Category Archives: Home Garden

Early Manitoba Spring Harvest

Spring arrives quite delayed here in the North. Though we are on the south edge of Manitoba, our growing zone is still close to 3, which means any head start we can find, such as micro-climates, warming the soil, providing shelter or greenhouses, the sooner we get to taste delicious, organic produce.

What I have discovered though, is that Nature has adapted quite well to this climate, and provides all the nutrients our body needs in the earlier months when we still get a potential frost at night. What follows is a short list of some  wild or perennial edibles in my garden! You will be surprised, that you may have some growing as well!

Stinging Nettle. A favourite among wild foragers. Grows in rich soil, spreads with creeping roots that are invasive. Prepare cooked as stingers will disappear after cooked or dried. Use in stir-fry’s, smoothies (raw), soups,  sauces or pesto’s as you would spinach.

Pansy’s. Not exactly wild, but a resilient, self-seeding plant comes out with flowers before the tulips and daffodils! The flowers are edible and kids love to add them to salad!

Day Lily leaves. The whole plant is edible. Tubers, flower buds and open flowers. We often enjoy the flowers as a snack during a day in the garden. The leaves are great in a sauté. They have a hint of lemon flavour. They appear wild in many places throughout N. America. Learn more here from Hank Shaw.

Bergamot, Bee Balm or Wild Oregano. Before it sends up it’s lovely purple flowers, this full flavour spice is a welcome addition to our meals.  I often forget to use it because we also grow oregano. But I know this plant grows wild here in MB and it has so many health benefits! It will cure a scratchy throat in no time! I plan to get creative with this plant this spring/summer!

Strawberry leaves! This is a new one for me. I have only heard of the medicinal uses, dried as a tea. Have yet to taste them. But these hardy perennials are green before the snow melts! They just love our climate! Already in reproduction mode, they will be producing berry’s soon enough! Check out this helpful health info.

Yarrow! I have yet to eat them as a raw green, but I have heard that when they are young, they are much less bitter!

Also available in my garden are Dandelion greens, Poppy greens, Mint, Holly Hock leaves, Chives and Green Onions, Cherry blossoms (soon) and likely others I am not even aware of! I look forward to the creative mixtures we come up with in this urban family farm!

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Tasty Nettle, Urtica dioica

Spring! It’s finally here in Northern Canada. After a long winter, of plenty of rest and hibernation, it’s time to clean the house of your body/mind/spirit. It is the time for renewal and new growth! Stinging Nettle will help you clear out toxic influences that cloud your way.

In Oriental Medicine, spring is associated with the wood element and the liver and gallbladder organ energy systems. The imbalanced emotion is anger and the balanced state is the ability to think through, make decisions, plan and put them into action. Have you noticed that when your plans get thwarted, the most common reaction is anger?

“When in doubt use Nettle!” – David Hoffman

I am blessed to live in the city and be surrounded by Nettle. I have it growing naturally along the rich soil of the river bank as well as filling in my whole raised garden (because it loves manure). Once you have it, it will take over, so beware! Of course the best time to collect this treasure is spring when the nutrients are strongest.

Early spring is also a good time to collect some roots such as dandelion and burdock as all the sugars are still tucked in the ground ready to push up and out into the plant.

Fresh Spring Tonic

Rich in vitamins A, B complex, C, K, calcium, potassium, iron and many other trace minerals.

Combine fresh Nettle, Chickweed, Cleavers and Dandelion root and leaf with added mild spices or ginger for a soothing, energizing drink.

Steep as a tea or blend as a smoothie for an extra jolt of minerals and pure energy!

This drink helps remove accumulated rubbish from the body caused by much inactivity over the winter months.

To learn more about the healing properties of Stinging Nettle check these sites,  Herb Wisdom,  Dr. Axe

To fall in love with this powerful plant, listen to Rosemary Gladstar!


Evening Primrose for Hormonal Health

Evening Primrose, Oenothera biennis

Believe it or not, it seems as though every part of this plant can be used. The leaves can be cooked and eaten as greens. The roots can be boiled like potatoes and allegedly taste like sweet parsnips. The flowers are sweet and can be used in salads or as a pretty garnish. The young seedpods can be steamed and the ripe seeds can be roasted in an oven for 15 to 20 min. at 350° and used on bread or in salads. You can also sprinkle the roasted seeds over any dish like pepper.img_4171

Ways to use Evening Primrose

This beautiful plant is known as a woman’s herb. It is especially helpful with PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness, bloating, water retention, acne, depression and irritability.

Apparently evening primrose oil is an extremely rich source of an omega 6 fatty acid called Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA). Getting enough GLA is crucial to support overall hormonal function within the body. In fact, many women with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) struggle to convert the fats they eat into GLA.

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When you make a salad dressing or are eager to get some omega’s in the form of Flaxseed Oil and Evening Primrose, please make sure your oil is fresh. Flaxseed oil goes rancid quickly, and I learned the hard way. Taste your oil before mixing with precious seeds!

Since I learned the hard way. Here is another way to use those precious, mood boosting seeds!

Hormone Boosting Avocado Dip/Dressing

Mix 1/2 avocado, 1 Tbsp of fresh ground flaxseed and 1Tbsp ground evening primrose, 1 tsp dried wild greens (such as smartweed, mallow, nettle, plantain), dash salt,  2 garlic cloves, 1/2 cup water 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 Tbsp honey, and 1/2 cup (more or less) olive oil.

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Plantain, Plantago major

This summer was an epic crop of plantain. We have two large hugel beds which retain a lot of moisture. We had a very wet summer again, so along with the nettle going crazy, we had a healthy patch of plantain growing right along side. The leaves are edible raw as well as the seeds. When going for my morning nettle harvest, I would inevitably get stung. The plantain is a super quick aid to stop the burn. Simply chew it up and place on the red spot.

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Plantain is well known for its antimicrobial properties and ability to draw out infection and speed healing, which is why it’s so often recommended to relieve insect bites and stings. Since I had so much, I decided to make an infusion so I could benefit from it’s healing properties throughout the year as a salve. This is really helpful to have on hand when going on hikes or anywhere you face mosquitos, as it has the ability to take the itch out of the bite. It’s also wonderful for scrapes, cuts and bruises. My kids use it throughout the summer. In the winter, it can be used as a moisturizing lip balm.

I am continually learning new things about a plant. And plantain is a good one to research. It is often the plant easiest to recognize and the most available in the city, often growing in the most disturbed places. Herbalists consider plantain to be a “sacred herb” and it’s called the “Mother of Plants.”

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Plantain and Olive Oil infusion made this summerimg_6475

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

Delicate in nature, yet so powerful in action. Yarrow is a wild plant that is resilient beyond belief. Once it finds a home, it will endure every kind of abuse. It’s bitter nature stimulates the body to action. Yarrow has a sweet, soft aroma and can be harvested throughout the entire growing season. We have used it in countless ways. From treating skin wounds to drinking as a warming tea in the winter. It aids in depression and slow digestion.

Our rabbits treat it as a highly prized treat. I have also made it into a brew for beer. It’s uses continue to expand into all areas of our life.  When left, it will expand into the garden and your body with welcome beauty.

I have a new tea mix this winter that combines the digestive action of Mint and Yarrow with the antioxidant strength of Goldenrod. A delicious blend that keeps not only the body fighting against the common cold and sluggish digestion, but also the mind and spirit against the common emotional lows of the winter months.

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Echinacea purpurea Tincture

I just love the bright red colour to these roots! Just as beautiful as the flower!

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Many people grow the flower for its beauty, not even considering the potential health benefits of this beautiful plant. I planted Coneflower, as it is also known by, more than three years ago for the sole purpose of digging it up one day. It takes several years to mature enough to use for medicine, though the leaves and flowers can be used right from the start.

I discovered through some research that taking echinacea as a preventative immune booster isn’t actually the main use for this plant. It is a strong formula that one takes right before the onset of a cold or flu. It must be taken several times a day to encourage the body to fight off the attack (boosting white blood cell activity). It is most effective when used fresh.

So I did the work of preserving the roots in 80 proof vodka for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily. It was pretty simple and the outcome is incredible. The flavour is sweet and earthy. Here is Rosemary Gladstar’s tutorial for help. She recommends storing your tincture in a dark glass bottle. I found some at Arts Junktion and also Gales Wholesale.

Use a small amount (1 tsp) and mix into water or tea

Here is a nice tea mixture you could try with the dried roots,

Echinacea Tea
1 part echinacea parts, leaves, flowers, roots
1/4 part lemon grass
1/4 part spearmint leaves (or to taste)
Stevia leaves to taste

Mix and brew at the first sign of cold or flu.  Based on the Traditional Medicinal recipe.

Having medicine on hand, that I know will last a long time and will be of great value to someone in need fills me with so much joy.

Thank you Echinacea for your beauty and powerful medicine here in Manitoba!