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! :)
Churchground Foraging: Phlox, Bloodroot, Hosta, Day Lily, Bee Balm n More And Bra Adventure with Japanese Lover-boy Beetle
Thursday seemed to be another promising day for foraging, all except for the weather.
I realized that I've actually become a fussy forager: not too hot, not too cold, and certainly not wet at all!
Since I was invited by my neighbor to peruse the church grounds for weeds, and since it was close by, I decided to hop on my bike and pay a short visit.
On the way there, I stopped to smell the Roses.
The Roses were mostly spent, and the ones that were left were lodging Japanese beetle couples! I took a few white and deep burgundy ones, then off to the church I went.
I parked my bike and walked up to the side of the church.
Hm, rambling plants toppling over onto the concrete walkway.
I immediately noticed the trailing vine of Wild Grape and took a few leaves for a future pesto.
There was Sow Thistle and Dandelion, of course, those familiar friends!
I spotted Bee Balm, now with flowers almost spent. Most of the leaves were still viable, so I picked a good fistful for a future tea (or soup, as I've added the leaves to the soup cauldron in the past ;)). The minty smell as I picked the leaves off the stalk was a welcoming burst of olfactory delight :)
Purple Loosestrife, bent over by a strong wind most probably, was another looker that I noticed. I took none of her showy flowers, but did collect several of her leaves for a future pesto.
There were 2 plants that looked exactly the same, with opposite lance-shaped leaves and 5 heart-shaped petals. One had white petals while the other had pink petals. On quick glance I thought them to be Dame Rocket, except that rockets and cresses, being in the Mustard family, have 4 petals not 5, plus they come out in the spring and not in the heart of mid-summer.
And then it came to me that there is a someone who looks like Dame Rocket, but has 5 petals....Phlox!! Ah yes, that sweetie has petals which can be added to salads, the taste being a bit spicy and reportedly best in fruit salads. Growing some Phlox in a flower box myself and having a nibble, the taste is quite nice actually, no need for fruit :)
Then there were the Day Lillies. Orange ones, pink ones, mauve-yellow, red and white ones. There have been reports of allergies to the edible flower, although I suspect that when the opened flowers are eaten, it may also be because of the pollen. The closed buds are quite tasty, and I collected a few from each of the 5 different colors. While great dipped in a tempura batter and then fried, I like steaming mine and then adding them to.... pestos! Just be mindful that they are laxative, so a few go a long way ;)
I couldn't believe it when I spotted the unusual leaves of Bloodroot, but it was true: a patch of that strong medicine was growing right here by the wall of the church! Usually Bloodroot grows in woodlands, and plants that grow in the forest contain strong medicine. Bloodroot, so-called because her dark red root looks like the color of blood, is actually an endangered plant. Being highly toxic yet excellent to help those with tooth/gum disease and chronic lingering lung issues such as bronchitis or pneumonia, the dosage of Bloodroot is just ONE measly tinctured drop per day!
I then walked along to the front entrance of the church. There were a few plants on the terrace (hullo Mallow!) and then a hodgepodge of plants growing along the other side of the church.
Interestingly, before writing up this diary post, I had to ask for a bit of help identifying the cultivated plants! Yes, while most gardeners would recognize a Dahlia or Hydrangea, it would seem that I have only weeds on the brain ;)
On my way back from running a few errands, I collected a few Dock leaves then popped into my balcony gardening to do a bit of harvesting/pruning:
And speaking of lymphatic herbs, I also had the opportunity of collecting a few handfuls of Prunella from my neighbor's lawn. It was a such a lovely evening. I felt so calm and happy at the same time, just being out there in the evening sunshine, simply bending and squatting down to collect tiny little blue flowers that were smiling and winking at me...Such simple moments, living in the now....
I also discovered while hopping around my neighbor's front lawn that the Mallow plant I gave her last year made good on making babies: there must be about a dozen Mallow plants growing under her birch tree! I pruned them, of course, divesting each one of a few large leaves, to be dried and added to future infusions to heal and soothe irritated mucosal linings. And finally, I collected a large handful of Violet leaves. The ones hiding under the bushes were a dark shade of green while the few I plucked growing between blades of grass were such a light green in comparison.
Aaaah, my dehydrator trays all full, I'll be onto the next harvesting/foraging adventure soon enough! Keep smilin' sunshine, cuz you're brightness is just the sweet light that's needed :)
PS. True story: I was feeling something sticking into my back when I went to the mall after mini-foraging on the church grounds. I removed my backpack, trying to dislodge whatever it was that I thought was on the outside of my tshirt. Right there in the middle of the store, I wrenched my tshirt around, looking for the critter. Not finding it and still feeling something poking me mid-back, I reached my hand up under my bra to remove a lil wise-guy, who fell onto the floor of the store. Ah-ha! A Japanese beetle!
Where's your girlfriend, lover boy? I asked him.
I picked him up off the floor with a tissue, encasing him in the tissue and left the store. I couldn't very well leave him in the middle of the aisle, now could I?
His thanks was to poop right on my hand when we got to the big outdoors.
Gee thanks, I said, wiping up the mess with the tissue.
He wanted me to bring him to the Rose bushes.
You can find them yourself, I told him, especially after that last gesture.
He made a few small movements like he was hurt (yeah right, you're fine), then with a harrumph, opened his wings and took flight.
Interestingly, I saw a Japanese beetle the next day hanging onto a Nettle leaf. Same little guy, I wondered? Was his sense of smell that strong to find me out? And what the heck was he doing playing around with Stinging Nettle, of all plants?!
He stopped when I got close to stare at him, then took off with a harrumph ;)
Japanese Beetles, gotta love 'em :)
PPS. I took lots of pics, so Enjoy :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: