Healing Weeds - Getting a closer contact with the healing world of herbs and wild plants.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cat’s Ear

Hypochoeris radicata
Also called flatweed or false dandelion. NL: Biggenkruid / F: Porcelle enracinée

This plant is usually mistaken by dandelion, perhaps because of its bright yellow flower, which also ends up releasing its seeds as windborne “parachutes”. There are a few major differences: cat’s ear has hairy leaves and its leaves have round-dented lobes, while dandelion leaves have sharply toothed angles. 
detail of the hairy leaves

Now we are busy comparing both anyway, cat’s ear leaves are not so bitter as dandelion leaves and can be more easily accepted in salads, stews, soups. The root of this plant can be roasted and used to make a coffee, the same way as it is done with dandelion roots.
This is one of the plants that can be harvested as food almost the whole year through. Its leaves can be sometimes found healthily green even under a heavy layer of snow.

There is some risk of toxicity for horses, so you might want to remove it from meadows where horses are supposed to eat from. 

it has multiple flowers per stem
There are other edibles that look like dandelions. Some of them are briefly described in the following blog:

False Dandelions for Lunch - Eat the Weeds

In the link below you can see a nice video from Wild Plant Forager where you can get extra tips on how to use this plant and how to distinguish them from dandelions:

Cat's Ear - Hypochaeris radicata - Wild Plant Forager 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring time! - Baby Weeds

It’s still too cold to actually celebrate spring, but you have probably already started your seedlings in nurseries or indoors and some baby plants are anxiously waiting to get to the real ground. If only it would get a little warmer. In the meantime you have already spotted lots of little plants coming up spontaneously all over your garden. But you had other plans for your garden than to grant it entirely to these “opportunistic” plants. Wondering what to do with these “weeds”? Perhaps it is a good moment to learn to identify them. Getting to know the true value of each of these plants may help you to make better decisions concerning their “destiny”. 

Many of the plants considered weeds contain in fact higher nutritional value than our cultivated leafy vegetables. Some of these opportunistic plants can also improve the health of the soil where we want to grow our vegetables while others can speed up and enrich composting piles. Some can even be used in natural preparations to strengthen cultivated plants, protecting them from diseases and from plague attacks.

Here are some garden jewels that you might want to keep or use in one or another way (salads, juices, soups, liquid compost, fertilizer or natural plant spray). This is how they look in their early days:
(read more below the pictures...)
Malva sylvestris - Common Mallow
Aegopodium podagaria - Ground Elder
Alliaria petiolata - Garlic Mustard
Hypochoeris radicata - Cat's Ear

Anthriscus sylvestris - Wild Chervil / Cow Parsley
Bellis perennis - Daisy

Stellaria media - Chickweed
Taraxacum officinale - Dandelion

Bellis perennis - Daisy

Equisetum arvense - Horsetail

Cardamine spp - Bittercress

Cardamine spp - Bittercress

Glechoma hederacea - Ground Ivy

Plantago lanceolata - Plantain
Veronica filiformis - Speedwell

Urtica dioica - Nettles

Achillea millefolium - Yarrow
But there are also a few poisonous plants that pop up spontaneously in your garden which you might not want to see growing together with your vegetables, in particular plants that can pass on toxic substances to other plants through their roots. It is thus pretty handy to learn about those too, since many of them are easier to be removed in their early stage.

This site is filled with useful information on the various common weeds that can be found pretty much all over Europe. It offers nature-friendly solutions to deal with any plant that is not “desirable” on your garden:

For those living in non-English speaking countries, you may want to search them by their latin names, if you are not familiar with their common name in English:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Winter Survival Food

With the chilling winds and freezing temperatures forecast for the next couple of days (at least), I feel like sharing two great articles on winter edibles I came across on a great blog:

Winter Survival Food - part 1
Winter Survival Food - part 2

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sow Thistle

Sonchus oleraceus
NL: Melkdistel / F: Laiteron

This plant has powerful medicinal properties, with some toxicity, but at the same time it is also highly nutritious. It contains, per 100g, around 30mg of vitamin C, 1500 mg of Calcium and 45 mg of Iron. The dried leaves contain up to 28g of protein per 100g - a great nutritional supplement. Use only young leaves as edibles, raw, in salads or cooked, as spinach.

In the garden, they perform great function as a “sacrificial plants”, helping to control some fly, moths and aphids that attack some plants.

This strong plant grabs every little chance to grow.
Its applications in traditional folk medicine around the world are numerous: blood purifier, hepatic, sedative, febrifuge, tonic, pectoral, and there are even mentions of its use to treat cancer and to help people to quit opium addiction. Its white “milk” can be used to get rid of warts (like other milky plants).

Here is a video to help you to properly identify Sow Thistle:
Spiny-Leaved Sow Thistle, by the New Survivalist

More information on the medicinal properties of this plant:
Earth Medicine Institute: Sonchus oleraceus

Here you can get a thorough course on this plant:
Sonchus oleraceaus - Survival Plants Memory Course

Friday, March 8, 2013

Newsletter 2 - March 2013

Available now: our long awaited second newsletter !
+ Activities updated + new links in the links section !

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Yes, you are reading correctly: grass! While most people may be familiar with the “healing powers” of wheat grass, others may even know about barley grass, oatstraw and alfalfa grass, many people still do not realize that the grass they throw away after mowing their lawn is actually food! 

Most grasses are not only edible but they are rich additions to our diets, rich in precious minerals and vitamins. They also have detox properties similarly to wheat grass.

The best way to consume it, is to harvest the young grass - now widely available. Normally if it is within 15 cm it will be easily chewable. 

I use my Z-star manual juicer to get the best of grasses and other fiber-rich edibles. If you do not have a manual juicer, you can still chew a bunch of young grass a long time, swallow its juice and then spit out the fiberish pulp. 

Keep in mind the usual recommendations about finding food in the wild, making sure it is not a place that has been polluted or sprayed with hazardous chemicals. Contamination from animal manure can be countered by a good washing session, soaking them in vinegar for 20 minutes, washing again.

If you are up to a spring time detox week, grass is the way to go! It is already sprouting higher than all the other plants, and you can get plenty of it to load your energy back after a long-dragging winter. Try adding apple juice and lemon juice to it to make it a more pleasant detox. ;-)

Here is a great video where Sergei Boutenko mentions how to use grasses as food in the very beginning of the video:

Wild Food Foraging part 4 - Sergei Boutenko