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Green Blessings ...
with Susun Weed

The heart of winter; Weed walk Costa Rica
Green greetings once again from the heart of winter.

Spring is inhaling deeply and waiting for the right moment to exhale its greening force (viriditas). Remember, the first day of spring is actually February 2, not spring equinox. And that's this week!

There are several large ponds here at Laughing Rock Farm, and, of course, they are frozen solid after this past week's single digit temperatures at night. My granddaughter Monica-Jean and I have been enjoying running around on the ice. The goats think we are crazy and cannot be convinced that they could walk on water too. The wild animals do not share their disbelief, if I read the tracks in the snow correctly. Squirrels, cats, rabbits, and other critters are happy to scamper right across the ice. (But no deer tracks; I guess they agree with the goats.)

I love to sort and organize in the winter. When my mother died several years ago, I found (in her closet) a box of letters that I had written to her, starting in 1963 and continuing, with ever less frequency, until the 1990's. I am so glad she saved them.

 Initially, I thought I might type them out; they are handwritten in peacock blue ink. Then I thought I might scan them; the envelopes are wildly decorated. But I couldn't seem to find the time to do either. I realized that I could find the time to read them however, and that is what I am doing, reading and recording them. It gives me an opportunity to editorialize and comment on the letters, as well. It will be awhile before there are enough of them to share with you, as I am reading one or two a day and there are several hundred of them. But tuck it into your bonnet, as a treat to savor some day in the future.

Here comes my birthday. (Feb 8) Yes, I will be 68 this year. Amazing.

I have not been in the kitchen except to make favorite dishes, like goat cheese lasagna, so no new recipes for you this week. But I do hope to spend some time in the herbal pharmacy, sorting and organizing soon, so perhaps next week I will have a delicious recipe to share.

And here comes the last of the bouquets we picked for you in Costa Rica, including some information on medicinal uses of two house plants that most people have. Enjoy the flowers and get ready to look at those house plants with renewed interest.

Weed Walk

Pretty flowers just for you. Most of these photos were taken by Justine. Thanks dearest daughter. Some I know something about, and some I don't know nothing about. (A special "Thank you!" to the Florida girls who wrote in with the names and uses of some to the Florida flowers that I shared last month.)

In addition to the beauty parade on this page, look for two medicinal weeds of Costa Rica that you probably have on your windowsill, and three weeds that grow in Costa Rica (as well as where you live) that are great in salads. So many green blessings! Once again, I rely on my Medicinal Plants of Costa Rica by Ed Bernhardt.

Dainty little white flowers and some blue ones too.

Pretty blossom and bee. 

Red puff. 

A field of darn yellow composites.

And some darn purple composites too.

The local medicine mint.

Beautiful wild pea

Incredible structure of inflorescence of a palm tree.
The next two photos are of my own house plants. Though I saw plenty of these plants growing wild in Costa Rica, I didn't photograph them. Both help heal the skin. And since the combination of tropical sun, salt water, and constant heat fosters and allows many skin problems to develop, I am thrilled to have two new weedy allies that can help me when I am in Central America.

Sansevieria (Sansevieria trifasciata)   Lengua de suegra

This is one of the sturdiest of all houseplants, enduring lack of water and light with grace. It is most commonly known as Mother-in-law's tongue, for its long, tough, pointed tongue-like leaves. In the part of Costa Rica where we will have our Adventrue, it covers the cemetery island just off the coast. (You can walk over when the tide is low.) Lore claims it is a ward against snake bite, perhaps because the leaves look like snakes. Science has uncovered antiviral properties in the juice, which is often used to treat skin rashes and sore.

Tradescantia (Tradescantia zebrine)   Hoja de Milago

This common houseplant, which I know as Wandering Jew, or Moses in the Cradle, endures lack of light better than lack of water, but, like the sansevieria, must be kept from freezing. It grows easily, creeping and vining wildly when it has plenty of water. It is an official medicinal plant with anti-herpetic, anti-septic, astringent, hemostatic, and anodyne properties. Who would have thought?! The juice from the crushed leaves is applied directly to cuts, herpes sores, infected cuts, painful bruises, abrasions, and bleeding wounds. "The fresh juice is used to combat . . . neuralgia of the face."

Here are three cosmopolitan weeds that wind up in my salads no matter where I am. Do they grow where you live too?

Oxalis (Oxalis stricta?)

One of my favorite salad plants, growing lushly by the porch at Casa Smythe. I will have to wait for it to flower to be certain of the species, but I can still eat it, even if I don't know precisely which oxalis it is, as all oxalis leaves, and some of their roots, are edible, and delicious. They add a wonderful sour note to the salad. That means lots of vitamin C.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Also one of my favorite salad plants, also growing, though not so lushly, by the porch at Casa Smythe. Double yum. This is a cooling, refreshing plant with plenty of texture, taste, and value in the salad. It is also one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids (PUFAs).

Sonchus (Sonchus oleraceus)

The third party to the salad is a slightly bitter green related to lettuce. It is a weed that I have seen everywhere in the world, from the tropics to the northern forests, from city lots to flower gardens. And  it is always adopted and used by the natives. The leaves have a distinctive feel, almost crisp, like endive. Note that the species name of both the edible purslane and the most edible sonchus is the same as the species name of cabbage, which is Brassica oleracea.)

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