There are SO many great herbs and plants growing right now to add to your meals and start harvesting for winter! Many are growing right in your own yards and gardens and you may be pulling them out as “weeds” and tossing out amazing bundles of nutrition and flavor!
In this newsletter there are a few common herbs that are packed with nutrition, flavor and are easy to find and identify. Enjoy!
Remember to check the calendar on the website for upcoming classes and events!
GREAT BOOKS TO HELP YOU IDENTIFY HERBS GROWING AROUND YOU ____________________________
BOTANY IN A DAY – THOMAS J.ELPEL
NECOMB’S WILDFLOWER GUIDE- LAWRENCE NEWCOMB
FORAGER’S HARVEST-SAM THAYER
NATURE’S GARDEN-SAM THAYER
MIDWEST FORAGING- LISA M. ROSE
MIDWEST MEDICINAL PLANTS – LISA M. ROSE
WHAT’S DOIN’ THE BLOOMIN’? -CLAYTON AND MICHELE OSLUND
Before you start harvesting….
There are many ways that plants can be used to help us with our wellness.
Wild and cultivated herbs have specific properties that help our well being, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
When you are working with plants it is very important to remember that they are alive.
Each plant has an essence, a spirit, a purpose.
We were put on this earth to live together and help each other.
Plants are very willing to help. They give their very lives to sustain and nurture us.
When you are gathering or harvesting any member of the plant kingdom, please remember to honor their contribution to your life.
Take the time to connect with the greater spirit and energy that is in all of us and all things.
Ask if it is OK to be taking this being and using it for your purpose.
Be grateful for the gift.
Be careful and respectful of your harvest techniques. Gather only what is needed.
Give something in return. Offer tobacco, a prayer, a song, some people will leave a bit of their own hair. Do what feels comfortable and respectful to you, but do something.
*Learn as much as you can about your plants allies before you use them. Use at least 3 sources of reference and pictures to make sure you know you have correctly identified what you have found.
*Make sure of the “cleanliness” of the places you are picking – do people walk their dogs there… is it far enough from the road- 25 to 50 feet ….was there something built there before that could have been toxic to the earth? Certain plants grow in places where the ground/water is needing help to clean itself. Like Lambs’ Quarters, Amaranth, Cattails, Ground Ivy/Creeping Charlie.
*The very same plants grow in other areas that are safe and clean so they are clean to eat – knowing the difference in “how” they grow for that situation can be of benefit. This is where communicating and asking if it is OK for you to pick them is very important. The plants will tell you- no.
*Using plants as a food/nutrition source vs “medicine” are not completely different processes, rather they are just two different spots on the continuum of integrating plants into your life.
Bevin Claire notes the spectrum goes all the way to “poison” , however many plants that people know to be “toxic” when used by a knowledgeable practitioner in the proper dose/way can have huge healing effects.
But there is a whole lot of leeway and ground to cover before you get to that point. Think of making whole salad out of Echinacea leaves or yarrow leaves – not too tasty…. But a few leaves in a cup of tea- that’s different, not really a “food/tonic” , definitely more of a medicine, but pretty safe to use and try and not on the “toxic” end of the scale.
Use your tools to ID your herbs and get out there and have fun!
Amaranth – Amaranthus spp.
Nearly 40 species. All are edible. Seed head and general growth/shape of plant has similar appearance – but – leaves are different shape. They are in the same family of plants as beets and spinaches.
Generally, a “hot weather plant” it does not really get growing until mid/late summer.
You can eat the entire young plant until the stems start to get tough. Steaming them lightly makes the more mature stems palatable and soft. Once the plant starts to go to seed the stems become woody. At this point you can still pick the individual leaves and eat them. I harvest leaves well into the early winter, when I can still get to them.
When I first learned about Amaranth I tried (only one time!) to harvest enough seeds to make a loaf of bread! My personal experiment was not that successful as the seeds are very small. Now, each season, I collect with the focus of gathering the seeds to use as additions to cereals and things like that.
An easy way to collect the seeds is put the cut plant top, seed side down (upside down) in a paper bag. Every couple days, shake it around and make sure air is moving thru the plant, as the seeds dry they drop off into the bottom of the bag.
Dried or frozen leaves can be added to soups and other cooked dishes. Leaves can be frozen along with other greens to add to green smoothies in the winter.
If storage space is an issue and you have the time, drying the leaves and then powdering them using a food processor is a great way to get a lot of green nutrition packed into a small space.
Amaranth leaves are nutritionally similar to beets, Swiss chard and spinach, but are much superior. For example, amaranth leaves contain three times more calcium and three times more niacin (vitamin B3) than spinach leaves. The leaves are an excellent source of carotene, iron, calcium, protein, vitamin C, magnesium and of the amino acid Lysine.
Purslane- Portulaca oleracea
Purslane leaves appear thick and are mucilaginous. Leaves and tender stems have a slightly sour, and salty taste. In addition to succulent stems and leaves, its yellow flower buds are also edible. Purslane is somewhat crunchy and has a slight lemony taste. I think it tastes kind of like a cucumber. Some people liken it to watercress or spinach, and it can substitute for spinach in many recipes. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches. They can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried. Purslane’s high level of pectin (known to lower cholesterol) thickens soups, stews and green smoothies. It makes a great pesto. Purslane seeds, appear like black tea powder, are often used to make some herbal drinks .Fresh leaves contain surprisingly more omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid) than any other leafy vegetable plant. 100 grams of fresh purslane leaves provide about 350 mg of α-linolenic acid. Research studies show that consumption of foods rich in ω-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and help prevent the development of ADHD, autism, and other developmental differences in children.
Purslane contains two types of potent anti-oxidants and have been found to have anti-mutagenic properties in laboratory studies. [Proc. West. Pharmacol. Soc. 45: 101-103 (2002)] Purslane may be a common plant, but it is uncommonly good for you and is one of the richest known plant sources of ALA – an essential omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Omega-3s are a class of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids. Your body cannot manufacture essential fatty acids, so you must get them from food. The typical American diet contains too few omega-3s, a shortage that is linked to a barrage of illnesses including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease Purslane it is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals it provides six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. It’s also rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus
Common Lambs quarters -Chenopodium album
is a rapidly growing summer annual weed. Height averages 3 feet (90 cm), but may vary from a few inches to 6 feet (1.8 m). The extremely variable growth behavior of lambs quarters enables the plant to adapt to almost any environmental condition. Lamb’s quarter thrives as a common weed in gardens, near streams, rivers, forest clearings, waste places and pretty much anywhere. It is very hardy and grows in many areas throughout the U.S. and Canada .
Lambs Quarters is an annual wild edible that from a distance tends to always looks dusty; this is because there is a white powdery coating on the leaves. Lambs Quarters is a purifying plant and helps to restore healthy nutrients to the soil if need be. However, if there is a large patch of lamb’s quarters, be sure that the soil is relatively good and not contaminated. This unique plant tends to spread quickly in areas in which soil is contaminated in order to restore nutrients. This wild edible has an earthy, mineral rich taste; some say is close to chard. If you enjoy leafy greens such as kale, collards, and spinach then chances are you will like lambs quarter. One lamb’s quarter plant can produce up to 75,000 seeds. It produces tiny green flowers that form in clusters on top of spikes, and the leaves resemble the shape of a goosefoot. Leaves vary in shape from triangular to ovate to lanceolate. Lower leaves may have a goosefoot shape, while upper ones are linear. Mature plants are pyramidal, have many branches, and are crowded with clustered spikes of dull green flowers. Flower clusters are located at the ends of stems and branches or in the crooks (axils) of the upper leaves. Flowers are small, mealy, and green. Edible parts: Leaves, shoots, seeds, flowers. Saponins in the seeds are potentially toxic and should not be consumed in excess. Lamb’s quarters contain some oxalic acid therefore when eating this raw, small quantities are recommended. Cooking removes this acid. Lamb’s quarter can be eaten in salads or added to smoothies and juices. Steaming this edible weed is one method of cooking, or can be added to soups, sautés and much more. Drying this wild edible is one way to add this nutritious plant to your meals throughout the winter or you can blanch and freeze the leaves.
Lambs quarter Seeds
Protein 19.6 grams
Fat 4.2 grams
Carbos 57.7 grams Fiber 27.1 grams
Calcium 1036 mg
Potassium 1687 mg
Niacin 3800 mg
Iron 64 mg
Lambs quarter Shoots
Protein 3.5 g
Carbos 5.5 g
Calcium 324 mg
Potassium 684 mg
Beta Carotene 3800 ug
Niacin 1000 ug
Iron 1.5 mg