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Bee Balm Monarda didyma It's definitely the dog days of summer! I've been traveling, teaching, and enjoying experiencing t...

July Plant Walk


Bee Balm
Monarda didyma

It's definitely the dog days of summer! I've been traveling, teaching, and enjoying experiencing the similar and different flora (and fauna). This time of year, even in my line of work, I feel like I can't get outside enough. There's so much to do, so much to see, and so very much to harvest! I hope you're getting some time to wander and wildcraft (forage). 

The plants are in various phases of life at the moment. For many of them, it's rest time. It's so hot, that, just like we might feel like doing, they're taking a rest. They'll come back when it cools off a little, or they might have spent their energy already and be done for the year. Some are hanging in there, though. And with the rain that some of us have had, the mushrooms are having a field day (sorry, I love puns)! (More on mushrooms later.)

So, let's take a (virtual) plant walk. Hopefully, you'll have some of these growing near you. 
The gorgeous firework of red (above) is bee balm (Monarda didyma), in the mint family. It's closely related to what some folks call bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), with a purple flower. Some people call both species bergamot or bee balm, which gets confusing. That when it gets helpful to know the botanical names (you know I had to put in a little plug for Latin). This one is sometimes called "wild oregano". That's what I like to do with it, substitute for oregano. I'll add it into my wild zatar recipe. I also like to chop the fresh leaves and add them to salt, then let the flavors infuse the salt. That tastes fantastic as a seasoning on melons!

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Self-heal/Heal-all
Prunella vulgaris

Next, we have another mint family plant, self-heal or heal-all (Prunella vulgaris), also in the mint family. It doesn't have a minty taste at all. The leaves make a nice mild green for salads. I'll harvest all the aerial, or aboveground, parts, and add them to an all-purpose salve, because it's so soothing to the skin. "Heal-all" does not seem an inappropriate name for this one. It's a great many purpose anti-viral and great for coughs, colds, and flus in teas and tincture. 

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Wild Mint

Continuing on the mint train, there's many wild mints that fall into several different genera (the plural of "genus"). There's Pycnanthemum, the mountain mints; Blephilia, the wood mints; and Mentha, various wild mints. The tastes can vary widely. If you're sure you have a mint, you could go ahead and try it. This is the best time of the year for mint! I love putting a sprig in my water bottle, for an instant refresh every time I take a sip. Cold mint tea can be an awesome treat for a break, when company comes over, to freeze into popsicles. 

Remember how to tell if something is a mint?
  • square stem
  • opposite leaves (directly opposite on the stem, not alternating)
  • usually smells aromatic, but not necessarily minty


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Goldenrod
Solidago sp.

I've been surprised to see the goldenrod starting to bloom already! This sunny one is usually a sign of fall for me. I like making tea and tincture from the flowers and leaves and adding it to my allergy formula as an antihistamine. I've also had good results giving the tincture to people dealing with UTI's. 



Some St. John's Wort might still be blooming where you are. It's awfully beautiful! There are many many species of this plant, in the Hypericum genus. Hypericum perforatum, a European species, is the one usually considered medicinal. Where I am, there's a fair amount of Hypericum punctatum, a native species that I use. Some people say that a St. John's Wort species is medicinal if it has black dots (glands) on the leaves, and the buds exude a red liquid when the buds are rolled and gently squeezed. 

In some places, the plants are not very prolific, so make sure there's a big patch of them before harvesting. I mostly tincture the aerial parts as a mood lifter. It's not recommended if you're already on anti-depressants, though. I also like it in a nerve pain tincture internally and a topical oil infusion. It's really fun to watch the oil turn red as the herb is infusing.

Don't let the heat keep you inside! Early morning, or after the heat has lifted a little, are good times to get out and see the  plants and get in the harvest while you can. No regrets, and happy summer!










The beautiful dandelion fritter Many many wild things can be frittered! Up until this year, my favorite probably would have been blac...

Wild Fritters Recipes

The beautiful dandelion fritter

Many many wild things can be frittered! Up until this year, my favorite probably would have been black locust blossoms. However, with so many new choices as of this year, I might have to pick a favorite for every occasion. On a couple of my last Wild Apprentice Days, my lovely apprentices and I created some fantastic fried goodness. Don't worry, though, these weren't deep fried, and contain lots of healthy ingredients. We experimented with dandelion fritters and mixed wild greens fritters. 

The main difference between the two fritters is that the dandelion fritters have flour and cornmeal, and the wild greens fritters don't. We used gluten free rice flour, but you can use your fave flour. If you use something different or spice it up to your liking some other way, make sure you let me know what you did and how it worked. We chose rice flour and blue cornmeal for fun, and well, because it was what I had, and this is supposed to be easy. 


Let's start with the dandelion fritters. The first step is to pick the dandelions. Pick them while they're young and fresh looking, preferably in the morning after the dew has dried and before the hot sun has left them looking wilted. It'll be easier to process later if you just pick the flower heads and leave the stem. 

A fabulous apprentice hard at work

Now the recipe:

DANDELION FRITTERS

Ingredients

⅓ c flour of choice (we used rice flour)
⅓ c cornmeal (we used blue)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp (or to taste) bee balm salt or salt and savory herbs
1 egg
⅔ c milk of choice (we used coconut)
1 ½ c dandelion flowers
Butter or olive oil

Directions

Mix dry ingredients together (except dandelions).
In separate bowl, beat egg, and mix in milk.
Mix dry and wet ingredients. Dip and coat flowers in batter.
Melt butter or warm oil in pan on medium heat. You can do a light layer to saute, or more to deep fry. (We sauteed in a mix of butter and oil.)
Cook until they start to brown. Flip and brown other side until crisp.
Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. Enjoy while warm.




Next, the mixed greens fritters. First, harvest the wild greens of your choice. Almost anything (edible) will work. This is a great recipe to make including one or two types of greens that have a strong or unique taste to them, like dead nettles and sochan, because you can mix them with others that can act as seasoning, to create a delicious finished product.

A smorgasbord of wild goodies: mixed greens (violet on top, sochan on bottom), herb honey, and last year's salt and wild spice-preserved trifoliate oranges 

MIXED WILD GREENS FRITTERS

Makes 5 medium fritters. Recipe may be divided in half. Other wild greens may be added or substituted. Garlic salt or salt and garlic powder can be substituted for the ramp salt.

Ingredients:
2 c        Purple Dead Nettle leaf, flower, and stem (Lamium purpureum)
4           Wild Onion tops and bulbs (Allium vineale)
¼ c       Bee Balm leaf (Monarda didyma)
¼ c       Sochan leaf (cutleaf coneflower) (Rudbeckia laciniata)
½ c       Violet leaf (Viola species)
7           Eggs
1 tsp     Ramp Salt
3 TBsp butter

Directions:
Chop plant ingredients fine. If plants are wet, braise lightly.
Beat eggs. Mix into plant material so everything is coated with eggs. Sprinkle salt over everything.
Heat butter in pan over medium heat. Form into patties and put in pan.
Heat for a few minutes until patties hold together and are lightly browned on bottom.
Flip. Cook for a few more minutes until lightly browned on bottom.

Garnish with a few sprigs of dead nettle and violet flowers.
Possible condiments: fire cider/hot sauce, sour cream, salsa


Wild mixed greens fritter with last year's rehydrated hen of the woods mushrooms

I hope you'll try these and create recipes of your own. If you do, please let me know how it turns out, in the comments. 


I created the Forager's Wild Edible & Herbal Plant Cards as a way to share my love of the plants, inspire nature connection, and...

The Forager's Wild Edible & Herbal Plant Cards Are Here!


I created the Forager's Wild Edible & Herbal Plant Cards as a way to share my love of the plants, inspire nature connection, and create health empowerment through foraging free and nutrient rich wild plants. These cards are meant to be an introduction or continuation on the journey of becoming familiar with these plants to dispel fear of the unknown and delve deeper into nature's gifts.

Each card has a photograph, captured by me in the field or forest, of a wild plant on the front. On the back, there is a description of the plant, including its English name, botanical name, family, identification characteristics, habitat, and edible and herbal benefits, with tips on harvesting and processing.



Though it's always best and easiest to learn directly from a person in the wild, we don't always have that option, just like when I was first learning about wild plants. These cards can help you start on the path of learning 27 of the most common wild edibles and herbs (in the central and eastern US), or reinforce what you may have already begun to learn. We can all use a little help sometimes.

The deck includes an information card telling you how to use the cards, and offering helpful hints about safe and sustainable foraging. It all comes in an unbleached cotton tea bag that's made in the USA. It's multipurpose: you can harvest some wild herbs and make tea, too!


Spring is the best time of year for wild greens! They’re both nutritious and delicious! Chickweed (pictured above) is super prolific, an...

How to Make Wild Greens Pesto


Spring is the best time of year for wild greens! They’re both nutritious and delicious! Chickweed (pictured above) is super prolific, and easy to harvest with a pair of scissors. It has lots of protein, a rare thing in greens, making it a great survival food to know about. It’s also packed with vitamin C, along with A, D, B, calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.  It's one of the first greens to pop up and one of the last to stick around. In milder climates, it might hang out all year long.

Chickweed's botanical name is Stellaria media. The first part of that (the genus), means "star" because of the way the flower looks star-shaped. The flowers have 5 petals, though they look like they have 10, because each petal is split into two lobes. This plant is in the Caryophyllaceae family, also know as the "pink" family or the "carnation" family. Gardeners often despise this weed that invades their garden, but it pulls up easily and is so nutritious and delicious, with its mild, delicate taste. It definitely makes a good case for the saying, "If you can beat em, eat em!"

I also like to add chickweed to my cough syrup and salves. It has been worked with for dissolving cysts, lowering cholesterol, and weight loss. It can also be applied topically in compresses for almost any kind of skin issue.

Let's get started with the wild pesto recipe...

Wild Greens Options for Your Pesto (From top left, clockwise): Sochan or Cut-leaft Coneflower, Ramps, Daylily, Dandelion

Ingredients:

  • 2 c wild greens (chickweed, wintercress/creasy greens, purple dead nettle, wild onions, dandelion, daylily, etc) 
  • ½ c nuts/seeds (sunflower, walnut, pecan, etc) 
  • ¼ c + ⅛ c olive or other similar tasting oil 
  • 2-3 cloves garlic or an equal amount of wild onion tops and/or bulbs
  • dash salt 

Directions:

  1. Either don’t wash greens, or wash and spin or allow to dry. 
  2. Grind garlic in food processor. Then add nuts/seeds and process until they make a coarse meal.
  3. Add the greens to the food processor and process until chopped.
  4. Add the first ¼ c oil and salt. Process to combine the oil.
  5. If pesto, is still too dry, add the rest of the oil and process. If still too dry, add a tiny little bit more oil. If too wet, add a little bit more greens. This is great for dipping, topping toast or leftover burgers.