Autumn winds through December bringing the holiday season to our doors. Pine and Juniper boughs decorate our hearths leaving the smell of the forest mingling with the aromas of holiday baking. Doesn’t the scent bring you back to childhood or a time when we used fresh boughs more frequently? It does for me. Did you know that Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea for electric Christmas tree lights in 1882? Prior to these inventions, candles were used to light up the trees. The combination of candlelight and dry needles posed for a serious fire hazard. They began mass production of them in 1890.
White Pine, Pinus strobus, is often used and thought of as the “Christmas Tree.”
White pine has a rich and noble history that predates the arrival of European settlers.
The Iroquois Confederacy began hundreds of years before 1492. This Confederacy culminated in the joining of Five North Eastern American Tribes into a peaceful union. Weapons were buried beneath the White Pine tree or planted at the bottom of the hole of a new planting to symbolize the laying down of arms. The Confederacy sought to negotiate a peaceful outcome with and for all tribes. The Iroquois Nation offered this symbol to the new arrivals in order to develop diplomacy. Thus the White Pine is a powerful symbolic and healing plant for the Iroquois nation.
Did you know that when the first Europeans arrived in North America, they noticed large swaths of bark peeled from the trees? Many NE Tribes used the inner barks of trees for food and medicine.
White Pine: Pinus strobus
Where Found: Eastern US; Evergreen, tall, grows to about 50-80′; native and common to eastern half US; needles- 5 inches; the needle count of 5 is a distinguishing characteristic. This tree is considered the most valuable hardwood in North America used for trim work, delicate cabinetry, etc.
Wildlife and birds feed on the seeds and soft needles. Deer and Porcupine seem to like the inner bark for winter feed.
Bald eagles will build nests at the main branch located below the crown top.
Parts Used: Twigs, bark, leaves, and pitch;
Pine needles used for sewing; basket making; tea; good to chew on to freshen breath; strong tea can be used as a hair, face or body wash; High in Vitamin C, pine needle tea helped the early settlers relieve symptoms of scurvy. This is an easy tea to make when out camping overnight. During a wilderness class I participated in several years ago, we made pine needle tea at our campsite. One less item to carry; needles readily available in our forest setting.(See recipe below)
Resins (pine pitch) used as cement to seal the seams in canoes; also chewed for a sore throat; they would dry, powder, and apply the dried resin to sore throats; resin added to a salve is supposed to be great for taking out a splinter or bringing a boil to a head;
Inner bark: used with other herbs or inner barks e.g. wild cherry bark, to make a cough syrup for colds; chronic indigestion, flu, kidney troubles. The inner barks and small twigs as a tea helped as an expectorant;
Essential oil: antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, deodorant, diuretic; refreshing, stimulating qualities; can also bring relief in a body oil for muscular pain.
Whiffing the soft fragrant essential oil can help alleviate a dark mood as it has an uplifting, enlivening quality. Essential oil of pine can be added to bath or skin oils in very small amounts as it can be irritating to the skin for some people. You will find pine oil used in combination with other essential oils for this reason.
Inhalation of the oil is good for colds, sinusitis, and sore throats and can be mixed with eucalyptus or tea tree oil. Placing several drops of pine oil in a pot of water and leaving on a wood-stove can permeate the room with a delightful forest fragrance.
Caution: Do not use: Dwarf pine oil: Pinus pussilio or Pinus mugo. These oils are hazardous to health.
I like drops of essential oil of pine sprinkled in a pot of warm water on my wood stove. The essential oil comes in handy too for any sniffle. As December takes us into the midst of the holiday season, remember white pine. Sprinkle a few drops on your decorations and bring the scent of the forest into your home.
Tall joe-pye weed graces our backyard filling in and creating a hedge like area. As summer blossoms, joe-pye weed holds steady with tall, leafed, unbranched, and hollow stems. The leaves have a purple hue to center. Then when the end of July and August rolls around, the plant blooms leaving us with soft lilac hue in contrast to the deep yellows of Black-eyed Susans. It attracts a variety of butterflies too.
Name: Eupatorium maculatum or Joe-pye weed, purple boneset, gravel root, Queen of the Meadow are a few of the more common names; several varieties are well known: E. dubium, E. fistulosum, E. maculatum, E. purpureum, E. steeli. Perennial herb, native to North America in the sunflower family.
Parts Used: Root, gathered in autumn
Habitat:: perfect for damp soils, in marshy areas, stream banks and can also thrive on rich garden soils. We have clay soil here, which holds in moisture. Joe-pye thrives. Grows about 5-6 feet tall. Over 40 species have been noted
Uses: diuretic, nervine; an herbal legend has it that a Native American doctor named Jopi or Joe Pye, used it to cure typhus; at the very least there are accounts of joe-pye helping with fevers; known to be helpful for gravel and renal issues, gout, hematuria ((or blood in the urine)
Note: Always check with your health care practitioner before using a plant with medicinal history. Some plants can interfere with medications and other herbs.
Do you have a good use for joe-pye? It’s a new plant for me to learn about. It’s abundant here. When fall comes and the first frost, I will be digging, gathering and drying root. Please let me know if you have any other uses for joe-pye… thanks.
Summer time is a time to ramble down highways and country roads. We see many wildflowers, some in bloom, some spent. For me, August is the color of blue and golds. Goldenrods fill the fields and byways along with black eyed Susans. The light blue purple chicory flower adds a contrast of color that easily captures our eye with its beautiful star-like petals of blue. And is often found right by our roads whether highways or exit and entry ramps, medians and of course in fields.
Caution: It is never wise to gather plants near roads. The ground is polluted with exhaust fumes and tars.
Chicory: Chicorium intybus; a perennial plant native to Europe, India and Egypt.
Parts Used: Leaves: gather in mid summer; roots: gather in late summer,
Uses: the tender leaves can be chopped and used in salads. Tea, made from their roots, is often used in coffee like beverages because it does not contain caffeine. The root is also used to mellow coffee. In reviewing the literature, chicory uses and effects seems to temper the caffeine effects of coffee which is why it has been mixed with coffee. It is consumed in large amounts in many parts of the world with little or no side effects. However, if you notice chicory at the edges of your gardens and forests try tender leaves in salad. Chop like you would dandelion greens.
Health Benefits: Dr Weil tells us: “in terms of glucose control, the root contains up to 40% inulin, which is a zero on the glycemic index, so it has a negligible effect on raising blood sugar. This makes it a favorable choice among diabetics and a small study in 2015 show early promise that chicory root could actually help delay the onset of diabetes.”
Practical tips: its bitter much like dandelion root which is why it is favored in coffee substitute beverages. I have found it difficult to harvest. It can be found in compacted or dry soils and they are difficult to dig. also critters get after the roots too. I find the ones near my garden and meadow areas are worth digging for. I wash, chop roots and let them dry. They can be added to your teas or by itself for a strong coffee like brew.
Also one can mix them with dandelion root.. Both impart bitter coffee like flavors. Does this tea taste like coffee? No, but the bitter flavor is close.
Any other recipes? I would enjoy hearing from you.
There’s nothing prettier than a glass jug filled with cool refreshing water where some of our garden beauties have center stage.
Sun tea is just that, a pitcher of water filled with summer flowers that are known to be edible.
Get a gallon glass jug, fill with pure water and place any of the following for their subtle and not so subtle flavors and colors: Experiment for the flavors you like best. Let sit in the sun 2-4 hours and serve over ice.
Remember to use only flowers you know are not treated, preferably ones you have grown without chemicals which makes flower shop flowers unacceptable. Please research any flower not on the list to make sure it is safe to eat. For ex. Daffodils are not safe to eat.
Red clover blossoms
Ground ivy blossoms
Scented geranium leaves
Rose purple coneflower (Echinacea)
Flowers: make a beautiful garnish to many dishes. Also, flowers can be placed in ice cube trays and then placed in ice tea, lemonades, even cool refreshing water for a hot summer day treat. Violas, woodland violets which make their debut in spring, can be gathered in the spring time and frozen for summer’s use.
Salads: use as a garnish; remember that culinary herb blossoms can be added such as marjoram, or sage, even basil. I suggest that for salads that use wild greens and flowers start in small amounts in order to get used to and savor the different textures and flavors. Greens when cut up fine and mixed with traditional greens such as arugula, bib lettuces etc. blend in nicely. Place the flowers and/or the petals on top.
Recipe: Quiche: I often place flower petals on the top of quiches before cooking. Flower petals can be stripped and placed in a decorative pattern. My guests positively remark when served these wild food treats.
Book: Kitty Morse has a delightful book of flower recipes titled: “Edible Flowers, a Kitchen Companion With Kitchen Recipes”.
Many herb books also contain recipes e.g. Colonial and monastery type cookbooks, that demonstrate many ways to use edible parts of wild and cultivated plants.
Summer is well under way. As we ramble down highways and quieter roads we can see many plants in bloom. What are your favorites? Do you have any favorite edible flower recipes? I would love to hear from you.
Summer gardening chores are in full swing. We have rain barrels around our garden. While that helps us harvest rain water, it does mean a bit more work watering. Weeding puts us on our knees or bending our backs. Produce is producing strong right now and that means gathering and putting them “up”. Whether canning or freezing, garden chores are in the intense mode during this part of summer.
Got a few aches? Maybe a sore muscle or two? Here’s a great muscle rub recipe that uses quality essential oils.
Recipe: Essential oil: Soothing Muscle Rub
In aromatherapy, pine is used in saunas, steam baths and massage blends for sore muscles. The natural evergreen aroma of pine essential oil is a sweet alternative to harshly medicinal pharmaceutical preparations. Here’s a recipe that combines the oils of several plants used to add, therapeutic fragrance to steams and saunas or to apply to sore muscles at the end of a gardening day.
To make a penetrating massage oil for overworked muscles, dilute 12 drops of this concentrated blend in 3 ounces of vegetable oil, such as sweet almond. This fragrant muscle rub is especially nice after a strenuous workout when muscles may be tight and sore.
Never apply concentrated essential oil blends directly to skin without diluting them first as irritation may develop.
One of my favorite summer plants is Borage. Large leaves with beautiful bluish purple flowers are getting ready to blossom. Known as the “bee” plant, it obviously attracts many bees and is a good companion plant too for strawberries, tomatoes and squashes. making it a good contributor to our gardens. I have a couple of plants in between my tomatoes and a few near my strawberries. When the flowers are gone to seed, collect some seed and then cut plant down and leave in bed. The leaves will be good for the soil.
Borage: Borago officinalis
Parts Used: leaves, flowers, seeds
Where Found: originated in Syria; naturalized over Europe, US
Borage, also known as the “Starflower, named for its beautiful light blue – purple star shaped flower, is a plant that is edible. It is a hardy annual plant that can reseed itself, too.
According to some of the old herbals, this plant was noted to soothe a troubled heart and help with exhaustion. So many herbals refer to this plant “as a comfort to the heart, increasing joy of the mind, and relieving sorrow. “
Leaves: are a good source of organic potassium, calcium and minerals. The juice from the leaves is mucilaginous, which means it offers a soothing, cooling quality to the stomach. This is one of the herbs that seem to be helpful in adrenal exhaustion. Stress, long days, and decrease in sleep can take a toll on our adrenal glands. As the flowers come into bloom the tender leaves can be picked and added to salad. The leaves have a mild cucumber like flavor.
Recipe: Pour 1 pint of boiling water over 6 teaspoons of fresh cut leaves. Let sit, strain and then add to wine, juice, lemonade even by itself over ice makes a refreshing drink.
Flowers: these beautiful blue flowers are edible, attract bees and can be used as a garnish to salads or side dishes. Many wild edible enthusiasts candy the flowers:
Recipe: Candied Flowers:
Thin the white of an egg with 1 tbs water, and the juice of one lemon. Dip the blossoms into this mixture and then roll in granulated sugar. Dry on wax paper until they no longer stick together, then put in a covered dish, store in refrigerator or freezer if not using right away. This makes for a lovely party treat or topping for cupcakes or cakes.
Seeds: Borage seed oil can be recommended for a variety of skin and inflammatory issues. The seeds when pressed contain a large amount of GLA (gamma linolenic acid) which has health benefits. The form of GLA found in Borage oil seems to help turn off the inflammatory mechanism implicated in so many chronic diseases. It may reduce the symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and contribute to healthier skin in the elderly. Borage Seed oil has its cautions though and should not be taken with seizure disorder, blood thinners or pregnancy. It may be a good idea to check with your health professional about stopping prior to surgery.
Borage, the plant for courage, has many uses and contributes to a sustainable garden. Enjoy.
Have you ever wondered what that weird nighttime dream is telling you? Or the reoccurring one? Do you fly and love the feeling? Need a solution to something that has you stumped?
Our dream time is a vast, unexplored territory that takes us to new lands, other world beings, guides and family that only wants the best for us. Dreams speak in symbolic language. However, we are not taught to ‘crack our own code’ so to speak so we can understand and learn from them. Dream Navigation is my program of learning to do just that!
Hi folks, my second passion is working with dreams, whether nighttime or daydreams, all are important. I have paired up with Solstice Strategy Partners to offer an online course…
Contact me directly for more information: email@example.com put Dream Class in subject line.
Fall Session: Sept 11, Sept 25 & Oct 9, Oct 23
Daydreams and dreams while we sleep are a powerful way for us to tap in to our intuition and listen to the voice within. Our dreams can bring us answers to important questions, solutions to problems, creative inspirations and even warnings.
In this 4-part workshop, dream expert and author Judith Dreyer, MS will teach a variety of techniques for remembering our dreams and capturing the guidance that each dream brings. Participants will come away from this experience with more clarity about themselves and an amazing new tool for continued self-discovery.
This is a 4-part online class that meets every other Monday evening from 7-9pm EST and follows a workbook that was designed and written by Judith. All participants will video-conference in to this live class.
I look forward to hearing from you. Judith
As I drive through the countryside I see so many wildflowers ready to bloom or blooming. The white faces of wild daisies dot the many roadways as do the purple vetch and the yellow black- eyed Susan. It’s Mullein however that caught my eye the other day as I wondered what plant to feature this month. While there are many wildflowers to choose from, Mullein, standing tall and erect, just showing its yellow flowers on its tall stalk, grabbed my attention.
Parts Used: Leaves, flowers, root
The photo above shows mullein in its first year. Broad velvety grey leaves form a rosette that can easily catch ones eye when on a hike or by a gardens edge. The photo to the right shows the second year growth. This biennial shoots up a tall stalk sometimes reaching six to eight feet that then begins to display small yellow flowers near the top. Soft grey leaves can be 12-15″ long.
Where found: Europe, West and Central Asia and North Africa; likes dry soils and often seen in disturbed areas. Mullein migrated to US along with early settlers. For example, I have seen Mullein grow abundantly throughout California’s mountainous areas, the mountains near Flagstaff AZ and here on the East coast.
Leaf System: the leaf arrangement of the Mullein is botanically interesting. Hairs that cover the leaves so thickly and give it this velvety feeling act as a protective coat to the plant. Since they tend to be found in dry soils, this thickness of the leaf helps the plant from giving off too much moisture. They also act as a deterrent to creeping insects and grazing animals as they can set up an intense irritation in the animals mucous membranes so these critters will leave the Mullein alone.
While Mullein tea is often recommended for coughs and colds it must be strained before consuming. These tiny hairs can cause irritation to the mouth.
The flowers give a lot of pollen and you will find many bees and other insects enjoying mullein flower nectar. These flowers are often gathered in a small jar and then filled with olive oil. Let sit for a few weeks and then strain. Mullein flower oil is often used for swimmer’s ear or ear irritations.
Please not: do not place any liquid into the ear if one suspects a ruptured ear drum.
Mullein’s tall stalks, velvety grey green leaves, bright yellow flowers are hard to miss on our roadsides. This plant has a rich history of medicinal use. For more information check out At the Garden’s Gate found below.
Wild edibles are blossoming. Some are easy to identify right now because of their flowery display. Bees are humming too, gathering sweet nectar.
Red Clovers (Trifolium pratense): sweet purplish pink flowers fill fields and meadows, hang out at the edges of our gardens. Who hasn’t picked a flower and enjoyed the sweet taste? They are not naive to the US and probably came with the early settlers. Today, red clover can be found all over the world. Trifolium pratense is the species most often referred to for edible and medicinal use.
What’s so special about them? Clover and related species are nitrogen fixers which basically means they contribute to soil fertility. How? These plants contain nitrogen fixing bacteria that can pull unusable nitrogen from our air and convert it into usable nitrogen compounds that can be used by the plant. In the video, above, you can see different species of clover used to help organic farmers rebuild soil with nitrogen fixing plants, not synthetic fertilizers.
” nitrogen-fixing bacteria, microorganisms capable of transforming atmospheric nitrogen into fixed nitrogen, inorganic compounds usable by plants. More than 90 percent of all nitrogen fixation is effected by them.”
Clovers, legumes, for example, are in this category. Because of this nitrogen fixing ability, we use them as cover crops.
The NRCS states: “Cover crops have the potential to provide multiple benefits in a cropping system. They prevent erosion, improve soil’s physical and biological properties, supply nutrients, suppress weeds, improve the availability of soil water, and break pest cycles along with various other benefits. The species of cover crop selected along with its management determine the benefits and returns.”
Your State’s Agricultural Extension Service can help you decide on the right cover crop for your purpose and area.
Today, red clover is blossoming in our meadows and by our roadsides.
Name: Red Clover: Trifolium pratense
Where Found: Field and roadsides, by trails
Uses: Salads, flour, tea; I usually toss several into salads by breaking apart the flower into pieces. I find wild salads are more palatable when using foraged foods by cutting leaves and flowers smaller pieces.
Red clover tea is light and palatable and easily mixes with other herbs such as the mints. Red clover flowers can be added to grain dishes. Pick them now while vibrant, always save some for the bees. They can be placed on a tray and dried for future use. These flowers can be added to a summertime solar herb tea too. Today, research into red clovers components is ongoing. For example, iIsoflavones may be helpful for the symptoms of menopause but that research is mixed.
This Mother Earth News article on red clover has a great recipe. While I haven’t made a bread with red clover flour, I have made solar teas and toss these pretty flowers into salads. I intend to gather flower-heads and seeds, dry and hopefully collect enough to make a flour. We’ve been enjoying acorn flour bread and chestnut flour in our pancakes. All gluten free. Red clover flour would be gluten free as well.
Red clover is an easy flower to get to know when learning about edible plants. This time of year they can be easily found. Remember do not use those by a roadside. There are tars, lead and other pollutants by roadsides.
Do you have a favorite red clover recipe? I’d like to hear from you.
Sustainable, edible landscaping is a hot topic today from at least four perspectives:
- Are we providing food in a way that builds soil for future generations?
- What will that food availability look like?
- What are the consequences of pesticide contamination in our food supply,
- Finally, what the consequences of over developed land use practices?
We are rethinking land use. While turning lawn into meadow is a favorite topic of mine there are a plethora of ideas flooding our internet channels on how to do just that: create sustainable landscapes that serve vital purposes for the planet and ourselves and other species.
Sustain, in its simplest form, means “to give support to or relief to.”
Sustainability, in landscaping, contains in its core principles efforts and practices that enhance water and soil conservation, rebuilding wildlife habitat and prevention of further land degradation and provide food.
Fact: land degradation jeopardizes biodiversity. Doug Tallamy, in Bringing Nature Home, reminds us that 4000+ species are in danger today.
Fact: World forest cover continues to decline by an alarming rate.
Fact: Communities in the western part of the US face severe water restrictions due to intense development. Over development and the use of showy botanicals, often not native to the region, decreases food, water and shelter for many species and I include humans in that mix.
The desertification of the planet (over 1/3 of our planet has been turned into desert) creates food shortage problems.
The good news is “more than two billion hectares of land worldwide offer opportunities for restoration through forest and landscape restoration.” Calamity, hardship, trials often create the soil for innovation and that is happening today in the use of land.
For example: while city roof tops have been known to contain gardens, designers, architects, and engineers are looking at ways to convert flat building box store rooftops into gardens that produce food they can sell.
We are only limited by our imaginations. It seems to me there is a renaissance occurring planet wide. Renaissance implies a renewal of life, vigor, interest, a rebirth, a revival. Over the next posts I’ll share with you some of the ideas bursting on the scene, exciting possibilities for growing food, supporting wildlife in unexpected ways.
Pinterest abounds in ideas, great visuals that take us to great articles.
What are your ideas? Have you changed your backyard into a more diverse landscape? Share your ideas, share you pictures. I would love to hear from you.