MAY 2019
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Green Blessings ...
with Susun Weed

Native wildflower walk; Fairy Salad
Green Greetings to you all!

Are you finding it hard to keep up with all the plants coming into bloom? And all the plants that are ready to harvest? And all the plants you want to plant in your garden? And all the plants that you want to learn about? Me too!

Remember: it takes seven lifetimes to become an herbalist.
Be gentle with yourself.

Start slowly.   
Identify one new flower a day.   

Choose a green ally to breathe with every day.  

Learn all you can about that one plant. 

Learn as much as you can from the plant itself.  (My correspondence course, Green Ally, and my CD set, Your Green Ally, provide guidance on how to do this.)

One of the best ways to learn about plants and to bring them into your life is to eat them. This is a great time of the year to eat flowers. And with all the plants in bloom right now, it is the perfect time to make a flower filled Fairy Salad. This Fairy Salad will open your senses to the fairies; you may see them, hear them, feel them, even catch a tendril of their honeyed, pollened, nectared smell. I trust it will encourage you to look for colorful flowers all year to enjoy in your salads.

May Day is the day the fairy gate opens and the fairies come dancing into the garden.  Lure them to stay with you by providing a wild corner in the garden where people are not allowed (except, perhaps, with need, after the fairies have returned to their underground homes the end of October).  Fairies like variety; they love flowers of course. Fairies are attracted to things that shine and things that move and spin.

In pursuit of wild salad greens, we looked at three wild greens that are delicious salad plants last week. This  week I offer you three more salad fixin's, including my dear old friend, shy violet. And there will be three more two weeks after that. In between, we're going to get out of the gardens and into the forest to check in with some beautiful flowering (and medicinal) plants out in the deep woods. I hope you'll come along.

One of my mentored students asked me to write about safe places to harvest salad greens and medicinal plants. She noticed that in my early work I suggest not harvesting within 50 feet of a road, but that in my recent YouTube videos I am sometimes right by the road. It is true, I do feel safe harvesting near roads.

One of the main exhaust gases from the combustion of gasoline is carbon monoxide. Plants take in carbon dioxide. They then cleave one oxygen atom off the dioxide to make it monoxide. Both forms (carbon dioxide and monoxide) are poisonous to people, but not to plants. (Oxygen is poisonous to plants.) When plants cleave off that one atom of oxygen, it becomes a free radical and causes oxidative stress on the plant.

Plants near the road thrive in the presence of the high levels of carbon monoxide, which cuts down on oxidative stress, helping them be healthier and better medicine. So, yes, I do harvest near the road if that is where the best plants are growing. Some, like coltsfoot and mullein (herbs that help the lungs) positively thrive in roadside ditches and road cuts. Others, like shy woodland ginseng and skullcap, wouldn't be caught dead growing beside the road, indeed!

Use your fairy-enhanced senses to find the best places to harvest plants. Trust your intuition. Have confidence in yourself.

Violet (Viola)
Few things give me as much joy as buttering a piece of whole wheat toast and taking it out into the woods, picking violets as I walk, until my toast is covered with them – purple, white, and yellow – and then breakfasting on it.  Welcome May! Welcome fairies! Welcome bare feet! The showy flowers of the violets are not the reproductive flowers, which come later and are green and hidden under the leaves. So pick violets to your heart's content. Decorate your salads with them. Make violet honey. Flirt with the violet fairies. Rosemary Gladstar and I talk about violet honey in our teleseminar.  And you will enjoy the YouTube of the apprentices and I making violet honey.

Wild madder (Galium mollugo)
There are numerous members of this interesting plant family in my area, but this is the most edible of them all. Many Galium sisters contain coumarin, a compound that can increase blood thinning and may interact unfavorably with blood thinning medications (which are taken by lots of people older than fifty). Sweet woodruff is a Galium. May wine is made by soaking fresh green herb woodruff in white wine overnight. It began life as a medicine, to reduce the risk of stroke. There is no problem with eating wild madder, as it has little or none of the compound.  I pinch off the growing tips to add to my salads, thus insuring that I get continuous little shoots to eat. Cleavers is another Galium sister. We will play with her in a few weeks.

Creeping jenny (Glechoma hederacea; John Lust cites it as Nepeta hederacea in The Herb Book)
This prolific member of the mint family is a superb remedy for those dealing with chronic lung issues. The tincture of the flowering plant, in 1 dropperful doses taken 2-3 times a day, may be used to clear bronchitis, laryngitis, as an aid to breathing for those with allergies and asthma, and even as a remedy for summer colds. Like its mint family sisters, Jenny, or Jill over the ground, is an aid to appetite and digestion. It is recommended to relieve diarrhea in children. And, of course, it makes a pretty, and tasty, addition to any spring, summer or fall salad. This is a plant you can count on to be there for you.

Fairy Salad

  •     16 Violet (Viola) flowers
  •     8 Periwinkle (Vinca minor) blossoms
  •     24 Creeping Jenny (Glechoma hederacea) tops
  •     12 Purple dead-nettle (Lamium purpurea) tops
  •     12 Dandelion blossoms
  •     12 Forsythia blossoms
  •     32 blossoms from garlic mustard or any other wild cress
  •     8 springs of wild oregano or any other wild mint
  •     8-16 tender cronewort tops

For best results, all ingredients in this salad must be wild. Growing wild in your garden does count as wild. You can substitute or leave out any ingredient except the cronewort tops and the violet blossoms.

Give thanks as you harvest each blossom, each leaf. Be aware of the gifts you are receiving. Open yourself to the realm of the fairies as you touch each plant. Invoke the fairies as you make your salad, as you drizzle tamari on it, as you add some wild chive vinegar or cronewort vinegar, and as you slosh on the olive oil. Give thanks. Invite the fairies to join you as you consciously eat the green (and yellow and blue and purple and silver) blessings that you have gathered for your meal. Give thanks.  

And when you awaken, you will remember your beautiful dream of the fairies.

Greetings of early summer joy to each and every one of you.
Shall we go on a walk in the woods on this delicious day? The sun is warm and the trees are in blossom and not yet leafed out. It's the perfect time to find and enjoy the native wildflowers of the deciduous forest, which tend to bloom while they are still bathed with sunlight, before the emerging tree leaves plunge them into shade.

The air smells fresh. The sky is cerulean blue. Everything is teeming with energy. And no doubt there will be lots of fairies joining us on our walk. Take off your shoes if you wish, and come along.

Our first wildflower reflects the sun and the sky: It's light-blue with a yellow eye at its center. I call it "Quaker ladies," an alternative to the usual field guide name of "bluet" (Houstonia caerulea). [photo 1] It's said to be a headache remedy. Hmmm. I guess if you sent the kids out to harvest several hundred of these little flowers – and they are so abundant you could harvest hundreds of them – you'd at least get an hour of peace and quiet to resolve your headache.

  [photo 1]                                                            

If I had a headache, though, I would prefer to eat violet flowers as my remedy. The darker the purple, the stronger the effect on the head, so this one [photo 2] would be better than this one [photo 3]. They are all tasty though, and surely they are robes for the fairies if the night grows cold.

  [photo 2]                                                               [photo 3]

Well! The fairies certainly are enjoying themselves painting the flowers this year. Here's a patch of Quaker ladies dressed in white instead of the usual blue. [photo 4]  

On the top of this mossy cliff is the inappropriately-named, but very beautiful, wild oats (Ulvularia sessilifolia). [photo 5] This dainty fairy dress, quivering in the slightest breeze, is a bellwort, not a grass, and this particular species has leaves that touch, rather than clasp, the stalk.

  [photo 4]                                                                   [photo 5]

Aha! Here's one of my spring favorites – and certainly a favorite of the fairies – gaywings or fringed polygala (Polygala paucifolia). [photo 6] It always makes me smile when I find it. Perhaps the fairy queen will wear one to the ball this weekend. (for those who can count, photo five to be added later today)...

  [photo 6]

Or perhaps she will wear a red and yellow party dress of wild columbine (Aquliegia canadensis). [photo 7] They are here, at the edge of, and across the face of, this cliff.  And, this lovely plant, growing in a crack in the rock, is early saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis), [photo 8] the rock breaker, one of seventeen species in my area according to Peterson's.    

  [photo 7]                                                              [photo 8]

Over there, beside the trail, is trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens). [photo 9] I can't take you to see it and I don't know if I even dare to take a picture. It's so shy, it sometimes dies if you look directly at it. Really. I thought it was a tall tale until I saw it happen. When it flowers, the fragrance is sensational, so I lie next to it, with my eyes closed, reveling in the scent.

Down this path there are more yellow lilies springing up from the damp ground. They are heralded by strange leaves that are mottled like a trout, thus the name trout lilies (Erythronium americanum). [photo 10] Their perfect tiny yellow flowers are used by fairies as caps or skirts, I'm sure.

     [photo 9]                                                              [photo 10]

And here, almost hidden by the leaves, is a famous plant that used to be used to help the liver, round-leaved hepatica (Hepatica americana). [photo 11] The flowers come in amazing shades of purple, blue, pink, and white. There's no reason to disturb a relatively-rare native perennial, since there are so many abundant, common plants, like dandelion, that help the liver.

Follow me over this wall, around the fallen oak, and past the small quarry pond and we'll soon come to my secret patch of dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius). [photo 12]

  [photo 11]                                                           [photo 12]

The Wise Woman Center exists to re-weave the healing cloak of the Ancients. This land is sacred, it is a safe space for women, and a place for the teachings of the Wise Woman way. The Goddess lives here, as do goats, fairies, green witches, and elders.
Located between Woodstock and Saugerties, 5 miles from the NYS Thruway, the Wise Woman Center is easily accessible while private enough for nude swimming. You'll receive a map and directions when you register. Incredible wild-food vegetarian meals are included with all workshops. Two - and three-day workshops (limited enrollment) include camping or indoor sleeping space and meals. Click to learn more



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