The common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) hardly needs an introduction. It is one of only a few plants that the vast majority of those inhabiting temperate climates worldwide can easily recognize. Many of these same people are very likely to have interacted with dandelions in a meaningful way as well, whether as a child wishing upon the wispy seed heads or frustratingly attempting to remove them from a garden.
Yet as you will see, this lowly weed is not only both edible & medicinal but is also an excellent conduit in which we may learn about ourselves as a species, how we have fundamentally changed the world’s ecology and how we should best react to our changing environments and landscapes. Understanding the life cycle of and experiencing dandelions first hand as an edible or medicinal herb will help to shed light on what this one plant among countless others can teach us.
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is a moisture loving herbaceous perennial in the mustard family (Brassicaceae) native to most of what is now Europe as well as parts of North Africa and northwestern Asia. Although watercress can be found growing along the margins of ponds or populating the fringes of shallow ditches and creeks in full sun or dappled shade throughout the growing season, it is undeniably at it’s best (from a gastronomic perspective) during the spring and autumn. (more…)
The first Wild Ethnobotany guided hike was, despite the -30 degree windchill, an absolute success with a dozen brave souls venturing out to join me as we walked the snowy, windswept trails of Princess Point along Cootes Paradise. We sampled highbush cranberries, European black alder catkins and staghorn sumac berries, learned about the life cycles and medicinal properties of burdock and motherwort as well as received a lecture on the significance of oak savannah (one of the most endangered culturally modified ecosystems in the world) and how the historical land use practices of North America’s first people provide examples in ecology and community planning and for building sustainable and human-friendly landscapes in the future.(more…)