ABUNDANT FLORA IN JANUARY

Just while walking along one road, the coast road of my walk on the first of this year, I found so many wild plants in flower that I would like to share a gallery of them. Meanwhile I am doing some research on them individually and have already come across some interesting facts. It is a great pleasure to become more intimately connected with the Mediterranean flora and to learn more about them. While I was young I studied botany with a teach yourself book, but right during my life-time wild plants, flowers and herbs, and their medicinal and other properties have been of great interest to me, and it gives me great pleasure to learn more about this all the time. By observation as much as by reading, researching and learning about them. The beauty of these wild flowers and the joy of finding them along a walk cannot be underestimated in everyday life, I feel very grateful to have the opportunity.

SAGE GARLAND

Today I decided that it was time to cut down my very large Sage plant so that the young shoots could start to grow and produce more harvest for the coming season. I gathered it all inside and started to divide it in branches that I wanted to dry for use to burn as cleansers around the room after the winter, and lots of the leaves to use as tea and make a tincture or use in various other ways, like cooking. I would use a leaf of Sage to put in the pan if ever I fry something, but I also use it in soups and in other meals. According to a variety of sources, and one of them is my Herbal course; http://www.herbmentor.com there is a wide variety that Sage can be used for. In the medieval times it used to be said, I quote; “why should a man die while sage grows in his garden?”. Yes, Sage has many medicinal qualities, it is an astringent herb and has antiseptic qualities.  Among other things It is believed that as an herbal steam it can help to decongest the sinuses and loosen congestion in the lungs.

Anyway, I was sitting with all this Sage for a long time, plucking the leaves and cleaning it ready for drying, it was a satisfactory job to do today, the scent of the Sage hit my nostrils and that was pleasant, it reminded me of being in Portugal last year and how the herbal scents would be so strong and lovely there, of course the sun would bring the scents out.
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So now the branches are hanging up to dry.

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These are the leaves for tea, use in cooking or gargles and other uses.

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The garland of Sage is making this room feel rather nice, it is all part of living rural, and of using the bit of garden to grown our own produce including herbs.  So satisfying, interesting, and wonderful.

GORSE SYRUP & THE BOOK “WILD FOOD”

Recently I have had a book out from the library called “Wild Food” written by Biddy White Lennon, and Evan Doyle, a brilliant little book (256pages) and I have found it very interesting and useful. It features many recipes of wild foods, and great recipes on preserving wild berries and other fruits. I received copyright (for one month) to copy one of its more intriguing recipes, which I am certainly going to try out soon.
The plant Gorse (Ulex Europaeus,Linn) which grows abundantly here in West Cork, has a lovely scent and bright yellow coloured flowers, and it is shown to have more uses than one. In the above mentioned book it has a recipe for Gorse syrup made of the flowers. But the plant is also known for it’s bright yellow dye also made from the flowers, I personally have also heard of it’s use in soap making and for making tea.

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The Gorse flower

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SORREL AND A MALE STONECHAT

In this wintery weather today, due to getting a doze of cabin fever, I took a walk along the boreen (little path) and around the block, and past the heathland where there are some Gorse shrubs also. The boreen, which is an unpaved narrow path in rural Ireland, is bordered by lots of lovely vegetation, all sorts of wild plants and Hawthorn trees, lots of Ivy growing all over the hedges, and some Gorse along the way too. Today I found young leaves of the Sorrel plant, this is good as it is an edible plant, though I would not eat it too often as it is so sour. I am taking a lot more notice of these plants right now because of the Herbal course that I am doing, and it is nice to find and identify all sorts of plants so close to home.  As it happens I checked out Wikipedia and found some interesting information on how Sorrel is used in different countries, as in soups and stews and others, very interesting.  For example;  I never realised that Toor Dal contained Sorrel as well as yellow Lentils.  In my search I came across an excellent recipe for Toor Dal by the way, with a video to follow, it looks so delicious.  It I found here:  http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/toor-dal-tadka
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A little further along the walk I spotted a bird which I normally do not see in our gardens, and which does not frequent our bird tables. It was the little male Stonechat, a beautiful little bird about the size of a sparrow. Total black head and light brown chest. It was fluttering from shrub to shrub. I tried to take a photo for the record but my mobile phone did not catch it right.  But I looked it up in one of our bird books, an excellent guide this one; it is called: ‘Ireland’s Garden Birds’ by Oran O’Sullivan & Jim Wilson.  I found the bird in there, and then went and checked Wikipedia which gave me good information too.

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FINDING HERBS IN MY DESOLATE GARDEN

I went out to pick some herbs this morning. After several days of heavy rain and wind, the garden looks very desolate and is sodden. But I did find some herbs and made a great pot of soup, very tasty and warming on this November day. A bleak watery sun is breaking through a cloudy sky, it gives energy, the nights come so early these days, and the town is already lit up with Christmas decoration, too early in my opinion, but at the same time, it does brighten up these dark grey sky days. The Doves have returned to the bird table looking for food. It’s great to have the birds around, that is for sure.
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I happen to find some Jerusalem Artichokes over the weekend, used them in the soup too, but will plant some of them in the garden as it is good food, and it even gives interesting flowers.

HARVESTING AND HERBAL CONCOCTIONS

Catching up with some of the harvest activities was fun today and very necessary too.  Some weeks ago I harvested Calendula flowers from the garden to cover with a good quality oil, put it on a sunny window sill for 6 weeks and then my oil is ready, it is now. The next step is to make a salve out of the oil with the use of Beeswax. This salve is very healing and useful for all sorts of skin problems or hurts. I will be making this in the next few days, my first time ever. Exciting!

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Chamomile oil brewing now in the same way as the Calendula oil, that will also be made in a salve.

And the plenty of lovely Nettles growing around here have been dried also and will be used to add to soups, broths, or make into a tea.  Full of minerals and natural.  There is so much to harvest, all wild growing things.

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All along there have been huge Poppies growing in the garden, self seeding and plentiful.  This year I have kept most of the seeds and have 75gr which I will have to share out as I don’t want to waste it of course, the flowers are so beautiful and grow easy.  .I’m not sure if the seeds could be used in baking as the type of Poppy they come from is a cultivated one, not even sure now how it came to grow in the garden many years ago.

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Coriander seeds and Dandelion leaves drying for use during the winter months.

LIGHTING THE WOOD STOVE AND OTHER THINGS

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The evening is drawing in right now, and heavy rain has started, so I thought it a good idea to light a cosy fire and relax a little before cooking dinner.  It’s been a day of sun and rain here in West Cork, warmer than is normal for middle of October I guess, but then some autumns are like that here, the real cold weather only starting after Christmas.  But dampness is the biggest problem during the autumn/winter months (and sometimes the spring and summer months as well)!  On the off chance I got a real bargain today, for €7.99 I bought an amazing 438pps book on the Wildflowers of Cork City and County written by Tony O’Mahony, seems very well researched and full of lovely photographs and maps too.  It covers all the native and introduced wild plants of the several forests around here and the coastline plants, and even the wild flowers of the city of Cork.  Very interesting, can’t put it down.

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Our front garden is becoming beautiful with the colours of the fall.  No gardening done in the past week, mainly due to minding grandchildren twice, and the weather,  but I collected some wild growing Camomile flowers on the Beara peninsula the other day which was a great find.  Plenty of large pumpkins for sale in the supermarkets now for Halloween coming up.

MY HERBAL COURSE ~ HAWTHORN BERRY HONEY

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Today I have tried out a recipe for Hawthorn berry honey which I learnt in my herbal course in Herb Mentor (by LearningHerbs)  So here is what I did:  I took the berries which I had harvested from the Hawthorn tree in the garden, and I smashed them a little, so that the juice could mix with the honey.  A waft of lovely rather heavy wooden scent came floating towards me while I was doing that.  It’s so simple to make, you put the berries into a clean jar and cover it with honey, making sure that it is mixed well.  Important –  Don’t crush the seeds inside the berries.  Strain after 24 hours or so, and use a little.  It is supposed to be good for the heart it says, but I am not taking responsibility for people’s individual decisions of use while on medicines or while ill.  Always consult a doctor before using such strong herbal concoctions.

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