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Tuesday, 17 January 2012


I'm doing an online permaculture course at the moment and I'm reading Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway as part of that.  Both highly recommended and free.  If you want to try the course, just click on the link above and ignore the FBI copyright notice, it will go after a minute or so.

Anyway, the first rule of permaculture is to observe.  Observe nature and see how it works, so you can copy it and observe your plot of land to see what wants to grow there, what are your general conditions.  So, the other day I took a leisurely stroll through my terraces on a sunny spring-like day, taking note of what I saw.

I have already identified many edible and medicinal species on our land before and, as our land is to 50% vertical, I let most weeds grow on those parts.  I really only use half my land for planting, i.e. the horizontal parts.  Species of 'weeds' I picked up on this at this time of year included: dandelion, primroses, sorrel (loads and loads), borage, wild parsley, wild leek, goosegrass, oregano, yarrow, wood sorrrel, wild strawberries, mallow, corn cockle, fennel, wild beet to name but a few. 

But then there was this pretty yellow flower pictured above (in flower now!) which I couldn't immediately identify.  Always the intrepid explorer I picked some leaves and a flower, rubbed them together and had a sniff... Not much smell to it.  So I popped a flower in my mouth and boy(!) it was delicious.  It has a really nice sweet flavour to it.  I thought to myself something so tasty couldn't be poisonous, so I ate some more.  Back home I checked out my herb books and identified it as common toadflax.  It's nowhere described as an edible, but it does have medicinal properties aiding in bladder problems and also liver complaints.  Although I have seen it described as mildly toxic (hey so is Tequila!), I have not noticed any ill effects on me.  I shall sprinkle a few onto future salads I reckon.  Hurray for edible weeds. 


Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

Hahaha! Love that - 'just click the link above and ignore the FBI copyright notice'.

You're quite brave with trying new plants like that by the way. Or crazy? ;) Am glad you're still around kicking and that Toadflax turned out to be a winner.

Heiko said...

Tanya, there are only a few really toxic plants in temperate climates. So my identification usualy starts with sniffing. If it smells bad I leave it (I was in the wine trade I have a fine nose). If it doesn't smell or smells good, taste it. If it doesn't taste good spit it out. If it does, wait for a few hours to see if it has any ill affects, if not carry on eating it.

Heiko said...

Oh, and I found another source in the meantime that says avoid eating it if you are pregnant or on medication.

Mr. H. said...

We have toadflax growing around our area as well, I'll have to read up on it some more. Did you know that Paw Paw trees have flowers that are supposed to absolutely stink but the fruit tastes like banana custard...that's what they say anyway. Any Paw Paw trees in your area? It would be a good plant for your permaculture endeavors.

Hmm...actually I just realized that the plants need an extensive period of cold each year, perhaps more than your region could provide.

Heiko said...

Mr.H, actually the paw paw doesn't sound so bad. Looking at where it is native in the US, it should do ok here too. If only I could find a specimen, to try it out. This winter hasn't been very cold, but other winters normally get a cold snap and we may still get one this year. Just checked it on Italian Wikipedia and there it's called Banana del Nord.

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

There are some that worry me still...such as digitalis or water hemlock. Stay safe :)

Heiko said...

Tanya, yes of course there are those 2 you mention as well as lilly of the valley which looks like wild garlic. But as long as you what the handful poisonous ones looks like, you can safely chew the rest without keeling over. :)

selfsufficient11 said...

beautiful picture