Archive for the ‘Vine’ Category

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.

Soybeans – Glycine max


“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!”)

Redstar Morning Glory – Ipomoea coccinea


This shining star should be the center attraction in any hummingbird garden. When the light hits the flowers just right the yellow star at its center lights up in a gorgeous display! It is one of the very few examples of a red morning glory, but be careful…it can run away with your garden if you are not careful. In the right situation this plant can become aggressive in its reach for the sun! It is a native of the eastern North America; running from Texas and Florida north to Michigan and Massachusetts. In Arizona and Arkansas it has been declared a noxious weed!


As with most members of this family, you need to be careful of ingesting the seeds. The seeds are believed to be highly toxic. Upon ingestion you will find they have hallucinatory properties which may cause distortion of sight and hearing! 


This small morning glory was first described in 1753 by Linnaeus who took a word meaning scarlet or red (coccinea) for its species name. The Genus name is taken from two words in the Greek language: ips – meaning worm, and homoios – which means resembling or looks like. These two Greek words combined refers to the worm like twining of the plants of this genus!


In the language of flowers the morning glory symbolizes affection, and truly the myth of Chien Niu and Chih Neu reflects that. In Chinese lore they were young people entrusted by God to care for water buffalo (Chien Niu) and seamstress duties (Chih Neu). When they fell in love they forgot their duties in the heavenly kingdom. As a result they were punished by being separated. The star shaped flower of the morning glory represents the one day a year that they may share their affection with one another!

Pumpkin – Cucurbita pepo


Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her.
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well


This squash is a member of the cucumber family and is native to the western hemisphere. It was commonly used by Native Americans for many diverse things. In companion gardening it grows well with corn, beans, buckwheat, catnip, tansy, and radishes. The Cherokee (among others) used a companion type of gardening known as the ‘Three Sisters.’ Pumpkin, beans, and corn are the three planted together. These three made up the bulk of the plants grown by the Cherokee, and were their main food crops. The corn uses lots of nitrogen and the bean fixes nitrogen into the soil. The beans used the corn stalks to then grow up, much like a trellis. The pumpkin provides shade for the base of the other two plants with its large leaves which allows the soil to hold more moisture during dry times.


Pumpkins have uses as medicine and food, it also has other uses. Strips of pumpkin were dried and woven into mats. The pulp, the seeds, and the oil are used in cosmetics.

            Pulp: used as a moisturizer for dry and sensitive skin, to treat acne, reduce pore size

            Juice: Used as a skin tonic

            Seeds: With seed skins removed, powdered used as a pack on the face for refreshing the

            skin, to remove freckles


As medicine the seeds are the main part used. The oil obtained from the seed is used to treat prostate problems, kidney issues, help maintain healthy blood vessels, nerves, and tissues. The seeds were also used as a vermifuge, the US Pharmacopeia listed them from 1863 – 1936 as an official medicine.

As food the best known use today is the Thanksgiving pie, but it can be used making breads & muffins, butters, custard, cookies, and even soup. In Italy it is used to stuff ravioli! In the old days the pumpkin would be sliced into strips or rings and dried for winter use. Often the flesh was roasted with the skin on, and then enjoyed with the meal. In China the leaves are used as a vegetable or added to soups. The seeds are used as snack foods!

High John the Conqueror – Ipomoea jalapa or I. purge

High John the Conqueror
High John the Conqueror

This vine is also known as Jalap root, a native of South America and Mexico, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, and parts of Mississippi.

It has long been used in magic, placed in mojo bags, and carried to attract money, love, success, and to stop depression. Anointing oil can be made using the root, just score the root in several places, cover with oil, and allow to it to infuse the oil. After several weeks strain the oil, place in a clean bottle with a small, fresh piece of root. Take drops of this oil to then anoint candles, sachets, tools, etc.


This root is considered poisonous, so caution should be used in consumption. Do not use the above oil for cooking or in any other way that might be absorbed through the skin or mucous membranes. Toxicity is noted due to Lysergic acid amide (LSA), a natural analogue of LSD, being present in the seeds. The symptoms of poisoning in mammals are: watery diarrhea and profuse fluid and electrolyte imbalances. It can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms if applied to an open wound.


Even though this plant can be toxic it has had use as a medicine. The root is harvested and dried for later use. It can be used as a strong cathartic (cleansing or purging) and purgative (cleansing or purgative) properties. It has been used to expel intestinal worms once something has been done to stun or kill them. If taken in even a slightly too high a dose it can cause severe gripping and pain of the intestines though. In the past it was given to children, combined with calomel or wormwood to work as a vermifuge. It was listed in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1820 through to 1864.


The Pawnee Indians of the southwest used the root, burned to produce smoke, to treat for nervousness and bad dreams. The powdered root was used on the skin for rheumatic thype pains; and the Lakota used scrapes of the root for stomach issues. The root was used as an emergency food by the Pawnee, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapaho Indians

Fox Grapes – Vitis labrusca

Fox Grapes cultivar Concord
Fox Grapes cultivar Concord


I sit and often wonder about this little grape
How intriguing is it to ponder the structure and taste
I yearn to know more as I taste and revel with mouth agape.
Squeezed just right, and secured for ages to come with no
     great haste….


By R.A. Beeman


The fruit of the vine, the new wine of the New Testament, grapes and the wines they create have been in favor for centuries! This species is most likely the grape spotted by Leif Ericsson in the 11th century when he explored the north eastern coast of North America (Vinland). There is tons of evidence that this species of grape was growing here on this continent centuries before the European set foot here. This particular grape is the source of the cultivars Catawba, Concord, Niagara, Isabella, and Delaware!


The all important cultural crop, Concord grapes (from which the famous jelly is made), was first breed from wild seeds by Ephraim Bull in Concord, Massachusetts in the 19th century.


The grape or telvladi was used by the Cherokee Indians As a blood medicine, and antidiarrheal, a gynecological aid, and a liver aid, among other things. The Iroquois used a decoction of the roots to aid horses in fertility resulting in conception.


The Cherokee also used the fruit mashed with sour grape, pokeberry juice, sugar and cornmeal as a juice to drink. It was also used to make dumplings!


The flowers and fruit of the grape are very beneficial to wildlife, with many insects and birds drawing nourishment from it. Bumblebees, honeybees, digger bees and long-tongued bees pollinate the flowers and collect pollen from the flowers. Other insects eat leaves of suck juices from the plant.


Many birds like the ruffed grouse, bobwhite; northern flicker, crow, and cardinal to name a few eat the fruit, and help in the spread of the plant by dropping the seeds with their feces. Many of these same birds use the dense vines for hiding places and to nest in. Some birds will even use the bark to help in nest building.


White tailed deer also find the leaves and stems delectable.


Oil which is obtained from the grape seed is used in cosmetics, and aromatherapy massage oils. It is easily absorbed into the skin without excess greasiness. It is light and thin, leaving a glossy sheen to the skin. It helps in maintains skin moisture.

To check out other uses for grapes read my first post here

Passion Flower – Passiflora incarnate


This plant is a native to the Americas, growing in sandy thickets and open fields, roadsides, and waste places. It is listed in Indiana as rare, and in Ohio as Threatened.

This flower was named the Passion flower due to the fact that the flower reminded early Christians of Christ’s passion on the cross. Count the petals and sepals, together they are said to represent the disciples (except for Judas & Peter). The stamens number 5, just as Christ had 5 wounds. The stigmas look like the nails of the crucifixion used to affix him to the wooden cross and the corona represents the crown of thorns.

The Cherokee used the flower for food, medicine, and for religious ceremony. It was used in a formula for nervous behavior along with hops, valerian, and hawthorn. In combination with peppermint it has calming properties. Today it is still used for calming.

The fruit can be eaten raw, the inside is yellow, and gelatin like. It can also be used to make drinks, sherbet, jams & jellies. The leaves could be eaten as a spring green.

The aromatic flowers are used in making perfume, and added to potpourri or dried and burned as incense. The root is also used as an insecticide.