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.
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: 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
Holidays are upon us. We tend to eat more, party more, join family and friends and drink more. And depending on our unique immune system strength, we can open the door to colds and flu. Who among us likes to be sick? Not me and I am sure not you. And it seems that digestion is directly tied to our immune systems which makes building immune strength and resistance a priority.
Digestive issues are prevalent from IBS, heartburn/ GERD, and IBD. I am sure most of you have heard of one if not all of these ailments. But what can we do to aid our digestion during these “off our routine” kind of times?
My podcast guest this week, Dr. Scott Gerson, MD and Ayurvedic physician reminded me how powerful one herb is on its own. One single herb, such as ginger, contains many constituents creating a unique formula all on its own. Highly recommended in Ayurvedic medicine both traditionally and today, ginger is one plant to keep in our kitchen. Besides adding flavor and pungency to a variety of dishes, a simple single tea from ginger root soothes digestion. Ginger, popular in many countries for its culinary flavors, can be pickled, honeyed, as well as added to soups, stews, fish, meat and vegetarian dishes.
Ginger: Zingiber officinale
Where found: thought to originate in the Indian subcontinent to Asia. Brought to East Indies by Spanish explorers and brought to Spain and then Europe.
Parts Used: Rhizome: a Rhizome is an underground stem: a thick underground horizontal stem that produces roots and has shoots that develop into new plants; from Greek rhizoma “mass of tree roots,” Rhizomes are underground stems that grow horizontally that produce a number of plants and are known to spread rapidly.
Nutritional Value: Contains macronutrients and many micronutrients. And as Dr. Gerson explained, a single herb, known for a primary constituent has many more trace constituents that aid, and compliment, and help us utilize the very component we seek. In a sense, a single herb is a compound formula. This is a great reminder and illustrates the value of drinking herb teas. How about adding ginger to your routine?
3 tips for purchasing and using ginger today:
- When buying ginger root, snap off a small knob which should be crisp. Do not buy with any mold.
- Ginger can stay out of the refrigerator for about a week. Place in paper towels and they will keep much longer in the refrigerator.
- Unpeeled ginger root will last longer. Peel the skin off as mentioned above when you are ready to use it in tea or in a recipe. Keep what you need in the refrigerator. Freeze the rest for later use.
A little sharp, pungent flavor mixed with the oils in lemon goes well with the addition of maple syrup, honey to soothe irritated or dry throats as winter keeps us indoors. Here’s an example of a ginger tea recipe, easy to make.
Ginger Tea Recipe
- water, 4 cups
- 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root
- optional: honey and lemon slice
- Peel the ginger root and slice it into thin slices. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Once it is boiling, add the ginger. Cover it and reduce to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain the tea. Add honey and lemon to taste.
Pungent and spicy with a little kick in taste soothes stomachs. When our digestive organs are soothed we are soothed. It’s fascinating to me that an herb to calm the stomach actually soothes our mind. When we are calm so is our digestion. Everything is connected and single herb teas provide so many tasty solutions to what ails us. What’s your favorite? Be well this holiday season.
Description: Ayurveda means the science of life. Ayurvedic Medicine developed and recorded over 4000 years ago, based on the keen observation of the outside world and how it relates to our inside world, is a great example of a holistic medical model. My guest this week, Dr. Scott Gerson, is licensed as an Ayurvedic physician and a Medical Physician practicing in NY and Florida. He seeks to build bridges between both worlds. Dr. Gerson gives us several practical tips and guidance for improving immunity and resistance, all perfect for the upcoming holiday season.
About My guest: Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D. (Ayurveda) is one of the world’s leading Ayurvedic primary-care physicians and is a prolific researcher in Ayurvedic Medicine who is well-versed in virtually all modalities of integrative medicine. He is the Medical Director of the Dept. of Integrative Medicine, Division of Research and Education at Jupiter Medical Center and Chief Physician at The Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine in Lake Mary, Florida where he treats patients through merging authentic Ayurveda, integrative medicine, and conventional medical approaches. Dr. Gerson is an Associate Professor at Tilak Ayurved Mahavidyalaya, Department of Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine), where he earned his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Ayurvedic Medicine, a Clinical Assistant Professor, Dept. of Community and Preventive Medicine, New York Medical College, and founder of the Gerson Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine (est. 1982)
Transcript: #36 Dr. Scott Gerson