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 ;)
I can tell fall is almost here, even thought the weather is still in the high 20s. It seems the plants' energy has gone down, down into the roots. Or, that the plants are busy making seeds. Like my Nasturtium plants. Such beauties! I've been steaming and eating the leaves. Their peppery taste mellows out when cooked, so you could even add them to soups and stews.
My Oregano, Common Marjoram and Sweet Marjoram (also known as Wild Oregano) are also in flower. I harvested them today; have them drying on mesh screens in the dehydrator for future soups :)
I also spent time with Sage, harvesting her large, slightly fuzzy leaves. She's such a sweetie, such a lovely, quiet energy. Reminds me of Mugwort and Motherwort in their energy, although I have several baby Mugwort plants that have a mischievous energy. I was chiding them about growing everywhere and not sharing the space with other plants in this large pot --- really the bottom of a repurposed rat cage. They seemed to giggle at the time. However, when I decided to harvest several Sheep Sorrel plants growing with the muggies, I noticed that the muggies were growing all clumped together. Hm, interesting. When I decided to haul up the Sheep Sorrel roots, I soon saw why. Roots and more roots still!
Oh boy. What ended up with me in my PJs going to get some morning sun on my sunny balcony ended up with me dirtying my hands, arms and PJs and spending about 2 hours gardening! The root system of Sheep Sorrel is just amazing! These plants actually have large roots, but growing where they are in about 6-7 inches of soil, they are obviously not at their prime. Still, each plant was connected to all the other plants by these long root "threads." Reminded me of how trees are connected by their root systems, or the mycelium in mushrooms. Just fascinating, I tell ya! Yep, muggies don't stand a chance when Sheep Sorrel is around ;)
Sheep sorrel leaves are mighty tasty, BTW, and have a nice lemony taste. You can eat them raw in salads and appreciate them that way, or have their lemony flavor enhance your soups and stews. When cooked, they taste like spinach with a lemony feel. Quite nice. You can also steam them, add them to green juices or green juices. They also freeze well or you can dry the leaves and then add them to soups and stews that way. They do contain oxalic acid, so most people prefer to cook them to neutralize their oxalic crystals.
Sheep Sorrel root is best prized for her anti-cancer effect and is best known in Essiac Tea.
I am drying the roots, of course :) Extra antioxidant power in my tea? Now who doesn't need some help fighting those free radicals!
I bought Sheep Sorrel seeds from Richters, but she self-seeds most readily, so you'd have plenty for future years. Her leaves grow in a rosette and once she shoots up her central stem, she's then going into baby/seed-making mode. To extend her life, cut back the central stem if you see her growing one. I did this a few times with my plants and they continue to grow leaves and spread further in the pot. She's also what I'd call a cut-and-come again plant: I remove her leaves and she grows them back in. I do leave some of the leaves on the plants, though -> take the leaves growing on the outer edges of the rosette and leave the inner ones.
Yes, she grows just fine in containers, although, as I mentioned earlier, her root system is extensive, so if you're looking to grow medicine, she's best grown in the garden to get that big root.
Well, you can tell I've been writing about plants, but no foraging per se. How come? I meant to go foraging today, but work intervened! It plumb rained all day Monday, so I was going to go yesterday, on Wednesday, to have a look 'round. Ah, I said, I can go tomorrow, and took the day to make soup and sauerkraut.
I love the crockpot for the sauerkraut, BTW, the one that I mentioned in my last diary post.
For my last batch, I left it to ferment for only 7 days, but it was really humid last week, and humidity does "heat" up the fermentation process. Of course, 4 weeks is often prescribed to let things really ferment, but I didn't want to wait that long. Plus, there was a stench coming from the crock. I had taped on a dishcloth to cover the hole because there are fruit flies hovering about, and when I took off the cloth, I noticed green mold all on the top of the weights. In fact, even after washing the weights with soap and vinegar, they got green mold on them all over again! After washing them again, I placed each weight in a plastic bag and will see how the mold situation goes. It is normal for mold to form on the top of sauerkraut, on the part where you have placed the outer cabbage leaves. When you take off the leaves and weights, the part that is under the brine is the good stuff. The icky and tricky part is making sure you get all the mold off so that none goes into your 'kaut :PP
The sauerkraut does tastes great, and it continues to ferment in the fridge, with the taste getting better as it continues to ferment. I used 3 medium heads of cabbage, both last time and this time, and my crock was filled about half-way full. Last time I made it with red cabbage and this time I used green. The color of the red cabbage is stunning! I used the "special" probiotics again, but really, you don't have to. Lots of veggies have the "good" bacteria on them already!
FYI: cabbage is rated as being low in chemical residues by the EWG, so if you can't afford organic, no worries here with the cabbage :)
My neighbor gave me some caraway seeds to use with the cabbage, and they do taste nice to use in 'kraut. So does dill seed and Wild Carrot/Queen Anne's Lace seed. I might try making different 'krauts next time around, using mason jars for each type of 'kraut. You can also use other root veggies as well for fermenting (sometimes called kimchi---although this doesn't ferment for long--- or fermented veggies). Good choices include parsnip, rutabaga, carrot, beet, celery root, radish and turnip. You can also add in other goodies like ginger, garlic and onion --- I'm not so keen on these as they are too heating for me! Tough greens can also be added as well, such as kale, collard, bok choy and chard.
The Body Ecology diet/website is really keen on using fermented products. They are really big on reinoculating the gut with friendly probiotics, on curbing and treating candida, and on using stevia as an all-around great sweetener ALL THE TIME (not just for when you have a digestive issue). A great resource. I'd recommend bookmarking their website and getting the book The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates.
Hm, all this 'kraut talk has gotten me itchin' to play around in the kitchen ;) Although to be honest, it does take a bit of time to make 'kraut, because first everything has to be well-cleaned (I like to use soapy water and vinegar to clean my knife, cutting board, crock pot, etc.), then shred the cabbage in the food processor (in several batches), then add to the crock with the water, probiotics and salt (if using), plus any herbs or spices, and then start giving it a good pummeling. Once it gets a nice brine, then you add the outer cabbage leaves, put on the weights and finally done. About an hour, I'd say, but so worth it!
I made FOUR 1-liter mason jars using 3 heads of organic cabbage.
Cost: $10 for 40 liters or 16 cups 'kraut. Compare that to the store- bought version, where 500ml/2 cups will go for $5. I've seen pricey 1 cup 'kraut in vacuum-sealed bags go for $6-7. Whew! Good thing I got me an hour to spare in the kitchen, and that at about every 2-3 weeks depending how much 'kraut I eat in a day!
The recommendation is to start off with 2 Tbsp 'kraut a day. Best to eat at the end of your meal. It can take some adjusting too, aka it can give you bloating and gas. I know, I know, not what you want if you already have those symptoms. BUT, if you persist, you'll find you start craving 'kraut AND that it helps to balance your blood sugar really well.
In fact, if you've overeaten or eaten too much sweets, a few Tbsp of kraut can really help. It also helps to cut down on your cravings for sweets. Being sour, it's a boon to the liver (helping with detox and the free-flow of qi), PLUS fermented cabbage and the cabbage brine helps to treat iron deficiency, not to mention being an excellent way to repopulate your gut flora. Cabbage itself is anti-cancer, anti-gastritis/ulcer and anti-inflammatory. It's also a vermifuge, meaning worms in the gut go bye-bye.
Why we all aren't eating more fermented foods, I really don't know.
And it's dirt cheap to make, plus cabbage is easy to grow, too.
OK, that's my 2 cents "tirade" on cabbage 'kraut ;)
Good news: signed up for a class at the Wise Woman University. Also got the books by Susun Weed Down There: Sexual & Reproductive Health The Wise Woman Way and New Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Way, Alternative Approaches For Women 30-90. Looking forward to going deeper with the herbs!
Well, sunshine, cross your fingers so that I can go foragin' later this week. Hopin' to get more Red Clover flowers and leaves, plus lotsa liver-toutin' roots: Burdock, Dandelion & Yellow Dock.
Keep your bright rays sunny, 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: