Archive for October, 2011

Japanese Honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica

Sacred to: unknown

 

Myth 1: In Greek mythology Daphnis and Chloe were lovers, but they lived far apart and only could see each other while the honeysuckle bloomed. Daphnis asked the god of love if the plant could bloom longer than a season, so they could be together longer, which is why, according to legend, honeysuckle blooms continually throughout warm weather periods.

 

Myth 2: In some countries, bringing the blooms of honeysuckle into the house means there is going to be a wedding within the year.

 

Myth 3: In Scotland honeysuckle vines were hung on barns to prevent cattle from being bewitched.

 

Other Notes: Honeysuckle is the symbol of love. In the language of flowers it stands for the bond of love, devoted love and fidelity, probably because of the Greek legend of Daphnis and Chloe. The fragrance is supposed to induce dreams of passion

Japanese Honeysuckle

Japanese Honeysuckle

Japanese Honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica

Japanese Honeysuckle
Japanese Honeysuckle

….The Fairies taste.

Fly, dance and breathlessly exclaim…. 

Honeysuckle, forever mine.

by Robin Qualls 

This invasive vine from East Asia is banned or prohibited in several states. In the Orient where it is native, the plant has been used for thousands of years for medical treatments. An ointment is used to remove freckles; this was made from the leaves. And the flowers gathered and made into a bouquet to treat asthma.

In modern herbal use it is considered alterative, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, diuretic, and febrifuge in action. The stems are used for acute rheumatoid arthritis, mumps, and hepatitis. An infusion of the stems and flowers combined is used for upper respiratory tract infections, and dysentery. The unopened buds are made into an infusion to treat tumors, dysentery, colds, and enteritis.

The leaves are highly nutritious and can be boiled much like spinach. The buds and flowers are edible and can be made into syrup or used to flavor wine, sorbet, and other sweet dishes…such as pudding. Tea can be made of the leaves, buds, and flowers.

This plant remains palatable throughout the winter months and is an important browse food to the white tailed deer. In the summer months the flowers attract hummingbirds and scores of bees. The fruit is eaten with great lust by many different songbirds.

The vines of Honeysuckle (including the Japanese variety) have been used in basketry. The vines can be pounded to release the saponins and then thrown into the water of fishing grounds. The saponins act as fish poison to stupefy or kill the fish for easier harvesting.

American Marsh Pennywort – Hydrocotyle ranunculoides

American Marsh Pennywort
American Marsh Pennywort

Pennywort.

Pennywort.

Pattern of primrose and pennywort.

Taking me, taking me,

Take me to meadows of childhood…

By Dic Edwards

This creeping, perennial aquatic herb is native to eastern North America where is grows in moist areas such as marshes, springs, and swamps. Here in the east there are places that it is becoming Endangered…Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. But in Europe it is considered an invasive species because of its tendency to develop large colonies!

Here in Delaware in can be found along the edges of ponds, creeks, and swampy areas. It often keeps its deep green color in winter. The small white flowers form in small clusters or umbrells from the leaf base. The flowers are on short stalks in the umbrell, and have 5 tiny, white petals.

The genus name, Hyddrocotyle, comes from the Greek and means water (hydro) cup (or small drinking vessel – cotyle). It is believed to have similar healing properties to its Asian cousin the Hydocotyle asiatica, which has been used to treat leprosy, itch, scrofula, rheumatism, ulcers, and secondary syphilis.

This member of the Carrot family was used by the Cohuilla Indians for greens.

Tomato – Solanum lycopersicum

Roma Tomatoes
Roma Tomatoes

Tomato so juicy
so firm and so round
I can hardly believe
you came from the ground

Filled with vitamins
light and Love
my palate delights again
in my mouth you I shove…..

By Betty O’Neil

Xitomatl (pronounced shi-to-ma-tlh, meaning “plump thing with a navel”) is the  name given it by the Aztec people. They were the ones to introduce it to the Spaniards so long ago. That original tomato was a small, yellow fruit believed to be first domesticated by the Aztec, but having its origins in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

Today the tomato is a common garden addition, even though it was first feared in Europe as poisonous. This long ago belief was due to it being a close family member of some poisonous plants. It is a member of the Solanaceae – Nightshade or Potato family. It has some very famous relatives…potatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tobacco. As a garden plant it plays a role in companion planting being good neighbors with beans, nasturtium, garlic, cabbage, lettuce, leeks, corn, carrots, parsley, radishes, beets, celery, spinach, and chicory. It doesn’t do nearly as well with peas, fennel, rue, or potatoes (being in the same family they attract many of the same pests and diseases). Planting it with basil helps in growth and flavor, while planting it with borage helps repel tomato worms!

The ever popular tomato is used in Italian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican cuisines extensively, but also in many others only on a smaller scale. The can be eat fresh, out of hand, sliced on sandwiches, chopped into salads, and to garnish almost anything. They are made into sauces, added to soups, stew and casseroles…in fact your imagination is your only limit! They are included in such diverse things as pesto, pico de gallo, taco sauce, gazpacho, juice, salsas, quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas, tostadas, pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, guacamole, chutney, and relishes.

In medicine the tomato is proving of great benefit. It is high in Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which has been found to be very useful in the treatment of prostate cancer. It has also been proven beneficial in the treatment of high blood pressure and helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays which will cause skin cancers. Because they are also high in Vitamin C, Potassium and citric acid they make a good addition to a healthy diet for maintaining overall health, aiding digestion, eliminating environmental toxins, and rehydration after exercise.

Knowing all these benefits from food to medicine it is strange to think that it took 150 years after European discovery for them to begin using the tomato on a regular basis. Even then the tomato was not considered fit for anything but sauce!

Soybeans – Glycine max

Soybeans
Soybeans

“Corn and soybeans,” he says,
“because of the give and take
of nitrogen, that’s why we
switch it out. Everything is
give and take, you know?”

I nod. I know.

By Giaco Furino 

For over 5,000 years the Soybean has been cultivated in the Far East. It has been a dietary staple and was declared one of 5 sacred grains along with along with barley, wheat, millet and rice. During the Chou Dynasty fermentation was discovered which allowed the soybean to be used for something other than a nitrogen fixing product in agriculture. Since the invention of fermentation soy is now used as tempeh, miso, tamari, soy sauce and tofu.

In cooking here in the west soybeans play an important part in the diet of many vegetarians due to its high protein content. Due to the protein level present it can make a good meat substitute with other protein sources added (like cheese or eggs, if a lacto-ovo diet is followed). For people who are lactose intolerant soybeans make a good milk substitute, as well. Dried soybeans are ground to make soy flour that can be found included in Spanish sausages (chorizo, salchichon, and mortadella). Soy flour is also found in doughnuts, and soup stock cubes. The green immature beans is becoming increasingly popular. A dried type is used as a snack, and fresh, frozen, or canned Edamame are finding their way to more and more grocer’s shelves.

In Chinese Traditional Medicine the soybean was used for the proper functioning of the bowels, heart, kidney, liver, and stomach. The root is treated as astringent. Flour of the beans is used in foods prepared for the diabetic in China! The fermented seed is used in the treatment of colds, fevers and headaches, insomnia, irritability and a stuffy sensation in the chest. The flowers used to treat blindness and the white, opacity of the cornea.

According to ancient Japanese mythology soybeans are a gift from the gods. One day Ukemochi met the moon God Tsukiyomi, he asked her for food. She vomited great quantities of food…The moon god was offended and killed her. From her body sprang a wide variety of vegetables…rice, and beans, millet, wheat and soybeans, also a cow and horse!

Yearly in the spring during the Setsubun festival (demon cleaning day) many people throw roasted soybeans outside their homes, often at a person wearing a demon mask, and yell  “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (“Oni go out! Blessings come in!”)

Taro – Colocasia esculenta

Taro
Taro

The potato of the tropics or coco yam are alternate names for this root that is a staple of many people of the tropics. It was one of the earliest cultivated plants in Malaysia where it is believed to have originated in the wetlands. It can be found growing along wetland fringes of ditches, streams, canal, and lakes. It is an herbaceous perennial that produces large ‘elephant’ like leaves above ground and edible roots below ground.

 

In Deni Brown’s book, Aroids Plants of the Arum Family, he writes,

“The oldest cultivated crop in the world is an aroid: taro (Colocasia esculenta).  It has been grown in parts of tropical and subtropical Asia for more than 10,000 years (Cable 1984). The ancient irrigation systems of  terrace paddies seen today may well have been constructed originally for taro long before rice came on the scene, and rice may have first come to notice as a weed in the flooded taro patches (Plucknett 1976).” 

 

Even though this plant is poisonous in all its parts, the leaves and roots are eaten daily in some parts of the world. Edoe (yet another name) contains calcium oxalate in all its parts, which contains needle-like crystals (called raphids) that produce the toxic response. The sap on the skin is a major irritant, and taken internally it will produce sensations of burning in the mouth and throat, swelling, and choking. Even with this response in mammals it can be rendered edible with proper cooking procedures!

 

To make Taro edible it must be cooked, in any fashion you would like. From roasting, boiling, or frying; you can slice, grate or mash them…as long as they are cooked you are safe! When cooked it has a mealy texture and a slightly sweet flavor. Many people compare them to the potato. Poi, a standard food in Hawaii, is made of Taro, and is a starchy paste like food that is fermented!

 

In Hawaii it has a history of use in local medicine. Only the uncooked corms are used in medicine. The scraped corm was used mixed into a formula to act as a purgative (causing vomiting). The leaves and sap can be applied to a cut to stop bleeding (styptic), and start the healing process.

 

In Hawaii the plant is considered sacred. It is considered to have the greatest life force of any food stuff. Taro grew from the body of the stillborn son of Wakea (sky father) and Papa (earth mother). This plant came with the earliest Hawaiian settlers in their canoes, and was considered a staple and the staff of life for centuries. The Hawaiians still refer to the plant as the “elder brother”.

Button, Cremini, and Portabella Mushrooms – Agaricus bisporus

Cremini Mushrooms

Cremini Mushrooms

…So here’s to the mushroom family
A far-flung friendly clan
For food, for fun, for poison
They are a help to man.

By Gary Snider

The little white Button Mushrooms, the slightly larger brown Cremini Mushrooms, and the large, brown Portabella Mushrooms are all the same mushroom…the only differences being color variety and stage at which it is harvested.

In 1707 French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort wrote the earliest found description of this mushroom. In 1893 at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France it was discovered that the spores needed to be sterilized for the culture to grow. Up until that time it was very difficult to cultivate mushrooms, since the farmers would dig them up out of fields to transplant and they were often infected by pathogens and often nothing grew at all.

In 1926 a white mutation was found in a mushroom farm in Pennsylvania. It was seen as more attractive, and so the popular white button mushroom came into popularity. Now the southeast corner of Pennsylvania is considered the mushroom growing capitol of the world!

The Button form of this mushroom is probably the most well known mushroom in the US. Most people when they hear the word mushroom visualize the button mushroom first, even if they are familiar with other varieties. The small button mushroom has a mild flavor which is best if eaten before the veil protecting the gills is broken. Once the veil is broken they are stronger in flavor and cook up darker in color. This common mushroom can be found at the grocer, fresh, canned or dried. It can be found in soups and stew, on pizza, salads, casseroles, and stuffed. They are eaten as a main course, appetizer, or side dish.

Research is being carried out currently to further study the effect of mushrooms on aromatase levels. It may be able to reduce estrogen levels in the female body, which might reduced the breast cancer susceptibility. Women who ate mushrooms daily (in the earlier study) were 64% less likely to develop breast cancer. While women who ate the mushrooms and drank green tea reduced the risk by 90%! Another study showed promise in improving the body’s immune system.

In ancient times mushrooms were eaten in Egypt but only by the Pharaohs. In Rome they believed that mushrooms provided strength to the body. In magic use eat mushrooms to increase psychic awareness.