Since my last post, so many things ---as usual!--- have happened. So let's get right into it!
Foraging by the Mall. I had the opportunity to pass behind the mall and see what was growing. I found some Violets, Sow Thistles, Dandelion and Coltsfoot leaves, the same plants as I've found in previous years. Last year there was a nice patch of Garlic Mustard, but not this year. Indeed, I find every year there tends to be a few plants that are prolific. Last year it was Garlic Mustard. The previous year it was Lamb's Quarter. This year...I'm not quite sure yet. To be discovered!
I also passed by the area close to the mall parking lot and saw lots of Mugwort growing. She's one that comes back year after year! Speaking of which, when I went to burlesque class, whom did I happen to see growing on a little patch of lawn? Mugwort! And several friends :) Side note: um yes, burlesque. Subject not related to plants however ;)
Mugwort. At this stage, she's quite small, as I've found Mugwort growing up to 5- 6 feet. Being a vermifuge like well-known Wormwood and being really bitter like Dandelion, you want to tincture the flowering tops one to use as medicine. You can then use the tincture to help dispel worms or take 30 drops 20-30 minutes before meals to help with digestion (bitters = increase in hydrochloric acid in the stomach and help with bile from the liver). I confess that I use the leaves (easier to collect before she flowers although I've used leaves once she's in flower) and dry them to add a small handful to soups and stews. You can also add a few chopped up leaves to a salad, much as you would with bitter Rue or Dandelion leaf.
Mugwort is the chosen herb in TCM for moxa, a fat incense stick that is used to dispel damp conditions by bringing it close to certain points on the body. Being antimicrobial, she can also be used to clean the air of bacteria when used as a smudge. Indeed, Mugwort (whom I fondly call Muggie) can be a great boon to those who practice energy medicine or massage, when you want to dispel bad vibes and energy from a room.
Being an invasive perennial, you'll be sure to find her growing somewhere near you (OK, well at least where I live up in the Northeast of the country!). I'll post more pictures of her later one, when her tiny flowers are in bloom :)
Plantain. Dandelion was of course hanging out on this same patch of lawn, as was Plantain. The Plantain leaves looked rather tough, as you can see by their wrinkled appearance in the photo. When it comes to tough leaves, I dry them to make infusions and I have dried them to use in future soups, especially during the winter months (funny how when you puree everything in a soup, you have no idea what's in there but it sure tastes yummy! all the more reason to add in some greens to the pot!!). I've juiced tougher leaves as well and you could certainly use them in a herbal vinegar. For salads and smoothies, you want smaller, more tender leaves. And while it is true that the best time to find tender leaves is in the spring or early summer, I've found tender leaves all throughout the season, especially on mowed lawns, as the leaves get cut back and have to produce new ones.
Plantain is called the boo-boo plant for good reason: if you have a cut or scrape or insect bite, take a leaf or two (you'll be eyeing for those bigger, tougher ones but any size will do) and chew it up in your mouth. Then spread this mush (yes, it's called a spit poultice and it's your own saliva so it's OK) onto the affected area. Being a cooling and vulnerary plant, Plantain will help to take out the redness, stinging and swelling. You can continue to repeat this process several more times, as the water will evaporate and the mushed up leaves will fall off. I've done with great success on insect bites: one insect bite had Plantain, the other didn't. The one that got treated started healing right away and healed faster as well. Plantain made me a believer!!
I should mention that if your boo-boo happens to take place at home, you can take a leaf and place it in boiling water, just enough to soften it and then place it (cool the leaf enough to handle first, like on a rack) onto the affected area. I should also mention that her vulnerary and cooling properties are used in an infusion for all kinds of internal inflammation, especially benefiting those with IBD, IBS, Crohn's, Colitis and other conditions. Best paired with soothing Marshmallow root and/or Slippery Elm bark.
Burdock. Doing this kind of healing with a plant, you'd almost think of it as a sort of bandage, wouldn't you? And Burdock leaves, even a young Burdock plant like this one, can be used to help with bandaging large wounds if you're out in the field and get hurt. Now, I've never used her leaves as toilet paper (Mullein leaves are softer for that), but I've seen it mentioned before!
Burdock is biennial plant, which means in the 1st year she stays small and low to the ground. In the 2nd year she shoots up a big central stem and has pretty purple flowers. Many know about her because of her tacky, velcro-like seeds which stick to clothing, pets, bags and anything else they come in contact with!
There are actually 2 types of Burdock, lesser and major, and that just means that there is a small version and a bigger version of the plant!
Burdock is quite nifty, I must add, because her:
Cleavers. Sometimes you'll see it written as Clivers, but it's still the same plant. This was actually the first time I've seen Cleavers growing "in the wild" ---> meaning that this patch of lawn was close to a busy street on one side and close to a small wild forest area on the other.
I love the rough texture of Cleavers strangely and have never been bothered by it. She's a great one for weight loss, as a diuretic and to detox the lymphatic system. You can dry her at any time, before or after she flowers, for infusions. She's easily juiced, and you can even cook her like spinach and then her use as you would spinach: in an egg frittata, to soups and stews, casseroles and pates, with pasta...or what have you.
Lamb's Quarter. Speaking of spinach, Lamb's Q is another spinach substitute. She's had a bad rap by some being high in oxalates, but there are many foods which contain oxalates, spinach and chocolate being two of them! I don't worry much about it and steam Lamb's Q or throw her into the soup pot. I've also juiced her and added her to smoothies. You can also dry the leaves and seeds and then grind them to a powder (like a "greens powder") and add to baked goods or smoothies for extra nutrition. Yummers! Free food!
FYI: This is a good tip which you might find be useful to help you identify plants. Get some seeds (such as from Richters) of different wild plants and plant them in your garden OR in a pot. You'll then be able to see how they grow at different stages. When you go out in the field and think a plant might be, like in this case, Cleavers, you can then bring a sample of the unknown plant and compare it with the one you have growing. I have been doing this with several plants, and am now able to positively identify, for example, Queen Anne's Lace, Lamb's Quarter, Cleavers, Chickweed, Purslane and many others. Just be sure you offer the proper care for your wild plants and be aware of how invasive they can be (container gardening might be best) ---> I've been growing Comfrey, which has a long tap root, in an old, tall garbage pail!
Seeing as how this post has gotten long, I'll tell you all about my encounters with old and new friends at my herb and tell you have seeds I've sown in my balcony garden next time around. 'Til then, sunshine, keep burnin' bright :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: