Once again, so many things have been happening in the plant world around me! Although I wasn't able to attend my herb class this weekend, I have been seeing lots of other plants to share with you! Some of these plants I've seen growing close to the subway, on the lawn at work, on my neighbor's lawn, and beside a huge bus depot. In short, wild things are growing all over the place! However, the ones that you want to pick should NOT be close to the road. It's OK if a field or deserted area is close to the road, but you want to gather the plants that are the farthest from the road. You also want to avoid areas where people walk their dogs (for the poop contamination, yep) and beside railroads, the latter because of heavy metals. You can read Green Deane's 2 cents on where to forage HERE.
Living in the city, I use my intuition about where to forage. I might take a few plants close to a parking lot, but it also depends on the purpose. For example, I might use Mugwort as a smudge plant, so I wouldn't be ingesting it. Or perhaps I'm gathering Milkweed flowers to dry for potpourri. Or perhaps I'm not sure about the ID of the plant, so I will transfer her to a pot, let her grow, and use my field guide books to ID her.
My personal favorite places to forage are abandoned areas where few visit; my neighbor's garden; the lawn at work; the abandoned "raised beds" behind the local mall (a place where some cars do pass, but it's not used that much); and abandoned areas that are close to the road, but within a fair distance that foraging is OK.
So, let's get into some new plant friends that I haven't talked about this season yet!
Daisy Fleabane. She looks like a daisy, and yes she in the same family as Daisy, that is, Asteraceae. She has small white rays and in the middle, a shocking color of yellow. Sometimes you can find her with pink rays instead of white. Either way, her leaves are edible and you'll be wanting to cook them. I like adding them to the soup or stew pot. I've used the dried flowers in an infusion to help with menstrual cramps and being astringent, you can also use her for diarrhea. Make sure when you dry her flowering tops that she isn't about to die, as all you'll get is white fluff, and that's not so nice for tea! Her taste isn't bad, although I confess I mix her in with Red Clover and Rose in infusions, which are two herbs I often combine for menstrual cramps.
FYI: being a weed that you can find in lots of fields, feel free to forage away!
Oxeye Daisy. I mentioned Daisy when talking about Daisy Fleabane above, and yes this weed has many parts which are edible! Leaves and root can be thrown into the soup pot; leaves and flowers eaten raw in salads; root pickled. Some say it has a pungent taste, and I confess I'm not found of her "stinky" smell, which reminds me of the "pooey" smell of Valerian. I add both flowers and leaves to the soup pot and have yet to try pickling her root. The pungent smell makes me think of using her flowers and leaves in an herbal vinegar, which is something I have yet to try.
FYI: I've seen her growing on many a-lawn as an "ornamental," as well as wild in fields. Depends on the area, I suppose, because I don't always find her growing in every field I visit.
Vetch. Also called Hairy Vetch, I found this one growing in a Rose bush (she is a climbing plant), hence those leaves you see are of Rose, not Vetch. There is one set of her leaves on the LEFT and in the BACK of the picture, where you see two opposite, lance-like leaves (all similar in size) growing up the central stem (you can also look at this pic here). Being in the Legume family, she is often grown to help fix nitrogen for the soil and for fodder crop. Her flowers make a roadside nibble, and I've added some of her purple flowers (so pretty! just remove them from the stem first) to salads and to THIS FLAX CRACKER RECIPE.
I've also dried her and paired her half-half with dried lavender in sachets to put in your "unmentionables" drawer. This idea was told to me by Vetch herself, and if you understand plant spirit medicine and that plants do indeed communicate, then you can appreciate what a wonderful joy it was to discover such a beautiful use for her! I gave the sachets as gifts and they were well received :) You can find that recipe HERE.
Note that according to the PFAF Database, her leaves are said to be edible, however I've never eaten them or used them in anyway. Seems I will have to be poking my nose around and finding out what a fellow Vetch plant has to say on the matter ;)
Rose. I've mentioned Rose in a previous post, and foraged some petals just today. Notice that there are 3 different varieties in the photos above :) They all smell great, and I love eating the white petals fixed as a single layer on toast (add your fave nut butter, jam or spread, then place the petals in a single layer on top of the spread).
I wanted to mention HOW you should take off the petals. You see the central part in the 2nd picture, the part that looks like small cilia or hairs with a cream center surrounded by a ring of white? That part will turn into a Rose hip, or fruit, so if you yank the whole flower off the stem, it won't be able to do so. What you want to do is remove ONLY the petals, and gently. I cup my hand over a flower to enfold the petals and then gently use my finger to pull them off. The petals should all easily slip off into your hand. If they don't, then it means the flower isn't ready to give up her petals and you should wait for that particular flower---and move on to all the flowers are ready to give up their petals!
While some do collect Rose buds and use that for infusions (being higher in vitality and energy), I've never had an issue using only the petals in infusions or for any herbal recipe (such as for perfume, massage oil, toner or face cream).
Oh, I don't want to talk about too many plants at once, because I know it can create information overload, however there are still so many other plant friends that I have seen and would like to talk about! Suffice it to say that I saw Galinsoga (also called Gallant Soldiers) in leaf state; flowering Evening Primrose (she's a biennial); Sumac leaves, no drupes (or berries) yet; fairly large Yellow Dock plants (I love those spinach-tasting green leaves cooked!); and Lady's Thumb in leaf state.
I will mention one other plant that I have yet to have the pleasure of tasting, and that is:
Bladder Campion (pics below). She's a queer looking plant, which makes her easy to identify as she has this balloon shape which kind of looks like a bladder (I suppose). Her young leaves (BEFORE flowering) can be cooked and eaten like spinach. I'd add them to the soup pot, as some bitterness has been noted. After flowering, her leaves can be stringy and bitter, and blanching first is recommended to help with the bitterness, throwing out that water and then cooking her up a second time. I think her older leaves would be fine in pureed soups or even in green juices or smoothies, but I would have to try first. Interestingly, being high in saponins, her root can be used as a soap substitute.
To be honest, I've only seen her growing in one area (which was along a fence close to an alleyway) and her unique appearance made it easy to ID her in foraging guides.
I'll get back to some of those plants I merely mentioned in a future post. I'm also hoping to be able to share with you some of my plants that are slowly coming up in my balcony garden (Lamb's Quarter seems to be quite the rage in a majority of the pots!) and my experiences with my WILD community garden that was left to go to grass...not fun, removing grass! But there were some interesting weeds growing there, a-ha!
For now, sunshine, stay clean and bright, because the foraging days ahead will be burning on! :)
In my last post, I said I would share with you what I sowed in my balcony garden. But I think that will wait, as I went on another mini-foraging adventure!
I was off to dance class, when I suddenly felt pulled by some plants growing in a small disturbed area close to the street. I veered off the sidewalk and followed the pull of the plant. I didn't realize her name at first, but I recognized her. I nodded and suddenly was swept away in the world of plant friends.
There, growing beside some cement blocks, was of course Dandelion. I spotted some Vetch, but no purple edible flowers had bloomed. Those flowers, by the way, make a roadside nibble and I've dried them and paired them with Lavender in sachets. I'll take some pics of her later on when she's in flower :)
I continued to look about and noticed a large Burdock plant, a tiny Plantain plant, and some Red Clover leaves.
When it comes to Burdock, a lot of people can identify the large leaves because they look like Rhubarb. But it's really those sticky, velcro seeds that are the tell-tale sign that she is a Burdock plant. And guess what? Sure enough, I had a few balls sticking to my pant leg after hunching down to pick up several handfuls of large Violet leaves!
Who else was growing in this tiny abandoned area?
I spotted some Thistles and Sow Thistles. I've juiced both of them before, and then added that green juice to the blender with fruits to make a wild, delish green smoothie! The Thistle isn't that bitter, but Sow Thistles are, as bitter as Dandelion. They look like Dandelion too. I'll post more pics during the summer. If you do juice them, just a few large leaves will do ;)
There was also a large vine growing there, a Grape Vine in fact. The leaves are edible and if you've ever had Greek food, then you may have eaten Dolmades, which are stuffed vine leaves. In other words, you can parboil the leaves for 2-5 minutes to soften them, then use them as wrap "bread." Feel free to add whatever you want on those leaves before rolling them into a wrap: tuna salad, hummus, lentil pate, curried rice or whatever catches your fancy!
I've eaten the Grapes, rather sour, as a trail side nibble and also made jello with them. I'll talk more about that later in the fall, when the Grapes are ready to eat :)
Ah, did you notice that I didn't tell you the name of the plant that called me to this area? Why, when I went back the way I came and passed her again, it was then her name came to me: Goldenrod!! In one of the areas where I go foraging, which I've called Buckthorn Woods because there are so many Buckthorn trees, there are tons and tons of Goldenrod plants that flower in late August. The yellow flowers are a gorgeous late summer sight signifying that autumn is on its way. There are many uses for Goldenrod, by the way, and for now suffice it to say that the leaves are edible. I cook them and add them to soups, stews and in pates. While you can freeze the leaves for future use, I've never done so (having only so much room in the freezer), but I have dried them and then added them to the soup pot with delish results :)
Note that Goldenrod has been blamed for causing seasonal allergies, which is NOT true. You can read more about that and her edible/medicinal uses Here.
By the way, the species that grows in Canada is known as Solidago Canadensis.
Walking up to the street to the dance studio, I spotted two other friends: baby Lamb's Quarter growing close to the sidewalk (which I was tempted to take as she tastes like spinach, but growing so close to traffic, it's NOT recommended) and the tallest Toadflax/Butter 'n' Eggs that I've seen to date, growing right beside a hedge.
I have read about using Toadflax as a diuretic herb, yet when I tried making an infusion with her, my body was NOT interested at all. I have read to use the leaves before she flowers and it was true that I used the leaves WHILE she was in flower, so that might have been an issue. Truthfully, I am not called to her (or rather, she has not called to me), but perhaps others have a better relationship with her than I have. I didn't take a picture of that particular plant, but I did take a pic of some smaller Toadflax growing behind the local mall.
Finally, I spotted a Peppergrass plant. The picture isn't the best, so check out these pics and read more about her Here. The young seedpods are heart-shaped and can be dried and used as a pepper substitute. The leaves are edible and can be tossed into the soup pot or into salads.
Lastly, I'm sharing with you a touch of virtual scent: a few flowers of Rose! I spotted a few buds and even a few opened flowers among several Rose bushes. It was a delightful sight that warmed my heart :)
I love Rose for so many reasons:
Well, that's all for now, sunshine! Now that June is here and summer is around the corner, keep it light, keep it bright :)
Foraging is On: Daisy Fleabane, Wild Lettuce, Identifying Horsetail & Making Rose Perfume in Different Strengths
Foraging is ON!
June is here and so is summer.
And greens are out and about.
So, when I decided today that I needed to get some greens for my morning juices, I didn't look to the grocery store, but to the small patch of land behind the mall.
Yep, Dandelion greens were sure to be found, and there was also some Wild Lettuce plants, lactuca serriola, or Prickly Lettuce. I confess that although I made some notes on the different types of Sow Thistles and Wild Lettuces, I get confused sometimes which is which! I've been reviewing my notes, and of course, it always helps when the plant is in flower. These Wild Lettuce plants are still growing and pretty much in infant stage, but don't worry, whether Sow Thistle or Wild Lettuce, they all go into the juicer and make some fine juice (just be sure to add fruits to cover the bitter taste, OK)!
I also collected a few Dock leaves, which I'm going to dry and add to the soup pot in future, colder months.
I spotted a few other friends while I was there:
I also collected some Plantain and Violet leaves and got a good bunch of Rose petals. I'm thinking about maybe making a Rose petal facial oil, hm, but perhaps that same oil could be turned into a perfume?? I could infuse the Rose petals in oil, then use the same oil to again infuse more petals to make it a stronger scent. OR, I could simply add a few drops of Rose essential oil...
Making perfumes can be really simple, as seen in this recipe I've posted previously on how to make a Sandalwood perfume oil. You can simply use another essential oil, any one you like. Add a few drops, take a whiff, add more 'til you like the scent. Then let it sit for 2 weeks, smell again and add more if you think you'd like it stronger. Done and ready to use or gift.
What I did once was I made 3 perfumes using different amounts of Lavender essential oil: 2 drops, 6 drops and 10 drops in 10ml of carrier oil (I used olive oil). The 10 drop one I found was medicinal, and I use it on my temples if I ever have a headache (rare) or induce sleep (also rare for me). I like the 2 drops perfume when I want just a hint of scent and use the 6 drops one when I want a bit more. Making the same perfume in different strengths, as you can see, can be quite beneficial!
I think I might even try this technique when making the Rose perfume :) In fact, I've decided that I am going to make myself (and others perhaps??) some Rose perfume, as you can see in the pic below :)
I'm hoping to go foraging later this week, to check out Bellefield and see what friends are growing and what allies I can take back with me. I'd also like to visit Buckthorn Woods, take some pics and get to identifying and making new friends. When it comes to shrubs and trees, my knowledge is quite limited. But then, the plants and WEEDS that I'm used to grow in full to part sun, whereas most of the plants in the forest/woods are different because the conditions are different, like dappled shade to full shade.
OK, all for now, sunshine, about this mini-foraging adventure. Future adventures like in wait!! And I'll be sure to be spillin' the beans and tellin' y'all 'bout it ;)
Stay sunny now, sunshine :)
Why Cat F***ing Loves Plants: Much More Than Wood or Sheep Sorrel, Sweet Borage Flowers or Edible Begonias
I fucking love plants! And foraging!! And Mother Earth!
Now before you get your knickers all in a tizzy or give yourself a wedgie or whatever it is you do when you get that twisted feeling inside, let me just tell you that no, cussing is not really done around here, but when it happens, it's used for effect, so take notice!
As I was saying, I just LOVE plants. Don't even ask how the week was spent (yes, rain, you ninny) because these pages have been blank, no posts written...BUT, yesterday was a nice day AND I wasn't at work.
Although it had poured buckets almost all day the other day, yesterday was perfect. So I went for a look-see, and found some good "finds!"
There was Vetch, whom I spotted first, and I took several gorgeous purplish-blue sprigs from her. I saw Goldenrods growing (they'll be out later in August with their showy yellow flowers). There was dandelion (but not as much as you'd have thought there should've been), 2 kinds of thistles and yep, that family of Lamb's Quarter I had been telling ya'll about, 'cept this time someone had gone and thrown manure over several of the plants. I really can't say I understand it, but I went and collected the leaves and seeds from many of the other lamb's quarter that were around that smelly earth.
Sigh, so yes, I did end up getting a bit of the manure on my feet (I was wearing flip flops), but whatever, I just dusted it off and washed up when I got home. It was worth it because there was so much lamb's quarter! I collected about a medium-sized Ziploc baggie's worth! Yes, technically you should use a paper bag when foraging, but all I had on me were a few plastic baggies. The lamb's quarter I was collecting, FYI, is the white variety, chenopodium album, also called Fat Hen, Dirty Dick, Dirtweed, Baconweed and Mutton Tops. Poor lamb's quarter! Such horrid names! They have it tough, those "weeds." Good thing there's people like you and me who are open to plant exploration, and therefore can reap mega benefits!!
There was Wood Sorrel, oxalis stricta, or common wood sorrel with YELLOW flowers. I've erroneously mentioned her in previous posts as oxalis acetosella, WHITE-flowered wood sorrel, but I meant the yellow-flowered variety. Oopsy. Well, there are many varieties after all.
Like just this morning, I was nibbling on Sheep Sorrel. Now there's one plant you'd like to have around. Her leaves are a pleasant lemony taste, she self-seeds readily, and her root is used in the famous Essiac tea, known for helping with cancer.
Back to yesterday...The wood sorrel had large clover leaves and I just love eating a tiny handful to nibble on. She helps to cut thirst, so if you're ever out foraging without water, you can get rehydrated by munching on a few leaves. She does have oxalic acid, but so does spinach. Whoop-de-do. No one even mentions the oxalic acid content in spinach, unless you have stones and you're recommended to avoid it. More like: spinach? Oh yeah, Popeye! Well, all greens have protein in them, mister, so just you be aware of that!
Wood sorrel has a lemony taste like sheep sorrel, but the latter has a tangier taste. There were a few plants that I didn't know the names of, but I forgot my phone/camera at home. There's an FB group called Plant Identification where you can post a pic of a plant that you want IDed. I still have a few plants growing at home that I've yet to identify, so I'd like to take pics and submit them and know what they are!
Then I spent about an hour and a half at the Flower Market. The two men there have been selling flowers from various growers for the past 4 years right in the front of the local supermarket. They'll be packing it up this weekend as the growing season is well under way (and it hasn't been much of a growing season at that, what will all the rain); hence many of their plants were on liquidation. I, of course, popped by to see what plants I could squeeze somewhere into my balcony garden.
I tell ya, many of the seeds I planted did NOT come through. I thought about writing to Richter's (perhaps I still might) to give them feedback about their seeds. It might just be all the weather to blame...I've been finding that plants that I planted in one pot have been showing up in another! Like Chamomile where there should have been Greater Celandine...
Mugwort and wild carrot were creeping up a little too much in several pots, and while I gave a hug to my huge muggie just the other day, I actually took out several mugwort and wild carrot plants. They were "disturbing" the other plants that were trying to grow there! I used them in mean green pestos, of course---but really, I never thought I'd be "wrenching up the weeds" as so many others do!
Speaking of mean green pestos, I made 2 new ones just today: one with baby Sow Thistle (also called Wild Lettuce), basil and tarragon and one with mugwort, lamb's quarter and parsley. Yummers! I've been adding seeds to give them texture, but I'm thinking about revamping them so they are lower in fat.
I know, I know, I am working on writing and putting my recipes into ebooks (hence COMING SOON written elsewhere on this site a propos de said ebooks). These ones would be classified as mean green pestos, although I don't know if anybody would buy them with that kind of title! That's just my quirky sense of humor: I love greens, have indeed changed my taste buds to like, yes LIKE BITTER-TASTING GREENS. To a certain extent, of course. I don't mind a sprig of wormwood, but a sprig, mind you :) Helps to get the digestion going, gives a hand to the liver. Kills parasites too. Why not indeed :)
Still, there are different shades of bitter, after all :)
I ended up speaking with J and R, the two men at the Flower Market, for about an hour yesterday. They were saying this season they found that many people seemed too impatient to want to plant anything, however the veggie plants and herbs sold so well, they could have easily sold much more. I took it as a positive sign that people are more interested into eating healthy food! Yea!
I made J & R try the few wild edibles I had gathered---they weren't too impressed, not being salad-lovin'-kinda gents, but they said that the wood sorrel had a nice lemony feel. I do, too, as I mentioned, although I can taste the sweetness in the Vetch, which is in the pea family. I have a sensitive nose, so perhaps my taste buds are more attuned to the plant world as well :)
I ended up getting Tarragon, Marjoram (also called wild oregano), Vervain or Verbena and a Begonia plant. J told me begonias are edible and I remember reading about that somewhere. I didn't have my phone to check further, but I got her anyway. She has a lovely reddish-orange color, so even if I can't eat her (it's not really recommended to eat plants from nurseries because of the common use of pesticides and herbicides, and although this was a flower market, I wouldn't be surprised if chemicals were used to initially grow the plants), I can still enjoy her as an ornamental!
Well, I checked and Begonia X Tuberhybrida (tuberous Begonias) are edible indeed. Her name is Non-Stop Orange and apparently she'll continue to produce flowers if given light even during the dark nights of winter. Hmmm. Well, she's just got just the one flower at the moment and she's rather tiny, so I think I'll let her just concentrate on getting herself to grow big and strong. You can read more about how to grow Non-stop Begonias here and BTW, there are other Begonias that are edible besides the tuberous one (like Wax Begonias). You can read more about them here and check out a video about how to make a tartelette with Wax Begonias by Green Deane here.
That reminds me suddenly (off-topic from the previous paragraph entirely!) that R was saying that they didn't sell many perennials this year, that people came and were saying, "Ah, these plants? I already have them." Aka, how boring. That got me telling J & R about maybe offering up some new plants, like Burdock! They weren't sure what Burdock was at first, but then when the velcro plant was identified, they knew!
I told them that last year the Herbology Association had named Burdock "the plant of the year" and that many parts of the burdock plant were either edible or medicinal. The root, for example, is known in Japan as gobo and eaten fresh in soups and stews. Medicinally, the dried root is used to mop up chemicals and toxins from the body, thus helping the liver in its detoxification efforts, as well as being a liver tonic. Expensive, too, I was telling them, sold in health food stores a few sticks for 8 bucks!
Then I got to telling them about dandelion, another good herb for the liver (the root). J laughed and said, "Dandelion? I've got tons of dandelion if anyone wants any!" I said, sure, I'd come and get some! Heck, they sell dandelion leaves in health food stores, not to mention in capsules---which is just dried dandelion leaves turned into a powder. So much dandelion around, anyone can just dry the leaves on newspaper, powder the leaves in a high speed blender or coffee grinder, and then put the powder into capsules (which they sell at health food stores and elsewhere). Dandelion leaf makes an excellent diuretic, FYI.
I must say, I was on High Vibe after collecting plants, chatting about plants and eating plants, plus bringing home new plant friends! On the way home, I stopped to collect a few Milkweed buds and to get a few rose petals. The roses aren't doing so well this year, but there are still several buds that are blooming, so there will be flowers to come.
I know many people use rose buds for rose tea, but I never like taking the buds at that "stage of the game." You take the buds off and that bud never has a chance to make a fruit, or rose hip, and I love rose hips! Packed with Vitamin C, they're great to make rose hip jelly, although I like using her to make a rose hip oil for my face. I gave some to my elderly neighbor one year, and she noticed a pleasant difference to her skin :)
So, yes, you can just take the petals off the roses and make rose PETAL tea instead. It's so easy too, because when you go to take the petals, they all just fall off in your hand and the center bit (which turns into the rose hip) is left untouched. If the petals don't give, then you know they aren't ready to be picked. Simple! Well, I think so :)
And besides all this foraging, and talking about plants and growing plants, is, well, plants.
As they are.
This morning, for example, I sat on my balcony and pruned tarragon and marjoram, my newcomer plant friends. I gave a hair cut to chickweed and took some leaves off lamb's quarter. I took the flower heads off chamomile and took some leaves from marshmallow. And come lunch time, lunch was heavenly! Lemony sheep sorrel leaves melted in my mouth, wild green pesto on flax bread + wild green soup filled my belly and the pièce de résistance? Borage flowers! Such sweet, sweet taste!
I find you can't get fresher than growing your own, whether it's herbs, veggies, fruits, wild edibles, whatever.
There's THE plant, right there in your garden, whatever that garden looks like, from a large, sprawling garden to a few herbs growing in a kitchen window box or even to a balcony garden like mine. And then you eat a few leaves or flowers from this plant... and suddenly, this vibrant energy from this living plant brims over into that freshly picked leaf or flower and rushes lovingly and sharingly this vitality into you.
And you feel....
A symbiotic relationship exists between you and her.
You care for her, nurture her, keep her contented, watered, fed, loved.
And she in turn shares with you all her blessings....and sometimes her secrets, too :)
She is in a symbiotic relationship with the sun, the soil, the insects; in a symbiotic unity with the whole. She reminds you that you are also eclipsed in this universal energy, that there is indeed a mystery in rain water that can not be glimpsed by your mere gardener's hand, but that must be experienced with the heart of the person to whom this hand is attached.
She reminds you that the part can never be more than the whole, which is why when the part rallies against the whole, misery ensues, and one feels alienated and separated from the whole. One conspires all one's energy to be in misery...
And yet being here now -she reminds you that- in this place, in this space, one feels whole.
One never left home.
In a bite of freshly picked leaf or flower, one can relax into one's being and take the jump into silence....
Enjoy the freshly picked bounties of summer! 'Til next time, sunshine!
Curiosity Got The Cat: