Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Huronia Weed Walk

I'm heading out to Southern Georgian Bay this weekend to visit my folks and I'm very excited to team up with Transition Town Huronia while I'm there.

I've been working with two of the steering committee members and have arranged a weed walk this coming Saturday in Midland, near the Wye Marsh.

I'm really looking forward to introducing people to the wild edible and medicinal plants we discover, especially since we'll be in a wetland area and can check out all the awesome aquatic plants growing.

If you or anyone you know is in the area, I'd love to see you all come out!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Verbena hastata

Sometimes, spotting a plant is easy, as was the case with this one. The blueish-purple flowers stood out against the straw coloured grass, a gorgeous brushstroke on the canvas of summer. It caught my eye, from my bike, about 100 feet away.

I instantly dismissed my first thought that it might be purple loosestrife. Purple loosestrife almost always grows in large stands, the flowers are much fuller on the stem and are a pink-purple in colour. That's when my heart started to beat a little faster. Could it be...? I had to take a closer look to be sure.
Slender, growing erect, 2-3+ feet: check.
Flowers arranged on numerous, spiked panicles: check.

Small, 5 petaled, blueish-purple, flowers in bloom from mid to late-summer: check.

Four angled stems with opposite, lanceolate leaves with coarsely serrate margins: check.
Oh yes! This is blue vervain, Verbena hastata, also known as Simpler's Joy, Herb of Grace and Swamp Verbena. It likes well-drained, but moist soil and can be found around wetlands and meadows near floodplains. It will also grow in open, sunny fields and along roadside ditches, fence rows and pastures.

It's a perennial plant, native to North America. The flowers provide pollen and nectar for many bees, wasps, and butterflies. Sparrows, cardinals and juncos will eat the seeds in winter. The seeds can be roasted and ground into a flour for human consumption too.

It was an important food and medicine plant to Native Americans and is still used in herbal medicine today as a nervine and anti-spasmodic. Large doses are emetic and it was used in this capacity to induce sweating to treat fevers, and vomiting for stomach issues. Modern herbal medicine rarely resorts to such harsh extremes these days, and the plant is more often used as a gentle relaxant and sleep aid, and a liver cleanser. It also helps to stimulate and increase milk production for new mothers.

I am so happy to have spotted this lovely plant and I look forward to getting to know it better and observing it through the seasons!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Feral Food Foraging

Not all of the food I forage is wild or weedy. Occasionally I come across domesticated plants gone feral. Case in point is this black currant bush. I found it last summer, while harvesting red clover in a stretch of green space, close to a parking lot for a medical building, a short bike ride from my home.

What black currant bush, you ask? Yeah I know, it's kinda hard to see anything other than a wall of green here, but if you look closely....
...a little closer.....

There! Right there! A black currant bush! (Click to see the currants. They're there. Really.)

And that, my friends, is the key to foraging and wildcrafting: always look closely and try to differentiate the wall of green to see the individual plants. You'd be surprised at what you might find. Sometimes you find 2lbs of black currants!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Moon Teas

For something a little more esoteric and mystical, why not try a moon tea?

Yesterday I talked about using the sun to make herbal infusions, but you can also infuse by the light of the moon! Many herbalists feel that lunar infusions bring a sense of dreamy introspection, intention and ritual to the medicine making process. Moon teas are all about receptive, yin energy, as opposed to the active, yang-ness of solar infusions. If you're into that sort of thing, that is.

If not, well some herbs are actually better suited to a cold infusion process, particularly herbs with constituents denatured by heat, delicate flowers and herbs that are high in mucilage. Examples of herbs in this category would be violets, all the mallows including hibiscus, lemon balm and other mints, and chamomile.

The process is the same as for a sun tea, only you set your jar out at night, under the light of the moon. And ok, you really don't need to put it out in moonlight. You can do a cold infusion in your house just fine, but I have to say, I really enjoy going out into the dark backyard, with a jar of herbs and water in my hands, listening to hushed sounds and feeling the night air on my skin. It's sensuous and stirring in a way that I just don't get if I simply leave the infusion in the kitchen, especially if there are dirty dishes in the sink and the floor needs sweeping. A subtle, but important shift happens when I take the extra few steps to go outside. And I love waking up in the morning, bringing the infusion in and taking that first cool, refreshing sip. Moon infused violet leaves are my favourite.

There's a full moon this Friday, which is a perfect time to try a cold infused, moon tea!

Image source

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sun Teas

Forget the Sunny D and boughten iced teas. No one needs all that sugary crap and artificial additives anyway, no matter what the zippy commercials try to tell you.

If you want something really refreshing, nourishing, mineral and vitamin rich, try a sun tea. It's a simple, low energy and fun way to make a tasty summer time beverage.

Basically, you fill a glass jar with your tea of choice (something you've harvested yourself- fresh or dried- is awesome, but store bought tea bags work just fine too!), then fill the jar with water, trying to keep the plant material submerged, cover the jar and set it outside in a sunny spot to infuse for at least four hours. For an iced tea, put the sun infused tea into the fridge. Feel free to add a sweetener and a splash of lemon if you like.

This morning I put red raspberry leaf and stinging nettle out to infuse. It will be ready for chilling by the time I get home from work!

Info on the herbs I used:

Red raspberry

Red raspberry

Stinging nettle

Stinging nettle

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Grow Weeds! Make Money!

Huh, I wonder what kind of search engine traffic the title of this post will generate?

Anyone who gets directed here looking for information on how to grow and profit from a particular kind of 'weed', will be disappointed. But maybe they'll stick around long enough to check out the amazing and magnificent Michael 'Skeeter' Pilarski video below and learn that Skeeter who, among many other seriously cool things, wildcrafts and cultivate weeds, which he sells on the herbal market. (Again, not that kind of 'herb'.)

Maybe, the disappointed person will be moved enough by Skeeter when he says awesome things like, "There's a lot of reasons to have weeds in your garden" or "weeds and the garden are dancing together for everyone's benefit" to give up their other 'weed' growing idea and take up the brave and noble pursuit of growing honest to goodness, down to earth, humble weeds. Useful weeds that you can make money on!

Wow. I love this guy!