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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Make Your Own Herbal Remedy: Workshop – Friday, May 17

Want to learn how to make an herbal tincture? This Friday morning join me in some hands-on tincture-making. I’ll provide a selection of dried herbs (some herbs work better dried, others fresh – we’ll talk about this on Friday), and you bring a number of small jars and your own alcohol of choice – or buy some from me if that’s more convenient. Possible herbs include: Arnica, Vitex Berry, Cramp Bark, Gotu Kola, Pau d’Arco, Rhodiola, Shatavari, Tumeric, Yarrow.

We’ll also process a number of my own herbs that are ready to be poured-off. This is a great way to learn what to do when your own tincture has ‘matured’, as well as being a fine introduction to many medicinal herbs and their healing properties. You’ll get a chance to sample each tincture as well.

This workshop will take place at my home, and my apprentices will also be there for additional assistance. Spaces are limited, and reserved for those who have pre-paid.

Please RSVP by bank transfer to L J Akse Kelly, INGB 0755 5451 33

Date: Friday, May 17
Time: 10:00 to 12:00
Fee: €15 to reserve your space . Please fill out the contact form. At the workshop, you’ll buy your chosen herbs to tincture. After you RSVP, I’ll send details with my address and phone number.Image

 

Cheery Cherry Blossom Beauty

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Cheery Cherry Blossom Beauty

This cherry tree at the Vu Hortus Botanicus is unusual because it was grafted from a cherry tree from Japan, onto the whole trunk of the host tree. Parakeets eat the blossoms. As for me, sitting under it’s snowy, blossom-covered branches is like gliding effortlessly into meditation. Impossible to take my mind off it’s beauty. Impossible to leave without feeling lifted, filled-up with joy. My feet barely touch the ground, and I feel as though I am simply a fallen petal, being blown by the breeze.


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Wild Weed Wisdom – Scrapbooked!

Wild Weed Wisdom - Scrapbooked!

69090_10200102779986400_1007381699_n It’s quite an honour to be included in the herbal scrapbook of Leoniek Bontje, who apprentices with me. Leoniek is not only a dedicated student of wild medicinal plants, but she’s also an excellent artist.

You don’t need any special skills, however, to make your own herbal scrapbook, and I would urge you to start on one. It is a real way to learn, I mean really learn, about the plants.

Sketching the plants will help your brain organize all the small details that are so important for identification. It will train your eye.

Leave your Smartphone at home for your next walk. Bring instead, your guide book, scrapbook, a roll of tape and a pencil. Tape small samples into your book. Pay attention to the details. Is the leaf hairy on the underside? Is it leathery or like a thin, transparent skin? Is the stem hollow, milky, ridged or prickly? Ask these questions, and many more, then answer them in your notes. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you learn, and how incredibly satisfying it is to have your very own scrapbook.

Happy hunting!

Urban Onions

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Urban Onions

These green onions made me laugh out loud when I happened to notice them growing by a lamp post on a normally busy intersection.
How did they get there? Was it accidental or intentional? A bird, the wind, or a person with a sense of humour and a mission?


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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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Coming Up: Weed Walks (June dates to be announced)

Young Horsetail

What’s growing right now? What special properties do these plants offer us? When is the best time to gather? What parts can I eat or use for medicine? We’ll explore all this and more – come on out! This is an informal introduction to the many useful plants that surround us.

We’ll meet by the children’s pool, where there are plenty of benches to relax until it’s time to head out. Feel free to bring your camera and notebook to record your discoveries. We’ll explore the park and finish in the Artsensijhof – a traditional formal herb garden – where if you wish to stay longer, you can continue learning about our herbal allies.

Cost: 8

The Walk is about 1.5 hours and will be rescheduled in case of rain. (the May 17 walk has been rescheduled as rain is forecast)