Tag Archives: foraging

Henbit Edible, Prolific, Good for Bees & Hummingbirds

On Monday, on my way to Starkville to attend the Gaining Ground – Sustainability Institute of Mississippi board of directors meeting, I saw a giant field of henbit. I immediately pulled over and took a photo, because this often overlooked and unassuming plant is quite important to bees, hummingbirds, and — should be! — humans.

Some farmers might look at this field and say, ack, weeds! But for pollinators, this field of henbit is the Promised Land! (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Some farmers might look at this field and say, ack, weeds! But for pollinators, this field of henbit is the Promised Land! (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

What a wonderful sight!!! For hungry bees, butterflies and hummingbirds this late winter, early spring “weed” is a godsend for its pollen and nectar.

At this time of year, when bees are foraging for pollen and nectar to stay alive, with their stores of honey from last year often depleted or dangerously low, henbit supplies needed sustenance.

Regular readers of this blog, perhaps, recognize that I’m something of a fanatic on this subject, as every year I urge farmers to please refrain from plowing under their henbit as long as possible, or spraying pre- or post-emerge herbicides. The bees will thank you!

In a few weeks, or now in some parts of the South, hummingbirds are making their way back north from the winter, and henbit provides an abundant supply of nectar for them, too!

It might not be a part of official farm policy to provide food for pollinators, but this humble little purple plant (a member of the mint family that tastes like kale) can be a tremendous food source.

Humans can eat henbit, too. The stem, flowers, and leaves are edible. It’s high in vitamins and you can cook it or eat it raw in salads, or make a tea from it.

According to naturalmedicinalherbs.net it has medicinal uses, including antirheumatic, diaphoretic, excitant, febrifuge, laxative and stimulant.

For more, see: http://www.ediblewildfood.com

So, if you see it growing in your garden and think, ack, what a noxious weed! Think again! This is a beneficial plant for pollinators that can spell the difference between life and death for some.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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Foraging for ‘Farm-aceuticals’ a healthy pastime

Foraging for ‘farm-aceuticals’ provides a healthy pastime

With warm weather playing “hide and seek” with winter, lots of  “weeds” are popping up, but don’t be quick to pull them up from the  organic garden, as they can provide “farm-aceuticals.”
According  to renowned herbalist Susun Weed (Healing Wise, Ash Tree Publishing,  2003, $17.95), here are a few “weeds” with medicinal properties:
•Chickweed (Stellaria media) dissolves cysts, tonifies the thyroid and aids in weight loss.
•Daisy (Bellis perennis) relieves headaches, muscle pain and allergy symptoms.
•Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) relieves gas, heartburn and indigestion.
•Dock, also called yellow dock, curly dock and broad dock helps “all women’s problems.”
•Plantain, also called ribwort or pig’s ear, speeds healing, relieves pain, stops itching.
•St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) relieves muscle aches, is useful with shingles, sciatica, back pain and headaches.
For details, see: www.matrifocus.com/BEL07/wisewoman.htm.

Reader response: Are genetically modified foods really a problem?
I’ll answer with a couple of quotes from Food Inc. by Eric Schlosser:
•”Animal  genes and even human genes are randomly inserted into the chromosomes  of plants, fish and animals, creating heretofore unimaginable transgenic  lifeforms. For the first time in history, transnational biotechnology  corporations are becoming the architects and ‘owners’ of life.”
•”With  little or no regulatory restraints, labeling requirements or scientific  protocol, bioengineers have begun creating hundreds of new GE  ‘frankenfoods’ and crops. The research is done with little concern for  the human and environmental hazards.”
•”An increasing number of  scientists are warning that current gene-splicing techniques are crude,  inexact and unpredictable – and therefore inherently dangerous.”
I  think that sums it up: It’s unregulated, possibly unsafe for humans,  certainly a danger to the environment, morally questionable, and likely  to make developing countries even more dependent on hand-outs or subject  to starvation.

California may vote on GMO: Polling shows  80 percent of California voters support labels on GMO  foods. And they  are starting a petition drive to put it on their Nov. 6 ballot.
Organic and food safety interests will be watching; it’s likely, as goes California, so goes the nation. For more, see: http://organicconsumersfund.org.

Come see me: I’ll be speaking Feb. 25 at the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute  of Mississippi conference at Eagle Ridge Conference Center in Raymond  on Organic Backyard Market Gardening. For more information, visit www.ggsim.org

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Foraging ‘weeds’ provides ‘Anglo-Saxon salad’

Nov. 11, 2011
Foraging ‘weeds’ provides ancient Anglo Saxon fare today

Anyone who reads this column regularly knows that I’m not an enemy of weeds.
Not only do we welcome weeds in our plots at ShooFly Farm because they shade plants, keep roots cool, soil moist, and provide habitat for beneficial insects, but because it’s a lot easier on the back.
Weeds can tell you a lot about what’s going on with your soil. (Read Charles Walters’ Weeds: Control Without Poisons, Acres USA.) But they also provide a look back at history.
You probably didn’t know that many of what we consider some of the most pernicious weeds in our gardens were once considered sacred among the ancients.
Richard Mabey explains all this in a wonderful book: Weeds: In Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants (HarperCollins, 2010, $25.99). While it focuses on the English countryside, most of the plants he talks about are “invasives” in the Americas.
For example, when you’re mowing your lawn, you may be shredding some of the Anglo Saxons’ nine sacred herbs: mugwort, plantain, chamomile, betony, stinging nettle, chervil, fennel and crab apple.
The pernicious plantain was called “the mother of worts” and was revered as far back as the earliest Celtic fire ceremonies. St. John’s Wort is still used to calm nerves.
Tramping back through the Middle Ages, our pathways are lined by what Mabey calls Anglo-Saxon salad.
Foraging today may be seen as chic in America, but it’s an age old tradition in Europe, with seasonal forays in France to gather wild greens such as leeks and dandelions and local fungi.
But lest we feel second best, it should be noted that foraged fare once was as American as Henry David Thoreau, who opined: “The bitter-sweet of a white oak acorn which you nibble in a bleak November walk over the tawny earth is more to me than a slice of imported pineapple.”
Even closer to home, the Choctaw say that migrating geese gave the people corn.
How short-sighted we are that we view the apple, a hybrid from Asia, as American. More indigenous is the corn, the tomato, the squash, the bean.
Our “weeds” are imported from the Mediterranean mostly via Britain from the Neolithic Age 4500 BCE.
Organic gardeners revere their cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, collards, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts. Most probably don’t know they once were “weeds,” and not recognizable to what they have become. That’s something to munch on this November day!

Be alert: Make sure you are picking what you think you’re picking, to avoid stomach upsets! I recommend: Peterson’s A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants.
Online: Food writer Barbara Damrosch on eating weeds:http://wapo.st/u332Kw
Reminder: I’ll be at the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers/ Agritourism/ Blueberry Associations Conference and Tradeshow next week at the Vicksburg Convention Center. The show runs Monday through Wednesday. If you’re interested in ag stuff, it’s the place to be.
For more information, see: www.msfruitandveg.com.
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

World an organic garden when foraging

Whole world a sweet organic garden when foraging
Sept. 29, 2011
I was on my morning run the other day and saw something that almost stopped me in my tracks: a persimmon tree laden with fruit!
The reason this struck me so was that last fall I was looking forward to foraging some of the delicacies along my 5-mile run/walk/jog and/or bike route, and the weather didn’t cooperate and the trees didn’t bear much.
The previous year, Annette and I had picked bunches, and she used a tomato press to crush and strain the fruits and make a delicious jam and homemade persimmon bread. Yum!
But, beware. If you eat the fruit before it’s ripe, your mouth will pucker up with a sour/tart flavor that’s almost impossible to wash out.
The secret to not allowing the persimmons to have a bitter flavor is to wait until the fruit is so ripe it’s almost dripping off the limb. It looks almost rotten. Then, it’s meat is almost pure sugar. Of course, you’re competing with deer, raccoons and every other scavenger on the planet when they are ripe like that.
So, for now, I’m warily watching the persimmon tree in hopes that my patience will bear fruit!
Foraging seems to be big deal in urban areas these days. It’s not so unusual in rural areas – or wasn’t when I was growing up. I’m by no means a Euell Gibbons (Stalking the Wild Asparagus, et al.), but when I was a boy, I learned to gather wild onions for broths, pick sumac and dig sassafras for tea, and could, in a pinch, whip up some dandelion greens to eat (you can use them in place of collards for a nice casserole with mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs).
Over the years, I’ve lost several copies of my “bible” for foraging: Peterson’s A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants.
The ultimate forager may be someone who eats anything invasive (or opportunistic!) in the local ecosystem, thus ensuring a balanced local ecology of flora and fauna.
One such forager is Jackson Landers of Virginia who writes a blog called The Locavore Hunter (http://rule-303.blogspot.com).
As New York Times writer James Gorman notes, Landers “has hunted and eaten feral pigs, two species of iguana, armadillos, starlings, pigeons and resident Canada geese. He says that all of these activities will be chronicled in a book, Eating Aliens, and perhaps a television show as well.”
Many rural people of my acquaintance are familiar with the preparation – from shot to pot – of deer, raccoon, squirrel, possum, etc. (Where my dad grew up during the Depression near Vaughan was called “Possum Bend” for its gustatory abundance; they lived off what the land provided, animal, vegetable and mineral.)
But it’s worth noting that, in addition to what’s growing in your organic 4×8-foot Jim’s plot, there’s a real wealth of healthful foods available for the picking in your yard or just out your front door.
The whole world can be a sweet organic garden when foraging.
Reader response, Mosquitoes: “With West Nile being such a problem, and the pesky critters being so horrible this year, do you have any suggestions on repelling mosquitoes organically?”
First: Remove habitats such as old tires, containers, etc. Second, try growing plants that repel them, like basil, lemongrass and citronella. Third, apply oil of lemon eucalyptus; it can mix with water as a spray. Fourth, buy liquid garlic (available online) and spray yard, patio, etc.
Mark your calendar:
•The annual meeting of the Mississippi Beekeepers Association will be held at the Gulf Coast Community College campus in Gautier Oct. 27-30. For more information, contact the MBA at Box 5207, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762; or call secretary Harry Fulton (662) 325-7765, or email harry@mdac.state.ms.us.
•The Mississippi Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association Conference & Trade Show will be held at the Vicksburg Convention Center in Vicksburg, Nov. 14-16. It will be held in conjunction with the Mississippi Agritourism Association and the Gulf South Blueberry Growers Association. Early bird registration special price of $75 ends today. For details, see www.msfruitandveg.com.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.