January 28, 2011
Chickweed (Stellaria media) is one of the most common European weeds, considered a real pest in agriculture because of its ability to take over whole crop fields, particularly competing with small grains like barley. In a smaller garden, however, it can be controlled by hand-picking and used as a leaf or salad vegetable.
Unlike most edible “weeds” like Dandelion or Fat Hen which can be quite bitter, it has a mild lettuce-like taste when eaten raw, but it also great for cooking as an alternative to spinach. Like Spinach, it disintegrates quickly when cooked, so 2 minutes of simmering in some olive oil and garlic is plenty.
In the urban landscape, you should be able to find Chickweed alongside any green space or tow path, and you can identify it by its line of thin hairs down one side of the stem (the similar-looking but non-edible Cerastium has thin hair all over the stem). It has small star-like white flowers, and grows in a creeping mat quite close to the ground. It’s available more or less year-round, with the exception of periods of frost.
Chickweed has been used medicinally for centuries – homeopaths recommend a chickweed compress for treating skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis (you can prepare this by boiling a large bunch of the herb for a few minutes in a small amount of water, wrapping it in a cloth and then wrapping it around the affected area).
January 25, 2011
Sustainable living meets great graphic design in Green Patriot Posters: Graphics for a Sustainable Community, a new tear-out collection of posters edited by Dmitri Siegel and Edward Morris, featuring work from 50 contemporary artists including Shepard Fairey and Geoff McFetridge, and plugged in today’s Guardian.
William Etling: Sustain
Each of the pieces promotes awareness of climate change and ethical, sustainable lifestyles, taking inspiration from World War Two posters among other mid-century imagery. As well as featuring bold design, the artists have steered clear of tried and tested environmental slogans of the past, and throw out some real pearls like There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew, and Unplug and spend time with your family.
Green Patriot Posters
Chester and Tracy Jenkins: Unplug
Published by Metropolis Books in the US and Thames & Hudson in the UK, the book’s green credentials are top-notch, using 100% recycled paper and vegetable-based inks, as well as having used 100% wind power both in the production of the base materials and in the printing process. It’s available for purchase from Art Book and Amazon.
January 19, 2011
I’ve just discovered Vivien Weise’s excellent Cooking Weeds, a cookbook dedicated to, as the name suggests, using the abundance of edible native weeds available to us for free in a variety of imaginative and often mouthwatering recipes. She only includes common weeds that can be found in any London park or tow path, and clearly describes which weeds (and which parts) are edible, as well as including nutritional information for each plant. Plus, they are all illustrated to facilitate your picking efforts.
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January 11, 2011
Elaeagnus x ebbingei is a common evergreen shrub, recognisable by the beautiful silver underside of its leaves. It’s generally grown as an ornamental, but is incredibly valuable in the permaculture garden as it produces huge amounts of edible red berries in April and May, when few other fruit are available – these berries are widely used both in Chinese medicine and cooking. Thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, a liquid extract of the fruit is used for the treatment of arthritis.
It’s also a nitrogen-fixer, being one of the plants with the Rhizobia bacteria on its roots, and so has the added benefit of increasing your soil’s fertility when grown on a vegetable patch, while not really needing any attention or nourishment of its own.
If you locate an Elaeagnus hedge in your area, it’s worth keeping an eye on it towards late spring, as it really fruits very heavily. Pick the berries when they turn a deep red; any lighter than that and they’ll be fairly acidic. At the centre of the berry is a single seed covered with a fibrous coating – the seed is edible but you’ll probably want to spit out the tough coating.
06.05.11 See here for an update on recipes to try with your harvest.
January 1, 2011
If you, like me, have overdone it this Christmas on the chocolate/cheese/red wine side of things, a detox of sorts may be what you need to get your liver and digestive system back to its pre-festive condition. Many plants, besides the obvious 5-a-day, have a detoxifying effect on the body when taken as an infusion, powder, or other form of extract, and you can even grow some of these yourself:
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