Posts Tagged ‘Purslane’

Squash Blossoms with Purslane Pesto and Sun-dried Tomato

A couple afternoons ago, I noticed an organic farmer’s table set up outside the local branch of our library. Even though David and I had just come from the co-op, I wandered over to the table, attracted by huge bunches of orange, red and yellow flowers. I love flowers, so I bought a bouquet.

Farmer’s Market Flowers

As I was paying, some squash blossoms caught my eye:

Squash Blossoms

I had learned to love squash blossoms last year when a volunteer pumpkin patch completely took over our side garden. The bunch above represents 1/2 of what I bought, since I snapped the photo after preparing my yummy meal. These are male flowers, which have the stamens in them. You remove the stamen before eating, and they are delicious! You can also eat female flowers, but those are the ones that turn into squash, so most farmers only harvest the male flowers.

Typical recipes for squash blossoms involve frying them, stuffing them with herb cheese, or including them in quesadillas. I wanted something raw and vegan that used what I had on hand. Some kind of pesto sounded good, and we have tons of purslane, an aggressive, edible “weed” with high Omega-3’s and a lemony flavor. I love adding purslane to pesto, and last night I decided to emphasize the Omega-3 by adding in soaked and dehydrated walnuts. I did add a few sprigs of fresh basil and a handful of New Zealand spinach, since both needed harvesting, but the pesto was almost entirely purslane, plus the juice of one lemon. Secret ingredients in raw pestos include miso and some kind of nutritional yeast. In this case, I used South River Azuki Bean Miso and what we call “Sprinkle,” Parma’s Chipotle Cayenne vegan parmesan. A touch of Celtic Sea salt rounded out the flavors.

Miso and parma

A couple days earlier, David and I had sliced and dehydrated a bunch of ripe tomatoes, since we were doing a liquid only cleanse. I call them sundried tomatoes, but I guess technically, they are dehydrated tomatoes. Here’s a picture of the tomatoes and the purslane pesto:

In order to eat my squash blossoms with purslane pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, I removed the stamens and then carefully slit open the flowers, stuffing them with pesto and topping with tomatoes. They make pretty little packages that pop with flavor. David was in London, but in between sessions, I enjoyed a romantic, faery dinner with my flowers and more flowers. Deeeeelish! 😉

Squash Blossoms with Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato

Eco-Watering, Faery Guardians and Plant Wisdom

Well, it’s July 1, which has, since 2010, been celebrated by me as the official “Laura Bruno Independence Day.” What better way to acknowledge the day than by recognizing that deep, abiding connection to Mother Earth, who provides whatever we need if we honor her and have eyes to see: hence another gardening update. (Also, Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends and readers!)

Garden July 1, 2012

I have learned so much just by watching plants. Take, for example, my various kale species, which I grew from seed indoors. They had spindly stems when I transplanted them outdoors, and I watched for weeks as they did flip flops every day. At first, I tried to “help” them by straightening them out, encouraging them to find what I considered a “better” angle for growth. Haha, silly me! I finally left them alone to do their flip flop, figuring if they were all doing it, they must have some kind of method to their madness.

Sure enough, they created firm bases from which to grow. The spindly stems have now grown strong, if crooked, responding to their environment in such a way that they have more solid grounding than straight growth would ever have afforded. There’s a lesson in there for those of us who find ourselves inexplicably led down seemingly opposite or unrelated paths for awhile. Follow that intuition as it creates a solid base from which to flourish!

Plants are smart. My cucumbers were planted too far away from the tomato cage and fence setup, but I worried about moving the cage in case it disturbed their roots. Then one day, I looked, and the bigger cucumber plant had miraculously centered itself directly inside the cage. What’s more, someone or something helped manifest even more support. I got the idea that this tomato cage wasn’t really a trellis and might not do the trick. Yesterday, I intended to walk to the co-op to get a green juice, but something told me to walk down a different road. Lo and behold, a garage sale sign! “Maybe I’ll find a cucumber trellis,” I thought. Well, I found a lovely bauble to go with the others I’d hung to appease the faeries watching over my garden:

Garden Baubles for Faeries

Not seeing a cucumber trellis, but sensing one there, I finally asked. The woman tending the garage sale explained that it was not her sale, so she didn’t know. She asked me how large a trellis I needed. “Not large, I guess. I just need to help the one plant over to my steps or to the fence.” “How ’bout this?” asked the woman. She removed several items from a display rack, and sure enough, that would do the trick. I returned home and thought, “String. I need some string for that tomato cage. Where am I going to manifest my string?” Forgetting about that, I decided to plant some lemon balm and noticed a container that had been bugging me all week because its decorative string had begun to unravel. I started trying to replace the string and suddenly, silly me, I realized what had happened. I strung the string on the tomato cage turned cucumber trellis:

Smart Cucumbers and Magic String

In the photo, you can see how the larger cuke has situated itself right inside the cage, and how the white display rack/sorter shelf perfectly fills the gap between cucumber and fence. I’m still shaking my head over that one, in addition to realizing the night before that those faeries wanted more bling in the garden. I had already hung the little peace bauble, as well as a tiny bejeweled Hamsa to protect my cabbage family plants from caterpillars, but the night before the garage sale-string adventure, I had gotten the clear message that garden faeries wanted at least one more shiny thing. As a little reward for finding the bling, I also received a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s lavender hemp soap for only 75 cents. (Winks and giggles from the Universe, since I had just noted I’d need to buy more soon.)

In addition to manifesting various gardening treats and tools, I’ve found that plants really do respond to invitations. We now have tender dandelion leaves growing in our back yard garden bed, along with purslane, nettles, volunteer strawberries, some thriving parsley and other friends. David and I love, love, love purslane, and I strongly invited it to grow prolifically. Sure enough, that Omega-3 rich, lemony purslane has sprouted up in sidewalk cracks, where it’s currently thriving, as well as in the garlic “hole” of our Garden Soxx:

Volunteer Purslane

OK, I’ve shared about the faeries, plant wisdom, manifestion, and invitations, but what about the eco-watering? Wisconsin’s having what some people would call a drought. I don’t like to label things unless I want them, so let’s just call this an opportunity to recognize abundance. I’ve lived in the desert before, although I never gardened there. But my Sedona friend, Toni, does! She’s so cute, giving me weather updates and flower photos nearly every morning, and she often shares about her use of gray water.

We have a rain barrel here, but when it rarely or never rains, those barrels get low. For some reason, our barrel always has at least a little water in it, even when nowhere else gets rain. It’s like a magical cauldron or something, how that rain barrel keeps replenishing itself without rain. The bees and wasps love it, too. There’s a tiny leak at the bottom, and my little pollinators and predator insect friends go there to drink. I love the rain barrel, but this week it struck me just how much water we can waste without even thinking of it. Years of desert living taught me not to flush the toilet after every single pee, but when you live in massive humidity, you can sometimes forget how dry it really gets. You can forget to honor a precious resource.

This week, David and I put buckets in our sink and shower, collecting water from showers and hand/dish washings. I know people in Santa Fe who do this regularly, but in humid Madison, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve let gallons of perfectly good water go down the drain. No more! We’re reusing our gray water for flowers and thirsty non-edibles. Yes, it’s kind of a pain in the neck (sometimes literally) to bring the buckets outside, but whenever I do so, I make an offering back to the Earth. She has responded with joy and sighs of relief. I also offer all smoothie and kefir rinse water to my plants, as these are so full of nutrients and/or rich organisms to help the soil.

Speaking of offerings, I wasn’t sure about sharing this next part, but it really does work well. I read last year in Mother Earth News that the best all around fertilizer for plants is a mixture of 1 part pee to 20 parts water. Minimum dilution ratio is 1:5, depending on plants’ nitrogen needs, and you can use anything from 1:5, 1:10 or 1:20 depending on frequency and soil. The 1:20 ratio is supposedly the best combo of the main macronutrients Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK). Other plant friendly additions include kelp, nettle infusion leftovers blended with water, chaga leftovers blended with water, worm tea or worm castings, as well as the coffee grounds I get each week from our local co-op.

When I first heard about the pee fertilizer, I thought, “Ew, gross!” and a lot of people still give me that look if I ever mention it. Watching how my plants respond to the dilution, though, I’ve come to view it as one of the deepest, most intimate ways I can give back to the Earth and plants that feed me. The day after I water the roots with my own urine mixed with water, I swear my plants have grown 30% larger overnight. The flowering ones put out new buds, and the greens seem to stretch themselves proudly to the sky. So yeah, maybe I’ve gone “off with the faeries” to Hippieville, but it saves a many gallon flush and makes my plants rejoice.

Our little side garden plot is so alive with bees, herbs, wasps, flowers, and faeries that it has become my favorite spot to sit and read. I’ve got chamomile sun tea “brewing” now, and the Tupsy Turvy tomato plants are growing well. I’m mid-process of manifesting some free lavender cuttings, and my newly planted lemon balm seeds will either grow this time, or the lemon balm cuttings will present themselves, too. I love our magical little garden, perhaps even more because of its challenging location and rental/weather restrictions. Thanks for sharing the journey with me! May we all flourish with our loving Earth.

Gardening in Small Spaces — Update

Here’s a little photo update of our small space, light-challenged garden. As promised, I will continue to post occasional reviews of techniques I find effective, as well as experiments I’m trying. This is only my second year gardening, and we rent rather than own our house. Thus, we need to work within certain confines, including that the surrounding houses have huge trees and that we’re supposed to leave the front yard essentially untouched except by flowers. I do enjoy a challenge, though, and I’m determined to get a much better yield for all my hard work this year. Actually, I’m intending to put in much less work and still maintain a productive garden. These posts here and here show the original set-up, and today’s post is kind of like a progress report:

Garden view from our side steps

As you can see, the Garden Soxx are working well. I have found that they would probably love a leaf or straw mulch, as the black bags can get hot in the sun; however, most of my tiny transplants made it. The plants I started from seed outside seem to do better than ones replanted and then needing to adjust to the scorching bags. My chard starters lost a few leaves, but they did survive, as did my Oak Leaf Lettuce and Romaine, both of which I have shaded by the recycling bin during the heat of the day. We planted some leftover onion and garlic from the store, so we now have fresh garlic greens and green onions whenever we like. We do have the occasional grass blade come through the Garden Soxx, and I also noticed some purslane, which makes me happy. I can’t really call that one a weed since I literally begged purslane to show up in my garden. Two days later, it started growing out of the Garden Soxx, right by my garlic.

My only complaint is that the bugs are devouring my lacinato kale! Until I get some kind of natural bug spray that won’t ruin the taste of my greens, I’m using the lacinato as an unintentional trap crop for bugs in general. They seem to go right for the lacinato and leave my curly kale and other greens alone so far. Between the kale, the nasturtiums, marigolds and some herbs to attract predator insects, we’re doing pretty well in the pest department. I would like some lacinato for myself, though!

Herbs in Pots

I will post soon about last weekend’s trip to Four Elements, an herbal tea farm in North Freedom, WI. We spent over four hours there, touring a Chakra Herb Garden, learning about growing medicinal herbs, and spending some quality time in the woods. I was happy to acquire some of the Eastern herbs that I’d only seen in capsule or tea form like gotu kola and Holy Basil. We also got some delightful pineapple sage, mullein, rose geranium, fennel, and lemon verbena. Lovely! I repotted my sage officinalus, which wintered indoors, and that seems to love the outside. I may need to bring my indoor basil and rosemary outside to join the party!

In addition to the Early Chalk tomatoes I grew from seed and transplanted next to some basil into our “tomato fort” of foot-deep compost, we also decided to try the Topsy Turvy’s again. I didn’t get a good yield from them last year, but I think that’s because I only fertilized them once. Apparently, you’re supposed to water them every day and fertilize once per week. This year, we planted them mostly in compost and worm castings, and yesterday I brought back a bucket of used organic coffee grounds from our co-op. Tomatoes love coffee grounds! Who knew? I guess they fix nitrogen in the soil, so now our heirlooms will be mighty happy.

Topsy Turvy’s

I also learned from last year that you really do need to fence or otherwise support tomato plants growing in the ground. Otherwise, they can get a yucky spotted disease called Early or Late Blight. The leaves don’t want to sit on moist ground, or they succumb to this fungus. The coffee should also make them more disease resistant. Last year, our Topsy Turvy tomato plants were the only ones that didn’t get blight, but the fruit kept rotting before it ripened. We learned too late that tomatoes are “heavy feeders.” Once I put some organic fertilizer on them, they perked right up.

This concludes the front side tour. Below the steps we have some cucumbers growing, but they’re so small right now, I opted not to include a photo. They’re there, though! I also experimented with planting two Double Yield Cucumber seedlings near our garbage/recycling. That’s a total experiment, but we had volunteer pumpkins there last year, and they grew well along the fence. I figure, if they grow, great, and who cares if they shade the bins? If they don’t grow, no worries, the ones under the steps will for sure. Past the back steps we have this apple mint:

Apple mint is flourishing!

We cut from this apple mint several times per week, and, like a good old weed, it just keeps replenishing itself. Speaking of weeds, I am extremely pleased with the behavior of our nettles. While everyone else already has tough, adult nettles, we still have the tender spring variety. I harvest them several times a week, and they keep coming up young and soft (well, except for the stingers!) I do wish our peppermint grew as fast as the apple mint, but at least we have some.

Peppermint, Nettles, Onions and Chives

On the advice of a commenter, I did end up adding an old mirror to increase the light in our partial sun (read: mostly shade) back garden bed. It seems to be doing the trick for some of the plants, although the kale and collards remain extremely small. We do have asparagus, parsley and bok choy growing well now, and our tat soi (another Asian green) has just begun to sprout. I have planted that in a recycling bin sheltered spot on the sunny side of the house, as well as in the back, because it supposedly grows well in low light conditions.

Adding a mirror increases light in shady spots

It’s all an experiment, and as David reminds me, “This is supposed to be fun, Lovey!” Most of the time, it really is, but sometimes I do get overly concerned with “the kids.” That’s why I like growing weeds. If people have such a hard time killing them, then surely I won’t have much trouble growing them. I love how gardening combines so many of my passions: the freshest organic food, freedom on many levels, herbalism, tuning into the Earth and Earth Elementals, and finding ways to work with Nature. I love our rain barrel, and I love feeding our garden nutrient-rich smoothie or kefir rinse water that I’d otherwise throw down the drain. Plus, pouring some of those sweet treats on the garden has lured two ant colonies away from our kitchen. Score!

Just for the record, we really don’t have much usable garden space here, and what we do have wasn’t really meant for vegetable gardening. We’ve just maximized every sunny inch we have. All winter long, I grew fresh herbs inside, and anyone can grow sprouts even in the smallest kitchen. It’s amazing how creative we can be and how much the Universe supports us when we set our intentions and take little baby steps in that direction. Happy Almost-Summer!

Wild Foraging and Weeds: Why Wild Things Make My Heart Sing

Anyone who follows me on Facebook, walks in the woods (or anywhere!) with me, peruses titles on my growing stack of library books, or visits our backyard may possibly have noticed a teeny tiny obsession with all things wild. This is not something new, but it has most definitely intensified since October 2010, when I took an Urban Foraging Class on my first visit to Madison. In years past, I delighted in dandelions, lambs quarters, nettles and purslane, with the occasional sorrel mixed in for good measure. My friend Cecilia showed me a wild strawberry bush and fig tree in Petaluma, and we spent some blissful times gorging ourselves on Nature’s bounty. Perhaps it’s the faery in me, but I’ve always loved weeds, especially clover that attracts honey bees and Leprechauns … as well as forget-me-nots and all things foresty.

In addition to the woods, medicinal herbs have also held a space close to my heart, especially since I first began my Medical Intuitive practice while doing an apprentice trade with a Seattle herbalist of 50+ years (no longer practicing). In exchange for me “reading” his clients, he taught me what he knew about Chinese, Ayurvedic and Native American Herbal Remedies. We both learned lots and his clients benefited from our joint efforts. In my pre-“I not only believe in past lives, but I offer past life readings” days, he would assure me that I must have spent many lifetimes working as a healer because I seemed to just “know” all the remedies. I’ve gradually learned more on a conscious level, and I’ve obviously gotten over my reluctance to attribute any past life infiltration of knowledge! Still, one thing I missed in working with him was the experience of actual plants. All the herbs he used arrived as powders. The most I interacted with them was by taking them internally or counting capsules for his clients. I appreciated the ways he helped me heal from my brain injury, along with the training, but part of me longed to connect with the plants themselves.

Fast forward ten years: living in a house in eco-friendly Madison has provided me with a yard, unsprayed bike trails, and a community of people interested in permaculture, organic gardening and wild food foraging. I’ve since attended another urban foraging class, as well as a Wild Edibles Dinner, hosted by Kathleen Wildwood of Wildwood Institute. The gourmet, multi-course meal was foraged and prepared by the owners of Moonwise Herbs, and it truly inspired me with more community, delicious, deeply nourishing food, and a greater appreciation of the abundance all around us.

As a Lazy Raw Foodist and newbie gardener, I love so many things about wild foods! For one thing, they grow without effort. Instead of weeding the garden, watering the soil, and carefully fertilizing seedlings, you can just let the weeds have at it. I find this comforting, as I watch how slowly my cultivated seedlings have sprouted and begun to grow, in vast contrast to the abundance and fast spurts of dandelions, lambs quarters and wild violets. Our backyard came with lots of bulb plants like hostas and lillies, but I’ve also found wood nettles, bee balm, garlic mustard (great for pesto!), what appears to be plantain, clover, creeping Jenny, wild lettuces, a transplanted stinging nettle, ferns (for fiddleheads), various now potted mints, and some possibly edible leeks. We also inherited three raspberry bushes, two elderberry trees, and some burdock from a permaculture enthusiast who needed to trim back her bounty. These all look happy and vibrant among my kale, chard, chives, strawberries, herbs, nasturtiums and marigolds.

Much happier than my poor tomato plants! Dear me, if I based my gardening experience on the joy of some of the trickier specimens, I’d feel so discouraged that I just might quit. Instead, the weeds provide wonderful greens for smoothies and salads, as well as “proof” that our tiny, unplanned yard can provide abudant produce. If I expand my “garden” outward to include nearby bike paths, I find Juneberry trees, more elderberry, giant dandelions, large burdock and cattails, which I have yet to try. I hear that cattails offer all parts as edibles during various points of the year, but still want some help identifying which parts to harvest when. Our landlord, who lives behind us, also offered his crabapple trees and cherry tree during harvest time. These produce much more than birds and the nearby humans can handle without canning, freezing or dehydrating. Supposedly the crabapples make an excellent cider, and I’m happy to experiment when the time comes.

The Wild Edibles Dinner featured a dessert made from Japanese Knotweed berries, which some of you may recognize as a primary ingredient in Resveratrol supplements. Indeed, David Wolfe has mentioned Japanese Knotweed as a major immune system support for people suffering from Lyme Disease, and I used these to help my ex-husband recover from his Advanced Stage Lyme. There’s a saying among herbalists that Nature provides whatever you need nearby, so I find it interesting that Japanese Knotweed has become a massively invasive species in Wisconsin, where Lyme Disease also runs rampant. I’ve heard the same thing about teasel root growing fast in Oregon and other areas with a LD issue. I don’t have LD, but I must say, that Japanese Knotweed crisp rocked! So much so that I’m going to call the folks trying to eradicate it from a nearby park to see if I can harvest the unsprayed berries.

I love how Nature seems to “know” exactly what issue someone has and synchronously provide just the plants necessary for healing. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I consider humanity to be in a crisis state right now. From government to corporate to environmental abuses to the restriction of all herbs in the EU, we need to wake up and shift! Planet Earth does not require humanity for her survival. In addition to taste and medicinal properties, I love the resilient and unstoppable qualities of weeds. We are what we eat, and we could do much worse than weeds. In fact, weeds balance disturbed or unhealthy ecosystems. Things like dandelion, comfrey and burdock grow extremely deep roots, drawing minerals up to renourish depleted soil. Weeds spring up when the Earth needs healing. By eating more weeds, we can become, on a cellular level, Earth healers. By eating wild things, we become wild, too — more easily able to free ourselves from outmoded societal conditioning that destroys communities and our sense of connection with each other and our environment.

Harvesting local foods frees us from dependence on oil and the transportation system used to bring us the produce we take for granted. It also frees us from having to pay for food. Although I have plenty of money to buy groceries, I recognize BigBanks, BigOil, BigAg and BigPharma as major culprits in all things wrong with our world right now. I would love to live completely outside the system, and I keep researching ways to increase my own independence (and interdependence with more preferable groups). In the meantime, collecting weeds, wild foraging for edibles and seeding easy-to-grow organic plants at home, brings me step-by-step closer to greater harmony with the Earth and my own Nature-loving soul. Learning how to survive on wild items also lets me relax about potential world food shortages caused by poor weather conditions, disasters or disruption of food transportation.

I’m nowhere near my final goals, but I begin each morning marveling at the abundance and beauty all around me. I find it fun. The spunky part of me who’s familiar with Codex Alimentarius and Agenda 21 also gets excited to think of myself like a weed. In a world where governments at best fail to protect their citizens and at worst are actively creating weather, environmental and pharmaceutical conditions to destroy, starve or poison large portions of the population, eating weeds and wild things is my way of celebrating strength and life. Just TRY to eradicate dandelions! Just try to get rid of wild violets and garlic mustard. Even with the most intense chemicals and poor conditions, new ones will no doubt pop up. I have lambsquarters growing in my patio cracks! Feeling that resilience and expansion in myself makes me giggle. I also feel deeply nourished and joyful.

If you decide to forage, I strongly suggest connecting with experienced people in your area. You’ll also want to make sure the no one sprays or pollutes the plants you’d like to eat, and identification does matter. You’ll want to learn the key differences between wild edibles and poisonous lookalikes. If in doubt, don’t eat it! Personally, I find the learning curve exciting. Yes, it takes up a lot of my current time and energy, but I consider the process both recreational and restorative. In a world of change, those who cling to the old may perish, but those who adapt, thrive. I intend to flourish, regardless of circumstances, and I feel ever so grateful for the challenges that brought me more in tune with Earth and some beautiful humans and animals on this planet.