V as in Viola

V as in Viola. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Violaceae

Genus: Viola

Species: Viola odorata

Common names: wood violet, sweet violet, English violet, common violet, florist’s violet, garden violet Swedish name: doftviol, luktviol

Viola is a genus of flowering perennial and annual plants, a few are small shrubs. It is the largest genus in the family, Violaceae, containing between 525 and 600 species. Most are found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, but some are found in divergent areas such as Hawaii, Australia, and the Andes. A large number of species, varieties and cultivars are grown in gardens for their ornamental flowers. The terms viola and violet are normally reserved for small-flowered annuals or perennials. And the term pansy is normally used for annual or biennial large-flowered cultivars which are raised from seed. Cultivars of Viola cornuta, Viola cucullata, Viola odorata, are commonly grown. Other species grown include Viola labradorica, Viola pedata, and Viola rotundifolia.

Viola odorata is native to Europe and Asia, but has also been introduced to North America and Australia. The plant is known as Banafsa, Banafsha or Banaksa in India. Several cultivars have been selected for garden use. The sweet scent of this flower has proved popular throughout the generations particularly in the late Victorian period, and has been used in the production of many cosmetic fragrances and perfumes. Viola odorata flowers and newly sprung leaves are also edible. The flowers, leaves and roots contain vitamin A and C.

Viola odorata - sweet violet. V as in Viola. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook.jpg

Viola odorata – sweet violet.

Description: Viola odorata is a hardy herbaceous flowering perennial. The flowers are aromatic and normally either dark violet or white. The leaves and flowers are gathered in a basal rosette. The plant spreads with stolons (above-ground shoots). The sweet violet blooms in Spring (in Sweden April-May). There are cultivars with pink, yellow, blue and white flowers some are even double/filled. One of my favorites is ‘Königin Charlotte’ or ‘Queen Charlotte’ (and it is not because of the name).

How to grow: Viola odorata prefers a somewhat moist and humus rich soil in partial shade. Fertilization is not necessary. Giving it too much nutrition discourage blossom in advantage of leaves. It is suitable as a ground cover under airy shrubs and in garden beds. It is lovely in a woodland edge or let it grow wild in the lawn. Some treat it as a weed since it easily spreads with both the stolons and seeds in the grass. But to me it adds more value to the lawn.

To sweet to eat?

Violet Decoration Cake. V as in Viola. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Violet Decoration. Photo: distopiandreamgirl ©

The violet was a symbol of fertility and love to The Ancient Greeks, they used it in love potions. Medicinal the flowers and leaves of viola are made into a syrup used in alternative medicine mainly for respiratory ailments associated with congestion, coughing, and sore throat. But the syrup may be used for other purposes too. I remember the small candy boxes with Violet Pastilles we used to get when I was a little girl. The lovely taste lingers in my memory, when I got older I discovered the awesome taste combination liquorice and violet.

Recipes:


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U as in Urtica

U as in Urtica. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Urticaceae

Genus: Urtica

Species: Urtica dioica

Common names: stinging nettles, bull nettle Swedish name: brännässla

Urtica is a genus of flowering annual or perennial herbaceous plants. The perennial species have underground rhizomes giving them a weed-like growth. Many species have stinging hairs on their green parts and are often called nettles. Thanks to the stinging hairs, Urtica species are rarely eaten by herbivores, so they provide long-term shelter for insects, such as aphids, caterpillars and moths. The insects, in turn, provide food for small birds, such as tits. This makes Urtica valuable wildlife plants.

Urtica dioica is a perennial native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and North America. The species epithet dioica means di (two) and oikos (house) which indicates that the male flowers and the female flowers grow on different plants. Urtica dioica has a long history of use as a medicine, as a food source and as a source of fibre. In Europe nettles are associated with human habitation. The presence of nettles may indicate human and animal influence. Being responsible for elevated levels of phosphate and nitrogen in the soil, providing an ideal environment for nettles. Nettles are the exclusive larval food plant for several species of butterfly.

Urtica dioica. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Urtica dioica – stinging nettle

Description: Urtica dioica has widely spreading rhizomes and stolons, which are bright yellow, as are the roots. It bears small greenish or brownish numerous flowers. The leaves and stems have stinging hairs (trichomes), whose tips come off when touched, transforming the hair into a needle that will inject several chemicals causing a painful sting.

How to grow: Nettles are not usually grown rather seen as a weed. But you may purchase seeds from companies that sell herbal and medicinal plants. Before planting, think twice and chose a patch where you can keep it under control. It needs full sun or partial shade. A moist and nutritious soil. Tilling is the best way to keep it in place.

A weed with many uses

In folk medicine the stinging nettle was used to treat anemia, oedema, diabetes and arthritis. The whole plant was used but the green parts was said to be diuretic, blood building, and a weak lower of the blood sugar. The circulation in the skin was thought to be improved. The active substances are vitamin C, iron and in fresh plants histamine, acetylcholine and formid acid. The stinging nettle is also used to improve the appearance of the hair, and is said to be a remedy against oily hair and dandruff.

The neat spring sprouts can be harvest to eat. The stem can be use to make fibers reminding of the process making flax. Of the fibers a fine fabric was made, called nettle cloth. The root can be used as a natural dye for textiles.

In the garden it is a useful companion plant. Stinging nettles can be used to make nettle water which is used as nourishment feeding it to plants and vegetables.

Recipes:

Stinging nettle pizza. U as in Urtica. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Stinging nettle pizza. Photo: Theresa Carle-Sanders ©


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Disclaimer: Be careful when using herbal remedies since the effects may be uncertain. I don´t recommend herbal medicine as a substitute for school medicine in any way. Always consult the professional health care.

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R as in Rosa

R as in Rosa. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Rosaceae

Genus: Rosa

Species: Rosa dumalis

Common names: glaucous dog-rose Swedish name: nyponros, törnros

The genus Rosa consists of about 200 species distributed from subtropical to cool temperate areas. I think most of you are familiar with the beautiful flowers often used as ornamental plants. They have a long history of being cultivated and hybridised. But there are also many wild forms growing in nature contributing to wildlife and foraging.

Rosa dumalis is a species of rose native to Europe and southwest Asia. It grows wild in Sweden and can be found in glades, forest edges, pastures and along roads. The epithet dumalis means shape like a bush and describes its way of growth. It is seldom used as an ornamental plant but it produces one of the best rose hips. Rose hips are common to the Rosa spp. and are false fruits or pseudocarps. Rosa dumalis is often mistaken for Rosa canina which is a rose used in gardens, for example in hedges. Rosa gallica is another species often used in perfume and beauty products.

The rose hips of Rosa dumalis is very rich in vitamin C and is widely used in cooking. The rosehips are dried and pitted to be stored for later. Or if to be used fresh boiled softly and mashed before adding them to the meal. Other uses for rose hips are tea, flour, herbal treatments.

R as in Rosa. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Rosa dumalis. Photo: Kari Pihlaviita ©

Description: Rosa dumalis has an erect and robust growth. It has rough, bent thorns which are blue-green, smooth or slightly hairy. It blooms in summer (in Sweden June-July), the flowers got dark or pale pink petals and a yellow center. The sepals are upright and remains during the season. The rose hips are smooth, oval and quite soft. Rosa dumalis is shifting in appearance between individuals.

How to grow: Since it is not cultivated there are no general advice how to grow it. But looking at its natural habitat gives us a glimpse. It prefers full sun or partial shade. A well-drained but moist soil. It requires low maintenance and is quite modest in its needs. Pruning may be done in spring. Cut a few twigs to the ground to make the bush more airy and encourage new growth. I do not recommend to use this species in a garden bed but rather in a wildlife patch.

Recipe – Rose Hip Soup

Rose hip soup is one of my favorites and have been that since I was a kid. You can buy it at the grocery store but I prefer it homemade. It is made of rose hips, water, sugar and potato flour. The soup can be eaten cold or warm. It can be served with small almond biscuits, sliced bananas, splinted almonds, whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream.

Rose hip soup with with small biscuits made from almond, sugar and egg-whites. R as in Rosa. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Rose hip soup. Photo: Johan Jönsson ©

Ingredients:

  • 5 dl dried rose hips
  • 1,5 liter water
  • 1,3 dl sugar (or other sweetener of your choice)
  • 1,5 tbsp potato flour
  • 1 cinnamon cane (optionally)

How to make:

  1. Soak the dried rose hips in the water over night or for a couple of hours
  2. Blend the rose hips with a mixer
  3. Put the mixed rose hips (with the water) in a saucepan
  4. Add the cinnamon cane (optionally)
  5. Let it boil on medium heath for about 3 hours. Stir every now and then
  6. Measure the rose hip soup and add 1,5 dl sugar to every 1,5 liter
  7. Mix 3-4 tbsp potato flour with 0,5 dl of water until it is solved. Add the mix to the soup.
  8. Heath the soup while stirring
  9. When it starts to boil it is ready
  10. Serve the soup or let it cool

You can use 7 dl fresh rose hips instead of the dried ones but then you have to prepare them before making the soup.


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O as in Oxalis

O as in Oxalis. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Oxalidaceae

Genus: Oxalis

Species: Oxalis tuberosa

Common names: oca, uqa, New Zealand yam Swedish name: oca

The genus Oxalis got its name from the plants content of oxalic acid giving the leaves and flowers a sour taste. Several species are grown as container plants (indoors and outdoors) or as ornamental plants in gardens. Four common species are O. versicolor, O. compressa (double flowers), O. triangularis (dark purple foliage) and O. articulata. The flowers of the Oxalis genus range in color and shades from white to yellow, peach, pink, or multi-coloured flowers.

The fleshy, juicy tubers of Oxalis tuberosa are edible and called oca. The root vegetable is a native plant in the northern Andes and were grown by the Inca people. It is still grown by farmers in South America. Oca is an important vegetable locally due to its use in crop rotations and its high nutritional content. The tuber is a source of carbohydrate and energy. And has a valuable content of vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium and vitamin B6. It also contains small amounts of fibre. Oxalis tuberosa has a slow growth and gives less yield than potatoes so it is not common on other continents. Except for New Zealand where it was introduced in the 1800´s and became very popular. There oca often is called New Zealand yam. The tubers can be processed and prepared in various ways. The leaves and young shoots can be eaten as a green vegetable.

Oxalis tuberosa. O as in Oxalis. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Oxalis tuberosa. Photo: mpaola_andreoni ©

Description: Oxalis tuberosa is a perennial herbaceous plant that overwinter as underground stem tubers. Several varieties are now available in yellow, orange, apricot, pink, as well as the traditional red-orange tubers.

How to grow: Oxalis tuberosa can be kind of tricky to grow because of its dependents of day length to grow properly. If it is to be grown as an ornamental plant other Oxalis species are preferable. Oca needs a long growing season, forming tubers when the day length shortens in autumn. In areas with harsh winter climates, early frosts may cut back the foliage before the tubers have a chance to form. In tropical areas where the days are unchanging in length, oca will not set a crop successfully. But it is quite modest in other requirements and generally grows even in marginal soil quality. Oxalis tuberosa is propagated vegetatively by planting whole tubers.

Oca or NZ yam. O as in Oxalis. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Oca or New Zealand yam. Photo: Lamerie ©

Oca or New Zealand Yam Recipes

Warm Oca Salad – recipe by Carl Legge at Permaculture

Roast Yams – recipe by CheekyKiwi at Allrecipes

Oca Homity Pie – recipe by Carl Legge at Permaculture

And for those of you who would like to try growing oca visit Growing Oca a blog by Ian Pearson.


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F as in Filipendula

F as in Filipendula. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Rosaceae

Genus: Filipendula

Species: Filipendula ulmaria

Common names: meadow-sweet, mead wort Swedish name: älggräs, älgört

The Filipendula genus includes 12 species of perennial herbaceous flowering plants native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Filipendula ulmaria is a well-known herbal and medicinal plant. The flowers were commonly used in mead, wine, cordial and herbal remedies. They can be added to stewed fruit and jams, giving them a subtle almond flavor. It has many medicinal properties. Dried, the flowers are used in potpourri. The whole herb possesses a pleasant taste and flavour, the green parts having a similar aromatic character to the flowers. In history it was used as a strewing herb in festive times. The herb was then strewn on the floors to give the rooms a pleasant aroma. The content of salicylates (formally acetylsalicylic acid) and tannins made it a valuable medicinal herb. Treating a wide variety of health conditions and illnesses. The name aspirin is derived from the old name of Filipendula ulmariaSpiraea ulmaria – which gave rise to the class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). A common group of painkillers.

F as in Filipendula. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Filipendula ulmaria. Photo: John Johnston ©

Description: Filipendula ulmaria is a tall, grand plant with  delicate, graceful, creamy-white flowers clustered close together at the top. It is having a very strong, sweet scent reminding of honey and almond. A more common species used in gardens are Filipendula rubra (Queen-of-the-prairie).

How to grow: Filipendula ulmaria likes moist and may be suitable near a pond or a shady marshy area of the garden. A woodland edge may also work. Native it thrives in ditches along fields and in forest meadows. Seeds can be purchased from well sorted seed companies often specialized on herbal and medicinal plants.

Recipe:

  • Meadow-sweet cordial make your own summer drink (non alcoholic), the recipe is like the one of elderflower cordial
  • Herbal tea (infusion) a cup of well-doing tea when you caught a cold or have a headache¹

¹ Disclaimer: Be careful when using herbal remedies since the effects may be uncertain. Since meadow-sweet contains salicylates it can affect the stomach negatively especially in high concentrations. I don´t recommend herbal medicine as a substitute for modern medicine in any way. Always consult the professional health care.

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C as in Cornus

C as in Cornus. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green NookFamily: Cornaceae

Genus: Cornus

Species: Cornus mas

Common names: dogwood, cornelian cherry, european cornel Swedish name: körsbärskornell

The genus Cornus includes about fifty species of flowering shrubs and trees native in the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern hemisphere. Most of the Cornus species may be distinguished by their blossoms, berries, and distinctive bark. The fruit is named dogberries, houndberries or black nightshade. The fruit of Cornus mas is edible and tastes like a mix between sour cherry and cranberry. It is mainly used in jams and sauces. The fruit is very high in vitamin C. The wood of Cornus mas is extremely dense which makes it hard to prune. It sinks in water unlike the wood of most other woody plant species. This density makes it valuable for crafting into tool handles and parts for machines.

C as in Cornus. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Cornus mas. Fruit (left) and flower (right) Photos: Wendy Cutler and prilfish ©

Description: Cornus mas is a deciduous shrub (up to four meters high) or a small tree (about eight meters high), with a quite low and wide growth. Cornus mas blooms before the leaves burst, like the Forsythia. The flowers are brightly yellow. In Sweden the blossom occurs in Mars to April which makes it valuable as an early Spring flowering plant. You have to be patient though since the individuals set their first flowers after five years or more. But it is totally worth the waiting since the sight is grandiose.

How to grow: Cornus mas is modest and have no strict demands of its habitat. It usually does not need to be pruned and does not need any special treatment. It is preferably planted like a solitary catching your eyes while passing by or sitting by the breakfast table. Cover the ground around it with bulbs which blossoms at the same time to make a spectacular scenery.

Recipe: Cornelian Cherry Sauce Recipe from Britain

 


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A as in Amaranthus

A as in Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green NookFamily: Amaranthaceae

Genus: Amaranthus

Species: Amaranthus caudatus

Common names: love-lies-bleeding, pendant amaranth, tassel flower, velvet flower, foxtail amaranth, and quilete. Swedish name: rävsvans

Amaranthus caudatus is an annual plant which descends from South America. It is edible and the grain crop is an important source of food in India, some parts of West Africa and South America (where it is called kiwicha). It is rich in nutrients and high in protein. On top of all it is a gluten-free grain and classified as a superfood.

Amaranthus caudatus. Letter A Blogging From A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Amaranthus caudatus. Photo: M a n u e l ©

Description: There are a wide range of Amaranthus varieties with different characteristics. ‘Pony Tails’ and ‘Viridis’ (green tail) are two common varieties to buy from seed.

How to grow: Grow it in full or part sun. Amaranthus tolerates high heat and any soil as long as drainage is good. For faster growth and more flowers it needs water regularly. It does tolerate some drought once established. Since it is frost sensitive you have to wait until the ground has warmed up before planting it. You may plant the seeds directly in the garden bed or start it up indoors and then put it out. It is a large plant which takes its place. Use it as a centerpiece in a garden bed or in a large container. Why not making it a part of your edible garden? It is also suitable for a wildlife garden since it attracts birds. Amaranthus may become a weed in some regions. But in Sweden and other temperate areas that will not be a problem.

Recipe:

 


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