Rosemary for Remembrance

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is definitely high on my list of favorite herbs. This herb in the mint family hails from the Mediterranean, but seems to grow well in Oregon’s climate.

The Bees Love it as Much as I Do

I’m firmly convinced that I will never grow too much Rosemary, no matter how many plants come to live on the farm. The fragrance and flavor of Rosemary never fail to uplift my mood.

The Whole Bush, Viewed from Above

Rosemary is the best herb to flavor chicken, in my opinion, and infused oil of Rosemary is excellent for both cooking and body care–it smells amazing. I make a salt scrub with infused oil of rosemary that is deliciously warming, perfect for damp, chilly days when I can’t seem to get warm. (Instructions for making infused oils can be found here.)

Another View of the Blossoms

Rosemary has a rich history of medicinal use, and an extensive body of folklore assigning to it many virtues including the strengthening of friendship and marital fidelity, and the exorcising of evil spirits.

Closeup of Leaves

There’s a LOT of information on Rosemary out there, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel on this page. Instead, if you want to learn more about this beautiful plants, see the following articles. All links open in a new window. Happy reading!

Anima Healing Arts blog entry on Rosemary

Henriette’s Herbal Rosemary page (with links to other articles, pictures, etc.)

A Modern Herbal’s Rosemary entry

Susun Weed’s Rosemary article

Wikipedia’s Rosemary entry

Salad Burnet is Blooming

This spring I’ve been fascinated by the blossoms on the Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor). Hard not to be:

Looks Like an Extra-Terrestrial Christmas Tree

I was looking at the flowers–and the differences between them–and wondering if the plant bears male flowers on separate stalks from female flowers?

Each Flower Looks Different

After a little poking around, I discovered that the plant is way more interesting than that. Apparently, the lower flowers have only male parts, the middle flowers have both, and the top flowers have only female parts. How awesomely bizarre is that?

No Wonder They're So Prolific
No Wonder They're So Prolific

The leaves are very pretty, also, and have a mild cucumber flavor that’s nice in salads, or floated in cold water in the summer.

Fancy

We’ve only used Salad Burnet for culinary purposes, but in my reading I discovered that they used to be highly regarded by herbalists as a wound healer and as preventative against many kinds of disease, among other uses. I’ve not tried any of them, but I do know it has a very pleasant taste. The young leaves are best for salads, because the older and larger they get, the more bitter they  become.

Salad Burnet is easy to grow. Here in Oregon, the foliage is green all year. If allowed to set seed, it will reproduce freely, and the seedlings are easily dug up and transplanted.

Chives: Pretty, with a Great Personality

The chives are blooming.

Can You See the Blossoms Pressing Against the Bract?

I love adding the flowers to salads, along with the tasty straws. Yummmmm . . .

Over Half Way Open

But the flowers are also truly striking–sometimes hard to notice just how gorgeous they are, because they’re small. I think that’s true with a lot of herbs; we fail to appreciate the gorgeousness of their flowers because we don’t get CLOSE enough.

Mostly Open

I love getting close enough to get a good look. Right before I eat them!

Wow.

We all know chives are good in salads, on eggs, or on baked potatoes–and, well, anywhere else you think  throw them at the end of cooking time, or just before serving. But I was interested to read in Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s Common Herbs for Natural Health that chives are a general tonic and blood cleanser, and that “Chives possess all the pungent, antiseptic qualities of onions in a mild form, and are one of the best means of giving onion elements to infants.”

I am a huge fan of food as preventative medicine, and that’s my favorite way to work with the herbs.  Chives are an excellent plant to include in your every day life–good for you, mild enough for almost anyone, and delicious. I’m thinking we might have baked potatoes for dinner .  . .

Don’t Forget to Eat Your Weeds

Google “Chickweed” and you’ll get about 50% articles extolling its virtue as food and medicine, and about 50% articles telling you how to kill it. It’s sort of like Dandelions that way. And y’all know how I feel about Dandelions.

While Dandelions have a special place in my heart because of their charming personalities, and my appreciation of them as food and medicine is secondary. But chickweed is delicious–it has an earthy taste, like fresh spinach. So, first of all let me show you the best way to identify Chickweed (Stellaria media):

Little Tiny Hairs are the Key to Identifying Chickweed

See that line of tiny hairs on the right side of the Chickweed stem? It’s the only plant I know of that has that kind of hair pattern. It’s the surest way to tell that you’ve really got chickweed, since the flowers are fairly indistinct.

Here’s another shot that shows the hairs–they look like a fine white line down the center of the stem.

See the Fine Line of Hairs?

Chickweed is in the Pink family–the same as Carnations and Baby’s Breath. The leaves are small and completely smooth, and grow in opposed pairs.

Teeny Tiny Leaf

They are also very wee, as you can see from the photo above. The flowers are very simple, and very tiny:

Sweet Little Flower

Leaves, stems and flowers are all edible. It’s best to trim the top several inches–the leafiest, lushest part–of the above-ground portion of the plant. This will not only give you the best eating, but also helps the plant to continue branching out and growing lovely, healthy foliage and flowers.

Chickweed isn’t exactly a creeping plant . . . she’s more of a sprawler. But she does tend to grow close to the ground, part of her stems lying prostrate.

The remarkable thing about chickweed is that it loves cool weather. Chickweed is happy and prolific in my garden even in December and January, though it really becomes spectacular in February and March.

Chickweed in late January

I have read that even in really cold climates like upstate New York, Chickweed can be found green and thriving under trees where the snow hasn’t piled up. She loves moist, cool places–which is why she often moves in to well-watered gardens and snuggles up close to taller plants that can provide her with shade. So she’s an EXCELLENT source of free nourishment in the lean winter months–I’m always thrilled to have fresh edibles at those times.

She’s very nourishing, high in vitamins and minerals. And she also has remarkable abilities to dissolve cysts, mucous, benign tumors, and other unwanted things in our bodies. The saponins in chickweed also help with cell permeability, allowing us to absorb and assimilate nutrients better. And Chickweed is an excellent help for all sorts of hot, inlamed conditions. For more detailed information, see this excellent article by Susun Weed. Or read Susun’s book, Healing Wise, or Gail Faith Edwards’ delightful Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs.

So there you go, a way to save weeding, and save money on groceries. You can thank me later.

End of the First Edit, and Dandelions

Phew. I am clear of the 70 to 90 zone, and now I am editing the crucial last few chapters of the book! I THINK I’ll be done with them in the next week, barring any natural disasters. Finishing the first run of edits gives me an enormous sense of accomplishment, even though I have a long way to go on the process of finishing the  novel. But after I finish the first edit, I’ll be working on the plot outline of book two. My plan is to do an informal version of NaNoWriMo with some friends in April to crank out my rough draft of book two. Then it will be intensive editing of book one while book two cools. I am still surprised by how much I am enjoying this process, even though it is often crazy-making.

We’ve been enjoying sunshine and warm temperatures, and I’ve been spending a LOT of time outside. Between that and editing I haven’t had a lot of time for reading or blogging. So you’ll have to bear with me. The rain will be back soon, and I’m sure I’ll blog more regularly then.

In the meantime, check out my dandelion root harvest:

My Precioussssss

All these roots came from a section of garden bed about two feet square. I’ve cleaned them, sliced them up, and put them in a basket to dry. They are part of a scheme to make some herbal syrups as vitamin and mineral supplements.

Look at the size of this one!:

She's Got Huuuuuge--Dandelion Roots . . .

That root was too amazingly huge and gnarly and funky to chop up. I’m drying it as is, and I’ll probably  make one of my nature spirit figures out of it. Because–wow. (And don’t you just love the mud all over my hand and arm? Yay for spring! I do a lot more laundry in the spring.)

Today is a big editing day, and tomorrow I’ll show y’all pictures of my trip to the coast!

Have I Mentioned How Much I Love Weeds?

Except thistles. Those prickly little meanies still drive me crazy. I know that they provide food for birds, and I’ve read that some of them are edible, but seriously? They hide among the other weeds, and then they BITE. If someone can help me have a greater appreciation for thistles, I would . . . um . . . appreciate it.

BUT! I am not here to talk about thistles! I’m here to show you pretty pictures of pretty weeds and wildflowers!

First, the weeds! Meet Purple Deadnettle, or Lamium purpureum:

Purple Deadnettle, Viewed from Above

We’ve always had this around, but this year it is particularly abundant in the garden beds. I like it! I feed it to the chickens. I also think it’s really pretty.

Purple Deadnettle Side View

I mean, look at those sweet little flowers, and the fuzzy leaves that sort of shimmer! Super sweet. Apparently it is edible, and nutritious, but not especially flavorful–I haven’t actually tried it yet. But what I love is that it started blooming in JANUARY, and apparently it is an excellent source of nectar for bees in early spring, before most other things start to bloom. I have read some gardeners lamenting it’s fast spread and how difficult it is to get rid of–but here, it seems to behave itself pretty well. It spreads, but only over open ground, it doesn’t seem to choke other things out, and it’s easy to pull. I imagine, though, if you were interested in a manicured lawn and garden, you would dislike it, the same way people dislike dandelions. Just goes to show, one woman’s herbal ally is another woman’s invasive enemy.

So! Also, there are violets. Lots and lots of violets! I had a bunch of them in my salad last night, along with miner’s lettuce, chickweed, wild cress, and chives. Delicious. And so pretty:

Half Open

While I was working in the garden yesterday, every time I passed the clump of violets that volunteered in one of the garden beds, I got a whiff of the delicious, sweet, clean perfume. Oh man . . . mmmmmm.

Shady

They’re just so sweet, but also sort of sexy, don’t you think?

Come Hither

Violets are good medicine, too. And the leaves are edible too. Hmmm, I might need to do some posts on violets . . . they are particularly alluring this spring.