While we wait for the rain to stop here in the NE, spring flowers brighten up our landscapes. The grass is an ‘Emerald City’ green. Bulbs rise, flower, come and go as we place seeds in the ground for early crops. Clovers will be coming up soon though I kinda take the little white clover blossoms for granted.
Botanical name: Trifolium repens
Common names: white clover, shamrock
Parts used: whole plant, Peterson’s field guides to medicinal plants states the entire plant can be used.
Uses: teas, washes for sores, ulcers, very popular in Europe. This plant was brought to our country with the early settlers during the 1600-1700’s. It’s short, a perennial and flowers from April to September with shamrock type leaves. As you can imagine, looking for four-leafed clover was and is considered a sign of good luck. In Europe, flower tea was used for rheumatism and gout. In North America, the Native Americans used the leaf tea for colds, coughs, and fevers.
Jethro Kloss, an American icon in the world of herbalism, lived from 1863 to 1946 and practiced herbal medicine. He used white clover blossoms in a tea to cleanse the system, especially if ulcers, boils or other skin ailments were present. He also noted that poultices, tea washes applied externally, helped heal sores, ulcers too.
White clover has been used for many years as a ground cover. It is useful as a ground cover for its nitrogen-fixing properties. There are nodules on the roots that literally grab nonusable nitrogen from the air and with the help of bacteria convert it into a plant usable form which is important for plant growth and provides protein source for foraging animals.
Benefits of White Clover: (from the University of Hawaii cooperative extension service pdf.)
1. Excellent for attracting beneficial insects, for reduced- or non-chemical pest management, for controlling erosion, suppressing weeds once established,
2. …and as a source of organic nitrogen good for quick growth and establishment,
3. …for bearing equipment traffic
4. …tolerates low fertility soils
5…. fair shade tolerance suitable for higher elevations
6. …good forage for animal grazing systems;
7. …high production, nutritional quality, and palatability
8. For use in plantation and orchard cropping systems including macadamia and coffee, in vineyards, and as a living mulch in vegetable cropping systems.”
In doing research for this article I came across a blog: insteading.com they use white clover as a living mulch, planting it in the garden to keep down weeds; eventually, it becomes mulch, retains moisture, attracts pollinators, and improves the soil. When I visited Michael Judd’s property, (author of Edible Landscapes), I saw his use of crops like mint growing in many places. He explained to us that he was not worried about keeping them harnessed. He cut them down periodically during the growing season and they became mulch there and then. It seems Insteading supports the same practices.
Last but not least, white clovers attract pollinators. White clover honey is one of the most popular honey here in the US, light in color and milder in taste.
Teas are easy: gather flowers, leaves at peak growing times, dry, store in glass jars. These plant parts can be combined with other herbs for tea making. A few white clover blossoms along with red clovers can be added to ice teas too creating pleasing summertime drinks.
White clover flowers dried, then ground into flour can be added to bread recipes. Southern forager shares a bread recipe made from dehydrated and dried, ground white clover blossom flour. I have found forager sites have great uses and recipes for meadow plants.
I hope you look at white clovers in lawns, gardens, and paths a bit differently. This little plant often mowed and ignored provides a host of uses. Do you have a favorite recipe? Please share…I’d like that.
So many of my podcasts are concerned with growing good soils. Nettles pops up as a great plant, a must in fact for growing good soils and for adding nutrition to our spring diet. If you don’t have any nettles, can you think about dedicating an area just for them? A new addition that will contribute so much to your garden? Seeds are available too if you can’t find a neighboring gardener willing to share.
Nettles are one of my favorite spring herbs. Their reputation to “sting” usually makes many wary or loathe this plant. Yet they are a powerhouse of nutrients not only for the soil but for us too. In biodynamic farming, nettle is a major player in composting. Why?
Biodynamic farming, founded by Rudolph Steiner, encourages its farmers to use nettles in a preparation called BD504. “Stinging Nettle has enormous healing potential. Working in conjunction with Mars, (Steiner worked with the planets, moon cycles etc) BD504 plays a huge role in resolving soils with an imbalance of iron, magnesium, and sulfur. Excess iron can cause many problems and often presents itself in the form of very tight soil with hardpan or crust. This tightness locks in the iron and other trace minerals, which in turn exacerbates the problem. BD504 preparation loosens the soil texture allowing the nutrients to release, disperse and be absorbed by plants.”
This plant also contains formic acid, phosphorus, and a trace of iron. The square and downy stems are covered with tiny sharp spikes that release an acrid fluid when touched much like a bee sting. Interestingly the juice of the crushed nettle leaves can be rubbed on the sting for relief. Each of these spikes or spines is composed of small cells that contain this fluid. Once dried or cooked the sting is neutralized. However once discovered and tried it makes for a nutritious pot herb or tea.
Name: Stinging Nettles: Urtica dioca
Parts Used: the whole plant
Where Found: Nettles are found in most temperate regions and seem to follow man’s migrations. Nettles can indicate a soil rich in Nitrogen.
Young Shoots: Nettles are best gathered in the early spring when they are less than one foot tall. Later in the season they get gritty and accumulate crystals, cystoliths that make them unpalatable to eat. I gather for two reasons, one to cook and eat that day, or two, to make a pot of tea with the fresh herb or two, and then dry the rest for later use including winter.
Stems: Nettles have been valued for its fiber. While in herb school we separated the fibers found using the cut and dried stems gathered late in the summer. We then wove our own cordage. This fiber was also used in clothing, sailcloth and sacking material.
Compost tea: after I gather young nettles for kitchen use, pot herb and tea making, I gather some and place in 5-gallon bucket. I cover about 3/4 full with water. I stir it frequently for about 3 weeks. At the end of three weeks, I add molasses, about a tablespoon to 1/4 cup and let it ferment a bit. When done I dilute the tea 1:10 with water. Then I give each plant a cupful. You can also dilute the tea 1:20, 1 part tea to 20 parts water and use as a foliar spray which can deter bugs and even fungi, such as powdery mildew.
At the end of the season, plants are cut back to the ground and added to the compost pile.
Recipe for nettles as a potherb and/or tea:
- Gather tender aerial parts in spring
- Wash and chop, wear gloves as they will sting
- Place in a pot, about 1 handful and cover with water. Bring ot a boil and simmer a couple of minutes.
- Drink the tea water and add the greens to rice, veggies, pasta dishes.
My podcast guest this week, Craig Floyd, manager for the Coogan Farm in Mystic CT celebrates all plants including nettles. Bright green parts poke up at the beginning of spring offering nourishment both for us and our soils, a treat after winter’s greys and browns. Nettles has been a part of my garden. I wouldn’t be without them. I encourage you to appreciate this little stinging plant more for it offers much. The sting reminds us to quiet down and approach them with respect.
Enjoy perusing the seed catalogs and consider nettles.
My podcast guest this week, Joan Palmer, founder of The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition, or TIOSN, reminded me how important it is to use the food we grow in our kitchens. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But, we get busy with work, household chores, children’s schedules, all can claim our time. Plants too, have their own agendas, ones they follow regardless of our attention or inattention. They have a schedule of peak growth and then they wane. If our attention is elsewhere, we lose harvest time.
So I thought, let me share 2 easy recipes for using garden thyme in particular and other culinary herbs you may have dried or stored,
Food Alert: many herbs can be irradiated as they come into our country.
“The USA has the most advanced commercial food irradiation program in the
world and the volume of irradiated food consumed in the US is second only
to China. Information on the current status of irradiation in the USA can be
obtained at www.foodirradiation.org or from the Food Irradiation Update
Newsletter published by the author.
A significant amount of the international trade in irradiated food has been
driven by consumer acceptance of irradiated food in the US and access to
that large and lucrative market. More than ten countries currently export
produce to US retailers.
Food products irradiated or marketed in the US during 2015 included
approximately 68 000 tons of spices, 30 000 tons of fruits and vegetables, and
an estimated 12 500 tons of meat, poultry, and live oysters.” ( from foodiradiation.org)
Herbs de Provence is a traditional herb mix often used in European cooking. Drying culinary herbs gives us an opportunity to create flavorful mixtures as fall and winter approach. As Joan states in the podcast, “use real food.” Food from our gardens is not irradiated, hopefully organic. We know the source, we grow it locally, we eat what we grow by our own hands.
So here are 2 Easy Recipes you can easily make. If you don’t have the herbs mentioned I hope you will buy organic.
Recipe: Herbes de Provence:
- 3 Tablespoons dried marjoram
- 3 Tablespoons dried thyme
- 3 Tablespoons dried savory
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Combine marjoram, thyme, savory, basil, rosemary, sage, and fennel. Mix well and spoon into a tightly-lidded jar. Store in a cool, dark place up to 4 months. Add to soups, stews, roasts, fish etc all to your tastes.
Here’s a recipe using Herbs de Provence:
Chicken with Herbes de Provence Recipe
Recipe Type: Poultry, Chicken
Yields: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min
4 chicken boneless breast halves (with skin)*
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence**
* Do not remove skin until after baking, as the skin helps to retain moisture in the meat.
Place chicken breasts, single layer, into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking dish.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine olive oil and the herbes de Provence together. Pour marinade over chicken breasts. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate to marinate longer (turning meat over several times).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (juices will run clear when cut with the tip of a knife); basting several times during cooking. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Have fun trying a new recipe. Do you have any favorites using thyme? All comments are appreciated.
Bon Appetit! Judith
Description: The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition, TIOSN, offers a one-year certification program in Sustainable Health and Nutrition. They have four focuses:
1. Learn and practice sustainable gardening methods.
2. Take the food from the garden, weeds included, and grow your culinary skills in the kitchen.
3. Identify nutrient-rich wild plants, for culinary and medicinal uses both for us and the garden.
4. Learn about preparing wild edibles for food and medicine.
Joan Palmer, the founder of TIOSN, shares her experiences, and how she is attempting to connect the dots between our health, the health of the planet, through the science and art of gardening and nutrition.
About My Guest: Joan Palmer is the Founder and Director of The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition and owner of Real Food Matters, LLC. Joan has an MS in Human Nutrition, a BS in Education and received her certification as a Family/Community Herbalist. She has been planting the seeds of real food matters for decades through educational programs presented to schools, businesses, organizations, families, and individuals. Joan presents the Art and Science of Eating as part of an accredited master’s degree program in Ct.
Transcript: Joan Palmer #45
Description: Enjoy Deb Sodergren’s return to Holistic Nature of Us as we prepare for the holidays. Author and speaker, Deb shares her wisdom and experience offering tips and suggestions for de-stressing during this busy time of year. Mindfulness, including nature walks, getting out into the fresh air and being grateful keep us centered and grounded as we enjoy family and friends. Join us for a delightful discussion with many practical tips that encourage us to embrace the holidays, family and friends, with love and joy.
About My guest: Deb Sodergren is an Energy Body Vibration Expert/International Speaker/Author and owner of Up Vibrations, LLC. She graduated from the New England School of Metaphysics in 1998, and nationally certified as a Reiki Master Teacher and certified to teach Metaphysics and Meditation. She is also an Infinite Possibilities Certified Trainer.
“My philosophy of healing is based on taking care of my clients with alternative healing modalities and sometimes with traditional allopathic medicine to ensure that the individual’s whole self is being maintained and balanced. I bring to my practice a deep understanding of the human energy field and the body, mind, and spirit connection as well as extensive training in the areas of Reiki, meditation, chakra balancing, vibrational medicine, channeling, death & dying, infinite possibilities mindset and others.”
Transcript: #41 Deb Sodergren
Description: Holidays are here. Many family and friends have food sensitivities or are choosing to make dietary changes. Gets confusing though doesn’t it? Cousin X is vegan, Auntie Y is diabetic. How can we enjoy traditional foods, family, friends and make healthy choices? I invited Janet back to share some nutrition tips and ideas for the holidays. Her background is in Ayurvedic nutrition and health coaching. She reviews dosha types and how to plan for the seasons, the holidays and gives us recipe ideas. Recipe suggestions are included.
About My Guest: Rev. Janet M. Pagan, CEO of Phoenix Sol H.P., Inc. is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner with the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Rev. Pagan is a Certified Health Coach; Ayurvedic Nutritionist; Reiki Master and Spiritual Counselor. Rev. Pagan also holds a Master Degree in Public Administration from Baruch College and has worked in the field of Child Welfare servicing children and families for over 15 yrs. (Rev. Pagan received a Bachelor of Science in the field of Education and Black Studies with a minor in Latin American Studies from SUNY- New Paltz. )
Transcript: #39 Janet Pagan