MySecretGarden

U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Treasured Weed


There is a plant whose name is known to all Russians. I've heard that name since I was a child. It's in books, legends, fairy tales, etc. Shame on me, but I've never seen it or known how it looks. The plant is called Ivan-Chai, which literally means Ivan Tea. Its leaves can undergo fermentation, like real tea. In Russia, they are often used as a tea substitute and were at one time even exported. In Western Europe, it is known as Kapor tea.
During our recent trip to Alaska, I was reading a book about Alaska by the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov who has been honored with the Global 500 award (BTW, what a wonderful book! I learned tons of interesting facts from it!). He mentioned that Ivan-Chai grows extensively in this state.

I thought: legendary Russian herb grows in Alaska? This is my chance to see how Ivan-Chai looks! There were lots of wild flowers around, including white-headed Cow Parsnip, blue Lupins, perennial geraniums and unknown to me tall plants with pretty purple flowers.
This is not IT!



At the same time, a Russian blogger, Voldemar, published a post about Ivan-Chai (http://voldemarmeteorizmus.blogspot.com/2009/07/blog-post_20.html). Looking at his picture, I realized that the Alaskan tall plant with purple blooms and the legendary Russian plant were the same!


Alaskan Fireweed is Russian Ivan-Chai! Great, Tatyana. You needed to come to Alaska to learn how the legendary Russian plant looks. But wait! Looking at the Fireweed/Ivan-Chai, I realized that it grows in my own backyard. Six years ago, when we moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, I asked my neighbor what were those very tall skinny plants with attractive bright purple blooms. She just waved off my question and commented: "Just a weed!".
Well, now I know what a treasure I have in my garden!
 

Fireweed or (mainly in Britain) Rosebay Willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium) is a perennial herbaceous plant in the willowherb family Onagraceae. It is native throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere.


Fireweed gets its name because it quickly invades disturbed areas, such as those created after fires (like on the picture below). Frequently confused with purple loosestrife, fireweed has a very different looking flower, although from a distance or driving down the highway it can be hard to tell the two apart.

The young shoots of the Fireweed were often collected in the spring by Native American people and mixed with other greens. They are best when young and tender; as the plant matures the leaves become tough and somewhat bitter. The southeast Native Americans use the stems in the stage. They are peeled and eaten raw. When properly prepared soon after picking they are a good source of vitamin Cand pro-vitamin A. The Dena'ina add fireweed to their dogs' food. Fireweed is also a medicine of the Upper Inlet Dena'ina, who treat pus-filled boils or cuts by placing a piece of the raw stem on the afflicted area. This is said to draw the pus out of the cut or boil and prevents a cut with pus in it from healing over too quickly.


Do you see the tall plants with pretty white flowers? It's Cow Parsnip
(post http://tanyasgarden.blogspot.com/2009/04/cow-parsnip.html) . This year, we saw it EVERYWHERE! It is scary!

The root of the Fireweed can be roasted after scraping off the outside, but often tastes bitter. To mitigate this, collect the root before the plant flowers and remove the brown thread in the middle.
In Alaska, candies, syrups, jellies, and even ice creamare made from fireweed. Monofloral honey made primarily from fireweed nectar has a distinctive, spiced flavor.


 Because fireweed can colonize disturbed sites, even following an old oil spill, it is often used to reestablish vegetation. It grows in (and is native to) a variety of temperate to arctic ecosystems. Be aware: although it is also grown as an ornamental plant, some may find it too aggressive in that context.





Here, Fireweed is on the left
Fireweed information is borrowed from Wikipedia.

Dave (http://www.growingthehomegarden.com/) has the great idea about the Worst Weed Wednesday. Fireweed might be the worst weed for some gardeners, but for me, it's probably the best weed! I'll tell you in future if I managed to make a tea from it.
P.S. Thank you Sue Swift , for including the following fact in your comment: Rosebay Willowherb is a wild flower emblem of London. After the Second World War, drifts of purple grew on its bomb sites. Also, I need to mention that this plant is the Yukon's floral emblem.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rustic and Beautiful


Alaska is unbelievably, breathtakingly beautiful. Its valleys, mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers are impossible to forget. Together with a natural, wild beauty, I thoroughly enjoyed the way Alaskans arrange their plants. They manage to keep their flower boxes and containers in harmony with the surroundings. Here are some of the arrangements that touched my heart.

Homer:








Kenai:








There would be more pictures if my husband managed to stop the car in the middle of the road every time he heard my Aahhs and Oohs.

This picture was taken last year in Anchorage.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July Blooms

Well, my foxgloves are gone... What is next?



A clump of these daylilies, below, was bought for 50 cents at some fuchsia sale. I bought several fuchsias, too!


Below: this is the very first bloom on my new Mr.Lincoln that my mother-in-law, Mary, gave me last spring. Thank you dear Mary!






Silene armeria (earlier posts: What plant is this? HELP!, I lived with a stranger for 4 years... ) is finishing its bright pink show, but some plants still look fresh!


Thank you Jack, my yoga buddy, for giving me many dahlias, including this one:


Rugosa Rose. Good one, but spreads crazily!


These are the beans from my experiment (post Secret Life of Beans. )


Spiderwort and grape leaves:



Below: Calabracoa.
This annual is a great improvement on the original Million Bells. It has self cleaning flowers that last from spring to mid fall.
Guess what were the most attractive words in this description for me? Yes, self cleaning! Is there such a thing as Self Cleaning House?



I started to put fuchsias in my garden only several years ago.
In Russia, they are grown as house plants.


This shrub rose below, Carefree Marvel, got eaten badly by a deer before I sprayed it with Liquid Fence.
I am so glad it's able to show her lovely blooms!


For me, there is no better annual than a reliable, easy geranium (if to be correct - pelargonium):







The picture below is my favorite in this post. It is Regensberg Floribunda.
The label says: "Bright white painted with hot pink". For me, it looks more like bright pink painted with white...
It has sweet apple fragnance.



For more blooms go to Carol's May Dreams Garden.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Inbetween Times and Spaces




This is one of my favorite pictures ever.

I feel like I am lost somewhere in space and time.

Ocean... Land... Sky... No boundaries.

I feel myself like a time traveller.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Let's eat potatoes!


The time came! First fingerling potatoes are ready to be eaten!


The plants still have green leaves and the potatoes are still growing. But, I like to take several of them from each plant while the skin is thin. I move aside the soil, choose the bigger potatoes, pick them up and move the soil back to let the rest of them continue to grow. I checked regular red potatoes. Probably, some of them can be gathered and eaten in a week or two.



Kitchen garden

As I wrote in the post Back To Potatoes! , I didn't plan to grow potatoes. It's just happened that we had fingerling and red potatoes in our pantry that weren't eaten in time and started to sprout.




The fingerling potatoes in the raised bed got so tall! Almost as tall as me! I've never seen potato plants so tall and was afraid that all the energy went to the green tops. It looks like everything is OK. Recipes for fingerling potatoes can be found on the Internet. I cooked them in a shallow Pyrex dish with some water and olive oil (very little) in the oven at 400 degrees. Sprinkled with salt and black pepper. When ready, added some butter, chopped dill and green onions. Served with grilled salmon. It was tasty! I like young potatoes with thin skin.

This is what WikiAnswers.com says about eating potato skin:"... the skin of a potato has various benefits. ... it is known for its high fiber content which is essential in a healthy diet... ...they help in preventing cancer and heart disease since they have antioxidants in them. The potato as well as its skin provide a good source of vitamin C, iron, calcium, vitamin B6, and potassium".

As I promised, the following is the recipe for cooking potatoes that I got from my friend Voldemar from Russia http://voldemarmeteorizmus.blogspot.com/ (Ladies, you might want to check his last post to see a charming incredible little purse he is making!)
It is said that the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin liked his potatoes cooked this way.


Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (June 6 1799–February 10 1837) was a Russian author of the Romantic era who is considered to be the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern literature. Pushkin pioneered the use of speech in his poems and plays, creating a style of storytelling—mixing drama, romance, and associated with Russian literature ever since and greatly influencing later Russian writers (Wikipedia).

Choose small smooth potatoes, clean them and DON'T remove the skin. Put them in a clay pot with previously warmed ghee*. Bake the dish in the oven or on hot charcoals. Before serving, add sour cream and chopped greens (dill, parsley, etc.)* What is Ghee?

"Ghee is made by simmering unsalted butter in a large pot until all water has boiled off and protein has settled to the bottom. The cooked and clarified butter is then spooned off to avoid disturbing the milk solids on the bottom of the pan. Unlike butter, ghee can be stored for extended periods without refrigeration, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation and remains moisture-free. "(Wikipedia)

Well, Pushkin lived long ago. For those of us who don't have a traditional Russian stove, clay pots and ghee, a regular oven, Pyrex (or other oven-proof dishes) and regular butter can be used.

Traditional Russian stove. The image source: http://www.russia-ic.com/

For a pound of potatoes, take about 8 oz of butter. Melt it in a dish and add potatoes. Don't salt. Cook til it's ready. Nothing was said about the temperature of the oven and time. Voldemar knows when it's ready by smell. You can use a fork to check the readiness. Try to not overcook. He also made his own addition to the recipe. When potatoes are almost ready, he adds the following well stirred mixture: glass of milk, teaspoon of flour, handful of finely chopped parsley, pinch of salt. After that, he lets it stay in the oven for 5-10 minutes more. Voldemar uses a clay pot which he fills with water and places in a hot oven for an hour before starting to cook. This prevents the potatoes from getting too dry.

Bon Appetite!

Hello people!

While she is bragging about her potatoes, I am munching on her roses, phlox and bean, grape and strawberry leaves! Yum!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Foxglove High and Low

Splendeurs et misères des foxgloves









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