Place fresh Stevia leaves, slightly packed, in a mason jar. Choice of jar (250/500/1000ml) depends on how many leaves you have. Pour food grade glycerin over leaves to top of jar, put on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain (a nut milk bag works nicely for this, but you could use a sieve too) and store stevia glycerin in a dark amber bottle.
Now use the Stevia glycerin to sweeten tea and when making desserts. I find using glycerin this way to be better for making no-bake desserts because most muffin and cake recipes require a lot of sweetener (which is why using stevia infusion is a better choice!).
FYI: Some people don't like the taste of Stevia whatever way you use her, which is why she is often sold as an extraction (they extract the sweet principle in her, usually Reb. A), by herself and often with another sweetener. The other sweetener is also a low glycemic/low calorie sweetener, such as rice maltodextrin, erythritol, monk fruit, xylitol or a combination of these.
I'm thinking of a friend right now as I write this, because he always knows there is stevia in whatever goody he is eating and he always makes that I-can't-stand-it-taste! Doesn't matter the type of stevia or if she's paired with another sweetener. A stevia lover, he is not. To each their own!
I personally love Stevia: love seeing her growing, love being with her and pruning her leaves, love just seeing her. She has a sweet energy that is definitely imparted in her leaves, and I'm most happy to know her and benefit from her sweetness in my goodies :)
Weather looks bright and sunny, so I'm hoping to get in a bit of foraging tomorrow. Looking to get some Red Clover blossoms and whatever other herbs are interested in sharing with me their medicine or food.
Fall is upon us, and there will be ample time to collect roots, whenever the opportunity strikes. Which reminds me, since I am writing an article on Mugwort, that her ROOT is considered an excellent stomachic---that means if you have digestive issues, you might want to be taking a tincture of her before your meals OR drinking in a cup of her root tea (you'll need to decoct it and by the way, she is bitter).
Enjoy the many sunny days of fall ahead, sunshine :)
Orange Hawkweed, Daisy Fleabane & The Triplet Look-Alikes: Black Medic, Lesser Trefoil & Hop Clover + Mugwort Enema Recipe
Wild lunch today from my balcony garden: lemony sorrel leaves, borage leaves, mallow leaves, mustard leaves, fresh dill and some rose petals I had gathered from a previous day. The only thing I didn't add to my salad was stinging nettle! I'll save her for a pesto or soup :) I wanted to get some chickweed too, but alas, work intervened. My boss actually tried a bit of each leaf and professed to really enjoy borage. He didn't mind the hairs on the leaves at all, but enjoyed its cool and sweet taste. Well, she is quite the looker, ya know! ;)
Went on a mini foraging trip the other day --- the day I collected rose petals and mugwort! Tons of mugwort about, supposedly an invasive weed---good, all the better! Yes, besides adding her to soup (rolling eyes), of course! I also use her as an enema. Yes, she is in the same family as wormwood, and wormwood is usually prescribed when there are parasites and candida action happening. To do:
Mugwort Enema Recipe
1 oz dried mugwort in a mason jar. Add boiling water to the top and put on lid/screw lid. Let sit 4 hours to overnight. Strain out mugwort using a nut milk bag OR fine mesh sieve. Gently warm the mugwort tea to finger hot and use in an enema bag. If you like, you can add in 1 liter of additional water and make it a 2-liter enema. Lying on your right side, hold for 15 minutes; then void.
I also got a bit of milkweed buds and just a few flowers. They were all still pretty much in baby stage, and I still have a hankering to pass by a certain field where many are wont to grow.
Mini foraging day yesterday at work. Disappointed in a way, because the grass in areas seemed long, but I think it was cut since I came last, because I had wanted to bring home what I thought was a sow thistle and study it more. Wild lettuce, sow thistle...there are a few plants that I'm still confused about.
But good news: I identified one of the mystery plants that I had brought home from work. Not so hard to find, really, as she had orange flowers and there aren't all that many that do! Her name is Orange Hawkweed or Fox-and-Cubs or Devil's Paintbrush. Pretty plant grown as an ornamental but she also has medicinal uses to help with lung issues :)
There was also another plant that I had taken home from work. I didn't recognize her, her leaves didn't tell me anything, but it was when I saw her flowers that I knew: Fleabane! Looks like a daisy, so dainty and pretty, too :) There are many varieties apparently, but I've only seen the common one and the purple one. She's known in Britain as Robin's-Plantain, which might tell ya that her leaves are edible. I'll look out for this one as well, Daisy Fleabane, whose leaves clasp the stem. My, my, so much fun I am having foraging and learning about plants!
The plants I collected yesterday at work were the same as always: violet leaves, dandelion, wood sorrel, plantain, strawberry leaves and clover leaves. There was lots of purple Prunella or Self-heal that had come out and I collected enough to make a quart-size infusion (or 1 oz). Prunella is excellent to move the lymph and help support weight loss, as I mentioned in a previous post :)
There were also many plants of Black Medic or medicago lupulina. It took me quite a long time a few years ago to identify Black Medic, but I now know her name! I took some bunches of leaves and will add them to my soup. You can eat her leaves and even her black seeds. She looks a lot like Lesser Hop Trefoil and Yellow Hop Clover, but there are subtle differences in the flowers (Black Medic's flowers grow up while Hop Clover droops down), plus the obvious tell-tale sign that Black Medic is so called because her seeds are black while Hop Clover's are brown. Read about more about the differences between Hop Clover & Black Medic here and the botanical differences between Hop Clover and Lesser Trefoil here. Will have to double check those other little yellow flowers I saw and see if they are trefoil or hop clover :0
Finished work early---yippeeeeee! Which meant I got to go and have another mini foraging adventure! I collected a whole brown lunch bag, packed, of rose petals. Some were a deep wine pink and some were light pink. Some of the stems of the roses had no flowers and there branches that were drooping, so when I see the neighbor I'll mention that it would be a good idea to give his rose bushes a much needed pruning! He doesn't much care for the rose petals but he loves the rose hips!!
Then I popped off to the field which was recently mowed to see what was growing. Dandelion, sure enough, and a few baby burdock plants, but the majority of new baby plants that were coming up was milkweed! Some had even put forth their "grape bunches," soon to flower (well, perhaps in a week or two). When I mean baby, these guys didn't even come up my knee! Because of that, I didn't take any milkweed, not even one. You might want to read about the debate and all the toxicity warnings about milkweed here. Personally, I've never changed the water; they don't give me stomaches and yep, they pretty much taste like broccoli or spinach. Can't wait to collect some pods and stuff 'em like pasta conchiglie!
I did, however, collect lots of yarrow, a few in flower (white flowers, yes there are other colors out there) and got stopped to ask what I was doing. I showed the lady a few plants and she seemed generally interested in "all things natural," as she put it, because she had grown up in the country. She lived in a condo apartment and had just a tiny balcony, but I told her to check out permaculture online if she was really interested. I also mentioned that there's a restaurant that serves wild food farther up north, but I didn't remember the name or website.
Ah well, I've been stopped a few times while out collecting and have found that while people are curious as to what I am doing, I have yet to come across a person who has a true desire to know more. But, they'll be many more excursions to come, so I'm sure there might be some other opportunities! Although it made me think (briefly passed on the screen of my mine) that perhaps I could teach others about urban foraging and wild edibles...To be seen as my passion at the moment is writing :))
Getting back home, I donned a flower-power dress and met up with my neighbor who showed me a few things growing in her garden. The area where she had her rock garden, now free of forget-me-nots, had filled with other plants that were growing there, including lavender, chrysanthemum and creeping thyme. I gave her some Lady's Mantle as I had no room for a full-sun-loving plant and she gave me some thyme, basil and chives she had growing in pots. Good news for me as I will be adding them to my soup!
Indeed, after wishing my neighbor good night, I proceeded to give my chickweed plants a much needed haircut. I also noticed that mint was growing rather sloppily and had tiny holes in her. Hm, what did I discover upon further inspection but a snail! She was really shy and kept poking her head back into herself, but when she saw that I had no inclination to squish her, she brightened up and moved a bit on my finger. Since mint also needed some trimming, I moved her to a mustard plant. Ha ha! A spicy meal this time around for her ;)
I had collected so much mugwort from the last time that almost all my dehydrator trays were in use. I settled for using just the solid Teflex sheets to spread the yarrow and rose petals to dry on my table, but muggie is going to be have to be dried in the dehydrator because there just ain't enough room!
Won't be any foraging tomorrow, though, as thunderstorms were about while I was organizing my greens: there's gonna be a nettle pesto; borage, chickweed, sorrel and dill salad OR I might use those big borage leaves as mini wrap leaves; mallow leaves are definitely going to be used for wraps; and there'll be a mean green soup happening with mustard leaves, clover, plantain, violet leaves, dandelion, dock leaves, black medic leaves, some carrots and some fresh Italian herbs like sage, basil, thyme, rosemary and oregano. Oh my! Plus I always add some other Chinese herbs---which maybe I'll get to mentioning in a post some day :)
You know, I haven't tired of soup. Not at all. I eat it every day and there's such good "medicine" in there that I love it and appreciate it so much. Plus it's tasty, too!
Eating my salad today of freshly picked greens, just brimming with energy and life force, I felt like a queen sitting on a throne of vitality (or perhaps just a barefoot fairy princess, as my neighbor fondly calls me, sitting on an office chair at work)---just so blessed to have this food right here in front of me! It was so good, so tasty, so sweet, sour, so---perfect!! I kissed my fingers and sent my green blessings of thanks to my green friends growing at home: thank-you so much for sharing your energy with me!
I feel...revitalized :))
Ending on this fine note of vitality, I'm off to dream of ...
Oh no, botany! I have botany reading to do! And articles to write! And...
Meditation now casts its fairy spell, fairy dust now sprinkled over the mind; all is quiet...
Slipping into the now of time, one resources with source.
And all is well.
Sun is back! But they cut the grass at work, so not much plants to forage, unlike you're interested in juicing grass...Hey, good source of chlorophyll, but I'd do if as a last resort, personally.
The roses are flourishing in some areas! White ones and pink ones! Busy today, so not so much time to smell the roses. BUT, did bring my pruners and collected a bunch of mugwort! Yes, also called cronewort. Yes, the plant reputed to help open your third eye. Yes, the same plant used to make moxa in Chinese Medicine, a VERY EFFECTIVE technique to treat menstrual pain and joint pain. Yes, the same plant can be used to treat worms and parasites. Yes, some people use her to make dream pillows. Yes, she is in the same family as Wormwood (artemisia), which is often used in naturopathy to treat candida and parasites. Bitter? Oh you betcha! But she's good for you! I add her fresh or dried to soups...Just a handful, mind you. Then, when you puree everything together, you'd never know she was in there (but she is!).
Quick tour close to the local mall revealed Lamb's Quarter has grown; Dandelion flowers are gone, now puffy white; Coltsfoot flowers are all gone, just the leaves remain (and so they shall remain as they contain PAs); Milkweed is growing up, but the seeds have yet to form (young leaves are OK to eat at this stage, but I wasn't hankering for any today); Dame Rocket & Garlic Mustard are still around; and Vetch has started to come in! I love eating Vetch flowers. I had a few while collecting mugwort.
UH-OH. Some of the mugwort was wet (dunno why it's been two days since it rained). And muggie actually had white flies on her!! I never would've thought!! OK, so it wasn't like it was the best source as it was on the border of a somewhat-used parking lot. I took off all the leaves from the stems and when I spotted the white fly, I wondered if I should keep her or not. Some of them were going to flower soon, some not, still quite young...I supposed I could throw some in the soup, after I wash her first. Sigh, I was so hoping to dry her! But, I guess it wasn't the right time and I'm sure they'll be other opportunities. Oh yes, muggie can be quite the invasive plant! Anyway, I have 2 plants growing, so even I don't find any mugwort growing anywhere (doubtful), at least they'll be a bit for tea (well, to dry and add to soup anyway).
Got seeds from Richters today. Oh pooh, I was a bit disappointed that 3 of them were missing. I was really hoping to grow some Motherwort again. Yes, she's in the mint family and the name "mother" gives it away that she's most helpful for women's reproductive issues. However her latin name, leonarus cardiaca, also speaks of helping to have a strong heart. Being quite bitter, though, she's best taken as a tincture, but I throw her in my soup as well. Yep, if you haven't figured it out by now, I add so many wild edibles and herbs to my soup cauldron! What's that? No, not with some eye of newt! Sweet carrots, yam, squash and other root veggies are needed to balance the taste out!!
Motherwort and Mugwort may sound like the same thing, but they don't look the same at all (although they are both bitter!). Click the links to read more about them.
Horehound and Agrimony were also missing. I'm not sure if they'll still send them if they get them, but it's already getting late to sow seeds. The spring came late and there are still many cool days and nights. A few of my annuals, like Zinnia and Pansy, are slow to come. My other annual, Mimosa, has yet to sprout any sprouts at all. I'm beginning to think she may not make an appearance at all. Well, all's well that ends well, because my seeds will be needing a home, so all in all, Mimosa's pot could be used to grow something else! All right, enough of all this all stuff!
Shall I tell you what I will be planting?
Oh, all right. I'll tell you a few of them, but not all.
Because I'm still researching them!
I calculated that it takes me about 1/2 hour to check at least 3 references for one plant. I sometimes check more, depending on the information I'm able to find. My fave sources are Michaels Tierra's books The Way of Herbs and The Way of Chinese Herbs, Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs by Gail Faith Edwards (no longer in print), Plants for a Future Database, A Modern Herbal and Natural Medicinal Herbs. There are many other sources out there; Green Deane's website Eat the Weeds has some mighty good info and Wikipedia can be used as a general source (like getting the latin name or a seeing a pic).
Boneset and her cousin Purple Boneset or Gravelroot. Boneset is used to help break the flu quite successfully, you know when your nose is now running, now stuffy, you're feverish, and you have muscular aches in your body? Right. While Gravel root has more the reputation for being used for kidney issues, like cystitis, kidney stones and urinary issues. I'm actually not so much interested in their medicine as the way they look!
That's right, I no know such thing as "weed," only friends who go by the name plants, animals, insects, humans, stars, planets, and the beyond...
Never thought I'd be growing plants as "ornamentals;" although even ornamental plants still have medicine (many plants used as such in TCM). Really, I think that every plant has some purpose...but more on this to muse upon in a future post perhaps.
I got strawberry seeds! Fragaria vesca ruegen, Alpine Strawberry. The Topsy Turvy planter was sold out at the many stores I checked, but no bother; you can easily plant her in a coir basket, which is what I'm thinking of doing! Now that I have all these seeds, I have to find a good home for every one of them!
I'll tell you one more plant I'll be growing and then that's it! Gotta leave some goodies for next time ;)
Valerian. Yeah, she's the plant that induces sleep, a nervine for sure. She has what I call a "poo" smell. She looks very similar to a several other friends, including Cow Parsley, Chervil, Angelica, Wild Carrot, Yarrow and Hemlock.
While Valerian leaves are edible, I'd prepare for an afternoon siesta if you're going to add a few leaves to your salad :)
'Til next time, sunshine!
Going around my neighborhood, what finds! Went to mall to get some shopping done and then to sit behind alleyway behind mall. Sat in the sun enjoying my chocolate, birds singing and plants growing! What kinds of plants, you say?
Lamb's Quarter in baby stage. Ooh ooh, I hope she's able to grow big so I can collect her and eat her like spinach! I've seen the city come and rip out plants...Grrr...no such thing as weeds!
Dandelion of course, with tons of yellow flowers. Oozed white milky sap when I plucked off some of the heads---you'd never know someone had gone "foraging!" Sap is great to use on warts, BTW.
Johnny-Jump-Up or Heart's Ease. Just there, one little bunch of flowers, stunning me with her striking violet and yellow colors amongst all the rest of the greenery. I had seen her on a previous time when I had passed by, and she had the same kind of sweet energy, that kind of here-I-am, just-so, just-so-pretty-as-you-please!
So interesting that in previous years she was not growing there, had never seen her, just like the horsetail that was also growing in this alleyway...Interesting how plants come and go (even perennials), but some continue to come back all the time.
Like the coltsfoot. A few flowers still, but the leaves are starting to come in. There were a few flowers without leaves, which is when you want to get coltsfoot in the first place. Yep, the flowers come before the leaves grow in! Then you see these leaves which are supposed to look like coltsfeet, and you know pickin' time is over.
Vetch. I love adding a few of these violet flowers to my summer salad. Trail side nibble from the pea family any time!
Tons of Mugwort, which I'm going to add to some rice, fresh, but maybe steam some with the hostas that I collected from yesterday. Hostas are supposed to taste like asparagus. We'll see about that!
More Dame Rocket. So lovely, what scent! Tried the leaves and they have a sharp taste just like arugula. 4 flowers so you know it's in the Brassica family (any time you see a plant with 4 flowers = cabbage family = edible). I took off all her leaves and left her flowers in a vase on the kitchen table. Planed some others in a pot. What heaaavenly perfume!
Garlic mustard. White flowers, stinky garlic smell oh yeah, I've IDed you all right. No way I can mistake you for a cress. Pee-you. Great in stir fries and soups.
Saw some baby milkweed plants. I was going to uproot one but really why bother when there's so many, even if she does get whacked by the crazy lawn mower every week---I know of a few fields where tons of them grow. Lots of good recipes out there. You can use her flowers and seed pods...but more of that later, when the time is ripe for the pickin'!
Horsetail. I'm not 100% sure of this plant because she grows in wet areas, but she is very distinctive. Brought tons home and am going to grow horsetail to compare. Will continue to monitor the plant that's growing in the wild. Right now she's in vertical stage, but if her leaves (so stiff, like a broom) go horizontal, as they should as she matures, then I'd have a better reference. Only seen her once and she was growing on a mountain in a wet area. It was pretty dry where I saw her growing, right beside dandelion and in another area right beside mugwort. To be seen...
Bladder Campion. Not just an ornamental. Really pretty flowers, very distinctive with that "balloon" just before the flower. Definitely would look real pretty in the garden! And the one I saw was just growing there wild, not one person paying her any mind. She comes back year after in the same spot...never thought to harvest her root, but maybe I should collect some seeds and plant her...
Saw one white rose flower! Wow early for May, more sure to come! Not just white, but pale pink and dark wine ones too! Love those rose bushes, so many uses for rose! Like fresh petals on nut butter on toast! YUM! Can't wait!
Burdock. She's baaaaack! I just love burdock and most of her is either edible or medicinal (actually have a tea going right now with her seeds, which are a great diuretic). I remember a field that is no longer where many burdock plants were growing. Several were about the same height or just a little bit shorter than me and I felt like I just wanted to give them a hug! Love her purplish-pink flowers :) Last year I tried burdock petioles (leaf stalks) or the stems that attach the leaf to the thicker central stem. Just peel off the outer layer, chop and simmer for 15 minutes; then drain (still too bitter) and simmer again another 15 minutes. Done! Just like celery! Small leaves are edible too and of course the root, known as gobo in Japan, is delish! Bought some from the health food store this winter (pricey) but why bother when you can dig her root for free!
Saw some clover leaves, but didn't get any. Later. They'll be plenty. There always is!
Look alike dandelion plant which I'm pretty sure is sow thistle and not wild lettuce. Still a bit confused between the two but I believe the wild lettuce has thorns and this plant as I've observed her for a few years, usually grows right beside dandelion, has thistle like ragged leaves growing in a basal rosette like dandelion but the yellow dandelion-like flowers come out later (and many flowers for one plant compared to the 1 flower on dandelion) in summer. Leaves clasp stem, too, so I'm pretty sure she's an edible thistle, sonchus and not a latuca. Tried her flowers (OK) and leaves last year. Even steamed, the leaves were still tough BUT! I got an idea to juice them this year, so will try later this summer and see how that goes...I saw one plant last year she must've been 6 or 7 feet tall! I remember on a forest jaunt last year I came across a Canadian thistle---taller than me, boy, must've been 7 or 8 feet tall! And edible?! OOH, I contemplated and looked at heavy-duty gloves at the hardware store but for all that trouble...nah, I just enjoyed her company. And her many cousins who were also growing in the same vicinity...But who knows, maybe this year...eek! Those long spikes?! Um...maybe...
Coming back from my foraging jaunt, I happened to see my neighbor and he gave me a quick tour of his garden. Lovely plants, many of which I didn't know. Solomon's seal was one plant I remembered he has growing, as well as blueberries and raspberries, but the rest were names that I've now already forgotten! Oh yes, and a fig tree, lime tree and lemon tree. And there are some black hollyhocks...
Just reminded me that there are so MANY plants out there! How many are known? How many "varieties" of one type of plant, like thistles or clover?! And sometimes even botanists get confused or don't know whether a certain plant is edible or not. Infinite varieties like the infiniteness of animals or insects... or human minds...or the universe...each so distinct and unique in their perfect imperfections...
'Til next time!
Curiosity Got The Cat: