It is high summer in the garden, and everything is in full bloom. We are at the point where we are mostly sitting back, watering, weeding, and watching it all unfurl into food and beauty, but the bees-- oh man are they busy!
On the poppies...
The heirloom sweet peas (these have the very best scent in the whole world)....
So much nectar, so little time.
It is hard to pick a favorite flower, but I have a very special place in my heart for California Poppies. They are the State Flower, and they always had an aura of excitement around them since we were taught in grade school that if we picked them, we would get arrested! (That was the rumor, anyway.) It is illegal to pick wild poppies, but of course you are free to do what you want with the ones in your own garden.
I love how poppies are so delicate, with their velvety, paper-thin petals that close in cold, windy, or wet weather, and their soft green-grey leaves; yet they are tough citizens of the sometimes harsh Mediterranean climate of California, preferring disturbed, dry soils where other plants could never survive. These babies are in our garden, but they are not being over-coddled, and they do best growing over the edge of the bed where the afternoon sun bakes down on them relentlessly.
California Poppies also make great medicine: they are a nervine, aka, a calming, slightly sedating herb, good for kids that have wound themselves into a tizzy by running around beyond their usual bedtime, or adults who are overstimulated and having a hard time taking the edge off. All ariel parts are used (flowers and leaves)... I don't recommend using the ripened seed pods, as I find them too strong.
I am putting up some poppy tincture here. The "folk" on the label refers to my method, meaning that I didn't take precise measurements, but rather eyeballed the percentage of alcohol. "Etoh" is alcohol, and I added some astrological info just to sort of keep track of everything (there are much more intentional methods of putting up herbs in ways that align the spirit of the plants with the movements of the stars, but I was working primarily with the time that the poppies were at their most potent and ready to be harvested!) I used high quality organic grape alcohol mixed with water (you have to special order it), but you can use vodka just as well- it's about 40% alcohol, which is what you need to break down the medicinal components. Fill a jar with plant material first and then add your alcohol; top off the next day as it tends to soak in, and you don't want any part of the plant sticking above the level of the liquid. I use a stone to help hold the plant down inside the jar as it macerates.
In 2-4 weeks I will press out the liquid from the plant matter (with as much force as possible- you really want to wring the plant dry) and bottle up my medicine.
For those of you who are just getting to know me, I should mention that several years ago I used to write an herbal blog called Kitchen Witch. I put stuff in there from my non-herbal life, too, but if you look through the posts you will find a lot of good herbal info and photos. In an ideal world I would still be writing that blog, but there are only so many hours in the day! I will try to post herbal stuff in this blog more often, since I know a lot of you are interested in it. Enjoy!
The fairies (and my friend Leonna) have been very very hard at work in the garden lately...
This is an heirloom rose called Compassion. If only I could employ "smell-o-vision" on this blog... you just can't believe how divine the scent is.
Leonna knows so much about flowers... she taught me about these lovely Bachelor's Buttons, which grow easily, and make a great cut flower. They don't wilt even if you wear them in your hair for a full day! She always wears flowers in her hair when she goes to teach her piano lessons... she is inspiring me to wear flowers in my hair every day! Bachelor buttons come in all colors; here are some white and purple ones:
I hate to name a favorite flower- that's like calling one person your best friend- impossible. But poppies really, really get me going:
Here is a Penstemon, a great hummingbird attractor, coming into bloom:
And of course the lovable Pansies:
Squash seeds coming up:
And our marvelous greens, the broccoli and chard and kale that has become so lush:
My favorite thing to eat lately is a "sauce" that is made up of all of these greens together. I put them in a food processor raw and chopped up just a little bit to fit in there (you can get a decent food processor from one of those big box retailers for about $40- you don't have to spend a fortune, though of course the fancy ones are really nice to have), add a dash of olive oil and lemon, some sea salt, maybe even some pine nuts if I have them (Trader Joe's sells raw ones for pretty cheap) and then blend blend blend it all up. It is super delish spread on just about anything, and the energy it gives you is amazing! Yum!
(I try not to overdo it on gluten, so this is the low-gluten rye bread you find in the frozen breads section of the health food store. It's so yummy toasted.)
Scenes from the garden, where the first crop of late Spring veggies is coming in strong.
Kale, chard, and broccoli
Parsley, radishes, and lettuce mix
Strawberries, waiting for some more sunshine to ripen them up
Bag of greens for lunch and dinner... sauteed them in butter for just a minute, add a dash of balsamic vinegar, and you have pure bliss!