Your Favorite Plant Lover's Favorite Plants
This is a countdown of three of our favorite plants here at Spoon Full Farm, in the garden and beyond. You should love them, too!
When you work directly with nature through the seasons, observing, feeling, and helping biodiversity flourish, a sense of gratitude grows within you as Spring unfurls into Summer. You see firsthand how ecosystems are nothing short of miraculous, with each piece exquisitely evolved to keep the whole system in a balance. You also become aware of the miracle of plant domestication. You no longer look at a humble pepper start as a humble pepper start - you see how it is the direct result of hundreds of years of patient observation and dedication. You offer thanks to the anonymous grandmothers of gardens past who selected and saved seeds for their community.
We are all powerful parts of a living system; a system whose bounty knows no bounds, except the limits of our own imagination and compassion.
While you read these words, let your mind "be" the plants that are described. Let your perspective swing out from behind your beautiful eyes and enter a green growing thing. Let yourself love plants, like our ancestors did, because plants are our unsung, heroic allies. Let yourself feel gratitude for the gifts of these three "favorite" plants - they taste better that way.
And so without further introduction... we present "Your Favorite Plant Lover's Top 3 Plants":
Kale is that person who comes to work early, stays productive all day long with a smile, and then lingers late after everyone else has left. You want kale on your team.
In the garden, kale absolutely jams. The more leaves we pick off the base of its sturdy stalk, the more the top leaves grow up to the sun. Its hardier than Wim Hof in the cold (in fact, the cold nights we still get here at the farm, this time of year, probably makes our kale sweeter!), and also tolerant of wind and heat. We literally say "thank you" to the kale plants as we harvest in the mornings.
In the kitchen, kale is a multivitamin even more convenient than the kind that comes in pills in plastic bottles. It's one of those plants that you could almost live on, alone. It has more calcium than milk and more vitamin c than oranges. It has fiber, protein, and a newly-identified phytochemical called 'sulforaphane' that may inhibit tumor and fat cell growth (wow)!
All of us here at the farm eat copious amounts of our kale every day. It's so easy: all you have to do is rip or cut the leaves off their stalks and quickly sauté them in a frying pan with a little oil, salt, and balsamic (or apple cider) vinegar. Mmmmm.
Every night, as we sit down together for community dinner, here at the farm, we say a few words of gratitude, or maybe sing a song, and then we call out in unison: "Garlic!" Why? Not sure. Perhaps the word itself feels like a celebratory sacrament.
Some people claim that garlic was the first domesticated crop plant. We at Spoon Full don't know what was going on with garlic 10,000 years ago, but we do know what's happening today (early June 2018): Garlic scapes!
'Scape' is the name for a beautiful false flower stalk that curls up from the center of hardneck-variety garlic plants in early summer (one month before the bulbs are ready). They taste like a slightly-milder version of garlic, and carry many of the same medicinal properties (excellent for heart, respiratory, and immune health).
We snap the scapes off of our garlic for two reasons: because doing so encourages larger bulb growth underground, and because the scapes are delicious in pesto or grilled (special recipe here or below).
Fun fact: the workers who built the great pyramids were partially paid in garlic, but Egyptian high priests wouldn't eat it because they considered it an aphrodisiac.
Picking a favorite plant is like picking a favorite flavor, or a favorite song, or a favorite Beatle: Impossible for some people, and extremely easy for others. I've asked many folks who really (really really) love plants (we at Spoon Full are moderate by comparison) to choose a favorite, and I've been surprised by how many of them choose the same plant.
At a Biodynamic agriculture conference a few years ago, I attended a lecture about organic orchard fruit, presented by a very old man. Flashing a smile as white as his thick hair, he showed us photos of luscious apples, thick tree trunks, and of himself, ancient, leaning from a ladder with a pair of pruning shears. Somebody asked him: how did he stay so active, working his orchard, so late in his life?
The old man smiled conspiratorially and leaned forward. In a low voice he said: "My secret? Every day, I drink a big cup of yarrow tea. It keeps me young."
Yarrow's latin name is "Achillea millefolium," which one could translate as "many-leafed Achilles." Greek myths tell that swift Achilles carried a pouch of yarrow seed wherever he went, scattering them on the wind, in case he came back that way again. He did this because yarrow leaves can save your life. When crushed until they exude a green juice and pressed on an open wound, yarrow kills bacteria and causes blood to swiftly clot, staunching bleeding.
So get to know this plant, and if you ever cut yourself out in nature, find the nearest yarrow, squish it up, and press it on the wound. It won't be hard to find: yarrow grows all over the temperate world. I've found yarrow growing on rain-washed seaside cliffs in Oregon, at 8,000 feet in the Cascade mountains, and shooting up between cracks in the sidewalk in Seattle and Portland. It grows ALL OVER THE PLACE out here in the high desert at Spoon Full Farm.
Yarrow was traditionally used for divination with the ancient Chinese Book of Change. When its bitter young leaves are eaten, it stimulates digestion and cleanses the kidneys. When its flowers are steeped as tea, it has these same effects, and also aids in circulation. Isn't that wild - applied externally, it stops bleeding, yet drank as tea, is stimulates circulation? What an amazing creature.
After spending some time out in a sunny meadow picking yarrow flowers to dry as tea, I've come to consider it (her?) my favorite plant, too. May we all emulate its adaptable resilience and its generous blessings.
Glad you have read this far! Hopefully, your imagination and emotions have been opened up just a little bit more to these beautiful green allies. Here's some fun homework for you: go outside and take a walk, until you find a yarrow plant! It shouldn't be too hard, and being able to ID them outside will be of enormous benefit for you, if you should ever cut yourself in the backcountry (may that never occur!).
Do you have any personal favorite plants that we should get to know better, or write more about? Write to us below, to let us know.
Spoon Full Farm