Over the past two weeks, I’ve said the phrase: “wild week walk” to far more people than I should have. Maybe it’s the awesome alliteration (see what I did there?) or maybe it’s just the fact that I like to see the inquisitive looks upon saying the word, “weed”. Either way, I guarantee the handful of people I did say this to don’t think I’m straightedge anymore.
(We all know the head of the 4/20 committee is searching that term as we speak and offering anyone who writes it some of that “green paper” as a reward.) Okay, maybe not…I don’t want any of y’all to get the wrong idea. (Also, definitely not southern in any way. I have been watching too much Kardashians clearly!) Wow, I abuse the use of parenthesis!
Back onto the topic at hand: weeds. As in those pesky ones that infiltrate your gardens and lawns and see to it that no matter how many times you pluck them (roots and all) they keep reappearing. (similar to those gray hairs)
Sunday, I went to one of my local farms (W. Rogowski) and was lucky enough to participate in this life-changing experience. No, I didn’t become healed by Joel Osteen or even see the shroud of Jesus, but I did learn that those weeds we all have learned to hate so much are there for a reason: for us to eat/use!
The herbalist, Robin Rose Bennett, isn’t just your typical speaker who rattled off information, takes your money, and runs. She actually is quite the opposite. She hosted a wild weed walk through the farm. She’s been an avid learner, practicer, and teacher of herbalism for over 25 years. She also hosts many lectures/classes throughout the city and right here in New Jersey as well.
In today’s day and age, we are all looking for ways to become healthier. With the recalls of store bought foods becoming more prevalent, it seems as though we are experiencing a kind of “food revolution.” More and more of us are beginning to grow our own gardens, question a restaurant’s ingredients origins, and support our local farms instead of commercial ones.
I think this is an amazing time to be alive in the world’s history. WE actually have the power and tools to change the way we view food/eat it and it’s as easy as walking in our backyards and paying attention to the plants around us.
Robin and her partner (Dave) provided our group with wonderful insights regarding plants and how to reap the most benefits from them.
Here’s a rundown of what went on:
1. The plant above is called Mullein. Looking at it you’d assume it’s just another pesky eyesore of a weed, but if you let it grow long enough (this one’s in it’s second year), gorgeous flowers bloom from the top. Mullein’s layman’s name is: velvety dok. It has kind of a velvety feel when you touch it. It’s leaves are big and green, and Robin told us you should always take from a plant that’s in its second year, when it has its full stalks and leaves. In the “olden days”, Robin told us women would rub part of the leaf on their cheeks to attain a rosy affect, as they didn’t have access to blush just yet.
Every single part of mullein is antibacterial. Any kinds of scrapes, itches, or burning sensations are soothed when placing this leaf on the area. It’s also very good for people with bronchial/respiratory issues (asthma, coughs, colds) and healing the musculoskeletal system (spongy tissues- joints). A last added bonus is it responds well to healing urinary tract infections!
*Random tip: Never take more than 15-20% of plants. Always use two hands when extracting and “thank the plants”. Yes, you read that right. Thank them with a song, prayer, or kind words. Touch the area where you released the plant from (as to heal it).
To create medicine: Chop plant and fill jar with it. Pour a menstrum (some kind of liquid) She recommends 100 proof vodka. Store it in a cool place and 6 weeks later it’ll be usable as a medicine!
2. Shepard’s Purse– Heart shaped seed pods. Can be used fresh or as a tincture. Has vitamin K. Helps with hemorrhaging and it’s from the Crucifera family.
3. Pepper Grass– Small seed pods. Annual flowers are white and inconspicuous. Used for poison ivy. You can dry this plant and put it in soup or pick and freeze to use in the winter.
4. Burdok. (Inspiration for Velcro! How cool!) This plant is similar to the mullein, but its leaves are a lot bigger and the back of its leaves are gray. It has a pungent taste, yet is good for kidneys, immune, and circulatory system.
5. Knot Grass– Chop and pit into apple cider vinegar. Helps nervous system.
6. Wild Grape– Good for circulation and healing bruises. Can use every part of this plant. (leaves are by her foot.) (second picture is grapes in bloom taken from the internet) Totally was unaware we had them around these parts!
7. Lady’s Thumb or “Smart Weed”. Grows low to ground and contains a black dot on it’s leaves toward midline. (More identifiable in bloom- right picture)
*Random fact– Only 10% of plants are poisonous in the wild. The other 90 is good to go, but as a precaution it’s best to be formally educated or take plant to a botanist. Some plants can kill you. (Think The Hunger Games Elderberries!)
As a test, you can hold a piece of the plant to your tongue for 60 seconds to see if it’s edible or not (as long as you are positive of its identification.)
8. Cheese is or Wild Marshmallow Plant. (This was my fave!) These have small flowers which grow off of its scallop-edged leaves. The interesting thing about these is the flowers contain stripes inside of them and act as “landing lights” for bees to come and pollinate. The leaves/stalks sooth and soften the tissue they touch. Helps all hair outside and inside the body. Good for cardiovascular system. It’s edible and sweet!
9. Mustard plant. Contains bundles of yellow flowers. Also spine line tendrils (before the flowers bloom). You can eat both the flower and leaves of the plant. It honestly did taste like mustard, but more on the horseradish side!
10. Catnip– Settling to upset stomachs, anti spasmodic. Safe herbal med to use for fever in infants. (Can have purple/white flowers.)
11. Chickweed– Star Flower. Very wet and succulent. Aids metabolism and absorption of nutrients. Heals the skin from chicken pox, growths, and bacterial rashes. Also helpful for pink eye! You can apply topically or drink this herb.
*Random fact– After the Chernobyl accident, the Soviet Union put sunflowers close to the source of where it all happened. About a year later, scientists came back and examined the sunflowers and found they absorbed almost 99% of the radiation found in that one spot. They then had to burn the flowers. Plants sacrifice themselves for us!
12. Mugwort– Put in oil and vinegar. Strengthens ligaments and tendons. Digestive aide/soak feet in/ good med for preventing alzheimer’s.
13. Spearmint– Plant used in tea, for skin, hair, nails, upset stomachs. It’s a soothing plant.
14. Pineapple Weed. This stuff actually tastes like pineapple. Robin says you can even crush it up and make a deliciously summer themed beverage. Um, SOLD!
*Random fact– If you see a plant with a strong sap flow coming out of it, use caution. It usually means it’s a more powerful medicine or it’s too dangerous for human consumption.
*Unrelated*- Check out the produce this farm has. I was drooling! (Green eggs and ham, anyone?) I’ll be composing a separate post regarding CSA very soon!
I think the most valuable piece of information I learned was that the worst way to consume herbs is through pills. Robin told us most of these nutraceutical companies will either purchase a mimic form of the herb or use ones that aren’t as fresh. The key is to use something as untainted as possible. It definitely spoke to me, as I have used some herbs in the past and felt NO EFFECT whatsoever.
I’ll be consulting my garden before the store. It’s FREE!
This walk was so inspiring to me. I hope to one day become a prolific herbalist and Robin is definitely someone I can see as a mentor. She’s brimming with knowledge and so lighthearted in her approach. I actually feel remorse for the many times I have gone out and kicked those pesky weeds. Everything is here for a reason. Plants help us, we help plants. A reciprocal relationship is key in this polluted world.
Have you ever gone on an herb/nature walk? What’s the most valuable thing you learned?
Peace, love, and plants!