In my last post, I said I would share with you what I sowed in my balcony garden. But I think that will wait, as I went on another mini-foraging adventure!
I was off to dance class, when I suddenly felt pulled by some plants growing in a small disturbed area close to the street. I veered off the sidewalk and followed the pull of the plant. I didn't realize her name at first, but I recognized her. I nodded and suddenly was swept away in the world of plant friends.
There, growing beside some cement blocks, was of course Dandelion. I spotted some Vetch, but no purple edible flowers had bloomed. Those flowers, by the way, make a roadside nibble and I've dried them and paired them with Lavender in sachets. I'll take some pics of her later on when she's in flower :)
I continued to look about and noticed a large Burdock plant, a tiny Plantain plant, and some Red Clover leaves.
When it comes to Burdock, a lot of people can identify the large leaves because they look like Rhubarb. But it's really those sticky, velcro seeds that are the tell-tale sign that she is a Burdock plant. And guess what? Sure enough, I had a few balls sticking to my pant leg after hunching down to pick up several handfuls of large Violet leaves!
Who else was growing in this tiny abandoned area?
I spotted some Thistles and Sow Thistles. I've juiced both of them before, and then added that green juice to the blender with fruits to make a wild, delish green smoothie! The Thistle isn't that bitter, but Sow Thistles are, as bitter as Dandelion. They look like Dandelion too. I'll post more pics during the summer. If you do juice them, just a few large leaves will do ;)
There was also a large vine growing there, a Grape Vine in fact. The leaves are edible and if you've ever had Greek food, then you may have eaten Dolmades, which are stuffed vine leaves. In other words, you can parboil the leaves for 2-5 minutes to soften them, then use them as wrap "bread." Feel free to add whatever you want on those leaves before rolling them into a wrap: tuna salad, hummus, lentil pate, curried rice or whatever catches your fancy!
I've eaten the Grapes, rather sour, as a trail side nibble and also made jello with them. I'll talk more about that later in the fall, when the Grapes are ready to eat :)
Ah, did you notice that I didn't tell you the name of the plant that called me to this area? Why, when I went back the way I came and passed her again, it was then her name came to me: Goldenrod!! In one of the areas where I go foraging, which I've called Buckthorn Woods because there are so many Buckthorn trees, there are tons and tons of Goldenrod plants that flower in late August. The yellow flowers are a gorgeous late summer sight signifying that autumn is on its way. There are many uses for Goldenrod, by the way, and for now suffice it to say that the leaves are edible. I cook them and add them to soups, stews and in pates. While you can freeze the leaves for future use, I've never done so (having only so much room in the freezer), but I have dried them and then added them to the soup pot with delish results :)
Note that Goldenrod has been blamed for causing seasonal allergies, which is NOT true. You can read more about that and her edible/medicinal uses Here.
By the way, the species that grows in Canada is known as Solidago Canadensis.
Walking up to the street to the dance studio, I spotted two other friends: baby Lamb's Quarter growing close to the sidewalk (which I was tempted to take as she tastes like spinach, but growing so close to traffic, it's NOT recommended) and the tallest Toadflax/Butter 'n' Eggs that I've seen to date, growing right beside a hedge.
I have read about using Toadflax as a diuretic herb, yet when I tried making an infusion with her, my body was NOT interested at all. I have read to use the leaves before she flowers and it was true that I used the leaves WHILE she was in flower, so that might have been an issue. Truthfully, I am not called to her (or rather, she has not called to me), but perhaps others have a better relationship with her than I have. I didn't take a picture of that particular plant, but I did take a pic of some smaller Toadflax growing behind the local mall.
Finally, I spotted a Peppergrass plant. The picture isn't the best, so check out these pics and read more about her Here. The young seedpods are heart-shaped and can be dried and used as a pepper substitute. The leaves are edible and can be tossed into the soup pot or into salads.
Lastly, I'm sharing with you a touch of virtual scent: a few flowers of Rose! I spotted a few buds and even a few opened flowers among several Rose bushes. It was a delightful sight that warmed my heart :)
I love Rose for so many reasons:
Well, that's all for now, sunshine! Now that June is here and summer is around the corner, keep it light, keep it bright :)
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).
Got lots of pics of Appley Love field, so listen, er, look up!
I returned to Appley Love field after second-guessing myself. I started flipping through my reference book of trees that grow in my area. Suddenly, my first impressions of the trees as crabapples (as I had written about in my last post) seemed all wrong. Did these trees have thorns? Were they perhaps hawthorn trees ---as my herbology teacher had told us they were difficult to identify because the leaves were so variable--- or perhaps service berries? Or pin cherries? That dark crabapple looked like a plum, so some sort of plum species?
It seemed my intuition had gone out the window. In its place was a fervent curiosity to find out. I took several pics of the trees, of the trunk, leaves and fruits. It was an especially hot day, and being in the field meant pants and closed shoes. It was well over 30 degrees and I felt like passing out from the sheer heat. The sweat was dripping down my tshirt, and all I was doing was standing.
I was standing next to a tree that I was sure was a crabapple, and proceeded to munch on it. By munch I mean I took 4 bites because these are tiny, sour delicacies! I felt itchy suddenly, and sure enough, who was there but mosquito. Not sure if she brought her friends, but I wasn't interested to find out. I sprayed myself with a pricey citronella insect repellent I had brought from the health food store. It had worked last time, let's see if it would again.
I felt this itchiness on my shoulder.
Hello, who's this?
An orange and black caterpillar! Similar-looking to the sleeping caterpillars I had seen before (see pic below). Identification solved! They are known as Milkweed Tussock Moths. Interesting that they feed off milkweed plants and are able to utilize the cardiac glycosides (toxic to us). Their predator is the bat, and they send an ultrasonic signal to warn bats that they taste bad. They develop into a large brown moth. You can read more about them here.
Ah, must've brushed up against this moth going through the field. I didn't know who this little fella was at the time and he wasn't too interested when I offered him an apple. I saw him open his mouth to take a bite and he didn't seem thrilled!!
I continued to take several snapshots of the trees. There was so much Goldenrod in this field, as I mentioned in previous posts, and I was able to collect many that had buds. Good, too, because a few of the plants I had collected had flowers that went dandelion on me. By that, I mean their flowers turned fluffy. I don't really care for fluffy flowers when it comes tea time :)
You remember last time I had mentioned that I was too pooped to get those Wild Grapes? Well, I made the time, yesiree, and they are SO good and sweet! I had brought an apple, carrot and sow thistle juice with me and there was no need for it, munching on crabapples and sweet, oh-so-friggin'-yummy (excuse the vernacular) grapes. I didn't take any leaves, but berries I did collect :) I might make a jam or just eat them as is. There are still grapes that I left behind because they weren't all ripe, still turquoise in color.
Yes, fall is upon. I could tell today when doing my "chore" of cleaning the floors. It was going on 8 o'clock at night and the sun was almost gone.
The days are getting shorter, I thought.
No they're not, I countered myself. The days are the same, just the light is getting less.
Which means in the south they are getting more light during the day.
All in the balance, my dear, all is balance.
Going back to those crabapples, there's this great identification group on FB called Plant Identification. I've mentioned them before. Their sole purpose is to help you to identify a plant, a plant that you don't know what it is. One of the admins was on there at the same time I was uploading the pics of the trees, so I got my confirmation of what my intuition had already told me: malus, aka, crabapple.
I did ask what species but was told there are over 1000s and there are many hybrids :( The area where I am foraging used to be all farmland and as far as I know, that lot has been abandoned for as long as I've known it, 15+ years. Of course, I only thought to go and explore this field last year...Yep, foraging was a foreign thing to me 15 years ago, back when I was starting my journey in the field of mental health and fitness, going to school, studying, working 2 different jobs...ah, you know the lifestyle ;)
In the pics below, you'll see 3 different types of crabapples. And then there is one tree ---the one that is NOT elderberry as I had surmised last post---that is Common Buckthorn. Oh yeah, she tastes yucky. This Buckthorn is NOT like Sea Buckthorn, of which the antioxidant oil is used to help with skin issues, weight loss and GERD. No, common Buckthorn has a bitter, nauseous taste. Her other name is Purgative Buckthorn, so you can guess that her use is as a purgative.
No foraging today because of a big storm yesterday, but it was another hot and humid day, all the moisture might've evaporated and I mighta had a go at it. Nope, did a bit of gardening instead:
And what of those rip hips? Oh, my dearie, they are almost r-e-a-d-y! Almost. I may go and collect some tomorrow. Some are still orange but many are bright red. Now is the time to get them because they will be pruned back come September. Yes, if you are able to get them after the frost they taste sweeter, but I ain't going for taste. I'm going for a facial oil! Their Vitamin C is potent now as well, and those ripe haws, or berries, are going to be soaking/infusing in some oil real soon, sweetie pie. You bet.
Might go and have a look yonder at Bellefield tomorrow, feast on some Jewelweed pods, collect some Red Clover and maybe even some Bull Thistles for green juice. Or I might take a jaunt in the woods and take pics and find new friends, which I've been meaning to do.
It's all in the journey, baby :)
Stay in the moment sunshine :)
Ps. Been making all kinds of recipes with Chokecherries and Rowan Berries: jelly, gummy candies, jello, a chia drink, pudding, even a pie...Think it'll make a great ebook! Sweetened with stevia, of course, so good for those with sugar issues or even those for candida!
I think it's time that foraging and naturopathy meet ;)
PPs. Forgot to mention that I also got confirmation on another tree in Appley Love: Russian Olive. I figured it was an olive tree, but the olives are kinda mealy :P Maybe I'll add them to soups or just use the seeds... Enjoy the photos :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: