Wild Spring Herbs

Monthly Feature APRIL 2013

Spring is one of the most exciting times of year for gardeners and herbalists. We watch leaves break dormancy on trees and shrubs, bulbs start to show new shoots, perennials return and it’s time for working the soil in our garden beds and containers from last year. New plants are seeded and we are optimistic about the future! 

Herbalists and others in the know also watch for certain wild herbs that can be used for our health.

For centuries, as we know, plants have been used for health and medicine. No herbs are more useful than the ones that show up in Spring and are used to reinvigorate our bodies after the Winter. In countries with very cold winters and limited food availability, Spring Tonics were especially important.

Today, of course, we have a wide range of produce and other foods available to us year-round. That doesn’t mean, however, that our bodies don’t still react in a positive manner to the Spring herbs for good health and nutrition.

Some of the most common, healthy Spring herbs are Dandelion, Nettles, Cleavers and Chickweed.

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Dandelion- Taraxacum officinale

 

Dandelion

Dandelions are ubiquitous. We’re seeing them now, as Spring is in full swing here in my part of Texas. Folks up north, where the weather is still cold, will have to wait a bit for their spring Dandelions. Why Dandelions? They are considered a mild bitter herb used to stimulate the appetite and promote digestion, as a blood cleanser and diuretic. Dandelions can be harvested from areas where you know no pesticides have been used and cooked like any leafy green- steamed, braised or used in soups, pesto and soups.

You can also make a Dandelion Tea using about 1/2 tsp. freshly dried leaves per cup of water. Steep for 10 minutes and drink about 3 times throughout the day to stimulate digestion and aid in liver function.

There are cultivated varieties of Dandelion bred for food. I’ve grown Italian Dandelions from John Sheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds: Catalogna Dandelions: 60-65 days Catalogna is an early open-pollinated variety with long, deeply-cut, bright green frilly leaves. If you want to harvest it as a ‘cut and come again’ crop, sow heavily and thickly. But be forewarned, they will bolt in hot weather and become unpleasantly bitter. We enjoy pairing it with other greens in rustic salads topped with a warm, pancetta balsamic vinegar reduction dressing and homemade croutons. (OP.)

Continue reading “Wild Spring Herbs”

April 2002

It’s Spring in Texas…. (and, yes, this newsletter is a little late…… it is spring you know…..).

which means the roadsides and pastures are filled with drifts of blue, pink, orange and bright yellow. The Texas state flower, the bluebonnet, is a sky blue lupine that has been planted all over the state, thanks in part to Lady Bird Johnson. The bluebonnet pods split open when the seeds are ripe and the seeds are tossed here and there to germinate for next year. Pink primroses, called buttercups by many because of the yellow centers, grow in concert with the orange Indian Paintbrush and golden yellow coreopsis to create vibrant color combinations. The trees are leafing out with the bright, fresh green of new growth. The pastures themselves look velvety green with new grass for the cattle to graze.

In the herb garden, the lavender and thyme blossoms are abuzz with bees, new basil plants have been put in and the oregano and marjoram plants are sending up tall stalks that will flower later in the season. Roses and poppies are blooming everywhere. In my gardens, I seem to have an abundance of dark red roses: climbers and shrubs. They are a lovely foil to the yellow irises blooming in and around the water garden.

April is a busy sales season here because it’ll soon be too hot to plant new things or to work outside in the middle of the day. Sales have been brisk this spring at the many garden and botanical shows I’ve attended. Lavender is still a favorite, although the purchase of lavender plants comes with lots of questions. So, here are some tips for growing lavender in the south, along with some general information which may help you choose the variety that’s best for your area. Continue reading “April 2002”