Thimbleberry Plants – Unique to all but West Coast

Thimbleberry Plants – Unique to all but West Coast

Thimbleberry Plants – Unique to all but West Coast

Thimbleberry plants are shrubs that are unique to all but those on the west coast of the United States.  It has edible and medicinal qualities and is attractive to a number of beneficial insects.  Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) is also known as salmonberry, and snow bramble and is native to North America (mostly West coast). It is a dense shrub with multiple, thornless stems or canes reaching heights of 7’. It likes moist soils but will tolerate drier sites and is hardy in USDA zones 3-9.

Thimbleberry Flower

Thimbleberry Flower

The leaves are palmate up to 8 inches across with 5 lobes and have a soft and fuzzy texture.

Flowers are ¾” to 2.5” in diameter with five white petals and yellow stamens.  It flowers between May and early July.

The Fruit

The fruit will ripen to a bright red in mid to late summer. The berries turn from pink to scarlet when fully ripe. The very fast ripening fruit can go from hard and pink to soft and red in just a few hours. The fruit is an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets around a center core.  When picked it leaves the center core behind like a raspberry does and it looks like a thimble. The fruit is smaller and softer than raspberries, causing it to not store or ship well and is not generally commercially produced.

Thimbleberry Plants

Thimbleberry Plants

Thimbleberry fruit is liked by honeybees, bumblebees, birds, and is host for the yellow banded sphinx butterfly.

My Plants

I planted three thimbleberries at the farm last year in the food forest.  They struggled, probably due to lack of water, but I’m pretty sure at least one of them survived into the winter.  I’ll update this post in the spring and let you know if it survived through the winter.

Propagation

Thimbleberry can spread via underground rhizome, seeds, tip layering, division, or stem cuttings. Thimbleberry plants can be propagated most successfully by planting dormant rhizome segments.

Seeds requires cold stratification for a month. Tip layering is best done in July. Division is best done in early spring.

Edible

Thimbleberry Fruit

Thimbleberry Fruit

Thimbleberry fruit can be eaten raw, dried, or made into jam. Young shoots can be peeled and eaten raw or cooked. They can be cooked like asparagus. Fruits and shoots are rich in vitamin C.

Medicinal

“The leaves are antiemetic, astringent, blood tonic and stomachic. An infusion is used internally in the treatment of stomach complaints, diarrhoea and dysentery, anaemia, the spitting up of blood and to treat vomiting. An infusion has been taken by women when their periods are unusually long. A poultice of the dried powdered leaves has been used to treat wounds and burns. The leaves have been crushed and rubbed over the skin to treat pimples and blackheads. A poultice of the leaf ashes, mixed with oil, has been used to treat swellings. The young shoots are alterative and antiscorbutic. The roots are appetizer, astringent, stomachic and tonic. An infusion has been used by thin people to help them gain weight. An infusion has also been used in the treatment of stomach disorders, diarrhoea and dysentery. A decoction of the roots has been taken in the treatment of pimples and blackheads.” *

(Source:www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/r/rubus-parviflorus=thimbleberry.php)

Recipe

Thimbleberry Jam

Thimbleberry Fruit

Thimbleberry Fruit

Ingredients

2 cups freshly picked thimbleberries

2 cups sugar

Directions

Do not wash the thimbleberries—pick them over to remove debris and insects. Mix the sugar and berries, then bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and seal at once.

 

(Photo Source:www.nwplants.com/business/catalog/rub_par.html)

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Blueberry Plant Information – Blueberries Everywhere

Blueberry Plant Information – Blueberries Everywhere

Blueberry Plant Information – Blueberries Everywhere

This post will give you valuable blueberry plant information as to the different types, how to prune them, eat them, care for them, and cook them.

Blueberry Plant

Blueberry Plant

Blueberry is a perennial flowering shrub with indigo colored fruit.  This plant is native to North America and has edible, and medicinal qualities and attracts beneficial insects.  There are two main types of blueberries which include a smaller species known as “low-bush blueberries” (synonymous with “wild”), and a larger species are known as “high-bush blueberries”.

lowbush – (Vaccinium angustifolium) is a low spreading deciduous shrub. The leaves are glossy blue-green in summer, turning purple in the fall. The leaf shape is broad to elliptical.

highbush – (Vaccinium corymbosum) grows 6 to 12 feet tall and wide.  The dark glossy green leaves are elliptical and up to 2 inches long. In autumn, the leaves turn to a brilliant red, orange, yellow, and/or purple.

Blueberries like well drained acidic soil with a lot of organic matter (mulch) and they do not like to compete with weeds.  I keep 6 to 8 inches of oak leaves around mine all year long.  This keeps the weeds down, keeps the roots cool and the ground moist.  Blueberries also like full sun.

blueberry

blueberry

The flowers are usually white to somewhat pink and bell shaped. The flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects throughout the year.  The fruit is a berry with a flared crown at the end. They are pale greenish at first, then reddish-purple, and finally dark purple when ripe.  The fruit is harvested either early (May-June), mid-season (June-July) or late (July-August) depending on cultivar.  I picked up several different cultivars so I would have blueberries from May through August.

The berries can be made into jams, jellies, puree, juice, used in muffins, snack foods, cereals, wines, and pies. They contain manganese, fiber, vitamins C and K. A lot of pesticides are used in commercially grown blueberries, so if you can grow your own or purchase organic, you are much better off.

As you can see in the picture titled “Blueberry Plant Information”, the plant is very nice looking with the fruit on it.

Pruning

Prune older bushes removing branches that are over 7 years old.  Remove any diseased or broken wood, plus crossing branches. You want the bush to have a narrow base and a wide, open top that allows sunlight and air in. The best time to prune blueberry bushes is late winter while they’re still dormant.

Propagation

Blueberry Plant Information

Blueberry Plant Information

Propagation can be done with softwood and hardwood cuttings.

Take softwood cuttings (4 inches to 5 inches long). Remove lower leaves leaving two or three leaves on top. Place cuttings in the propagation bed, under mist, as soon as possible at a depth of one-half to two-thirds of their length.

Collect hardwood cuttings in the dead of winter (late January through February).  Take cuttings from the mother plant from last summers growth. Insert cuttings into the propagation medium from one-half to two-thirds of their length with one shoot bud exposed. Plants can remain in the propagation bed until winter.

Medicinal

People use the fruit and leaves to make medicine.
Be careful not to confuse blueberry with bilberry. Outside of the United States, the name “blueberry” may be used for a plant called “bilberry” in the U.S.

Blueberry is used for preventing cataracts and glaucoma and for treating ulcers, urinary tract infections (UTIs), multiple sclerosis (MS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), colic, fever, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids. Blueberry is also used for improving circulation, and as a laxative.

Some women use blueberry for labor pains and as a tonic after miscarriage.
The dried fruit and leaves are used for diarrhea.
Tea made from the dried leaves is used for sore throat and swelling (inflammation) of the mouth or the skin lining the throat.
How does it work?

Blueberry, like its relative the cranberry, might help prevent bladder infections by stopping bacteria from attaching to the walls of the bladder. Blueberry fruit is high in fiber which could help normal digestive function. *

(Source:www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1013-blueberry.aspx?activeingredientid=1013&activeingredientname=blueberry)

Recipe

Blueberry Sauce

“Delicious, warm blueberry sauce which is fabulous on pancakes, waffles, cheesecake or ice cream! Fresh or frozen blueberries work equally well.”

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the blueberries, 1/4 cup of water, orange juice, and sugar. Stir gently, and bring to a boil.
  2. In a cup or small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water. Gently stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberries so as not to mash the berries. Simmer gently until thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the almond extract and cinnamon. Thin sauce with water if it is too thick for your liking.

(Source:allrecipes.com/recipe/70112/blueberry-sauce/print/?recipeType=Recipe&servings=8)

 

Purple Monstrosity Fruit Smoothie

“This is a great smoothie for breakfast – and sometimes dinner! You can substitute the orange juice with any mix of juices or even soy milk! The soy milk adds more of a milk shake quality than the juice does.”

Ingredients

  • 2 frozen bananas, skins removed and cut in chunks
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions

  1. Place bananas, blueberries and juice in a blender, puree. Use honey and/or vanilla to taste. Use more or less liquid depending on the thickness you want for your smoothie.

(Source:allrecipes.com/recipe/16490/purple-monstrosity-fruit-smoothie/print/?recipeType=Recipe&servings=5)

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Beneficial Insects Rove Beetles and Fireflies

Beneficial Insects Rove Beetles and Fireflies

Beneficial Insects Rove Beetles and Fireflies

Beneficial insects are insects that help in some way in the garden.  This could be by eating pest insects that would otherwise cause harm to your plants or it could be because they help to pollinate plants so you get better yields.  Both of our beneficial insects today help in the garden by eating pest insects and one also helps to pollinate flowers.  Today we discuss Beneficial Insects Rove Beetles and Fireflies

Beneficial Insects Rove Beetles

Beneficial Insects - Rove Beetle

Beneficial Insects – Rove Beetle

Rove Beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinida) are elongated in form with very short wings that can fly.  The oldest known rove beetle goes back about 210-million years.  They are predators of insects found in the soil and most emerge after sunset.  They are usually found on the forest floor among leaf litter or under stones and around fresh water margins.

There are approximately 58,000 species in thousands of genera with over 1,500 known to live in North America, and the group is currently recognized as the largest family of beetles.  They go through four stages in their lifecycle.  The Egg, Larvae, Pupa, and Adult.

As a defense mechanism they tip up the abdomens (similar to scorpions), but this is just a scare tactic as they can’t really sting you.  Some do release chemicals that can cause blisters if you handle them.  Others are capable of biting and will do so if you piss it off.

Depending on species they may enjoy eating any of the following: mites, beetle larvae, aphids, small caterpillars, dead animals, dead insects, fungi, algae, plant based mulches, and/or fruit.

Beneficial Insects – Fireflies

Beneficial Insects - Firefly

Beneficial Insects – Firefly

Fireflies, or lightening bugs (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) are in the beetle family and the larvae are predators of slugs, snails, and worms.  The adults eat nectar and pollen and some adults do not eat at all.  By eating nectar and pollen they end up pollinating plants. The fireflies have what is known as a “cold light” because it does not produce any infrared or ultraviolet frequencies.  They use this “cold light” to attract mates or to attract prey.

There are more than 2000 species.  Some species are nocturnal (active at night) and some are diurnal (active during the day). Fireflies are distasteful to their prey and in some cases can be poisonous.

The female lays her eggs several days after mating and the larvae emerge a few weeks later and feeds for the remainder of the summer.  After summer, they usually hibernate, sometimes by burrowing into the soil.  They emerge in the spring, eat for a few weeks and pupate into adults.  They only live briefly as adults, enough time to mate and start the life cycle over again.

 

Beneficial Insects - Fireflybelly

Beneficial Insects – Fireflybelly

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Beneficial Insects Rove Beetles and Fireflies

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Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information | A Permaculture Plant

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information | A Permaculture Plant

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information | A Permaculture Plant

This post, titled Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information | A Permaculture Plant, provides information on permaculture uses and propagation of this medicinal tree.

The Siberian Pea Shrub (Caragana arborescen) is a permaculture plant that provides a lot of function stacking. They have edible parts, fix-nitrogen, attract beneficial insects, can be used as a pioneer plant, a windbreak, and a hedge, are used to stabilize erosion-prone soil, can feed livestock, can possibly be used as a medicinal plant and are pretty with fragrant flowers.

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information – Siberian Pea Shrub

Siberian pea shrub is native to Siberia and Manchuria and occurs from southern Russia to China
The shrub’s nutritional content is composed around 36% protein and 12.4% of fatty oil. There are over 80 species of this plant that is part of the legume family.

It is a large to very large shrub with a size of 8-20 feet tall, and 12-18 feet wide. It prefers full sun and is hardy in USDA zones 2 through 7.

Leaves are alternate and compound with small leaflets and can be light to dark green. Small, yellow fragrant flowers bloom in early summer with pod fruits, containing many seeds, ripening in mid summer. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees.

There are 4 to 6 red-dish-brown, oblong to spherical seeds per pod. The pods, peas and flowers are edible. Young pods and the flowers are good in salads. Older pods should be cooked. The peas taste rather bland and it is recommended from many sources online to use them in spicy dishes.

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information - Siberian Pea Shrub

Siberian Pea Shrub Plant Information – Siberian Pea Shrub

I bought my tree for nitrogen fixation and put it in my orchard. It did not grow too much last year. We did have a bit of a summer drought and I didn’t water it at all, so that is the likely reason. This is one of my STUN (Sheer Total Utter Neglect) plants. STUN is basically where you put something in the ground and then ignore it and see if it takes. I use the STUN method on many of my support species as I have enough to take care of and don’t want something else that requires a lot of care. Hopefully it will grow a little better this year and I’ll get some seed pods.

I found some of the seeds on Amazon.  If you want to purchase some, you can check out the link is below:

Propagation

Propagation is typically done by seed. To propagate by seed, soak the seeds for 24 hours in warm water first. If the seed has not swollen after 24 hours, then scarify and soak again for 12 hrs. Plant ¼ to ½ inch deep. They typically germinate in 2-3 weeks. The seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible. The shrub can be propagated from cuttings and layering as well.

Medicinal

The whole plant, known as ning tiao, is used in the treatment of cancer of the breast, and the orifice to the womb, and for dysmenorrhoea and other gynaecological problems. *

(Source: www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/c/caragana-arborescens=siberian-pea-tree.php)

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles

Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles

Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles

This post provides information on Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles.  Three beneficial insects for the garden are Ground Beetles, Clerid Beetles, and Soldier Beetle.  Some are beneficial simply by eating pest insects and some eat pest insects as well as pollinate flowers.  In very few cases do the cause any harm to your plants.

Ground Beetle

Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles - Ground Beetle

Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles – Ground Beetle

Common black beetles are a form of ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae).  Their bodies are oval with forward projecting jaws and most have hard wing casings. They are common in gardens, usually found under leaves, logs or other ground litter. Most remain on the ground and are poor climbers.

They are one of the top-10 largest animal families, as of 2015, with 40,000 species total, and 2000 in North America.

They eat other any invertebrate prey the can overpower.  They catch them by ambush or running after them and catching them.  In relation to their body length they are among the fastest land animals on Earth.  Many of the invertebrate they eat are pests, making them a beneficial insect in the garden.  They can consume up to their body weight daily.

Most ground beetles are nocturnal. Predators of ground beetles are the same as those of other beetles, including toads, small snakes, shrews, and birds.

Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles - Ground Beetle

Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles – Ground Beetle

There life cycle includes; egg, larva, pupa, and adult.  On average, carabid beetles produce one generation per year. Females will singly deposit between 30 and 600 oval eggs within the soil or in the layer of plant residues on the soil surface. Adults can live up to four years.

Clerid Beetle

The Clerid Beetle (Coleoptera: Cleridae) is usually brightly colored with bristly hairs and generally elongated bodies. They are commonly known as checkered beetles.

There are approximately 3,500 species in the world and about 500 species in North America.

Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles - Clerid

Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles – Clerid

Most Clerid feed on other beetles and larvae, but some feed are scavengers or pollen feeders.  In some situations, they are considered to be highly beneficial in the control some pest bark beetles.

Like the ground beetle their life cycle includes; egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Female Cleridae lay between 28–42 at a time.  They have a lifecycle of 35 days to more than 3 years.  Most clerid beetles spend winter in the larval stage.

Soldier Beetles

Soldier Beetles (Coleoptera: Cantharidae), also known as leather wings, are elongated with fairly soft wing covers. They usually have yellow or orange and black markings.  They get their name because their coloring is reminiscent of the early British Red Coats on soldiers.

Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles - Soldier Beetle

Beneficial Insects, Ground Beetle, Clerid Beetles, Soldier Beetles – Soldier Beetle

They can be important predators of aphids, mealy bugs, and other soft-bodied insects and are most commonly observed on yellow flowers late in the season. They will alternatively eat nectar and pollen if no insects are around. They do not damage plant foliage.

Soldier beetles are very active and readily fly, often resembling wasps in flight. Because of their frequent contact with flowers, soldier beetles are important pollinators.

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Beneficial Insects, Assassin Bug and Lady Bug

Beneficial Insects, Assassin Bug and Lady Bug

Beneficial Insects, Assassin Bug and Lady Bug

This blog post provides information on Beneficial Insects, Assassin Bug and Lady Bug. Beneficial insects are insects that do more good for a garden than harm.  They may eat pest insects or they may just pollinate flowers or do both.  If you can attract beneficial insects to your garden that predate on pest insects, then you don’t need to use toxic chemicals to produce your fruits and vegetables.

Assassin Bug

Assassin Bug

I will pick a few beneficial insects each week for the next couple of weeks and give you some information on them.  I will try to stick with insects common to North America that you would want in your garden.  I will include pictures as well for easy identification.

Assassin Bug

Assassin Bug

Assassin Bug

Assassin Bug

Assassin Bug

Assassin Bug (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) is a beneficial insect in gardens.  They eat flies, mosquitos, beetles and caterpillars.  They have a strong beak called the rostrum that is used to stab its prey and inject it with a saliva that liquefies the insides of the prey, which is then sucked out.  They do not feed on plants – only hunt on them.  There are about 7000 species of this bug, with 160 species known to live in the USA.  There is one species called kissing bug, that suck blood from humans.  Most assassin bug will bite humans if the bug feels threatened, so don’t try to catch them with your hands.  The bite on humans is very painful and causes a reaction on some people.

Assassin Bug

Assassin Bug

The female lays only one egg at a time in the summer, which hatches the following June.  They go through a simple metamorphosis with egg, nymph, and adult stages.  Assassin bugs do over winter in the US by finding a sheltered location.

Lady Bug

Lady Bug

They have 6 jointed legs, two antennae, and an exoskeleton made of chitin. They have 3-segmented beaks (most Hemiptera have 4-segmented beaks). Their three-part body consists of a head, thorax, and the abdomen.

Lady Bug

Lady Bug

Lady Bug

Lady Bug, lady beetles, ladybird beetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) is actually a beetle and not a bug.  There are almost 200 species of lady bug in North America.  Some ladybugs are beneficial and eat pest insects such as aphids.  Others, particularly in the Epilachninae family, eat plants. They have oval, dome-shaped bodies with six short legs.

Some houses get infested with lady bugs in the fall.  My farm house is one of them.  Starting in early October we get dozens and dozens of them in our kitchen which is south west facing.  In doing research for this article I have found that this is normal.  My problem is likely lack of insulation or cracks in the wall on the south side.  The lady bugs are just looking for a place to overwinter.

Lady Bug Larvae

Lady Bug Larvae

Lady bugs lay eggs in masses of 5 to 30 eggs.  The larval stage looks very different than the adults.  The larvae are active hunters and can move fairly quickly over the plants.  The larval stage only lasts for a few weeks.

Beneficial Insects, Assassin Bug and Lady Bug Assassin15

Beneficial Insects, Assassin Bug and Lady Bug

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Purple Coneflower Care | Purple Coneflower in Forest Gardening

Purple Coneflower Care | Purple Coneflower in Forest Gardening

Purple Coneflower Care | Purple Coneflower in Forest Gardening

This post, Purple Coneflower Care | Purple Coneflower in Forest Gardening, provides information on care and edibility of this medicinal wonder plant. The purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea,  is a showy flower that will add color and texture to any flower garden. The flowers are long lasting usually displaying the purple-pink color for the entire summer. I have been growing purple coneflower for fourteen years now and found that they are very hardy, tolerate neglect and drought well and are little affected by any pest pressure.  It is a perfect plant for forest gardening.

Purple Coneflower Care | Purple Coneflower in Forest Gardening Purple Cone Flower

Purple Coneflower Care | Purple Coneflower in Forest Gardening

Purple Coneflower is a perennial flower hardy in USDA zones 3-8 (one site stated zone 2-10) and native to the eastern United States. It has purple daisy like flower heads, blooms from June until September, grows two to three feet tall and prefers full sun. The flowers can be used in wildflower gardens, as cut flowers, and as dried flowers. Cut flowers last seven to ten days in a vase.  The pictures in this post were taken this morning – October 6th and I still have some plants blooming.

They have a vertical stalk with a flower on top. The stalk has leaves on opposite sides of the stalk. The leaves on the stalks are teardrop shape with the narrow end away from the stalk. The leaves can be up to 4” long and 2” wide and are smaller the higher on the stalk they are.

Purple Coneflower Care | Purple Coneflower in Forest Gardening Purple Cone Flower

Purple Coneflower Care | Purple Coneflower in Forest Gardening

Dividing the crown into multiple clumps and replanting can propagate purple coneflower. Seeds can be planted as well. The seeds need to be planted in the fall or stratified over the winter (stratified means wetting and putting in a cold environment 35-40 degrees). I seem to have volunteers (self seeded from previous year) every year and just transplant the volunteers when I need some new plants.

In the Maryland area beetles seem to like to eat the petals off at night. This plant attracts bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects like the soldier beetle. I also have one area where a vole or mole eats the roots every year. Somehow the plants survive and come back. In the Mid-Atlantic we have a fair number of gold finches (pretty little yellow birds) and they love to eat the seeds of the coneflowers in August and September. According to multiple sites that I have run across deer tend to leave this plant alone.

According to the USDA, Echinacea is widely used as an herbal remedy. The USDA goes on to say; “A purple coneflower product containing the juice of the fresh aerial parts of Echinacea purpurea was found to make mouse cells 50 -80 percent resistant to influenza, herpes, and vesicular somatitis viruses.” *

(Source: USDA http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_ecpu.pdf)

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

Lemon Balm Plant Uses | A Forest Garden Plant

Lemon Balm Plant Uses | A Forest Garden Plant

Lemon Balm Plant Uses | A Forest Garden Plant

Lemon balm plant uses are many.  Lemon Balm, melissa officinalis, is a perennial herb in the mint family that is hardy down to zone 4 or 5 and can be used as a forest garden plant.  It is a native to Europe, central Asia and Iran, but is now naturalized around the world. Lemon Balm has a mild lemon sent that is enhanced if the leaves are bruised or torn. The leaves have a lemon flavor and can be used for culinary uses in sweets and teas. During the summer the plant has small flowers that are great for attracting bees and other beneficial insects.

Lemon Balm Plant Uses | A Forest Garden Plant

Lemon Balm Plant Uses | A Forest Garden Plant

Propagation can be done through seeds that require sunlight to germinate, so press the seeds into the soil surface, but do not cover with soil. The seeds require a minimum of 70 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate. Propagation can also be done with softwood cuttings and by digging up “clumps” of the plant while dormant.

I bought my seeds from www.rareseeds.com. You get about 300 seeds for $2.50 (in the 2015 catalog.) I planted Lemon Balm for the first time in 2013. I planted the seeds in my basement under grow lights in March and then moved them out to the garden after the danger of frost had past. I put two plants in a 1×1 square (doing square foot gardening). By the end of 2013 they took up a 2×2 area and that was after being trimmed several times that year. Now in September 2015 I still have those plants growing, coming back every year, and needing to be trimmed back on a regular basis (they are in the mint family, so they spread readily and grow rapidly).

I like the leaves mixed into a tossed salad as that gives it a little extra flavor and zip. I have also added some of the leaves to a smoothie for a little extra zest. I have not tried it yet, but I’ve heard that Lemon Balm is a great addition to herbal teas. It can also be used as garnish for deserts.

Lemon Balm contains 24% Cintronellal with which is one of the main compounds in citronella. It is said that crushed Lemon Balm rubbed on your skin is a repellent to mosquitos.

Lemon Balm is high in flavonoids and can have an antioxidant effect. It also contains Vitamin C and Thiamin (a B Vitamin).

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Lemon Balm was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion (including gas and bloating, as well as colic).

The University of Maryland Medical Center also posts the following warning regarding all herbs: “The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine.” And “Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take lemon balm.”

Disclaimer: This document is for informational and educational purposes only. Great Escape Farms is not recommending, prescribing, or advising the use of any herb for medicinal purposes. Please consult a qualified medical professional for herbal treatments.

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melissa_officinalis

https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lemon-balm

The Herb Society of America

Lemon Balm, melissa officinalis, is a great herb and I will continue to grow this at Great Escape Farms.  I plan on using it as a food forest garden plant on the farm.

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