This is a blog about the pursuits of Naturalist Alan Russo to incorporate all things Natural, especially Plants, into his daily life. Living close to Nature has always been a passion of mine and I try, with natures help, to live a Healthy lifestyle for myself and for the Earth.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Yucca Flowers

Yucca in bloom

Flowers close up
   Yucca is just an incredible plant. It can be used for so many things, from food and medicine to fiber,dyes and soap. As the seasons progress, different parts of the plant are used at different times, though fiber can be extracted from the leaves anytime. As the seasons go on I will cover different usages at different times.
  Today we will pursue using the flowers. Simply, the flowers are edible. I don't like the inside part very much but the petals are good. Since the flowers are large and the petals are thick and succulent, they are more substantial than most other flowers. I like to eat them raw as a nibble or as a salad additive. You can bread or flour them and fry them as you might a squash flower. You can dry them and use them for tea or grind the dried flower and use the flour as an addition to muffins or pancakes. In certain Yuccas the flower stem is also edible (actually they are all edible just that some are very fibrous or woody) when young and before the flowers come out. Cook as you would asparagus. I have never tried this as I can never bring myself to cut the flower stem knowing how many beautiful flowers will develop on them! They are just too beautiful. Maybe if I lived in the southwest, where I have seen Yucca plants growing in groups of hundreds of plants taking up an area the size of half a football field, I would certainly consider trying some flower stalks.
  Anyway, the flowers don't last very long so get them while you can!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011



In Flower
 PurslanePortulaca oleracea, is another one of those Wild Edibles that is considered a noxious "weed"by the general public. It's true that it can certainly be a rather invasive little plant. I planted just one small plant that a friend gave me last year and this year I have hundreds of plants in my garden. I don't mind though because I I really like having them to munch on!
  Purslane is a very nutritious plant. It is high in vitamins A and C and is loaded with minerals, especially Magnesium . It is also high in Alpha Linolenic Acid, an important Omega 3 Fatty Acid.
 I like to eat it raw, and munch on it often as I work in my garden. It has a tangy mucilaginous taste, and also makes a great salad additive. It can also be steamed or sauteed and added to soups or stews. One interesting thing to do is to pickle it, a great way to save it for winter when there isn't any  around to pick.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

Yarrow Leaf 
                                                I did a stupid thing yesterday. 
  In the mornings I work at a Veterinarians office taking care of the animals. 
While taking a young dog for a walk I decided to give her a little exercise so I started to jog with her. She got very exited and ran directly in front of me, tangling the leash around my legs, tripping me, sending me heading for the gravely asphalt. I put my hands down to break my fall which caused chunks of flesh to be scraped from the palms of my hand. Ouch! 
So how is this ethnobotanical you must be wondering?
  Well, whenever I need first aide, I look to the plants for help. One of the plants I brought to NC with me, because I can't live without it, is Yarrow, Achillea millefolium. This is my favorite First aid plant and I use it more than any other plant in emergencies. I even use it on my animals when they hurt themselves. 
Yarrow is an anti-septic, it is also a Hemostatic herb, meaning it stops bleeding. Legend has it that Achilles used it to treat his soldiers wounds on the battlefield, hence the name Achillea.  
  Normally for small wounds I take a leaf and chew it and than use it as a poultice. This time the wounds were spread over a large area so I made a strong infusion of the leaves and soaked my hands in this solution for awhile. I repeated this several times throughout the day to make sure things were cleaned out well. Finally, I took some infused oil that I make which contains several healing herbs, including Yarrow, and covered the wounds to keep out dirt. Well today is one day after the mishap and, though still very tender, the wounds are healing nicely. 
 I love being able to use plants for healing, it just seems NATURAL!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sheep/Wood Sorrel

Yellow Wood Sorrel

Sheep Sorrel  
 Two of my favorite salad additions are at their prime picking time. I like sour things, this is why I like the taste of these sorrels, both have a very sour tangy taste. Many mistake Wood Sorrel for Clover, but if you look closely at the leaflets, the Wood Sorrels are heart shaped and Clover is not. Besides, the flowers look nothing alike.  Sheep Sorrel is recognized by the arrowhead shaped leaves. If you have ever grown French Sorrel in your garden you know what these plants taste like. Both can be substituted for French Sorrel in recipes. I make a French Sorrel soup that is delicious and if you can find a large enough supply of Sheep/ Wood Sorrel you can substitute for free.
Take a large amount of Sorrel and saute in some butter till wilted and falling apart.
Add enough chicken stock or water to cover the Sorrel
Bring to a boil and let simmer a minute or two 
When cool add to a blender a puree till smooth
Add salt, pepper and heavy cream to taste 
Enjoy this soup hot or cold.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Japanese Honeysuckle

Japanese Honeysuckle
Bottom of Flower
Green base separated with Pistil still attached.

Drop of Sweet Nectar!
Brewing a flower tincture
  One of the best smells on the planet is the sweet seductive smell of the Japanese Honeysuckle Flower. It is one of my favorite smells in Nature. This time of year, as I wonder through Nature, I often get stopped in my tracks as the breeze blows the nectar in my direction. I stop close my eyes and take deep breaths till the wind shifts direction and releases me from my rapture. I had always dreamed of having my house surrounded by Honeysuckle vines so when I opened the windows my home would be inundated with the sweet aroma. 
  Well, that hasn't happened (yet), but I do have a nice vine I planted to climb on the fence of the chicken coop. All the leaves and flowers on the bottom of the vine, to the height the Chickens can jump, is completely bare. They love the taste of Honeysuckle Vine! Above that is a profuse flowering vine.
  Most people have heard you can suckle the "Honey" of the flower but I often run into people on my herb walks that have never tried it or have tried it but were not successful. It's alot easier to explain while watching someone do it but I will give a basic rundown of the steps and with the help of the photos above you can give it a try.
 Pull a flower from the vine, at the base you will usually find a green 'nub'. Grab the nub with your thumb and pointer finger and with the nail of your thumb, gently cut into the flower just above the green. Don't press so hard that you will cut all the way through the flower, you only want to cut down to the Pistil. With slight pressure pull the two apart till it looks like the third photo. Now gently pull the two apart till the pistil pulls the nectar out of the bottom of the flower, as seen in the next photo. Place nectar on tongue and suck on the end of the flower as not to miss any remaining inside. Close your eyes and be transported to Heaven! I have often thought how cool it would be to sit there for hours collecting nectar in a jar, drop by drop, till I had enough to drink!
  Most people don't know this, but, in many parts of the world, Honeysuckle Flowers are known as a powerful anti-biotic/microbial. Every year I make enough tincture to last till the next years flowering just to have on hand in case I need it. Simply add as many flowers you can to a jar, than fill the jar with vodka till the flowers are covered and allow to sit for a couple of days. The vodka will turn a yellowish brown color, being infused with the medicinal qualities of the flowers. Strain out the flowers, which have turned brown by now, and replace with new flowers and let sit for a couple of weeks. I am no herbalist, so I recommend you do some research as to dosage etc.
  I know the saying is "Stop and smell the Roses" but, as much as I love Roses, I'll take the smell of Honeysuckle over Roses any day of the week!