Wild Weed Wisdom

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

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When I see young people moodily pulling leaves off a tree as they walk by, or tearing a flower to bits, what I see is an instinctual – though unconcious – act of herbal self-healing. Just as we clench our fists when angry (this is a hand-mudra, used in yoga to deal with anger) or bang our fists to our heads with frustration over a problem (in yoga, pressure on the forehead activates the frontal lobe, dealing with short-term memory and problem-solving), so tearing up leaves or flowers releases chemical components of the plant and surround the person with its healing energy. These are simply my thoughts and intuitions… how do YOU feel about this?



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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Arugula Gone Wild!

I don’t know if you’re as crazy about arugula (rocket) as I am, but I know that it is one fine and tasty salad green. I have been sighting this garden-escapee all over Amsterdam for the past few years, and you can look for it as well – there is a good chance it is growing in a sunny, sandy location near you!
Simply be sure it is in an unpolluted place – and then only take a few leaves at a time. If you keep picking, it will keep providing… growing thickly until late summer, when the flowers and then seeds come out. The first thing you’ll probably notice when you sample it, is that the wild arugula has a far superior flavour than store-bought – and a spicier bite!
If you find some, but not in a clean place, no problem – gather up the seed pods and release them into a preferred location – it must be well-drained soil and sunny – and then enjoy them next year.

Arugula Gone Wild!Arugula leavesWild Arugula Bunch


Last week to catch the Dog-Violet

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Last week to catch the Dog-Violet

This is probably the last week or two to spy the shy, but fairly common, Dog Violet, viola riviniana. This pretty little flower with the inspiring aroma and gentle, loving energy is full of vitamins – a welcome treat in the old days for families emerging from a winter living off dried and preserved foods.
You may have seen sugared violets gracing fancy cakes and pastries – a few flower-heads in a dried tea mix, or atop a fresh, foraged salad, look simply beautiful. The leaves are also edible.
I suggest, if you see this darling, to just have a nibble of a leaf, followed by the taste of one flower, allowing the scent and flavour to linger on your tongue… unless, of course, you’ve found a forest-edge or shady glen full of them, where if you pick just a few more it should be okay. Maybe a prayer or song for the Dog-Violet faery is in order in that case… 🙂

Tansy Leaves

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Tansy Leaves

These Tansy leaves – dried on the stalk over the winter – are still infused with their lively, special aroma that has for centuries (or longer) been used to keep moths at bay… fresh tansy has many other culinary and medicinal uses — at Amsterdamse Bos, with Wild in the City.

Herbal Sleep and Dream Pillows

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Herbal Sleep and Dream Pillows

By using certain blends of herbs and flowers, kids can easily make their own customized dream pillow, which, in theory, enhances sleep, creates vivid and meaningful dreams, or gives relief from nightmares. Research has shown that herbs, flowers, and essential oils can indeed have a positive effect on our ability to relax, and even on our very dreams.
In many cultures, little pillows filled with relaxing herbs were tucked-in along with children at bedtime to calm and comfort them during the night. Of course, for safety reasons, these pillows should be very small, and kept away from a baby’s face. The herbs used here are subtler than in a potpourri. If traditions hold true, these little sleep pillows will promote a deeper, more restful sleep, and keep bad dreams at bay.
Instructions for Herbal Sweet-Dreams Pillow:
A quick and easy way to make pretty dream pillows is to buy 100% cotton, pocket-style baby wash cloths. If you wish, decorate with water-proof paint or marker, or embroider them with a monogram, add a felt patch, or whatever suits your fancy. Fill them with dried herbs, and sew the edge closed.
Herbs for Dream Pillows
Anise: Use against nightmares – in small quantities.
Calendula: For restful sleep.
Catnip: Restful sleep. Perfect for babies and children.
Cedar: Shields bad dreams.
Chamomile: Relaxing and sweet dreams.
Hops: Deep sleep and healing.
Lavender: To de-stress, relax and rejuvenate. Lavender is good in an herbal blend or on its own.
Lemon Balm: Well known to  banish anxiety and insomnia, as well as headaches and stress.
Mugwort: Energy-field protection.
Mullein: Guards against nightmares.
Rose petals: For loving, peaceful dreams.
Rosemary: Protection against bad dreams; use just a bit, as it has a strong aroma.