July is winding down, a cooler month than usual, but there is a steady ripening toward fruition nonetheless. Work in the garden has slowed down somewhat. Not because there is less to do, just that there is more to do elsewhere. The time I do spend in the garden continues to surprise me. I love how my plans and the seeds I sow enter into relationship with whatever nature has in store for me. This spring-seeded clover seems to get along just fine with the volunteer plantain. Both are wonderful edible and medicinal plants.
Plantain (Plantago major) likes to grow in heavy, compacted soil. I have plenty of that, which means I also have plenty of plantain. I gather a basket most visits and bring it home to infuse into oil and dry for tea. I’m so grateful for this exceedingly common and abundant plant.
The other abundant volunteer this year has been the Queen Anne’s Lace, aka wild carrot (Daucus carota). A member of the umbelliferous Apiaceae family and the wild progenitor of carrots, this plant must be approached with extreme caution. Without proper ID skills it could be easy to confuse it with poison hemlock or water hemlock, two of the most deadly plants in North America. (The former famously killed Socrates). In fact, stories are told of how trained botanists have made this, their last, fatal mistake. Some foragers avoid the entire family altogether to stay safe. I don’t think this is necessary. Once you have the skills, it is not difficult to differentiate the plants, but I absolutely agree with herbalist Howie Brounstein who teaches his students to always “Be humble with the umbels!”
At the very least, one can always admire its stunning beauty.
I have been gathering the flowers and using them in salted herbs, as a hydrosol and this week I’m experimenting with making a Queen Anne’s Cordial. It will be ready to taste in another couple of days and I’m excited to see how it turns out.
The yarrow I planted last year has flowered and it is a delight to gather armfuls of this amazing, aromatic plant.
I dried some for tea and I also made this hydrosol, rich in the blue essential oil azulene, a wonderful anti-inflammatory for the skin, reducing redness, swelling and irritation. A potent antioxidant, it protects the skin from damaging free radicals and rejuvenates skin cells.
From a distance, the garden appears full of mostly white flowers, but there are splashes of colour throughout. These ingredients went into something I’m making exclusively for the August CSA!
I had a friend come and and give me a hand in the garden this week and we harvested the first of the garlic. There’s 10 lbs here and I figure I have about another 30 or 40 lbs to go. I’m pleased with how it looks so far. Now I just need to find some space to dry it all!
What’s happening in your garden?