Sunday, April 30, 2017

7 Great Weeds Waiting Outside Right Now

At this time of year, we gardeners look out at the garden and wonder if we'll ever get things in shape again.  In fact, it seems to be early here in our little 6b zone in PA.
Those plants are waiting to help you.  Many of them are delicious edibles, and all of them offer vast quantities of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial properties.  Here's a very short intro.  You CAN learn to love them.


Chickweed has many uses.  It is extremely nutritious, full of vitamins and minerals,  and can be added to soups, stews, egg dishes, and salads.  It makes a fabulous pesto! It is best used fresh, but grows constantly throughout the year in most regions.  I can usually find it beneath the snow if I look in protected areas under trees and shrubs, or against buildings. Many herbalists suggest chickweed for weight loss.  It contains saponins, which may help to bind fats and remove them from the body.
Gail Faith Edwards wrote, “Chickweed has great healing, cooling, drawing, and dissolving abilities.  Try it when you want to bring a boil or pimple to a head, dry up herpes blisters, clean up an infected wound, or extract a splinter.  Applied as a poultice, chickweed stops infection by weakening bacteria cell walls."


This clingy, leggy springtime weed has a lot to offer! It can help clear the lymph system, and we have lymph nodes all over our bodies. It is a diuretic and helps with bladder, liver, and kidney issues, in turn helping with skin issues that result from an overworked liver.  In fact, most of what I've learned is that cleavers is the "spring cleaner" of the body. Don't overlook this weed.  It is best used fresh, so it is commonly tinctured or juiced.


The roots are used to purify blood, cleanse & detoxify the liver, improve digestion and many other conditions.  The whole plant contains high amounts of vitamins and minerals. The flowers are infused in oil to use externally on aches and pains, and the yellow rays are used in wine, jelly, and baked goods.  The leaves are an excellent diuretic that does not pull potassium from the body.  There is a real theme here, isn't there?  In the early spring, the plants help us to get rid of the sludge that we've built up over the winter!

Garlic Mustard

I haven't seen a lot of health benefits attributed to this weed yet, but there are an infinite number of recipes out there on the web with a simple search. Let's face it, pesto makes a LOT of sense with this one!  And it is everywhere. This delicious green has a mild garlic flavor. It is chock full of good stuff, including minerals galore, like potassium, calcium, selenium, magnesium, copper, iron and manganese. Vitamins A and C are in there, and it is one of those precious plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The roots can be processed and used very similarly to horseradish.  As they say... If you can't beat it, eat it!

Stinging Nettles

Ahhh... I daydream about the nettles towards the end of February.  This emerald beauty, though tricky to harvest, has something about it so that when you eat it, you can sense that you have been nourished in a very profound way.  It is one of the herbs that work as a "nourishing infusion" but I like to steam it, add butter, and eat it.  We tincture it particularly to help with spring allergies (and are thankful that it shows up right on time), and dry it for teas.  There are packages of whole leaves in the freezer for meals later in the year.
According to herbalist Susan Evans, "Nettle is very high in iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamin B complex, A, C, K and chlorophyll. I use it in most of my teas and elixirs; it’s just so darn good for you. It has been used for chronic urinary infections and bladder problems, joint pain, to nourish the nervous system, support bones, relieve exhausted adrenals, lower blood pressure, give you a full, healthy head of hair, and for seasonal allergies. The roots are used to relieve symptoms of benign prostate hyperplasia."


In early spring, add some leaves of plantain to your salads, soups, or potherbs. It is high in calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous, zinc, copper and cobalt and vitamins A, C, and K. It soothes the entire intestinal tract with the mucilage it contains.  Kristine Brown writes, "Medicinally, Plantain is alterative, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anthelmintic, antivenomous, astringent, expectorant, decongestant, demulcent, deobstruent, depurative, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, hemostatic, kidney tonic, ophthalmic, mucilaginous, refrigerant, restorative and vulnerary."
We use it constantly for stings from bees, spiders, and bugs, or for plant rashes (like when we're harvesting nettle).

Raspberry leaves

Our local wild raspberries are black raspberries.  The leaves make a delicious herbal tea AND they have pretty much the same benefits that we've learned apply to red raspberries - such as being a tonic for the female reproductive system, a cooling herb for hot weather, and for relieving stomach pain. It's been used for mouth sores and gum issues, too. Lots of magnesium, potassium, iron, and B vitamins!

That's a good start, isn't it?  As the days go on, there will be more and different weeds coming to help us.  In fact, if you look at the right hand corner of the raspberry picture above, you'll see jewelweed starting to put out true leaves.  Our helpers and allies are everywhere.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Purple Archangel (Dead Nettle) Enchiladas by Jamie Jackson

In the current issue of The Essential Herbal we asked our friends and readers to share their favorite wild plant dishes.  We got many terrific recipes!  Jamie has mentioned these enchiladas in the past and I was thrilled to get the recipe.  Now while the dead nettles are in wild abundance, it's time to try it!

Purple Archangel (Dead Nettle) Enchiladas
Jamie Jackson

I sauté 1.5 quarts purple archangel for 20 minutes in a broth.  Meanwhile, I'm making enchilada sauce:

This is the base recipe, I usually make this x3

1/4 C oil
1/4 C flour (I use GF)
1/2 t black pepper
1/8 t salt
1 t garlic powder
2 t cumin
1/2 t oregano
1 T chili powder
Less than 2 cups of water (you can use broth, but don't add salt)

Cheese for sprinkling on top (a cup or so)

Make just like a gravy.  Fry the flour and spices in oil for a few minutes.  Slowly add the liquid, stirring constantly.  A flat wooden spatula is nice to continuously scrape the bottom of the pan. Simmer on low, until the consistency of enchilada sauce out of can (not thick like gravy, you will be cooking this again.)
Cover thickly the bottom of your pan with the enchilada sauce.

Heat corn tortillas on a hot cast iron comal for a few seconds until they wilt over the side when slid to the edge (usually 11 seconds one side 3-4 seconds the 2nd side.)  Keep them warm in a towel.

Mix 1/4 cup of your enchilada sauce into your cooked greens and stir. 

Put a tortilla on a cutting board, cover the surface with enchilada sauce using a spoon.  Put green filling in the middle along with any shredded cheese, wild chives or whatever else.

Roll up, put in pan on top of the enchilada sauce.  When done, completely smoother with the rest of the enchilada sauce and top with some grated cheese.

Put in the oven till the cheese is melted.  I do mine on the stove top in a massive wok.  I can get about 8 enchiladas in there. I put the flame on low and cover.  I keep peeking till the cheese on top is melted and you are done!
If I think I've smothered the enchiladas enough, I save some of the sauce off for dipping.  Also, if the sauce gets too thick, even if you have the enchiladas already in it, you can add a wee bit of water and sort of stir it with a fork.
This is enough for 8 enchiladas, plus enough for dipping with chips

Friday, April 14, 2017

May/June '17 Essential Herbal (Issue #93)

 Another herbalicious issue hit the mail, and they're available for order (subscription or single issue).  It is as verdant and full of promise as the meadows outside the windows, and everyone will find a favorite article.  Even the printer told me that he intended to try making some seed paper. He's not a particularly herbal guy, but print folk do tend to geek out on paper...
Anyhow, we've already been traveling around and doing a couple shows.  Spring is in full swing.  We really hope you enjoy this issue!

 Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams
   Some rare travels.
About the Cover - Barbara Steele
   Currently teaching    
Seed Paper, Janet Gutierrez  
   Take papermaking to the next step!
The Little Onion that Could, Rita Richardson
   Shallots are so versatile.  Recipes for vinegar or oil.    
Growing with Kathy, Propagation Part II, Kathy Musser
    Propagation using division, layering, and root cuttings.    
Nettles for Nourishment, Kristine Brown
    This brilliant plant can be be an ally in so many ways!    
Branding - Brand Personality Wheel, Angela M. Dellutri
   Have you considered what your brand personality is?    
Make Time for Thyme, Jackie Johnson  
   Though she be but little, she is fierce! Thyme is small but mighty.
5 Innovative Ways to Use Herbs Around the House, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh    
   Ideas, recipes, and inspiration to put those herbs to good use.
Natural Perfumes, Crystal Baldwin
    Have you been wanting to try making your own perfume?  This will help.    
Ginger Citrus Soap, Marci Tsohonis
   I can't wait to make this one.  Spicy AND citrus!  What more could you want?  
 Mistake Becomes Best Seller, Sandy Michelsen
   Every good herbalist eventually "stumbles" on a favorite mistake.    
Use Your Spice Cabinet as Your Medicine Cabinet, Susanna Reppert-Brill
   These everyday spices will come in handy, if you just know when to use them.    
List Article - Wild Foods
   All those wild edible plants outside! Try some of these recipes offered by the Yahoo list and the facebook page readers.
   Pottage, Miranda Hoodenpyl    
     A simple country supper.

See what I mean? 
GREAT issue!