Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Trees of The Little Victorian: Redbud

Eastern Redbud  
Cercis Canadensis 

Here at the Little Victorian, the Chef cut down invasive Japanese bush honeysuckle, which weakens migrating birds with the bird-equivalent of junk food, and planted a native, Eastern redbud. We picked the redbud up on the cheap at the farmer's market, so let's hope she does well.

For eating: Like other seed pods in the legume family, seed pods of the red bud offer beneficial nutrients, such as protein, iron and complex carbohydrates, when consumed while green and tender. To prepare for eating, sauté the pods like snow peas. The flowers are also edible and can be added to salads. 

For healing: Bark and root of redbud is high in tannins and has been used as an astringent, particularly in the treatment of dysentery. 

For witching: Redbud is a traditional harbinger of spring with quite a bit of folklore around it, particularly so in the Appalachian Mountains. The term “redbud winter” refers to a cold snap that happens just as the redbuds bloom after the first blush of a few warm days in the spring. According to legend, Judas Iscariot hanged himself from a branch of the European species Cercis siliquastrum. Smaller redbud branches were also boiled to make a pink dye for homespun yarn. Redbud wood is quite strong and could be used in the making of magical tools particularly when the energy of spring-like new endeavors is desired. 

For wildlife: The Eastern Redbud is a native understory tree here in Tennessee, and birds, deer and squirrels eat the seeds. The flowers are important for the production of honey by bees.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Weed Lovin' Witchery: Yellow Wood Sorrel

The lovable lawn weed series (Purple Deadnettle, Hairy Bittercress, Plantain) continues:

Yellow Wood Sorrel
Oxalis stricta

Yellow wood sorrel is easily distinguished from clovers and black medic by its heart shaped leaves (rather than oval) and cute, five petaled flower (rather than the familiar, spiky looking clover flower). A close relative of yellow wood sorrel in the same family is commonly sold around St. Patrick’s day as shamrock.

 For eating: Tasty, sour, lemony, but not bitter. People have been eating this raw or cooked for ages. I loved the flavor of the oxalis family as a kid and still do. Good with fish or as tea or in a salad. All parts are edible. BUT it contains oxalic acid, so don’t make it the main element of your diet. (Who would? But just in case…) People who have gout, kidney problems, rheumatic conditions and any other quirky problem that reacts to oxalic acid should clearly not eat it.

For healing: High in healthy vitamin C, wood sorrel is also good for stopping bleeding, cooling fevers and soothing the stomach. It is a mild diuretic and can induce appetite in those who are sick. Use in a poultice for swelling.

For witching: Wood sorrel has a rather magical reputation. Like many herbs with healing properties, it is used in healing magic. It also associated with faeries, woodland spirits and luck.

For wildlife: Native to North America & parts of Europe & eaten by butterflies.