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…)
Highbush cranberry is one of those plant names that, as an amateur botanist, fills me with a number of conflicting but equally reasonable emotions. It is one of those names that when taken in a literal context appears to be bewilderingly inaccurate and deliberately misleading but when observed under a different connotation is filled with a cultural charm that reveals much about the way we perceive and relate to the world, and perhaps even more importantly, how we communicate our understanding of that world to others. (more…)
Pawpaws: one of the most curious and extraordinary of foraged autumn delights. These fruits can weigh in at a 1/2 pound or more and are produced individually or in groups of up to 5 or 6 from small, thicket forming trees found wild in only a few sites in southern Ontario. They have a wonderfully sweet aroma when ripe that easily fills the whole room with a tropical fragrance. The flesh has a soft, creamy texture and a succulent custard/banana flavor. The ripe fruit won’t last for long and is difficult to adequately preserve (save for attempting to scoop out all of the flesh and freeze it before it oxidizes). They are truly unlike anything else that one can encounter either in the wild or being cultivated as a food tree in the whole of Canada. (more…)