Mid-may is technically late spring, although the cool weather has retarded the growth of plants at the moment. Still, old friends are slowly making their way to the surface, to rise and shine and offer up their bounty again!
There have been a few days with brilliant sun, and one day I took the opportunity to "forage" ---aka "weed"--- my neighbor's garden!
What manner of goodies, or shall I say plant friends, did I find?
Violets. I mentioned in my last post that you can infuse the flowers in honey, although I am not one who does that. Instead, I love to add the mucilaginous leaves to salads, soups, smoothies and stews. Because of that slippery feel to the leaves, I DON'T use them in green juices. I like to add the leaves either fresh or dried to soups and stews and use fresh leaves in smoothies. I also dry the leaves and flowers and then add a tiny bit to herbal infusions, especially infusions that are bitter or astringent (e.g. horsetail infusion). Adding a touch of mucilaginous herbs is HIGHLY recommended in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as it helps to protect tender mucous membranes and helps to alleviate the body from getting too dried out (in TCM speak, it helps to protect the yin).
Gardening-wise, Violets are VERY easy to grow and they make one of the BEST plants to grow in the shade!! I have found leaves as huge as my palm when I've found Violets hiding among some other plants and also along a forest trail. Definitely consider planting some Violets, Pansies or Heart's-ease if you have a shady patch in your garden :)
Creeping Charlie. Gardening-wise, if you have a patch of empty earth, consider planting this creeper. That's right, Charlie is a real creeper and will creep all over that bare earth in no time! Being in the mint family, as I mentioned in the last post, you can add the flowers and leaves to soups, stews, salads and even smoothies. I also mentioned that she has a particular taste (<-don't mind me, I call all plants "her" in reference to the divine Mother Earth as opposed to calling a plant an object "it") which is rather astringent. Thrown into a smoothie with fruits or into a soup or stew, trust me when I say you won't even taste her. For soups and stews, may I recommend that you puree them and add in some sweet veggies like carrots, beets and potatoes. It's my go-to trick for adding bitter herbs to a big pot, cooking everything up and then pureeing. Once you do that, no one will have a clue what goodness is in that puree!!
Dandelion. Speaking of which, Dandelion is a good one to add to soups and stews and pureeing makes all the difference! I add the greens fresh or dried to soups and stews. I like to juice the greens with some other less bitter greens like kale or chard, then take this green juice and blend it up in the blender with some sweet fruit like mangoes or some veggies such as carrots and tomatoes. Again, the taste of that sweet fruit or veggie masks any bitter taste from the greens!! Oh and if you were wondering why on earth we should be eating dandy greens: because they are exceptionally good for your liver and are high in Vitamin C and many minerals. Dandy greens are FREE FOOD...and your neighbors will be more than happy to let you weed their garden for free!! Free food for you and a happy liver---win, win!! Remember that you can dry the leaves, store them in a paper bag and then use them during the colder months :)
Plantain. Really, perhaps we should just call her Plantago, because when we say plantain people think of that fruit that looks like a banana. Plantago has small leaves which are cooling and likes compacted soil. Where there's one, there's more! Leaves are quite small at this point, but they are perfect to add to salads because they are tender---they toughen as they age. Fresh or dried, add them to soups and stews, and add the fresh leaves to smoothies and green juices. I also add them to infusions for their healing and cooling properties. They are a green which is recommended to help those dealing with digestive inflammation, such as Crohn's, colitis, IBS, etc. You can even take the dried leaves, grind them to a powder and then pack them into empty capsules (you can buy the capsules online or sometimes at health food stores).
Forget-me-not. These blue flowers are such a pretty addition to the garden, but they do spread and can be rather invasive. The flowers don't have much taste, but they do pretty up a salad and make an OK garden nibble. I had a flower or two while I was perusing the garden :)
Malva or Mallow. This wild one is in the malvaceae family and all plants have a soothing, mucilaginous property that is sought after by those with inflamed intestines. She's another one that you can dry ALL parts of her and use her to help offset the drying effect of bitter and astringent herbs. You can find her growing in the wild and she's often sold at flower markets. Some of them have pretty striped flowers while others are solid colors, like solid pink or purple.
I like adding the leaves fresh or dried to soups and stews, and adding the fresh leaves to smoothies or chopped up in salads. Some of the leaves can be as huge as your palm and make for excellent leafy green wraps!! That'll be later in the season, though, because at this point they are still small and need to grow.
I transplanted 2 of them into a shady area of a little plot of land close to my house and I will see how they fare in the shade.
Tulips. Tulip petals are edible, yes! They make for tasty additions to salads and I like to stuff them with pate. The inner part is NOT edible and you do NOT want to eat flowers (any flower) from the flower shop. No pesticides or herbicides, please! Tulips do come in different colors and that means each color has a different taste I rather fancy the red and yellow ones, which are reminiscent of bell peppers. The white ones aren't bad tasting and the pink one I tried wasn't to my liking. I spotted an orange on on the way to work today but I'd have if I could have a nibble to see what that one tastes like! See which ones tickle your taste buds!!
Garlic Mustard. I spotted a plant the other day and have yet to have a peek-see behind the mall, where I found a big patch last year. Some people say the leaves are less bitter BEFORE they go into flower and I do tend to agree. HOWEVER, if you are adding them fresh or dried to soups and stews, you won't notice the difference in taste. Some do add the leaves to salads and some add them to herbal vinegars. You can also dry the leaves and then grind them to a powder and use as a garlic powder substitute. This plant does have a window of time where you can pick her, FYI. Generally, by June she's all dried up with the heat, so befriend her now while she's around :)
Hostas. Yes, these plants which many plant for their ornamental and hardy nature, are edible! They are in the same family as asparagus and are quite tasty! When young and furled like in the photo, they are called hostons. At this stage and when the leaves are growing in, they are the best tasting. I add them fresh to soups and stews. I've also juiced them with veggies, but prefer them cooked. When they are older, the leaves toughen up and they get holey with snail bites. I've still juiced them and have even added some of the bigger leaves (cooked) to pate recipes and have found them to be a bit more on the bitter side, but still tasty. There are different varieties but they are all edible! Knowing this, you can plant them in your garden and have FREE FOOD all season long! The flowers are also edible, although not much in the way of taste, and I've added them to salads to pretty them up.
Strawberry Leaves. The white flowers are out! And yes, the leaves are edible! I add them at any stage to salads, soups and smoothies. I also dry them, store them in paper bags and then add them to soup recipes as "greens" during the colder months. They do have an astringent property about them and you can dry the leaves, make an infusion and drink to help with diarrhea. Blackberry leaves in an infusion, FYI, make a much better medicine for diarrhea.
As I write this post today, I know there are other plant friends that I am sure I will talk about in future posts. Friends like Creeping Bellflower, Lamb's Quarter and Sow Thistles --- all of which have leaves to add to the soup pot, juicer or blender! And then there's Red and White Clover...and perhaps some Yarrow...ah, but such encounters will have to be seen!
Enjoy the good weather while it's here, sunshine, and keep burning that light steady on :)
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 :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: