Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Photo Update May 29th

The back gardens

raspberry patch
this mornings eggs
onion patch
peas climbing the garage
tomatoes and peppers
pallet greens garden

the girls
kale and collards
the girls
the girls
the girls

trees in bloom
the back garden
the girls




squash garden
the back garden

herbs and medicinals

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Herbal Allies and Wild Food from the Backyard

Now that my garden is in and growing for the season, I thought it would be a good time to take a look around at some of the wild food and herbal allies on my property. Next time you go to mow down those "weeds" or pull them out, you might want to stop and look closer. Green food and green medicine is all around us.

Symphytum The mucilage of Comfrey heals and soothes irritated tissues. The roots and leaves are astringents, mucilaginous and contain allantoin. Comfrey is really useful externally on cuts, scrapes and burns and as a infusion to soak healing and sore tissues. I use Comfrey for postpartum soaks for the the mama's I midwife. It also makes a great healing salve for all those scrapes my daughter gets sliding into home plate at softball. Comfrey has wonderful internal uses too, however, it can be toxic so I recommend you consult someone knowledgeable or learn more about this plant before using it internally.

Greater Celadine
Chelidonium majus
Greater Celadine has leaves that look like oak leaves, yellow flowers and grows just about 30 inches high.The juice of Greater Celadine is used externally for all kinds of skin disorders, corns, warts, infections and incurable herpes. Internally Greater Celadine can lower blood pressure, help stomach ailments, aid digestion, cure constipation, help with gallbladder issues, bile production, and relieve toothaches.

Jewel Weed 
Jewel Weed is an extremely important plant to get to know, especially for those of us who spend a lot of time outside in the wild. Jewel weed is the go to plant for skin irritations. If you touch poison ivy and rub jewel weed juice on the spot right away you probably won't get the rash. You can make a poultice or cream to treat poison ivy you already have. If you rub fresh jewel weed juice from the plants stem on a mosquito bite and leave it for 20 minutes the sting will go away.  It can be used for warts, bruises, and fungal skin infections. It has succulent, translucent, hollow, stem, powdered with a pale blue-green, waxy bloom and partitioned by nodes, making the plant easy to identify. It grows orange trumpet shaped flowers. Jewel weed grows up to five feet tall, branching toward the top, and toughening with age.

Common Plantain
Plantago Major
This is a very common lawn "weed". If you shred the leaves of plantain and you can cure new mosquito bites by repeatedly applying the juice for 15 minutes. It also helps heal poison ivy rash and relieve virtually any skin irritation. A tea made from the leaves of Plantain works well as a remedy for colds, flu, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, fevers, hypertension, rheumatism, bladder problems, gastritis, ulcers, irritable bowel, cystitis, sinusitis, coughs, kidney stones, intestinal complaints, goiter, PMS, regulating menstrual flow, hoarseness, congestion, hay fever, diarrhea, and as a blood sugar stabilizer in diabetics. Plantain is a dicot with parallel leaves and a slender flower stalk. It is rich in Vitamin A, C and K.

If you want to learn more about Wild Food or plant identification I recommend the following resources: 


Edible Plants of the NorthEast pamphlet, compliled by John Root
My Favorite Plants by Blanch Derby
Edible Plants Video's by Blanche Derby

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Growing Local Food - Buying Local Food

It is May already! I've managed to get plenty of greens in the garden, along with beets, carrots, onions, herbs, strawberries and kiwis. Being outside and digging in the dirt has been really healing. The tomatoes and peppers that I started on the sun porch are happily growing and getting to be several inches tall. I have about 150 started plants that are just waiting for warmer weather. It will still be a few more weeks before I can plant those. I may see tomatoes from my indoor window boxes in the next week or two. I will attempt to wait patiently for the first CSA share of the season from Many Hands Farm Corp.

Meanwhile, I thought it was a good time of the year to talk about buying local food and have a review of some ways to buy responsibly. Just because it is at your local grocery store doesn't not mean your food is local. The same is true for the big fancy "health" food type stores (yes I mean Whole Foods). Food is often trucked in out of season from far off lands. Pay attention to the labeling and you'll find there is actually a lot less local or organic food then you may have been led to believe.

The best place to start when trying to buy local is at the source with your local farmer. Many local farms offer CSA shares of local produce and some also have winter shares and/or greenhouses, hoop houses where they grow greens throughout the winter and spring when not much is in season. You can often get local milk, cheese and honey from local farms too. Here in western, Massachusetts I can also get grains and beans grown locally. To find local farms and CSA's near you start at CISA's website http://buylocalfood.org/

One step out from the farmer are small local producers of food and your small local store. Buying from local bakeries, cooperatives and small local stores that carry local and/or organic food keeps your dollars in your community and sends the message that you support the continue presence of this resources in your community.

When you do have to go to the big grocery stores try to pay attention to where products come from, ask questions of the produce managers, make a request for more local food! When you buy food and other non produce items try to buy local when possible, organic is possible and to think about who you are giving your money to! To get the low down on the priorities and environmental/social record of some of these companies check out the Better World Shopper rankings.

You are what you eat so let's all try to put our money/energy where our mouth is and eat closer to home and closer to the garden. 

Waiting anxiously for the garden to grow....