We have been so fortunate to still be receiving the occasional rain here in the foothills of Northern California, creating the most spectacular wildflower display. So many of these wildflowers are normally considered weeds and a pestilence, but many of them are powerful healers and edible delights. Take yourself on a little walk around your neighborhood and take a closer look at the greenery and blossoms and say hello, making new plant friends.
Castilleja coccinea, INDIAN PAINTBRUSH
NON-EDIBLE but can be used to remove pollutants from the soil due to its ability to absorb and store large quantities of selenium in the roots and green parts. Also, just a gorgeous wildflower to behold. source
Claytonia perfoliata, MINER'S LETTUCE
WHEN TO HARVEST: For the best flavor, harvest December through April, preferably before the flowers begin to form.
The common name miner's lettuce refers to its use by California Gold Rush miners who ate it to get their vitamin C to prevent scurvy. It can be eaten as a leaf vegetable. Most commonly it is eaten raw in salads, but it is not quite as delicate as other lettuce. Sometimes it is boiled like spinach. source
Mimulus aurantiacus, STICKY MONKEY FLOWER
WHEN TO HARVEST: Grows year round and generally blossoms spring through summer.
Pseudognaphalium beneolens, FRAGRANT EVERLASTING
WHEN TO HARVEST: In summer when blossoms are most fragrant. Its aroma faintly resembles maple syrup.
A tea of everlasting is useful for lung problems and intestinal problems, including hemorrhage. The dried flowers are used like hops for a calming herb pillow. source
Vicia cracca, PURPLE COW VETCH
NON-EDIBLE but has been used as a valuable cover crop due to its nitrogen-fixing properties. It also provides a much appreciated source of nectar by bees and butterflies. source
Galium aparine, CLEAVERS
WHEN TO HARVEST: Young shoots in early spring and the tops of older shoots as the season progresses into summer. An easy way to ID cleavers is by their sticky, clingy hairs on the underside of the leaves.
Cleavers' diuretic properties helps cleanse the body of waste and toxins especially by improving the flow of lymph through lymph nodes. Make a tea from dry or fresh cleavers, or lightly roasted cleavers seeds make for an excellent tasting coffee alternative. source 1, 2, 3
Matricaria matricarioides, PINEAPPLE WEED
WHEN TO HARVEST: Spring to late summer. When finely divided the foliage gives off a pineapple smell when crushed. You have undoubtably seen this plant growing between the cracks in the your driveway and in between brick/pavers.
Avena fatua, OATSTRAW, OAT TOPS
WHEN TO HARVEST: Once the seed heads appear and become plump, squeeze the tops daily to make sure you don’t miss the milky stage. Harvesting the tops is easy and fun – just pinch the stem between two fingers, slide up the stem, and the grains will pop off one at a time.
Oat tops and oatstraw have nervine qualities, and are thus a favorite amongst herbalists for supporting the nervous system. Generally, young tops can be make into a tincture or they can be used in the a healing bath. source 1, 2
Capsella bursa-pastoris, SHEPARD'S PURSE
WHEN TO HARVEST: Summer
When dried, shepard's purse can be infused and taken as a tea that is said to help heal hemorrhages and bleeding of all kinds - of the stomach, the lungs, or the uterus, and more especially bleeding from the kidneys. source
Trifolium pratense, RED CLOVER
WHEN TO HARVEST: Spring when the pink, purplish flowers bloom.
Red clover is well renown for its ability to treat estrogen imbalances, lower cholesterol, stimulate urination, boost circulation, strengthen bones, protect the immune system, reduce hypertension, and aid the cardiovascular system. source 1, 2
When harvesting herbs and plants make sure to do thorough research that you are correctly identifying and taking care to not over-harvest. I hope this blog post ignites a curiosity for learning more about the amazing benefits of the plants that surround us.