Wild Weed Wisdom

Nurture Your 'Inner Wild' with Foraged Edible and Medicinal Plants


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Prickly Sow Thistle

Prickly Sow ThistlePrickly Sow Thistle (Sonchus asper) is another edible plant that grows as a weed in disturbed soil or neglected places. I picked some the other day to add to my daily “Super-Local Food” intake! Nothing fancy here – you can cook it up with garlic, olive oil, herbs, or chop it up to add for soups… use it as you would spinach, like we do with most wild greens. It looks prickly, but the ‘prickles’ are actually quite tender, and when cooked they’re fine. Today I’m adding Prickly Sow Thistle to a ‘green juice’ along with wheatgrass and ginger.

Mainly, I want to give you a good photo for identifying this plant. Notice  how the buds look remarkably similar to dandelion buds – you could make pickles out of either of them – but the Sonchus asprer has prickles even on the buds!! They will soften if you blanch then before pickling. The flower in full-bloom also looks similar to dandelions golden-yellow face – I’ll go back for a photo soon to show you. The leaf-edges are wavy, very decorative in their own way, and the base claps the stem in a graceful arc, with the leaf half-surrounding the stem in a big hug. So, for all the prickles, I still see it as a gentle, loving plant.

Here are a couple more photos to get a good idea of the plant. The large, ridged stem is a bit blotched with red, and it’s hollow, like a straw, with milky sap, much like the dandelion in this way.

Wikipedia lists this as a noxious weed that can cause irritation, but I think they are being cautious. You can find many other sites that consider this plant to be safe. I ate it and loved it. Here is another site that feels the same way: http://www.eattheweeds.com/sonchus-sow-thistle-in-a-pigs-eye-2/

DSC07094 DSC07095 Sow thistle back side of leaf

 

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A Simple Way to Taste the Wisdom of A Place

Eat Me and Learn My Secrets...

Eat Me and Learn My Secrets…

Anika holds some Linden leaves in the photo above – it was soon made into soup and pesto, but just nibbling a leaf as you walk on your way is fine… and beautiful.

I was thinking the other day, how little we eat of the food we grow around us. I mean, the food that grows wild, the real food that belongs to this place. Food that has the vibrations and DNA peculiar to this small spot, where ever it may be on this Earth, that we call home.

I think if we are to heal ourselves, or simply to feel at ease in the cities and towns that we call home, we would do well to eat food that we “belong to,” rather than imported food, even if is it branded as organic, raw or a “super-food.” Even ‘local’ food that is grown 50km away is not so local as the wild food at your feet.  You can harvest this wild food yourself, easily. A wonderful idea is for travelers to eat the wild food they find growing in a new place – what better way to get ‘grounded’ again?

Clean, abundant food is simple to find, providing you know what to look for (learn from someone you trust, and use a guide book). A nibble of a Linden-tree leaf, or a fresh, clean dandelion leaf or stem, a taste of a violet… can infuse you with an unknown amount of living wisdom and soul-nourishment. Just invite it into our bodies with a sense of awareness and gratitude. How easy is that?

In the photo,  Anika holds some gorgeously green Linden leaves – they were quickly made into both a  soup and a pesto, but just nibbling a leaf as you walk on your way is fine, and beautiful.


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Wise Eyes ‘Cedar’

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My ‘Winking Cedar’ friend is most likely an Eastern Red Cedar, Virginiana Juniperous L.

Cedar trees, like this one, have been considered sacred in all parts of the world where they grow. The aromatic wood repels insects, as does the smoke from the green or dried branches. Traditionally, First Nations Peoples used smudge sticks (cedar leaves wrapped in grass or thread, and then burned to create smoke) to dispel evil spirits, bad thoughts, and to make a bridge of sacred smoke connecting the earth-world with the sky-world.

I love the smell of cedar – it reminds me of summers in the Canadian wild. I often break off leaves as a nibble as I walk along – the antibacterial properties of cedar are readily apparent in the taste left on the tongue. Cedar is also astringent, diuretic, anti-spasmodic, and sedative. I add leaves to my rice or quinoa, and make tea and herbal tinctures from them as well.

Actually, many of the trees we call cedars are actually not cedars at all, rather, they are types of conifer (cone-bearing) trees that have fragrant wood, much like the sweet-smelling wood of the true cedars. The Eastern Red Cedar is really a kind of juniper, as the botanical name tells us.

True cedars, or Cedrus, are part of the pine (Pinaceae) family and native to North Africa and Asia – there are only four varieties in the world; Cedrus libani, the cedar of Lebanon, which is native to Syria and south-east Turkey; the Deodar cedar of the Himalayas; C. libani var. brevifolia which originates in Cyprus; and the Cedrus atlantica, the Atlantic or Atlas cedar, which comes from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

When you look at this winking cedar, don’t you think she/he has some wisdom to share?

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This gorgeous leaf is the ‘hair’ from the same winking cedar shown above… notice the little blue “flowerettas” on the tips of the leaves. I’ll need to come back over the summer and autumn to see how the cone looks so I can be sure I’ve properly identified this tree.


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Fiddlehead Time!

long-legged fiddleheads

long-legged fiddleheads

Violets and Celandine

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Violets and Celandine

Sometimes I don’t have my paper bags with me for harvesting, so I just use whatever is available. Today it was my daughter’s lunch box. I picked Greater Celendine, which I made into an herbal tincture, and about 10 violets. We have company staying with us, so nothing nicer than to introduce them to food-foraging with a dessert of wild violets on ice cream!
You can get a really good look at the leaf of the Greater Celandine – front, and back-side, which you can see is quite a bit lighter in colour.

Feeling Grounded

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Feeling Grounded

I recently posted an article about picking roots – in this case, Burdock Root – and the option of buying the same root from Japanese or Korean shops (where Burdock is known as Gobo) instead of going to the hassle of digging them up.
Truth be told, I enjoy the ease of buying Burdock, but I also really LIKE to dig them up!!
Here’s what I foraged for last autumn. That’s the best time to harvest, as the goodness gathers there in preparation for over-wintering.
I use Burdock as a grounding food and tincture, along with all it’s other supportive functions – cleansing the liver and therefore, the blood. Which keeps the skin clear and helps skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.

The Mysterious Cedar – or Cypress?

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The Mysterious Cedar - or Cypress?

Here’s a tricky fellow. We saw some folks out in their garden today, in their volkstuinhuis (garden lot/house) while we were looking around. They were busy tidying up and pruning some bushes. I was caught by the cedar-scent, and came over to investigate. The photo shows what we found. But I can’t seem to identify it – I thought it was a cedar, but looking it up, I can only think it must be some kind of cypress. If you have any ideas, please help me out. The photo shows both the front and back sides of the flat branches. It is too early for any cones, though had I been thinking, I’d have asked the owners to describe them. Anyway, I kept a bag of it to use – perhaps in tea, perhaps a smudge stick, maybe to flavour our rice tonight… we’ll see. It has a delicious, pungent scent that reminds me of the anti-bacterial properties held in cedars, pines, and cypresses.