Category Archives: Wild food

Red Clover

Red Clover is another one of my favorite medicinal, nourishing herbs that I use on a regular basis, not only for the human body, but for the land. We have red cover planted in a few places here on the farm, in our back yard among the grasses and in the orchard meadow, we do that because clover is a legume and naturally fixes nitrogen in to the soil, along with deep roots and a lot of biomass, its a great ally to have in a permaculture landscape. But that is not what I want to focus on for this post (believe me, I will be writing more on the benefits of clover for the garden) I want to focus on the benefits clover has for the human body, specifically for the female human body.
IMG_6715

 

One of the most cherished of the fertility-increasing plants is red clover (Trifolium pratense). Common in fields and along roadsides, it has bright pink (not really red) blossoms from mid-summer into the chilly days of fall. A favorite flower of the honeybees, the tops (blossoms and appending leaves) are harvested on bright sunny days and eaten as is, or dried for medicinal use.

Susun Weed

IMG_6724
Unlike soy, which is also a legume Red Clover has phytosterols:  “Phytosterols are hormone-like substances found in many plants that can be bio-converted in the human gut into active anti-cancer estrogens and other helpful anti-stress hormones”. 

Red Clover is also known to help with infertility and all hormone related issues in women.

 

…A favorite flower of the honeybees, the tops (blossoms and appending leaves) are harvested on bright sunny days and eaten as is, or dried for medicinal use. The raw blossoms are delicious in salads and nutritious when cooked with grains such as rice or millet.

To make a fertility-enhancing infusion, I take one ounce by weight of the dried blossoms (fresh won’t work for this application) and put them in a quart size canning jar. I fill the jar with boiling water, screw on a tight lid, and let it steep at room temperature overnight (or for at least four hours). Dozens of women have told me that they had successful pregnancies after drinking a cup or more (up to four cups) a day of red clover infusion.

It is especially helpful if there is scarring of the fallopian tubes, irregular menses, abnormal cells in the reproductive tract, or “unexplained” infertility. It may take several months for the full effect of this herb to come on and pregnancy may not occurs until you have used it for a year or two. You can improve the taste by including some dried peppermint (a spoonful or two) along with the dried clover blossoms when making your infusion. Treat the father of the child-to-be to some red clover infusion, too!

Susun Weed

IMG_6723When the clover gets tall and starts to blossom its time to harvest! Cover is a fun herb to harvest, especially for the little kids, its very simple, just pop the flower off.  My little ones like to recite the line “Mama had a baby and her head popped off!” while picking clover, they also like to snack on the blossoms as we gather. We get a big paper grocery sack and fill it up about half way full.  you have to be careful drying clover blossoms, they need a lot of air flow to dry without molding.  Some people suggest laying the blossoms in a basket in a single layer not touching.  I don’t have the room to dry herbs that way, so I put them the paper grocery sack and leave it on the kitchen counter where I see it often, and several times a day I give it a shake or stir. The paper helps wick away the moisture and stirring it often keeps the blossoms separate and allows for air flow. It takes about two weeks to dry in my neck of the woods, but we are dry, it  will take longer in more humid climates.

IMG_6721Red Clover is an infusion that I use in my regular rotation, I plan on making it my ally when I move from child bearing years to my menopausal years and beyond.
IMG_6725

More informaiton on the uses of Red Clover:

Herbal Information Sheet

Red Clover and Fibroids

Herbs for Fertility

Menopause 

 

 

Plantain, Nature’s Band-aid

Plantain is another favorite medicinal weed of mine. This plant can easily be found in lawns, cracks of sidewalks, along roadways and in abandoned fields. Plantain is native to Europe and Asia, and now can be found throughout North America.There are two main varieties of plantain: broad leaf and narrow leaf, both can be used medicinally and have the same action as each other.

plantain1

Broad leaf plantain

plantain-2

Narrow leaf plantain

Here at Quail Run Farm we cultivate the narrow leaf plantain in our orchard meadow.  It is one of the plantings I use around the base of our fruit trees. Plantain is a “pioneer plant” when the soil is harsh or has been disturbed plantain likes to come in and clean things up, making the environment more suitable for other plants. That is why you will find plantain along sidewalks and roads, and one of the reasons I have chosen it for planting in the Orchard Meadow.  The land here is very abused, very infertile, lacking organic matter and vitality.  Plantain has a deep tap root, it will going down into the soil, nice and deep breaking up hard dirt and adding organic materials.  At the surface it is great for “chop and drop”, several times a year I can just cop the leaves and leave them right on the ground, thus adding organic matter and mulch, helping retain moisture and add fertility. However my favorite thing about plantain is its medicinal properties!
IMG_6263

One of plantain’s most common uses is as a poultice for stings, bites, scrapes and rashes. The simplest way to harness plantain’s healing powers is to crush a few fresh leaves, and apply to the affected area. Replace fresh leaves as necessary. The fresh plantain “juice” takes the pain away and seems to work wonders at staunching blood flow and closing wound edges. It’s also wonderfully refreshing and soothing to sunburn.

Plantain infusion (tea) can also be used as a soothing wash for sunburn, windburn, rashes, or wounds. To make a plantain infusion, simply add a small handful of fresh plantain leaves to a cup or two of water, and bring to a gentle boil. Turn off heat, and let steep, then strain out the leaves. The infusion is best when fresh, although it can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

http://www.prairielandherbs.com/plantain.htm

Whenever my children have a cut or insect sting, I walk out to the meadow, pick a leaf and chew it up (my kids think that is so gross) and apply a bit of the macerated leaf to the wound and cover with a band-aid.  The pain and irritation go away quickly and in the case of a open sore, heals very fast.

Plantain leaf ointment can stop itching faster than anything I’ve ever used, and it eases even the most intense itches. From diaper rash to flea bites, eczema to dry skin, plantain turns tears of pain to smiles of relief. New mothers swear by plantain ointment as a diaper cream, both to prevent and to treat diaper rash. It relieves the itch of heat rash and poison ivy/oak rash, too.

Susun Weed 

In the winter time, however, there is not fresh plantain available, it is sleeping deeply under the snow and frozen ground. My favorite way to preserve plantain for medical use is to make an infused oil.  It’s a very simple process that I will walk you through.

After picking the plantain leaves I do a quick shake to get dust off, but I do not wash the leaves.  Any water left on those leaves may promote spoiling while it is infusing, and because my orchard is not sprayed I don’t need to wash off any herbicide, and any other things that may be clinging to the leaves are good for our immune system and microbiology. I chop the leaves roughly and then pack them as tightly as I can in a quart canning jar, over that I pour olive oil, using a chop stick or butter knife to get out as many bubbles as I can.  The jar is then labeled with a date and stored in my pantry for six weeks.  When the six weeks are up the leaves are strained out and the oil is stored in a cool dark place.  This oil will be good for about a year.  The oil can also be used to make an ointment by adding bees wax, something I will be experimenting with this summer.

Plantain, another glorious weed, a treasure chest of healing right at our feet.
IMG_6265

IMG_6266

Things that attract

IMG_40231At some point you may want to try to attract a specific animal, insect, or plant to live on your property.  I have heard people talk about wanting to have more birds, butterflies, and other things visit, and or live on their property.  Many times, people will plant a specific plant, put in a bird house, or a water feature in the hopes that they will attract wildlife.  But then they are disappointed when over time the visitor does not come.  I have learned that it can be tricky to attract living things to your property.  But there are some things you can do that will greatly enhance your ability to attract animals, insects, and birds if you first understand the living organism first.

Every living thing needs three things to survive.  Insects, animals, and plants all need these three essential things to thrive and live in an environment.  If you want to attract specific insects, animals, or plants to your property, you need to supply them with the correct, water, food, and shelter.

First, every living organism needs water.  If you can provide the water that the living system needs, you have over come the first obstacle.  Not only do they need water, but they need the correct, amount, type, and source of water.  Some animals need running water, while others need standing water.  When you research what water the living organism needs that you want to attract, you have to keep in mind the depth, flow, temperature, mineral content, and a number of other things. To make the environment livable for a specific creature, you need to supply the correct amount of water.  It is not about making water available, but about making the correct amount, and type of water available.

For example, if you want to attract bees to your property, one way to do that is to give the bees a shallow pool of water that they can stop in and drink from.  Most people only concentrate on the flowers or the food bees need of attract them, but water can also attract bees. This article talks specifically about bees and how to provide water for them: Thirsty bees

Source: Root Simple – low tech home tech

Purple-throated carib hummingbird feeding.

Second, all living organisms have a need food.  Everything has to consume some type of food to survive.  For plants it is not only minerals from the ground, but also energy from the sun.  If you can supply the correct type of food for the living creature, you can attract it, and encourage it to stay on your property.  Food sources could include plants, insects, and other animals.   If you want to attract certain types of birds, you may need to also attract the insects that they use as a food source.  Food sources can very drastically from one species to another.  It is very important that you research what food source, and types of food the organism needs that you are trying to attract.

For Example,  if you want to attract a specific type of bird to your property, you would need to research the type of flowers, that those birds are attracted to.  Birds are so varied in their food sources that research is key.  Hummingbirds enjoy different flowers than a swallow would enjoy.  And if you are trying to attract birds of prey, it is not the flowers that will attract them, but the animals that are attracted by the flowers.

Apiary in South Carolina

Third, all organisms need some type of shelter.  Shelter serves several purposes.  It allows the creature to stay out of the elements if it needs to.  It can keep snow, rain, sun and other elements away when they could become to harsh for the creature to survive.  But it can also provide a place for the creature to hide from predators as well.  Shelters will be different for most living creatures.  If you want to attract a specific type of bird, you will probably need a specific type of nesting box.

On thing that we have tried is to create an area where insects can find a home on Quail Run Farm.  We have created our Fairy Hotel to try to encourage insects to take up residence.  We have also encouraged Kestrels to take up residence on the property by having a Kestrel nesting box put in place.

CONCLUSION

If you want to attract a living organism to your property or yard, you need to do some research.  If you can find out what type of water, food, and shelter the organism needs, you may be able to get it to take up residence in your yard.

You will also want to eliminate habitat for the predators of the creatures you are trying to attract.  Pets can also keep certain creatures from finding your property a place they want to habitat.

The opposite is also true.  If you have a pest that you want to get rid of, you can declare war on that pest by eliminating one or all three of the things they need to survive.  For example, you don’t like snakes around your yard, then eliminate the food source, or the shelter for the snake.  You will find that you can do things to convince almost any living creature to move on, and find water, food or shelter in another yard.

Dandelion

IMG_6064
One of the first flowers of the spring season is the much maligned dandelion.  Dandelion the bane of the manicured lawn. The cash cow of herbicide companies.

Dandelion, she is my friend and ally and I rejoice at her appearance.
IMG_6061
The uses for Dandelion are numerous: greens for salad, flowers for wines and jelly, all parts of the plant are medicinal and they are one of the first spring food for the bees and other beneficial insects.

Dandelion captures the heat and energy of the sun and lights a fire in the digestive track, helping nourish and heal.  It is a liver tonic, strengthening  and healing this most important organ.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) is a persistent perennial of lawns and gardens and one of the best-known medicinal herbs in the world. All parts – the root, the leaves, the flowers, even the flower stalk – strengthen the liver. A dose of 10-20 drops of the tincture (0.5-1 ml) relieves gas, heartburn, and indigestion, as well as promoting healthy bowel movements. A tablespoon of the vinegar works well, too. More importantly, taken before meals, dandelion increases the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, thus increasing bio-availability of many nutrients, especially calcium. And the oil of the flowers is an important massage balm for maintaining healthy breasts. (There’s lots more information on dandelion in Healing Wise.)

Susun Weed

IMG_6060I am very careful when harvesting dandelion blossoms, to only take about half of what is there, leaving the rest of the flowers for the bees and to mature and spread its seeds.  Later in the fall I will harvest roots, taking only about half of the plants, giving thanks for gift of these weeds at my finger tips.
IMG_6057You can always tell it is spring on the farm when my kitchen window seal and the shelves in my pantry are filled with infusing oils.  The vinegars will be used in recipes and salad dressing. The oil will be made into salves and used as is on the skin to invigorate and refresh, giving the fire and energy of the sun to the body, the tincture and a digestive aid and liver tonic. I love using these simple plants that are right outside my door step to feed and nourish my family.

IMG_6093

Violets

IMG_6056
When I was a little girl we lived for a time in an apartment off the house of my great-grandparents.  The property was nice and large, with a corral and barn in the back and big lawns in the front. It was a great place for a little girl to explore.  In the spring time the lawns would be full of fragrant little violets. That was before everyone was so obsessed with thick green lawns of Kentucky blue grass, the lawns were more diverse, along with grass there would be clovers, violets and other such small plants.  It was beautiful and healthy for the lawn and land around it. I loved those violets, I would pick them by the fist full and breath in their fragrance.
IMG_6055
We lived there a year or two and moved on to a newly built home in a new neighborhood.  There were a lot of new lawns and no violets.  I think I forgot about them for a few years until we moved again to the most enchanting house.  The home was a the long time residence of an elderly couple who had raised their family there and then passed on.  They were gardeners and created the most beautiful gardens, the perfect place for such a girl as I was, full of day dreams and stories, always looking for the fairies and talking flowers. There was a particular area on the side of the house that was planted with many low lying trees and to my delight that first spring the fiddle shaped heads of ferns started pushing up.  I loved watching those green beauties making their appearance, ferns are very uncommon here in the high desert, this little micro climate was special indeed.  Among the ferns, little purple ladies bloomed, my beloved violets! Once again I basked in the beauty and fragrance of my dear little violets.
IMG_6053We left that home too, after a couple years, but I never forgot about my violets and I’ve wondered how to get a hold of these antique spring flowers.  Then about a  year ago I went to see my sister’s new house, and what was there to greet me at the door?  A carpet of sweet little violets “we are here!” they called!  This spring my sister brought me a little pot of violets, they will make their home in the orchard meadow among my other little botanical treasures.

Interesting, in the year since I saw the violets at my sister’s house I researched them a little more and found they are a wonderful medicinal.


  • Use the leaves, harvested any time, even during flowering.
  • Externally: Eases pain and inflammation, heals mouth sores, softens skin, antifungal.
  • Daily dose: Use without limit, non-toxic.
  • Fresh leaves: in salad, as desired.
  • Dried leaf infusion: up to one quart (1 liter).
  • Fresh or dried leaf poultice: continuously.
  • Internal and external use of violet can shrink a breast lump in a month.

.

 

Susun Weed


Not only will my little darlings bring a splash of color and scent to my meadow in the spring she will nourish and heal my body.  I am so excited to make violet honey, vinegar, oil and tinctures in the next few years once she is well established here on the farm.


Violet Syrup

Yields 3 cups/750ml

½ lb/225g fresh violets

2 cups/500 ml water

2 cups/500ml honey

Enlist all the help you can to pick violet blossoms.  Boil water;  pour over blossoms;  cover.  Let steep overnight in non-metallic container.  Strain out flowers.  Reserve purple liquid.  Alternate method for loners:  pour 2 cups/500ml boiling water over as many flowers as you can get.  Strain liquid.  Reheat and pour over the next day’s harvest.  Do this daily until your liquid is pleasingly violaceous (purple).  Combine mauve-colored liquid and honey.  Simmer gently, stirring, for ten or fifteen minutes, until it seems like syrup.  Fill clean jars.  Cool.  Keep well chilled to preserve.

Preparation time:  Hours and hours of picking await you, and all in pursuit of some purple-colored sugar water.  Or is there more to it than that?  Perhaps Aunt Violet will open a gateway to ecstasy for you.  Uncle Euell Gibbons pours his on hot broiled grapefruit and proclaims, “Utterly delicious!”

Copyright 2011 Excerpted from Healing Wise by Susun Weed

 

Healing Wise (Wise Woman Herbal Series)

The Not So Common Mallow

IMG_5889

One of my little Mallow plants emerging, you can see the stems from last years plants dead and brown around the new growth. She will be a magnificent plant come summertime.

 

Every spring, when the snow has melted, finds me on the hunt for the first wild greens of the season, Dandelion is usually one of the very first wild edibles, but even before the Dandelion comes the quiet Common Mallow. She lies close to the ground with her delicate little flowers and unique leaves, she is usually called a weed and is sprayed and pulled, but she is much more.  As kids we would eat the little flower buds and call them cheesies, little did we know the whole plant was edible and how incredibly nutritious our little “cheesies” were.

The common mallow is part of the large family of Malvaceae plants that include cotton, okra and hibiscus. It is an edible plant that has been used for medicinal care as well as food. The fruits are round and have cheese-like wedges which give the common mallow its nickname, cheese plant. Mallow stems are flexible and come from a central point, often lounging on the ground. This wild edible is used as herbal medicine in a variety of ways. It is an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, demulcent, emollient, laxative and an expectorant.

Distinguishing Features: Common mallow is a winter or summer annual or biennial, freely branching at the base, with a prostrate growth habit. It is a low growing weed, with a deep fleshy tap root. The seeds germinate through the summer and broken stems can also root. This plant has stems that originate from a deep tap root and are low spreading with branches that reach from a few centimeters to almost 60 centimeters long.

Flowers: The flowers are borne either singly or in clusters in the leaf axils blooming from June to late autumn. They have 5 petals and are white, pinkish or lilac flowers that measure on average, 1 to 1.5 cm across.

Leaves: Common mallow leaves are alternate, on long petioles, circular to kidney-shaped, toothed and shallowly 5-9 lobed, 2-6 cm wide. Short hairs present on upper and lower leaf surfaces, margins and petioles.

Height: This plant can grow anywhere from 10 to 60 cm in length.

Habitat: The common mallow likes to grow in lawns, gardens, roadsides, waste areas and cropland. It originated in Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa and is also in the Americas and Australia.

Edible parts: All parts of this plant are edible. The leaves can be added to a salad, the fruit can be a substitute for capers and the flowers can be tossed into a salad. When cooked, the leaves create a mucus very similar to okra and can be used as a thickener to soups and stews. The flavor of the leaves is mild. Dried leaves can be used for tea. Mallow roots release a thick mucus when boiled in water. The thick liquid that is created can be beaten to make a meringue-like substitute for egg whites. Common mallow leaves are rich in vitamins A and C as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium.

Similar plants: Marshmallow.

http://www.ediblewildfood.com/mallow.aspx

I have never used Mallow medicinally, but this year I will, I have a large patch in my garden area and her little leaves are calling to me, I feel like there is a treasure waiting to be discovered in my little Mallow.

Mallow’s repute as a ‘cure-all’ medicine in the earlier times was owing to the fact that the herb, particularly its roots, encloses substantial quantity of mucilage (a glue-like substance secreted by some plants that are rich in protein and carbohydrates). Owing to the high presence of this jelly-like substance in mallow, rural herbal practitioners recommended the herb to heal digestive and urinary tract swellings and irritations (inflammations). However, mallow is more popular for its therapeutic qualities of relieving the mucous membranes lining the upper respiratory system, particularly when suffering from colds. In addition, the mucilage present in mallow also has the ability to control coughs set off by irritation or inflammation. Mallow is popular even today and is beneficial in healing several other ailments. For example, American Indians as well as modern herbal practitioners recommend using poultices (moist substances applied to injuries) prepared from the herb or its derivatives to alleviate pain or soreness from insect stings as well as swellings in the body.

http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_mallow.htm

I am a voracious user of medicinal herbs, I have dozens sitting on my pantry shelves, and I make and drink herbal infusions (and make my family) daily.  It is exciting to me to find an herb, such as this, growing not only in my garden, but in abundance.  I take it as a sign, that she is to be harvested, used and loved.

IMG_5925 IMG_5926