Embracing My Wildside

After the field course, I was inspired to learn more about common wild backyard plants. Starting a vegetable farm, I have been so fixated on learning about the varieties of annual vegetables that I did not give much thought to the plants growing in my backyard. I will be sharing photos of a wild plant walk I did myself on my property. I could not believe how much I found! No matter what climate change brings, these plants are the first to bloom, and will pop up in the poorest soil!

confrey

 

Comfrey (“gardener’s toilet paper”)
Symphytum officinale

– Used as green mulch
– Great in salads
– Create a salve to heal small cuts (tissue regeneration)
– Helps heal sprains and broken bones
– Root used in decoction for ulcers, lung troubles, coughing and nasal congestion
– Also used as a tanning leather and a glue!

 

daisy.jpg

 

Ox-eye Daisy
Hrysanthemum leucanthemum

– Young leaves can be put in salads
– Flowers can be made into a mild tea
– Leaves and flowers used in a soothing tonic: in a lotion for wounds, bruises and ulcers, relieve coughing and an insect powder

 

 

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Red Alder
Alnus rubra

– Decoction of leaves for burns and inflamed wounds
– Fresh leaves can be placed in shoes to provide relief to tired, aching feet and reduce swelling
– As a poultice, pulped leaves moistened with warm milk relieve external swellings and inflammation
– Bark contains tannin (strong astringent) for diarrhea, upset stomach and haemorrhage, and even used as eye drops
– And my favourite: perfect as shiitake logs!

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Pine Pollen

– Naturally increases antioxidants glutathione and superoxide dismutase, which helps boost endocrine and immune functions
– High in testosterone, used as a dietary supplement to add to baked goods and smoothies
– Furthermore, with increasing levels of estrogen from toxins in the environment that causes fertility issues, benign growths and breast cancer, by consuming pine pollen, the endocrine system can be balanced

 

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Horsetail
Equisetum spp.

– Used as tea, to wash hair and great for compost tea
– Tough outer tissue can be peeled off and eaten as a sweet raw pulp
– Decoction to stop and heal bleeding wounds if applied as poultice
– Reduce swelling of eyelids, heal ulcers inside urinary and digestive tracts, as a stimulant I kidney disorders and for menstrual disorders
– Older silicon-covered rushes used in sharpening, polishing and honing and as sandpaper

fern.jpg

 

Bracken fern
Pteridium aquilinum pubescens

– Young shoots uncurl in early spring into juicy stalks called fiddleheads (eaten raw, cooked like asparagus or in soups)
– Roasted roots eaten if outer skin is stripped and insides pounded to separate fibre from edible parts
– Dried roots, boiled to asyrup in water, have been used as a cough medicine

 

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Dandelion

Taraxacum officinale

– Young leaves used in salads, boiled as nettles or cooked in soup
– Dried leaves used as herbal tea or beer
– Flowers used as decoration, flavour cooked dishes or make wine
– Roots cooked as vegetables or old roots dried, roasted and ground for a coffee
– Dandelion root is slightly laxative and used for skin diseases like eczema
– Juice of stem and flowers used to heal warts

 

I now realize how disconnected I was with the nature that surrounded me. Thank you Hannah for taking us on the plant walk and thank you to everyone else for your knowledge that empowered me to discover what was in my own backyard. I cannot wait to start making salads, teas, tinctures and salves (Woohoo)!

*Note: I learned these plant descriptions and uses from Hannah Roessler, online and from the book “Some Useful Wild Plants: A Foraging Guide to Food and Medicine from Nature” by Dan Jason

Knock, Knock. Who’s There? Sustainability. Sustainability Who?

Sustainability seems to be the buzzword coming out of every environmentalist’s lips these days. We all may agree that sustainability is a good thing, but who is benefitting from that sustainability? Do you have a sustainable environment? What about a sustainable production? Maybe even a sustainable lifestyle?

cow

Yogret (aka Yogourt) frolicking in the buttercup pasture fields

The passion for cows oozes out of Tamara. I have never seen an individual so devoted, so connected to livestock. However, while exploring the grassy buttercup fields, my thoughts were drawn to how the space could be so much more! With my present circumstances of establishing my own market garden, my mind kept envisioning a field of grass as a potential oasis for an edible forest or market garden. This ecosystem is thriving with juncus and other grasses, but only serving the purpose of feeding 10 cows and 5 sheep. This is what sustainability looks like for sustaining the environment. With that much space, Tamara could triple the number of cows grazing the 30 acres. The more you graze, the more production to provide more food for more people, but the less sustainable the system is for the environment. Tamara could graze those cows til’ the cows come home. But she won’t. She’s living a life sustainable for the environment.

Max and Heidi live a simple life hunting for food and farming for subsistence. They have built a tiny home using waste and recycled goods, which made their home affordable for their lifestyle. However, this lifestyle would not be sustainable if everyone else wanted to live this way. Resources would quickly be exploited and become endangered or even extinct. Sustainability is central around their survival. They are living sustainable lifestyles.

fortier
Jean-Martin Fortier’s 1.5 acre market garden provides 200 families with food!

Compared to Linnaea’s 30 acre pastures, Jean-Martin Fortier (The Market Gardener) in Quebec, grows on 1.5 acres using bio-intensive methods, which feeds more than 200 families through a CSA and seasonal market stand. This business model is not as sustainable for the environment as Tamara’s livestock business model is, because several tonnes of compost needs to be shipped to Fortier’s farm each year. Plants with optimal nutrients produce higher yields for higher production. This production allows the economy to continue to produce enough food for local residents – no need for as many tropical crop imports. Local economy levels are sustainable. He is living a life sustainable for the local economy to produce its own food.

I began the week criticizing why one would not use the land to its optical production. But I realized, sustainability is subjective. One can pursue a sustainable environment, lifestyle or local economy. Which one is the right direction? And is it possible to accomplish all of them?

Moringa – “The Miracle Tree”

The tree that could save the world’s food crisis!

moringa
Source: http://www.treesforlife.org

Botanical Description:
Moringa oleifera, or more commonly known as the moringa tree, drumstick tree (India), horseradish tree (Florida), benzoil tree (Haiti) or mother’s best friend (the Philippines) have about 13 species in the Moringaceae family. They can grow between 3-8 metres in height and have attractive tripinnate ferny leaves (Acker, 2013) with clusters of ribbed one-foot long pods with brown seeds inside hanging from wiry branches. The flowers are small, white and resemble orchids. This “miracle tree” is fast growing and drought-resistant (Oommen, 2015).

Geography and Preferred Habitat:
They are native to the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India (Oommen, 2015). Today they can be found in South and Central America, Africa, Asia, Oceania and even recently rooted in North American soil (Acker, 2013). The countries where Moringa grows is exactly where people need it the most! The majority of these countries have 5-35% a malnourished population (Trees for Life, 2011). Moringa contains a lot of essential nutrients that could prevent thousands of suffering in these countries.


malnutrition
Source: http://www.treesforlife.org

Grown extensively in tropical, sub-tropical and warmer climates, they thrive in well-drained soils with lots of sun and no danger of frost (Acker, 2013). Although, it prefers temperatures between 25°-30°C, the moringa tree is extremely adaptive to most environments, such as poor, arid soils, but frost or extended lengths of cold weather below 20°C can be detrimental (Morgenstern, 2017). Therefore, the moringa tree must have warm temperatures for germination and be protected from strong winds and frost until it has experienced 1-2 winters in cold climates. It will become dormant during cold months, but this will give the tree time to adapt (Acker, 2013).

Cultural Significance:
Described as a “living pharmacy” for locals, it is difficult to find a part of the tree that is not edible! Many cultures around the world discovered its miracles during times of famine. In Ayurvedic medicine (a 3,000 year old holistic healing system in India), the tree is used as a natural antibiotic and to cure anemia, bronchitis, tumors, scurvy, liver disorders and skin infections (Oommen, 2015). The villagers in Oman use Moringa oil to heal stomach disorders, perfume and hair oil; Haitians boil the flowers to create a tea as a cold remedy; and villagers in Malawi, Africa use its dried leaves to treat diarrhea (Trees for Life, 2011).

Edible and Medicinal Uses:
Every part of the plant is used: fruit, flowers, leaves, seeds, pods and roots. Its fruit is a common Indian vegetable that resembles an okra and pole bean with the taste of asparagus. The flowers when cooked are similar to mushrooms in flavour, and the leaves mimic spinach and lettuce. The seeds when immature are used like peas, and if mature seeds are fried have the same taste as peanuts. The pods are used as a paste in Indian curry dishes (Oommen, 2015).

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Source: http://www.treesforlife.org/ 

Moringa leaves contain all the rich essential nutrients needed including: vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, C, and minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and even protein (Acker, 2013). Vitamin A prevents eye disease, skin disease, heart ailments, diarrhea; vitamin C combats a variety of illnesses like colds and the flu; calcium significantly reduces the risk of osteoporosis; potassium helps the brain and nervous system to function and proteins provide the building blocks of the body’s cells. Moringa leaves are small, but have big potential! It contains 7 times the vitamin C of Oranges, 4 times the Vitamin A of carrots, 4 times the calcium of milk, 3 times the potassium of bananas, and 2 times the protein of yogourt (Trees for Life, 2011).

moringaleaves
Source: http://www.naturallivingideas.com

The above graph compares iron, potassium and protein with a common food with the fresh or dried moringa leaves. Once the leaves are dried, the nutrients are condensed in order to ingest a small amount of nutrition with a small spoonful of dried leaf powder (Trees for Life, 2011).

moringagrowth.png
Source: http://www.treesforlife.org/

Other Uses
Experiments have been conducted using the green matter of the Moringa plant as a plant growth enhancer. A juice is extracted from the leaves, diluted with 36 parts of water and approximately 25ml is applied to each plant. The process is relatively simple, you just need equipment to extract juice from the green matter. The spray has a wide-variety of advantages, such as a 20-35% increase in yield, larger fruit, heavier roots, stems and leaves, longer life-span, stronger plants that are more resistant to pests and disease and accelerates growth of young plants (Trees for Life, 2011).

 

References:
Acker, Andrea (2013). DELICIOUS AND NUTRITIOUS – MORINGA IS A MIRACLE TREE! The Permaculture Research Institute. Retrieved from: http://permaculturenews.org/2013/12/04/delicious-nutritious-moringa-miracle-tree/

Morgenstern, Kat (2017). Plant Profile: Moringa. Sacred Earth. Retrieved from: http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotny/plantprofiles/moringa.php

Oommen, Ansel (2015). Amazing Mooring: Medicinal, Edible & Easy to Grow. Permaculture: Practical Solutions Beyond Sustainability. Retrieved from: https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/amazing-moringa-medicinal-edible-easy-grow

Trees For Life (2011). Moringa Presentation. Retrieved from: http://www.treesforlife.org/our-work/our-initiatives/moringa/moringa-book