Dandelions, Foraging, Health, Plants, recipe, Uncategorized

Dandelions; the Sun and the Moon… and Jupiter

One of my favorite plants is Dandelion. If I could have only one plant in my garden, Dandelion would be the one. As I continue to study plants (a lifelong endeavor depending how far down the rabbit hole one wants to go……), I’m intrigued by the correlations earlier herbalists made between the plants and astrology and relating them to a person’s astrological chart as well as thinking about optimal times to use plants or harvest them.

There are herbalists today using astrology in relation to plants, such as Matthew Wood and Sajah Popham, whose course I covet taking some day. In the meantime, he has some interesting videos on You Tube, check them out .

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Looking at the Dandelion, out growing in the full sun, with it’s sunny yellow flowers, I would first say it’s ruled by the sun, but the other day it was talking to me about its relationship with the moon (white ball of seeds, almost glowing in the dark)…. It’s interesting that the plant embodies these opposite qualities, a reminder to look beyond the most obvious uses of an herb.

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It does have an affinity for the breasts¹…..if I think about its actions on the body, it’s bitter and stimulates the gall bladder and liver, and it’s alterative, more of a Jupiter action, but it also is diuretic and affects the kidneys, which is a Venus type action, and acts on damp, overly relaxed tissues…..however, it acts by stimulation, moving stagnation which is more Jupiterian, expansive….. overall, I’m feeling like it’s a Jupiter plant, which being the largest planet, is big enough to include some of the properties of all the other planets.

In general dandelion leaves are used as a tea for the diuretic action and contain potassium, offsetting the potassium loss that occurs when the body is stimulated to urinate more, the root is used in spring and summer as a nourishing building tonic and in the fall and winter for it’s alterative action. All parts of it contain minerals as it’s tap root pulls minerals up from deep in the ground. ( which is why it’s good to leave some in the garden, the roots pull the minerals up and the decomposing leaves make them available on the surface to other plants) It’s bitter taste stimulates the pathway of the Vagus nerve², stimulating the production of bile in the gall bladder and aiding digestion. I believe many of the food intolerances people have these days are due to poor digestive function because people don’t eat enough bitter and fermented foods, as our ancestors would have, which help to break down our food and make the nutrients bio-available.

It’s also a great culinary plant, whose nutrition hasn’t much been dumbed down by breeding as so many of our vegetables have been these days. The whole plant is edible. The flower buds can be pickled and used like capers. One of my favorites is flower fritters, but almost anything battered and fried is tasty! Oh, and dandelion wine from the flowers!

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Here’s a recipe:

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Dandy Veloute over Polenta

Ingredients:

Carrot Cloud:

6 large carrots, chopped into large bits

                 1 large russet potato, chopped into large bits

                  1 tbs. lemon juice

5 bay leaves

rest of can of coconut milk after dividing, see Dandy Veloute

3 tbsp. coconut oil

salt to taste

Broth:

shells from 1 lb of shrimp

1/2 cup white wine

6-7 cups of water, you want to end up with 6 cups after simmering.

or just use 6 cups of broth of choice

Dandy Veloute:

5 loosely chopped cups of dandelion leaves

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup broth

1 1/4 cup coconut milk

2 tbsp. coconut oil or olive oil

Polenta:

2 cups dry polenta

5 cups broth, 1 cup water

salt and pepper to taste

 

For the carrot puree cloud: in steamer pan add water and 5 bay leaves to bottom. Steam carrots and potatoes until tender. Add them and the rest of the cloud ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Put into a holding container, try not to devour it while making the other parts of the recipe.

For the broth: simmer the shrimp shells white wine and water for about 1/2 hour. Strain out the shells.

For the Veloute: Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sautee the onions until they soften but do not brown. Add the white wine, then 1 cup of the broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Put them in the blender along with the dandelions and coconut milk. Blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside or in a pot on the stove on low until polenta is ready.

For the polenta: Put the dry polenta into a large saucepan. Add the broth and water and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer until softened and thick. Stir occassionally to prevent burning on the bottom.

I sauteed a thinly sliced tomato and about a 1/4 onion in olive oil as a flavorful garnish to put on top. (optional)

Once all parts of recipe are ready: spoon polenta into a serving bowl; put a tablespoon of butter or butter sub on top. (optional, but yummy) Spoon carrot cloud over polenta. Spoon Dandy Veloute on top. Top with garnish if using.

 

I think Dandelions are my most photographed plants, lol, I love them so…..

dandelion collecting             dandelions 10-14

¹https://www.planetherbs.com/michaels-blog/dandelion-burdock-and-cancer.html

²http://www.md-health.com/Vagus-Nerve.html

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Elixirs, Foraging, Health, Plants, summer, Summer Bouquet Medicine, Summer Solstice, Uncategorized

Summer Bouquet Medicine

“Summertime….. and the living’s easy…..”

Ah, summer, although in the north end of the states we had a warmer Spring this year than summer is turning out so far. But, the plants are growing and flowers abound.

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I’m intrigued by the theory that the best medicines for us come from our local environment; those things that are growing in the same conditions with us…. the same dry, hot, cool, damp that we are being affected by. Plants have been around longer than us and learned to adapt to their local climate (except, well, climate change) They can help us adapt to seasonal changes. The plants around us have mastered the cold, the wet, the dry, the hot and thrive without hiding in a climate controlled box. ( Non-native plants that have to be kept in greenhouses notwithstanding)

I’ve been curious about putting together formulas that consist of plants growing in the same region at the same time.

In the Spring, I put together an elixir of:

Hawthorne flower, leaf and twig, Wild Nootka roses, Devil’s Club, Artemesia Suksdorfii, Toasted Almonds, Coriander, Star Anise, Bayleaf, Cinnamon, Brandy and Honey.

This was my Spring tonic blend this year: the Hawthorne improves venous health, the roses also, as well as being astringent and cooling, just as we come out of hibernation into a little warmer weather, Devil’s Club is good for everything, but I was looking for the diaphoretic quality, Artemesia is also tonic and aromatically stimulating, and all of these along with the other culinary carminative herbs promote good digestion, which is always a thing for me, personally.

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Now that it’s Summer, I have so many choices in the garden and fields that I decided to make a “bouquet” elixir; kind of a kitchen sink of plants and we’ll see how that works out; it’ll certainly be a portrait of the plants available locally:

St. John’s Wort, Devil’s Club, Lavender, Red Clover, Herb Robert flower, White Clover flower, Coriander flower, Thyme flower, Fennel flower, Oregano flower, Strawberries, Rosemary, Chamomile flowers, Calendula, Elecampane flower, Mullein flowers, Yarrow, Mugwort, Evening Primrose flower, Malva Silvestris flower, cinnamon, honey baked licorice, Brandy and Honey

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It was so pretty. (The flowers turn brownish after soaking in brandy and honey, which is why I took the photo at the beginning)

Normally, I wouldn’t gather Devil’s club this late in the year, but we came across a  stand that had been knocked down in the park; sad, but it was fresh, so we decided to not let it go to waste and to bring it into communion with our bodies. I’m interested to see how it feels at this time of year, it definitely has a much sharper perfume. A note on St. John’s Wort: it speeds up metabolism in the liver, which directs how quickly your body processes medications, so, most likely you should avoid it if you are taking any kind of meds, including, but not limited to birth control.¹

In case you’re not familiar with elixirs, they are made with a combination of Brandy and Honey. Everyone says mine are yummy; I think I add more Honey than most people.

*This post is intended as educational in nature and not intended to treat, diagnose or treat any condition or illness. Please consult a Dr. if you have any medically related questions.

¹http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-329-st%20john’s%20wort.aspx?activeingredientid=329&activeingredientname=st%20john%27s%20wort

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Foraging, Natural Dyes, Plants, Uncategorized

Dyeing with Scotch Broom

A couple of months ago, when the Scotch Broom was blooming, I gathered some to experiment with. It’s considered a noxious invasive here in the NW, so there is plenty around and no one minds if you harvest it. It’s on the quarantine plant list, but I think someone forgot to tell the plants! The seeds can remain dormant and viable for over 30 years making it hard to control.¹ I’m doing my part by harvesting before seed set.

Cytisus scoparius is the local variety. Historically, it has a long history of use as a dye, for fiber; textiles and paper, of course brooms, and medicinally for the liver and as a cardiac tonic; although I’ve read that the active constituents can vary widely from plant to plant and most herbalists now use more reliable plants. I haven’t met anyone who uses it medicinally, but you can read more about the history of uses here. Care must be taken to absolutely ID it as there are similar looking plants such as Spanish Broom that are toxic.

I decided to stay with craft uses. Through a bit of research, I found that the “broom” used for dyes was actually Genista tinctoria² But I decided to give it a try anyway. For this dye experiment I pre-mordanted my fabric with alum. I gathered a bunch of flowers and simmered them for a short time, then strained them off and soaked my cloth in the yellow liquid for about two months.

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I was pretty happy with the results. The only caveat seems to be light fastness. I set the pieces of fabric on the back patio to dry and of course forgot about them till the next afternoon…. after a rainstorm during the night and bright sun the next day, much of the color in the ones that didn’t blow up against the house in the shade had faded quickly. But for decorative projects that would stay indoors, it makes quite a nice yellow.

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In theory I also wanted to make fiber from the stalks, but the video I saw on the process was actually for genestra, although I imagine the process is similar; it’s not in English, but pretty easy to follow along visually. It seems to require dancing and singing and no small amount of polluting of streams, but imagine how wonderful items that took this much attention to produce would feel. It did look very labor intensive…. so they’re sitting in a pile out back and likely not too useful for anything at this point….

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although I have read that the stems have lots of tannins, so perhaps I will make a tea with them to try tanning some salmon skin again. (My first attempt was a fail, but that’s another story)

Has anyone else used Scotch Broom? Please comment below!

 

¹http://www.nwcb.wa.gov/detail.asp?weed=44

²http://blog.ellistextiles.com/2015/05/14/a-lesson-about-dye-plants-broom/

 

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Uncategorized

Merry Solstice and Daylilies

It’s Solstice time again in the summer, the longest day of the year…. this year with a full moon to boot. Hope you get a chance to go outside and frolic in the sunlight. I did, I went out in my garden and gathered Daylily flowers.

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Day-lilies have been used as medicine and food for thousands of years in Asian cultures. They are eaten fresh in a variety of ways and also dried to be used later to thicken soups. The dried flowers are called Golden Needles.They’re used in Chinese medicine for circulatory issues, as a diuretic (damp heat) and are being researched for anti-cancer properties.¹ Their energy is cooling and somewhat astringent.

There’s a bit of controversy over whether or not they are edible; most likely because of common names, as some people have called them Tiger Lilies. Day-lilies are in the Xanthorrhoeaceae family, subfamily Hemerocallidoideae, whereas Tiger Lilies are also a common name for a plant in the Liliaceae family, which is toxic. For a more in-depth article about the differences read this link. That said, when trying any plant you have never eaten before, first make sure you are absolutely sure which plant you have and then only try a small amount the first time, as there are a small percentage of people who will be sensitive to any given plant.

I’ve tried the greens before and found them rather bland, so I’m hoping the flowers are a little more exciting. I’m pickling some of the not yet opened opened buds.

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The other thing I’m doing is making a flower essence….. if you know me, you know I’ll make a flower essence out of almost any edible flower and lots of other things as well. The Daylily spoke to me about sex and creativity, not surprisingly, it’s such a showy flower. Even before I looked up the traditional uses, I had the impression of circulation in the first and third chakras, physically and energetically this plant moves one. It reminded me that we have a limited time to create in our lives, so time is of the essence! Energetically, the male creative forces are supportive to the female forces, or the yang is supportive of the yin. This flower essence invigorates and gets one moving while also nourishing the life force.

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  1. naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/39856/PDF

 

*This article is meant for educational purposes and not to diagnose or treat any illness or disease. Consult a local plant expert for plant identification.

 

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Brigid, Foraging, Imbolc, Plants, Uncategorized

Imbolc or the Beginnings of Spring

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Brigid’s cross. Yes, I made this.

Imbolc marks the first stirrings of Spring in the Northern hemisphere, either February 1st or 2nd, depending on your source for dates. Some years, Winter hangs on and lingers; but this year, at least on the West coast, Spring has Sprung!

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Chives peeking up in my garden.

Imbolc is associated with the Goddess Brigid in Ireland, and the violet is one  of Her flowers.

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Sure enough they are just getting ready to bloom.

Brigid is considered the Goddess of Water and Fire. I’ve been exploring the Red Alder, Alnus Rubra, and gathering bark and catkins as the tree is flowering at this time in late winter/ early spring. It’s not traditionally associated with Brigid or Imbolc, but I still consider it fitting as a tree of Water and Fire. Alder has an affinity for wet climates and watery places. It’s a gateway plant, meaning it’s one of the first trees to come back where humans or fires have disrupted the land. Alder fixes nitrogen into the soil and remediates the ph. As a relatively short lived tree, it grooms the soil for longer lasting trees to take over and thrive again.¹ The fire part comes in the bark. When the bark is scratched or peeled it turns red. Considering the Doctrine of Signatures, we would guess that Alder is useful to the blood, which in fact it is. It aids the lymphatic system and is anti-microbial. For an amazing in-depth monograph on Alder, read this by Kiva Rose.² Dried alder bark helps with digestive issues. The tincture turns a lovely red just like the dried bark.

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Alder bark tincture as it looked just before I got lost in the viewfinder of the camera and kicked it over. Hmph.

What signs of Spring can you find in your own yard or neighborhood? What are your experiences with alder?

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Kitty checking out the Spring garden. My artichokes came back in Nov. and so did most of the ones around town and they’ve made it through the little bit of freezing weather we had the end of Dec.

¹http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1995-55-4-a-nitrogen-fixation-the-story-of-the-frankia-symbiosis.pdf

²http://bearmedicineherbals.com/rivermedicine.html

All information here is for educational purposes and not intended treat any medical conditions. If you have any questions please consult your doctor.

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Natural Dyes, Uncategorized, winter

Winter Dye Experiments

While there are many things that can be done with herbs in winter, I look forward to the lull in foraging to do arts and crafts. One area I’m exploring is natural dyes. While I can’t afford at this point to buy all locally produced organic textiles, I can try to get familiar with the dye process, and hope one day to produce more of my own clothing. Upcycling is fun, but I still have to wonder about how the fabrics and dyes impact the environment where they are produced; in fact, I know much of the clothing we wear is toxic and environmentally unfriendly and in many cases produced by slave labor. You can read more about that if you’re interested, here.

Now the fun part; home fabric dyeing. I decided to use Hibiscus as an experiment to see how it would dye while making some Hibiscus tea, so these linen/cotton bits were dyed with the second brewing; there was so much life left in the tea, and it was so pretty I couldn’t resist. They may have come out darker if I had used the first brewing. Also, I decided to see how the tea would brew on its own and didn’t mordant the fabric before dying.

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Another thing I forgot to do was to check the ph level of the solution, so the next time I might do that and pre-mordant and see if that increases the color absorption. For most dyes, you want a neutral ph of about 7. “Mordant” is a French word that means “biting”. A mordant helps bind the pigments to the fabric. I’m pretty happy with samples from the vinegar bath and the salt bath. The straight solution came out a bit lighter than it looks here, but still useable, whereas the one that had washing soda added didn’t take much color at all! Although Hibiscus is full of vitamin C, which I would have guessed to be somewhat acidic, the acidic addition is the one that came out darker, so I will have to find the ph sticks for my next try.

My next try will be a local herb, Red Alder. Let me know if you’d like to see another dye post for the results!

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Foraging, Health, recipe, winter

Winter Foraging and Nourishment

Now, we are in the midst of winter…. don’t tell my garden, though, in spite of several days of freezing weather, the plants are starting to grow!…. dead nettle and kale and the neighbor’s flowering quince are starting to bloom… last year the seasons started early and it looks like this year will be even earlier…. But beyond that, it is supposed to be Winter …

winter greens tart (18)

“swiss chard and malva neglecta sprouting”

In Chinese medicine winter is the time of nourishing and protecting the kidneys; the taste for the kidneys is salty. Good quality salt is one way to help direct the nutrition you take in to nourishing the kidneys throughout the season. 

Although salt has been vilified in recent years, it’s an important component in good health, everyone needs some and some people actually need more than others. Your doctor can do a blood test to see where your potassium – salt balance is and advise accordingly; a few conditions that may benefit from more salt are conditions such as adrenal fatigue (kidneys) and cystic fibrosis. Most people who are getting too much salt, are getting it through processed and prepared foods, where salt is heavily added for taste and preservation. Not only is it a lot of salt, but it’s processed salt, or as I call it “processed salt food product”. This “salt” has been heated to crystallize, iodine added then bleached to make it white again, and often had dextrose (hello, diabetics) or anti-caking agents added in.¹  These added ingredients can be included up to 2%. The FDA considers them non-toxic, so it’s up to you how important that is to you, I prefer to avoid additives. Be aware that many sea-salts are also fairly processed. I use celtic sea salt that’s minimally processed, it’s kind of chunky and damp, so I dry it in the dehydrator (an oven on the lowest setting for a few hours would also work) and then grind it up in the blender or coffee grinder. If you’re adventurous you can add some herbs into the mix for a custom flavored finishing salt. Cutting the salt with up to 50% herbs or spices will also cut the amount of sodium, if you need eat less salt; without losing flavor.

If you’re adventurous and live near a coastline with a clean stretch, you can make your own salt! As many coastal communities put their waste water outflows at public beaches or other pollution sources such as offshore drilling may contaminate the quality of the water, it’s important to do a little research on the quality of your local beaches. I live on Puget Sound and it seems the water doesn’t get clean around my region until up around Camano Island. I’m judging this by the website for Washington State Dept. of Health Shellfish Safety Information, which shows areas closed for pollution…. looking at it today is a bit discouraging. This information changes often, as, well, water moves and weather changes, so check your local area just before you hope to gather some water. I would advise doing the same before foraging for seaweed or other sea life.

So, if it’s a good day, pollution-wise, and you want to give it a try, I’ll show how I’ve harvested salt from the wild.

First gather some sea water in a container. I would avoid busy beaches when there are lots of people and maybe dogs in the water for obvious reasons.

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Next I strained the water to remove any extra materials that might have come home with the water.

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After that, I simmered the seawater to evaporate the majority of the water, leaving just a little water to evaporate from a pan that I set aside in the kitchen for a few days.

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When that had evaporated, I used a spatula to scrape up the salt residue that was left.

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I transferred it to a spice bottle, and have my very own wild foraged salt! I only gathered a little bottle of water so I ended up with only a little bit of salt. Salt is only 3.5% ² of the composition of seawater, so it takes quite a bit of seawater to  get a quantity of salt from it.

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I really enjoyed going through the process of making it myself. I find I appreciate things more when I’ve made an effort to make it myself and see the process…. and I always find it rewarding to reconnect to the natural world where everything we use ultimately comes from. I don’t think I’ll be making all my own salt anytime soon, so making my own salt made me aware that I’d like to know about the companies that produce salt. In the spirit of the locavore movement there is a small artisanal salt producer locally, the San Juan Island Sea Salt company.

¹http://www.saltinstitute.org/news-articles/iodized-salt/

²http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/whysalty.html

*Nothing in this post is meant to be construed as medical advice or to be used for treatment. This article is intended to solely educational. If you have concerns or questions please visit your doctor for advise.

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