Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Violet Honey is the Bomb

Another wild green you're likely (and lucky) to come upon is violet. This is a common plant most of us are familiar with, but did you know its flowers are edible? And its leaves are medicinal?

The leaves are traditionally used for respiratory ailments, just as self-heal is, but it is more of an expectorant. These are actually quite strong and work well in remedies for coughs and bronchitis. It's easy to tincture violet, and it also works nicely in salves. Now is a great time to harvest early spring wildflowers and leaves to make early-season salves, tinctures, and to dry for teas.

And how about honeys? I love to harvest fresh herbs, chop them, and cover them with honey. Cover the pot and let it sit overnight, and heat it very gently to strain in the morning. The honey will be fragrant with the scent of the herb you infused in it; violets make a very subtle yet charming and utterly delicious honey.

For more remedies, please visit Vineyard Herbs!


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Wild Greens You Can Eat!

Getting the garden and yard ready for the spring involves shoveling, raking, and of course, weeding. Some of the lovely wildflowers you might encounter in your spring activities are lilies, daffodils and violets, and some of the herbs are violets (considered a medicinal and edible herb as well as a wildflower), self-heal, and mint.

Let's talk about self-heal. It's related to mints, and it boasts dark purple and deep green leaves and flowers similar to oregano. It's also called heal-all, which is a good indicator that in times past, our European and Native American great-grandmothers really treasured this plant for its extensive list of benefits. Today, it is largely forgotten, which is a shame because it's a beautiful little flower that requires no work, it's easy to harvest, it's perennial, and it's actually quite useful.

As a medicinal, self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) is included in many respiratory remedies, not because it is an expectorant but because it soothes and protects. We often forget that our lungs need protecting--doctors teach us to be very pro-expectorant. Get that mucous out! Get that coughing out! They like to evacuate fluids from the body. It's very satisfying for them, and is has been for centuries. (To learn more about evacuation medicine and the alarming practices of purging and blood-letting, read  Green Pharmacy by Barbara Griggs.) Self-heal is mucilaginous, so it soothes sore and raw bronchial tissues and helps them relax.

When you're in the garden and you cut yourself, reach for self-heal. Chew the leaves briefly until the mass feels thick and wet in your mouth. Apply this poultice to the cut, and know that you are providing your body with quick, easy and 100% natural juices that will work much more nicely than a tube of stuff from the drug-store.

For more natural wound or bronchial remedies, harvested from fresh plants, please visit Vineyard Herbs.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Wild Greens You Can Eat!

Well, it's been exactly a month since my last posting, and boy has it been busy! My son's 11th birthday this week and my daughter's 9th next week; I'm getting certified as a holistic life coach, which is wonderful since I already incorporate coaching into my herb consultations and I've long been a practitioner of manifestation; and spring-time--it's here! Working in the yard is a great way to begin this new vibrant season.

Herbs you may come across at this chilly but sunny time are watercress and mustard. These are sharp and pungent herbs that are slightly bitter, and these tastes tell us a lot of what these herbs do for us. Pungent herbs (others include pepper, garlic, and yarrow, for example) get our blood moving and bring blood flow from the core to the periphery, which often makes us sweat. Arugula does this nicely in salads, complementing the sweet buttery lettuces with a sharp bite.

When you come across watercress (in cool, shady and wet places like streams and ponds) or mustard (often called cress or creasy greens, growing in farmlands and gardens), please harvest them. Take scissors and snip off the tops, and when you have a large bunch or bagful, place them in the top of a steamer on the stove and steam them as you would turnip greens. Watercress can be eaten raw, but mustard is too spicy and also very bitter unless it's steamed or otherwise cooked. Of course, this bitterness is what "blood cleansing herbs" are all about, waking up our digestive systems after a sluggish winter, but if it's too bitter it's hard to eat! Once steamed (or boiled), drizzle with olive oil and plenty of vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add fun things you might desire: walnuts, feta cheese, or even cranberries. This makes a lovely bright green side dish, and it's very nutritious! What a great way to eat wild greens!