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Mediterranean Understory & Guild Plants for Food Forests – Part 2

Please SEE Part 1 before you read this list!


Here is what a young Food Forest can look like in a part of your urban yard!

Linda’s List is intended for a Mediterranean climate like coastal Southern California has, one of only 5 in the world. The list in your area may be different. Check out your local gardeners’ successes, check with your local nursery. This list is not tree specific yet. We’re working on that!

More than a list of plants, Linda’s List gives tips for good growing, eating, and usage!
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Once our fruit trees are planted in their water-saving basins in a budding Mediterranean food forest, it’s now time to think about what else to plant in these usually moist wells and swales. Or up the trees? Or nearby? We need these companion plants to increase our food and medicine yield, and also to enrich the soil, provide habitat, pull up minerals and other nutrients from deep in the earth, draw nitrogen from the air and bring it into the soil, attract beneficial insects to control pests, create shade for delicate roots — and to provide beauty, a critical psychological and spiritual yield in every garden.

Thanks to the members of the Permaculture Guild of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Organic Garden Club for their ideas and input. Additions and corrections are welcome.  Please email lbuzzell@aol.com.  Especially welcome would be input on what plants do best under specific fruit trees – so far I don’t have much information on that.

BERRIES
Blueberry. To grow well here, they need acid soil, so a container is often the best solution, since Santa Barbara soil and water tend to be alkaline. One gardener we know waters hers with a very dilute solution of white vinegar, plus puts pine needles, coffee grounds around the plant. Best in Mediterranean climates are the low-chill varieties like ‘Misty,”O’Neal,’ ‘Sharpblue’
Cane berries. Upright cane berries are fun to pop in here and there as understory plants and they take some shade. But we found out the hard way that you probably don’t want to put in sprawling, thorny berries (especially blackberry) that sucker underground – they pop up all over the yard and are hard to eradicate. When we buy new berries we limit ourselves to thornless varieties and our current favorites are ‘Navajo’ and ‘Apache,’ although the thorny varieties that still linger in our garden – and will probably be there for hundreds of years as they’re ineradicable – taste best. So we live with them and enjoy the berries.
Elderberry. Shrub. There is a California native variety. Produces edible fragrant white flowers (used to make elderberry syrup and wine) and edible small blue berries that the birds love. Ripe berries are safe to eat but leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots are toxic. Has medicinal uses. We use our elderberry as a sacrificial plant attracting birds away from other fruit trees.
Lemonade Berry (native). Rhus integrifolia. Can also control erosion.

BULBS AND ROOT CROPS
Placement of these may take special care, as you don’t want to plant them too close to delicate tree roots.
Carrots
Edible canna. Canna edulis –Achira. Flowers are smaller than most cannas and the root is edible, can be chopped and sautéed like potato.
Onions
Potato and sweet potato

EDIBLE FLOWERS (note: most fruit trees, veggies and herbs also have edible flowers. Always triple check the safety of any flower before eating!
Daylilies. Hemerocallis species. Buds are used in Chinese stir fry, Petals in salad.
Nasturtium (flowers, young leaves and buds that may be pickled like capers) Let the plants die back in place. They will reseed and form a straw mulch.
Roses (yield petals for salads, sandwiches, syrups, desserts; rose hips for tea, syrups, jam)
Scarlet runner bean
Scented geranium

HERBS (most have edible flowers in addition to other uses)
Borage
Chili peppers, including tree chili
Cilantro
Garlic
Italian parsley
Lavender
Lemon balm
Lemon verbena. A drought tolerant shrub with delicious leaves for tea.
Mint. Some fear its vigorous, spreading roots, but we welcome it into drier areas as ground cover, autumn bee food and a source of fresh leaves for cooking and tea.
Mustard (young leaves can be stir fried, flowers are edible, plus seeds for making mustard)
Pineapple sage (leaves and flowers make delicious herbal tea)
Oregano
Rosemary
Sage

SHRUBS/Understory trees
Guava. Psidium Tropical shrubs native to Mexico, Central and South America that yield white, yellow or pink fruit. Not to be confused with Pineapple Guava (Feijoa) Psidium guajava (apple guava) is one tasty variety. Also try lemon guava and strawberry guava.

VEGGIES (there’s no way to name them all – it’s fun to experiment to see what likes the soil under and around your fruit trees. Our favorites are those that overwinter and/or reseed themselves)
Artichokes. Plant away from tree roots, in baskets as the gophers love them.
Brassicas like broccoli, kale, collard greens.
Chard.
Dandelions. Leaves are great in salads and so good for us. Small birds like the seed heads.
Fava beans and other beans.
New Zealand spinach.

VINES
We often forget about vertical space in the garden, but it’s nice to increase your yield by growing edible vines up fruit trees, on walls and over arbors, fences and hedges.
Grapes. Note: the Permaculture Guild of Santa Barbara has a separate list of recommended table and wine grapes for our area. Contact lbuzzell@aol.com for details
Passion Fruit. A garden member says “mine is simply rampant, productive and trouble-free; gets little to no supplemental water.” The juice can be used to make a spectacular salad dressing (served at Los Arroyos on Coast Village Road in their tropical salad).

MISCELLANEOUS
Bamboo. Use clumping instead of running kinds to avoid it taking over your garden. Bamboo shoots are a delicacy in Asia.
Pepino melon.
Sacrificial plants. In permaculture designs we often plant trees, shrubs and other plants that are nitrogen-accumulators, “nurse” plants or fruit-providers for animals that might otherwise eat our crops. When they have performed their function, we “chop and drop” them around our fruit trees as a nutritious mulch.
Yucca. We’ve read that yucca yields edible fruit and flower buds. Anyone have more info on this?

BENEFICIAL ATTRACTORS AND NUTRIENT ACCUMULATORS
Ceanothus. Shrubs and ground covers that fix nitrogen in the soil.
Salvia, ornamental. These are treasures in the Mediterranean forest garden.
Tagetes lemmonii. Golden color is lovely in fall.

GROUND COVER
Easy-to-grow succulents can provide temporary ground cover for delicate roots. They can act as a living mulch until other plants take over that function. This crop is often free, as gardeners who have ground-cover sedums always have too many and are glad to share.
Pelargoniums and lantana are other easy, colorful ground cover that can be removed as needed.
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#1 Home Permaculture book in the world for seven years!

Per PatternLiteracy.com, Toby Hemenway’s home site, Gaia’s Garden has been the best-selling permaculture book in the world for the last 7 years. The enlarged, updated 2nd edition is the winner of the 2011 Nautilus Gold Medal Award.

The first edition of Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers.

Treat yourself and your land to this incredibly efficient way of gardening. Wisely use ALL the space available to you in a good way. Nature is the Master Gardener – follow her lead.

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In honor of Wesak, the May Taurus/Scorpio Full Moon, of Love and Wisdom, the Buddha, I share this story with you for your contemplation….


It is said that people in Tibet seek healing from physical and emotional wounds in a unique way.
They sit downwind from flowers. It is a therapy that has been carried on for centuries, based not on superstition but on natural medicine. Sitting downwind from flowers, one can be dusted with the pollen from new blossoms, pollen that some say carries certain healing qualities.

Linda Ross Swanson tells the story of a 52-year-old Tibetan refugee named Tenzin who lived in Seattle. Diagnosed with lymphoma and unwilling to undergo the usual chemotherapy treatment because it brought back memories of having been tortured as a political prisoner in China, he was brought to a hospice. There he told workers of the Tibetan method of healing, and one of them agreed to help.

On a sunny afternoon the hospice worker picked up Tenzin and his wife, packed some provisions traditional to Tibetans—black tea, yak butter, salt, cups and cookies—and dropped the couple off at a nursery. They found a suitable spot, sat downwind from the flowers and, under the watchful eye of curious nursery employees, enjoyed their afternoon tea. They did the same the following week at another nursery.

The word got around, and soon nurseries all over Seattle were vying for Tenzin’s presence. They called him when new plants arrived, placed chairs to match the wind direction and provided the tea. Customers filled flats with flowers and put them carefully around the couple, and some began calling nurseries to ask how he was doing. Day after day throughout an entire summer Tenzin and his wife sat downwind from flowers around Seattle.

At the end of the summer, Tenzin went in for a follow-up CT scan. There was no trace of cancer. The doctor confessed he was astounded and could not explain the miraculous change. Tenzin had his own explanation: “I know why the cancer left. It can’t live in a body filled with love. When I began to feel all the compassion from the hospice team, from the nursery employees, from all the people who wanted to know about me, I began to change inside.”

I share this story not to promote folk medicine but because I believe love cures people—those who receive it and those who give it. Love is life’s healing agent. When searching for a way to heal—if not cancer, then at least a wounded heart—sit downwind from flowers. Allow people to touch you with their goodness and kindness. Allow them to be touched by yours. There is healing there.

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You have just read “Downwind from Flowers,” written by Dr. Michael Halleen and re-printed here with his permission.  It was published as Monday Moments on April 7, 2008. His book, You Are Rich, is a collection of sixty Monday Moments  and is available for sale at $12 each. Contact Dr. Halleen at mhalleen@att.net for more information.

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Fat Pumpkins & Fun Hay Rides, Lane Farms, Goleta CA

 Happy Halloween! 

  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites!
  • Pumpkin flowers are edible.
  • Pumpkins are 90% water. 
  • Pumpkins are used for feed for animals.
  • Pumpkin seeds can be roasted as a snack.
  • Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.
  • In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
  • The name ‘pumpkin’ originated from ‘pepon,’ the Greek word for ‘large melon.’
  • Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.
  • As of Oct 2009, the largest pumpkin ever grown weighted 1,725 pounds!
     

DollarWise – From Grocery to Garden!

Adapted from Pat Veretto’s article…. 

Beans, Garlic, Tomatoes and more

Beans being beans, you can plant the ones that come from the grocery store. Eat half the beans, plant the rest! Beans are seeds and seeds grow.  So do whole peas, raw peanuts, popcorn, wheat berries, raw untreated spice seed (celery, anise, sesame, etc.)… well, you get the idea. Vegetables like peppers, tomatoes and fruits like watermelon, have seeds in them that will grow. Eat the food, then plant the seeds of the food you like!  

Note: Green beans of any kind, or peas in the pod bought at the produce counter, will not grow. They’re “green” – immature seed.  

If you don’t know the general planting rules for a vegetable, read seed packet at the nursery, or check online.  Easy.  

  In addition to seeds, the grocery store is a source of tubers like potatoes, yams and fresh ginger, sprouting plants like garlic and onions, and plants you can sometimes regrow, like celery, cabbage and carrots (carrot tops only, for edible greens – you won’t get another carrot).  

If you’d like to save tomato seeds to plant, first remember that tomatoes from the grocery are hybrids, unless you get heirlooms. Hybrids  mean the plant and tomato you get may not be what you expect (but it will be a tomato!). Scoop the seeds from a cut tomato and save with the liquid surrounding them, or mash a whole tomato and let it set at room temperature two or three days, then rinse gently and dry for storage, or plant them right away.  

Peppers, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, and eggplant should be allowed to mature before using the seed, as the seed matures along with the vegetable. Planting these can be an adventure, as it’s not possible to know with what or if they’ve been cross pollinated, but try it anyway.  

Garlic will grow happily in a container on your windowsill or in the ground. Buy fresh garlic and use the largest cloves to plant. Put the unpeeled clove, pointed side up, in light soil with the tip just showing. Keep the soil damp and in a few days you should see a green shoot. You can eat this top, but if you let it grow, it will eventually turn brown and dry up. That means the garlic is “done” – you can dig it up and you should have a whole bulb of garlic, from which you can choose the largest clove and start the process again. If you plant garlic outside, you can leave it over winter for a spring harvest, or plant in the spring for a late summer or early autumn harvest.  

Root Crops from the Produce Department

Did you ever sort through one of those tubs of “onion sets” looking for ones that looked alive? Then you know what a bonus buying onions that are already growing can be! Green onions, the kind packaged or rubber banded and ready to eat, can be put back in the ground and grown to full size onions. Look for onions that have a round bulb because flat or thin bulbs may be another type of onion that never grows any larger, like a winter or spring onion. Set the onions upright in two or three inches of water for a couple of hours before planting, then keep the soil damp until the roots have been reestablished. 

  Most full sized onions will regrow if you cut the root end off along with an inch or so of onion. Plant the root in good ground, and keep it watered. It will begin to sprout within a few days and you’ll have green onion shoots, and sometimes a new onion bulb.  

About the only difference between “seed potatoes” and the eating kind of potatoes from the grocery store is the size – government specifications are between 1 ½ and 3 ¼ inches diameter. Other than that, the rules are that they can’t be affected by nematode injury, freezing or various rots, soil or other damages… I truly hope that the potatoes we buy to eat are of such high quality.  

Some potatoes are treated to keep them from sprouting – you’ll want the ones that sprout. Look out for the radiation symbol on the package. Irradiated potatoes are dead – they won’t grow.  

Most sprouting potatoes can be cut to get more than one plant. Just be sure to keep enough of the potato flesh to nurture the sprout until it can develop roots. Plant potatoes when the weather is still cool, barely below ground in light, sandy or straw filled soil.  

  Is it cost effective to buy groceries to garden with? Well, you’ll usually get enough seed from one squash to plant 15 to 20 hills. One potato is enough for three to four plants each of which should produce at least a meal’s worth in a poor season. And remember the “seed quality” beans? How much does it cost for a whole pound of beans?  Buy local – farmers market, roadside stands – for seeds adapted to our area.  Buy organic for untreated seeds!  Once you grow your own, harvest the seed of your best plants, specifically adapted to your very own garden! 

Creative Home & Garden ideas says ‘If you buy some foods, such as horseradish, with the tops (or at least part of the top still attached), you can cut off the top, plant it in the ground, and it will reproduce another horseradish root just like the one you bought. The next year it will divide, and soon from only one top you will have an entire patch of horseradish.

And that’s a bargain. When was the last time you bought something, ate it, and still had 200 of them left over?

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