Each morning I’ve literally been going out with a colander and a pair of scissors to clip from my garden and use for my morning smoothie. but lately I’ve been venturing farther and farther from the “box”. I’ve found myself carefully and gently snipping and tending the lawn as an already-planted garden and adding it to my smoothies.
Wild plants such as Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), chickweed (Stellaria media), dandelions (Taraxacum officinalis) , Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) and even grass clippings are packed with phyto-nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and chlorophyll and are all found on most every lawn I see. This is the same stuff that we pay big money at health food stores to get with our exotic supplements and super foods. perhaps a more sane solution is already present! juice your lawn!
if you have attended my plant walks perhaps you have heard me ranting about how you could practically juice your lawn clippings; well actually its not very far from the truth. Granted, you should know every plant that you consume on a first and last name basis. but I often have trouble finding poisonous plants on peoples lawn, with 2 exceptions, spurge (Euphorbia maculata) and Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) and groundsel is questionable to its toxicity,
From wiki.. “As a plant that is reported to be both poisonous for human ingestion and also medicinal; much of the contradiction can be found by closely reviewing the words that are used and the dose (amount) of the poisonous substance that is ingested to prove either claim. All species of the genus Senecio containpyrrolizidine alkaloids (e.g., senecionine) a substance that when a human has chronic exposure can cause irreversible liver damage.“ So what is chronic exposure? – a very vague term.
-about 30 dandelion leaves
-A hand full of hairy bitter cress
-a few sprigs of grass
- a few sprigs of purple deadnettle
- a few springs of lemon balm
and home ingredients – a nub of ginger, a banana, some yogurt, 10-15 soaked hazelnuts with the water, and home made maple syrup from a friend.
Blend it up In-Joy! And feel the healing.
p.s. of course be mindful that if you spray your lawn you are ruining the fun, although is it still comparable to gmo non organic food? probably. Use your discretion where you forage, and shop.
I was blessed to get the privilege of having a great conversation with Graham Steinruck and Jackie Rebideau on their radio show “A Fermented Affair“. It was a really fun conversation and I instantly felt a kinship with them as we talked of all things bacteria, fungi, and culture. Its always a recharge to meet and connect with kindred souls who are helping to spread “cultural” diversity around the planet! We talked from alchemy, to fermentation, to foraging, and the return to Eden.
Hope you enjoy!
Please let me know your thoughts!
Here is an Interview that I had with Kath from the North West NJ Happenings blog. It was a good discussion, Hope you enjoy!
NWNJH: Dan, how did you wind up on this path to foraging?
Dan: I discovered foraging because I was seeking a greater and deeper connection with nature, I instinctively and intuitively felt something primal, some spiritual connection, and knew that through practicing awareness of what natural plants and mushrooms were around me I could develop and evolve that practice of turning on my senses, learning to rely on my own skills, and take my own power as a human back to be directly connected to nature. A human birth right that I feel has been slowly shaken out of us.
NWNJH: Who were/are your mentors?
Dan: My mentors are any and all beings that have walked a path of herbal medicine and foraging, indigenous people of the world, to those who survived the great depression relying on their foraging skills, to immigrants that came here and brought foraging knowledge, to all of the modern day teachers and guides of herbalism and foraging.
The full interview can be viewed here:
And Please come out to Chow and Zen, Saturday, March 9th at 2 pm for a fun day of foraging with me!
Winter Foraging – Wild Suburban Teas
“In this class we will practice making herbal teas from wild plants which can be foraged outside in the winter months. We will discover that even a simple walk around any yard will help you gather and understand many medicinal resources which can be processed into healing medicines. After we harvest from the land, we will make some herbal teas from what we gather and continue the foraging and herbalism discussion indoors. “
BYOM – Please bring your own mug for sampling the tea. - Suggested Donation $20
Pre Registration Required Email: email@example.com or Call 908-362-1900
Here is a radio discussion i had with Daniel Sitaram Das. A very interesting flow of topics centered around the mystical and spiritual practices of foraging and connecting with Nature. In-Joy!
“Satsang with Sitar and Dan Farella, Yogi and master herbalist at Return to Nature. They talk about the plants, and how they are manifestations of the Goddess. They speak about the importance of working with the mental conditioning that keeps us separate from nature, and the healing medicine that may be growing in our own back yards. All Plants Are Prasad!”
Or you can view the slideshow video on youtube:
A slideshow of several of the 2012 Plant and Mushroom Workshops I gave at the Essex Environmental Center in Roseland, NJ
Please let me know if you would like to host any of these classes at your house, business, or any other location. I am also open to other ideas you have for classes that will be relevant to help empower others in wake of Hurricane Sandy, and in the advent of being prepared for other future disasters. All classes are by donation. Email me at Dan@returntonature.us
Preparing Foods Without Electricity
Learn the skills needed to provide food for yourself and others without refrigeration or electricity. In this class we will explore sprouting and fermentation, methods for gathering wood and cooking safely over an open fire, as well as foraging the land.
Herbal Emergency First Aid
In this class you will learn how to utilize your spice cabinet and some of the weeds outside of your door to provide direct and deep healing in times when you need to rely on your own skills. Topics will include treating injuries such as burns, cuts and broken bones, herbal treatment of internal viral and bacterial infections, how to scan the body for damage, and how to assess the surroundings of an emergency.
Community Disaster Organization
Learn methods for community leadership during times of disaster. We will explore what can be done to minimize suffering and injury in your community, as well as processes for organizing group efforts.
In this class you will learn ways of storing food, purifying water, survival psychology, how to put together a house kit and go-bag, and what to keep with you for times of need.
Foraging Suburbia for Foods and Medicines
In this class you will learn how to scan everywhere from yards, sidewalks, fields, and parks to see your town as a catalog of resources. You will discover which plants can be eaten, made into useful materials, ways of processing them, how to treat and apply herbs for medicinal values, and most importantly where to look.
Here is a link to my Youtube channel of instructional videos and documentaries…
Click here to watch:
Please subscribe and leave comments, ask questions, or make suggestions as to what you would like to see. More to come..
In just about every lawn and meadow you are bound to find some sort of Rumex species. There are several sources of food in this family of plants. This article deals predominantly with Rumex crispus; Curly Dock, and R. obtusifolius; Bitter Dock. Not including burdock, (Articum spp) which is not in the Rumex family, Or Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) although sheep sorrel is indeed edible and delicious. Several Rumex species are high in vitamin c, vitamin a, protein,and iron, according to the usda.
How to Identify and Discern Docks
Plants in the Rumex family all have a distinct characteristic of a papery sheath (ocrea) connecting the stem and each area of the leaf stem beginning a leaf, it starts out moist when young and becomes papery and less noticeable when dried, sometimes disappearing completely. Docks can be found commonly along roadsides, disturbed soil, meadows, lawns, and other inauspicious places. They are cousins to buckwheat, all containing teardrop shaped seeds
Notice that on the edge of the leaf of Curly Dock there is a wavy “crisped” margin and also its relative thinness and “lancelike” shape.This aspect distinguishes it from Bitter Dock aka broadleaf dock (R. obtusifolius) which has a slightly less wavy edge and much wider leaves. They often have a red tinge in the leaf stalk and midrib that increases with age and curly dock does not seem to in my observation.
However, both species can be eaten and they are actually quite a substantial green. Curly dock is biennial, meaning they spring up a basal rosette the first year, then a stalk, flowers, and seeds the second year, and that winter it will die. Broad leaf dock is perennial, meaning that it continues to build a tap root year after year, creates a stalk to flower seasonally, and continues to grow in the same spot indefinitely.
Identifying and Collecting the Greens:
Bitter dock is well, bitter, to the equivalency of dandelion and other bitters. Bitter is medicinal, flat out. When cooked, spiced correctly, and added in the right food combinations it tastes just fine. Thes greens of curly dock are an excellent sour vegetable, picked young, until they grow a stalk and go to flower in mid summer which gives way to a tannic taste which is potentially higher as well in oxalic acid. You will find increasing degrees of bitterness in the leaves as the stalk is growing, and after flowering they will especially become texturally tough and bitter – nothing that cooking in a change of water wont solve – it all depends on how hungry you are. Also in early winter, after the first freeze they again create new tender leaves that are good for eating but will turn progressively bitter as the winter progresses.
For the second year plant the stalk of both species, when young and tender, can be peeled and eaten- when harvested at the correct time it has the potential to be tart, juicy, and delicious. The degree that you find the stalk hard, woody, or tough to chew, is the degree that it is past its prime-it takes a little getting used to being able to tell when it is in its prime. The photo shown here shows a good plant for leaves and stalk, yet the sheath between the stem and leaf is not present.
The nutrition value of these 2 plants are quite high. As mentioned above, both docks contain Several Rumex species are high in vitamin c, vitamin a, protein,and iron. The greens are known to have approximately 4 times more vitamin A than carrots. The human body converts carotene into vitamin A, this actually increases night vision.
A Word of Caution. Eating too much of these greens can cause problems!
There is some caution, which is possibly unwarranted about these plants due to a chemical called calcium oxalate – this chemical which is in several plants, such as spinach, is the chemical compound that a certain type of kidney stone is made of. In excessive consumption, or if you are prone to kidney stones you should limit your intake of calcium oxylate containing foods. So how much is too much…? Special concern should be taken to anyone prone to kidney stones, as excessive amounts of eating plants with oxalic acid in them; spinach, sorrels, curly dock, can increase chance of kidney stones. A common way to identify this substance is that all of these plants have a sour taste. Otherwise if you don’t have that history in your life consider curly dock as you would spinach, eat it on occasion, and most importantly listen to your body, it will most likely tell you when you’ve had enough.
Identifying and Collecting Curly Dock Roots:
You can dig curly dock roots in the spring and fall, identified only by their basal rosette which can be tricky to the beginner. I recommend getting to know a plant for at least one year and observe its growth cycles and habitats continually. Once you have properly identified curly dock in its basal form you can dig the roots with a trowel, shovel, or digging stick, being careful to not break them on your way into the Earth. They can go on average 1-2 ft deep. Once you have succesfully dug them out you can eat the leaves and use the root fresh or dry it for later use with minimal washing if you can bare it(that dirt has probiotics) . As a woody root it makes a good decoction, tincture, or powder. Especially healthful is an infused root wine (see below).
Medicinal Aspects of Curly Dock Root:
Curly Dock root is used to tonify the gall bladder and liver. It is a bitter tonic, astringent, gentle laxative, and alterative. Also called yellow dock, the yellow root helps to increase bile production which is also yellow in color. Yellow is known in TCM and Ayurveda as being associated with the gall bladder. Increasing bile production helps in the detoxification of the entire system, the blood, and for processing (and not storing) fat and other wastes.
A common way of working with the medicinal aspects of curly dock root is to make a simple infused wine. you can take the fresh root and put it inside one of your favorite bottles of wine. Recork it and allow it to stay for a few days, then you have a curly dock root infused wine which increases the medicinal capacity of your wine.
Harvesting and Collecting the Seeds:
Once the leaves hit your relative point of “inedible” then it’s best to wait to harvest the edible seeds related to buckwheat. How do you tell when the seeds are ready to harvest? With any grain just wait for the plant to brown and become dry then the seeds become easier to collect (think of wheat fields which start green). From there you will have to winnow them the best you can, which is an art to itself. Often if we dont try to be obsessive with every seed we get less chaff and extra bits that we have to pick out later. There is still a shell to the seed that is more difficult to manage.
A great thing about these docks is that the seeds can be collected in decent numbers in late summer or fall. Often foragers complain about the chaff and shell, which are very difficult to remove. 2 solutions are posed. First is, grind it fine enough where you don’t mind eating the chaff and shell with the seed, which is mostly insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is basically what commercial laxatives are made of. Seed chaff or plant fiber helps us have fiber to make healthy bowel movements and is good in medium doses. It helps to scrape the intestinal walls of mucosal plaque which happens to be a very good medium for bacteria and virus such as candida albicans to proliferate.
If you want the extra nutritional boost and added value of enzymes you can avoid cooking the crackers and the chaff by sprouting the dock seeds first and running them in a food dehydrator under 108 degrees. Either way you choose for preparation, this can become blended in a food processor to make dock crackers, or good old ground by hand with a mortar and pestle if you really want to get into it. I am in a process of perfecting my dock cracker recipe, that will come out in my book =)
Harvest and eat in-joy!
Natures Garden and Foragers Harvest – Sam Thayer
Stalking the Healthful Herbs – Euell Gibbons