Wild Edibles

•January 10, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I spent a substantial number of evenings in 2015 attending the various “Wild Edibles” classes put on at the Resiliency Institute. It was an eye opening experience to find out just how much, growing in our yards, parks, fields and forests is edible.

Granted you can’t just grab a plant and start chewing on it, well some you can, but the majority are only partially edible or need to be prepared a certain way first. While this may be concerning to some, keep in mind, you don’t eat the entire tomato plant, just a part of it. You don’t eat rhubarb without preparing only a specific part of it first.

After each class I’d wander our yard and discover a handful of new edibles each time. Creeping Charlie? Yep. Chickweed? Yep. Dandelion? Yep. Plantain? Yep. Even plants grown as ornamentals, like Bee Balm, are edible or perhaps more accurately can be used to make a very tasty tea.

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The three varieties of Plantain

 

It was even more of a surprise to find out things like Giant Ragweed are edible too. Specifically just the seeds are edible and contain 47% crude protein. If you want to know more see the write up on it at Eat the Weeds.

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Giant Ragweed

Two years ago I was wondering what these towering 15′ tall plants were in the small back part of our yard that we don’t mow. A bit over a year ago I learned what they were and with conventional thinking of “Ragweed, bad” chopped them down. Four months ago I learned they’re actually edible and now look at them in a new light.

 

Fall’s Rainbow of Colors

•November 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Fall colors are an amazing sight to behold. Common green changes into all ranges of yellows, oranges, browns and reds. However to say that it changes is somewhat incorrect.

For the most part, the colors in leaves are already there however the chlorophyll dominates and masks out the actual color of the leaf. In fall when the tree seals off the leaf and stops feeding it the chlorophyll dies off and the true colors of the leaves are finally revealed.

Scientifically speaking, it’s a bit more complicated than that and some colors, like reds, aren’t actually developed until the chlorophyll starts to fade. If you want to read all about these processes, take a look at How leaves change colors.

For me, I’m just happy to enjoy the colors and patterns. Presented as today’s entry is sampling of what was found in our yard this past week.

 

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Still blooming…

•November 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Chicago area, November 4th and 70+ degrees today… although in the last few weeks we’ve had at least a few nights where the temperature got down to the upper twenties and water dishes froze over. Still, many flowers made it through the frost and are still alive and providing for the late season pollen collectors.

Today’s entry include all I could find in our yard.

IMG_4868Marigold

IMG_4871Cosmos

IMG_4873Calendula

IMG_4875Basil

IMG_4876Comfrey

IMG_4880Hollyhock

IMG_4882Radish

IMG_4900Goldenrod

IMG_4904Pineapple Sage

IMG_4906Dandelion

IMG_4908Seedum

IMG_4910Calamintha

IMG_4912Mums

IMG_4915Water Chickweed

IMG_4916Lavender

IMG_4928Phlox (of some type)

IMG_4938Indian Strawberry

Giant Leaves – What is it?

•June 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

A quick posting today. What bi-annual has giant leaves and is a widespread common plant? Although most people don’t know, it’s actually edible with younger leaves and the stalks eaten in the spring and the root can be sliced pickled resulting in something very similar to traditional pickles.

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To give a sense of size of the leaves, here’s my hand and forearm.

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Give up? It’s Burdock. We’ll be covering this more on our Suburban Farmacy site later this year. To learn more now, take a look at http://www.ediblewildfood.com/burdock.aspx.

A Home for Bees, Part 2

•June 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

When you see a small pile of sawdust what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Now, if that sawdust is under a wooden fence or perhaps a wooden chair, would you change your answer?

There is a bee, similar in appearance to the bumble bee and in the same Apidae family, called the carpenter bee. Actually there are hundreds of different species of the carpenter bee around the world. See more at Wikipedia.

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Upon seeing the pile of sawdust I looked under the chair and sure enough, there was the tell tale hole.

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It was made by this bee.

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From our experience they are pretty much harmless. I’ve never had one come at me or try to sting or act aggressive in any way. At least not towards humans. They build their little holes and lay a few eggs in there after erecting thin walls between each egg. The walls are constructed with the wood particles that were originally removed. Woodpeckers and a few different fly larvae predate the bee’s larvae and the bees themselves are pollinators to many flowers.

Now I said they are not aggressive but that isn’t entirely true. To humans I’ve always seen them as harmless but with each other they’re a bunch of battling bugs. You’ll see one hover in the general area of its nest and quickly go after any other ones that approach too closely. They usually then return to just about the same place to hover again. For us, we can take advantage of this activity to know where they will be in the air, get the camera ready and then be able to get shots of them in flight while they’re hovering.

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A Home for Bees, Part 1

•June 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Not all bees make nests that hang from the eaves of your house or a tree or any other underside surface. Some nest in cavities, some in the ground and some like to make nests. This spring, when flipping over one of our water barrels I found a sizeable nest under it and assumed mouse, that is until the nest started buzzing. Below are two almost identical shots. One is the test, the other shows a bumble bee that had returned and was entering it.

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Thankfully I didn’t just flip the barrel and drop it as I would have squished the nest. With a bit of relocation the nest was moved to the side and while the bumble bees buzzed a lot and some flew around, hours later when I checked on it they were still using it.

Comfrey

•May 31, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Last year we bought a couple of Comfrey plants. They did OK but never really flourished. This year only one of the two plants came up. The cold of winter must have killed off the other one.

Our remaining plant has really exploded with growth. Last year it was just a foot tall with a half dozen leaves.

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Also, unlike last year, it put out flowers this year. Purple flowers reminiscent of Virginia Bluebells.

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We purchased these with the intent of using them medicinally. Salves and teas being two common uses. Find more details at http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/comfrey-medicinal-uses-zmaz92jjzshe.aspx.

Over the recent years we’ve become very interested in the plants already in our yard, and those we can successfully grow here, with an multi pronged approach. Plants that benefit the environment (food for insects and birds), can be eaten by us and can be used medicinally. We’ve even started a related website for these topics at suburbanfarmacy.com which reflects our suburban homestead and a play on farm (food) and pharmacy (medicine).

 
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