Saturday, July 30, 2011

Elecampane Experiment

A couple of years ago I discovered this plant at VanDusen Gardens. It was tucked way in the back west and I was thoroughly charmed by the brown and yellow variations in the blossom heads. I finally figured out that it is elecampane, or Inula helenium. It was one of the featured flowers at VanDusen Gardens last week and so I was able to identify it. They have planted a stand of it near the front entrance along with a bunch of other plants that bees love.

In looking for information on elecampane I discovered a website from the Pagan Rights Coalition that gives very detailed information on the medicinal benefits of this plant. Elecampane has been used to treat skin problems in farm animals, and bronchial, heart, and blood sugar ailments in humans.

The name elecampane comes from the belief that Helen of Troy carried a bouquet of the flowers when she was kidnapped by Paris. Some of the other names such as scabwort and horseheal come from its treatment of skin diseases in sheep and horses. Some other olde worlde names include elf wort, elf dock, velvet dock and wild sunflower.

Since it is in the sunflower family, one might expect that the leaves and flower heads can be used as a yellow-green dye. I have a pot of flower heads on the boil right now. A few plants ended up in the MOP garden as a wee gifty from the fairies. We don't know where they came from. Since the bees love them, I collected flower heads that were fading and wilting and left the more robust heads as a source of nectar and pollen. Some sources suggest that the roots were used in traditional Scottish dyes, perhaps as a mordant to be used with "blaeberries." Another source, cites using the roots as a dye with "whortleberries" and ash. I will have to experiment with that after we've collected some seeds. The plants seem to thrive here, so if you have a large garden, it would be worth trying to grow these. Nicholson's Herb Farm has a good blog post on propagation tips for Inula helenium. In the mean time, please look for the flowers at VanDusen Gardens or the MOP and have fun watching the bees!

Friday, July 29, 2011

What You've Been Missin'

Don't sleep the summer away! Come out to the engaging and informative talks at the Means of Production Garden! This summer MOPARRC has partnered with Evergreen to give some fabulous talks at our garden. We've had two so far and there are two more to come. They are informal, in depth talks with plenty of opportunity for dialogue, so to tempt you to come to our August talks, I will present some sneek peeks at what's gone on so far.

(BTW this is a mystery plant that's popped up in one of our beds. Anyone have any idea what it is? It's sprawling and over five feet tall.)

Erin, a student intern from Evergreen presented a talk on growing your own sprouts at home and she brought us some tasty treats and the recipes.

This is the correct angle to tip the jar while growing your sprouts.

This was a delicious sprouted hummus we got to try. We also sampled some incredible bliss balls made with sprouted almonds. Helen from Evergreen is going to be blogging in depth about the talks, so I will post a link to those blog posts soon.

The talks are from 6-8 pm in the garden and people are encouraged to bring a picnic supper if they like.

Those who come early can pick ripe berries from the garden!

You can watch the summer mason bees carry mud and pollen to their condos.

You can relax to the sound of the honeybees in the blossoms.

Last week we had a fantastic presentation by Todd DeVries who is an accomplished cedar weaver.

Todd told us about his journey of discovering his art through a special vision and meeting other weavers and Haida elders.

I gave him some New Zealand flax from the garden and he quickly braided it and twisted it into a small rope.

Hats take about a month to make, and are finished in unique ways that are a part of the artisan's and the tribe's signature.

This hat was made with two contrasting tones of cedar.

I love this contemporary application for an ancient skill--the water bottle holder.

As I walked home from Todd's talk I took some photos of the linden trees blooming on Broadway while a crow warned me away from her nest.

There you go! Now don't miss our final two talks:

August 4, 6-8 pm, MOP Garden
Travis Warren Landscape designer Travis Warren will be discussing ways of increasing habitat for birds through plant choices, what different bird species add to biodiversity and how to foster a variety of birds in backyards and community gardens

Aug. 11, 6-8 pm, MOP Garden
A Greener Vancouver – Native Plants and Creative Restoration: Stephanie Levy, Project Manager at Evergreen, will give a presentation on the native plants of Lower Mainland, the creative solutions Evergreen has used as part of its restoration work, and provide some thoughts on how to make Vancouver a greener city.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Moberly Tea Party

As a wrap up celebration of MOPARRC's residency at the Moberly Community Herb Garden in east Vancouver, we held a community tea party with music by the Legion of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra. We had teas Sharon Kallis made from herbs in the garden and traditional chai made by Mohinder.

Sharon has a silver tea service for these special occasions and she has made this beautiful tent out of doilies and embroidered linens.

Sharon and Jody keep the teas steeping and the cookies flowing.

Good cookies are worth waiting for!

Jody always puts together amazing tea serving outfits.

I always have to take a photo of her funky matching shoes!

The weather turned a touch cool and windy, but it was almost perfect for the occasion. Families played in the park while they drank tea and listened to the music. Some of the children had worked with David Gowman that afternoon to make rhythm sticks and they joined in a couple of the songs.

And here are those Monkeys! Not THE Monkeys--OUR Monkeys.

At my table, I showed how to make infused honeys and shared a recipe and method developed by Danielle Charles on her lovely blog called The Teacup Chronicles. For details on how to infuse honey with herbs and flowers, check out her post here. The infused honeys were very popular and accessible enough that many people said they were going to try it at home using plants from their gardens.

I also encouraged people to draw the recipes, or at least have a go at drawing some of the herbs in the garden.

Rose petal honey,

lemon verbena honey,

and lavender honey. I wanted some people to try their hand at illustrating herbal recipes. One girl did a great job and even translated the recipe into Spanish!

Of course she did a much better job than me at illustrating the recipe!

I took some people on a tour of the garden to chat about the herbs and help them identify the ones they were interested in learning about.

The echinacea is popping up in several parts of the garden.

Thanks so much to Cyndy Chwelos for creating the garden and inviting us into this residency and to Aimee Taylor who was also a part of the Cultivating Connections residency and helped create the Moberly Community Herb Garden. Thanks to all the folks who came out and participated. Happy Gardening!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Birthday Raspberries

Eleven years ago today I was in Women and Children's Hospital giving birth to our son who surprised us by being one month premature. I was trapped in a hospital room for ten days and I was in love with the Tiny One, but I was scared. He was so vulnerable and mysterious and we were responsible for nurturing and protecting him. Now he's well on his way to becoming a premature teenager, stubborn, shy, and very much his own person.

We celebrated with pompadums and Spicy Pepper jam from Gypsy Jams. The boys had lime soda and we sipped La Vielle Ferme Rosé. Peter cooked the pink salmon I purchased at the Oak Street market and UBC Farm potatoes.

We had a salad of UBC greens and broad beans with a tarragon mustard vinaigrette, and flowers from the back yard.

The birthday boy requested a mango and chocolate ice cream cake, so I made the cake with mango gelato and whipped up a thick chocolate sauce to pour on top. The cake was garnished with raspberries Ules picked from the garden.

His friend made a lovely raspberry pie which we also served with chocolate sauce because at our house chocolate is always in season.

Of course he'd been waiting all day to open his presents, this one in particular.

We partied until midnight, with the boys snacking on their candy bags with selections from Grenadine and Co.

May all your birthdays be filled with fresh food and giggles.