My friends Julie Taggart and Jane McKay had another one of their wonderful workshops the other day (see previous post Wild and Free: A Feast From the Land) and of course I was there. Julie and Jane are proponents of living well and one way they define that is by including nutritious wild plants in their diets, often eating them raw.
This particular workshop concentrated on gathering plants that grow wild (foraging as in days gone by) from which to make a sumptuous lunch. We combined the wild foods we gathered with cultivated offerings from the garden, to make a truly vibrant and alive salad, along with green drinks and pesto for our main course.
As we walked and wandered down Julie’s driveway, we were treated to Jane’s vast knowledge of edible and medicinal plants. I had arrived that day with three nasty bug bites around my eye so Jane sought out some narrow leaf plantain, instructing me to chew its leaves to make a “spit poultice” to put on the bites. I did and was amazed by the immediate relief I experienced. AND, by the next day the bites were all but healed. I’ve since had another bite on the other eye which has troubled me for days, not having provided myself the same treatment. Time to walk my land and find some narrow leaf plantain. You think? In fact poultices made from these leaves are used to treat blisters, sores, ulcers, swelling, earaches and eye ailments as well as helping with all insect stings (for which I now have first-hand experience). And a tea made from the leaves is also used to treat cough, bronchitis and throat colds. Quite a miracle plant.
Another medicinal plant Jane pointed out was yarrow. In Spanish its name means “repair.” It has also been called “soldier’s wound wort” for its use in staunching the flow of blood from wounds. And yarrow tea is said to be a good remedy for colds and kidney disorders.
Jane told us that she makes a point of consciously slowing down and thanking the plants she is harvesting for all they offer. Otherwise she can be too fast-moving and grabby when weeding and gathering, always in a hurry. How much better to acknowledge the remarkable gifts these plants provide and allow their picking to slow our pace and reconnect us to this bountiful earth—another gift they can give.
Of the grasses, Jane said that they offer 98 of the 102 earth elements. High in chlorophyll, they have the capacity to draw toxins from the body and are also rich in vitamins A, B-complex, C, E and K. A wonderful source of nutrition just waiting to be plucked from our fields and tossed in the blender or bowl.
Then there is purslane, that wonderful flowering “weed” we grilled during the last workshop (see previous post Wild and Free: Apricot and Grilled Pursland Salad). It’s so packed with nutrients that it’s pretty much good for just about anything. On this day we gathered a bunch of it to grind into a scrumptious salad dressing.
Jane is a gardener by trade and she finds that she snacks all day as she’s working, pulling weeds for her client. She’s thinking seriously about getting rid of the coffee maker in the gardener’s shed and putting in a blender for green drinks instead. Not a bad idea.
One piece of knowledge that makes so much sense now that I’ve been told, is that when identifying wild edibles you must study the whole plant. I, for instance, was just looking at the blooms and was confused by water hemlock (a poisonous plant) and yarrow, as a result, because their flowers look much the same. But their leaves are nothing alike. It’s clear and simple now, but before taking this workshop, I hadn’t realized that it is imperative to look at an entire plant structure in order to properly identify what I’m seeing.
A bit of folk wisdom that particularly tickled my fancy: If you want to eat well, follow a goat around to see what its eating. They, it is said, only eat plants that are perfectly ripe and in season, which offer the most nutrients as a result, and they won’t touch anything that is poisonous or has gone bad. Hmmm, I wonder if Finn might serve this same function (see previous post Rescue Dog: Meet Finn (Survivor))? Well, no, maybe not. He likes to eat dead things he’s dragged up from the canyon.
Oh, and here’s another potentially valuable piece of information: Bind weed cures insanity. Now THAT’S something I intend to remember!
ADDENDUM: More recently I became ill with Shingles. If you’re not familiar with it, let me just say that it is the most terrible thing I can remember ever experiencing. I shot an email off to Jane to see what she would recommend that might help me heal and recover. She had lots of advice. The first items I used because I already had them in the house: cayenne pepper and St. John’s Wort mixed into a cream base and spread onto the sores. Amazing! It gave me instant relief. I’m also using an oil that combines calendula, arnica flowers and St. John’s Wort. In addition, I’m taking 1000mg lysine three times a day. But the most amazing tip she gave me was to use the juice of Hens and Chickens (you know that sweet succulent found in many rock gardens). Julie called me with this information and said she had some in her garden and was bringing them over. We squeezed them in a garlic press and applied the juice to my wounds. Instantly the itching and burning stopped! But more amazing still was that by the next day I was starting to feel better—this after less than a week when the disease usually takes from two to three weeks at least. And the blisters are starting to heal! I am eternally grateful to have such caring and knowledgeable friends, not to mention the blessings of nature. It’s a rich and abundant world and I am so happy to get this chance to work with mother nature’s bounty to heal myself. Thank you Jane and Julie. Thank you Spirit.
Love to you all,