Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Medicinal Herbs and Edible Natives

Last weekend, we attended The Smart Gardening Faire at Skypark in Scotts Valley. There were about 20 tents filled with native plants, medicinal plants, orchids, gopher control solutions, hand-crafted goods and other things garden-related. There were also two tracks of presentations on topics such as cooking with native plants, composting and bee-keeping.

I sat in on a presentation on edible native plants. The speaker, Alrie Middlebrook from the California Native Garden Foundation, talked about several commonly known edibles such as mushrooms, blackberries and a variety of nuts but also espoused the importance of native varieties because of the impact on the soil (microbes) that non-natives have (could I give up jasmine?).

Other edibles mentioned included huckleberry, elderberry flowers and fruit and pine nuts. She informed us that the pine nuts we buy at TJ's come from South America but there are two varities in CA that can be easily harvested.

After picking out an orchid at the SC Orchid Society's table and admiring the bonsais at Pet Plants Bonsai, we talked to the gopher control folks at Gophers Limited (ha ha). Then we were off on an herb walk lead by Darren Huckle.

Mr. Huckle is really knowledgeable and gave me the sense that he is a great healer. He had us eat lavender flowers (calms) and fennel (stimulates the liver) and talked about making tinctures or teas from stinging nettle, California poppies (for relaxing) and the flowers of the mimosa tree.

I'm always looking for natural remedies that are easily accessible. Based on his presentation, I will likely add yarrow and stinging nettle to my future garden as replacements to store-bought goldenseal and arnica. I have already started a lavendar plant, having cut a few sprigs from a park in SC and sticking them about 5' in the ground. Two have rooted and are going strong. If I can come up with a replacement to store-bought lavender oil, I'd be thrilled! So much to learn.

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