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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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
This spring I’ve been fascinated by the blossoms on the Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor). Hard not to be:
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?
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?
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.
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.
The chives are blooming.
I love adding the flowers to salads, along with the tasty straws. Yummmmm . . .
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.
I love getting close enough to get a good look. Right before I eat them!
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 . . .
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):
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.
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.
They are also very wee, as you can see from the photo above. The flowers are very simple, and very tiny:
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.
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.
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:
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!:
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!
Look who’s popping up all over the garden, looking incredibly pleased with herself:
Yep, it’s a little clump of Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) leaves. Isn’t she pretty? I love the way she has those hints of purple-brown in her leaves and stems.
Motherwort is a really valuable ally for me right now.
I’ve blogged a bit about changes and developements in my life, especially in my spiritual and healing work. And while the evolution of my work is a beautiful and exciting thing, it’s also sometimes overwhelming. I frequently find myself frozen with doubt, insecurity, worry that I can’t do it. And the worst days are the ones when I wonder if the men in white jackets are going to come and carry me off to a nice room with padded walls and give me happy pills every day.
Enter this fuzzy little beauty:
Motherwort doesn’t change what I feel. She doesn’t make me giddy or happy, she doesn’t knock me out, she doesn’t sedate me. She just says, “There, there dear,” and helps me to flow with the changes, with my feelings–even with the doubt. I’ve heard some people say that motherwort makes them feel really good. She doesn’t have that effect on me. Instead, she helps me to be okay with whatever it is that I am feeling. If I need to cry, I can cry really really hard, and be okay with the intensity of it. If I’m angry, she helps me to be with the anger and understand what it’s about. Although often when I’m angry, it’s because I’m scared or worried, and so a good cry is what I really need, and so . . . motherwort often makes me cry!
But it’s a good cry. It’s the kind of cry you have when you’re feeling all worked up but don’t know how to express it, and then you go have a visit with your mom or your aunt or grandmother, and she gives you a cup of tea and says, “So how are you doing honey?” and you just burst in to tears.
It seems to me that motherwort gives me space and a listening ear, and that she opens up the flow inside of me that I’m clamping down because it’s not pleasant.
I feel like motherwort is an important plant friend for many of us right now–especially those of us who are treading new territory with energy work and the transitions that we seem to be making as a culture and species. It seems that our planet is changing, we are changing, we’re on a precipice and who knows what happens when we tumble over its edge? Some days it’s exciting, and some days it’s terrifying, and motherwort seems to help us surrender to the flow and be all right with our uncertainties.
Motherwort is taking over one of the large beds in my front yard. I was a bit worried about it last year, but this year I’m thinking maybe it’s a good thing after all. I’m really glad I made so much tincture last summer, because I have so many friends who need her right now. And I can only imagine that going forward, she will really help us to cope with the process we are in.
Of course there are some contraindications with motherwort–she’s definitely not for everyone. Do some research before you decide to work with her, especially if you have any health conditions or are on any kind of pharmaceutical. I’m not medically trained to tell anyone what will and won’t cause a problem!