Monday Recap: Lasts and Firsts

It’s hard to believe, but asparagus season is winding down here. We started cutting spears back in mid April, and since then my wife and I have been enjoying fresh, homegrown asparagus as often as possible. It’s been grilled, steamed, stir-fried and roasted. Some of it’s been shared with friends, and some of it has been frozen for later enjoyment. But now, it’s time to stop harvesting and let the ferns grow so they can replenish the roots for next year’s crop. We got 26 pounds from our patch this year, which is down a bit from last year but still plenty of asparagus for us.

last asparagus harvest of the year

last asparagus harvest of the year

Yesterday I stir-fried some with a few sliced mushrooms and some chopped up garlic scapes. I cooked it only briefly, then tossed it with some Garlic Scape Pesto while it was still warm. I generally try and keep it simple with fresh vegetables. And homegrown asparagus is pretty much a rockstar all by itself I think.

asparagus stir-fried

asparagus stir-fried

But even as the asparagus exits the scene, new arrivals are showing up here. Like raspberries, for instance. This spring I planned on cutting down the old canes on the plants so we would only get a fall crop, but never got around to it. So now we are enjoying raspberries produced on last year’s canes. The red varieties producing now are either Caroline or Autumn Bliss. I planted both but with the way raspberries spread I can’t tell which is which right now, since they have grown every which way. These everbearing raspberries also produce berries in late summer and fall on the current year’s canes.

our first raspberries of 2014

our first raspberries of 2014

The blueberries are also starting to ripen about now. My wife usually handles most of the harvesting of these blue jewels. She likes to say she knows every one of them personally, and I am thankful she takes care of this time-consuming but rewarding job!

first blueberries of 2014

first blueberries of 2014

The fresh berries have been a real treat at breakfast time. I have been enjoying them with some of our homemade muesli. And we’ve started freezing the blueberries.

muesli with fresh raspberries and blueberries

muesli with fresh raspberries and blueberries

I harvested the first head of broccoli last week, which was soon followed by several more. Those in the below photo are the Packman variety, which was the first to head up this year. It’s nice to have fresh broccoli again. Some of it went into a Broccoli and Walnut Salad.

Packman broccoli

Packman broccoli

The spring planted kale is also nice to have. That’s the Wild Garden mix in the below photo. It has a mix of kales with leaf types that range from smooth, to curly, and even frilly. It has a delightful taste and tender leaves.

Wild Garden Mix kale

Wild Garden Mix kale

Another first on the scene is zucchini. There is usually a glut of it later on but right now the first one looks pretty special to me. The one in the below photo is Partenon, which is a parthenocarpic type that doesn’t need pollination. It should be ready to harvest this morning. For folks who have a hard time growing zucchini due to insect problems, or lack of pollination, the parthenocarpic types can be grown under cover and still produce fruit. Cavilli is another one I’ve grown with light green squash that is parthenocarpic. I like these types because they can set fruit on cool and wet days when other squash might not get pollinated.

First zucchini of 2014

First zucchini of 2014

And speaking of pollination, I’ll close with what I think was the best news of all from last week – the bees are back! Last Friday we made a half day road trip to Paducah, Ky to pick up our bee nuc. A nuc is a mini-hive and includes a queen, her workers, plus five frames with eggs, brood and food stores. The below photo shows my wife carrying the nuc down to our hive.

Lynda carrying nuc

Lynda carrying nuc

We installed the five frames and all the bees in our own hive as soon as we got them home. That’s me in the below photo making the transfer. We’ll give them about a week before we do a hive inspection and see how the queen is doing. They had a rough ride in the back of the truck, and we want to give them a chance to get settled in before we disturb them by opening up the hive. We will feed them with sugar syrup until they are well established.

me installing bee nuc in our hive

me installing bee nuc in our hive

I hope you have enjoyed this update of current happenings at HA. To see what other gardeners are harvesting, cooking or planting, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more news as it happens!

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Chocolate and cherries are a classic combination. Of course, they are both very tasty on their own, but put them together and they are truly a match made in heaven. The marriage of the two has given us the Black Forest Cake, as well as chocolate covered cherry cordials and Cherry Garcia ice cream. And now I offer my humble contribution, the chocolate cherry muffin.

Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Chocolate Cherry Muffins

It’s cherry season here right now, which means I can use fresh cherries for these muffins. But frozen ones are just as good, and canned ones will work as well. You can also use either sweet or sour cherries, or even a combination of the two. I’ve tried them all, and they all work in this recipe. Just be sure to give them a coarse chop before you add them to the batter.

draining frozen sweet cherries

draining frozen sweet cherries

These muffins are made with whole grain spelt flour, with a healthy dose of both cocoa and cherries, so you don’t have to feel too guilty about eating one. That’s assuming you can limit yourself to just one!

chocolatecherrymuffincloseup

Chocolate Cherry Muffin

Leftovers freeze well, and after thawing are almost as moist and tasty as they are the day you make them. So if you are craving chocolate and cherries, give these muffins a try!

Chocolate Cherry Muffins Print This Recipe Print This Recipe
A Happy Acres original

1 cup Almond Milk (or milk of your choice)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole grain spelt flour (about 6 oz)
1/2 cup unsweetened baking or natural cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sweet or tart cherries, drained and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp sliced almonds

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease muffin pan or line the pan with paper baking cups.

2. Whisk together milk, oil, sugar, egg and vanilla in mixing bowl until well blended and smooth.

3. Add flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder; stir until just combined. Stir in cherries. Batter will be quite runny, and that is normal.

4. Pour mixture into prepared muffin pan and divide evenly. Top with sliced almonds.

5. Bake for 18-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

6. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan.

Servings: 12

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 182 calories, 73 calories from fat, 8.3g total fat, 17.6mg cholesterol, 219.9mg sodium, 94.7mg potassium, 25.8g carbohydrates, 3.1g fiber, 14.2g sugar, 3.2g protein, 106.9mg calcium, 1g saturated fat.

This post was shared at Green Thumb Thursday and at Mostly Homemade Mondays.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Cherry Picking Time

The cherries are ripe here in Southern Indiana, and that means it was time for a road trip this week to Farview Orchards. It’s about a 45 minutes drive from Happy Acres, and the best local source for cherries in our area. They have both sweet and sour cherries available for u-pick, as well as strawberries, which are winding down for the season. We were on a mission for cherries though. Our cherry trees are still quite young and only yielded a handful of fruit this year, so we were looking to pick enough to last us for the year.

me picking cherries at Farview Orchards

me picking cherries at Farview Orchards

The trees there were loaded with fruit, and we had our big buckets filled in no time. This year we wound up with around 15 pounds of the sour types plus another 5 pounds of the sweet. Last year we got about 15 pounds total from there, and it was nice to have an ample supply on hand throughout the year. This year we will have even more to enjoy. As you can see in the above photo, I wore a red shirt in case I got cherry juice all over me!

Lynda reaching for the perfect cherry

Lynda reaching for the perfect cherry

One of our friends asked us how we process our cherries, and this is a great opportunity to share that information here. I had several large cherry trees at my old place, and I’ve been growing, harvesting and preserving them for a number of years. The only difference here is that we let someone else do the growing this year!

box of sour cherries

box of sour cherries

Once we got the cherries home, it was time for a good washing. We rinsed the fruit several times in cold water, then let them drain. These cherries were not organically grown, so we were especially careful to wash them off thoroughly.

rinsing the cherries in cold water

rinsing the cherries in cold water

Next it’s time to get the pits out. Years ago I bought a nice cherry pitter that really gets the job done when you have a lot of cherries to pit. It’s made by Leifheit, and it has a hopper to hold the cherries and a stainless steel plunger that removes the pit. The pits fall into the bottom container, while the cherries roll down a chute and into a bowl (not included with the pitter). It takes a little time to get the hang of using it, but once you do it does a really good job and makes short work of the pitting process. We were able to wash and pit our 20 pounds of cherries in about an hour.

Leifheit cherry pitterer

Leifheit cherry pitter

Once pitted, it’s time to get them ready for freezing. We use a recipe straight from my trusty Ball Blue Book. We mix 4 parts cherries (by volume) with 1 part sugar in a mixing bowl and stir well. Then we let the mixture sit for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup. Then the cherries and syrup go into containers and off to the freezer. For those concerned about the sugar, it helps to preserve the cherries, and you can drain it off when you thaw and use the cherries later on. Processed this way, cherries keep in the freezer for a couple of years without a significant loss of quality.

cherry pitter in operation

cherry pitter in operation

We use our cherries in a number of ways. Of course they make wonderful eating by themselves, thawed and drained. But they are also great baked with our Blackberry Cobbler recipe, using cherries instead of blackberries. And I love them fixed with rhubarb in a Rhubarb Cherry Crumble. The cherries compliment the tart rhubarb nicely. For a really special occasion, my wife will make her mom’s Cherry Upside Down Cake. That is a real treat indeed. Of course there’s always a cherry pie, though I haven’t made one of those recently.

Cherry Upside Down Cake

Cherry Upside Down Cake

I hope you have enjoyed a look at our recent cherry picking adventure, and how we process the fruit once we get it home. I’ll be back soon with a recipe for one of my new favorite things to do with cherries. Until then, happy growing and gardening from Happy Acres!

Posted in Food, Preserving | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Homemade: Plantain Infused Oil

Last week I did a Spotlight on Plantain, a common plant that is so very useful for treating minor insect bites, rashes and other skin irritations. Today I want to talk about making an infused oil with it. Infusion is the process of extracting the active compounds from plant materials by steeping them in a solvent such as water, alcohol or oil.

harvest of plantain from our back yard

harvest of plantain from our back yard

To begin, gather at least two cups of plantain leaves. Either the broadleaf type (Plantago major) or the narrow leaf kind (Plantago lanceolata) will work, or even a mix of the two. Wash them in cold water to remove any grit or dirt, then drain and blot dry with a clean towel. You can infuse fresh plantain leaves in oil if you plan on using it right away, say within a few days. Any longer than that and it will likely spoil. But if you want it to keep longer, you need to remove most of the the moisture from the leaves.

rinsing off the plantain

rinsing off the plantain

You can do that by air drying, or with a dehydrator. With the dehydrator, I use the lowest setting (for herbs) and the leaves are dry enough in less than a day. The time required to air dry will vary depending on the environment.

plantain leaves in dehydrator

plantain leaves in dehydrator

With either method, you don’t have to dry the leaves until they are brittle, just until they are wilted and most of the moisture is removed. It’s moisture in the oil that will cause it to spoil.

closeup view of dried plantain leaf

closeup view of dried plantain leaf

Once you have the dried leaves, there are several different ways to make an infusion. The easiest way is also the slowest way, usually called cold infusion. For this method, a clean glass jar is loosely filled with the plantain leaves, then covered with the oil of your choice. Sweet almond oil is my favorite where the end use is something that will be applied to the skin, but olive oil has been a traditional favorite for centuries and coconut oil is also a popular choice. Give the mixture a little stir to remove any air bubbles, then cap the jar with a tight fitting lid.

covering plantain with almond oil

covering plantain with almond oil

For cold infusion, you just let the jar sit for at least two weeks, preferably about a month, giving it a shake or a stir every few days whenever you think about it. A sunny windowsill is s good spot, where the heat of the sun will gently warm the oil to coax out the beneficial compounds.

plantain infusing in oil

plantain infusing in oil

A much quicker way is hot infusion, where the oil is heated to speed up the process considerably. My favorite way to do this is to use a crock pot. Fill and cap the jar(s) as above, then put them in a crock pot filled with hot water. Turn the slow cooker to low heat, cover, and let the jar sit for about 8 hours.

straining oil using nylon hose

straining oil using nylon hose

There are fans of both the hot and cold methods, so it really just depends on your personal preference. After the oil is infused you need to strain out the plantain. You can set a fine mesh metal strainer over a glass measuring cup or bowl, and pour the oil into that. You can also put a clean knee high nylon stocking over the jar and use that as a strainer. That’s what my wife is doing in the above photo. The stocking can then be washed and reused for later straining operations.

plantain infused almond oil

plantain infused almond oil

After straining, pour the oil into a clean container and label the contents and the date it was infused. Store the oil in a cool dark place, much like you would a cooking oil. The shelf life of the infused oil should be about the same as the base oil. Do not use if the oil develops a rancid smell. You can add a few drops of vitamin E to help preserve the oil, and the oil can also be refrigerated to keep it fresh.

The plantain infused oil can be applied to the skin to help soothe the itch from insect bites and poison ivy rashes, and to aid the healing of minor cuts and bruises. And with a few other ingredients it can be made into an wonderful salve that we always keep on hand around here. I’ll be back soon with the recipe for that!

To see more about how to identify and find plantain, read Saturday Spotlight: Plaintain.

To find out how to make an anti-itch salve with the infused oil, read Homemade: Plantain Anti-Itch Salve and Lotion Bars.

This post was shared at Green Thumb Thursday.

Posted in Homemade | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Five Gift Ideas For Gardeners

My inspiration for this post comes from Annie’s Granny, who made this world a much brighter place by sharing her love for gardening, life and her family on her blog: Annie’s Kitchen Garden. Granny may have left the world of form last month, but her spirit truly lives on with hundreds of her followers and friends. A few years ago, she asked gardeners to Show Us Your Garden Forks. So now I’ll show you mine, again, and a few more of my favorite things.


Looking for something to give your favorite gardener? Recently I put on my thinking cap and came up with a list of gardening-related items I own and find useful and enjoyable. I’m not getting paid to endorse any of these these products either, I just find them worth recommending to others. So without further ado, here are five ideas for gifts that every gardener can use.

1. Wilcox All-Pro Trowel

It’s no secret that I love my Wilcox trowels. They are without a doubt the best and most sturdy trowels I have ever used. They are made from stainless steel, unbreakable, unbending, and nearly indestructible. They have a bright red plastic handle, which makes them easy to find if you leave them out in the garden as I sometimes do. And the business end of the trowel comes to a sharpened point, which makes them great for digging in heavy soils, removing rocks, and cutting through tough roots.

collection of Wilcox trowels (click on any image to enlarge)

collection of Wilcox trowels (click on any image to enlarge)

In autumn of 2012 I misplaced one of my trusty Wilcox trowels while working down at the Impact Community Garden. I figured it had gotten buried in the mulch, and would turn up eventually. It just happened to be my oldest one of my collection of trowels (see above photo), so I was very happy when I found it while tilling there the next spring. It’s the top one in the below photo, reunited with its cousin trowel. Gotta love a trowel that survives being buried all winter, then meeting up with a killer tiller!

Wilcox trowels

Wilcox trowels

Many of the models have a built-in depth gauge incised on the blade, in both inches and centimeters. That is useful to judge the depth of the planting hole, and also to measure the distance between planting holes. I use this feature a lot. These trowels can be a little hard to find, but they are available from several sources online (including Amazon). And they have the added bonus of being made in the U.S. The 14 inch model 202S is the one I use the most.

closeup of trowel blade

closeup of trowel blade

2. Rogue Garden Hoe

Every gardener can use a good garden hoe. They are indispensable for weeding, moving soil, even for making a furrow to sow seeds. Over the years, I’ve managed to collect quite a few hoes of all different types, from swan hoes to stirrup types and good old ‘paddle’ hoes. But the one I keep reaching for lately is my trusty Rogue model 55G. Rogue hoes are made from tempered steel that comes from recycled farm disc blades, and are sturdy and no-nonsense tools. I did a review on them in 2012, and I’ll include a link to it here.

Rogue 55g hoe

Rogue 55g hoe

These hoes are very well made, with sturdy ash handles and a nice balanced feel to them. The cutting edges are razor sharp, and hold an edge nicely when resharpened. I also have the 65G and 70F models, and they all get a lot of use here. For a gift that is recycled and made in the U.S., the Rogue hoes are hard to beat.

closeup of Rogue 65G hoe

closeup of Rogue 65G hoe

3. Lee Valley Stainless Steel Digging Fork

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a good digging fork is a thing to behold. Of all the tools a gardener uses, digging forks and shovels are probably subjected to the most amount of stress and abuse. I’ve owned several digging forks in my life, and my current favorite one is a stainless steel model that I got from Lee Valley Tools. It’s not the cheapest digging fork on the market, nor is it the most expensive, but it gets the job done for me.

Lee Valley stainless steel digging fork

Lee Valley stainless steel digging fork

Mine has a tubular steel handle covered with molded plastic. The steel handle holds up to any task I ask it to perform. And I really appreciate the stainless steel tines, which clean up easily and won’t rust when I leave them stuck in the ground or compost pile. I also have one of their stainless steel transplant spades, and it is as well-made and durable as the digging fork.

closeup of head of stainless steel digging fork

closeup of head of stainless steel digging fork

4. G-Tek MaxiFlex Gloves

In the past, I generally did not wear gloves when gardening. I like to be able to get a ‘feel’ for the plants and soil while I work, and loose fitting or bulky gloves make that difficult for me. But recently someone gave me a pair of G-Tek MaxiFlex gloves to try. And I have to say I love them! Model 34-875 is a nitrile dipped knit nylon glove that is lightweight, breathable and comfortable to wear. The outside is also treated to repel water and oil, and the gloves are flexible enough to let me work with sheets of newspaper for mulch as well as delicate young seedlings. But they are also tough enough to let me handle rusty tomato cages without staining my hands, and work with bamboo poles and wooden stakes without getting splinters. The elastic cuff also helps to keep soil from getting inside your glove while you’re working.

G-Tek MaxiFlex glove

G-Tek MaxiFlex glove

The gloves are available from several sources online. At around $5 per pair (less if you buy in bulk), they last much longer than brown jersey gloves, but aren’t so expensive you feel guilty when you finally have to throw them away and get a new pair. And they aren’t just good for gardening either. They are handy to have on hand for any other chore where you need a lightweight but durable glove. There are many other models of these gloves available so there’s truly one out there for everyone.

another view of MaxiFlex glove

another view of MaxiFlex glove

5. A Good Read

There are many good reference books about gardening out there. That is probably a subject for a list all its own. But what about something different? What about other types of books about gardeners or gardening? Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver is one of my all-time favorite inspirational books with a gardening theme. It chronicles a family that decides to grow their own food for a full year. And Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate by Wendy Johnson is a combination of practical and ethereal. The author shares her wealth of gardening knowledge along with a love of the planet and all creatures living on it. The chapter on compost is worth the price of the book alone.

Inspirational books for gardeners

Inspirational books for gardeners

Want something humorous? Try The $64 Dollar Tomato, by William Alexander. The full title, The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden pretty much says it all about this book. The chapter about his battle with Superchuck, the groundhog that was eating his expensive heirloom tomatoes, will have you either laughing out loud or nodding your head in sympathy. Or perhaps, like me, you will be doing both.

Humorous and practical books for gardeners

Humorous and practical books for gardeners

And This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader by Joan Dye Gussow is another inspirational book I enjoyed reading. Gussow is a nutritionist, gardener, and passionate advocate for eating locally and seasonally.

I hope you have enjoyed this list of my best gift ideas for the gardener in your life. I’ll be back soon with more happenings here at Happy Acres.

This post was shared at Green Thumb Thursday at Grow a Good Life.

Posted in Gadgets, Gardening | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Monday Recap: The June Swoon

It is June, and I am almost giddy with excitement. And why is that, you might ask? Because the garden is mostly all planted and I am through babysitting hundreds of little plants. That seems to happen every year about this time. I still have to plant sweet potato slips, but that is on my schedule for today or tomorrow. Much of the garden has been mulched with paper and/or straw too, and I will continue working on that this week. And we still have another planting session for the Impact Community Garden. But the greenhouse is no longer bulging at the seams, and that is a good thing indeed.

squash plants mulched

squash plants mulched

Another reason to be excited is that we are seeing some ‘new’ faces in the harvest basket right about now. Like the first kohlrabi of the season, in the below photo.

Kolibri kohlrabi

Kolibri kohlrabi

There’s more kohlrabi to come. I think I planted around 25 or so plants of it this year. That’s Kolibri in the above photo, which was the first to size up this year. Winner won’t be far behind. I also have the big Kossak variety planted, which takes a bit longer before it’s ready. You can see one of those plants in the below photo.

Kossak kohlrabi

Kossak kohlrabi

I also harvested some Red Ursa kale last week. I’ve got it and Beedy’s Camden growing in one of the cold frame beds. The cold frame is protecting the plants from the pesky critters, but the kale is starting to get too tall for the cover to close. I need to come up with another solution, perhaps some sort of frame to hold netting? I would like to keep the cold frame bottom, but rig something up that would cover the plants inside, maybe something with a PVC frame. I can always take the top off temporarily. I am open to any suggestions anyone might have.

kale getting too big for the cold frame

kale getting too big for the cold frame

I have surely been enjoying the spring lettuce this year. I guess a rainy April made it grow big and lush leaves. I cut a head of Simpson Elite last week for wilting. And we used some of the Oakleaf for a taco salad. I need to get replacement plants in the ground soon so there will be lettuce for later this month.

Simpson Elite lettuce

Simpson Elite lettuce

In the future harvests department, there are a few garlic scapes that are ready to harvest. Red Janice and Uzbek are two hardneck varieties that were early to put out scapes. These Asiatic/Turban types aren’t good keepers, but they do have earliness going for them. And good flavor, for that matter. It’s my wife’s week to cook (yes, we take turns) so I need to see if she can work some scapes in her menu. Maybe with some Garlic Scape Pesto? That would be yummy! The one in the below photo looks fuzzy, but it’s really little drops of dew that were on it early in the morning.

garlic scape ready to harvest

garlic scape ready to harvest

Some of the broccoli is starting to head up. That’s Packman in the below photo. I am looking forward to fresh homegrown broccoli. It will be nice to have it when the asparagus is through. And speaking of asparagus, we’ve hauled in 21 pounds so far, and we plan on harvesting another couple of weeks as long as the size holds.

Packman broccoli heading up

Packman broccoli heading up

Our sour cherries are starting to ripen. We will only get a few from our small tree, but it is a good start. My wife and I plan on going to a local orchard to pick more cherries for the freezer. We did that last year, and it was nice to have a few more than usual for use throughout the year. Like for the chocolate cherry muffins I make but haven’t yet written up the recipe for sharing here.

tart cherries

tart cherries

And as is usual, our large mulberry tree is loaded with ripe fruit right about now. That brings in lots of birds to feast on the tasty little berries. It remains to be seen whether it keeps the birds off other fruits, but there are usually plenty left for us. I know the mulberries themselves are edible, but I haven’t yet acquired a taste for them.

mulberries

mulberries

I’ll close with an image from a foggy morning showing the view from our front porch.

View on a recent foggy morning

View on a recent foggy morning

 

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Saturday Spotlight: Plantain

Today’s Spotlight is on a plant that is probably familiar to many, even if not exactly well-known. Plantain is possibly the most widely distributed medicinal plant in the world. Native to Europe and parts of Asia, it can now be found everywhere human beings have traveled. It’s not fussy about soils or growing conditions, and Native Americans often called it “white man’s footprint” since the plant seemed to follow the early settlers around as they began cultivating the soil.

Common Plantain, Plantago major

Common Plantain, Plantago major

I can remember playing with the cattail-like flower stalks as a child, but I only learned its name when I had bought my first house and was reading a book about weeds. Today, plantain is considered an invasive and noxious weed by some, and a must-have herb by others. Which sort of puts it in the same league as dandelions, violets, pokeweed and purslane, all of which are common here too.

closeup showing plantain leaf

closeup showing plantain leaf

Plantain has been growing in every place I have called home, including Happy Acres. We have an abundance of it here, at least the broadleaf variety I am most familiar with, Plantago major.

Narrowleaf Plantain, Plantago lanceolata

Narrowleaf Plantain, Plantago lanceolata

There is another form with narrow leaves that is also quite common, Plantago lanceolata. There’s a lot of it growing on the grounds around the Impact Community Garden, where I got the above and below photos.

closeup of narrowleaf plantain

closeup of narrowleaf plantain

Though attractive in their own way, neither of these types of plantain are likely going to win any awards as ornamental plants. And though the leaves are edible they are also tough when older and can have a mild laxative effect, so they’re not likely to wind up in many culinary creations either. Plantain is most useful for its medicinal qualities, and that is why we value it here at Happy Acres.

common plantain with seed stalk

common plantain with seed stalk

Plantain has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine qualities that make it quite useful externally. A poultice can be made from the leaves and applied to insect bites, bee and wasp stings, and poison ivy rash. And if you’re out hiking or walking and get stung by a bee or bitten by a mosquito, you can pluck a leaf of plantain, crush it and apply it to the affected area for some relief. The leaves are also reportedly good for blisters and diaper rash.  My wife and I like to make an infused oil from the dried leaves, then use the oil to make a salve. The salve is handy to have on hand when needed, especially in summer when insect bites and poison ivy seem to show up here regularly.

harvest of plantain from our back yard

harvest of plantain from our back yard

I’ll be back later and with more information on how we harvest and dry the plantain, then use it to make the infused oil. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Spotlight on a common and very useful plant.

UPDATE: To see how to make the infused oil, read Homemade: Plantain Infused Oil.

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

 

 

Posted in Saturday Spotlight | Tagged , , | 8 Comments