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Breaking Down the Wall- Plant Allies

We are going to start doing a series introducing and talking about some of the plants that are around us on the CECLA farmstead. I was introduced to the concept of the Green Wall by a wonderful herbalist and plant teacher by the name of Frank Cook. Frank had this idea that when most of us go outside and look at the forest it looks like a great mass of plants, trees, and shrubs- a GREEN WALL. It can feel very inaccessible and overwhelming to try and comprehend. However, by learning about the plants and trees that comprise the environment around us we can begin to break down this wall. We can learn to identify edible weeds in the landscape to put in our salads or recognize the bark of the sugar maple that gives us its sap to make the sweet treat of maple syrup. We can begin to have a relationship with the plants and the forest. We are all stewards of the earth and cultivating a relationship with a piece of land is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying undertaking. It is such a thrill to walk through the woods and be able to pick out different plants; learning about their medicinal properties, habitats, their blossoms, and their fruit, among many other aspects, all the while.

Frank Cook passed away in 2009. You can learn more about him here. Here is a great video of Frank talking about the connectedness of us all.

Dandelion- Taraxacum officinale

I am going to start today with the simple and lovely dandelion. I love a yard full of dandelions! The name dandelion comes from the French, "lion's tooth" (dent de lion), due to its jagged leaves.  I think dandelions are perhaps one of the wildest creatures I know. She can grow anywhere- from a crack in the sidewalk to a "weed-free"subdivision. Dandelions send out long tap roots that help bring nutrients and minerals up from deep in the soil. You can use the flower, leaf, and root in different preparations. Dandelion is a traditional spring cleansing plant as it is good for cooling and strengthening the liver, cleansing the blood, and has a diuretic quality.

I like to add dandelion leaves to my salads as they are very high in minerals and potassium. I like their slightly bitter crunch. Dandelion flowers can be used to make wine or infused in olive oil and used as a rub for sore muscles. I have also used them to make jelly, which was very sweet and delicious. The root can be dried and roasted to be used as a substitute for coffee. These are just a few examples of things you can with dandelions and don't forget laying down amongst them and soaking up the spring sun.

 "It gives one a sudden start in going down a barren, stony street, to see upon a narrow strip of grass, just within the iron fence, the radiant dandelion, shining in the grass, like a spark dropped from the sun"

-Henry Ward Beecher





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