This plum tree sits just outside of our garden gate and it is really popping with blossoms. It’s a gorgeous tree but it does not always bear fruit. We lost a huge chunk of it last year to an exceptionally heavy snow storm.
One of my favorite spring plants is the Trillium. This particular one is the Red Trillium, Trillium erectum. It’s a member of the lily family and spreads by rhizomes. I’ve been watching this patch increase in size over the past few years. It’s common name is Beth-root, a corruption of Birth-root. The root was used during childbirth and for menstrual ailments. I have not personally used it as such, but it’s long history as a medicinal herb is well established. I happen to favor this variety over the painted trillium’s we also have here (which are not yet in bloom). Something about the contrast of the colors works for me. Also the fact that when the trillium’s are up, it is surely spring and the sound of peepers in the night is not far off.
“FOCUS” That is the message of the Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica. We actually have allowed several large colonies of Nettles to exist in our ‘yard’ since they seemed find themselves at home. It has been known to cause a ruckus when some poor unsuspecting sole meanders too close. Nettle is a good teacher of awareness. I know I said I loved the trilliums, and truly, I do… I just love the nettles as well…or maybe even more. If you’ve ever brushed past a nettle plant unaware, you know the itchy, red, swelling that will follow. Sister Nettle is all about bringing our awareness into focus. If you look closely at the picture on the right you will see the stem looks hairy or prickly. It is. Those little hairs contain formic acid and it will really irritate most people’s skin. This to me seems a trifle compared to the glorious history of the Nettle plant-. This plant is edible (yes!), medicinal, and utilitarian. A triple whammy if you will. One of our favorite spring meals is stinging Nettle quiche. Don’t worry, the sting cooks out 🙂 Nettles are also one of the most well endowed when tallying up chlorophyll. It’s traditionally used as a Spring tonic. It is highly nutritious and gently removes built up metabolic waste from the long winter months from the system. It has a host of other properties that are beneficial as well. Aside from being a tasty spring treat that is loaded with medicinal attributes, stinging Nettle also has a long history as a cordage/fiber plant. It can be woven into cloth that resembles silky linen and has been found in use as far back as the Bronze Age, used in burial shrouds. I have used Nettle fibers to make bow strings, fun bracelets with kids, and in paper making projects. Don’t let the sting scare you, Nettle is really a lovely plant!
Violet! How lovely just to say it let alone to see or taste. Viola odorata is the Sweet Violet we have growing here. This particular mound is hugging the house and the added warmth makes it the first to bloom. I cannot begin to say enough about this humble but lovely plant. It was the violet that sparked my love of all things wildly edible at the tender age of 11. Sure they were candied violets, but we picked them ourselves and our teacher taught us to paint the flowers gently with egg whites then dip them in superfine sugar and dry in the sun…a confection so stunningly delicious that it’s been the rage in France for centuries. These days I know a few more things about the violet and do not need sugar in order to consume them. The leaves as well as the flowers are an excellent addition to any salad and make a delicate tisane/tea which boasts beneficial ingredients for breast tissue. Violet is also an expectorant and can be used as a gentle remedy for coughs.
In the tamer parts of the homestead we have some tasty treats as well. We sometimes plan to cut back the kale in autumn so it sprouts up again in spring, and sometimes we’re just lazy and forget about it. This particular Winterbor Kale is the latter. It was a wildly wet summer here last year and the garden got short shrift on some autumn chores. We were still fortunate enough to wind up with some very early kale that will cozy up nicely with the garlic we toss it with! Speaking of garlic, the shot above is one of our 4 garlic beds. We did a bit of experimenting last fall with mulching after very unfortunate events the previous year left us with a mow-worthy crop of timothy! The mulch we used was loaded with seeds 😦 The mulches we trialed this past autumn on the garlic crop were leaves and pine straw. Suffice to say, the leaves are long gone, while the pine needles stayed put! We happen to have lots of pine needles and they are free save for the labor in collecting them.
My parting shot for today are these Daffodils. If I recall correctly they are called Rosy Dawn. I liked that they were a bit different than the typical yellow. These are on the south side of the house and they get a lot of sun, so they are in FULL bloom right now.
There’s the homestead wrap up. Hope you enjoyed the visit. Pass back again soon.
ps…please, don’t ever put anything in your mouth that you cannot positively identify….ask a local herbalist or take a class and learn which plants in your area are safe to consume.