I am starting this new series of Blogs at Winter Solstice, 2017.
I plan to post regularly, writing about what I am observing throughout the year, what I am doing/preparing in a practical way. They will include some insights into the plant world, insights into what that world expects of us if they are to survive, how we can care more, observe more, consider the plants and planet first and not be human centric.
The focus for this post is winter greens.
I gather several clumps of Miner’s lettuce (syn. Winter Purslane), Claytonia perfoliata, pot them up and give a large pot of each to my neighbours. I like this ritual at Winter Solstice. The Winter Purslane is an extraordinary plant – it begins its growth in the early weeks of winter, growing throughout those months, flowering in early Spring and disappearing late Spring/ Summer/Autumn.
What is amazing is that on a frosty night this succulent, leafy plant loses its turgor and flops over only to restore its full, upright stature as it thaws. How does it do this? It is full of water. How is it that it does not freeze and damage the tissues that hold the water? Does it have an anti-freeze ability? I think so.
This plant needs winter cold, needs to have no other competition, is best left to self sow, maybe among that dies down during winter.
As it grows in winter, is green with a slight yellowish aura, of course it is going to be high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A and actually some Iron.
It is delicious on its own as a salad with a light Garlic/Lemon/Olive oil dressing, or add it to a winter salad of grated carrot, beetroot, rocket, land cress and parsley. I would not cook it.
I gather Water cress, Nasturtium officinale, regularly during the early winter before the frosts become too severe. I collect the leafy tips, knowing that they will flower and seed later. Finely chopped and steamed as a green, it is delicious. I often make a Potato and Watercress Soup. (See Immersion July 2016 )
This extraordinary plant is so full of nutritious deliciousness. It has the highest rating in the ANDI score (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) and is one of the oldest greens. It adds Vitamins K, A, C, B group, the minerals Calcium, Manganese, Magnesium and Phosphorus as well as Folate.
These Cruciferae (Brassicaceae) family members all have a sulphur containing chemical and a compound called DIM (3,3′-diindolylmethane). Both are said to protect against the development of some cancers as well as its progression. (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285412.php).
I have tried to grow this plant in a Northern New Zealand climate under a dripping tap. I apologise to it as I now see that it loves a stream of water moving through its roots.
The winter green that has surprised me this year is the Land Cress, Barbarea verna . It looks like the water cress, even tastes a little like it, stings the tongue especially along the sides, is hot, spicy, stimulates saliva and it is not surprising that it has a similar range of nutrients to Watercress.
I find it interesting that these plants, so full of the nutrients that we need in winter, grow in winter even a very cold one. Land Cress self sows so readily but like the Miners Lettuce, doesn’t like competition.
I leave annual Rocket, Eruca sativa to self sow in both the garden and Tunnel House. It is mildly spicy, has a similar nutrient profile as the land cress and watercress but is less intense. For that perfect winter salad grate some carrot and beetroot, add any of the above greens, and drizzle a garlic/oil/balsamic vinegar dressing for the perfect complement.
On the left is the Watercress, the Land cress is in the middle and on the right the Rocket. You can see the similarities between these Brassicaceae family members.
The last of the winter greens is the delicate Chickweed, Stellaria media. It has managed to keep growing through quite severe frosts and loves both the Tunnel House and Shade House at this time of year. Add to salads, make it into Pesto, topically to reduce swellings and inflammations. Again it is a veritable treasure chest of nutrients, (almost the complete range of minerals including zinc and a very high amount of Vitamin C). If you chop some up add a little water and shake it up in a jar, it will froth. This is its Saponin content and Saponins act to reduce inflammations.
Cool and moist, we would think about chewing it up and putting it on a hot joint or swelling whether we knew about its Saponins or not.
News from Viriditas Centre for Plant Directed Learning
• Look out for my next book later in the Year – The Biophilic Garden. Reconnecting People, Plants and Inscape.
• The next The Traditions, Art and Science of Herbal Medicine, 2017.course begins October 14th, 2017.
• Plant Immersion, Incubation and Inspiration – A 5 day Viriditas Intensive in January 2018
For more information and to register your interest, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
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