Spring Herbs

Enjoy a Bouquet of Wild Radish, Mustard Greens, and Wild Onion Before You Eat. Pic by M.C.

It’s springtime and wild plants are blooming in California. I love topping salad with all the tiny flowers. Wild plants have a lot of flavor. They are high in nutrients so you don’t have to eat as much. It makes my walk more special as I meet plants along the way and taste them.

As I learned in herb class, it’s good to say hello, introduce yourself, tell the plant why you’re harvesting it, and it just might let you take it home. We’re supposed to leave something valuable behind. I haven’t figured that one out yet. Perhaps I’ll save seeds from the wild plants for the following year.

1. Wild Radish-You might find wild radish growing next to mustard greens probably because it’s in the mustard family. To identify it look for a red stem. I have observed the white flower mature to lavender. Add the leaves and flowers to your salad. It tastes like radish.

Wild Radish on a Sunny Day. Pic by M.C.

2. Wild Onion-Look for a medium-green, long leaf. When holding the leaf it feels and looks like a triangular scallion. You will see a cluster of white, star-like flowers. At first sight the flowers droop like bells, but looking at the bloom straight on you will find a star. The strong onion taste is great to eat raw. Sprinkle the flowers and chopped leaf on top of your salad.

Wild Onion. Pic by M.C.

3. Mustard Greens-You will notice all the small yellow flowers while driving the 5 freeway and up the 101 because the Spanish monks threw seeds on their journey through California using it like bread crumbs. When harvesting, feel how the leaf is a little prickly. The wild radish leaf isn’t prickly and that’s one way to tell the difference between the two. Mustard greens are great for cooking in olive oil and garlic then mixing with warm pasta. They can also be boiled in half white vinegar, half water, a little sugar, salt, and pepper and put on the side of a yam or really any warm meal. The flowers are good on top of a salad. Sometimes the flower tastes like onion to me and sometimes mustard.

Mustard Green in the Foreground w/ Yellow Flowers, but White Flowers from the Wild Radish in the Background Pop. Pic by M.C.

4. Yellowdock-This buckwheat has low to the ground green and red leaves with a shoot holding the seeds. The root helps absorb iron. The seeds are like buckwheat and fun to eat on a walk. Or take them home and put them on top of your oatmeal. They are tiny, like quinoa. Rub them in your hand to get the husk to peel away. Yellowdock seeds are high in protein. Wild seeds make you more wild! In a good way.

Yellowdock. Pic by M.C.

5. Plantain-Plantain looks like strips of light green that narrow at the end. The veins go along the leaf. You can’t really see in my photo, but in the middle is a shoot growing with a cone-like flower. People will take the stem and flower and make a bow and arrow then shoot it at their friend for fun. It comes in handy for bug bites, snakebites, or poison oak. Chew it up, spit it out, and rub it on the bite. I hear it really works.

Plantain. Pic by M.C.

6. English Daisy-The daisies are tiny with little leaves all close to the ground. I see English Daisy growing in lawns. So it will look like weeds are in your landscape, but it’s so much more. The flower and leaves are edible. It is used like Arnica for bruising and strains. You can use the leaf and flower in a salve and liniment.

English Daisy. Pic by M.C.

Look for what grows in your area. If you don’t have the plants I listed you may find different plants that do the same thing. In general, when eating flowers, leaves are more flavorful than the center of a flower. Online there is Calflora.org for California where you can do a plant search by its common, scientific, or family name. Look for a wild plant or wildflower website for your state or country. And the only App that seems to cover wild plants is iNaturalist where plant lovers and scientists upload photos of plants, bugs, and birds from around the world. You can ask people to help identify the plant you upload. I hope this makes your walk, hike, or bike ride more enjoyable.

Happy Easter!

And Happy Vegan!

Copyright 2021 Melissa Crismon

Sunflower Butter Cups with Tea

Nut Butter Cups with Stinging Nettle Tea. Pic by M.C.

I’m sure many of you saw candy recipes during Valentine’s Day. I used to make my own vegan peanut butter cups about thirty years ago. Sunflower butter cups are more updated being allergen free. It’s so easy to make. Plus I will give some tips on making tea.

Making tea out of nettle leaves (Urtica dioica) makes a great tonic. I’m told—the ones that sting—if you grab it rather than being delicate you won’t get stung. Stinging nettle is found all over the world. It’s native to Europe so it would be considered an “alien” in America. I’m told I can find it near a river where there is a lot of foot traffic. Since I haven’t seen any yet, I buy it at an herbal store. If you can’t find it near you look for an herbal store online.

Nettle leaf is nutritive. It’s an alterative tonic, which basically restores your health. It’s a great antihistamine, but fresh is better in this case. It’s an anti-inflammatory. It moderates allergic response. It’s an urinary tonic and diuretic. It’s an astringent to mucous membranes. It’s hemostatic, which means it will stop bleeding. It’s a galactagogue, which means it will help mothers increase breast milk supply. It treats skin rashes and eruptions, arthritis and passive bleeding. It’s the herbologists go-to herb.

Nettle basically tastes like veggie broth or edamame. It’s pretty bland, but I love it. And I don’t add any sweetener. It’s part of the experience of just tasting one herb. I love using a mason jar so I can see the pretty leaves and the lid keeps the nutrients in the tea.

1 Tbsp. Nettles (stinging nettles), dried
12-16-ounces water

Yield: 1 cup of tea

Use a 16-ounce mason jar. Boil 12-16-ounces of water. Put one tablespoon of crushed, dried nettles into the jar. Then pour hot water into jar. Cover and let steep for at least 5 minutes. I put a strainer over the mug then pour the tea into my cup. I save the nettle leaves and dump them into my compost.  

Sunflower Butter Cups with herbs. Pic by M.C.

1/2 cup + 1/4 cup dark morsels, Enjoy Life chocolate chips
6 tsp. sunflower butter, SunButter, no sugar added

Yield: 6 sunflower butter cups

Fill pan about three fourths to the top so the bottom of the double boiler rests on the water. I’m using a 7.5” wide X 4.5” deep pot with a .63 quart stainless steel double boiler chocolate melting pot. While waiting for water to boil, measure 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Put candy paper cups in muffin tin. Candy paper cups are less deep than the muffin ones. I bought mine from Michael’s. Pour chocolate chips in the double boiler and stir until melted. Spoon about a tablespoon into each paper cup. I use the serving spoon that comes with the double boiler. Press the chocolate to stick to the sides then shake the muffin tin a little to get the chocolate level. Put the tin into the refrigerator for 5 minutes.

Measure 1/4 cup chocolate chips then melt. Turn off the heat on the stove. Spoon 1 teaspoon of sunflower butter onto hardened chocolate bottoms. I like how easy sunflower butter is to work with. Take your melted chocolate and drizzle the chocolate over the sunflower butter. To drizzle you wave spoon over cup to get those lines. Then shake the pan gently to get the chocolate level. I used some tea with dried roses, oat straw, and nettle to sprinkle on top. You can dry some roses from your garden. Or you can look to see what tea you have in your cupboard and cut open a tea bag to sprinkle the contents on top. Put the tin in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Food for Thought:
I’ve been taking a beginning herb class. I can’t wait to share some of the information with you. I was standing in the bedroom thinking I need to learn how to administer first aid using herbs. I looked up an herbal class and found one online. And the class includes us making our own first aid kit. I think I should show you when I’m done with my kit.

Another thing I wanted to learn was how to eat and survive off the land as a vegan. There is so much nutritious food out there. And it’s tasty. And most of us just think those are weeds. Even Rudolph Steiner taught ranchers and farmers how to get rid of the dandelion. I’ll never think of a dandelion as a weed again. I did have dandelion tea in my cupboard before the class but I was digging up the dandelions in my front yard and throwing them out. You can eat the leaves and make tea out of the dried root.

We went on a couple of nature walks and tasted dandelion leaves. They are now one of my favorite weeds, I mean wild plants, to eat. You can incorporate greens like dandelion into your salad. But, wild plants are highly nutritious. Our teacher warned us that she had a student who fed her boyfriend too many wild plants and he ended up with diarrhea. Our teacher also told us because there are more nutrients in wild plants you don’t have to eat as much.

I see all these plants near streams, train tracks, and the sidewalk and think why don’t the homeless eat this stuff?

Then I hear comments about how the hunters will survive and the vegans won’t during the future depression or apocalypse. So now, I know I don’t have to cook beans and rice over a fire. I have options. I can take a walk and gather some really cool leaves, seeds, and berries.

And I feel compelled to share the part about harvesting. Our teacher taught that we should introduce ourselves to the plant that we are going to take from. Then let the plant know what you are going to do with it. Also, we should leave something for the plant. Sometimes people leave more seeds of the same plant. You could give a little water. The Native American way is to give what is valuable to you. So talk to the plants and trees and lift your spirits while encouraging them to grow.

Have a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! May you have luck of an Irishman and swim with a mermaid!

Happy Vegan!

Copyright 2021 Melissa Crismon