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 (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/
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.
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)
When looking for fiddleheads – look for this indicator! It’s the mature fern. All the fiddlehead sprouts will be found growing – or will soon be coming up – at it’s feet… kind of like an old woman surrounded by her grandchildren.
Those ‘seeds’ you see clinging to the browned leaves are actually spores. If you brush against them, or give them a pat with your hand, the spores will be released in a cloud, like magic. Once upon a time, it was indeed thought that this magical cloud had the power to make someone invisible.
This Sunday is Day Three of Wild in the City for Confirmed Participants
***We are going to need our bikes. If you don’t have one, please borrow one!***
Focus for Day 3:
Urban harvest; food-producing and medicinal trees and shrubs; forestry “support”… the wildcrafting way.
From Station Zuid, we are going to walk our bikes, and ride them as well, along city streets, bike paths, along a volkstuin, and into a public park with some ‘wild’ areas in it. We will have our lunch along the way, and, at some point, have a break at the lovely Paviljoen Acquarious -www.paviljoenaquarius.nl
We’ll stop along the way to make tinctures, have lunch, and look at stuff. Take a look at what you need to bring, please.
I’ll be introducing Japanese Quince, crab-apples, mullein, wild arugula, speedwell herb, hops, black walnut trees, alder trees, braam and raspberries (and rooting shoots thereof), wild asparagus, teasel. Also, sheep sorrel and you’ll recognize some of the other juicy edibles along the way. Perhaps we’ll discuss the wonder-root: calamus. Overall, it will be a great, big, satisfying day.
Call me if you have questions.
***If you are a Groen en Doen Grant Recipient, please send me a link to your BLOG – before Saturday. I need to see the blogs to make a report to Groen en Doen***
Day Three Details:
Date: May 26, 2013
Time: 10:00 to 16:00
Starting Point: at Caffe Belmondo, in Station Zuid WTC.
It is right in the ZuiderPlein, on the North West side of the train tracks. Please google for the address to be perfectly sure.
YOU MUST RSVP – I want to know who is coming! Thanks!
See you on Sunday!
- notebook, pencil, tape, magnifying glass, scissors or swiss-army knife
- camera, if you like
- guidebooks! to help identify your plants
- paper bags of different sizes
- dress for the weather
- brown-bag lunch; maybe ‘bread-n-spread’ to make wild sandwiches
- thermos of hot water, of course!
- small jar (sterilized pesto or olive-sized jar) with tight-fitting lid – sterilized means washed sparkly-clean with hot water and soap – a dishwasher also does the trick.
- 2nd jar – 3/4 full of 40% vodka (your choice if you want higher-proof vodka, or organic). This jar should also have been sterilized, again, with a tight-fitting lid.
- maybe extra water or hand-wipes to clean your hands
- If you still have a presentation to make, bring your notes and a sample of your plant (or we may find it along the way).
- Wildcrafting (wildweedwisdom.wordpress.com)
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.
Just had to show you what a joyful face this little flower has.
The leaves will appear when the flower fades… meaning, at the moment, there is just an asparagus-like stalk under the flower head – so any other leaf you see in this photo is NOT part of the Coltsfoot flower!
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