"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Few Rambling Thoughts on Wild Edible Herbs and Berries

This past weekend we took a drive up into the mountains to see how the huckleberries were progressing this year...not so great. Berries were few and far between possibly due to the lengthy rainy weather this spring affecting their ability to pollinate properly, so we only picked a few to be used fresh this week. Hopefully we will have better luck higher up in the mountains later this summer in a few of our favorite spots. All was not lost though as we quickly switched gears and focused instead on gathering elderberry blossoms and the flowers of St. Johns Wort that were growing wild nearby.

Thanks to a couple of wonderful posts here and here from Diane over at Peaceful Acres we recently and inadvertently discovered that St. John's Wort grows wild all around our area. It can be fairly easily identified via the purplish dots that appear to perforate the leaves and flowers which is where this plant gets it's name Hypericum perforatum. So after reading her posts we are now happily following suite and making our own herbal salve.

We have also been picking and drying clover, violet flowers, chamomile, and even a few huckleberry leaves that we use fresh or dried in various potions and teas.

A light and refreshing sun tea in the works comprised of clover, huckleberry leaves, rose petals, mint, and lemon balm.

Various herbs drying in the greenhouse.

Drying North Idaho tea plant (huckleberry) leaves for winter use.:)

We recently identified this plant as Split-Lip Hemp Nettle (?), a member of the mint family, growing in our area. Not sure what we will be using it for as of yet...might be poisonous.(?)

30 comments:

Ruralrose said...

Hi there - excellent tomato/pepper post last week - this dead nettle is my scourge, now after 10 years of inquiry I can read more about it - stay cool, peace

Faith Kolean said...

Wild berries are the best! We have a bit of blueberries and currants this year.

ThyHandHathProvided said...

Your tea looks amazingly beautiful. I admire your ability to identify and use so many different plants for so many different uses.

kitsapFG said...

My evergreen huckleberries, and the wild red huckleberries that grow in our area and on our property are not producing much at all this year. Just like our strawberries, I think the cool wet spring/early summer fouled up the pollination process too much. I am hoping to get a good late crop on my day neutral strawberries to help make up for it.

The herbs and flowers are so pretty to look at - love the chamomile flowers particularly, so dainty.

AJK said...

So envious of your wild berries and herbs harvests! I'm in the city, no luck with wild things around here!

meemsnyc said...

I just stopped dead in my tracks. Your greenhouse is GORGEOUS!! My husband wants to build a green house maybe next year. Do you have any other photos of your greenhouse, I would love to show him that it's doable!

granny said...

I enjoyed your ramblings very much :0)
I love herbs..and dried chamomile is absolute favorite,I must plant more of it.
I noticed the temps there as I visited.Summer there 67f,Winter here and 77f...I had a chuckle.

Heiko said...

Gosh, elderflowers have long faded with us and we are well into elderberry season. Elderflowers make the easiest and most refreshing homemade alcoholic beverage, elderflower champagne! I've got a recipe somewhere on my blog if you search. Violets are really just for the winetr for us. They grow when nothing else does. And it'll be blackberry time soon, can't wait!

Diane@Peaceful Acres said...

Great job Watson!!! You guys can find just about anything. I've never had the nerve to cut my elderberry blossoms....because the blossoms turn to berries. But maybe eventually I'll have more and more and more and then I can spare just a few.

The Dead Nettle....I'm wondering if it is a nettle can it be used for the same type of remedies stinging nettle would be used for. Stinging Nettle is another that I wouldn't be without in my medicine garden. You guys just have to walk out your backdoor! Lucky you!

Silke said...

Oh, how wonderful! I'd like a cup of that tea right now - just finished watering outside. How can it be over 80 degrees at nine in the morning?! And I bet the humidity is at 250%!

Thank you, Mr. H. for solving the bald-headed cardinal mystery. When the two of them are together at the feeder, they really look funny. I bet they are looking forward to getting their feathers back...

Hi to Mrs. H.! Silke

Stefaneener said...

I've heard there are elderflowers here but haven't yet either found or identified them. You're quite proficient at finding edibles around you.

kelli said...

how i would love to make potions like yours!

Mr. H. said...

Ruralrose - Thanks. The Latin name for the nettle (mint) in my picture is Lamium hybridum also called Cut-Dead Nettle. There is another that looks similar called Common Dead Nettle (Lamium amplexicaule). If you figure out what to do with it before I, please do tell.:)

Faith - You are correct, my favorite berry is the huckleberry...nothing else compares to it in my mind. Maybe that's because they are so hard to come by.:)

The Hand - We learn something new every year which is one of the best things about reading so many other blogs and books. I have found a huge amount of interesting "herbs" in a book about weeds called "Northwest Weeds - The Ugly and Beautiful Villains of Fields, Gardens, and Roadsides" by Ronald J. Tayler...an excellent resource for anyone in the Pacific Northwest.

Laura - It's good to know about your huckleberries. I am hoping that the ones that mature much later in the summer at higher elevations will have more berries on them. I hope your strawberries do well, ours are just now putting out a second crop of really nice big berries that we will be picking this evening.

AJK - And I am so envious of your figs and giant radishes.:) Yes, I suppose that living in the city would make it hard to find wild edibles. There is a book out there called "URBAN FORAGING - Finding and eating wild plants in the city" by David Craft that might interest you...I have never read it.

Meemsync - Here is a link to a very similar replica of our greenhouse from a hardware store in our area.

http://ziggys.com/greenhouse.htm

We managed to save a bundle by simply copying their plans and building it ourselves...we did buy the materials from them though.

Granny - Our temperatures do tend fluctuate quite a bit around here. Chamomile is one of my wife's favorite herbs too. Thanks for reading my ramblings.:)

Heiko - We are definitely going to have to try the elderflower champagne one of these days, it sounds wonderful. It is black raspberry season for us right now and our actual blackberries have just finished blooming.

Diane - It absolutely amazes me that after all these years we are still finding new edible plants on our own property. I wonder how many times I have stumbled over this SJW and never taken notice of it. We are pretty lucky with the elderberry blossoms as the elderberry bush grows everywhere around here.

Silke - I think you would like this tea a lot. I am so glad that we do not have such high humidity as you, sounds "sticky.":) I hope your little birds grow new feathers soon. Perhaps they don't mind so much though given your temperatures and humidity.

Stefaneener - Finding wild edibles is a work in progress to be sure. We stumbled across what we think might be some wild Angelica the other day and are looking forward to going back and trying to positively ID it....it's fun.:)

Kelli - Potions are so fun, especially for my wife as she gets to use the grandson and I as guinea pigs.:)

Kim said...

Great pictures (and info for that matter!) this week. The color of everything is so vivid!

I have heard the hucklberry harvest statewide has been pretty dismal. The weather this year has been trying to say the least.

I have been meaning to ask for a while, did you build your green house yourself? Did you use any specific plans or of your own design?

Mr. H. said...

Hi Kim - We did build the greenhouse ourselves and managed to save a bundle by simply copying the design via pictures we took of one that is sold by a hardware store in our area.

Here is a link to a very similar replica of our greenhouse from that hardware store.

http://ziggys.com/greenhouse.htm

Thanks for the info. on huckleberries, now I won't be at all surprised if we do not find that many in other areas either.

sustainable eats said...

I'd love to know more about your teas - I'm drying jasmine, chammomile, mint, lemon balm, stevia, lemon verbena, raspberry leaves, huckleberry leaves, anise hyssop right now. Wondering what other things I could be drying before it's too late?

Mrs. Mac said...

Thanks for the info and links on the St. Johns Wort plant. As I type, I can see it growing wild in the gully near my front yard along with a good crop of yarrow which is also supposed to be good in natural remedies. My oldest has orders to scout the woods for the huckleberries as he works with the forest service this summer. Will let you know if he finds and berries.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Just beautiful! Look at all those herbs!!! Wow!

Mr. H. said...

Sustainable eats - Other than various clovers (leaves and flowers) the only thing I can think of that we always add to our winter tea is echinacea root and leaves. I do know that some people dry dandelion and chicory leaves too but I have never tried that...yet.:) It sounds like you have a fine assortment of tea ingredients.

Mrs. Mac - I was hoping you would read this post as I knew that there was probably some SJW growing in your vicinity. Pretty funny that it has been right under my nose all this time and I did not even notice it.

Ohio Farm Girl - Thanks, we are gathering quite a collection of them this year.:)

vrtlarica said...

I love St. Johns Wort. My grandmother was making that same St. Johns Wort oil that Diane is writing about. Unfortunately it doesn’t grow anywhere here, otherwise I would be making it myself.
I love how you dry herbs in your greenhouse. My drying dill didn’t go so well, it turned all yellow and brown. Well, there is always next time.

Mr. H. said...

Vrtlarica - Welcome back, hope you had a nice trip. Too bad there is no SJW growing in your area for you to use. I am really looking forward to seeing how our batches turn out.

Did you dry your dill in the sun? Many herbs like basil, dill, oregano, sage, thyme, tarragon, and so forth are better off dried in a darker place out of the sunlight.

vrtlarica said...

Thanks, the trip was great and relaxing.

I did dry dill in partial shade. Next time I will try in the dark, in a paper bag maybe.

Bangchik said...

It must be fun doing gardening with deep knowledge on edible herbs. Then one can wander around in the garden and the woods and start picking one after another... ~bangchik

Mr. H. said...

Bangchik - We are learning new things every year but trust me it will be many, many years before we have a deep understanding of herbs...there are so very many. It really is nice to have knowledge on a few though as like you said we can walk about in the forest and collect them with some semblance of confidence.:)

Elizabeth said...

Just discovered your blog. I am so happy!! I know I will learn sooo much from yu.
Peace and Raw Health,
Elizabeth

Mr. H. said...

Elizabeth - Thanks for stopping by for a visit.:) I had to smile a bit when I saw your blog as we have been slipping a tad (just a little) on our raw food lifestyle. I look forward to reading more of your blog and am already excited to try our variation of your squash pasta dish.:)

Roasted Garlicious said...

i have dead nettle everywhere!! that and a profusion of oregano!! the berries here are lousy too.. too much early rain, cold spring... not sure but am now hoping for some rain to bring out the blackberries.. i love all your herbs in the greenhouse....

Mr. H. said...

Roasted Garlicious - If you hear any Native Indian lore on how to use those dead nettles please let me know. I'm going to do a post soon on some of the other herbs we gather from the wild and I have a feeling many of them grow in your area as well.

My wife is taking a trip to Oregon tomorrow and is hoping that there will be some blackberries to pick, they grow wild everywhere over there but I have never found any wild ones where we live...just the ones I grow. Hope yours ripen up and are plentiful. Thanks for the information on huckleberries.

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