Category Archives: expect the unexpected
Nettles, Stinging Nettles
Nettles grow wild and can easily be cultivated. I transplanted mine from a thinned out patch from an herbal garden. They went into shock when transplanted and appeared to die. But, once roots took hold, they burst forth with life and vigor.
Nettles grow wild and can form high thickets near streams, rivers, shady areas with rich soil.
our container garden of nettles!
Nearby deer ate most plants in our container pots and also our small amaranth patch. We raised the containers to keep the bunnies and jackrabbits from munching our simple gardens. Our simple fences and dead cholla branches were nothing to stop the deer.
We are getting more acquainted to wildlife habits here. We hear the coyotes often and see juniper berries in their scat.
Owls, crows and hawks reign the skies, on hunts and thermal airwaves.
And, in autumn we are hearing different songbirds, on migration we think.
Last year, a favorite wild, clammy ground cherry, I liked to visit, got eaten down to the ground. I kept getting a message to pick one of the berries in its papery husk, to put it on my alter. I amost felt guilty for doing so, but heeded my intuition and did so.
(a gnawed off stem found on another hike.)
When I returned to visit, and saw the Ground Cherry gone, I understood the message and the temporary nature of all things.
The ground cherry became a much needed meal for a wild desert creature. I marvel at how wildlife exists, struggles and thrives in this desert environment.
And, I recognize the huge bounty I experience. Even if fellow humans might laugh or some acknowledge.
In perspective, to feed a herd of deer was an honor.
We read that deer live in the Ortiz, but hadn’t seen many signs. We live in the desert, canyon foothills. In the piñon and juniper ecozone.
So the hoofprints in dirt tracks along with our dinner salad garden gone, we knew for sure.
During a long weekend away, they ate amaranth, lemon balm, garden sage, catnip and peppermint… makes we wonder if they had good dreams those nights. haha!
Recently, on a hike up into the Ortiz, we saw two deer trotting on a ridge, along with fir trees and tiny groves of aspen on some of the peaks. Amazing to think of their treks for food, water and survival with mountain lions which rove for prey.
we thought this could be a mountain lion track…
In the peaks
In our garden, the two pots of nettles survived along with a mostly dead horehound plant. (the bitter and stinging plants were left behind.)
Which makes this post come alive. I used these fresh, growing nettles, for homemade cheese and pesto, even in fall.
Handled carefully because of stinging hairs on stems and the underside of leaves which can sting you. They are filled with formic acid.
And, I used about 12 tops of these nettles to make my homemade cheese. And, about the same number of tops to make nettle pesto! Both flavored with Herbs de Provence.
Here is the salted nettle tea I made. Add a tablespoon of sea salt to the nettle tea to further extract the nettle rennet properties.
Simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and cover the tea and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid. It will be a light brown color. This is your Nettle Rennet.
I’ve also read that dried nettles work as an herbal rennet too and dried nettles do not sting!
Use one Cup of the strained, salted nettle tea rennet for a gallon of cow’s milk. This is what I have read.
I had half a gallon and used 3/4 of it.
So, heat the milk slowly.
As it heats add the juice of one fresh lemon and spices.
Just before the milk starts to simmer and bubble, while stirring constantly…
add the one Cup of the Nettle tea Rennet.
In my case it made a big bubble when I added the Nettle Rennet. I stirred it gently and the curds formed instantly. The whey separated and the curds were all on top like the picture. You can see the spices too. I turned off the heat once the curds all formed. It all happened at this point really quickly.
I let the curds and whey sit covered for 30 minutes.
Then I lined a colander with a thin dish towel to strain out the liquid. -(the whey) People sometimes save the whey for cooking other recipes.
I squeezed out the excess whey and the cheese congealed quickly. I let it set for a bit, covered with the cloth.
I took the next pictures of the cheese just a few minutes later. A day later in the refrigerator the consistency was even more like a soft gouda. I was really happy with it. I might salt it a bit next time. I guess I am used to the salt in cheese. But, experiment because I really liked it and the salted nettle rennet may impart the perfect amount of salt for you.
This post by Monica Wilde truly inspires. Check out her recipes using a variety of wild plant rennets.
In Cornwall, a famous cheese from an ancient recipe, called Yarg, involves using nettle rennet and nettle leaves wrapped around the cheese to flavor and cure it. The nettle leaf patterns are beautiful.
not too ironically searches for Yarg brought up pictures of pirates! ha!
More of the present day Yarg story here.
Thistle stamens can be used to make cheese rennet as well. Check out my blogpost and links on how to prepare thistles for food and to use thistles for cheesemaking.
You can also make a delicious pesto using nettles.
Super easy and fun to make Nettle Pesto. I have made pesto so many times, I often wing it but keep some basics in the ingredients too.
For Nettle Pesto, steam the tender stems and leaf tops for 2 minutes.
I then felt the leaves and stems for any sting they might still have and 2 minutes of steaming did the trick.
I dried them off with a towel then added olive oil, garlic cloves, juice of one lemon and hulled hemp seeds instead of cheese.
Plus, spices and herbs that suited my fancy at the moment.
Blend it up and voila!
I really liked this pesto and the rest of my cheese as a simple dinner.
I saved most of the pesto to add to tomorrow’s soup as a garnish.
The Herbal Goodness of Nettles!
Deb Soule, Herbalist and Biodynamic gardener and plant enthusiast lists Nettles as one of her favorite herbs.
In her book: The Roots of Healing.,
She describes many of nettles virtues and for being
a wonderful fresh green at the close of winter and turn of spring in Maine.
I enlist the many healing properties from Deb Soule’s book here, amidst a few other notes.
Stinging Nettles, just the name can turn some people away. The hairs on the stems and the underside of leaves can be quite formidable. The hairs contain formic acid which can cause painful stings when you touch the hairs of the plant.
This painful sting, is used in urtication therapy.… Urtication derives from nettles, its botanical name: Urtica dioica
Nettle Sting therapy:
Many people have taken nettle leaves/stems of leaves and hit or rubbed them on painful arthritic joints and areas. This brings a rush of blood to the area with subsequently less inflammation, relieving the pain.
Many people swear by this method since the pain from the nettles is temporary compared to the relief they feel within their arthritic joints.
If you get stung by nettles and need to relieve the pain, crushed/bruised plantain leaves or yellow dock leaves, placed on the sting, make an effective remedy.
Nettles are high in iron and greatly help those who are anemic. Steam new tops of nettle leaves or make a tea from fresh or dried nettles. Fresh leaves made into a tincture work best.
Nettles are vitamin and mineral rich so are a tremendous health ally.
Nettles are an excellent tonic for the kidneys and adrenals. In many cases, regular use of nettle tea or tincture can reduce the risk of kidney stones.
Nettles also nourish the liver and blood. And, improves elasticity of veins, helpful for hemorrhoids or varicose veins.
Nettles also strengthens the plasma membrane/outer membrane of cells… making them less vulnerable to inflammation and allergic response.
Nettles work very well in Menopause formulas. Especially when added to these herbs: oatstraw, red raspberry leaves, borage leaves, and siberian ginseng (eleuthero root)
Does your dog scratch and dig at hot itchy spots on his skin? A nettles wash can help.
Likewise, nettles is good in formulas for eczema and skin problems.
The astringent nature of nettles lessens: nosebleeds, uterine hemorrhages and bleeding from cuts.
Drinking cool nettle tea decreases inflammation in kidneys and bladder.
Nettle teas and tinctures have been shown to decrease painful conditions like arthritis and rheumatism for people and animals.
Nettles are commonly used to decrease allergies.
Deb Soule also suggests to let fresh and/or dried nettles to sit over night in a glass jar/pot, of cool or room temperature water, to extract the most vitamins and minerals from nettles.
Drink this health rich tea as is or gently heat and then steep for 15-20 minutes.
For many health benefits and as remedy, 1-3 cups of nettle tea a day for several weeks or months is recommended.
Please seek good counsel outside of this post to determine the best course for you.
And nettles greens, cooked or steamed can be eaten as often as you delight in. lucky us!
Include wise stories and counsel from plant wise friends and from Nettles themselves!
Posted Links with gratitude
and this book:
The Roots of Healing. A Woman’s Book of Herbs. by, Deb Soule. Carol Publishing Group, 1995.
And, what else did I do today? Learned to use a chainsaw to harvest our own wood. Sawing dead trees by hand last year is something I will never forget.
Here’s to You and all You Inspire!
Goldenrod flower buds and blooms
Habitat: Roadsides, meadows, disturbed areas, also in mountains
40-60 species alone, grow in North America.
I always appreciated the sunny spread of blooms, especially in the meadows behind my grandparent’s house.
I grew up, as many of us did, hearing that Goldenrod caused hayfever. This is a myth as it has sticky pollen, pollinated by insects…and not airborne by the wind.
Ironically it helps reduce allergic response and can be used as a remedy for seasonal allergies.
Goldenrod growing in the Sandia mountains of New Mexico.
And, the Goldenrod that I found growing in New England.
The golden rod with its fiery, golden blooms
Reminds me of the suit of wands in the tarot deck.
And, I adore this image!
She is Goldenrod incarnate!
Can be purchased at Polyvore.com
Artist: Cabaret Voltaire
golden wands of fiery, passionate light. The New Mexico mountain blooms shown in this post, smell infused of honey. One species, Solidago odora, (not shown) the leaves and flowers smell like anise.
Here is the goldenrod infused oil, that I made in New England. It started out on my parents front doorstep. Infusing away, during sunny days. Then before my flight home, infusing amidst jars of tinctures I made…in a box…along its sundry postal trip… to the rural post office 8 miles from where I live. Gleefully, I pick up my herbal remedy delivery, that I collected and made myself…
Not finished solar infusing yet…, onto the bumper of the camper, we call home.
There, on the sunny bumper ledge, infusing by sunny day, starlight and …moon phases…herbal oil infusion journeys with radiances of summer heat and light in North central New Mexico.
Goldenrod oil can help heal wounds, especially those that need a cooling and stimulating action to heal. I like to make salves out of my herbal oils.
Goldenrod mixed with plantain makes a good remedy for stings and skin irritations.
newer growth with flower rays
and narrow leaved plantain, a little beat up from lawnmowers next to a highway… but narrow leaved plantain, nonetheless!
Also, Goldenrod has a longstanding and effective use in relieving sore and achey muscles.
So does nearby growing Snakeweed, also in the Asteraceae family.
Snakeweed below, I’ve talked about it before… an age old respected remedio, for arthrits and achiness, here in New Mexico.
Dry wilt your fresh herbs for, at least, a day before infusing oil.
Double boil slowly to infuse the goodness of all the goldenrod properties…
Or try, as many of you already do, solar infusing.
My first experience along with making carrot seed oil.
Quite a pleasure to infuse oils by the sun, lunar and starry skies.
Goldenrod blossoms make excellent fritters. Similar to Elderberry blossom fritters.
The tender leaves can be cooked as a green.
You can use the Solidago odora, with licorice/anise scented leaves to make an herbal tea jelly.
This type of Goldenrod has translucent dots on its leaves when held to the sun. This imparts the leaves with the anise flavor.
When Colonists dumped British tea in the harbor, this delicious spice tea was an ingredient in what became known as Liberty tea.
Make your own Liberty Tea Blend and define liberty as it relates to you!
Use equal parts of Sweet Goldenrod (anise flavored species described)
Betony, Red Clover, and New Jersey tea…(also known as Red Root) species name: Ceanothus americanus.
New Jersey tea tastes a great deal like green tea.
Can’t wait to mix up a blend of this health giving, tasty tea!
Long before liberty tea, Native Americans used the Solidago odora, as a medicinal and as a flavoring in medicinals.
This oil, extracted from the leaves and flowers, has also been used in perfumery.
This is giving me good ideas for making hydrosols. You can make your own simple still for hydrosol making. See the Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook. by James Green
Habitat: Solidago odora grows in open sandy soil throughout the eastern U.S and midwest, south and through southeast Texas.
Other varieties of Goldenrod can be used to make a jelly too.
Here is a recipe:
(2 Cups fresh plant and 4 Cups water. Boil water, take off heat and add herb, steep for 10-30 minutes.)
If using dried goldenrod use half amount of herb.
Take just 1 Cup of the Goldenrod tea
add 2 Tablespoons pectin.
Heat tea and pectin and bring to a roiling boil.
Add 3/4 Cup sugar all at once.
Stir and boil 1-3 minutes until it passes the jelly test.
Pour into jelly jars.
If using species other than the Solidago odora, consider adding a 1/2 tsp of anise or other flavoring… or just as is.
The rest of the tea can be used as an iced or hot tea. Maybe with some lemon and sweetener to make an herbal lemonade! Customize your own yummy drink blend 🙂
Goldenrod has a long history of use around the world as an Herbal Medicine!
Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th century, English herbalist, describes in his book that Goldenrod is ruled by the planet Venus. Here depicted is the birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, 1486., one of my favorite paintings.
According to Culpeper, Solidago fragrans, “It is a balsamic vulnerary (wound/skin healing herb, also for)…hurts and bruises…a safe diuretic; few things exceed it in the gravel, stone in the reins and kidneys (and kidney stones with pain and soreness… also with) bloody or purulent urine; then its balsamic healing virtues co-operate with its diuretic quality, and the parts at the same time are cleansed and healed.”
Also, he states that it is an excellent wound healer, inside and out.
Also, it helps to “stay the immoderate flux of womens’ courses, ruptures, ulcers in the mouth or throat…” and in preparations as a wash for venereal disease.
A tea of young leaves, fresh or dry, he recommends for these healing purposes.
Also, he states that Solidago angustifolia, as a decoction and rinse, helps set loose teeth.
More cited herbal uses:
According to the excellent website by Plants for a Future., the common species,Solidago canadensis, is excellent for kidney problems, allergies due to its quercetin constituents, its root can make an effective poultice for burns, flowers and buds chewed and swallowed soothe sore throats, saponins of the plant are specifically anti-fungal against candida overgrowth, and more uses described in link above.
Specifically, it is described as being:
antiseptic, hemostatic, febrifuge, kidney remedy, styptic and useful salve.
Matthew Wood, p.p. 468-470, An Earthwise Herbal., states the uses of Goldenrod, specifically Solidago canadensis, and S. virga-aurea.
Properties of Herb:
“The root, leaf and flower… are predominately bitter and pungent…(with) traditional use as a carminative” and digestive aid.
It is aromatic and contains essential oils which aids in allergies… also quercetin does, and especially helps with carryovers of lung distress with bronchitis that remains as a factor.
He describes it as a good stimulant to kidney function as a remedy after stressful situations or even psychological events.
Susun Weed suggests making a healthfilled Goldenrod herbal vinegar! Vinegar extracts many wonderful herbal properties and can be used every day in food preparations…talk about gourmet salad dressings and dipping sauces, marinades!
Wood, also describes an affinity that goldenrod has for healing scalp irritations and scabs as well as leg wounds. And, leg wounds particularly because of its healing effects on kidneys.
-For being tired and worn out, can’t process issues that life brings.
-allergies, conjuctiva, specifically useful for cat allergies
-acne in sheets of small pimples on face
-cold stomach, inactive digestion
-edema, swelling, dry scaly skin
-purulent conditions of lungs, mucosa, skin,
-exhausted and tired lower back, tired feet, tired worn out kidneys,
-dark scanty urine
-early bladder irritation
-edema and purulent sores on legs
-dry scaly patches- scalp and legs
-old, inflamed purulent wounds, gangrenous wounds.
Harvest leaves in fall and tincture fresh in alcohol.
*Check field guides for native species near you. It can resemble some species of senecio, and other look a likes… And, it is in that vast plant family, Asteraceae… that I had trouble keying out less common species.
So, I presented more characteristic species here. Asteraceae, yellow rayed species no less, what a workout!
Dosage: 1-3 drops, 1-3x a day.
For allergies, my Medical herbalist friend suggests to try 30 drops a day, 3 times a day… if drop dosage above does not yield effective responses.
I do want to learn more about drop dosages.
Caution: Goldenrod can heal conjuctivitis but, if excess of drop dose above is taken, (1-3 drops per day…) can cause conjuctivitis!
Can heal or cause conjunctivitis.
I respect this powerful and gracious healer. Goldenrod!
Thankyou Matthhew Wood for your compehensive knowledge and view!
I am grateful for all references in this post and am interested in Your Uses of Goldenrod too. Please feel free to share your experiences with Goldenrod if you would like to!
Goldenrod makes colorful dyes!
Harvest from more common species and strong stands…or from your own herb garden of Goldenrod.
For Yellow to Gold dye: use flowers and flower buds, alum or chrome as a mordant; simmer or solar dye
For orange dye: use flowers and buds, a tin mordant; simmer the dye
For a tan dye: use leaves, alum mordant; and solar dye
for an olive dye: use leaves, a copper mordant; and solar dye
for a gray dye: use leaves or flowers, an iron mordant: and solar dye
Wanting to add some color to the vibrant hue of goldenrod and all its story, I have briefly touched upon…
I wanted to share some poetry I found, highlighting Goldenrod in the first line.
It was written by a woman who was a classmate of Emily Dickinson and a friend of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Helen Hunt Jackson’s poem:
The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun
The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,
From dewey lanes at morning
The grapes’ sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
with yellow butterflies.
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.
But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.
‘T is a thing which I remember
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.
by, Helen Hunt Jackson
She also became an activist in the 1800’s. She lived from 1830-1885.
She was especially moved when she went to hear a lecture in Boston, as part of a 4 year lecture tour by the Ponca Chief Standing Bear.
Standing Bear and his wife Susette Primeau and their son.
He argued against the cruel treatment of his people that were forcibly moved from Nebraska to Oklahoma territory. Up to one third of all people died due to starvation, disease and illness. They were moved too late in the year to plant crops and were denied promised goods and agricultural equipment.
Chief Standing Bear also sued in U.S. District Court, in 1879, that all Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law and have the right of habeus corpus.”
On May 12, 1879, Judge Elmer S. Dundy, ruled in agreement of Native Americans existing in right of habeus corpus. He stated that the federal government had failed to show a basis under law for the Poncas’ arrest and captivity.
This was a landmark case legally for Native American rights.
The case was called:
United Stated ex. rel. Standing Bear v. Crook. Crook was the General holding Standing Bear and his people under law control.
After this ruling, Standing Bear and his followers were freed by army release and given a return of lands restored to them in the Niobrara valley of Nebraska. A state park and many other tributes are in honor of Standing Bear and his achievements.
After the lecture, Helen Hunt Jackson sent everyone in congress a copy of her book: A Century of Dishonor. It described and detailed the deplorable action of the U.S. government against Native Americans. The book exposed the U.S. government’s violations of treaties and gross misconduct and harm against American Indian tribes. She also got involved in Mexican Native rights in California and this resulted in tourism and interest in the area based on her novel Ramona.
She was a prolific writer and activist, who eventually moved to Southern California from Massachusetts.
Helen Hunt Jackson, poet and activist.
Little did I know how much history I would learn from looking up this sweet poem about Goldenrod and the time of September.
A poem, that was popular to recite at the turn of last century, by schoolchildren.
Goldenrod, Queen of Wands, a golden spectacle of fields and roadsides, open areas in mountains and meadows.
A healer to kidneys, U.T.I.’s, sore muscles, wounds, and more.
A wonderful natural dye.
Mistaken for an allergen but actually a cure!
The Anise scented Goldenrod once imported to China as tea.
Goldenrod, good to get to know you.
For many years to come!
Bibliography, including posted links and sources:
Nicholas Culpeper, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal.
Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest., by Delena Tull.
An Earthwise Herbal., by Matthew Wood
Family: Apiaceae also known as: Umbelliferae
Common Names: Queen Anne’s Lace, Bird’s Nest, Wild Carrot
Queen Anne’s Lace… see the tiny, purple floret? The floret is an identification factor.
(The leaves you see are from nearby plants, not from the Queen Anne’s Lace.)
I will label each Queen Anne’s lace picture as: QAL
Queen Anne’s Lace in its first season has a delicious root. It is a wild carrot and, is believed to be the precursor to the modern carrot. Its flowers are edible: can be fried, made into an herbal tea and an herbal tea jelly.
But, it is important to note that it is in the plant family: Apiaceae.
A wonderfully interesting group of plants. Many of which, resemble Queen Anne’s Lace.
The Apiaceae family has made a huge contribution to culinary and herbal endeavors. A boon to our wellbeing!
*Foods and Food Herbs: Parsley, Carrot, Anise, Chervil, Coriander, Caraway, Cumin, Dill, and Fennel.
Medicinal Herbs: Angelica, Osha and Queen Anne’s Lace are popular healing herbs in the Apiaceae family.
I will also talk about using Queen Anne’s Lace as food in this post.
*Not to mention that many, if not all, of the food herbs listed above have healing properties and can be used as herbal medicine.
As well as being delicious additions to our food.
This always gives me a sense of lineage to herbalism and I am grateful to all of our foraging and gardening ancestors.
I think of herbs and their use as a continuation of food as medicine. A common legacy we all have which includes food herbs.
Everyday herbal medicine.
Herbs as Food. Herbs as medicine.
But, Some plants in this family of plants, Apiaceae, are Deadly Poisonous.
Luckily, we know this and have traditions of knowledge to draw on.
For ex., Osha is known as a healing plant, in the Apiaceae family.
I would need to go with someone who knows where to identify it accurately. I have knowledge to look for purple spots, parts and splotches, etc re: water hemlock. But, foraging and herbal wildcrafting has a tried and true tradition of learning from those people who know from hands on experience. Never mind the fact that Osha, in this case, is illegal to pick in certain areas or on the edge of its ecozone or habitat, so should be respected and left alone.
I’ve heard it is difficult to cultivate. Has anyone out there had success cultivating Osha?
Just a curious sidenote…
Luckily, Queen Anne’s Lace is common, although poisonous look a likes can grow nearby and vastly outnumber the Queen Anne’s Lace.
So foraging areas can differ! And, it is considered a noxious weed by some… so be aware of poisonous herbicides or pesticides in foraging areas.
I love the tenacity!
I grew up with Queen Anne’s Lace and have been studying its poisonous look a likes for more than 2 years. It is essential to be able to IDENTIFY Queen Anne’s Lace accurately, everytime!
Do not pick a plant you think is Queen Anne’s Lace until absolutely sure.
So, I suggest to stay clear from foraging this plant until you ABSOLUTELY can positively I.D. it.
An essential strategy, anyway. to wild harvesting a.k.a gleaning… foraging…picking…harvesting…
herbal preparing, touching a wild plant, (for ex., consider: poison ivy)
or touching a garden plant…
As it turns out…Poison Hemlock is an escapee from being landscaped into flower gardens. It has now become naturalized.
So, be like me 🏃avoid the foraging risk until you know for sure!
Here’s a quick note on purple spots, splotches or streaks for some of the poisonous related species, which aids in distinguishing Queen Anne’s Lace.
These poisonous members of the family have purple splotches on their stems: Giant Hogweed (also hairy stems), Poison Hemlock smooth stem), Water Hemlock (smooth stem)
Some Queen Anne’s Lace identifying characteristics:
often white or cream colored flowers
often has small purple floret in center
root smells like carrot
carrot like leaves, (careful here…for ex, Fools Parsley has similar looking leaves.)
*here you can see the grouping of secondary umbels, forming an umbrella shape, which comprises the whole compound umbel.
Here are Queen Anne’s Lace Leaves:
QAL hairy stem
Once you know the differences you can differentiate between both edible, medicinal and poisonous members of the Apiaceae family.
Here is a picture of Poison Hemlock:
Poison Hemlock above 🙋💀
Another similar plant that is DEADLY POISONOUS…Violently Toxic, as it is described… is the Water Hemlock.
Water Hemlock above 🙋💀
Sometimes Water Hemlock is confused for other plants such as: Queen Anne’s Lace, *Wild Parsnip, or Elderberry, etc.
The sap of Wild Parsnip above-
can cause skin burns and scars.
Also, Fools Parsley’s leaves and flowers look a lot like Queen Anne’s Lace:
This is not an extensive list of poisonous look alikes. I will label and include positive I.D. pictures of Queen Anne’s Lace.
I grew up with Queen Anne’s Lace. I always loved the meadows and fields that contained it. Through a slippery slope of information, we children were told that it contained arsenic. Not true according to what I know… but in an inadvertant way…it may have kept us safe from accidentally poisoning us from a deadly, poisonous look a like!
QAL and its classic bird’s nest shape
Here is Green Deane’s excellent post about differentiating between elderberry and water hemlock.
Plus, some great I.D. tips on Water Hemlock… a deadly poison.
Queen Anne’s Lace seeds have been used as food, a spice, a facial oil and a contraceptive. I have, thus far used it as a facial oil.
For more info on use as a natural contraceptive start here:
QAL above and Goldenrod and other wildflowers
Queen Anne’s Lace has a native species also referred to as Wild Carrot. Its Latin name is:
Here is a picture:
I think I am going to make my Herbal jelly like this next time:
Acid, such as in squeezed lemon juice, helps jelly to gel. Check it out.
I had the happy pleasure of making my first ever canned jelly. I made it with Queen Anne’s Lace flowers.
Hence, all my cautionary notes about poisonous look-a-likes!
I made a strong herbal infusion. I used 3 cups Flower heads chopped up. They all smelled carrot-y and I was absolutely sure each and everyone had hairy stems and were all Queen Anne’s Lace. A few were even a pale pink which is unusual but part of the norm.
I felt inspired to make an Herbal Tea Jelly out of Queen Anne’s lace when I found many recipes online. And, many jelly making enthusiasts out there!
Like You! 🍥
(The Pectin I used… and introducing Goldenrod for later posts. As some of you know, and I have recently learned, Goldenrod is not a high allergen like its reputation indicates… and when solar infused in oil or made into salves or liniments, it is great for relieving sore muscles!)
and more jelly making…
Here is the gorgeous rose pink colored tea I made from the Queen Anne’s Lace herbal infusion.
I made sure to sterilize all jars, lids and rings… even though they were new.
Make your herbal tea.
Boil 4 cups water.
Let it cool for five minutes.
Then add and submerge about 20 Queen Anne’s Lace flower heads (2 Cups packed)
Steep the tea for a half an hour. Then strain it.
Use 3 Cups of the tea.
Then stir and heat up
one package of pectin along with
1/4 Cup of lemon juice to the Queen Anne’s Lace herbal tea.
Bring it to a boil….not too slowly or the pectin will dissipate. Go for medium heat.
Once boiling I added the organic sugar.
(I added 5 Cups sugar. similar to mint jelly recipes I found.)
For less sugar,
3 and 1/2 Cups plus 2 Tablespoons is recommended by other jelly makers.
Adding the sugar slowed the mixture down.
Then I brought the mixture to a boil again.
Let it boil for one more minute and it is done.
Do the jelly test if you would like it to be more certain.
Although, the above method worked well for me.
poured into jelly jars… leave, at least 1/4 inch space at the top when filling the jars. Leave room for it to vacuum seal.
Then canned in boiling water bath for 6 minutes….for time required just above sea level. Technically, 5 minutes boiling time for hot water canning at Sea Level. I am in New England, right now, not too far from the ocean.
Boil with, at least, 1 to 2 inches of water covering all the jars.
Screw the bands on all the jars… just tight enough to close. I read somewhere… not too loose…
Fingertip tight, like closing a Mayonnaisse jar. Just til you meet resistance. This was super confusing for me… “finger tip tight”
Some of my bands were loose after canning in boiling water, so not sure if that is normal. But all my lids were properly sealed and I tasted the jelly from the canned jar… yum! lemony and light! A special treat as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Or a delightful filling for a layer cake. It is really good!
I’ve given some jars away and eaten some but, here is the jelly I have left.
Be sure your lids have properly sealed. If they haven’t vacuum sealed on their own after 24 hours of cooling down then they can be used as refrigerator jelly. Or recanned if done right away, just after the 24 hour period of cool down, and opportunity to vacuum seal on its own.
Check by pressing the center of the lid down with your finger. It should be depressed, concave. If the indentation pops back up into a bubble then it did not seal properly.
Also, hold jar up and look horizontally across the lid to make sure it looks flat with center not popped up or bulging and slightly indented in the middle. Then you know it is sealed. Also, tip jar on its side with band off to make sure seal stays on, etc.
I did all the tests above. Here is the top of the lid properly sealed.
The lid shows the indentation and is flat. 🙂
I am grateful for ediblewidfood.com’s recipe for Queen Anne’s Lace jelly.
see link below
I felt better using 5 cups of sugar that I found in the mint jelly recipe inside the pectin box. Because mint jelly is also an herbal tea jelly.
learn2grow.com or I like to say… Jelly for Days. Great Herbal Jelly recipes and fruit juice combos and jelly ideas! savory or sweet!
Jelly is a traditional form of preserving herbs and fruits.
I am also going to soak these Wild Carrot seed heads in oil to extract their skin benefitting qualities.
Dry wilt or completely dry the seeds when soaking in oil.
Water and oil don’t mix.
Wild Carrot essential oil, extracted via steam distillation, is a highly concentrated oil. It takes huge volumes of plant material to distill a few precious drops of essential oil. So, I harvested 15 seed heads (“bird’s nests”) of Queen Anne’s lace. Then, I am going to soak (macerate) them in a solar infusion of oil in the hot sun, for a few weeks. Then, when strained this oil is especially good for sageing skin. I read that in one of my Rosemary Gladstar books and I love the term: sageing. It feels apropos, and with a lot more luster than sagging!
Queen Anne’s Lace Seeds above
And my solar infusing herbal oils. One is the Goldenrod and the other is the Queen Anne’s Lace seed heads!
Queen Anne’s Lace,
Happy Sigh Here
The Cholla cactus used to be considered in the same genus as the Prickly Pear cactus but now is in its own genus.
There are different types of cholla but I harvested Cholla buds from the fuschia flowered cholla growing all around where I live.
It is commonly called cane cholla.
Cholla grows primarily in the Southwest U.S. it has been naturalized in parts of Australia, where it is known as Devil cane.
Cholla flower buds are high in soluble fiber and have more calcium in two tablespoons than a glass of milk. Many people are lactose intolerant or have digestive issues with dairy or allergies. So plant sources of calcium make a lot of sense!
Cholla flower buds are an excellent plant source of calcium.
And here is a bit more health focus about Cholla flower buds which are high in soluble fiber as well as calcium. Also a good amount of iron. Protein is 6 grams per serving!
Soluble fiber….what is it good for?
“… Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels as well as help lower blood cholesterol. Foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples, blueberries.” ………
…….And Cholla Flower Buds!
Cholla flower buds are eaten for taste but also to stave off osteoporosis and help with diabetes and blood sugar management.
I admit there have been times I have looked out at vast fields of Cholla growing with wonderment. But, also a sense of overwhelm. The desert is gorgeous but tough to live in. Now I feel more connected to Cholla. Not only as a prolific and adapted cactus but as an amazing food source. With all your thorns and abilities to thrive in the high desert, I presently call home… you beautify my life with your flowers, thorns and silouhette against blue skies and storms, Cholla.
You nourish me.
You drew me near.
With respect and tongs 🙂
I need songs…
I gathered from your spiney stems.
6 Cholla flower buds to add green bounty to my beans.
In my tanktop and cutoff jeans.
Sweat pouring from my forehead. I took a break from domestic tasks, and various mind chatter.
You nourish me.
Cholla, called me near.
And the ants…
Ants thrive here too.
And were called by Cholla to survive, thrive.
I am just one human surrounded by dozens of Cholla and countless ants swarming for nectar.
Grateful for the green I have for my supper
More meanderings than poetry but I think you know what I mean.
Twice today, I have heard of the importance of singing to plants. And, for the tradition, of so many traditional peoples of the world, who sing to plants… when growing them, foraging, connecting with, and making plant medicine. 🍃🎵
Cholla flower buds are a traditional food of many Pueblo peoples.
Buckthorn Cholla grows near the Tohono O’odham people although most if not all cholla flower buds are said to be edible.
The Hopi people, the Tohono O’odham, still gather Ciolum, Cholla flower buds, for a delicious and health giving food source.
The next link features a woman singing to Ciolim. She talks about coyote. How coyote will be upset. Because she got up early to harvest the wonderful Ciolim.
Or maybe someone sleeps late. Coyote is happy to get the Ciolim early in the morning.
Ciolim helps balance blood sugar.
The woman in the video says that leaving traditional foods behind has caused health problems. Returning with respect to these foods can help restore health balance. And she is one of many, who each year, respect and forage Ciolim.
It is often boiled after removing spines by rubbing against metal screens or colanders. I burned the cactus spines and fine sharp hairs, called glochids, off with my small stove. Then I boiled the buds for 15 minutes. They do taste a bit like asparagus. They are Okra like. Though, I personally like them better.
Of course, fried… could be really yummy too. With a dipping sauce. Maybe some Sumac spice in the batter?
Local foods and spices. Fine dining foraging style!
Here is a recipe I found that is simple and looks good.
Be sure to de-spine the cactus. Both the longer spines and barely visible glochid spines. I burned mine off, then boiled the buds for 15 minutes.
-De-spine Cholla flower buds and/or new growth stem joints.
-Make a batter of Cornmeal, whole wheat flour or other flour, salt & pepper, spices
-Roll pieces in batter and fry in oil
There are still a lot of cholla buds near me. I would like to try this recipe.
Also, you can de-spine them, boil for 15 minutes then dry/dehydrate them for future use.
My father, when he came to visit me, cut a stem of Cholla and replanted it when he got home. They re-plant really easily. Just let the stem piece scar over for a few days. Then stick it in soil. It should take to re-planting easily.
Would you like to grow your own Cholla from seed? Check out this great site. And, you can buy a jar of Cholla buds too!
Also a wonderful site above of empowerment and community for the Tohono O’odham.
Also today I heard this podcast from Mountain Rose Herbs. Rosemary Gladstar talks about many wonderful things including connecting to plants through song.
And listen to her community herbal song ❤
Funny, I was so happy in my garden this morning, I was singing to my plants, before I learned of these songs and traditions today.
Here is some fencing we made by dragging branches of dead cholla over to protect our container garden.
A beautiful flute song.
A Hopi Corn Planting Song based on traditional music.
Played and recorded by Eddy Herier.
The dead cholla makes a beautiful wood skeleton which is often used as a walking cane or ceremonially, and religious use. Also in art.
Here is the remnant of some of that beautiful cholla skeketon.
Thankyou Cholla for making my skeleton strong.
Sources include posted sites and:
Edible and Useful Plants of the Southwest. by Telena Dull,
University of Texas Press. Austin, 1987.
Walking to a favorite arroyo… maybe a 1/4 mile away. I have the most amazing nature hike. Nature is always all around. Even beneath layers of concrete. The earth is there. The air. The cosmos outside our bubble of atmosphere is I would guess a cosmic nature.
I feel so lucky to know, at least, some of the plants by name. To tap in and align with ancient knowledge. To hopefully join a stewardship of respect for these plants and trees. Water and sky. And to remember, I am part of nature. Not de-natured. But one and the same.
I heard on a radio show that humans are, most attuned, to register the sound of bird calls. Songbirds. Why? Because songbirds are always around sources of water. We have an affiliation with songbirds that has always led us to water.
We are. Nature.
Yerba del Buey
Milkweed…beautiful but, this species likely toxic to humans.
I don’t know what this is
Clammy ground cherry
And more Grindelia
a.k.a. Curlycup gumweed
And it has coarse toothed leaves especially the larger ones further down the stem
With my chipped polish!
Flower head with sticky curled bracts
Basal set of leaves
Graffitti and Grindelia
Harvest during milky stage of flowers going to seed soon. I also harvested yellow flower heads and leaves when plant was in this stage above.
Wildcrafting pretty photo blur
I found Grindelia on the bank of this arroyo.
This beautiful plant… captured my attention. Its beautiful flowers and seeds… a mystery plant to me.
Also a reminder, to respect all plants and to wildcraft ethically and with good discernment and respect for the plant and the land.
Grindelia in its sunny glory. Also known as gum plant as it has a sticky resin to it.
Medicinally it is a good expectorant and good for bronchial coughs and dry hacking coughs. Oh how I wish I had some Grindelia tea this past April!
It also makes a soothing skin salve. A tincture made with alcohol is recommended to help heal and dry up poison oak/ivy rash.
Also according to: Dunmire and Tierney’s book: Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province., 1995… p.p. 219-220
Uses include: waxes and resins in the U.S. and Europe. Also makes a good yellow dye.
Also the book sites various Puebloan uses… such as: a tea drunk for kidney problems, dried boiled herb parts with liquid added to clean abrasions, ground herbs applied to skin sores and a sticky blossom on an aching tooth.
I plan on making a tea after drying the flowers and leaves. And also making a healing salve with the dried leaves and flowers.
I will dry these tomorrow
I did dry them… and now as I edit this post… I feel achey and a sore throat. I am having tea and honey now but I am going to make a Grindelia tea when I get home tomorrow morning. Feeling grateful that I have some Grindelia healing herb for a tea!
Meanwhile, I am saving most of my Grindelia along with Mullein and Aster for a healing respiratory tincture! I will keep you posted shortly!
Aster is a healing plant for respiratory problems too…
So much to learn and discover.
On my own, nearby nature hike to an arroyo.
Some familiar plants.
Songbirds happy with the weather and the recent rain.
A Sound walk.
Where I can listen.
And be in harmony with hearing.
Hearing what is offered. What needs to be still. What can be harvested or let alone. From hearing to listening and I am just beginning.
But at least beginning…
Yerba del Buey
Includes information on Grindelia
Beautiful poetry…almost made me cry.
A spring in a desert arroyo.
Posted Sites and these texts for Sources:
Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province. Exploring Ancient And Enduring Uses.
By, William Dunmire and Gail Tierney, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fé. 1995.
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. by, Michael Moore, Museum of New Mexico Press, 2003.
According to the top link above,
Nutrition of the Brassicaceae
plant family is rich in these vitamins and minerals:
“This family is crucial in any diet for vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, K, and the minerals calcium, iron, and magnesium”
Quite a boon of nutrition!
*avoid areas with heavy metals or nitrates since pepper grass absorbs these from the soil if the soil has high amounts. As many plants will do.
Therefore, avoid areas with ferilizer run off.
Good to get soil tested if any doubt.
Fields, vacant lots, grazing land, disturbed areas, roadsides, waste sites.
And Pepper grass grows all around me in the high desert of New Mexico. It was formerly a ranch where I now live.
Common name/Nickname: Pepper grass, Poor Man’s pepper, Pepper weed, Milk Bottle
In amidst the old branches of a dying tree
Turns out I had seen pepper grass quite a bit! I had walked past, stopped to admire it, commented on it, and grown friendly to its presence everywhere.
Little did I know this bouncy, bountiful plant was a yummy, mustard-y, radish like green.
I bet it would taste great in a salt preserved sauerkraut!
Why not toss a few juniper berries in too?
Juniper berries are traditional in Sauerkraut.
Come to find out the bluish/white cast on them is a type of yeast.
Many people these days are making breads and other fermented foods using natural yeast like on the juniper berries! I love these adventurous and accomplishing souls!
Here is my story of Pepper grass. I walked a quarter mile or less around the horseshoe shaped land above a basin of land to where my friend stays. From my place to hers.
I hadn’t seen her in a while. I was missing her. And, she offers such a lovely flurry of blessings my way. She is often to annoint me with a cascade of treats such as: essential oils, gifts and yummy food. Her friendship and our laughter.
We often read tarot for each other and she is a passionate, creative and generous friend.
I told her I was foraging wild foods… albeit thoroughly, blush… and a bit slowly.
She glanced quickly around. She said well there is plenty around us in the desert of New Mexico… and she picked a bunch of bottlebrush like white flowers, leaves and stems, just like that! To my happy surprise! 🙂
She said, taste this!… And, I am so glad I did! Yum! What a surprise! I like mustard-y tastes and it had a taste like horse radish too. Now it is one of my favorite nibbles and it is super good for you too! I just eat the whole thing… excluding the roots. Flowers and all and I have just one thing to say…
Here are some more pictures of Pepper Grass to help you identify it!
Pepper Grass Basal set of leaves
Pepper Grass Basal leaves with stem
These Pepper grass plants are going to seed. It is a couple weeks away from autumn.
Excluding the yellow flowered plant, the Snakeweed plant, this is pepper grass!
More Information and pictures about Escoba de la Vibora a.k.a. Snakeweed, snakebroom…
Escoba de la Vibora
Other Names: broom snakeweed, Matchweed, Snakebroom, broomweed, Collale, Yerba de la Vibora
Salves , herbal oils and tea infusions for baths made from this plant are soothing for arthritis. And it often grows near the Pepper Grass plant so I like to talk about it here!
New growth of Snakeweed above.
This yellow flowered plant, the snakeweed plant, grows all around me too!
I want to make a healing salve from this plant!
It is used medicinally to aid in symptoms of arthritis. It is a medicinal plant and can be used for a healing tea and often for a bath that relieves achiness and discomfort for arthritis and sore muscles.
Michael Moore, herbalist… in his book: Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West., p.p. 110-112, describes the uses and methods of utilizing Escoba de la Vibora.
For a basic formula he suggests to boil one small bundle in a quart of water.
Then sip 2-4 ounces of the infusion of herb.
Then add the rest to bathwater while enjoying part of a book. For me, this would be this book of info!
I just had to harvest some more Yerba de la Vibora! It is the beginning of October and I am sure we want to take, at least, one healing bath for our … mid century aches and pains! Here a bundle is drying!
According to Moore: Further specific Medicinal Use:
“Steep a cup of finely chopped herb for thirty minutes
In a quart of water, strain, and add the tea to a hot bath to alleviate the pain of arthritis and rheumatism.” It is regarded a safe herb for baths.
And, also according to this source, a tea of it can be good for stomach ache and excessive menstruation.
And, also: “It is a respected, almost revered remedio among Hispanic New Mexico and Arizona peoples, where a tea of the herb is usually drunk while bathing in it. … it is common, safe, and may sometimes work so well for joint inflammations as
to supplant salicylate (aspirin) treatments…(snakeweed is) preferred for headache, sore legs or an aching body.”
Also, Moore describes that several of the terpenes of this plant increase skin permeability, increasing the healing properties of Escoba de la Virbona.
Yay, this was a first for me! I wildcrafted snakeweed and verbena. I dried it in the sun for a few days and then made it into a salve! I used organic sunflower oil to infuse the herbs. And, added a few drops of vetiver essential oil. Beeswax was melted and added. It is a relaxing soothing herb salve, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial and nervine benefitting.
*Harvest from non-polluted areas or buy from organic sources if possible.*
Verbena grows all around me in New Mexico!
What a fun herbal project. Tips… it takes 1.5 oz of beeswax per every 16 oz of oil for the salve.
Check out these helpful sites!
A new friend I met on a nature hike also related that snakeweed will also show up in areas that have been over grazed.
And back around the bend to Peppergrass!
Health Benefits Pepper Grass!
“Anthelmintic; Antiasthmatic; Antiscorbutic; Antitussive; Cardiotonic; Diuretic.
The leaves of wild pepper-grass are nutritious and generally detoxifying, they have been used to treat vitamin C deficiency and diabetes, and to expel intestinal worms. The herb is also diuretic and of benefit in easing rheumatic pain. North American Indians used the bruised fresh plant, or a tea made from the leaves to treat poison ivy rash and scurvy. A poultice of the leaves was applied to the chest in the treatment of croup. The seed is antiasthmatic, antitussive, cardiotonic and diuretic. It is used in the treatment of coughs and asthma with excessive phlegm, oedema, oliguria and liquid accumulation in the thoraco-abdominal cavity.A poultice of the bruised roots has been used to draw out blisters. The root is used to treat excess catarrh within the respiratory tract.”
So what have I cooked with it?…
I have just eaten it as an uplifting, radish-y, nourishing and healing nibble! Lucky me! It grows all around me. If I’m smart I will dry some for colder months ahead!
Here is me with a lucky nibble!
Ha ha ha … but true… I did munch away, happily!
And, thankyou friend for showing me Pepper grass!
What a way to spice up my life and thankyou! 🙂
It does make a pretty bouquet too!
As does this drying herbal bundle of Snakebroom!
I wonder if the origin of Bride’s bouquets was an herbal bundle of healing blooms?…
This thought encouraged me to look more into the origin of Bouquets!
Edible Wild Plants. A North American Field Guide to over 200 Natural Foods. By, Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman, Sterling Publishing.com, 1982.
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West. by, Michael Moore, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, 2003.
This post is about Piñon pine. How to make pine needle tea from this tree. And a whimsical weaving in of my story of place. Living in the High Desert of New Mexico in the foothills of the Ortiz Mountains. It is in long view of the Jemez and Santa fe Mountains. Dotted in the middle by the Cerrillos Hills. And visited by Spadefoot toads during the monsoons!
now some science…
Habitat: foothills and outer reaches of the Rocky Mountains, USA
Also: arid mesas in stands and/or with junipers
Mesas, plateaus, lower mountain slopes
Small, spreading, bushy tree
Thin with irregularly furrowed bark
Bark is scaly, and gray to reddish brown
Cones are 1.5″ to 2″
Covered in yellow-brown scales
Each scale holds 2 seeds which are about a half inch long
Pine trees bearing cones with pinon seeds, pine nuts, the following year!
A large crop of pine nuts/seeds occurs every 3-4 years
Gather ripe almost open cones in autumn…. the above cones are all burst open in early fall
Pinus edulis the Piñon pine is an evergreen and classified by its characteristic of having 2 leaves (needles) per bunch
Harvest new growth pine needles in spring and summer to make tea.
Piñon pine is a slow growing tree.
I harvest just 3 or 4 needles per tree until I have a tablespoon per serving.
The above article states the importance of pine tea as a remedy for scurvy. Native Americans introduced this beverage to non-Natives and helped them survive during pioneer and settler periods.
Pine tea is high in vitamins C and A and is still a popular traditional beverage.
This blog is a post about Pinus edulis or Piñon pine.
Please research the pine in your area for safety and edible use.
And always refer to a professional when foraging and using wild plants or trees for food or tea or medicnal use.
I have recently been living in a camper in the high desert about 30 miles away from Santa Fé, surrounded by juniper trees and the two leaf (needle) type of pine or piñon tree. Here is a picture where you can see the pairing of needles, two per bunch. Look in the upper left corner of the picture for the 2 needle groups.
Here is a good site about pinus edulis including habitat location in the U.S.
What is it like to live in the high desert of New Mexico?
I was intimidated by the impending heat of summer in a camper but we have found it is surprisingly seasonable.
Terri, the rainbow and the camper 🙂
Coyotes howl at night and we have to keep our older dog with failing eyesight from chasing down the pack.
There are hummingbirds and roadrunners. Mice and packrats need constant attention to keep them at bay.
During the heat of summer, comes the rainy season in the high desert. We call it the monsoon season.
Endearingly, in pools of water near the piñon and junipers, amphibians lie in the depths of mud and rainwater…the Western Spadefoot toads!
According to the site below, these amphibians metamorphose from tadpole to toad sometimes as fast as 12-19 days. Also dependent on the mud puddle not drying up.
Whereas eggs hatch in 2-3 days sometimes within 15 hours… our local State Park guide told us.
Check it out if you are ever in New Mexico!
Summer time of year, we are surrounded by the Western Spadefoot toads because of all the monsoon puddles.
Terri and I affectionately refer to this closeby, ever growing, monsoon lake puddle as Lake Spadefoot!
Here is “Lake Spadefoot!” And our visit was made more fun when the dogs went splashing in. The toads are nocturnal and I hope they were safely away!
Here is an interesting site about the Western Spadefoot Toad!
The Spadefoot toad’s name is:
Photo credit of this site:
According to the above wikipedia site, here are some interesting quoted facts about the Western Spadefoot Toad.
“The New Mexico Spadefoot Toad (Spea multiplicata) is a species of American spadefoot toad found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. Like other species of spadefoot toad, they get their name from a distinctive spade-like projections on their hind legs which enable them to dig in sandy soils. Some sources also refer to the species as the Mexican Spadefoot Toad, Desert Spadefoot Toad or Southern Spadefoot Toad.
The New Mexico Spadefoot Toad grows from 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length, and has a round body, with relatively short legs. They are green, to grey, to brown, usually reflecting the soil color of their native habitat,often with black and orange colored speckling on their back, and a white underside. They have large eyes,with vertical pupils.
Like all species of spadefoot toad, the New Mexico Spadefoot Toad is nocturnal and secretive. If handled, these frogs might emit a peanutlike odor, which can cause tearing and nasal discharge if in close contact with the face. Spending most of its time buried in the ground, the spadefoot emerges during periods of summer rainfall to feed on insects and to breed. Breeding takes place in temporary pools left by the rain. Eggs laid in large masses, often hatch in as little as 48 hours. The tadpoles are forced to metamorphose quickly, before the water dries up.”
Scientific Site about the Western Spadefoot Toad
So when I think about my day and any foraged foods I have enjoyed. While I wonder if my pictures of the Pinus edulis are in focus enough… while I sift through my own texts and what information I can glean via the internet… (and there is a lot to sift through, in regard to pine tea!)…
I am comforted and humored at night, by the calls of the neighboring, puddle dwelling toads!
Did you ever use a musical instrument… where one piece of the wood is ridged and you rub a stick against the ridges? Well, that is as close as I can come to explaining what they sound like.
And, I always hear what must be hundreds in a chorus together.
This musical instrument reminds me of what they
You can check out this great musical instrument website that sells these sweet creations and also the
above photo courtesy of:
The Western spadefoot toad, it turns out, is the official amphibian for the State of New Mexico!
More about the
Zia people and the Zia symbol here.
Life in the High Desert is diverse and this diversity can change with the season. Like when the toads come out in the rains.
The piñon tree is a steady companion of the high desert of New Mexico. I have noticed it often grows at the base of an older or even dying/dead Juniper tree.
The pine pitch resin also makes an all purpose healing balm called trementina salve. check it out!
It is so interesting to notice patterns.
Seasonal ones but also more cyclical ones and patterns over larger periods of time such as with the growth of these beautiful Piñon trees.
Living back in New Mexico has been fun to see what foraged plants I found while on the road also thrive here.
This is a welcome pattern I am glad to see here. This includes purslane, common mallow, wild lettuce and others. There is so much to learn and it has taken me several months to come back to write about Piñon pine.
What lessons are there for me about pine?
Pine tea is aromatic and lemony. It has an expansive opening feeling for the lungs and has a healing lemony feel to it when drinking it.
Piñon pine are hearty. Slow growing. Evergreen. They provide some of the only shade in the High desert. They grow nuts and their needles can be made into tea.
But, also because they are slow growing I want to respect their bounty. I do not want to harvest more than what the tree can tolerate for needles.
The tree is also home and food to birds and other wildlife.
What have I pined for? What took me so long to write about pine? Did I need to come home again to regain that grounding? I think so.
Pinus edulis has been a teacher to me. I have spent 3/4 of a year thinking and researching…abandoning the post I was trying to write. Only to begin again. I had to forget the stockpile of sites and conflicting information I had found about pine tea. I needed to return to a space. A place where I could admire the tree on my return to New Mexico. Identifying it from a distance by its dark bark when mature. Enjoying seeing its beginning growth underneath a juniper. Becoming visually more aware. Beginning again from less of a burdened perspective of research. And coming more from a place of neighbor. The trees in my vicinity.
Appreciating the 5 or 6 trees I visited today to make 2 cups of tea… It slows me down and helps me fill with intention. Not a neediness or greed… how much can I harvest or get… (or even a horde of information) but, what is needed. What is enough. What is timely. What did today ask me to do?
An appreciation that a shared cup of pine needle tea can fortify. That I have what I need. A teacher.
An ally. A Piñon tree. And a friend to share the tea.
How to Make Pine Needle Tea from Piñon pine.
1.Harvest enough needles from the bright green new growth equal to one tablespoon per cup. Do not over-harvest from one tree
2. Chop or cut with scissors… the needles into smaller bits.
3. Crush the needles between 2 spoons to help release aromatic oils
4. Add to water for tea
5. Bring to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Then strain into cups.
This is a picture from last November. The color is a reddish brown. It is from the Pinus edulis tree also.
Today’s brew was less red. Just slightly tinged with color. But it was good and aromatic and vitalizing. I boiled it less long today so recommend 2-3 minutes as stated above. But remember, it can be nice to have a more gentle tea like I made today!
Here are some fun and interesting sites I have found and wanted to share! Check it out!
The following site is delightful. It shows a Chippewa/Ojibway tradition of making dolls out of tufts of pine needle bunches. Each pine needle bunch forms a doll and the skill and fun is to make the dolls dance, jiggle, jump and perform against a small flat board.
And for those of you looking for more specific medicinal and edible use of pine, here is some quoted material from this site just below.
The above site has a good synopsis of useful information directly quoted below:
Edibile Uses of Piñon Pine:
“Edible Uses Edible Parts: Inner bark; Seed; Seedpod. Edible Uses: Condiment; Gum; Tea.
Seed – raw or cooked[82, 177]. Seeds…delicious raw or cooked[2, K]. The seed can be ground into a meal and used in stews, making bread, cakes etc and in making nut butter. The seed is up to 25mm long. Rich in oil, protein and thiamine. The seed contains about 15% protein. An important item of food for the local Indians, it is also sold in local markets of Colorado and New Mexico[61, 82]. About 450,000 kilos of the seeds are sold in American markets each year. The leaves can be brewed into a tea[183, 257]. Immature female cones – roasted. The soft centre forms a sweet syrupy food. Inner bark – cooked. A sweet flavour, it is cut into strips and cooked like spaghetti. Inner bark can also be dried, ground into a powder and used as a thickening in soups or can be mixed with cereal flours when making bread etc. The pitch from the trunk can be hardened and used as a chewing gum. A vanillin flavouring is obtained as a by-product of other resins that are released from the pulpwood.”
I have underlined and highlighted some of this text for emphasis.
Also according to the PFAF site:
Medicinal Uses are numerous and include:
Plants For A Future
(and wildlettucegal.wordpress.com) can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiseptic; Depurative; Diuretic; Emetic; Expectorant; Pectoral; Plaster; Rubefacient; VD; Vermifuge.
The turpentine obtained from the resin of all pine trees is antiseptic, diuretic, rubefacient and vermifuge. It is a valuable remedy in the treatment of kidney, bladder and rheumatic affections, and also in diseases of the mucous membranes and the treatment of respiratory complaints. Externally it is used in the form of liniment plasters and poultices on cuts, boils, burns and various skin problems[4, 257]. The heated pitch has been applied to the face to remove facial hair. The gum is used as a plaster on cuts and sores. An infusion of the leaves has been used as an emetic to cleanse the stomach. The leaves have been chewed in the treatment of venereal diseases. The leaves have been burnt and the smoke inhaled as a treatment for colds. The inner bark is expectorant.”
Additional Source for this blog post, in addition to posted URL sites includes the text:
Edible Wild Plants. A North American Field Guide to over 200 Natural Foods.
By, Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman, Sterling Publishing.com, 1982.
Thankyou for joining me on this foraging adventure!
Amidst the Pines…Nearby cactus with fruit!
Wild Prickly Lettuce
An annual plant
or biennial plant
-It can grow to over 6 feet in height
-found in fields, disturbed sites such as roadsides,
-Originally a plant from Europe. Originating first
Wild prickly lettuce going to seed.
***Use a good field guide to identify plants. Forage with someone who knows.***
I often refer to:
Edible Wild Plants. By Thomas S. Elias and Peter A. Dykeman. Sterlingpublishing.com
*Plus I research numerable other sources…please do the same.*
Well, our semi-trailer truck broke down. A great spill of oil from our engine. A deplorable event for the immediate environment and for our day. Wouldn’t you know it? We broke down to the closest town. Bliss, Idaho.
Once we sussed out what was going on. Put the emergency triangles out. Made calls to emergency repair trucks (who ended up ripping us off for $300,) got the pets comfortable, made calls, sipped on water in the difficult heat with no AC…made lunch to fuel our reservoir of energy for dealing and enduring what became a 9 hour or longer wait by the side of the road, made more calls, waited twice for tow trucks that didn’t come, had our hopes dashed when one of the tow trucks forgot to bring required equipment. Tried to navigate our options. Finally in the late evening we got towed to the Freightliner 50 or so miles away. Cha-ching what a day.
Amidst all this chaos and lapses in the heat. I couldn’t help but admire the wild prickly lettuce greeting me assuredly from the side of the road. The name of my blog is wildlettucegal…I knew eventually, sooner than later, I would have amassed that lovely combo of timing, information, inspiration to write and the opportunities to inspect and photograph the lettuce.
I even wrote a blog about the road breakdown but, I deleted it. It lacked the oomph. I needed to tap into the tipping point of inspiration. And, today, two days later…I have found it.
As a child I was happily feverish about reading Greek and Roman mythology. I would spend hours, especially, reading about Odysseus or Ulysses. Other myths fascinated me. Medusa fascinated/terrified me. Images of her snake filled crown devastated my ability to sleep at night. The age of nine is when I distinctly remember flipping through a book on Greek mythology…only to be transfixed by her graphic image. Beheaded no less.
Needless to say I could have benefitted from wild lettuce’s soporific, dream inducing qualities. Being nine was a bad year for insomnia. That’s when I saw clips from the exorcist. Cinema’s graphic and gorey cinematic mythology. I did not sleep much at the age of nine.
I now have a tattoo of Medusa on my arm. When I started painting 15 years ago…Medusa was my first series of paintings. Somewhere during that series I remembered an image of myself at the age of nine flipping through a Greek mythology book and spotting the image of Medusa for the first time. I’m glad I took the art route around that one.
So, as you may now understand, in my quirky sense of jubilance…and even current interest in mythology old and new, I was thrilled to learn the mythology connected to wild prickly lettuce.
According to Wikipedia:
The lovely, passionate and triumphant goddess Aphrodite had put to final rest the lovely mortal Adonis who was slain by a boar.
She was transfixed by this beautiful mortal and grieved of his loss.
Aphrodite laid Adonis to rest on a bed of wild lettuce.
Sappho is also known to write and account this myth.
(Wild lettuce has a connection to the world of the dead and I wonder if it is its soporific qualities which provides this kind of mythological link. The dreamworld perhaps being a portal to the world of the dead. Or perhaps a closer realm?)
The Egyptian god Min is also associated with wild prickly lettuce.
The ancient greeks believed the juice of the plant was good for eye ulcers.
The Navajo use it as a ceremonial emetic.
It has a reputation as being calming and sleep inducing for insomniacs. It is even said to have mild opiate qualities.
Even today wild prickly lettuce is eaten in Crete. A variety of Maroula or agrimaroulo is eaten boiled. Culinary traditions remain to this day.
I’ve never tried it for anything other than an edible wild food but wouldn’t mind its calming effect either.
Similar to purslane which contains lithium. I like when food helps me feel better. But, I’m not recommending an overuse of the plant.
The plant seems to have a built in mechanism for overuse. Eating too many leaves causes stomach upset. And the seeds contain some tannins.
*For those of you interested in the healing aspects and indications of wild lettuce…here is a helpful site.
*Also, here is a comprehensive page about Wild Lettuce which also distinguishes it from
Wikipedia describes Lactuca virosa as well:
Here is a picture of Lactuca virosa
This image is from the following source:
© Br. Alfred Brousseau, Saint Mary’s College. Permission to use is granted freely to not-for-profit organizations and for a per-image fee for commercial use. Contact Prof. R. P. Olowin at St. Mary’s College firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
And it is used medicinally and/or as a mild psychotropic but is not my focus here and has a wide range of historical use, but, not necessarily as wild edible. There are also a lot of side effects to its use. But, I wanted to include it here so as to distinguish it from the wild edible Lactuca serriola
Back to and in regard to Lactuca serriola
*I like the harvesting ethics outlined by Merriweather
NUTRITION AND HARVESTING TIPS:
*Lactuca serriola a.k.a. wild prickly lettuce is an annual or biennial plant so leave some plants to reproduce by seed.
*according to Elias and Dykeman: Leaf shapes can vary and can be multilobed/with points and/or oval oblong. Leaves are toothed and spiny along margin and main vein under leaf and the lower leaf surface.Proper identification is crucial.*
*I’ve read that older leaves are slightly toxic
*According to Merriweather,when the wild prickly lettuce plant flowers it is said to be inedible.
*Harvest young leaves they are the most tender
*Best to harvest from plants under 8 inches.
*older/larger leaves can be eaten when boiled
*Edible during spring and summer before the plant flowers or is in seed
*the spines on back of middle vein of leaf are usually soft enough to be eaten when the leaves are small.
*the spines on leaves do not tear clothing or injure
skin. But gloves may be useful re: sap, etc.
*leaves can be boiled as a pot green.
Herbalextractsplus.com sites these NUTRITIONAL qualities also:
When dried, the leaves produce a milky latex substance called lactucarium, which is used in herbal medicine. Some of the constituents in Wild Lettuce include the important milky latex substance (lactucarium), sesquiterpene lactones ( lactucopicrin), caoutchouc, mannitol, lactucin, fiber, coumarins and valuable minerals and vitamins.
Beneficial Uses: Wild Lettuce is considered a mild sedative herb.
Contains vitamin A, B and minerals
*I agree with Merriweather and only harvest one or two leaves per plant. I also consider how many plants are in the area I am harvesting from. Also look at the plant and harvest in such a way as not to kill the plant if you can.
It is known as the compass plant because in the sun the upper leaves twist round to hold their margins upright. 
Here are some new flowers emerging. I was happy to find these.
And here is a picture of wild prickly lettuce when it is a bit larger
And flowers sprouted out on long stems from the top
And a closeup view of flower buds
The leaves have a bit of a firm texture. Even the new leaves. The prickles on main vein of back of leaf are edible when new leaves are raw.
I thought the leaves would be good in a salad.
I tasted them raw and un-garnished and they do have a bitter aftertaste. But, I enjoyed them.
I also harvest 1 or 2 leaves per plant to avoid over-harvesting. I grasp the leaf and carefully strip it from the stalk. Another forager taught me this tip. You can see the ends on the leaves above were harvested this way rather than being sheered off.
Milky sap after pinching the top leaves off… were bitter when eaten raw…
You may want to wear gloves because the sap was milky. This may cause irritation to skin and it was sticky.
More on Mythology and Cultural Accounts of use of Wild Prickly Lettuce that inspired me to write this blog are these entries:
I found this on Mesocosm.net
a Sumerian poem about lettuce
Lettuce is My Hair
My hair is lettuce, [planted] by the water,
It is gukkal-lettuce, [planted] by the water….
My attendant arranges it,
The attendant arranges my hair which is lettuce, the most-favored of plants.
The brother brought me into his life-giving gaze,
Shu-Sin has called me to (his) refreshing …. without [end].
You are our lord, you are our lord,
Silver (and) lapis lazuli – you are our lord,
Farmer who makes the grain stand high, – you are our lord,
For him who is the honey of my eye, who is the lettuce of my heart,
May the days of life come forth…..
It is a balbale of Inanna.
Translated by S. N. Kramer, from the indispensable volume
Pritchard JB (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Princeton University Press. 1969.
***And, finally I found this wonderful site on plants in mythology and have excerpted their info on Prickly Lettuce here:
Greek : Thridax
Species : Lactuca serriola
Description : The ancient Greeks cultivated the wild prickly lettuce. The plant has tall stalks with elongated leaves, yellow flowers and feathery seeds. The ball-shaped lettuce of today is a derivitive species (Lactuca sativa).
Sacred to : Aphrodite (the plant was associated with impotency)
Mythology : Death of Adonis. Adonis was a handsome youth loved by the goddess Aphrodite. He was slain by a wild boar in a bed of lettuce, or was laid out amongst the plants by the goddess following his death. The lettuce was therefore regarded as the plant of the death of love, and so of impotency. Others say that the baby Adonis was hidden in a lettuce bed by the goddess following his birth from the trunk of the tree Myrrha. (Source: Athenaeus)