Time to Eat- Violets, Chickweed, and Dandelions!

Spring is coming fast here in the southeast, and healthy plants are popping up all over our yard!  Three of my favorite free spring edibles are violets, chickweed, and dandelion.  Sometimes I wonder why we bother growing lettuce when we have lovely greens all around us which are far more nutritious and fun to eat (at least in my opinion)!  Let’s take these plants (which some people mistake for weeds) one at a time.

violets flowering

candied violets

Violets- It’s easy to identify the delicate violet colored flowers and heart shaped leaves of the common violet plant, and both have a mild flavor and are chock full of vitamin C and vitamin A.  They are anti-inflammatory and support the immune system as well.  They are so tasty that I prefer to eat them raw, but they can also be cooked or made into tea.  Candied violets (leaves and flowers rinsed and then dipped in raw sugar and set out to dry to a crunchy treat) are my children’s favorite way to consume them.  Violets are also wonderful for your skin, and this is the perfect time of year to gather some to make Violet-chickweed Boo-boo Balm!

You may be a little less familiar with chickweed, but it’s a great plant to get to know!  The three photos above show the leaf shape, the tiny flower heads, and the growth habit of chickweed to help you identify it more easily.  Think of it as the “star of spring” – it has two sets of opposite leaves at the ends of the stems before it flowers, which remind me of a little star, and then the flowers are tiny white star shapes in clusters.  The whole plant grows outward from the center as you can see in the third photo. Some chickweed plants are more creeping, and some have a more upright growth habit.  I’ve noticed that the leaves of plants growing in fertile soil are also much larger than those on plants in poor soil, but the leaves always grow in pairs, as shown in the second photo.

Chickweed is extremely nutritious! Vitamin C, Niacin, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus, Selenium, and Silica are just a few of the vitamins and minerals found in this little powerhouse plant.  It’s deliciously crunchy raw, and reminds me a little of butter crunch lettuce, only so much better.  I literally crave this stuff in the spring!  You can also chop it up and add it to soups, stews, spaghetti sauce, or any other dish that could use a touch of green.  Just make sure you chop up the stems finely if you have picky eaters, and it easily passes for something like parsley.  You can also use chickweed externally to treat rashes and eczema.

Dandelions are one of the most under-appreciated and vilified plants in America.  It makes me sad to see people digging up or spraying poison on the very plant that could help their body flush poisons out.   Another nutritional power plant- dandelions are high in Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, and Potassium.  Fluffy yellow dandelion flowers are slightly sweet and fun to eat.  The leaves are toothed and range from tender and slightly bitter when they are young, to tough and bitter when they are old, but that bitterness actually helps your liver to work more effectively at removing toxins from your body, and stimulates your digestive system to work more efficiently.  If you feel sluggish, especially after meals, you probably need more dandelion in your life! =) You can add dandelion to salads, soups, sautés,  teas, or eat it straight.  You can also use dandelion roots to make a kind of coffee substitute.

I hope this encourages you to enjoy the bounty growing (hopefully) in your yard!  If you have any questions or thoughts on wild edibles, please comment below!

Enjoy!!

 

 

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Violet-chickweed Boo-boo Balm

My family has many different kinds of boo-boos and rashes over the years, so I’m always on the lookout for natural (and inexpensive) remedies for scrapes, sores, and rashes.

This Violet-chickweed balm is a combination of two wonderfully healing herbs, infused in olive oil, and made into an easily spreadable balm with the addition of beeswax.

Violets are one of my favorite spring flowers!  They pop up so early in spring and keep their dainty little flowers blooming even into the heat of summer if they are in shade.   Both the flowers and leaves are edible and can be added to salads or teas or made into a delicious treat called candied violets (my kids’ personal favorite).  Violet leaf is amazing for soothing and healing inflamed skin caused by rashes, eczema, and hives.  Of course, it’s important to also deal with the underlying cause of any rash (in our case, food allergies have been a leading cause of rashes), but while you are finding answers, violet balm can help soothe and speed healing on the skin level.  As I’m writing this in South Carolina in March, violets are in full bloom, so this is the perfect time to pick a bunch and start your infusion!

Chickweed is another wonderful spring “weed”! It’s one of the first greens available in spring, and it’s crunchy, mild tasting leaves are extremely nutritious, and delicious alone or added to a variety of dishes.  My kids and I first learned about the benefits of chickweed through a fun and educational book series called Herb Fairies, put out by Learning Herbs.  My kids are devoted chickweed fans, and often eat it by the handful when they are outside playing.  Chickweed is an incredible healing herb for all kinds of skin issues, from scrapes and insect bites to warts, and can even help soothe sore muscles when a strong tea called an infusion is added to a bath.  We keep chickweed salve on hand to use on any small cuts, scrapes, or insect bites.

This violet-chickweed boo-boo balm combines the strength of violets and chickweed to create a super soothing and healing balm.

Violet-Chickweed Boo-boo Balm

First, gather your chickweed and violet leaves.  You can use the photos above to help guide your search, but it’s best to have someone familiar with these herbs help you identify them.  Make sure you gather leaves and flowers from an area that has not been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides.  Never gather all of a plant in an area, but only take a few leaves or stems from each plant, leaving at least half of each plant to continue growing and producing more leaves.  You will want about 1 cup of fresh herb per cup of oil you intend to infuse.

Next, rinse your leaves if necessary (a salad spinner is great for this), spread on clean towels or paper towels, and allow your leaves to wilt for 1-3 days.  This allows much of the water to evaporate from the leaves, which will reduce the water content in you balm, and help it last longer.

After your leaves are dry or wilted, you can choose which way to infuse your oil.

violet and chickweed oil in jars

  1. The slow way: place your leaves in a jar, and add an equal amount of oil, and close tightly.  I usually use olive oil, but sunflower oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, or other oils could be used or mixed. I do not recommend vegetable oil.  Let sit in a dark place (or put a sock over your jar) for 4-6 weeks, shaking every few days.
  2. The fast way: place your leaves in a jar, cover with an equal amount of oil, but don’t put the lid on yet.  Set the jar in a saucepan half filled with water and heat over low heat for 2-3 hours, being sure not to get water droplets in your oil and not to burn your infusion.

Once your oil is infused, strain out and discard the leaves.

To make your infused oil into a balm, add approximately 1 ounce of beeswax per cup of oil to a heavy saucepan (or a heatproof container set over a saucepan with a little water- like a double boiler) and warm over very low heat until the beeswax is melted.  Pour into small tins or jars to cool.  Your balm will solidify as it cools.  If it turns out too hard, you can re-melt with added oil.  If it is not solid enough, re-melt with more beeswax.

Be sure to label your tins and note how to use your boo-boo balm. =)

Enjoy!

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How to Make Sage Honey for Sore Throats

Winter is coming, and I’m starting to make my usual winter remedies to keep on hand in case sickness strikes our home. Sage honey is one of the things my kids beg for when they have sore throats, and it makes great gifts for family and friends, so I made a big batch yesterday.

It’s really quite simple to make…

Gather a handful of fresh sage leaves.


Wash leaves (or just make sure the leaves you harvest are nice and clean).
Let leaves dry (I put mine on a cookie sheet under a ceiling fan for several hours).
Put sage leaves and about 2 quarts of honey (preferably raw honey) in a pot.


Heat on VERY low heat until sage leaves look pretty dry and crunchy, anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes or longer, depending on the amount of honey and the heat from your stove.   You can adjust your heat as needed, just be sure that your raw honey doesn’t cook or you won’t have the raw benefits anymore.


Allow to cool slightly, then strain out the sage leaves and pour into jars.  I got 9 half-pint jars out of my batch. Remember to label your jars. 😊


Be very careful not to get water in your honey and not to scorch your honey.

Enjoy!

Posted in Children, Food, Food storage and preservation, Garden, Health, Home Remedies, Recipes, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coco-Coconut Bars

I got got the inspiration for these easy treats from Kayla at Radiant Life’s “Heavenly No-Bake Organic Coconut Balls”.  Of course I had to try adding cocoa, because in our home, chocolate makes everything yummier. 🙂

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Coco-Coconut Bars

The cocoa does make it less sweet than the original, but that is what I was going for.  If you like your treats to be really sweet, you may want to add more honey or maple syrup with the cocoa.

Coco-Coconut Bars

  • 1- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup raw honey or maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil (optional- I forgot it once and they were still delish)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa (you can use less for a milder chocolate flavor)
  • 1/8 teaspoon unrefined salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until well blended.  ( I like to process the coconut a little before adding the other ingredients to make it a little more finely chopped).   Place mixture in parchment paper lined container and refrigerate for about one hour to set.   Cut into bars and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.   I made a quadruple batch to fill the pan in the photo. I like to keep a few of these in the car as a quick energy snack when I’m out.

Enjoy!

 

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Preparing a raspberry patch

I’m getting ready to transplant my raspberries to a permanent and dedicated raspberry patch, but first I need to prepare it properly. Here is an excellent article I found that covers all the basics- bed preparation, fertilization, trellising, pruning, and preventing diseases.

http://www.finegardening.com/how-grow-raspberries

Enjoy! 

PS: if you would like some baby raspberry plants for your own, let me know! I have plenty to share! I believe the variety I have is Heritage.

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When Life Eclipses God

My sweet and insightful friend Meredith wrote something recently that I had to share. Please take a moment to read and be encouraged!

When Life Eclipses God

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Dairy-Free Nut-Free Basil Pesto is the Best-o

Great recipe for simple pesto!

Source: Dairy-Free Nut-Free Basil Pesto is the Best-o

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