Saturday, April 24, 2010

Herbal Gardening, Part 2

Herbal Gardening, Part 2

A Master Gardeners (MG) demonstration inspired us to try container gardening, beginning with starting plants from seed indoors.

The MG endorsed starting from seed for two major reasons.

1. It offers an easy way to grow a wide variety of plants. The plant nursery or gardening shops can only stock a limited variety of plants, and it seems that all the stores offer the same choices. With seeds, there is practically no limit to the choices.

2. Gardens can get an early start, even in regions with shorter growing seasons. This seems important for our northeastern Oregon's still dropping down to freezing temperatures, so we dare not plant outdoors, except for a few cold-hardy plants. (The MG mentioned carrots as being especially cold-hardy.)

We came home from the demonstration with some basic supplies:

  • Instructions
  • Biodegradable starting pots
  • Tomato seedlings
  • Seeds

We have planting mix left over from last year's dismal attempt at container gardening. We'll have to add some kind of fertilizer.

We're also trying to decide what kind of containers to use. We could find discarded five-gallon plastic buckets. We have two small tubs, about 18-inches wide, 12" high...we're thinking they might be too small.

Another option is building a larger container, four-feet square. Not sure where to put a large container...we are renting our house, and have to consider what the owner allows.

One strong possibility is Square Foot Gardening. This method claims to have some major advantages:

  • User Friendly - Great for beginners
  • Locate Anywhere - Close to your house
  • Economical - Reduces everything 5 to 1
  • Efficient - 100% of the crop in 20% of the space
  • Easy to Protect - From pests and weather
  • Earth Friendly - Reduce Reuse Recycle
  • Very Productive - Just as much as you need

But all that will come later...right now we'll get ready to plant the seeds indoors and raise some seedlings.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Herbal Gardening, Part 1

Herbal Gardening, Part 1

We went to a Master Gardeners (MG) demonstration today. Two very nice, very knowledgeable ladies described the basics of home gardening. Of course, they did not mention the D-word...dandelions...and I didn't broach the subject. But they did inspire us to once again try gardening.

We came home with a handful of vegetable and herb seeds, two tomato seedlings, biodegradable starting pots, and a plastic tray to hold everything.

Our plan is to fill each pot with planting mix and set them together by our south-facing double-glass door. The MG recommended covering with plastic wrap, trapping moisture, until they start to sprout.

I feel that I should pause here and justify writing about a civilized, cultivated garden while posting to a wildcrafting, foraging, and just-eat-the-weeds-blogging site.

These are serious questions: Am I a forager or am I a gardener? Will this blending of philosophies dismay my readers?

Pondering my direction required several moments of consideration and soul-searching, and here is the conclusion:

I like to eat plants. Whether through serendipitous foraging or scheming gardening, I like picking plants and eating them.

So, I'll be writing a series of articles about my venture into herbal gardening.

Come along with me!

Monday, April 12, 2010

First Puffball!

First Puffball!

Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

My lawn's first dandelion-gone-to-seed-of-the-year has brightened my day. I carefully plucked this dandy specimen and gently brushed the "soft, fluffy pappus on long beaked seeds" on the ground, spreading future yellow-flower-joy to other parts of my domain.

This white blowball has hundreds of seeds, each with it own little parachute, light as a thistle, designed to float with the wind to every corner of the world. How can anyone resist its sunny disposition and its selfless desire to gladden every heart?

"Official Remedy" is the translation of its scientific name, a tribute to its once proud position as a widely-used herbal medication. At one time, the seeds were purposely carried from place to place for cultivation (Harrington, 52).

Almost every book on my plant reference shelf includes a description of the dandelion. It is the King of DYC's (Darned Yellow Composites, referring to the uncountable numbers of yellow-flowered plants with which God has blessed us!)

Here's a brief rehash of the dandelion's myriad uses as food and healing:


  • peel, slice like carrots or use whole, and boil until soft
  • roast or fry, grind as for coffee


  • fresh in a salad
  • boiled as a potherb or tea (fresh or dry leaves)

Flower heads:

  • drop on top of pancake batter on the frying pan
  • dip into pancake batter and fry as appetizers
  • boil, add sugar, oranges, lemon, raisins, and yeast to ferment into wine


  • blow on the puffball
  • count the sees left to determine how many times you'll marry (Gibbons, 78)

Potential benefits:

  • vitamins A, B, and D
  • improves blood circulation (Brown, 103)
  • fiber
  • iron
  • calcium
  • protein
  • prevents or cures liver diseases
  • purifies your blood
  • dissolves kidney stones
  • improves gastro-intestinal health
  • assists in weight reduction
  • cleanses your skin and eliminates acne
  • improves your bowel function
  • relieves both constipation and diarrhea;
  • prevents or lowers high blood pressure;
  • prevents or cures anemia;
  • lower your serum cholesterol
  • eliminates or drastically reduces acid indigestion
  • prevents or cures various forms of cancer

Reference Links:

  • Harrington, H. D.; Western Edible Wild Plants, 1972, The University of Mexico Press
  • Brown, Tom; Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival, 1983, The Berkley Publishing Group
  • Densmore, Frances; How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, 1974, Dover Publications
  • Gibbons, Euell; Stalking the Wild Asparagus, 1962, David McKay Company

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dandelion Salad

Dandelion Salad

I enjoyed a fresh dandelion salad today, and I want to share the experience with you.

My finely-honed gardening skills have allowed several nice patches of dandelions to grow. (Skill-set required: Avoid stepping on, peeing on, mowing over, and spraying on all dandelions.)

At this stage of growth, the flower blossoms are great for eating fresh or fried, dried or fermented. Today I'm picking them for a fresh salad.

Here I've picked a large handful of blossoms. I tried to leave at least one blossom unpicked at each plant location, hoping to allow the spread of my spring delicacy.

I've also added a small handful of creeping charlie for interest.

I rinse the herbs in cold water, garnish with tomatoes, and dress with a splash of balsamic vinegar and creamy ranch dressing.

What a nice presentation!

The vinegar adds a tart-sweetness that compliments the slight bitterness of the dandelion, and the ranch dressing adds a comforting richness, enhancing the warm feeling that comes from eating healthy foods.

Good foraging!