Friday, July 30, 2010

catsears

This next edible weed only occurs in one small area here - down where the old house was that we initially lived in when we moved to Chandler in 1988. Plantain occurs there as well but nowhere else on our property. This is interesting to me and one possible reason I found was that it this plant prefers low phosphate and potash soils - so maybe the soil in that area is low in these nutrients.

Binomial name: Hypochaeris glabra
Common name : Catsears, flatweed, false dandelion

catsear name because the tip of the leaf is a bit like the feline ear

Identification:

Catsears is also called flatweed - indicating it's growth habit. The rosette is about 500mm diameter. There is a tap root but it pulls out readily. It has long narrow leaves 200-250mm x 50mmwide ,with smooth or wavy margins and rounded end (compared to dandelion which is much more irregular) It is way more common than dandelion, as well, here. One variety is hairy, another is smooth. The leaves on the variety I have, feel bumpy to touch and have sparse fine hairs along the leaf margin and the midrib, this indicates that they are H. glabra. The flower stem is 700mm long , hollow and hard to break. About half way up it branches 4 or 5 times and bears a dandelion type flower.

History :

This plant has probably been eaten by humans for a longtime and is eaten in the Mediterranean area today, especially in Sicily and Crete, where it is seasoned with oil and fried with garlic and other ingredients. The pollen is an important food source for bees although it is somewhat deficient in certain amino acids.

Nutrition :

Nothing much definite - John Kallis (ref below) reports that it probably contains high levels of Calcium, Phosphorus, and Copper. The flowers contain lutein and carotenoids. The leaves also would have carotenoids and polyphenols with high antioxidant activity. The phosphorus report is a little surprising as elsewhere on the net I found a report that it tends to grow on low phosphorus and potash soils.

What parts to eat:

Cut young leaves with a pair of scissors - a little sap exudes that discolors the end - trim this off before cooking. Blanch to remove any bitterness and treat as a spinach substitute . The young flower stalks and flowers are edible as well although we have not tried them. Similarly the tap root can be dried,ground and used as a coffee substitute. Once again we have not done this either.


Pubmed search :

Catsears is associated with a disorder in horses called stringhalt. Horses affected by it have evidence of nerve damage in the hind legs. However the quantities eaten by a horse would of course be way more than humans would eat, but nonetheless it is a consideration, I guess. Otherwise not much else found.

Conclusion :

Another of the edible weeds - there are some gaps in knowledge, but I think it is safe enough to eat on a regular basis. We find the taste a bit bitter with some aftertaste, whereas Tim Low and John Kallis, in the reference books I use
report that it is tasty and palatable - we need to experiment more with harvesting this plant and be more selective of very young leaves.

ref :
Kallis , J Edible Wild Plants Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate Gibbs Smith 2010
Low ,Tim Wild Herbs of Australia and New Zealand revised ed Angus and Robertson 1991
Multiple web sites and Pubmed


Thursday, July 29, 2010

garden - general

As I am working fulltime for the next few weeks I have less time to prepare my blog items as per usual - I have a few almost ready that need further workup.

Here's a few photos from around our yard, some of which I plan on explaining later especially the lessons learnt constructing them.

The first is a general backyard view - the south of our house with my workshop and 2 of the aquaponics systems with vegetable garden beside.

Another photo is of the root cellar made to look like an old mine site.
Beside that is a container that has had a facade painted by our daughter (who is really talented with art things) to make it look like an old Maori Whare (house)

The other photo is of the backyard dunny -story about this later. 12 mm of rain overnight here and more today - most welcome.






Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Shepherd's purse

Binomial name: Capsella bursa-pastoris
Common name : Shepherd's purse

Identification:

It occurs in autumn and winter on our property (SE Queensland). The basal rosette is like dandelion and sowthistle, but the leaves are quite narrow with some shallow regular serrations and with sparse, in number, very fine hairs along the edge of the leaf. There is a core string like dandelion
and catsears if you try and pull a leaf
apart. The seed spikes are quite distinctive with seed pods that look like small hearts.


History:

Originally from Eurasia but now cosmopolitan. Probably it has been used by humans for a long period - seeds were found in an archaeological site in Turkey dating from 5800B.C. In ancient Greece it was used as a laxative and in the middle ages as a haemostatic agent (to stop bleeding). In a certain part of China it is used as a substitute for bok choy in wontons. It is sold in Asia as a vegetable and a larger variety has been developed.

Nutritional:

(per 100gm leaves)
omega 3 fatty acids 233 mg
RAE (retinal A equivalent) 433mg
B carotene 5,200IU Vit C 104mg (an orange is about 80mg) + some minerals.
These levels are very similar to Spinach (Spinacea oleracea) , apart from the omega 3 fatty acids which is 138mg for spinach.

ref : Kallas,J Edible Wild Plants - Wild foods from Dirt to Plate Gibbs Smith 2010

What parts to eat:

young leaves in a salad, older leaves as a potherb ( reduces alot when boiled) taste is reported as peppery - it is really only mildly so, in the plants we have growing.

Medical: (Pubmed - search term Shepherd's purse)

Not much to report - undoubtedly though it has excellent anti-oxidant activity by virtue of the RAE and carotenoid content. There was a report of several pigs dying from nitrite poisoning from eating weeds with Shepherd's purse implicated ( abstract 60). Not medically related, but interesting, was a use of Shepherd's Purse for bioremediation of contaminated soil (it worked well). Another abstract indicated that it inhibited melanocyte activity and thus may have a skin whitening effect (abstract 26).

Conclusion:

Another quite nutritious edible weed, however there are lots of questions - if it stops bleeding externally what effect does it really have internally. I would like to see some proper trials on this, especially with regard to blood pressure if it does indeed cause vasoconstriction. John Kallis, in his book, indicated that a serve of this weed gave him a slight headache for 5 hours - I would be concerned that this was related to an increase in blood pressure.
So - just eat a few leaves mixed in with other greens would be my advice until there is some decent evidence available.


Tom

Photos once again from google images - still haven't had digital camera fixed- I need to see one of our tech savvy daughters to see if it is simply a setting that needs adjusting!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stinking Passionfruit

Binomial name : Passiflora foetida
Common name : Small passionfruit or stinking passionfruit

the foetida part of the binomial name refers to the smell of the foliage when it is crushed.


This is another weed in my property that I leave now as the small yellow fruit are quite sweet to eat ( the pulp part). It is a seasonal weed, being present in summer and is not too invasive on my property. It seems quite happy growing in a couple of quite dry areas.

Identification:

It is a vine, like normal passionfruit, with soft pale green velvety leaves.
The fruit is enclosed in 3 small spidery bracts – the ripe fruit is yellow
with a thin skin and drops to the ground. I have found some chewed fruit
on the ground so no doubt some furry friends like it as well. The bracts exude a sticky substance with digestive enzymes that can trap small insects.It is considered to be a protocarnivorous plant because of this ability but it is uncertain if the plant derives any benefit
from it.

History and Uses:

The leaves are eaten in Asia - cooked or steamed with rice
The Vietnamese use the leaves to make a tea for insomnia.

Parts to use

pulp from ripe seeds as substitute for normal passionfruit.
leaves - do contain cyanide and thus should to be cooked.


Medical (pubmed and Scirus) reports:

One scientific article of interest I found was a report of an extract of the stem being used as a skin whitening agent.

An extract of this plant inhibited 2 enzymes (MMP-2 and MMP-9) involved tumour growth and spread thus it many have an anticancer effect.

It may also have an insect repellant effect (ermanin -a flavonoid component was found to do this).

A leaf extract also was found to have considerable antibacteral action against Strep viridans and 3 other important human pathogens.


Conclusion:

The pulp of the fruits as mentioned is sweet to eat. We have not used the leaves at all but it seems they can be utilised as a potherb.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lesser Swinecress

This weed is prolific, at present, mainly in an area of our lawn that died back, after grass grubs proliferated after a wet spell towards the end of summer.

binomial name : Coronopus didymus
common name : Lesser Swinecress

Identification:

This is an annual plant that I mainly see in winter. It belongs to the brassica family, which is not surprising, as it has a really pungent mustard taste that I find not unpleasant. It forms a dense mat about 0.5m radius and about 10cm high with small leaves a little like carrot. The distinctive feature is the flowering stem which protrudes from the leaf stalks , which are hairy, and has multiple tiny bilobed seeds arranged in a linear fashion.






History :

Not much to report apart from it being used in Brazil as a traditional medicine for illnesses characterised by inflammation and pain. Cows that eat pasture with Coronopus apparently have tainted milk.

Nutritional :

Not much information but it would have flavonoids, saponins, tanins and mustard oils. No doubt other phytochemicals as well.


Uses:

The pungent raw leaves add real bite to salads and sandwiches or as a garnish. It can be cooked as a potherb. We have only nibbled on this weed when out in our yard. A chef into spicy foods would find this weed most interesting probably.

Medical (pubmed) reports :

1.An extract of Lesser swinecress was found to a have an anti-inflammatory effect in the mouse paw and pleural models ( the tissues are "irritated" by exposure to noxious chemicals and the effect of Coronopus was to reduce this inflammation).
2.Another study used an extract of Coronopus in gamma irradiated mice- it was found to have a protective effect against radiation.
3.Finally a study from 2005 showed that an extract of Coronopus had significant antiallergy, antipyretic, hypoglycemic and hepatoprotective effects.


Conclusion:

Another interesting edible weed that is usually overlooked and simply pulled out.

Tom

one of these photos is from google images this time as I was unable to get a good shot of the seeds (camera problems)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

orchard update

Cleared (mowed) orchard.
Spread sulphate of potash, fertiliser pellets, nutritech gold ( trace elements) around each fruit tree.
Mulched with hay (the round bales we bought during the week).

Ate some cumquat off the tree -they have become really sweet again after being quite sour last year -probably due to more diligent fertilising. Picked 1 papaya for further ripening inside to beat the possums/fruit bats.
Almost ready - tamarillos and a bunch of bananas.
Collected about 8 chokos from vine as well -such a prolific plant.

Tropical peach and nectarine in blossom with lots of bees around them. The peach even has some small fruit already.

Tom

Decommissioning a Swimming Pool

We have a large inground swimming pool that is rarely used now that our children are grown and have left home. The pool has become a bit of a "bugbear" - requiring ongoing maintainence and expense that we would like to avoid. The pump for example probably uses upwards of $80/month of electricity.
My solution has been this:

Parts - 100 pvc stormwater pipe, elbows and T fittings
75x38 treated pine timber
galvanised bugle head timber screws
Roll of Bird Wire
Heavy duty tarpaulin

My pool shape is like a large clover so it made things difficult
Using the PVC pipe a lattice was made - at about 900mm centres - lengths of pipe ("arms") were cut , t sections inserted and elbows fitted at each end . These arms were then laid across 2 planks and when the right position was determined, the length of the each leg was calculated using a measuring stick to the bottom of the pool. When these were fitted , I also screwed the pine rails on to hold everything together before gently removing the planks to let it all settle into place. ( It took 2 times - the first I didn't lock it together enough and it all twisted, fell over and sank! I actually didn't fit all the " feet" and rails before removing the planks)
With the lattice in place it was simply a matter of attaching a few infill rails and a border of timber around the outside
Completion was a layer of bird wire and a heavy duty tarpaulin to exclude any light. Pool pump is now turned off , Anne doesn't need to clean the chlorinator anymore and we will reduce our electricity consumption.
This leaves the pool in a state whereby it can be quickly recommissioned by someone down the track if we decide to move. We can also use this now as a rainwater tank with a bit more modification - inflow pipework etc.
Cost: $1230

Tom

Friday, July 23, 2010

Common Bittercress

This is a small inconspicuous edible weed

binomial name : Cardamine hirsuta
common name : common bittercress, splitting jenny or flickweed

latin cardio - heart shaped and hirsuta- hairy - the first few leaves on the young plants are slightly hairy and heart shaped.
The hairs are very indistinct on the plants here, and I really cannot fathom why it would be called hairy. Also, the heart shaped leaves are a bit of a stretch as well.

Identification:

This weed is of the mustard family and is quite common in the lawn at present (winter) in several areas, but mainly where the grass has thinned out somewhat. It has pinnate leaves in a rough looking rosette and that also occur on the one or more flowering stems. It has distinctive seed pods, about 2cm long that look like tiny pods of peas. These explode when touched, if ripe, thus spreading the seed. Height to about 15 cm on my property.

History :

Not specifically mentioned, although Hammurabi from 2000 BC mentioned mustard as a medicinal drug.

Nutritional :

No information, but undoubtedly has Vit A/carotenoids and Vit C and other phytochemicals that would be beneficial to us when eaten.

Uses :

It is not bitter, in spite of the name, and can be added to salads or stews - due to the small size the complete plant should be used by simply dicing up the stems,leaves and seed pods.

Medical : no reports relevant


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Garden - update




Current projects - mulching and general tidying up especially near the root cellar and preparing two beds for sweet potatoes. Between these two beds I am going to erect a frame for growing Madagascar beans.

Collected 2 round bales of mulching hay today after Garden Club Committee meeting - the cost was certainly right at only $10/bale. I have already spread 40 normal bales of sugar cane mulch past week that I collected from Jacobs Well area - this cost $4.50/bale.

Pictures of current produce - our brassicas are doing really well with minimal caterpillar problems. We have lots of chicory, radicchio lettuce, carrots, kale,snow peas and beetroot almost ready as well. The cabbage in the picture is a sugarloaf.




Also photo of Madagascar bean seeds - we have grown them for the first time this year on a fence near the vegetable patch but they really need something more "dedicated". We didn't get around to eating any of these beans so I hope the effort will be worthwhile.




Tom

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thickhead

Yet another edible weed that is also quite common here:

binomial name : CRASSOCEPHALUM CREPIDIOIDES
common name : Thickhead, ebolo, redflower ragleaf
from Greek krasson = thick, forceful kephale =head + Latin- crepido = fountain or base

IDENTIFICATION:

An erect or straggling annual herb with leaves that are soft, drooping and alternate along the stem. The leaf shape is variable with new leaves generally elliptical and larger lower leaves lobed at the base. All leaves have toothed margins and are 20 x10cm approx.
The plant grows about 1m high with a single stem for about 1/2m before dividing multiple times and has
clusters of orange red flowers that mostly droop downwards. Seeds are dispersed by wind. Thickhead favours disturbed soils and is common in unkempt gardens (such as mine usually!)

HISTORY and USES:

Origin - from East Africa and Madagascar – seems to have reached Brisbane in the 1950's. Stock - including poultry eat this plant
Wildlife - native finches have been seen to be eating Crassocephalum seeds at the Kedron brook and no doubt this occurs elsewhere.
Herbal uses : Kenya - indigestion , a decotion for headaches. Uganda - leaves used on fresh wounds to help healing. Tanzania - leaves smoked for sleeping sickness.


NUTRITIONAL:

100gm – water 80gm energy 268 kJ (64 Cals) protein 3.2gm carbo 14gm fat 0.7gm Vit A 36 Total Phenols 183 ( Brussels sprouts ~250) mineral - Ca Fe Mn Na K Mg amino acids including threonine and tyrosine Vit C (122mg/100gm)

warning:
does contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

WHAT TO EAT:

top 2 young leaves in a salad or for boiling as a potherb
The leaves are eaten in many parts of the world - it is quite aromatic and is often described as having a carrot like aroma and flavour.
The raw leaves add a unique taste sensation to salads in moderation - the flavour is not reduced by boiling
It is a commonly used herb in Africa especially in soups and stews
In Nigeria it is lightly blanched, excess water is drained off and the leaves are cooked with tomato,onion and peppers

PUBLISHED MEDICAL REPORTS:

1. In a 2005 trial in Japan an extract of Thickhead had a potent anti-oxidant and protective effect on the liver in rats given carbon tetrachloride ( a liver toxin) - three strong free radical scavenging chemicals were identified including quercertin.
2. A different species of Thickhead has been shown to have anti- inflammatory effects – blocking the Cox pathways that is also used medically by such drugs as Celebrex.
3. An extract of Thickhead has been shown to exhibit anti- mutagenic activity – ie against cancer cells forming - but less than Solanum nigrum.
4. Thickhead extract has exhibited significant blocking action against Tumour necrosis factor Cox 1&2 and other inflammatory pathway.
5. Similarly an extract has shown inhibition of melanoma in a mouse model.

CONCLUSION:

It certainly has a strong flavour - but not unpleasant.
Try a few small young leaves in a salad or as a garnish.
Boil a few leaves amongst other greens such as silverbeet or spinach but don't eat too often in view of the report of the pyrrolizidine alkaloids.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

fruit trees planted today

Here's details of the fruit trees we bought from Forbidden Fruits Nursery and planted today

1. Wampi : Clausena lansium

tall slender tree with large lobed bright green leaves that are aromatic when crushed. Sprays of white flowers that develop into brown fruits that have a grape like greenish flesh which is high in Vitamin C

2. Star Apple : Chrysophyllum cainito

round fruit with shiny green or purple skin. The flesh is white, tinged with purple and divided into segments by shiny dark brown seeds. Flesh is soft sweet and juicy

3. Hill Gooseberry : Rhodomyrtus tomentosa

Evergreen tree to 3m with masses fo pink flowers. Produces many small sweet purple/green edible berries.

4.
Soursop: Annona muricata

Semideciduous tree. Large fruits with slightly acidic white juicy pulp

5. Natal Plum Carissa macrocarpa

Bush to 2.5m perfumed flowers and delicious red fruit

6. Cherry of the Rio Grande: Eugenia aggregata

Small tree with glossy green and waxy leaves to 3-4 m White flowers followed by deep purple plum sized fruit that has a sweet cherry flavour

7.
Quince Cydinia oblonga (smyrna variety)

Deciduous tree with large green leaves and large pale yellow fruit. As we are ex Kiwis, we like this fruit from our childhood days, and have sometimes managed to buy it in Brisbane from growers in the Stanthorpe area. The fruit needs to be cooked.

8.
Thornless Blackberry : Rubis canadensis

Planted in a specially prepared berry patch beside our raspberry and (yet to be planted) blueberry

also planted was a Pomegranate
:Punica granatium

Some of these trees will be fruit fly prone and will need netting when the time arrives for that.

Incidentally our tropical peach is bursting out in blossom and some fruit is already developing, so I will be netting that in the next week or so after most of the blossom has dropped and the fruit has set.

Commelina diffusa


Here's another edible weed on our property:


Binomial name : COMMELINA DIFFUSA
common names: wandering jew or scurvy weed
Commelina = prussian blue of the flower diffusa = spreading

Identification:

Commelina is a slender and brittle trailing plant -the stems are easily broken.
It has green pointed leaves and bears small blue flowers with three rounded petals. It roots readily from nodes and broken off pieces .
There are other commelina sp in Australia but the above seems to be the commonest around Brisbane.

This is a common “weed” on our property – it is a native to south east Queensland and elsewhere. Look alikes are : Tradescantia flumenensis and Commelina benghalensis. Trad flumenensis has a white flower and is thus readily identified. Commelina benghalensis is also called Hairy Commelina -it has brown hairs on the stem and larger leaves than the native species.
It occurs where the forest canopy is disturbed and declines when the bush canopy becomes mature. It recently “took off” on a portion of our property when we removed some Casaurina.

History and Uses:

In China CD is used for fevers and as a diuretic . A dye is also obtained from the flowers for use in painting.
There is no evidence it was eaten by the Aborigines. Captain Cook supposedly gave it to his crew to help prevent scurvy.
As a ground cover it provides shelter for small lizards, frogs, and native bees are attracted to the flowers. The early settlers also ate this weed to prevent scurvy - hence the name scurvy weed.

Nutritional:

The common name suggests one component which is of course Vit C - about 40mg/100gm ( an orange is about 55 mg/100gm or about 70mg /fruit)
The moisture content is quite high at about 88% and it has about 5% carbohydrates (ie a few kilojoules of energy)
It also contains some niacin and riboflavin in modest amounts
Thus, as it contains Vit C and B vitamins it will have a useful anti- oxidant effects.


What parts to eat:

Terminal leaves and flowers in a salad or cooked as an ingredient in boiled leafy vegetables.

Published Medical reports :

CD extract has been reported to exhibit antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity in vitro.
Another study indicates that an extract of CD has antifungal activity . This study also demonstrated an anti-oxidant effect.

Conclusion:

Taste wise it is unremarkable when mixed with other salad items but the blue flowers do add a touch of colour.
Medically - safe to eat - modest Vit C and other vitamins . Probably useful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
No warnings apparent.



Monday, July 19, 2010

Club visit to Byron Bay area

Garden club visit to Byron Bay:

We had a great weekend away with about 20 people from our garden club -Tamborine Sustainable Gardeners Society.

The start was at the Mullimimby Community Garden where we were shown around by Jeanette. The community garden is relatively new and is a place where locals can grow food, learn from others about gardening, social network and participate in developing a sense of community. Right beside there was a local market which was also excellent, with lots of stalls of local produce, organic type products, foods etc. This small town is well placed for a sustainable future with good soil, good rainfall and climate.

Next off was a visit to Forbidden Fruits nursery - not too far away but we managed to get lost for awhile and ended up going an extra 30km or so. That nursery is well recommended for unusual and uncommon food trees. We purchased a Wampi, Cherry of the Rio Grande, Quince, Thornless blackberry, Soursop, Star Apple, Natal Plum and Ceylon Hill Gooseberry. Prices were quite reasonable as well in my opinion. From there we all headed off to Byron Bay to SeedSavers. There Michel spoke about his garden and a little about the history of SeedSavers. We looked around his garden and picked up a few tips but overall it was a little disappointing to me. The cost was $15 each and I felt the value just wasn't there.
Overnight was at Lennox heads – Lake Ainsworth Caravan park, where we had a block booking of cabins. Most of us gathered in one cabin for predinner drinks and nibblies before walking down to the local pub for a meal. It was a night filled with much hilarity and noise!
The next day was back to Byron Bay to a Lemon Myrtle factory where soaps etc are made from an extract of Backhousia citriodora. Whilst the scent is quite pleasant I needed to leave the factory and stand outside as I started to develop hayfever. Anne purchased some soap and other items for our use. The final stop was back near Mullimimby (got lost again) at a Coffee Plantation called Green Cauldron. This was also excellent as the young farm manager (Brad) showed us around and gave a really informative description of the process of preparing coffee beans. Club members waxed lyrical about the coffee he made for us at the end of the tour.
Most of us then went back to Mullimimby for lunch at the Poinciana Cafe - I recommend this place for a meal- before heading back home to Brisbane.
Northern NSW is a lovely part of Australia - fertile soils, mild climate and good rainfall. The scenery and bush is also most pleasing to the eye. Some of the roads we went on had a canopy of trees. We saw an echnida but not much else of our native fauna. Lennox Heads beach is also worth a visit.

Here's 2 photos - one of sunrise on Lennox Heads beach and the other of the harvester for the coffee beans (worth $200,000)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

garden -general

8* this morning here - aquaponics tanks at over 15* though with pumps turned off overnight. So far so good this winter without any heating needed.

We're away this weekend - Garden club excursion to Byron Bay area visiting Seed Savers, Forbidden Fruits Nursery and other related places.

The plan is to buy some more subtropical type fruit trees to plant in an area I am currently redoing.

Fish dinner the other night - Jade Perch , Dock ,Warrigal Greens , Chickweed were the edible weeds, and a few other bought vegies. When I look around my yard there is so much available to eat at the moment. Our climate is strange for someone from a temperate zone - all the action happens in winter, especially for working outside and growing vegetables.

It's getting a bit dry again - not much rain for awhile but with lower temps things are still quite green.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Purslane

Another of the edible weeds on our property - not much of it
around at present, it seems to like hot and dry weather,

binomial name : PORTULACA OLEARACEA
common name : Purslane or Munyeroo (aboriginal) or Pigweed

From latin (possibly) meaning small gate or door -the opening on the seed capsule, and oleracea = latin for kitchen vegetable.
An Italian patient of mine says it means porcellain flower, but porcellain did not reach Europe until the 13th century (Marco Polo).

Pliny recorded the Greeks calling it Porcil aka but this greek meaning is now lost.

Our word purslane is a derivative of portulaca -> porcillagen -> porcellaine (fr) -> purslane

Identification :

Purslane is a flat succulent plant, mat like growth, with triangular fleshy leaves on fleshy stems and with tiny yellow flowers. The leaves look like small paddles and are about 3cm long. The stems are readily broken off and usually have a redish tinge (There are cultivated varieties that have larger leaves and flowers).

History and Uses:

There is a long recorded history for the use of this plant by humans - it is recorded as far back as 2,000 yrs ago in India and Iran .
There is archaeo-botanical finds in prehistoric sites, seeds have been retrieved from 2 sites dating to 7th century BC .
It was widely used in Greece - Theophrastus in the 4th century BC names purslane, as one of the several summer pot herbs that must be sown in April. In antiquity its healing properties were thought so reliable that Pliny advised wearing the plant as an amulet to expel all evil.
An Italian Dr -Prospero Alpini - from the 16th century recorded that the Egyptians ate it mixed with yogurt. Purslane is one of the seven herbs used in the symbolic dish served at the traditional Japanese new year. Its name in Malawi translates politely as "buttocks of the chief's wife", a possible reference to the plump leaves.
It was used as to prevent scurvy – Baron von Mueller - an early Australian explorer attributed his expedition's good health to eating copious amounts of Purslane along the way.
It has had a wide variety of uses medicinally over the years for such complaints as gum infections, renal tuberculosis, and as a general tonic and for longevity (chinese)



Nutritional:

This plant is solid gold when it comes to nutrition.
Purslane contains more omega 3 fatty acids (about 400mg/100gm) than any other plant source around. It has vitamins A, B, C and E — six times more E than spinach —plenty of beta carotene — magnesium, calcium, potassium, folate, lithium (helps keep you sane!) iron and is 2.5% protein.
Two pigments, one in the leaves and one in the yellow blossoms, have been proven to be potent in preventing cancer cells growing.
You get all that for about 15 calories per 100 gram serving. As a mild diuretic, it might even lower your blood pressure as well. It has oxalate levels like spinach.

What to eat:

The leaves stalks and seeds are all edible either raw or cooked.
Purslane can be used fresh as a salad, stir-fried, or cooked like spinach, and because of its mucilaginous quality it is also suitable for soups and stews.
Aborigines used to grind the seeds to make seedcakes.

Published Medical studies: (Pubmed search)

1. In a rat model of Diabetes an extract of Purslane significantly reduced fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol , total triglycerides and increased the level of HDL ( the good cholesterol).
2. In a mouse model, Purslane treated mice showed signicantly improved learning and memory compared to controls.
3. Apparently Purlane has been used in Iran for many years for abnormal uterine bleeding. Sure enough, a trial did show significant benefit in 80% of women using it for this purpose.
4. Purslane has at least 3 novel anti-oxidants that are stronger than Vitamin C. 5. The Iranians have also used Purslane for asthma historically and a trial did demonstrate improved lung function similar to Theopylline but not as good as Salbutamol (Ventolin).
6. Other studies indicate it has analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects topically but not orally. It may also have a beneficial effect on wound healing .

Conclusion:

Eat this weed – it is really good for you.
We find the taste in salads, and as part of boiled greens, quite mild.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos in Queensland Kauri



One of our favourite trees on our property are the Queensland Kauri - Agathis australis. We planted about 20 of them quite a few years back, and they are now quite large.

I still fondly remember Kauri trees in New Zealand where we grew up - there are simply huge trees in Northland (Waipoua State Forest) where individual trees even have names. Tane Mahuta is the largest and is quite awe inspiring. The NZ kauri is a different species Agathis robusta and was a sought after tree around the time of Captain Cook for ship's masts.

Yesterday we had Sulphur crested Cockatoos in the tops of the two Kauris near our driveway, I think they were eating the developing seed cones.
They seem to bite off some of the small branches as well. On the ground underneath there was quite some debris from them.



On another part of our property we have 3 Kauri trees we planted that we call the three sisters after our 3 girls.

There are some lovely street plantings of Kauri around Brisbane - Kingsford Smith drive and at Milton, near the Wesley Hospital, are two that spring to mind.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Warrigal Greens


Here's another excellent "weed" that mainly occurs in the cooler months on our property, and is quite nice eating.


Binomial name: Tetragonia tetragonioides
Common names : Warrigal Greens, NZ Spinach, Cooks Cabbage

The scientific name is from the greek - tetra - 4, gonia - angle = 4 angled fruit.The small woody fruit is this shape


Warrigal Greens is a recent name that seems to have been coined from two older ones, Warrigal Cabbage and Botany Bay Greens. Warrigal was an Aboriginal name for the dingo.


Identification:

Warrigal greens is a perennial creeping plant with pencil thick stems that grow to one or two metres long. It prefers moist areas and is salt tolerant. The leaves are quite distinctive - bright green and diamond or arrow -shaped, up to 10 centimetres long by five centimetres wide. The leaves are quite thick and have a rubbery feel to them. The flowers are quite small and are green or yellow in colour. They are followed by small, woody, winged fruits.

History:

Warrigal greens has an interesting history from an Australian/NZ viewpoint - it is the only native vegetable that we have exported to the world.
It is native to : Australia and NZ, and also Japan, Chile and Argentina. The Māori and Aborigines rarely used it as a leafy vegetable probably because they couldn't readily boil greens. Captain Cook mentioned it in his journals - he directed his crew to pick, cook, and pickle Warrigal Greens to help fight scurvy. Indeed the first recorded meal eaten by Europeans in Australia was Stingray served with Warrigal Greens aboard the Endeavour - the Stingray was caught in Botany Bay, which Captain Cook initially called Sting-Ray Bay.

Joseph Banks took seeds back to Kew Gardens and it then became a popular summer vegetable in Victorian England. Indeed Warrigal Greens may also have played a role in the selection of Botany Bay for the convict settlement - Banks testified before the House of Commons in 1779 that Botany Bay was suitable for settlement as " the grass was long and luxuriant and there was some eatable Vegetables particularly a sort of Wild Spinage"

In the early days of the colony, Saturdays were officially set aside for collecting native plants to try to prevent scurvy, and many convicts may well have avoided scurvy by eating the leaves of Warrigal Greens.

Although it is recorded on the Internet as thriving in hot weather, I find it occurs here (South east Queensland) in Autumn and Winter mainly( I can't recall about Spring!) . It is really lush and rampant at present. Few insects seem to eat it, and even slugs and snails leave it alone. My chickens love it, as do my Jade Perch fish.

Nutritional:

High in Vitamin A - 4400 IU (probably some of this is probably carotenoids)
Some B vitamins, good levels of vitamin C - 30mg.
High oxalate content - same as spinach.

What to eat:

Pick young leaves - wash and blanch for a few minutes to reduce oxalates, then use then as a spinach substitute, add to omeletes, casseroles or stews. Leaves can also be chopped (or roll them up and slice them finely), and lightly fried. It is probably not suitable for salads due to the oxalate content although it is reported as being used this way. We have eaten it as a potherb and incorporated into omelettes.

Published Medical information (usual place - pubmed)

Not much to find : anti -ulcer activity, anti- inflammatory activity and of course anti -oxidant activity from the high carotenoid/vitamin A content.

Conclusion:

Well worth eating - blanch to remove oxalate though by bringing water to the boil, place greens in and boil for about 2 minutes and then drain.
This works well for us in removing some of the bitterness from the edible weeds we eat.


I will do a post soon with my take on oxalates, cyanide, alkaloids, nitrate and nitrites that can occur in edible plants (not just weeds).

ref: Tim Low Wild Herbs of Australia and New Zealand Angus and Robertson
(out of print unfortunately but may be available second hand)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cobblers pegs

Here's another edible weed - we have at least 1 million of these on our property - they are a real nuisance the way they stick to clothing.



binomial name :Bidens pilosa
common name : cobblers pegs, farmers friend, beggars ticks, bur marigold

Bi-dens = two toothed fork - shape of burrs on seed
pilosa = hairy

Cobblers pegs - originally a cobbler would travel from village to village and when he was in a particular village he was "pegged" to his work area making/repairing shoes - ie when your clothing are covered in cobblers pegs seeds you are in effect pegged to an area whilst they are tediously removed.

Identification :

It is an annual untidy leggy weed about 0.5 -1m tall. It has compound pinnate leaves in groups of 3 or 5 with serrated margins.
There are small yellow daisy like flowers and the distinctive black seeds that stick to just about anything walking passed due to fine barbs.
It occurs all over my property with the seeds especially attached to my socks!

History and herbal uses:

It probably originally from central/southern America but now widespread, and was probably around before humans evolved.
Bidens pilosa is reportedly the most widely eaten wild plant in africa - leaves are boiled and dried for later use a tea is also made for medicinal use (diarrhoea).
It is used as a medicine in many regions of Africa, Asia and South America, where the leaves and seed are used for a multitude of ailments . For example, Iin Uganda, five different medicinal uses are known: the sap from crushed leaves is used to speed up clotting of blood in fresh wounds; a leaf decoction is used for treating headache, sap from the plant is put in the ear to treat ear infections, a decoction of leaf powder is used to treat kidney problems, and a herbal tea made from the plant is used to decrease flatulence.
Extracts of Bidens pilosa are also used in southern Africa to treat malaria, headaches and hangovers. In the Congo, a concoction made from the whole plant is taken as a poison antidote, or to ease child birth, and to relieve the pain. In Nigeria, the powder or ash from the seed is used as a local anaesthetic and rubbed into cuts.
Chinese medicine also uses this plant both topically and internally for several conditions.

Nutritional:

The composition of raw Bidens pilosa leaves per 100 g edible portion is: water 85 g, energy 180 kJ (43 kcal), protein 3.8 g, fat 0.5 g, carbohydrate 8.4 g, fibre 3.9 g, β-carotene 1800 μg.
The active ingredients seem to be polyacetylenes and flavonoids.


What to eat:


The petals, young shoots and young leaves are edible. Young leaves have a strong, tangy taste and can be used in salads, along with the petals.
Older leaves are bitter, so keep to the top two sets of leaves, and young shoots along the leaf axils.
We have only eaten it boiled as a potherb.

Medical reports
( pubmed search results):

An ingredient of Bidens pilosa lowers blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity.
Bidens exhibits quite marked anticancer and anti-pyretic activity.
It has quite potent anti- malarial activity -also in vitro an extract was effective against Herpes simplex.
There is also anti -inflammatory activity in the rat paw model greater than dexamethasone.
An extract has been shown to lower blood pressure and have an anti clotting effect.
Bidens pilosa also lowers beta -lipoprotein and cholesterol.

Conclusion:

It has a resinous flavour - it does need blanching- one site recommended 3 times! However it is another weed worth trying, especially, as it is such a nuisance. It certainly is a chemical cocktail like Gotu kola and would have excellent anti-oxidant properties.
Warnings : not much evident, however contact with skin can cause an allergic reaction. The leaves do contain silica -this has been associated with oesophageal cancer - however large amounts would need to be eaten.
I am also a little suspicious of this plant and wonder if it contains pyrrolidizine alkaloids but did not find any evidence on the web for this.
We do not eat it often.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gotu Kola


This weed is really interesting to me :

binomial name: CENTELLA ASIATICA
common names :Gotu Kola and Pennywort

Gotu is Sri Lankan meaning cylinder and Kola means leaf


Identification:

Centella means "little coin' indicating what you need to look for
It is a perennial creeping ground cover with coin shaped leaves about 2-4cm diameter with a v shaped slot. The leaf margins are finely serrated. The leaves are larger and petioles are longer if it is growing in shade . Petioles at my place are up to 20cm long. There are no flowers visible - they hide at the base of the petioles.
Try not to confuse with Kidney weed (Dicondra ripens) and native voilet (Viola hederacea).

History and uses:

Traditionally -Chinese,Indian and Asian- it has been used for a multitude of medical ailments including: healing of wounds and ulcers , to improve brain function, to treat infections, to reduce lower limb oedema (swelling) and as an anti-arthritic agent. Indian ayurvedic medicine used it to lower blood pressure and indeed being related to celery it does do this to some extent.
It was listed in a ancient traditional Chinese Herbal book 2,000 years ago, as well as being used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine some 3,000 years ago.

Gotu Kola is a minor feature in the longevity myth of a Chinese man called Li Ching-Yun. He purportedly lived to be 256, supposedly due in part to his usage of traditional Chinese herbs including Gotu Kola, and there is a popular folklore tale from Sri Lanka which speaks of a prominent king from the 10th century AD named Aruna Withane who claimed that Gotu Kola provided him with energy and stamina to cope with his 50-woman harem.

In Asian cooking its used, for example, as a leafy green in Sri Lankan cooking. As the dish called “mallung” it is a traditional accompaniment with rice and curry. It’s also served with vegetarian dishes such as parippu.
Similarly in Asian cuisine it is used as an ingredient in a beverage.


Nutritional:

GK contains Vitamins A (carotenoids) Vit B Vit C and Vit E It has amino acids including aspartate and glutamate - I was unable to locate any studies recording actual amounts/100gm.
There are also various minerals and some alkaloids
However 4 glycosides of real interest - they are :
Asiaticoside - improves healing and is an antibiotic.
Brahmoside and Brahminoside - mild tranquilisers and anti-anxiety chemicals.
Madacassoside - a potent anti-inflammatory agent.

It is real chemical soup - pretty amazing for such a small plant! Those 2 amino acids (aspartate and glutamate) are neurotransmitters involved in chronic pain in humans - fascinating that they are mentioned in this weed which has been used traditionally for painful conditions.


What to eat :

Pick 2-4 leaves/person - dice into small pieces and use in a salad or add to other leafy vegetables whilst boiling . Dice and add to cereal mix.
Homogenise into a drink or crush to make a tea maybe - not sure how that would taste though.


Medical Studies from pubmed:

Pubmed had over 230 citations for Gotu Kola – here are some of the more interesting ones:
1. In an in vitro (test tube) arthritis experiment using bovine cartilage, the Madacassocide part inhibited cartilage breakdown.
2.Using rats with arthritis caused by the injection with foreign collagen, the same ingredient (Madecassoside) significantly suppressed arthritis and tissue pathology with reduced levels of several inflammatory markers in the blood and joint tissues.
3. In 28 elderly patients given Gotu Kola extract for 6 months, there was an improvement in cognitive function and mood . Another study found GK extract had an anxiolytic effect in mice and also reduced the plaques associated with alzheimers disease.
4.Finally a warning : there is a report of 3 womens developing jaudice and hepatitis from taking Gotu Kola after only relatively short periods- they recovered ok after a hospital stay and ceasing to take GK – one woman tried it again and redeveloped jaudice/liver damage. I suspect some other factors where at play here as some people do seem to get liver problems from drugs whereas most others have no problem.


Conclusion:

Taste is a bit bitter, but easily masked amongst other foods.
What an interesting edible weed– it may be worth a try for chronic arthritis – try 2-4 leaves/day.
I would suggest not eating it every day in view of the reports of liver problems.

Tom

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dock



Another edible weed that grows prolifically over winter especially in damper areas on our property.

binomial name : Rumex brownii
common name: dock

The name Dock is an old English corruption of tocke/docce = tuft or bundle. This is appropriate as this is exactly how it grows!
Rumex - the scientific name, is from the Latin rumino - to suck, chew over again, chew the cud with reference to the Roman soldiers who sucked sorrel to allay their thirst.

Identification:
There are several varieties around, but I have swamp dock which is a native plant.
They are a distinctive plant once recognised with long broad slender leaves 400x100mm and tall seeding spikes up to about 1m tall. There is a long tap root if you try and pull a plant out.
The long spiny flower stems bear clusters of many seeds that remain viable for a long time.


History and herbal uses:
Docks seeds have been found in the stomachs of 2 late stone age bodies preserved in peat bogs in Denmark.
In English folklore it was used topically to relieve nettle stings and infusions were used for various ailments including sore throats. It has also been used elsewhere for Tb, infections and leprosy.
Dock has a mild laxative effect.
The Romans used yellow dock for skin complaints, and the English herbalist Gerard (1633) said "it cureth the dropsie, the yellow jaunders, all manner of itch, scabes, breaking out, and manginesse of the whole body… purifieth the blood from all corruption; prevaileth against the green sickness very greatly, and… maketh young wenches to look faire and cherrie like."
The Maoris chewed the leaves then applied them to wounds to prevent scars forming.
The Native Amerindians applied the crushed leaves to boils and the pulverized roots to cuts.

Nutritional:
High levels of Vit A and Carotenoids ( RAE 200, carotenoids approx 2000mcg/100gm)- more than leaf lettuce and spinach . Vitamins B & C.
Oxalic acid much the same as spinach.

What to eat:
The large leaves of dock are equal to the best silverbeet and spinach when steamed or boiled. They have a slightly sour taste reflecting oxalic acid content. The stems are also edible - dice and stew as a rhubarb substitute – in parts of Europe Dock is called Mountain rhubarb.
Seeds have also been eaten after grinding and making into a flour.
We have only eaten the leaves after blanching to reduce the oxalic acid.

Medical reports from Pubmed:
An extract of one Rumex sp when given to diabetic rats lowered blood glucose and improved the lipid profile.
Another study found that dock had a blocking effect on Cox 1 and 2 inflammatory pathways.
A further study on an Ethiopian variety of dock (not R brownii) where it has been traditionally used for hypertension and pain relief, found that it did indeed have a diuretic effect ( that would result in lowering of blood pressure) and similar analgesic effect to morphine.
Note these are extract studies and as I have stated on previous posts such effects probably wouldn't be as evident from eating it as a green vegetable.

Conclusion:
a nice easily recognised weed that is worth eating.
warning - oxalic acid - probably worth blanching.
keep amounts eaten to moderate quantities.
Anne and I like eating this plant - we find it has a nice flavour

refs: Pubmed
Kallas,J "Edible Wild Plants - wild foods from dirt to plate" Gibbs Smith 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Petty Spurge



Here's another weed on my property - it it is NOT EDIBLE however it is interesting in another way.

Binomial name: Euphorbia peplus
Common name: Petty Spurge or Radium Weed

Identification:
It is a fairly small weed less than 0.5m high and tends to have just one stem with small pale green leaves. When the stem is broken a white sap exudes. On my property it grows in paths, around the base of the aquaponics grow beds, fence lines etc.

Use:
The sap is the useful part of this plant. Historically, it has been used for treatment of warts, corns and skin cancers and indeed, there is an ingredient in the sap that does cause regression of such skin lesions.
Warning: get any skin lesions diagnosed first! Your GP is the person who can give you the ok to try this treatment. Anything , especially a sore that is not due to any injury and does not heal, is a skin cancer until proven otherwise. Especially if it hurts a little when touched.
Now, sunspots (medically, these are called solar keratoses) are small scaly patches that don't hurt when touched and the sap of Petty Spurge could be a way to get rid of these and also those warty looking skin lesions called seborrhoeic keratoses. I would apply some sap directly to the skin lesion for 3 consecutive days. There should be quite a reaction and after healing, the lesion should have gone. Obviously don't get any in eyes but hands, arms or legs would be ok.

Now to some scientific studies from Pubmed:
there were 31 citations for Petty Spurge , here are three I found interesting:
1. In a 2009 double blind study using 3 days of treatment, a clearance rate of 75-100% was obtained for sunspots.
2. In a University of Queensland trial, also in 2009, on biopsy proven sunspots of 5 lesions each patient using 3 different concentrations of an extract of petty spurge, a clearance of about 70% was achieved.
3. Finally in 2007, the International Conference on Pep005 (an extract from Petty Spurge) discussed it's use in skin cancer, leukaemia and bladder cancer.

ref http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez search term Euphorbia peplus items 1,2 and 6

An Australian company Peplin is apparently bringing a cream/ointment to market with the active ingredient from Petty Spurge.



Friday, July 9, 2010

Black Nightshade


Whenever I find a Black Nightshade bush I pick the small black berries every few days to have with our breakfast cereals.

binomial name :SOLANUM AMERICANUM
common name: black nightshade or poisonberry

IDENTIFICATION :

This weed occurs on our property throughout most of the year-we originally thought it was “deadly nightshade” but Atropa belladonna is uncommon in our area.
It is a brittle-stemmed weed that grows up to a metre or so tall. The leaves are ovate , there are tiny white star shaped flowers, and small round black berries that are green when unripe.
On my property S americanum seems to be the main variety but elsewhere S nigrum may be predominant. To tell the difference :
Solanum americanum: the undersides of its hairy leaves are not reddish-purple. The berries are speckled with white until fully ripe and turns black.The berries are held erect.
Solanum nigrum :Berries are purple or dark green and dull. They are almost completely exposed (very small calyx).The berries droop downwards

This differentiation is academic anyway – both types are edible.

HISTORICAL:

The herb has been used in early Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine when it was combined with other ingredients to make herbal medicine for heart disease.
Early Ayurveda had also stated that the berries from the plant could be eaten safely.The herb seems to have been only used by the Greeks on inflamed parts, as a local application. In the fourteenth century, under the name of Petty Morel it was being used for canker and with Horehound and wine taken for dropsy ( congestive cardiac failure).
An American Indian tribe steeped the leaves in water to make a tea for sleeplessness and a different tribe used the cooked leaves a potherb.

The berries were widely eaten in colonial Australia - on Norfolk Island convicts cooked and ate nightshade berries.

A colonial cookbook recommended them for jam:

"everyone is acquainted with the little bushes covered with glossy black berries.... it is a nightshade but it is certainly not deadly and on the contrary it makes one of the nicest jams I know"

NUTRITIONAL : for both fruit and leaves

Protein content of the leaves and seed 25% and 17.5% respectively.
Omega 3 fatty acids 170mg/100gm (leaves)
Crude fibre about 6.5%
Carbohydrate about 55% for the leaves and seed respectively.
Mineral analysis revealed Mg,K,Ca,Fe,Na,Mn,Zn

Phosphorus and sulphur also present

Vitamin content - Vit C, Vit B,Folic acid Vit E,Vit A in both the leaves and seeds.

It does have high oxalate levels, and Cyanide levels were higher in the leaves compared to the seeds.

WHAT TO EAT - Ripe fruits - ie black.
Green probably poisonous like green potatoes.
Leaves - boiled to destroy cyanide and solanine

PUBLISHED MEDICAL REPORTS:

1 In a study with rats and mice an aqueous extract of Solanum Nigrum leaves exhibited anti -inflamatory, anti-pain and anti-pyretic (fever) activity that was concentration dependent.

2 A crude polysaccharide extract exhibited a potent anti-tumour activity in a cervical cancer mouse model probably by immunmodulation. This was confirmed in another study using a human cervical cancer cell line.

3 Traditionally the leaves are claimed to help prevent epilepsy and indeed in another study it did reduce seizures in rats,chickens and mice.

4 Finally, a South African study compared the nutritional value of the leaves of Solanum nigrum and 2 other plants with the more traditional spinach,lettuce and cabbage. They found they had good nutritional values of protein,fibre and various minerals such as Ca,K, PO4 , Zn and Fe and comparatively low levels of antinutritional phytates,alkaloids and saponins.

CONCLUSION - another worthwhile weed to consider eating,
only eat really ripe berries - they are really quite sweet.
We have not tried eating any leaves thus far.


Warning - this plant is a bio-accumulator of heavy metals
(cadmium)- so avoid eating any of it from possibly contaminated areas
It does contain oxalates and cyanide (leaves).
The green berries contain a poison like green potatoes -solanine - avoid eating unripe berries.


ref : Pubmed for the medical information
Tim Low "Wild herbs of Australia and New Zealand" Angus and Robertson (out of print)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Jade Perch


The fish I have in my 3 aquaponics tanks are a western Queensland freshwater fish called Barcoo Grunter or Jade Perch. It has been called the latter because of a variable sized and placed spot on the side of the fish. It seems to be really hardy and quite suitable for home based aquaponics with the added benefit of having quite high levels of omega 3 fatty acids when eaten.

I have had my systems now for over 2 years and we eat about 1 fish/week. Each year around November I purchase another 50-60 fingerlings to replace those we have eaten. The fish in the photo is 300mm long and is about 18months old.

They eat barramundi pellets and also lettuce leaves and a wide variety of other plant leaves - recently I found they also eat chickweed - this seems logical as out in western Queenland in the rivers they would be eating all sorts of plant materials that falls into the water. They also eat purslane which is well known to be high in omega 3 fatty acids so I am quite happy to toss into the tanks these sort of weeds for them to eat.

Preparing them is pretty easy - catch with a net - gut and fillet. The bones are just about always completely removed at filleting. We leave the skin on and Anne cooks them various ways but I prefer them done in a white sauce. They smoke up really well also. As they are growing in tanks they have quite a pleasant flavour - not muddy at all.

Whilst we do not get any frosts over winter here I turn off my pumps at night to keep the water temperatures up . This works well at keeping the water temperatures over 13* which seems to be the important minimum for this species.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Youngia japonica

Another weed that we have been eating recently is Youngia - it grows on the southside of our house(southern hemisphere - cool) in the autumn to spring months.


Binomial name : Youngia japonica (was Crepis japonica)

Common name : Oriental False Hawksbeard or Native Hawksbeard

Native to South East Asia and Australia but now cosmopolitan

Identification
: a basal rosette resembles a young sowthistle but the leaves are slightly hairy to touch. The plant leaves are a maximum of 140mm long x 400mm wide on my property with some of them developing an irregular pigmented patch along the edge. Each plant develops one hollow stem up to about 0.7 m with multiple tiny dandelion type flowers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ilk3VWHbCw

Nutrition - I have been unable to find any information on the nutritional content of this weed but it no doubt contains carotenoids , probably Vit C and E and of course minerals.
I cannot advise on oxalate levels as this was also not available.

A pubmed search found a few interesting abstracts as follows:

1. It apparently has been used in folk medicine as a treatment for atopy (allergies - eczema,hayfever,asthma) and this abstract found that a guaiane type sesquiterpene compound in Youngia indeed did show strong anti-allergy and anti-oxidant activity.

2 Another study showed an extract had strong antiviral activity against RSV but not Flu A and HSV1. There was also some antibacterial activity against vibrio cholerae -the bacteria that causes cholera.

3. This abstract demonstrated that an extract of Youngia showed inhibition of cell proliferation against 3 cancer cell lines with no adverse effect on normal cells.

Seems like a good weed to be eating for health.

Taste
- no bitterness, delicate and suitable for salads and as a pot herb (lightly boiled)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

aquaponics tank cleaning

This morning I cleaned one of my aquaponics tanks - the smallest of about 750l. This tank has my smallest Jade perch - bought as fingerlings in November last year.

Cleaning consists of scooping out any large debris - mainly leaves that somehow get into the tank and then using a venturi device .

When I started up the venturi it was blocked up - on inspection I could see an outlet in the casing was obstructed by a small piece of rock or stick. Using a long length of wire this was pushed clear and it all worked properly after that.

Attached photos of the device - it is attached to a length of timber so it can be moved around easily along the bottom of the tank. Tank photo after cleaning-fish barely visible, 3000lph pond pump and 4 tube aerator and some lettuce leaves also visible. The emergency sump pump/aerator is also in view.

Also photos of the 2 grow beds hooked up to this tank - growing galangal and tumeric ( and nastertium) quite well. I also have another old bathtub attached which has 2 redclaw crawfish in - hope they breed up ok come spring.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Chickweed

One of my interests at present is edible weeds -tonight we are having chickweed and dock as part of our meal.

Here's some information on Chickweed:

Binomial name is STELLARIA MEDIA

Stellaria is from the Latin stella meaning a star, after the flower shape; while media (middle) serves to distinguish this plant from both larger and smaller relatives. It is a member of carnation family.


IDENTIFICATION:
It is a small low growing straggly and delicate weed up to 40cm high with soft lime green smooth ovate shaped leaves. The flowers are white and tiny and occur on downward pointing stalks.It is vigorous and rapidly propagates,and mainly occurs in the autumn and winter months on my property The distinguishing feature is a row of fine hairs on the stem that occur on one side and swap over to the other side between the leaf nodes. Look alikes include tropical chickweed, mouse eared chickweed and euphorbia peplus.






HISTORY AND HERBAL USES:
The name of this weed - and latin morus gallinae - hen's bite - emphasises the historical association of this plant as a bird feed.
As it was considered a food for peasants it seems to have been largely ignored in ancient writings - however undoubtedly it has been eaten for a long time as seeds of it were found in the stomachs of tollund and grauballe man ( bog bodies).
It is one of the ingredients of the symbolic dish consumed in the Japanese spring-time festival.

NUTRITIONAL :
high in carotenoids – 4.2 mg/100gm Vitamin C also quite high - 375mg/100gm Polyphenols - rutin and other flavinoids -better than red wine and tea also some B vitamins - thiamine riboflavin and niacinOmega 3 fatty acids ( gamma linolenic acid) 100mg/100gm
Minerals: Chromium, Molybdenum, Sodium, Selenium, Silicon, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Iron, Sulphur, Silica, Manganese, Zinc, Cobalt and Phosphorus. Oxalate levels similar to purslane. Also : Saponins, Mucilage, fibre, protein (15-20%)

WHAT TO EAT:
Used principally used as a salad herb or may be cooked as a vegetable with a knob of butter added. Pick young stems – older growth becomes acidic and fibrous. I use scissors to harvest a handful or two - this avoids pulling out roots with dirt attached

PUBLISHED MEDICAL BENEFITS :
It is a potent anti-oxidant activity by virtue of the high levels of vit A There is strong xanthine oxidase inhibition - this pathway associated with gout and other related illnesses such as chronic heart failure and various forms of ischaemia and inflammation

CONCLUSION :
Taste is quite mild - safe to eat in a salad or lightly boiled/steamed

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sowthistle

Here is some information about sowthistle that we regularly eat as a green vegetable.

binomial name: SONCHUS OLEARACEUS
common name :sonchus or sowthistle or milkthistle.
If you are of NZ Maori descent – puha (strictly though this was Sonchus kirkii).

The latin name means : hollow stem + kitchen herb

Identification:
Sowthistle is not really a thistle - it is an early cousin of the lettuce family. Origin - eurasia and north africa - now cosmopolitan. It is a delightful plant to watch grow- initially it develops as a rosette like a dandelion or catsear then it gains in height and develops a hollow stem. This has leaves largely wrapping around (hemiamplexicaul) at intervals before developing multiple flowers/seed heads. On our property it gets to 1.8m high. The leaves are deeply serrated and have non prickly spines - they are a dark or bluish green colour.


History of use:
Archaeologists have found traces of sow-thistle in Roman excavations. Pliny records that before the encounter of Theseus with the bull at Marathon he was given a dish of sow thistle by Hecale - it was considered to be wholesome and strengthening by the Greeks. It was commonly eaten as a vegetable in the middle ages. During the voyages by Captain Cook in the early 1770s on HMS Resolution the crew ate the plant both as a salad and a cooked vegetable to help prevent scurvy. During the 2nd World War New Zealanders were encouraged to eat it as a source of Vitamin C. It is eaten today in New Zealand particularly by the Maoris as puha The roots of the smooth sow-thistle are said to have been eaten by Australian Aborigines.

Nutritional:
Sow thistle is quite high in omega 3 fatty acids - 100mg/100gm
Vitamin C content is high, 77.9 mg/ 100gm ie similar to an orange.
Carotenoids are also high (15.8 mg/100g).
Mineral element contents (Fe, Zn and Mn )are similar to other green leafy vegetables. A good amount of Fibre is present in amounts above 3gm/100gm.

What parts we have eaten: young leaves added to salads or older leaves cooked like spinach/silverbeet. Any bitterness can be reduced by blanching for 2 mins and replacing the water. Taste is slightly tart but no more so than other leafy greens.

Medical reports (from pubmed):
In a study in rats an extract was found to have a similar anti-depressant effect to amitriptyline ( an old fashioned but still used anti-depressant). In another rat study an extract was found to have greater anti-inflammatory effect than Indomethacin and Dexamethasone. Steroids ( such as dexamethasone) are one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents currently in use. In a mouse study , an extract was found to exhibit an anxiolytic effect similar to clonazepam ( a drug like valium). Finally, in another rat study, an extract exhibited greater anti-nociceptive ( anti pain) action than morphine and indomethacin at doses comparable to used in humans.

Note that these are extract studies - when you eat the plant leaves obviously doses of any active ingredients will be a lot less and a clinical effect might not be evident.

If you have this weed in your yard consider eating it!

First Post

Welcome to our Garden Blog - Anne and I live on 4.5 acres on the southside of Brisbane and have done so for over 20 years.

This blog will be about our garden , what we are doing, what we have learnt along the way, and related matters. We try to grow as much of our food as possible including protein but not grains.

We have an aquaponics setup that I will blog about , a large vegetable garden that struggles in our summer heat but thrives in winter, quite a few fruit trees, and lots of weeds ( that we have recently started to eat!)

Our yard includes a root cellar looking like an old mine site, a frog pond, and lots of quirky stuff!

Initial posts are mainly going to be about the edible weeds I have found on my property - we have well over 20.

Tom