I apologize in advance if this post doesn't have the same flavor as it did when I first wrote it. I had written this diary entry for half an hour and was about to add some tags to the post when I got logged out of the system. All those words describing my encounters with beautiful plant beings were lost....Alas, while the experiences are still there in my heart, I write now to recount to you as best I can what happened when I returned to Bellefield....
My purpose on going to Bellefield was to collect some Nettles for a future pesto. So, when I arrived at Bellefield, I immediately crossed the bridge and turned left (instead of right, towards the field). I walked down the path, hoping that there would be still be some Nettles, as I noticed that the patch growing close to the water had been mowed.
Ah yes, and it would seem that another patch growing along here had also gotten mowed...
Was it random or had someone pointed out that a crazy lady was coming along picking weeds?
Nah, while unusual, no one really cared about that kind of stuff!
I arrived at the Nettle patch and oh, what delight! I was able to harvest 3 large paper bags full of Nettle, 2 viable for tea and 1 with seeds that was good to add to the pot for a mean green pesto.
I was so appreciative, I kept thanking the plants, so happy that I was able to find good medicine and superfood! Indeed, turning around and walking a bit further along the path, I spotted some Sumac trees growing along a small hill. They invited me to come and take some of their berries.
I licked my finger, then licked a bunch of berries, then re-licked my finger again. Some of the berries were still a bit green, but the taste was pleasantly mildly sour.
They assured me that the berries were fine and I collected several drupes.
It seemed they were telling me which ones to pick, and I laughed, telling them I couldn't possibly collect them all as I wasn't that tall!
Smiling and glowing from their interaction and generosity, I skipped along the trail to visit the field. There, I spent the next little while collecting and talking to Red Clover.
You must be so happy that it has rained, I told them, seeing how many of the blossoms were now back to the usual purpley-pink hue, unlike last time when most were pink-colored and full of slugs.
Don't be silly, they chided me. We accept what Mother Earth has to offer us and she is always kind and knowing in her ways.
I was beaming with all the bounty of the flowers around me and did indeed collect a good bunch (about 4 dehydrator trays worth!).
I then spotted some pink Yarrow, and the color of these flowers were a darker hue than the usual pale ones I'd seen before. I got out my clippers and collected several heads of white, pale pink and dark pink flowers, smelling some as I went along. Aaah, Yarrow, such a looker, but not so sweet tasting (nope, definitely more antiseptic-like, yech!).
I stopped and looked briefly at the Milkweed plants, but they did not call me. I noticed some Mugwort and said hullo, then went to visit the patch of Plantain that had been so generous in the past. Interesting how this time everything had changed, they were silent in their energy, and so I didn't interact with them or take any of their leaves.
I noticed the Grape vines, now trailing over the fence, but they too did not call to me.
Getting out my camera to snap a few pics, who did I suddenly encounter but Tansy! Oh my, this was the first time I had ever seen her growing in the wild, and she seemed so happy to be growing where she was. I was happy to see her too, and gave her an energetic hug.
I snapped a few pics of Yarrow and Bull Thistle, the latter being taller than me (must've been around 5'7 or 8!).
I also noticed some other plants that I hadn't previously. In fact, in my last post I had mentioned that there were about 2 dozen plants growing in this one field, but I underestimated: 3 dozen is more like it!
Indeed, I took pics of Yellow Vetchling (I had mentioned her last post but didn't take a pic), Wild Parsnip, Blue Vervain, White Vervain, Queen Anne's Lace, Dock (now in seed), Green Coneflower, Jewelweed, Mugwort, Burdock and a plant that I have yet to identify. I also took a pic of a bee that came to inspect some pollen on my shorts :)
Returning home, I felt a pull by some plant growing beside the shed. No name came on the wind, but I was suddenly led to discover her name online with some writings by Susun Weed: Groundsel! I collected several plants beside the shed, then went and discovered more hiding behind the Tomato plants growing in my neighbor's yard.
Growing beside the Groundsel, there was also 2 Lady's Thumb plants, which I transplanted to one of my planters before divesting them of a few large leaves for a future pesto.
Groundsel is related to Ragweed, yet a taste of the leaves ensured me that it was fine to add to the pot for a pesto (meaning: steam greens, including those Nettles I collected earlier, first before pureeing in the food processor). Also means: nope, no allergies to Ragweed here!!
With the flowering tops, I made a tincture of Groundsel to use during period time to help with cramps:
---> Chop 1/3 off the flowering top of plants, then further chop into small pieces. Add to mason jar, cover with 100 proof alcohol, cap and let sit 6 weeks before straining into amber bottles. Usage and dosage: 5-10 drops 1x daily for PMS and cramps; 5-10 drops daily for 3 months to tonify the uterus so that you no longer get cramps/PMS. Not suitable for those with allergies to Ragweed.
I also made Sumac-ade, which is easy-peasy to make and tastes just like lemonade!
---> Simply take the berries off the stem and place in a bowl (you can toss in the stems if you like). Add enough tepid or room temperature water to cover the berries. Let sit 15-30 minutes, then place a coffee filter in a sieve and strain out the liquid. Ta-da, Sumac-ade that tastes just like Lemonade! Add stevia (or other sweetener) for a touch of sweetness.
I've posted this recipe in the recipes section with some variations Here :)
Finally, I put the Red Clover and Nettle onto mesh sheets in the dehydrator to air dry, then had a brilliant idea to dry Yarrow as cut flowers in a vase. No water needed, because the flowers will be used for future infusions and/or other wildcrafting recipes.
Keep that light burnin' now, sunshine, cuz there'll be more foraging adventures before ya know it :)
PS. Took a look-see and enjoy the pics :)
Bellefield Finds: Wild Grape, Sow Thistle, Plantain & 22 Other Herbs - Chickweed, Comfrey & St. John's Wort Salve Recipe- Double Tincture Motherwort Recipe
Finally sat down! Whew, have been so busy working (not so interesting) and running around (interesting).
Well, to be fare, I did get in some foraging at work. I collected some leaves from Hosta, Dandelion, Creeping Bellflower and Loosestrife to throw into a pesto. Mm-mmm. I've been eating a different wild green pesto almost every day. So good with Daikon Radish, Zuke and Cuke julienned sticks :)
I also collected 3 trays worth in the dehydrator of Prunella vulgaris, aka Self-Heal. I went out one day, collected a good bunch, then went out the next day and got some more. She's a small one, ya know, not much more than the tip of your pinky finger, but she makes such a sweet tasting tea, oh yes indeedy!
That foraging at work I just mentioned happened just this week, because before that it was rain, rain and more rain. Now we're in a period of no rain, hot and muggy for the past few days.
Of course, I took the opportunity to finally go foraging!
Yesterday: Foraging started right downstairs near the shed, where I collected some Violet and Plantain leaves for future infusions. I also found some Common Sow Thistles hiding behind the shed and collected some leaves to add to the pesto--- yep, in cold weather, it all goes into the soup pot and in warm weather it all goes into a mean green wild pesto ;)
I found a Malva Rosea growing beside the Rhubarb and collected some leaves to add to the pesto; also took some Rhubarb to make a nice protein shake.
It was getting late already, so I went and did some pruning in the balcony garden. Lots of Chickweed about! She's growing prolifically in the pots beside the side of the house, even Mint is confined to her space in each pot, ha ha! I did collect some Mint for future infusions of course :) Got a few Mustard leaves and Borage leaves to also add to tomorrow's pesto, as well as 3 varieties of Basil, some Anise Hyssop and even a touch of Dill.
I collected some Sage and Marjoram for later, as well as....drum roll....Zinnia! In fact, there is now one beauty of a pink flower strutting her stuff. Yes, Zinnia is edible, and I've collected her leaves to use in a future...pesto, you got it ;)
Comfrey has come in and I gathered some leaves and made an oil that I'll turn into a salve later on. As I was low on oil, I decided to use some St. John's Wort oil I had made last year, what you might almost call doing a double oil infusion, meaning that this oil is now double in strength. I also added in Chickweed for her anti-itch property.
Comfrey, Chickweed and St. John's Wort Oil/Salve
Tear or chop both the Comfrey and Chickweed into small pieces. Place in a mason jar (size is determined by how much herb you have). Add the St. John's Wort oil to cover the herbs. Give it a stir with the handle of a wooden spoon or a bamboo skewer to ensure all of the herb bits are coated in the oil. Cap with more oil until the very top. Place on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks before straining out the oil (use a sieve lined with a coffee filter). Store oil into dark amber bottles.
To turn oil into a salve: place 1 cup of the oil with 1 ounce beeswax OR carnuba wax in a glass, ceramic or stainless steel pot on low heat. Once melted, stir with a wooden spoon, adding it optionally 1-2 tsp of Vitamin E oil (this is a natural preservative, prick open capsules with a knife). Pour into amber glass jars and let cool overnight before putting on lids and labelling.
Uses: minor wounds and burns, insect bites and stings, sprains, strains, sore muscles, bruises, and where nervous support is needed. Also suitable for vaginal itching due to vaginal and urinary infections.
Notes: To test if texture of salve is to your liking: place 1 tsp of the oil/melted beeswax onto a spoon. Place spoon in freezer and wait 5 minutes. Assess if you'd prefer a softer salve (add a bit more oil to the pot) or a harder salve (add a bit more wax to the pot).
Shelf life of salve when stored in a cool place -> 1-3 years.
I decided to take a very mini trip around the mall and see what I could find. Eh, the Roses are mostly gone and the few that are there are all dried up. In fact, because of the weird weather and the late start of the season, I've noticed that many of the plants have remained small and then gone into flower OR are late in producing flowers. Borage, for example, usually is tall and gangly, but this year she's tiny, almost as if I could've planted her in a flower box and she'd have been just fine.
Behind the mall, same deal. Didn't spot that much Dandelion, some Sow Thistles were hanging out, and a small patch of infant Lamb's Quarter caught my eye. I harvested but a tiny bit, as there wasn't even a fistful to be had--- not like the Lamb's Q I harvested later that evening, when I went for a jog and found some seriously good-sized ones growing beside a fence on someone's lawn. I was able to collect a good fistful, in fact, one would probably call it a good bunch! I added the leaves to a pesto, of course :)
Back to the mall: Noticed the Garlic Mustard was quite dried up and spotted a few escaped baby Hosta plants, from which I pilfered a few leaves (yep, for pesto).
Going a little further along, I spotted several Mugworts and said hello.
When I saw some Milkweed, I got off my bike and walked slowly along an adjoining alleyway. I got some Milkweed flowers and immature buds (pesto!), as well as some Dock leaves (soup!). I noticed some nice Burdock plants but didn't feel called to take the stems and steam 'em like celery.
Nope, didn't seem to be too much happening this time around.
Today: I went to Bellefield. My intention was really to collect some Red Clover because I use her during my periods and wanted to have a good bunch to last me 'til next year.
I walked up the path and spotted Nettle, ALL with seeds. Oh no! What happened to my attempts of chopping off the seeds last month? Had they grown so much? Seemed so, but I decided to harvest them for....pesto :)
When I climbed over the bridge and turned right to the field, wow. Unlike last year when I was still collecting Red Clover flowers in early autumn, many of the plants were plumb burned, black, gone, dead. It took me about an hour to collect a bunch, and many were small and pink in color instead of the usual pinky-purple hue. I felt like a bee going to plant to plant, and whenever I spotted a bug on a blossom (including a bee), I knew that was a good one to take.
As I was picking up the blossoms, I was also noticing the many variety of plants in this 1 field (see pics below :) ):
I didn't notice any Jewel weed or Blue Vervain as I had last year, might see them later on.
Interestingly, I don't think they will be making condos on this field. I had noticed on my bike sprees to work that a part of the fence had been ripped out. Now the fence was repaired and the grass outside it scorched, but no longer just bare earth. Good news for the plants and for me! :))
After 2 hours out in the field, I zipped along to the mall to get a few things, then back home to find lots of insect friends had accompanied me home. I left the bags out on the balcony for a few hours so some of them could escape/leave, then made a St John's wort oil and a double tincture of Motherwort.
Kept the larger Motherwort leaves to dry and use in future soups and also spread the Plantain to dry for future infusions (try 3 trays over full!). I spread the Red Clover blossoms onto paper on my table and Oh my! so many bugs! That's OK, because they all disappeared when the cooler evening weather came...announcing a weekend of rain and more rain.
That's the thing with foraging, gotta get the timing with Mother Nature spot on!
I'm happy to say that Milkweed and Nettle got all washed up and are ready to be cooked and blended into a pesto with some Lamb's Quarter, Chickweed, and Basil of course.
Hope you're enjoying the bounties of summer, sunshine, cuz the weather is warm and toasty fine :)
PS. NOOOOOOOOO! The bugs were still there the next morning, tons of slugs, all moving slowly across the kitchen wall, the kitchen floor, the kitchen chairs, onto my bike helmet and bag I had left on the chair...what a mess! There's a now 3rd element to consider when foraging (after the 1- collecting/harvesting and 2- spreading to dry/chopping for wildcrafting recipes): the bugs!! It was just Red Clover, bugs know better than to be hanging around on Nettle, Yarrow or Motherwort ;)
PSS. Here's that double recipe for Motherwort. All you do is chop the top 1/3 of the flowering tops with scissors, place in a mason jar and add your already made Motherwort tincture from a previous year. Make sure all herb is coated, put on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks, before straining and storing in amber bottles. Note that using a piece of plastic wrap over the lid will prevent the lid from corroding/rusting. Your formula is now doubly strong, so use wisely the next time around for period cramps, palpitations and anxiety (try halving the usual dose of 30 drops).
I just had to make an update on Tansy: Oh My Acrid Smell, is all I have to say!
Here's what happened: I used some WD-40 to "loosen up" the springs on my trampoline. I store the can in my not-so-secret compartment in the kitchen island, on which Tansy was lying.
Wow, the smell of that WD-40 is still lingering about? I thought as I proceeded to take Tansy leaves off the stem.
That smell was from Tansy.
And she does NOT remind me of cinnamon or nutmeg either.
Needless to say, I was not about to be drying her leaves to use in some sweet confectionery or using her leaves for tea. Yech!
Instead, her acrid smell gave me the idea to turn her into a bug spray. Yes, if you check out the link on Plants for a Future Database, you'll see she contains borneol, thujone and camphor, has been used to kill fleas and lice, and is considered an excellent companion plant to repel insects.
Ditto on the insecticide. So I decided to make my own.
Tansy Bug_Off Spray
Add chopped leaves, stems and flowers to a mason jar, pour 40-50% proof alcohol to the top, place on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain and store in glass spray bottles. Use as a bug repellent as needed.
Can't test this recipe out right now as there aren't any bugs in this cool fall weather, but I'll give it a go come next summer. Might even add this bug spray in equal amounts with Yarrow Tincture and see what good that does. Hopefully, bug freedom!! ;)
Just wanted to share another great Wildcrafting Recipe! It's lookin' like I'll be sharing more recipes for the next few months as foraging stories won't be happening in the snow ;) Unless I forage for trees, which I might *perhaps* do.
Keep you posted, sunshine! And stay bright and sunny, ya hear :)
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 ;)
Fall is here. It came like the wind, for which fall is often noted.
One day I am wearing shorts in pleasant 25C temperature, next day I am in velour pants, with a long-sleeved sweater and jacket. Go figure!
To be fair, last year mid-September, I had put the heat on. The 1st of October has come and gone, and I haven't had to---yet.
Rainy all week meant foraging got floored.
But no worries. One must flow with the seasons, and I find fall lessons are a 2-in-1: reap the harvest of memories that have come and gone, and prepare for death which looms with imminent certainty ahead.
Still, whatever the season, one remains in the present moment and flows with each time as it is. Yes, not as it comes, future tense. But as it is, present tense, as it is being lived and existing. Yes, existing. The -ing is the better method, I think, to speak and talk about beingness.
No, no foraging. There is still time to get roots, no worries though. I passed behind the mall and there are some dandelion roots ready- in-wait to offer their medicine...Oh, the crabapples at Appley Love Field will be sweet with the stint in colder weather!!
Ah, but these days past have found me hauling in the garden inside, where plant allies and i can exchange breath...and so much more, too, of course :)
2 Comfrey plants were thrilled and are adjusting well to their new homes. Each got a large, vertical pot 26 inches long to allow for their long root to grow.
2 Nasturtium plants have been ever so happy and ever so bountiful to offer up their seeds; seeds to plant for next year will mean future generations and babies to come!
I pruned both of their leaves. They really are so tasty when steamed like any other green. Just a hint of peppery...you'll see if you try :)
2 Nettle plants were grateful to come in from the colder weather, where they are graced to show off their green glory atop a freshly cleaned kitchen cart.
2 baby Mullein plants, sharing a pot with some Nettle, found a spot on a butterfly stand to encourage their blossoming.
2 Marigold plants share the same space atop the kitchen cart with the Nettles, their green leaves having chosen to turn to a deep Bordeaux color to showcase autumn colored richness everywhere. They are still quite small, having been sowed as an offering for other Marigolds that were used to make medicine and unable to sow their progeny.
2 Chickweed plants squealed with delight to come in, come in, come in! They had both been pawed by a squirrel most interested in finding a hiding place to stow away some nut or other.
4 empty containers lay bare, 2 filled with soil and 2 empty but dirtied, all waiting to see the sowing of more Chickweed to come.
3 jars saw medicine being made, 2 of Wormwood tincture and 1 of Chrysanthemum oil.
I will use the 'mum oil as a perfume. When the oil has been steeped for 6 weeks, I will add in a touch of beeswax and pour it into tins, some to give to others as a holiday gift and some to keep for myself. I made a lavender oil the other day using just the leaves. Look for the recipe in a future post.
Now, there is apparently a comparison standard, a continuum if you will, of bitterness. Gentian is supposed to be the Queen, or so I've read. But most of us folks know there are lots of bitter plants, that to describe whom is the most bitter is a comparison bitter tasting contest best left for the bravest of the bitter lovers.
Wormwood is one of the ones up there. Oh sure, a sprig in the salad would be most beneficial to get those bile juices flowing. Enjoy ;)
Wormwood capsules are one way to enjoy her anthelmintic, or vermifuge, action. She is often used in naturopathy to treat parasitic infections and candida. While you can dry her leaves, grind them in a coffee grinder and add the powder to capsules (yep, you can get these online or in health food stores), you can also make Wormwood Tincture.
Chop fresh leaves and stems into small pieces and place slightly packed in a mason jar. How much herb you have will determine which size mason jar you'll use. Pour 40-50% alcohol over the herb to the top of the jar. Place on lid, screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain and store in dark amber bottles.
Dosage: 3-5 drops in a bit of water taken several times during the day, such as at meals, to treat dysentry, amoebas, giardia, candida & other parasitic infections.
An Old Love Charm
Ah, what magical properties do Wormwood and her artemisia sisters possess!:
"Artemis is Apollo's sister, and Queen of the witches. She is the goddess of the moon, the herbalist, the midwife, the birthing woman, and the hunter. Artemis is an untamed wild woman who runs free with the deer and the hounds. She is the woman who runs with the wolves. She is "Mother of all Creatures." "Leader of the Sacred Bitches." "Great She-Bear." She is owned by no man, and thus she is "Forever Virgin." And the plants named after her share her qualities.
I think Susun forgot to mention running around barefoot ;) I can relate to Artemisia, I tell ya!
Oh dear, guess there must be an herbalist of some type living in my house ;) I was giving Wormwood a massage on her leaves and telling her how beautiful she is just earlier today on my front balcony before I used her medicine. And did I mention that I've got Mugwort growing on my back balcony, growing as fast as she can before the real cold weather hits?!
Well, at least the house is blessed :)
I also brought in some Mediterranean herbs: Sage, Rosemary, Savory, Thyme, as well as 1 Aloe and 1 Stevia sweetie. I just love using Stevia in my recipes! As you might have read in my previous post where I made a Stevia glycerite :) I also love those aromatic herbs in my soup in the wintertime, a bit of fresh greenness is most welcomed! And Aloe, well, she's just an all-around sorta gal ya just wanta have around :)
A touch more gardening to do, and all will be well. Just have some Marshmallow and Mallow roots to dig up, give a haircut to Yarrow and let her overwinter...and then there's Tansy. She seems like she's about go into flower, so we'll see if her and Mother Nature are on the same schedule :) Tansy can be used as a flavoring like cinnamon, so I've read, so I'd be delighted to make her taste acquaintance in a creative food experiment!
That's all on my end.
Keep your sunny smile shining, sunshine :)
PS. Just remember that there might be a silvery artemisia about (oh yeah, they grow wild), so make sure you've got a silvery smile in your pocket in case you ever meet one!
Hollyhock/Marshmallow/Mallow for Leaky Gut, Benefits of Chickweed, Comfrey & Cleavers + Vanilla Extract & Stevia Glycerin Recipes
September 22, the first day of fall. How did you end up spending this day to mark the new season?
I spent yesterday and today gardening. I thought about going foraging for Red Clover and some Rose Hips, but gardening tasks awaited!
I don't know if you have a garden, but I spent hours today with just my little balcony garden! Seems like there is always something to do in the garden. I'm sure when I have my own garden, I'll easily spend the whole day fussing about in it :)
Here were just a few of my gardening tasks:
I bought two tall planters and repotted my Comfrey plants to bring them in during the colder months.
Comfrey has had a bad rap recently---banned in Canada in health food stores at the time of this writing, but you can still buy seeds and grow her yourself. And you want to, because her leaves and flowers have great medicine: she is a vulnerary par excellence, both internally and externally. That means sprains, strains, broken bones as well as inflamed intestinal bits benefit from her healing action.
Parts not to use: root. Since she does contain PAs (pyrroazaline alkaloids), you can use her leaves before she flowers and when she is in in flower. It's common to harvest comfrey, usually the top 1/3 of the plant, when she is in flower. You CAN use comfrey for EXTERNAL APPLICATION after she has flowered. I'll probably write more about her healing actions in another diary post.
I noticed several yellow bugs on Mallow, and hauled up leaf, stem, root and all! The mallow I have growing is malva sylvestris, but there is also Common Mallow, or malva neglecta. The flower, leaf, stem & root of either one can be used like Marshmallow root to make a tea which helps to heal inflamed mucous membranes.
Naturopaths encourage the use of Marshmallow tea to help heal leaky gut, but you can use Mallow as well. Hollyhock root can also be used similarly.
To make this tea, you have to decoct it. That means you use 1 ounce herb + 4 cups water. Place in a ceramic or glass pot, covered. Let come to a boil, then simmer on low for 20-30 minutes. Strain and drink tea!
I had several Sheep Sorrel plants growing in a pot and I first chopped off all the greens ---which I'll steam and eat tomorrow---then hauled up the roots. As I mentioned in a previous diary post, Sorrel roots are used in the famous Essiac Tea, but you can make a decoction and drink the tea like that, too.
I bought an Aloe Vera from the health food store yesterday and she was in sore need of a repotting! They were marketing her as a great food to use, and while that's true (and much, MUCH better to use her fresh than when bottled with citric acid, which is not a friendly ingredient to the kidneys), many people know Aloe Vera for her healing properties, especially for burns and sunburns. Of course, you can also use her to help with cuts, sores and other skin abrasions.
I had previously bought another Aloe Vera plant from Walmart. I know, I know, definitely not the best place to be buying plants. I haven't used any of her medicine, in fact, two of her leaves seem to be drying up and dying. I did repot both Aloe Veras, and we'll see how they fair growing inside now that cooler days loom ahead.
I pruned the leaves from Purslane and put the stalks in the compost. Yum! Omega 3-rich food for tomorrow's lunch! Purslane is frost tender, you bet. She's a succulent, definitely a desert plant. Even growing her inside during the cold months, she'll growing readily, then feel it's too cold, and die. I had to plant Purslane seeds 3X this year because the cold winter seemed to linger and linger. We even had snow in April, sniff sniff. What happened to April showers bring May flowers? Harrumph, snow showers = a very short gardening season, so appreciate what you can ;)
Out of all my plants that I had repotted this year, Oregano was the sole one that never got any attention. Until today. And boy, was she root-bound. Since I've been figuring out what plants I will be bringing inside to grow during the winter months, I thought I'd have Oregano, Thyme and Marjoram all growing in one big pot together. But, nuh-uh, Oregano needed all the space to herself in just one pot! I placed Thyme and Marjoram in another pot together, but I may just add them with Sage if I run out of room. Only so much space in my apartment, and while there is a lovely sunny patio door, only so many plants can crowd around to enjoy the light!
Yesterday saw Nettle growing in 3 pots getting a pruning. They are all growing so well since I moved them to the front balcony where they get the afternoon sun. I think they were frying in the heat being on the back balcony with the morning and mid-day sun. Nettles are in the mint family, and I have found in my experience that part-sun seems to suit the Mint family better than full sun.
Yesterday (and the weekend, too) saw me pruning Lemon Balm. Oh, Lemon Balm! I was supposed to make Lemon Balm candy with your fresh leaves but I forgot! I dried you in the dehydrator to enjoy your spicy, lemony goodness in tea and to add to my soups...Ah well, I have a bit of fresh Lemon Balm that I harvested just today, so I may try that candy recipe yet!
Yes, that was another one of "gardening tasks" today: taking out the dried herbs from the dehydrator and placing them in paper bags and jars to keep for future days. That's the other part of gardening and foraging: first you harvest, then you have to cut them into smaller bits, OR clean the roots, OR remove the leaves from the stems, then dry them onto racks in the dehydrator or on newspaper or parchment paper, OR you make medicine, like tinctures, oils and vinegars.
My friend noticed that I was drying some herbs on flyers I received in the mail and asked if I was worried about the ink from the flyers going into the herbs. Oops, I never thought about that! Time to make the switch to soy-based parchment paper!
I had plants on every single step coming up the front balcony.
Gone. All gone.
Instead, just before coming up the stairs are 3 plants to greet you: Chrysanthemum, that good old fall favorite, which I will use her flowers to make a perfume; Yarrow, first year still in leaf, and I'm pretty sure she acts like a biennial plant because of the Canadian climate; and Mallow, tons of flowers and so far seemingly aphid/bug free. I added in two friendly straw farmers to welcome the fall season: Farmer Wilson and Farmer Asoka! :))
Speaking of that Chrysanthemum plant, oh-my-goodness. Yes, I used dashes to separate the words for emphasis, but I could have used periods instead to muster in that frustration and work I experienced trying to get her out of the purse. Yes, I had a Chrysanthemum plant growing in a hot orange purse, a showy color to greet you as you came up the driveway. Well, mum certainly has big roots and she was root bound growing in that small space, I can tell ya. Not only root bound, it seemed her roots were stuck into the fabric lining and there was a hole in the bottom of the purse that she was trying to escape a leg, er, root, out of.
Trying not to hurt/damage her while getting this mass of soil and roots out of a purse was a daunting experience: dare I use shears to cut the purse open? Dare I use a purse as a planter again? Should I just leave mum in the purse or continue slowing using one hand to pull up on her roots while holding and pulling in the opposite direction on the bottom of the purse?
She finally gave, thank god, and I threw the purse out. Small plants would be OK growing in a purse, I suppose, but a plant with a shallow root system, perhaps like Chickweed. Mum was most certainly happy when I put her in a huge pot to let her continue growing her flowers, which are still in bud form and seem to just be waiting for that opportunity to flower. Can't wait, mum!
Chickweed, speaking of, I ordered more seeds. Tincture of Chickweed is supposed to be great to help with cysts of any kind, including ovarian cysts and fibroids. You can also add her to green smoothies and green juices, make pesto with her and even drink her tea. Oh yes, being high in saponins, her tea is great to help mop up fat and is a boon to weight loss! She's also high in minerals and is super easy to grow, plus she tastes like a mild salad green. I have 2 pots growing with Chickweed, but decided to order more seeds as she also loves the shade. Yes, great plant for those shady areas AND she makes great ground cover. Just win-win-win all around. Did I mention you can also cook her like spinach? Great to use in quiches and such! Yum!
I also ordered Cleavers because all the Cleavers (or Clivers) seeds I sowed never took. Not one. I blame the weather, of course, because not only was there snow in April still, June was an exceptionally wet month. Summer didn't finally show up until July. Plus, many of my other seeds that I sowed also didn't grow in. Cleaver tincture is great to work on the lymphatic system, helping to detox the body of toxins and also helpful for any lymphatic swelling, including edema and water retention. She can be quite aggressive in growing, just like the mint family, but no worries if you have her contained in a pot, as I will be.
I also ordered some Stevia seeds, which are pricey, but oh-so-worth it. I've been buying my Stevia plants from the non-organic flower market every year, but wanted to have some on hand when needed. Stevia is an annual, you see, although she does grow remarkably well indoors during the winter. She really likes sun, a lot of sun and full sun. I buy a Stevia plant in June and by the next year around the spring, even though she's been growing well all the time during the winter months and now the sunny spring weather has come, she starts to not look so good and dies off.
Even in a pot, she does really well. Because her leaves are not organic, here is what I do when I first get Stevia (and what you can do, too): first, I take off her larger leaves. She's like mint in that there will always be a set of 2 smaller leaves that grow where 2 larger leaves are growing. I take off the larger leaves, then, when these smaller leaves have grown into bigger leaves, I take these off too. I compost all of these leaves (I don't use them).
I place Stevia in a big pot, with organic soil, and fertilize her 1-2 X a week with an organic kelp/fish oil solution. Full sun of course, as I mentioned. When the 3rd set of leaves are large (with 2 baby leaves growing underneath), I now harvest and use those leaves and all future leaves then on. I dry the leaves and then use them to make infusions.
The standard to make an infusion is 1 oz + 4 cups boiled water in a 1-liter mason jar. Lid and screw cap on, then sit let 4 hours (or up to 8 hours), strain and use. Leftover refrigerated 2-3 days. Stevia can get bitter when left to infuse for so long, so I've used her after steeping for 30 minutes to 2 hours. I don't weigh my herbs when making infusions or decoctions, but I'm sure I've used more than 1 ounce to make a really strong infusion.
With this Stevia liquid, I then use her to sweeten tea, and in my cake, muffin, bread, jello, jelly and candy recipes.
Another way to use Stevia is to make a glycerite. If you've ever purchased vanilla, you'll notice that vanilla is often sold with alcohol as an ingredient. Why? Because this is just a vanilla tincture! You can actually make your own more cheaply than buying the store-bought version:
Easy-Peasy Vanilla Extract Recipe
Use fresh vanilla beans, slightly packed in a mason jar and pour 50% alcohol to cover. Lid and screw cap on, let it infuse for 6 weeks. Strain and keep the tincture/extract in a dark colored bottle.
The size of mason jar you use depends how much vanilla beans you have. I'm figuring you'll be using a tiny jar, because even fresh vanilla are rather pricey :)
If you don't care for the alcohol, you can make vanilla glycerite, which is sold as vanilla glycerin. Same process as above:
Easy-Peasy Vanilla Glycerite Recipe
Use fresh vanilla beans, slightly packed in a mason jar. Add in food grade glycerin to the top. Put on lid and screw cap and let sit for 6 weeks. Strain and store the glycerite in a dark, amber bottle.
OK, but what about Stevia glycerite? Same thing:
Stevia Glycerite Recipe
Place fresh Stevia leaves, slightly packed, in a mason jar. Choice of jar (250/500/1000ml) depends on how many leaves you have. Pour food grade glycerin over leaves to top of jar, put on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain (a nut milk bag works nicely for this, but you could use a sieve too) and store stevia glycerin in a dark amber bottle.
Now use the Stevia glycerin to sweeten tea and when making desserts. I find using glycerin this way to be better for making no-bake desserts because most muffin and cake recipes require a lot of sweetener (which is why using stevia infusion is a better choice!).
FYI: Some people don't like the taste of Stevia whatever way you use her, which is why she is often sold as an extraction (they extract the sweet principle in her, usually Reb. A), by herself and often with another sweetener. The other sweetener is also a low glycemic/low calorie sweetener, such as rice maltodextrin, erythritol, monk fruit, xylitol or a combination of these.
I'm thinking of a friend right now as I write this, because he always knows there is stevia in whatever goody he is eating and he always makes that I-can't-stand-it-taste! Doesn't matter the type of stevia or if she's paired with another sweetener. A stevia lover, he is not. To each their own!
I personally love Stevia: love seeing her growing, love being with her and pruning her leaves, love just seeing her. She has a sweet energy that is definitely imparted in her leaves, and I'm most happy to know her and benefit from her sweetness in my goodies :)
Weather looks bright and sunny, so I'm hoping to get in a bit of foraging tomorrow. Looking to get some Red Clover blossoms and whatever other herbs are interested in sharing with me their medicine or food.
Fall is upon us, and there will be ample time to collect roots, whenever the opportunity strikes. Which reminds me, since I am writing an article on Mugwort, that her ROOT is considered an excellent stomachic---that means if you have digestive issues, you might want to be taking a tincture of her before your meals OR drinking in a cup of her root tea (you'll need to decoct it and by the way, she is bitter).
Enjoy the many sunny days of fall ahead, sunshine :)
I made 2 trips to Bellefield this week. Here are my musings:
Trip 1, Tuesday
The weather has been hot and humid. Labor Day came late this year and I wouldn't be surprised if it was a record day for heat---try 39C! When you looked outside, no one was out. Not only were all the shops closed, but it seemed everyone was picnicked out. Not much fun having a picnic with ice cream melting down your arm ;P
I spent Labor Day weekend working, but I was able to go for a jaunt to Bellefield on Tuesday. Although there had been a roiling (but passing) storm on Monday night ---indeed, I had put metal to the pedal to get me and my bike home before it rained and had just made it---[tuff if you ain't fancying that English!) I decided to go and get some Yarrow at Bellefield.
I wanted to get some Yarrow to make myself a tincture. Nope, not fond of making tinctures, but lately I've gotten into the swing of it, especially as I think I might have a gut infection. I've been taking Echinacea tincture for now, although I have some Yarrow tincture that will be ready soon. I wanted to make some more Yarrow tincture and I plan on making one with Marigold as well.
As it had rained, some of the plants were wet. That also meant the mosquitoes were about. Great! More bug bites for me! I started collecting some yarrow leaves as soon as I got to the field, not sure if I'd find any flowers. I looked about and collected some large Plantain leaves and a few Dandelion leaves. Amazing how plants regrow back quickly, especially so-called "weeds!" I noticed there were several plants with Red Clover flowers that had sprouted and there were quite a few nice lookin' leaves for the pickin'! I vowed to come back, because the leaves were wet, plus I wanted to pass by the alcohol store to get some 40% alcohol to make a tincture.
I was able to find several crushed down Yarrow plants that had still decided to send up their flowers. I appreciated all the flowers I found, bemoaning the fact that the field had been aplenty with Yarrow flowers and now all was gone, gone gone. I even found one pink Yarrow and was so delighted :)
Again, I thanked my blessings that I was able to find enough Yarrow flowers, which is really where the medicine is concentrated. I told all the flowers as I was cutting them off from the plants that I needed their medicine to heal my gut infection...They all seemed more than willing to help a gal like me out ;)
I noticed that the Evening Primrose plant I had spotted last time around was gone. Seemed someone had come and plucked her up. But I did notice this beautiful bouquet of low growing Wild Asters (low growing because they had been crushed down, remember). See pic below.
Hm, and what was this? Looked like nettle. Was it really nettle? I had seen some plants before that looked like nettle, but they were all in seed. When I had touched one plant, it seemed to be stingless.
Well, only one way to find out.
I touched the leaf. Nope, nothing. Maybe it was dead-nettle?
I touched the stem.
I looked more closely. Yep, stingers alright. I got picked again, and again, as I clipped at 3 nettle plants.
Yippee! I had found stinging nettle!! I knew she grew wild, but this was the first time I had found her!
I looked at the time. 5:15. OK, 15 minutes more and then I would bike to the alcohol store.
I stopped to take a look at these tall plants in seeds, growing beside the Jewelweed close to where the stream was located.
Yes, yes! They were all nettle plants! Stinging nettle plants! Yipee!
I looked closer. They were not all in seed. There were a few smaller plants that hadn't formed seeds.
Aha! Lucky for me!
Yes, you don't want to get nettle when in seed. She'll irritate your kidneys instead of healing them. BUT, what you can do is to cut the plant, when it is seed, so that it will have time to regrow, and then you can harvest her later. Nettle is in the mint family, so all you have to do is find where there are two little leaves growing, and cut the stem just above where the leaves are growing. It could be really low on the plant, close to the base where she's growing out of the ground, or higher up. Just make sure you cut off all the parts that have seeds.
That's what I did. Since I know I'll be coming back to Bellefield and these plants won't be hacked down because they are growing close to the water and not on the field (which is where they'll put up the condos), I cut several plants to take off the bits with the seeds. There were many plants growing in this one area, some almost as tall as me (they must be about 4-5 feet tall).
I collected the plants that were not in seed and got stung quite a few times as I didn't bring any gloves with me :0 But I will next time! I know that there are tons of nettles growing on the path leading to the other bridge, so I'll check out those plants next time around. I'll probably do the same thing and chop off their seeds---although you can tincture the seeds to use as medicine.
I have nettle growing in a few containers, no way is she growing as tall as these wild beauties are! If you aren't growing nettles, however, you should be. Susun Weed wrote a book called Healing Wise, on just 5 plants and nettle was one of them. She's considered a nourishing plant and you can dry her leaves and drink an infusion (or tea) every single day.
Here are a few benefits about drinking nettle tea every day. Actually, after finding my prickly friend, I think I'm going to write an article about her benefits.
You can also eat nettles like spinach by boiling them for 2-5 minutes. All the stingers will be neutralized, don't worry ;P
And then there's nettle, infused in oil and used to help with dandruff, dry scalp, and balding/losing hair (in both men and women).
Trip 2, Thursday
I had said that I wanted to go back to Bellefield, and I most certainly did! I checked on the nettles as I was coming up the path. Wow, I really hadn't noticed the thick stems on those nettles! You can definitely see that nettles are in the mint family with those thick, square stems (yes, square stems = plant is in the mint family. Cool botany tip). My plants growing in the pot seem like babies compared to these huge giants! Anyway, I'm sure glad that I found tons of nettle and I think I'll be able to harvest them again in October. Well, we'll just see, now won't we!
Passed over the bridge and went straight to the field. There had been another brief shower yesterday, I believe, as the Red Clover flowers seemed just slightly wet. Another wow, because I can't believe I'm collecting Red Clover in September! In previous years, where I was collecting in other fields, by August all the plants were gone. I suspect that it might be because the plants got trampled, that they are now regrowing in. I collected some of the flower heads that were still green. Funny I should do so as my herb teacher told us the brighter, the more potent medicine! But I feel that the buds are vibrant, too, just like rose buds, only their energy is different than the flowers in full bloom.
I wasn't so attracted to collecting Red Clover leaves this time, but I did find a bunch of Dandelion and some Plantain leaves. I saw some thistles, not sure if they are Bull Thistles or Canadian Thistles, but haven't been too keen on the juicing lately. While I was most reverent to the thistle who volunteered for the juice experiment, I felt it wasn't exactly right somehow. Perhaps I'll have to take some thistle seeds from another plant and make sure they get spread around. You know, offer something back, because that thistle plant never got a chance to make baby seeds. Not sure exactly. Will have to ask other thistle plants about using them for a juice, or maybe just take some leaves and not cut the whole plant down as I did. Meditate, meditate...
Met a friend while out in the field. I was just about to investigate those nettle plants on the path when friend and his doggy showed up. He said they are definitely going to build condos right where we are standing, that they have already started putting in phone lines under the ground (thanks for that, I didn't think I'd be hauling up roots here in Bellefield anyway!). I suspect that they will leave the little path with the 2 bridges. Good thing, too, because after we parted ways, I went to take a good look at them nettles yonder (as Mr. Wilson, might say ;)).
Oh yes, all nettle, all tall, mostly in seed. Some had brown seeds and were pretty much dying back, others had white seeds. I was about to leave when I spotted a smaller, baby Nettle growing in front of the taller ones. Oh goody! I got on my dish gloves and collected her. Then I noticed a few others and collected some of those. Then I started pruning back some of the seeds on the tall Nettles. I felt funny suddenly, conscious of myself when a woman and her dog passed by. There I was, out in the "wild," with dish gloves and pruning nettles! Too funny! I do have a thick pair of gardening gloves, ya know. I use those dish gloves when I prune the nettles in my pots. I just grabbed those when I was heading out the door. They got a fine hole in them so I won't be using them anymore, you'll be happy to know ;)
On getting myself home, I made a Marigold tincture. I had already told the plants in the 3 pots that I would be needing their medicine and I had already planted several other plants in their honor. Those plants are coming through just great, and after harvesting the Marigold for my tincture, that smell and me wanting to give back made me think I just might sow some more! The real medicine is in the flower, but I used the leaf and some of the stem as well to fill a 1-liter mason jar.
You should remember that the benefits of a plant depend on the type of menstrum used, in other words, how the medicine is prepared. In the example of Calendula, she's known as a superior vulnerary for skin issues, such as bites, stings, wounds, burns and even diaper rash. That would be her use externally, and the menstrum would be an oil.
Marigold Vulnerary Oil
Use her flowers and leaves, place them chopped and slightly packed to the top in a mason jar. Pour olive oil over them to the top of the jar, cap, let sit 6 weeks and strain. Use to heal skin issues.This oil could then be turned into a salve, using beeswax or candilila wax. To do:
Grate beeswax so that you have 1 ounce. Use this amount of beeswax for every 1 cup of Marigold oil. Place both in a pot and let the wax melt. Test the firmness: scoop a bit of the liquid mixture onto a spoon and place the spoon in the freezer. After 5 minutes, take out and see if the texture is to your liking. If not, add in a bit more beeswax to harden or more oil to make it thinner. Have your jars or containers at the ready BEFORE you make this recipe, because that hot oil/beeswax will harden QUICKLY. Having a pot with a lip/spout also works wonders, but you can also transfer the contents to the pot to a measuring cup. Now pour into your containers, let cool, cap and store in a cool, dry place. Use on chaffed skin, chapped lips, baby's diaper rash, dermatitis, burns, sores, wounds, cuts and scrapes. Carry some with you in your bag/purse. Great to have on hand as part of a natural, first-aid kit. FYI: Check out Mountain Rose Herbs for candilila wax and beeswax, also sold in pastilles. Candilila = bee friendly, esp. if you identify as a vegan :)
Using Marigold internally, you could dry her flowers and leaves and make an infusion with her or you could tincture her in alcohol. What for? Internally, she has strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, useful for healing chronic infections. She's also used as a febrifuge (which means she has cooling energy). Her astringent and antispasmodic properties make her an excellent emmenagogue, useful to bring on late menses and help with menstrual cramps. She's also a boon to the liver, helpful as a cholagogue to stimulate the flow of bile and help with fat digestion.
The dose for tinctures varies, you should know: it depends on the person (e.g., personality, weight, adult or child), the ailment and its severity, the herb that is being used, and also on the philosophy of the herbalist/natural practitioner (for example, some will work with smaller doses on a more energetic level while others will use a standard dose or even a higher dose and work on a physical level). It may be as little as 1 drop (e.g. poke root) for strong medicine or as much as several dropperfuls hourly or even less than hourly, especially for acute conditions. 5-15 drops can be just fine; often 1 dropperful or 30 drops or 1 tsp is recommended.
Chop flower heads. Take off leaves from stems and chop. Add to mason jar of your size, slightly packed. Pour 40-50% alcohol to the top. Place on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain and store in a dark amber bottle.
I found an interesting friend, hanging out on the edge of the doorway, close to the screen. He wanted to be let out. I wasn't even sure that he was an insect until he moved! He reminded me of the earth element, stable and patient. He waited until I snapped a few pics of him and then, off he flew back into the open! Check his pics below :)
Next week, thinkin' to go root bound, that is, to get me some roots. Dandy? Maybe. Burdock and Yellow Dock? Oh yeah. I'll be getting my workout ;)
Keep you posted? For sure! 'Til then, keep it sunny, sunshine!
Reading my previous post, WOW, how things change so fast! So let me get ya'll all caught up.
Encounter with Stinging Nettle: I got a nice rash after pruning one of my stinging nettle plants on my left arm. A small rash on my wrist and a large one on my bicep close to my armpit. What was worse was when I was foraging at Bellefield, I had put on an after-sun cream (it was a sample) and the rash on my wrist blistered in the hot sun. Ouch.
The cream seemed to have clean ingredients, mainly aloe vera with lavender and rosemary oils, but ya never know what else could be in there that they don't have to say. Yes, even natural companies don't have to list ALL their ingredients on their products. Anyway, I wasn't too impressed with their mattifying sunscreen either, so I won't be recommending these products to anyone.
Destruction at Bellefield: I've been to Bellefield 2 more times since my last diary post. On this last occasion, after parking my bike and walking along the path, I noticed that the lawn mower had been passed. I continued walking and just before I crossed the bridge to get to the field, I stopped to snap a pic of this orange beauty (see below).
Who is she? Orange-spotted Jewelweed! Hm, and where's there Jewelweed, a plant used to treat contact dermatitis with poison ivy, there just might be some poison ivy about as the two often grow in the same place. Well, this was on that same hill leading down to the creek I was telling ya'll about in the last post, about how I almost fell into the creek! So, nope, I wasn't about to be exploring the area along the creek (no place to walk anyway).
I crossed the bridge and...my breath left me. Half of the field had been crushed down, cleared of all the plants. It seemed more destruction than anything else, because the plants on the other side of the field were untouched (pic below).
I felt somehow like crying, but I realized that it was a reflection of my own inner journey. Practicing non-attachment, let-go, that all things revolve and change around you, but you in the center remain unchanged. The only thing permanent is change, although one's being remains the same.
Unveiling this reality has not happened yet to me. It's an art at this point, and rather challenging at times. One goes through phases until one has gathered enough courage to make the jump. All things that are born, die. Being, however, is.
So getting back to the field: I went to get more Yarrow, Red Clover and Sow Thistles. I had mentioned how to make a Yarrow Tincture in this diary post about an insect repellent spray. The same Yarrow tincture has multiple uses, FYI, one of them being to ward off insects, others being:
I collect a few more Blue Vervain plants and but a few Sow Thistles. The Sow Thistles were in between other plants and I didn't feel like doing the work to get to them! Which meant that after leaving Bellefield, I swang behind the mall to take a look-see. Oh yes, lots of yummy Sow Thistles there! I have to admit, I've been seeing more Sow Thistles than Dandelion, what a strange thing indeed! Going to have to go looking for dandelion now, because I really like using her diuretic properties. She's so easy to throw in soups and you'd never know she was in there what with all the other yummy veggies.
I collected many Lamb's Quarter plants... I was reading that her seeds are really a great source of protein and many vitamins and minerals. Well, I juiced her just today with some Wood Sorrel and she was fab, stem, leaf, seed and all!!
Two NEW plants worthy of mention that I collected today at work:
Day Lily. It's the "original" day lily. You can read the story here on Green Deane's website about how the first day lily has since been well cultivated into many, well, cultivars. It's unknown whether the cultivars are edible, but I've tried a few (sorry, my botany is not up to par to say what kind), and had no reaction. Mind you, I had a nibble, not a whole flower BUT I did take the flowers to make...Ta-dah: Day Lily Flour!
Well, yes, my dear, her sweet blossoms just beg being used in your next muffin or cake recipe. Oh, and Red Clover flowers and leaves can also be dried, ground and used like flour---sweet. Yes, but the flowers are sweeter than the leaves, just remember that :)
Peel the petals from the Day Lily flower. They are sticky so leave them to dry on a solid sheet in the dehydrator or on parchment paper. When you go to remove them, they are stuck on there and when you scrape them off, they are almost powdery, but still give them a go in a high speed blender. Day lilies are laxative in large amounts (about 1 flower a day is OK), so unless constipation is an issue with you, I'd go easy on how much Day Lily flour you're going to use! Hm, makes me think this would be good to use as a raw cookie, you know, an un-baked cookie. Oooh, I've got to get me some more day lilies, and they are only open for one day!!
Chokecherries. Yes, there's a tree at work and Chokecherries are a-plenty! I collected a whole ice cream container full (see pic below). When you're face-to-face with the branches, you can remove the stems that the cherries are on. I was using scissors initially, but it's must faster and easier to just use your hands. Just be careful you don't hurt the tree and rip off the (gray) bark. Once you've got a bucket of cherries, it's time to remove them from the leaves and twigs. Those you can put in the compost :)
Chokecherries are sour, and like cherries, you don't want to be eating the toxic pits (don't juice them either because the pits will get crushed). Making jam is also out, but---jelly is good! And once you got jelly, you can make pie!
Chokecherry jelly, choke cherry pie, choke cherry ice cream, choke cherry smoothie...Well, yes. Once you've got the "mush," that is, you've put the chokecherries in a pot, covered them with water and then boiled them to bits, now pour the cooled mush through a nut milk bag to strain out the seeds and peels. Use this mush to make jelly ( add in pectin, sweetener), then use the jelly as a filling in a pie. OR, use the mush to make ice cream or even to add it to your smoothie. Or make jello (gelatin or agar-agar + sweetener). Or apple sauce with chokecherry. Of course, knowing that choke cherries are sour, you might want to add another sweet fruit when boiling them or add a sweetener right away... I guess you'll just have to do some experimentin' now wontcha :) I know I will be :)
Not sure if I'll go foraging tomorrow, depends on the weather, but I'd like to get some more Goldenrod. That's the 3rd new plant, although I've mentioned her before. I've made an oil with her for muscular aches and pains, and this time I made a tincture, which is good to clean the kidneys (like cystitis or urinary tract infections). Susan Weed has more to say about Goldenrod HERE.
Muscular Ache and Pain Go-Away Goldenrod Oil
Use the top 1/3 of the plant when she is in flower (the flowering tops). She can have some unclosed buds, just make sure you DON'T get her when she is drying out and she's all fluffy (like dandelion flowers when they go to seed). If there are bugs, shake them off as best you can and leave the flowers out for a bit so the bugs can crawl off. Chop the tops with scissors to small bits, then fill slightly packed in a mason jar. Pour olive oil and cover to the top. Put on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain out oil and store in a dark amber bottle in a cool, dry place. You can add in 1 tsp vitamin E oil to increase shelf life.
As in above recipe, use the top 1/3 of the plant (flowering tops) and chop with scissors to small pieces. Place slightly packed in a jar and this time add in 80-100 proof vodka. Place lid and screw cap on and let sit 6 weeks. Strain out and store in a dark bottle that has a dropper. Standard dose is 20-30 drops in a glass of water per day.
My next recipe might likely include one with rose hips, as I'm hoping to collect some to make my facial oil. It's been my go-to face "cream" for the past few years and I've received glowing compliments on my skin! Very easy to make but this time I'm going to try avocado oil, walnut oil and some vitamin E oil...
Off for now...Stay bright, sunshine!
So happy I was able to return to Bellefield!
I spotted 2 new flowers and when I went to explore them, oopsy! almost fell into the stream as they were growing on a little hill. One of them had but one orange flower left and the other I think mighta been Joe-pye weed, but I have to check again.
Got some more Turtlehead. So funny that you go back to the same place and everything seems to have changed. I never noticed that there was more than 1 Turtlehead plant, but there were a few!
The Blue Vervain has really come out now, and I collected many flowering tops. Meanwhile Red Clover is on her way out. I saw a few plants that were completely spent with others having rusty flowers. I collected a bit of flowers and leaves, but not much, a little more than a tray in the Excalibur.
Got some more Yarrow, including the pink ones. So many of them! And lots still with buds, so there will definitely be more Yarrow in my future.
Wild Carrot flowers. Tons of those, too, and I'm hoping to make that jello recipe I was tellin' y'all in last week's post. Had to check every flower's underside before picking, because there were spiders, ants and red bugs a-plenty.
Got some Muggie, Mugwort. She's in flower now and she grows prolifically! The ones I collected were taller than me, probably 7 feet :0 . Yep, she's a tall one, all right.
Got some Motherwort and made me a tincture with vodka. Not fond of doing tinctures, in fact it was my first. But I decided to give it the go-ahead after reading Susan's Weeds notes on tonifying the uterus to get rid of PMS and dysmenorrhea. Very simple to do:
Cut off the top 1/3 part of motherwort when in flower (the flowering tops). You'll need a few plants to fill if you want to fill a 1-liter ja
Wear gloves, as motherwort has prickly bits. Still wearing gloves, chop motherwort into small bits. Add to mason jar, slightly packed. Pour 80-100 proof vodka to top. Put on lid and screw cap and let sit in the cupboard for 6 weeks. Strain and store liquid in dark amber bottles, preferably with a dropper attached to the lid.
Take 10-30 drops daily for 4 months. This will tonify the uterus so that you won't have that big bloated belly, heavy feeling in your body, or get PMS.
I collected a few too may plants, so ended up making one with 1/2 water and 1/2 alcohol (we'll see how that goes) and another with apple cider vinegar.
Yes, you can easily make herbal, nourishing vinegars with all kinds of leaves. The minerals in the leaves go into the vinegar and the next time you have salad, it's all that mineral goodness happenin' your way!
Easy Herbal Vinegar
Cut leaves with scissors. Leaves you can use (most of these are probably growing on your lawn) include
You can use any combination you wish. Add slightly packed to a mason jar to the top (mason jars come in various sizes, so use the one that fits how much leaves you've collected). Pour apple cider vinegar with "mother" to the top, put on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain using a nut milk bag or a fieve sieve. Use as you would for dressing over salads. Pair with oil, if desired.
I also collected...wait for it...Bull Thistles. I've read that they are edible and since I have heavy duty gloves, I said, what the hey, and went for it. Still gotta be careful because even with the gloves, I got picked :( I chewed up a plantain leaf and then spit the leaf over my little boo-boo. Yes, plantain is called the boo-boo plant and yes that gross thing that I did is called making a spit poultice. You'll be wanting to do one too if you ever get injured or want some relief from insect and mosquito bites.
I started to take the spines off the thistle, but then I said, why bother when I'm going to juice her? Oh yes, indeedy, folks and once I chopped her into bits that fit into a plastic bag I had brought with me, I then popped those bits (wearing gloves, of course) and into the juicer she went. And presto! green juice. I added some carrots and apple to sweeten. Woulda been good with a touch of dill, maybe even some celery, as it was a hot, humid day today! I was sweating while foraging for sure, because I've gotten into the habit to wear pants and running shoes and even a long sleeve hoodie if need be, to protect my sensitive skin from walking in fields with prickly plants :)
Probably will add this recipe to an ebook I've started writing. I have several on the go, just to make 'em pretty, add some pics and get them on the site already! I was thinkin' about making one of them "How to Eat Bitter Greens Successfully" or some such title; an ebook on recipes of how to eat bitter greens like dandelion, thistles and burdock. Bitter is good for the liver and for the heart in TCM. Greens make everything nice and shiny on the inside---cleanse, purify and be well, oh (green) liver of mine!
Well, that's all the silliness for now. Catcha 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 :))
Ordered more seeds from Richters. My goal is to know most of the plants in Peterson's Field Guide of Edible Plants: Eastern and Central America, so I figured I should get acquainted with more plants! Started researching the new plants this morning.
I make a page for each plant: what parts are used, what are the medicinal actions (& what conditions it helps with), what nutrients the plant has (e.g. thujone, potassium, etc.), growing info & tips (e.g. annual, type of soil, how much sun, hermaphrodite, etc.) and a miscellaneous category for interesting tidbits, such as "lemony taste," or "used like cinnamon," or "eaten in small amounts OK." I also note down the Latin name, the family to which it belongs, the actions and meridians according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (e.g. cooling, bitter, lungs), and the methods used to prepare it (e.g. infusion in alcohol, dried for tea, best fresh, etc.). Will post the new plants and some info about them in a later post.
Went foraging after dinner time, around 6 o'clock. Big no-no usually as the leaves might be damp. They weren't, but it was still a no-no: got tons of mosquito bites, including a few on the bum! Ooh, my blood must be tasty!
Good thing there was also tons of plantain to help me out. She's nicknamed the boo-boo plant for a reason, ya know. I just boiled some water, placed in some leaves to soften for 1-2 minutes, then applied to my bites. Amazing!
I did the plantain experiment on myself last year (after having read about it, I wanted to try it on myself): plantain leaf on bug bite vs. bug bite alone. Guess whose swelling and redness went down faster? And who healed and went away faster? Yep, the one that got the plantain treatment! I'd keep plantain growing in your garden instead of mowing her down if I were you!
Oops. Turns out there wasn't that much plantain and I ended up repeating this experiment unwittingly again: right cheek applied with plantain, left check bites alone. A bit hard to be keepin' them on the rear, and you are supposed to reapply the leaves once they wilt and fade off. Didn't notice any change really, but will use plantain in the future...Hopefully not for more bug bites!
Just remembered that I do have some yarrow leftover from the winter and I think a tincture is a-callin'! So simple to make:
Easy Yarrow Bug Spray
Place yarrow in your size mason jar (they come in 250ml, 500ml and 1 liter). If you have fresh, roughly chop and fill slightly packed to the top. Yes, dried is fine, too: use less, about 1/2-2/3rds the jar. Pour vodka to the top, place on lid and screw cap. Store for 6 weeks in a cool dry place (shake it whenever you remember---I usually forget! but it turns out OK anyway!!). Strain out plant using a sieve lined with a coffee filter. Store yarrow in a dark amber bottle with a spray nozzle and spritz on yourself before encountering the bugs. Reapply as needed.
Variation: There are many other stinky herbs that bugs don't like, including calendula, wormwood, mugwort, citronella, mint, lemon balm, lavender, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, tea tree, catnip, geranium and others still. You can therefore make a nice combination of herbs in a big mason jar, add in the vodka, let sit, strain out and use. To the strained liquid, you can also make it more powerful by adding in the same essential oils---essential oil of catnip is expensive, for example, but reportedly highly effective.
There are other easy ways to make bug repellants that use essential oils, such as using 30 drops essential oils to 1 cup water and 2 tsp witch hazel. I tried this last year without the witch hazel and didn't find it that effective :( But I might repeat it again this year AND have another backup insect repellant with me. No fun foraging when bugs are are biting you, let me tell you! I know because it happened to me last year and I had to leave while I still had blemish-free skin left!
What goodies did I gather this time? Big violet leaves, dandelion leaves (flowers have turned all white and puffy), plantain leaves & strawberry leaves. Munched on a few wood sorrel leaves ---lemony sour taste! Stopped to smell the...no not roses, dame's rocket flowers. Aaaaaaah, what heavenly scent! What perfume! Surprised no one is selling essential oil of Mademoiselle Dame. I'd wear it :) But then, Cat's a wild kinda gal, anyway ;)
See you next time!
Curiosity Got The Cat: