My family and I are now getting settled into our new home in Santa Cruz, California. There is a great tradition of herbal medicine here and the mild Mediterranean climate is bliss for a huge range of plants. I'm very excited about getting back to blogging so I can share my observations and discoveries, and a little about how I'm finding being An English Herbalist in Santa Cruz.
To kick off, here is a photo I took at our local Farmers Market last weekend. I wasn't that surprised to see dandelions being sold in this land where salad is almost a religion - after all they are cultivated in France where they know a bit about food. But I wasn't expecting to see such big leaves being sold at this time of year. The small, tender spring leaves are more usually used in salads. I'm wondering whether these are intended to be steamed, like spinach. We're off to the market again tomorrow, so if they are there again, I'll ask the farmer and report back.
I always think dandelions suffer in the UK from their sheer ubiquity and (to be fair, deserved) reputation as a tenacious weed. We all spend money buying rocket from M&S, when an equally delicious bitter leaf is in every garden, park and country lane. But if you do decide to munch on a few dandelion leaves, you may want to remember their French colloquial name: pis en lit (trans. pee in the bed). They have powerful diuretic qualities, so I wouldn't recommend eating a big bunch before a long car journey or trip to the cinema.
Herbalists take advantage of this diuretic property to treat water retention and high blood pressure*. And I love the fact that they are high in potassium - something which is lost when water is passed. A lovely example of how plants so often balance the body's systems.
* Obviously, if you have high blood pressure, please see your doctor or a qualified medical herbalist.