One Backyard: Edible & Medicinal Clovers,Dock, Fleabane, Hawkweed, Plantain, Prunella, Sorrel, Strawberry Leaf & Violets --- Clover Perfume, Massage Oil, Herbal Vinegar & Sorrel Lemonade Recipes
When you see a lawn, do you think, oh that's someone's backyard, just some grass there? Or do you look closer and see a plethora of plants, waiting to share their energy/food and medicine?
So here are some pics I took at work. See the variety of living plants in just a small plot of land :) Here we go:
White Clover, triofolium repens. Gather the blossoms on a dry day when there hasn't been any rain. You can make a standard infusion with them, although she isn't as medicinal as Red Clover (useful to help with menstrual cramps). Instead, where she shines is in her scent:
To Make White Clover Perfume:
---> Place the flowers slightly packed into a small mason jar (250ml/1cup or 500ml/2 cups works just fine). Add oil to cover the flowers (olive oil or grape seed oil is fine), then use a thin bamboo skewer or the handle of a wooden spoon to make sure flowers are coated. Add more oil to the top of the jar, put on lid and screw cap and let sit in the cupboard for six weeks. Strain out oil by placing a coffee filter into a sieve to catch any tiny pieces. If you like and there are still flowers around, you can make this perfume oil have a stronger scent by repeating the process: add fresh flowers to a mason jar + your infused oil. Cap off with additional olive/grape seed oil to the top, then wait another six weeks. Place the oil into small vials with a roll on (a small sieve can help get the oil in the bottle, as can a pipette), then label and use for yourself or give as gifts. Optionally, you can add in a few essential oils of your choice that you think might work nicely with the delicate scent of White Clover (vanilla is one that comes to mind :) ). Enjoy!!
If you're wondering if I have some White Clover oil infusing right now, the answer is...YEP! I've used this same simple technique of infusing one flower into oil with Lavender and Rose petals...I love the delicate scent and so have others :)
Too much work for all that?? I hear ya. Better yet, just pluck the blossoms and add to the top of salads to make 'em pretty. Smell nice, taste is OK too :)
Good ol' Dandelion, taraxacum officianalis. What do you do with the leaves? Yep, I juice 'em! I replace about 1/4 of my other greens with Dandelions, add them to the juicer with some apples or melon and I'm good to go in the morning! They're chock full of minerals, vitamins, chlorophyll, and they've got that magic I'm-so-hardy appeal that's sure to be shared with you too :)
I add the leaves, fresh or dried, to soups and stews, and I use the dried leaves to make a wild green powder, which you can then add to smoothies and baked goods for extra nutrition. Even better, add the powder with some other greens that you've dried and powdered and make your own wild greens protein powder. Sure, feel free to add in hemp, rice protein, pea protein, etc. to the green powder.
Oh, yeah, to turn the leaves from dried to a powder? Best to use a high speed blender. Works every time. Then store the powder in a glass air tight container. A mason jar works fine too :)
Wood Sorrel, oxalis stricta (note that there are other varieties). The flowers have come up yet in this photo, but they will and they'll be yellow. How to use? Not being a stem kinda gal, I remove the leaves and toss into the soup or stew pot. Note the word oxalis, as she does contain oxalic crystals which can irritate some people. Cooking neutralizes them, however.
Since she tastes kind of on the lemony side of things, think LEMONADE.
To Make Wood Sorrel Lemonade:
--->Get a bunch of Wood Sorrel, with flowers or without and let them dry. Then make a standard 2 cup infusion. Strain and add in 2 cups water, plus the juice of 1 or 2 lemons, as you prefer. Add stevia to taste, if desired. Great served cold on a hot summer's day.
Oh yeah, and if you're ever out and about and feeling parched, munching on a few leaves helps to quench your thirst :) Good ol' common garden Sorrel :)
Wild Strawberry, fragaria vesca. Leaves are great to add to soups and stews, fresh, frozen or dried. Can also add fresh leaves to salads. Use dried leaves and make a standard infusion for diarrhea (drink throughout the day).
Red Clover, trifolium pratense. These are just the leaves, however the flowers are out and about as of the month of June. They'll still be around by July, sometimes even as late as August and early September. Note the characteristic chevron that appears on all 3 leaves. Usually, the rule of thumb is leaves of 3, let it be. But this is clearly an exception to the rule, and the striking pattern makes Red Clover easy to identify.
The leaves can be used fresh, frozen or dried and added to soups and stews. Fine to add to salads, too. She's also a good one to add to a herbal vinegar, as is Strawberry Leaf, Self-Heal, Plantain, Dandelion leaf, Stinging Nettle, Mugwort...pretty much any wild edible green is fine.
To Make a Herbal Vinegar:
---> Chop your choice of wild green edibles with scissors into small pieces, then place into a mason jar. The size of the jar will depend upon how much greens you have (I'd say a 500ml/2 cup jar would be a good size, 1 liter if you have a lot). Pour apple cider vinegar with mother to cover the herbs, stir with the handle of a wooden spoon to ensure all gets covered with the vinegar, then add more vinegar to the top. Place a small piece of cling wrap to cover the lid, then put on the lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks in the cupboard. Strain out the liquid using a fine mesh sieve and store in a glass container of your choice. Great to use over salads or in any dressing/sauce/recipe where vinegar is called for :)
Self-Heal or All-heal, prunella vulgaris. I love drying her and using her for tea (I do mean a standard infusion). Great to flush toxins out of the lymphatic system and for water retention (e.g. during periods). She's a low growing plant, doesn't grow very high. And those labia-looking petals fall out when you go to pluck up the flower, so do be gentle.
Note the fine hairs where the flowers are situated? You won't see them with the naked eye, but a close up camera or magnifying glass are both good tools to have in the field with you. You can add the leaves to soups, stews and salads, although they isn't much to them. Fine to add to a herbal vinegar for extra minerals, vitamins and nutrition.
Plantain, plantago major. Ah, the boo-boo plant. Where there's one, there's more. And more's the better. Any time you got a boo-boo, like an insect bite, sting or scrape, chew the leaves up (yes, in your mouth, called a spit poultice) and place over the wound. Replace when it dries out. Just great to get rid of itching and you'll notice the wound heals much faster had you not used trust ol' Plantain. I'd keep this plant around the garden if I were you and make sure to find her if you're ever out in the field and need some boo-boo remedy.
Of course, you can also make a salve with her leaves and pair her with healing Comfrey (a few salve recipes here). And she also makes a great massage oil, helpful with St John's Wort and even Goldenrod (the flowering tops of both those plants). Massage oil is good for relaxation, but also helps with sprains, strains, sore muscles and even nerve damage.
To Make Relax Me Massage Oil:
---> Simply chop 2 parts St John's Wort (flowering top) with 1 part chopped Goldenrod (flowering top) and 1 part Plantain leaves. Place in a mason jar (a 500ml or 1 liter mason is a good size here) and add olive oil to cover the herbs. Stir with the handle of a wooden spoon to ensure oil covers all herb. Add more oil to the top of the jar, put on lid and screw cap, and let sit 6 weeks in the cupboard. Strain out the oil using a sieve (best if you place a coffee filter in the sieve first to catch tiny particles) into clean dark amber jars. Label and use on sore, stiff and achy muscles.
Just an FYI: St John's comes out in the summer while Goldenrod comes out later, late August and September. Feel free to make an infused oil with the Plantain and St John's, then make another infused oil with the Goldenrod and add the 2 oils together. OR, you can just make an oil with Plantain + St John's OR just St John's by herself. Up to you. Aren't you glad there are options and choices?!
Last good tidbit about Plantain: yep, edible, you can add fresh, dried or frozen to soups and stews. Small leaves are good in salads, larger ones can be juiced or even added to smoothies. Dried, she makes an excellent tea to remove boo-boos on the inside, aka, helpful to heal inflamed intestines such as leaky gut. I'd drink the tea daily with other herbs like Violet leaf, Marshmallow root and Slippery elm if you have leaky gut.
Violet, viola (sp.). There are several types of Violets, but they all taste mildly of wintergreen. The ones that I've seen where I live (up in the Northeast) have had either white or purple flowers, except for Johnny-jump-ups, which are tricolor. The leaves are usually heart-shaped, but sometimes they are more rounded. Some varieties have hairy leaves and stems.
Due to their mucilaginous quality, a few fresh leaves (and flowers) can be added to salads. Fresh or dried ones can be added to soups and stews, where that mucilage will be a welcome boon to soothe irritated intestines. If you have leaky gut, I'd add a good bunch of leaves when making soup, or even add some fresh ones to your morning smoothie (their mucilaginous quality doesn't make them so nice for green juices). Dried, the leaves make an excellent healing infusion. To the infusion, you can add Plantain and (chopped or powdered) Marshmallow root, plus mint for some extra cooling power. Drink throughout the day to help heal leaky gut.
Yellow Dock (the tall one in the middle), rumex crispus. I find that Dock leaves remind me of Spinach and both are good sources of iron. I prefer to dry the leaves and then add them to soups and stews come colder weather time, but they are great steamed on their own or added to smoothies and green juices.
Just like Plantain, where there's one there's usually more, and the seeds on 1 plant are plentiful! Last year there were perhaps 2 plants in the backyard and there are now about 1/2 a dozen :)
The root is a bright yellow when you dig her up in the fall, and that taproot can be quite long. A bit of digging required, yep, but the good news is that the root is even higher in iron than the leaves and has been used to help with iron deficiency. I'll talk more about the root later on in the fall (and also about the brown seeds which are edible and can be used like flour) :)
The pics above are of different kinds of rockets, plants that are in the mustard or Brassica family. 4-flowers are usually a sign of a mustard family plant...and the smell? Mmm, like sweet, heavenly perfume! When the flowers are spent, long seed pods with tiny seeds are left (yep, you can open the pods and use them like mustard seeds, even make your own homemade mustard if you can gather enough of them).
Leaves and flowers are edible, fine to add to salads, fresh, frozen or dried leaves to soups and stews. And if you're making yourself a veggie juice or smoothie, you can most certainly add in some leaves to the brew!
From L to R: Daisy Fleabane (erigeron philadelphicus), Forget-me-not (myosotis (sp)) and Orange Hawkweed (pilosella aurantiacum).
Daisy Fleabane. The leaves are edibles, although their hairiness may make them less than thrilling in salads. Better to add the leaves to the soup/stew pot and put them through the juicer.
Forget-me-not flowers make beautiful splashes of blue in the garden and since they grow in mats, they can be great to fill up those bare and empty spaces. The flowers (although bland and small) are edible and can be tossed into the salad bowl or soup/stew pot or used to decorate muffins and cupcakes.
Hawkweed or Mouse-ear. Flowers edible raw in salads, leaves are hairy, best to add to the juicer or to the soup/stew pot. The dried flowers and leaves can be made into an infusion and used as an emmenagogue, cholagogue, diaphoretic, expectorant and diuretic.
And finally, the Buttercup, NOT EDIBLE. Here's a good read about it and why holding a Buttercup under your chin will reflect a lovely shade of yellow (nope, nothing to do with whether you're a Butter lover or not).
See you next time, Sunshine :)
Bellefield Finds: Yarrow Bug Repellent, St. John's Wort Muscular Tension Release Oil & Red Clover Moon Tea
Summer has finally arrived with the usual hot and humid weather of 30C/86F. The rain is no longer, and oh yes indeedy, I've been out and about foraging for the past several days; hence, time to update you folks!
To start: I've been on a couple of mini-foraging adventures around the local mall, getting a few looks from people. But no bother, I've been too busy collecting the usual plants of Mugwort, Vetch and some Milkweed buds and flowers. I spotted some Motherwort plants growing amongst a Rose bush and plan on going back to get at least one to grow in a pot.
There were 2 new plants that I wasn't sure of what they were, and while I took some pics at the same, I soon discovered their names when I hit "the mother load" the other day. I'll get back to that in a minute, because I also visited a field which gets mowed every now and then.
On my way to getting my bike fixed (which I discovered today after getting a tune up and replacing a broken derailer at a cost of $70 that I really need to fork out another $35 for a bum wheel), I noticed that the field was half-mowed.
Usually they mow the whole field but not this time around.
I went in and looked about: sure enough, good ol' Yarrow was there. This has actually been the place so far that I've been collecting yarrow. While some people grow her as an ornamental, she has many medicinal properties, one of them being as a bug repellent. Easy to make, too:
Yarrow Bug Repellent
Chop fresh yarrow leaves and flowers to fill a mason jar, any size, to the top (that'd be slightly packed). Pour in 80 or 100 proof vodka to the top and stir with a non-metallic object (like a bamboo skewer) to make sure all bits are immersed in the liquid. Add more vodka as needed, to the top. Put on the lid and screw cap and leave to sit for 6 weeks. Strain out the yarrow (I like using a nut milk bag) and pour into a sterilized spray bottle. Spray yourself before heading out and more as needed. You can also add in essential oils (say 20-30 drops for a small-medium bottle) to heighten the effect, such as catnip, lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, fir and lemon. They are all good (catnip is expensive but works exceptionally well). You can use just one or a combo or look for recipes online. Just remember: essential oils are strong medicine!
Besides Yarrow, there were many Milkweed plants. It was strange, but I didn't feel that I wanted to collect any, although I did get a handful of buds and flowers. I also collected some Mugwort, but left the baby thistles alone as I didn't have my clippers or heavy-duty gloves with me.
Half-way through the field, I saw this post with some numbers written in orange. I got the feeling that they might be building a house there...and sure enough, on my way to work today, the foundation for a house has been started and there are big mounds of earth where before there were plants.
I must say, I was a bit put out.
It seems like there are no fields left! And where I live, it is called "suburbia!" So much for suburbia, unless it means staring at people's boring grass lawns!
So yesterday I decided to make a trip to a large field which was right beside a hardware store. Since there are different fields, I should really start giving them names. So let's call this one Fairview Field. It was far away, more than an hour's trip by bike and a good 45 minute bus ride.
It was hot and humid and I wasn't feel my usual 100% as I started doing a juice fast a few days ago and was experiencing some detox symptoms, mainly fatigue and lethargy, although on the 2nd day I had a migraine. Good liver detox symptoms! No issues today :)
My bike was not running well, even though, as I explained previously, I had taken it to get a tune up and fixed a broken derailer.
I was less than 2 minutes on my bike when I decided to explore an area which had grabbed my curiosity on the few times I had passed that way. It was really close-by, too.
I parked my bike on a post, looking at the trees and what seemed like a mini-park next to some condos.
Well, I thought, the worst that could happen would be that I'd get asked to leave and have to give back the plants.
Good thinking, kitty-Cat. That's a neat psychological trick of doing the "worst case scenario."
Worked for me to get up my nerve and get in there!
I noticed several wild plants growing in someone's yard and then passed over a wooden bridge with a small creek underneath. I looked to the right and...
The mother load.
There was a huge field filled with flowers!
I started looking, and yes, yes, YES! There was tons of Red Clover!
I absolutely love Red Clover. One of the reasons why I had thought to make the long trip to visit the field close to the hardware store ---oh right, Fairview Field--- was because I knew Red Clover was growing there. I needed more Red Clover because my "stash" from last year's pickings was running really low, and she is a phenomenal emmenagogue. In fact, one of the reasons why I was experiencing detox symptoms at the start of my juice fast was because I had gotten my period. Yep, in TCM, the liver rules over menstruation, and my liver could use a little bit of help (but more to build blood in my case---story for another time).
FYI: if you want an orange-pekoe-tasting tea, Red Clover is it. I love her sweetened with stevia and some unsweetened almond milk. It makes "that time of the month" so much more enjoyable :)
Red Clover Moon Time Tea
Simply place 1 oz in a 1-liter mason jar, pour boiling water to the top, then lid and screw cap on, and let sit for 4-8 hours. Strain, sweeten and add milk, if desired. I like mine really strong, so I'd say I use 2-3 oz!!
Back to the field (let's call this Belle Field, or even better, Bellefield): Not only was there Red Clover, but BIG plantain leaves bigger than my hand. There was White Clover, Mugwort, Milkweed, Dock and the 2 mystery plants which I've identified now as Wild Parsnip and Cow Parsnip.
There were 2 different kinds of Sow Thistles (sonchus asper & sonchus arvensis), Wild Lettuce and St John's wort. I made an easy to make oil with St John's Wort when I got home. Why? Great to relieve muscular tension, restores nerve damage and it makes a low SPF sunscreen. To do:
St John's Wort Muscular Tension Release and SPF Oil
Chop the top 1/3 of the plant, as the medicine is mostly in the flowers. Chop the plant and slightly fill a mason jar. I take the leaves off the stems and chop the flowers off. Fill with olive oil, stirring with a non-metallic object (such as a bamboo skewer) to ensure all is coated. Add more oil as needed to the top. Put on lid and screw cap and leave to set for 6 weeks. I place the jar in 2 brown paper bags as it often leaks out. Strain out plant bits (using a nut milk bag makes it easy) and pour into a dark, sterilized amber jar (a funnel makes this task easier). Use as a massage oil, whenever you have joint pain, or rub into skin/face as a low SPF (about SPF3) sunscreen.
There was also trifolium campestre, Yellow Hop Clover, and Trick Trefoil, although I can't say at this time what variety it is (I have to look at her leaves again, but she sure is pretty). :)
I was so happy, I was beaming, I tell you. I was chattering away to the plants, telling them how happy I was to have discovered them, how appreciative I was, how I'd love to have such a beautiful wild Zen garden like this. There were tons of bugs hiding among the flowers, crickets I think, jumping all over the place.
One of them was on my hand at one point and was nipping at my skin.
"Hey," I said, "don't bite me!"
He jumped off, because I was also telling the plants that it wasn't my intention to hurt them and that any plant that was interested in offering their medicine should show themselves to me.
It's good to put out that intention to the plants, I find, to show your respect, but also because there are so many plants, and the ones that want to be picked and share their energy with you will grab your attention and let you know!
While I also collected much Yarrow, you shoulda seen those Sow Thistles, the ones with thistles on the underside of their leaves. Yep, just like Stinging Nettle, you can boil her and make a green pesto or do what I'm plannin' on doin': G-R-E-E-N juice!! Gonna have to make sure I add in enough apple to cover that bitter taste ;) I made one already with baby Sow Thistles of the oleraceus variety, and let me tell ya, not for the faint of heart ;)
After I collected the plants for about an hour and a half must've been, I made my way to explore the rest of the area.
It was really quite hot. Sweat was dripping down my tank top.
I had to pee as well, so I knew I wasn't going to be staying that much longer.
It wasn't a big "park." Indeed, while I had gone to the right-hand side and discovered this field of plants which then led to the street, on the left-hand side there was a little trail with a few park benches and then another small bridge at the end to get you over the creek.
There were more Sow Thistles, Plantain and TONS of Yarrow (thank goodness I've now got a new source for Yarrow!), but a few new ones, too: Thistle (not sure of the variety just yet) and Sumac.
All I can say is, I am so happy to have discovered this new field, Bellefield!
It's right close to home and it's a little haven away from the yawning green of my neighbors' lawns.
In fact, what with park benches installed there, I could even go for a picnic lunch or have a go at some writing! Why not! It's so nice to be among plant friends...
I hope you find some time to get in some Mother Nature time, if not some me time, too.
I took some pics this time around, so enjoy :) Hover your mouse over each pic to get the name.
'Til next time, sunshine :))
More rain. You'd think it was the month of April and not June! But alas it is and there's been no rain yesterday or today. Which meant an opportunity to get some foraging done!
Things were still just slightly wet, and I noticed the plants at work hadn't grown much. I collected the usual dandelion and violet leaves, got a few big strawberry leaves and several plantain and wood sorrel leaves this time around. White clover flowers were blooming and I picked a few heads. I also took some red clover leaves (the ones with the chevron on them) and some white clover leaves (no chevron, just 3 green leaves!). This is the one time where that rule of "leaves of 3 let it be" does not apply! Leaves and flowers can be eaten in salad or thrown in soup or even dried for tea.
In fact, one of my favorite teas is red clover tea. It tastes almost like orange pekoe tea when I add almond milk and stevia. Just love making a strong infusion when I have my period and drinking 4 liters of her all day long! Yes, red clover is an excellent emmenagogue, high in phyto-estrogens. Anti-spasmodic too.
And finally, a few new additions: prunella and dock!
Yes, prunella is also called All-Heal or Self-heal, but her latin name just sticks in my mind. She is supposed to be used to cure any ailment, hence her name, but I know and use her better as an excellent lymph mover. Moving the lymph means helping to drain any kind of lymphatic congestion in the body (e.g. swollen glands, boils, abscesses, edema) and also to help with weight loss. You can get prunella mixed with sugar or honey sold as tea from Asian markets, but I just buy her whole (for tea). I can get a shopping bag full for $10, but prunella, that lil sweetie (emphasis on the "lil") she's most probably growing right in your backyard. She grows wild in fields and wood clearings, too. You can eat her leaves and tiny purple flowers, if you like, or even throw her flowering tops into soup. Well, I told you I throw most things in my cauldron, didn't I?
I took but a few dock leaves as there were only a couple of plants. Later on the green seeds will turn brown (in the fall), but I know of a field where there are tons of docks to be had ---and tons of spiders, too :O
Speaking of fields, there's one I pass by to get to work and it's been mowed! Doesn't seem to be that many plants growing, more like grass, but it's hard to tell when you're whizzing along on a bike :) Anyway, might get a chance later on in the season...
Speaking of that field where the docks are growing, I should pass by on a dry day this week. I saw several milkweed pods and flowers while out for a walk today, and that same field has many milkweed plants and sumac growing, or at least it did last year.
Ooh, fun foraging adventures await!
Now if this rain can just abate...I'll be in foraging business! FREE food for one!
Curiosity Got The Cat: