Posts Tagged ‘Wildcrafting’

Just a lovely plant in my neighborhood I am trying to ID
This is just a lovely little bush in my neighborhood I am trying to ID. So, it’s a  Psoralea pinnata, called the Grape Kool-aid plant because that is what it smells like.  Cool.
Sorry this is about 2 weeks behind schedule folks. The Japanese tsunami and nuclear meltdown really got me thinking about a disaster kit. We are 19.5 miles from Diablo Canyon Nuclear power plant, on the wrong side of the San Andres fault, full moon, planets lining up, fish kills in Redondo Beach all added up to get the dang kit done. It was an intense two weeks but the kit is done. Thanks for your patience. Just one more thing.  There is going  to be a universal water prayer for Japan conducted by Masaru Emoto on March 31 at 12 noon. I hope all reading this will be able to join in. Thank you.

(Chenopodium album)

Pronunciation: ken-o-PODE-ee-um AL-bum

Chenopo’dium: from the Greek chen, “goose,” and pous, “foot,” or podion, “a little foot,” referring to the shape of the leaves in some species (ref. genus Chenopodium)

Lambs quarters - Very common looking weed

This European relative of spinach and beets, which grows throughout the North America, bears large quantities of edible, spinach-flavored leaves you can collect from mid-spring to late fall. It’s one of the best sources of beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, and iron in the world; also a great source of trace minerals, B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, and fiber. Wildman has an excellent piece on lambs quarter, also called goosefoot and pig weed. There is a look-a-like that will make you sick.  The tell-tale difference is the look-a-like smells like resin. So no worries just pinch the leaves if it stinks let it be.  I have found all the plants we are talking about here in my own yard or neighborhood. They are common. I have found, ID’ed and eaten everything I am posting here.  I am not going to tell you anything I haven’t tried myself. So, Here is Lambs Quarters which I just found and ID’ed this last winter.

One of the tastiest greens out there–It is in your yard – Find It – ID It.

Young lambs quarters Ewe to you.

Nutrients: Lambs quarters  has Phosphorus, iron, calcium, vitamins A, B2, Niacin, and C

Medicinal uses

Native Americans ate the leaves to treat stomachaches and prevent scurvy. Cold tea used for diarrhea. Leaf poultice used for burns and swellings. Fold remedy for vitiligo, a skin disorder.

This YouTube has some more interesting facts about Lambs Quarters. Ever heard of quinoa? You will be surprised what he has to say about lambs quarters and quinoa.


(Stellaria media)

Chickweed - Delicious and medicinal

Most are succulent and have white flowers, and all with practically the same edible and medicinal values. They all exhibit a very interesting trait, (they sleep) termed the ‘Sleep of Plants,’ every night the leaves fold over the tender buds and the new shoots. I suggest you only gather this little darling when the white flowers are present. The look-a-like is the scarlet pimpernel.   They grow very close to each other. You can’t tell them apart except for the flowers.

Side note: scarlet pimpernel


Chickweed look-a-like Scarlet Pimpernel

is known as the weather vane plant. When a low pressure is approaching the flower will close up to protect its pollen. Low pressure means there is a change of weather on the way. Dandelions flowers will do the same thing. But if there is a puff-ball on the dandelion the plant releases the puff from the stem before it rains to insures reseeding. Watch those puff balls. High pressure means clear skies. I digress. Back to Chickweed.

Gather fresh edible plant between May and July, as soon as flowers appear, it can be used fresh or be dried for later herb use.
Chickweeds are Medicinal and edible, they are very nutritious, high in vitamins and minerals, can be added to salads or cooked as a pot herb, tasting somewhat like spinach. The major plant constituents in Chickweed are Ascorbic-acid, Beta-carotene, Calcium, Coumarins, Genistein, Gamma-linolenic-acid, Flavonoids, Hentriacontanol, Magnesium, Niacin, Oleic-acid, Potassium, Riboflavin, Rutin, Selenium, Triterpenoid saponins, Thiamin, and Zinc.
The whole plant is used in alternative medicine as an astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary.
It is also used to relieve constipation, an infusion of the dried herb is used in coughs and hoarseness, and is beneficial in the treatment of kidney complaints. as an astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary.
A decoction of the whole plant is taken internally as a post-partum depurative, emmenagogue, galactogogue and circulatory tonic.

New research indicates it’s use as an effective antihistamine. The decoction is also used externally to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers. It can be applied as a medicinal poultice and will relieve any kind of roseola and is effective wherever there are fragile superficial veins or itching skin conditions.


Chickweed up close and personal

Chickweed-Down and Dirty

This little guy is good for just about everything that ails you.  Find it in your garden or neighborhood. It is everywhere and finding it is kind of a thrill.  It shows you have been paying attention and are learning something. Walking takes on a whole new meaning when you are out there trying to ID plants. I just learned about wood sorrel the other day and now I popping it in my mouth every chance I get.

As usual I have overstepped my bounds here and gone way over the limit. But I have half of next weeks wildcrafting blog already done. It will be on wood sorrel, Pine needles and spring tonic if I have room.

Please pass the prayer for Japan around, thank you and see you next week.

Wildcrafting: #3 Dandelions, Curly Dock, Jewelweed & Making flower essences.

WILDCRAFTING: MUGWORT, (bonus plant Wormwood), YARROW AND RED CLOVER. And a little conversation with God and St. Francis on Lawns.


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Find it – Dandelion – Id it


Taraxacum officinale

Know it

The name dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion meaning lions tooth which refers to the shape of the leaves. Dandelions are  little power houses.  You can use all parts, flowers, leaves, roots even the seed heads, which automatically prompts you to make a wish.  Also, ever notice that there are no dandelion puffs right before a rain? They all drop off so they are ready for a good drenching when the rain arrives.  This gets them a head start on reseeding themselves.  Leaves taste best when they are young. Like some older people I know they get bitter as they get older.  So leave them alone. However, in the fall after a hard frost the bitterness is dispersed and you can enjoy them once again. I wish this worked the same way on people.

The white stuff in the leaves and stems is natural latex.  In a pinch it will re-stick that stamp you pulled off and saved because it didn’t get cancelled by the Post Office.  It works.

One ounce of the fresh leaf  contains large amounts of  Vit A, calcium, sodium, potassium, and trace elements. The root of the plant is the part most often used for healing purposes. It is a blood cleanser. Good for cleansing the liver, kidney and gall bladder.  Collected in either the spring or fall, fresh dandelion roots can be peeled parboiled and sautéed to be served as a tasty vegetable.

Many European herbalist regard dandelion as one of the best herbs for building the blood and curing anemic conditions. I grab a leaf and pop it in my mouth when I am watering it.  It’s all good.

Because of the dandelion and its yellow flower that we see so often I am adding a feature so we can preserve the flowers for later. The new feature making Flower essences. It is very easy  to do,  packs a wallop medicinally and can be used with any flowers.  So, here is more about the dandelion and a feature on how to make flower essence.



That Learning Herbs  site above  is a very interesting site on wildcrafting.  It also offered a wildcrafting game for kids ages 4-adult that I had to have. It arrived yesterday. It is very clever. I particularly like the cooperation aspect of the game  (Nothing like monopoly, which I always hated). The idea is to  get to the huckleberry patch, pick 2 pails of huckleberries and then back to grandma’s before dark.  You have trouble along the way, scraped knees, bee sting, etc and the plants with pictures explaining which ones to use for the trouble.   What is really cool is you can share the plants you have collected, help players that are falling behind by picking berries for them or giving them your turn.  You win when everyone arrives safely back to grandma’s house.  It can be played in conjunction with an online webpage that enhances the story and details on the other plants on the board. I learned some stuff I didn’t know and that is always fun.  This is not a Milton Bradley production. This s a Family operation and it is very unique. Guess what the grand kids are getting for Christmas?

Flower Essences

You just have to try this. I have bought Bach’s flower essences before, Major (my puppy dog) and I are partial to Rescue Remedy. Couple drops under the tongue calms everything down, but they are  expensive, $11.95 for .25 ounce. I didn’t have a lot of dandelions so I used what I had, red clover, yarrow, honeysuckle violets and  borage.  Instructions said do flowers separately. As you can see I don’t always follow the directions. I put everything into one bowl.

Bowl of Flowers for essence

I am going to give you a quick rundown of what I did and then you check out the link below for more details.

Flower essence recipe: http://www.thedance.com/herbs/flhow.htm

  • Collect just the flower parts. Try not to touch the flowers. It’s an energy thing I think
  • Arrange them face up in a bowl of spring or filtered water
  • Put them in the sun for about 4 hours. Keep bugs out. Again, you don’t want any bug energy in this.
  • Remove flowers by straining into a clean bowl.
  • Put equal parts of brandy and the flower water into a dark glass container and cap it. Mix the contents by hitting the container sharply with the ball of your hand  30 times. ( I don’t have any idea why you do this 30 times. I did it because it sounded like there might be a curse attached if I didn’t.  I did it 30 times) Also, I didn’t have any brandy so I used Cherry Herring. After I did that I went to find out if it would still work with a liqueur. Silly me.  I learned that the difference between the  brandy which is  60 proof and Cherry Herring which is about 40-45 proof, oh and the taste, might be the reason for using the higher proofed brandy.  All I know is I sure like the taste of Cherry Herring better than Brandy but next time I will do Brandy. I think any distilled alcohol will do.
  • In essence you are done.  You have just made a tincture.  This is the mother. There are several other steps you do to extend the tincture but I ran out of Cherry Herring so I couldn’t do the next step.  Oh darn. I need to buy more Cherry Herring. There are many herbal remedies that call for tinctures. There is a lot of power in those little flowers and the power of the sun pulls it out and deposits it in the water. You now have the power. It’s Magic.  Go for it.

Find it – Curly Dock – Wild Yellow Dock – ID it

Know it

Curly dock in the fall

Curly dock is easy to spot in the late summer or early fall. It’s tall red seed stock is a head turner in open fields. Related to Buckwheat and rhubarb. The seeds are a great deep yellow dye source.  You use the root at this stage.  Dock root has a reputation among herbalists as an effective tonic and cleanser for the whole system.  They use it to  strengthen the circulatory system, the blood, liver, kidneys, and bladder. Dock has been identified  as a laxative. A tea made from the root of the plant is famous in Chinese medicine as a treatment for chronic constipation.  Good to know if you are on Vicodin. You don’t boil dock like other roots, you steep it. Place a teaspoon of chopped up dock in a cup and pour boiling water over it to the very top.   Cover it and let it steep for 30 minutes. Drain, reheat and drink.

Top pic is Curly dock in the fall.  The pic bottom left is curly dock in the middle of summer.  It’s a perennial so you could use the root at this point. Don’t eat the leaves now too bitter. Pic bottom right is Spring dock. Eat the leaves now. Nice lemony taste.

Curly dock mid summer

Curly dock in the spring

Here is more information on what to do with dock.  http://www.henriettesherbal.com/eclectic/cook/RUMEX_CRISPUS.htm

 Find it – Jewelweed – ID it

Know it

Jewel weed Impatiens species

This is a good one to find especially when you are out wildcrafting and come in contact with Poison Ivy/Oak. I just recently found this plant for the first time while I was collecting spring water.  There was poison oak everywhere and  right next to the poison oak was this little flower that looked like a baby orchid. I picked it and took it home to id it  and it was jewelweed.  The indians say that a cure is within arms reach.  I can attest to the power of this little plant.  Cassie gets poison oak really bad. We have tried a lot of things to relieve the itching. Jewelweed  is one of the best topical applications we found that really helped. Here is a video that gives a good closeup of the plant.

and here is a more detailed explanation of Jewelweed.


Wow, I am over my limit again. There is just so much to talk about.  More wildcrafting next week.

Wildcrafting part 1 Getting Started

Wildcrafting part 2 Mugwort, Wormwood, Yarrow and Red Clover And a conversation with God and St. Francis.

Wildcrafting part 4: The CAT’S MEOW A LIFESAVING PLANT

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Find it-MUGWORT-ID it

Mugwort-Artemisia vulgaris

Know it


I have to tell you Mugwort and Wormwood are very close. They are related and they are both good herbs to wildcraft. So here is a pic and description of Wormwood. Two for the price of one.

Find it-WORMWOOD-ID it

Wormwood-Artemisia absinthium

Know it


The leaves on the wormwood are more deeply lobed and more of a silvery color than the mugwort. Wormwood is a great find and has quite a history. It is one of those biblical herbs as is fennel and yarrow.

Here’s the bible references


Find it-Yarrow-ID it

Yarrow-Achillea millefolium

Know it


Yarrow comes in pink, white and yellow.  A reader was nice enough to point out that the white yarrow and not the yellow as I had originally posted, is the native.  Good to be able to set the record straight.  Thanks Judith.

Native yarrow is very prolific and reseeds itself almost desperately which is good because there is so much you can do with it. I just learned you can take one leaf, chop it up and put it on your compost pile to speed up decomposition. Works so well with other herbs too.

Find it-Red Clover-ID it

Red Clover-Trifolium pratense

Know it


You can find red clover everywhere. Red is really pink and there is a white clover but the medicinal properties are different. It also reseeds itself and is, as is with all clovers, great for the soil. All the herbs I have mentioned here that are so beneficial and part of the wildcrafting art are regarded as weeds by the makers and producers of lawns. Ortho and Scotts have weed killers to protect the precious over pampered, waste of space we call lawns from the likes of Mother Nature.

How to use:

Dose may vary from person to person, but general guidelines are as follows:

  • Dried herb (used for tea): 1 – 2 tsp dried flowers or flowering tops steeped in 8 oz. hot water for 1/2 hour; drink 2 – 3 cups daily
  • Powdered herb (available in capsules): 40 – 160 mg per day, or 28 – 85 mg of red clover isoflavones
  • Tincture (1:5, 30% alcohol): 60 – 100 drops (3 – 5 mL) three times per day; may add to hot water as a tea
  • Fluid Extract (1:1): 1 mL three times per day; may add to hot water as a tea
  • Standardized red clover isoflavone extracts: directions on product labels should be carefully followed
  • Topical treatment (such as for psoriasis or eczema): an infusion, liquid extract, or ointment containing 10 – 15% flowerheads; apply as needed unless irritation develops. Do not apply to an open wound without a doctor’s supervision.


As you might guess I am not a fan of lawns. I am sorry. They are nice to look at when they are all green and manicured. As a kid I hand mowed about a quarter of an acre of lawn every week which I actually enjoyed doing.  I don’t like lawns because I think today they are a colossal waste of time, money, water and effort.  Josh, #2 son, sent this to me about a year ago knowing how I feel about lawns. This is right on and what we call garden humor. Enjoy.


GOD: Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough. I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have they scheduled for us tonight?”

ST. CATHERINE: “Dumb and Dumber”, Lord. It’s a really stupid movie about…..

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

See you next week. Will be doing dandelions and two others.

Happy Crafting.

Wildcrafting part 1   Starter Guide

Wildcrafting part 2 Mugwort (bonus plant Wormwood) Yarrow, chickweed, and red clover

Wildcrafting part 3 dandelions and making flower essences

Wildcrafting part 4 The Cat’s Meow-A Real Lifesaver

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Wildcrafting #1: Starter guide


Wildcrafting is the ancient art of taking care of yourself by taking care of Mother Nature.  A tried and true method of not only survival and sustainability, but also a way of promoting abundance, diversity and showing gratitude to dear old MOM who is always looking to shower us with blessings. It is a way of collecting  seeds, nuts, plants, roots, flowers from the wild. Before there was processed food and drive thru, before refrigerators or farms or agri business, before the neanderthal or the missing link there was wildcrafting.   Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it ( Cole Porter lyrics ) Let’s do it… Let’s wildcraft.

For starters understand the principal. Mother Nature provides us with everything we need to survive. There is quite an etiquette that goes with wildcrafting.  A whole bunch of rules that are spelled out for people who have lost all touch and connection with their roots. What once was obvious natural behavior practiced by indigenous people whose life depended on knowing the rules has become a lost art.  Here are the rules. http://home.klis.com/~chebogue/p.conWild.html Read them and understand them before you head out into the wild blue yonder.

For now just apply good common sense.

  • Positive ID of the plant a must.
  • Stay away from roadside plants that are contaminated with pollutants, polluted water and industrial areas.
  • Leave a place better than you found it best if there is no trace of your ever being there.
  • Always leave something so the next generation can produce and multiply.
  • Always thank Mother Nature and the plant for their gift.
  • Only take what you need.

When you have graduated to the next step you will need to check with local authorities and see what plants require a picking permit. Some herbs like the fiddle fern and Echinacea are protected. Some areas are protected. Check to make sure. You don’t want to be picking protected plants in restricted areas.   In the mean time, Trust me. Mom has a lot of goodies up her sleeve and there usually is an abundance of what you need and can use within arms reach.  So let’s get started in our own backyard and neighborhood.

Clean pickings is important. No pesticides, herbicides, snail, or rat poison, or roundup around. If you don’t know, leave it alone.  Getting a positive ID is critical. Know your plants. Mother Nature has a wonderful way of mimicking herself.  This is especially true in the mushroom department. So we are not going to do mushrooms here. You need an expert in this area. One mushroom with an ever so slight variation hardly visible to the human eye can be the deadly mimic to the edible variety.

An entire group of Maidu Indians died from collecting mushrooms from their usual foraging spot. The mushrooms had been contaminated with a wild spore that they had no way of knowing had settled on the mushrooms.  This put me off of  hunting mushrooms on my own.

Wild carrots, fennel and  poisonous hemlock have exactly the same flower arrangement the only difference is hemlock has a spotted hollow stem. We are going to start you off wildcrafting in familiar surroundings. This will teach you how to look for plants, see plants, and learn about their secret life.

Here is a picture of my front yard.

5’x10′ garden

It is 5‘x10’ and has over 100 wild herbs. spices, domestic and foreign. Can you find the yarrow, spearmint, ginger, horseradish, mustard, burdock, motherwort, vervain, ephedrine, fennel, wild radish, red clover, wooly mullein, scarlet pimpernel, dandelion, mugwort, violets, sage, comfrey, jasamine, rose hips, lavender, rosemary, honeysuckle, aloe, millet, onions, nasturtiums, plantain, borage, thyme, yellow sulfur plant, knot weed, curly dock, geraniums, apple, lemon, apricots, guava, cherry, bamboo, cattail and I still have not found a good use for crab grass but it’s there. I can promise you this wildcrafting can become an obsession.

I will do three plants per blog. Lets start with the common scarlet pimpernel. This is a little darling. So many uses. Find it.

ID it.

Know it.


Next. Salsify.

When I first saw this in the wild I thought I had found a new source of gold. This huge over sized dandelion looking seed pod shimmered like spun gold in the sunlight.  The wildflower book describes the color as brown but I am telling you it is gold. It grows wild. Brought some seeds home and it grew. The root looks like a carrot and taste like  an oyster.  Leaves are eatable. Taste best if harvested before it flowers.  Find it.

ID it.

Know it

Here is how you pronounce it and more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlUVTPokwh4


And lastly

Plantain (not the banana) Another one of those hidden treasures with secret powers.  There is broad leaf and English plantain. Picture is English variety. The parallel venation is a dead give away. The Indians chewed a leaf (saliva is the secret ingredient) mixed it with sap from the pine tree applied to splinters, etc. foreign objects needing to be removed, and within 24 hours the object was drawn out. Find it.

ID it

Know it


(Note: I endorse these links because I like them. They are not advertisements, and I get no kickbacks. That’s nice huh?)

More next week

Part 2 Wildcrafting: Mugwort, Wormwood, Yarrow, and Red Clover

Part 3 Wildcrafting Dandelions, Curly dock, Jewelweed & Making flower essences

Part 4: Wildcrafting: The CAT’S MEOW A LIFESAVING PLANT

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