Butter and Eggs Anyone?

Butter And Eggs Wildflowers Make Me Smile. The Yellow And Orange Snapdragon Like Flowers Bring Back Rich Memories Of My Childhood; Gathering A Handful Of Flowers For My Mom, Decorating Mud Pies With My Sister And Friends, And Playing In A Field Abundant With These And Other Wildflowers. I Knew It Was A Plant That Bumblebees Loved But Little Did I Realize How Important This Pretty Little Flower Was At One Time.  So Important In Fact That Early Pioneers Who Came To North America In 1700S Couldn’t Leave Home Without It. Can You Just Imagine The Conversation Between Husband And Wife As They Were Packing Their Steamer Trunks For The Long Journey Across The Atlantic Ocean?

Husband, “Why Are You Packing These Old Weeds?

Wife, “I Can Do Without My Fancy Dresses But I Won’t Go Without The Butter And Eggs Plant.  It Makes The Best Skin Lotion, And The Petals Make The Prettiest Yellow For Dying My Wool. Plus, The Fly Poison I Make From It Will Bring Relief For Our Barn Animals. And Dear Husband, You Will Certainly Thank Me When You Are “Bound Up” And Come Looking For My Special Tonic!”

Now… How Can A Husband Argue With That?

Fast Forward 300 Years.

Butter And Eggs Or Toadflax Or Linaria Vugaris Has Fallen Out Of Favor And Finds Itself On The Noxious Invasive Weed List In 4 Provinces In Canada. This Plant Negatively Affects Biodiversity As It Is Virtually Indestructible And Cattle Who Are Foraging Will Refuse To Eat It Unless It Is In A Dried State.

Toadflax, A Member Of The Figwort Family Has A Deep Creeping Root System That Forms New Colonies Of Plants.  Because Their Roots Are So Deep, They Will Survive Mowing, Fires, Drought, Chemical Sprays And Even Hand Pulling. Since The 1960S Many European Insects Have Been Introduced To Keep The Toadflax In Check; A Defoliating Moth, Two Root Feeding Moths, A Shoot Boring Weevil, Three Fruit Feeding Beetles And A Root Feeding Weevil All Having Little Impact On The Toadflax.

And Don’t Get Me Started On How Many Of These Biological Control Experiments Have Gone Terribly Wrong!

The Good News Is Bees Enjoy Toadflax.  They Benefit From The Pollen, Rich Nectar And Lipids Deep Inside. In Areas Where This Plant Is Permitted To Grow And Flower, Toadflax Can Provide Nourishment For Bees From May Until October.

Kind Of Makes You Wonder If Toadflax Is A Good Source Of Food For Bees, Why We Are Trying To Get Rid Of It?

Perhaps toadflax really is more important than we think.

Wanted: Creeping Bellflower

Creeping bellflower Campanula rapunculoides

Our city has declared war on a simple little plant called the Creeping Bell Flower.  I’ve seen wanted posters illustrating this criminal and city workers searching for this public offender.!  Listed as a noxious weed, this pretty little purple bellflower is hiding behind fences and in fields in our neighbourhood. When I researched why such a beautiful weed is listed as noxious the only reason was “ This plant’s thick creeping roots can travel under fences, lawns and concrete, making it very difficult to control.” Learning this, I find myself in a quandary… I know where they are hiding  Should I tell someone?

 

More research shows the bellflower attracts pollinators and is an edible herb.  Its calcium rich leaves can be served in salads and the stems can be sautéed and and served as a side dish.

This nitrogen rich plant can also benefit other plants by releasing nitrogen into the soil upon decomposing.

 

Plants for a Future says “Leaves and young shoots – raw or cooked. Rich in vitamin C. A pleasant mild flavour. Root – raw or cooked. A nut-like flavour, very palatable. The young roots are best. Somewhat sweet, they are a pleasant addition to the salad bowl.”

 

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America by Lee Allen Peterson says this about this plant “The slender runners send down fleshy underground branches which can be chopped and added to salads or boiled for 20 minutes. The taste is slightly sweet, suggesting parsnips. Late Summer-Fall”.

 

 

So let me think…  we have a beautiful plant that survives drought, is beneficial to pollinators, other plants and is edible from roots to flowers.  Will I tell our city workers so they can spray it with herbicide?

 

Don’t worry Mr. Bellflower, your secret is safe with me…. until I’m ready to harvest you!!!

Painting by Trish McIsaac
Painting by Trish McIsaac

Why Is Burdock an Obnoxious Noxious Plant?

Wooly Burdock LeavesEven though Burdock’s clinging burrs have been the inspiration for the invention of Velcro, they have also created a lot of suffering for animals and birds. The seeds can rapidly spread when burrs attach themselves to clothing and animal fur. These burrs can cause eye, nose, and mouth injuries to livestock causing a lower value at market time. The leaves of the burdock are so large they tend to shade out nearby native plants, thus reducing biodiversity.

 

A native plant in Asia, one website stated that burdock was probably carried to North America on the legs of the wolly mammoth as they crossed the Bering strait during the Ice Age!!

Another website states it was introduced to North America in 1700s for medicinal properties, also used to make paper and coffee.

 

burdock rootBurdock has a large taproot system that grows deep and will need to be dug out or use broadleaf herbicide.  No!!!  Wait!!!!  Did I say herbicide???? Ignore that!!! Even though the information recommends using a chemical let’s remember our pollinator friends. Dig out the roots by hand and shovel. The roots are long and it may require some time and muscle. See, already you are receiving some of the physical benefits of having burdock around! While you are digging out your burdock here is something to think about.

 

In Asia the plant is harvested for its roots and leaves. The roots are similar to carrot or parsnip and can be slow roasted in stews to bring out the sweetness.  The young smaller leaves can be chopped and candied or pureed into smoothies.  It had a slightly bitter taste that can be improved by adding sweet fruit.  According to the University of Maryland Medical Center “Burdock has stronger antioxidant activity than most vegetables and fruit and contains prebiotic properties that can improve health” .

There are certain precautions one must always exercise especially if you have certain allergies or may be pregnant. Do your homework first!

 

Here is a cool recipe to try!

 

Burdock Recipe

Greek Cardune , with thanks to Wildman Steve Brill

4 cups immature burdock flower stalks, sliced, parboiled 1 minute insalted water (to remove the bitterness),

with dashes of any vinegar

and olive oil

2 cups water or vegetable stock

2 red onions, sliced

1/4 cup olive oil

4 small tomatoes, sliced

2 cups carrots, sliced

2/3 cups basmati brown rice

3 tbs. fresh dill weed, chopped

The juice of 1 lemon

2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1/4 tsp. white pepper, ground

Simmer all ingredients together over low heat in a covered saucepan 70

minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Serves 6 to 8

There are lots of burdock recipes on the internet these days.  Have fun searching and enjoy the benefits to your good health.

Your pollinator friends thank you.fritillary-butterfly-nature-animal-burdock-wing

Wooly Burdock, You Had Me At Weight Loss!

Wooly Burdock, you had me at weight loss!
One of the paintings in my new series on Edible weeds is the Wooly Burdock flower head…. up close and personal.  What is wooly burdock?  Have you ever noticed large gigantic leaves like something out of Jurassic Park growing alongBurdock Flowers pathways?  Wooly Burdock LeavesAt certain times you may also have noticed these plants produce  interesting pink flowers sitting atop small spikey balls or burs. Meet Wooly Burdock otherwise known as cotton burdock or downy burdock or just plain burdock.  As kids we use to take great delight in throwing the seed balls at each other and watch as the balls stuck to clothes. Not so much fun though if it got caught in your hair!
I’ve discovered this unassuming weed that grows in ditches and places where the soil has been disturbed is a virtual drug store. The list of medicinal benefits include: blood purifier, improves skin conditions such as acne and eczema, helps soothe sore throats and dry coughs, relieves congestion in chest and nasal passages, (stop me any time…) improves hair and scalp conditioning, improves digestive health, promotes weight loss, lowers blood sugars, improves lipid profiles, treats gout, treats kidney and gall stones, provides anti-inflammatory properties and may slow down blood clotting. Basically burdock is a powerhouse that can decrease the workload of the immune system so the body can heal itself.

 

Burdock TeaAfter reading the list of medicinal benefits of burdock root I remembered the box of herbal tea I found in my tea cupboard. There pushed to the back of the cupboard and hidden by the Tetley box was a box of Burdock Tea, probably left by our daughter who loves to encourage our good health.  I thought “what have I got to lose?”  My immune system could certainly use the boost!

 

So…. while I sip on my Burdock Tea, I’ll research why this lowly wildflower has made its way to the “wanted” list of invasive weeds and earned a reputation for being such an obnoxious noxious weed.

To your good health Jen … and mine!!

Cheers!

Hope Among the Ashes

Silent Sentinels No 2One morning spring morning while travelling by bus from Edmonton to Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, traffic came to a standstill.  Another forest fire was raging up ahead. As the bus crawled ahead in a snail’s pace amid the charred trees a hush fell over the passengers. The devastation of the forest fire was immense. The charred trees leaning against each other created a sad feeling of death and loss. 

Willful Weeds Number 4A few miles further and we were traveling through the area that burnt last year. More charred trees toppled over from the winter winds. Suddenly something caught my eye in the morning sun. A shock of magenta and emerald green amid the blacked earth.  I squinted through the dusty windows of the bus to see miles and miles of magenta running here and there all around the limbless trees. Such an incredible sight.
A Rhapsody of Magenta #1My eyes which were focused on the magenta looked beyond the charred trees and saw only the beautiful sign of hope. This Fireweed, a lowly weed, is natures way of reclaiming disturbed or burnt land. Perhaps it could be a metaphor for those of us who are experiencing devastation or tragedy. Look for something that could be your sign of hope and let it lift you up.

That Was Then This is Now!

Then…..

My first art exhibition in 1983 was an accidental one.

Bell Island Lighthouse 1992

 

One summer I came home to visit my parents and brought my Dad my very own painting of “our” lighthouse.  My father had just retired as lighthouse keeper on Bell Island, Newfoundland and I thought this would be a fitting retirement gift.

I was mortified to discover he entered the painting in the local craft fair on the island.  Sharing a painting with family is one thing but with the world is quite another.  I was not ready for that.

imagine my surprise when I discovered it not only won first place but that my prize was a set of Crown Royal whiskey glasses.
Now……. 33 years later……

I am preparing for my first ever solo art exhibition.

 

Invite

Am I ready?  not sure.

Am I nervous?  you bet.

Stay tune for more info as the big day draws near!

There won’t be any whiskey glasses,

maybe some coffee cups and perhaps some wine glasses!!