“Plants know how to make food and medicine from light and water, and then they give it away.”

Plants know how to make food and medicine from light and water, and then they give it away.

Robin Wall Kimmerer Braiding Sweetgrass

It is the time of year when many of us are trying to stick to resolutions, honor intentions and achieve goals.

Sound familiar? What are you working on?

Are any of yours related to eating better? Living a healthier lifestyle?

Are any of them garden related?

This is also the time of year when mailboxes fill with the slick colorful pages of seed catalogs, showing us the endless potential available to us in just-add-water-and-light possibilities.

We offer here some plants that may just help you stick to your resolutions..

Including the plants featured below in your garden may not only help you achieve some of your goals but will also help your local ecology by increasing diversity and enhancing habitat. We have listed just a few of the native edible and medicinal plants you may consider including in your garden plans. Of course there are many trees and shrubs with edible and medicinal value, we are focusing on herbaceous plants because that’s kind of our thing. πŸ™‚

Food*

The flowers and square stem of Anise Hyssop

Agastache foeniculum – Anise Hyssop – like many members of the mint family, this perennial offers pollinator-friendly flowers in addition to its fragrant leaves. A jelly can be made from these leaves. According to folks from the Philadelphia Orchard Project, the leaves can be used fresh as a seasoning or in salads, dried for use in tea or in baked goods.

Nodding Onion Flowers

Allium cernuumNodding Onion – all parts, leaves, bulbs and flowers are edible and reportedly have intense flavor.

New Jersey tea flowers and habit.

Ceonothus americanus – New Jersey Tea – an exception to the herbaceous plants on this list, a small shrub, the red roots and the leaves are used to make tea.

Wild Bergamot flowers are edible and enjoyed by pollinators.

Monarda fistulosa – Wild Bergamot – Another mint family relative, the leaves and flowers are edible.

Greater Burnet Flowers

Sanguisorbia officinalis – Greater Burnet – young leaves and flower buds are said to have a cucumber flavor.

Common Blue Violet flower.

Viola soraria – Common Blue Violet – and may other violet species feature edible parts – the flowers can be candied and both the flowers and the leaves can be eaten fresh. Even the roots have been gathered and steamed

Medicinal

You are likely familiar with the medicinal (and commercially available) Echinacea, known for its immune system support, helping to fight infections and reportedly lessening the severity and duration of the common cold. This is just one of the many native plants you can include in your soil-based medicine cabinet, along with the Monarda, Viola, Sanguisorbia and Ceonothus mentioned above. Here are a few more.

It’s the rhizomes, not the flowers, of Jacob’s Ladder that are traditionally used medicinally.

Polemonium reptans – Jacob’s Ladder – dried rhizomes used to treat skin conditions, coughs, bronchitis, and insect or snake bites.

Green-headed coneflower

Rudbeckia laciniata – Green-headed Coneflower- a poultice of flowers has been used by Indigenous Americans to treat burns and a root infusion was used to treat indigestion.

Bright yellow flowers of Blue-stemmed Goldenrod light up their shaded habitat.

Solidagos – Goldenrods – Many species of goldenrod are known to have medicinal properties, typically a tea is created from the leaves. Stomach cramps and fevers were the targets of this pollinator supporting perennial.

Wondering what other medicinal plants to include in your garden looking for plants with this species name ‘officinalis‘ is a good place to start – many plants with this specific epithet have been traditionally used as medicine.

What native edibles and medicinals do you have in your garden? Any good recipes?

Here is to a happy and healthy new year for you.

*Do not consume or apply any part of a plant without confirmed positive identification and verified they are safe for you. Additionally, in this case, we are recommending growing these plants in your gardens for harvesting and not wild collecting or foraging.

References:

Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants. Milkweed Editions.

Keep calm and anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). Philadelphia Orchard Project. (2016, September 15). Retrieved January 8, 2022, from https://www.phillyorchards.org/2016/09/15/keep-calm-and-anise-hyssop-agastache-foeniculum/

Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center. MVAC Home. UW. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2022, from https://www.uwlax.edu/mvac/past-cultures/native-knowledge/garden/herbs/

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