Showing posts with label farm life - common weed identification. Show all posts
Showing posts with label farm life - common weed identification. Show all posts

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Quick Herbal Bug Bite Salve

by Chiot's Run

Several years ago I read about the wonders of Broad Leaved Plantain, a "weed" that grows everywhere. It's also known as: Bird's Meat, Common Plantain, Great Plantain, Rat-tail Plantain, White Man's Foot.

I have it growing all over the gardens here at Chiot's Run and I'm quite happy about it. It comes in very handy when I'm out working late and get bit by mosquitoes or if I get stung by a bee.

All you have to do for a quick salve is grab a leaf or two, chew them up and apply them to the bug bite. I often do this while I'm out working if I need to, but I prefer to make a poultice with some baking soda as it stays on better and I think it works better. (as with all wild plants, make sure you know exactly what you're picking & using!)

What I usually do is take a few leaves, cut them finely, add a pinch or two of baking soda and a little water. Then I grind them to a wet paste in my mortar & pestle and apply to the bug bite. It instantly works to get rid of the itch or sting and keeps it coming back.

This salve is also very beneficial for using on cuts and scrapes, I often add some turmeric and comfrey when I'm using it for this purpose as turmeric helps with inflammation and pain and comfrey speeds healing.

Plantain has medicinal uses of all sorts: bites, cuts, scrapes, rashes, skin problems, intestinal pain & issues, worms, boils, bronchitis, coughs, colitis, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting, bed wetting and incontinence and many other things (for more info read this and this). I have yet to use it internally, but I use it often for bug bites, stings and cuts. I'm trying to make plantain oil for using medicinally. Since it's an herb with no known side-effects I definitely want to try using it more often.

Have you ever used plantain? Do you use herbs/weeds for medicinal purposes?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Monday, 8 March 2010

A different kind of spring tonic

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

This time of year, the first greens of spring are always welcome. Winter greens can be heavy and tiresome, most growing since last fall and then simmering through winter, a welcome respite for sure, but not the same as the first tender shoots that spring brings.

The much maligned Stinging Nettle Urtica diocia is one of those greens. High in vitamins and minerals, it is a very useful wild plant to know instead of fear. With a high chlorophyll content it is useful in smoothies, teas, & concoctions.

But for this post, I'll just share a recipe for pesto made with nettles. Healthy fresh food almost anyone will eat. Sometimes the people who will benefit the most from a brilliant green smoothie are the first to turn up their nose at something they perceive is BAD, like a stinging nettle. Pesto goes down a little easier... . And with spring still really a ways off, and summer even farther - it will be a long time before cilantro or basil pesto is on the menu.

Stinging Nettle is a perennial, so its roots can uptake heavy metals and pollution, so if you don't have nettles at home and are foraging, make sure to stay away from roadsides, areas with industrial pollution or conventional farming tracts. Here in our area, stinging nettle is associated with the "clover of the woods," Red Alder Alnus rubra. Stinging nettle loves the nitrogen rich soil around the alder, lacking an alder patch, areas on farmland where there is a high concentration of old manure is a good place to look too.

Using gloves to harvest will protect you from the sting of the hairs, and until the plant blooms, the sting is usually just a mild irritant anyway.

Like any other green, nettles really cook down, but a good armful is plenty for a batch of pesto. Especially if you decide you don't like it. Select tender young tops, leaving some behind for another harvest. Today I harvested the top six inches of the plants I found, leaving behind four inches or so to re-sprout.

We make pesto out of lots of greens and herbs, mixing and matching with what's available at the time.

Basic Pesto 1 cup

4 - 6 garlic cloves
4 Tablespoons lightly roasted nuts
4 - 5 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup greens (after cooking for nettles)
Salt to taste
Olive oil to taste - 1/4 cup or so depending on desired consistency

Nettles need to be blanched to remove the sting from the hairs on the leaves and stems. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt, bring back to boil, add nettles using tongs. Blanch for a minute or two until bright green, remove from water and plunge nettles in cold water to stop the cooking process.

Drain in a colander, *reserving juice, wring out the nettles to release all the water. You can do this with a towel, or you can just use your hands.

*Optional: To steel yourself for serving nettles at the dinner table and maybe lying about it, hold your nose and drink the reserved juice.
Just kidding, it has a salty, medicinal taste, not too bad really, and remember, its good for you, so bottoms up!

If you're a foodie, get out your mortar and pestle and get pounding, but if you're pressed for time at dinner and still have to get the pasta mixed, so it can rest, I would say use your food processor, or even a knife works wonders.

My daughter whipped this up while I was doing kitchen clean-up. It took longer to roast the hazelnuts than it did to make the pesto. Truly a fast meal, made with items on hand. Delicious!

What do you think? Too far out there - or do you think this is something you would try?

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Thinking of weeds in a different way

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Most treatises on weeds solely concentrate on the eradication of, or the opposite, useful ways to make medicines, eat or feed weeds to livestock. All are these facts are good to know, but weeds can teach us more. Why do weeds grow where they do? Usually a shrug of the shoulders, and a "weeds happen" look accompany that question.

An examination of weeds growing on our farmsteads, and in our yards will tell us what is going on below, in the soil. As gardeners and farmers we need to know about the terra firma beneath our feet and hoe.

If you are new to your land, or are just thinking of starting a garden from scratch, weed identification can be very helpful. Weeds like certain soil conditions, and can survive the worst environment. I took a walk today in some of our high impact areas and snapped some pictures of places and the weeds that grow there. If you see these weeds, don't locate your garden there without the expectation of a lot of work. Problem weeds can persist for decades in high impact areas. I will stick with common names, and common weeds, and even though some of my impact areas are caused by livestock, people can tread hard on the land too. Native Americans called Broadleaf Plantain, White Man's Footstep.

Location: Barnyard, wet soil, high animal impact during wet weather. Not much grows here during the summer except Broadleaf plantain, dock and sorrel. I doubt this spot would ever make a good garden spot unless you built raised beds and brought in soil and amendments.

Location: Barnyard driveway, some grass, and clover but mostly pineapple weed.

Barnyard, high animal impact during wet weather. This area receives full sun and is covered with dog fennel, and some pineapple weed. Sometimes both of these weeds are known as Chamomile.

Barnyard, high animal impact during wet weather. This area is even wetter as the buttercup or ranunculus shows. Ranunculus roots are very toxic to pigs.

Garden, with the dreaded quack grass. Quack likes a hard pan, if you can correct that, you can make the quack leave.

Quack grass propagates by rhizome. If you want more quack in your garden till it, and chop it up into little pieces. The more you till, the more you will have. It will thank you.

To get rid of quack, plant annual cereal rye and summer fallow. The rye breaks up the hardpan and has allelopathic properties that have a lasting effect on the quack grass.

Area near the barn, with high animal impact. Canadian thistle loves acidic and nitrogen rich soil. These spread by underground roots, tilling only gives you more thistles. Cutting just at bloom time will weaken the plant and eventually they will die out.

Pasture near the treeline, this area shows good grass growth, but the bracken fern is still persisting. Timed grazing, or mowing and generous compost applications would help this area.

Our most persistent weed - Himalayan blackberry. This species is very invasive, this shoot in the middle shows this springs growth, already 45" tall. The berries are good, but these plants get so dense and thick, and are so strong they are hard to eradicate.

Most of these weeds don't bother us too much, in our sacrifice areas near the barns there is no need to do anything for soil improvement, since we are not changing the use of these areas. The weeds are the earths way of protecting the soil. Irritating as they may be, they are just doing their job. It is our job to observe and learn from them and make changes if necessary.

What weeds, if any, are the bane of your life?