SPRING WEEDS AND PLANT FRIENDS

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 aurantiacusSTICKY MONKEY FLOWER

WHEN TO HARVEST: Grows year round and generally blossoms spring through summer.

The whole plant is edible. Make a mint/sage tasting tea with the leaves or sugar the blossoms for a dessert garnish. Sticky Monkey Flower Essence aids in elevating anxiety and fear. source 12

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.

Young flower buds in salads, or fresh or dried to make a tea. Pineapple weed flower s and leaves are a tasty finger food while hiking or toss in salads. source 1, 2

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.