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Recipes for an Annual Wild Edible Chickweed Salve & Chickweed Pesto: Let this star-shaped plant shine by using its invigorating properties in a potent healing salve and nutrient-rich wild greens pesto.

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a delicious and nutrient-dense plant that, luckily for us, grows like a weed. While it's native to Europe, it has spread to many temperate parts of the world and is naturalized in North America. It loves cooler weather and is often one of the first plants to emerge in spring. It disappears with the heat of summer, and, in some climates, returns in the cooler fall months.

There's a long list of ways you can use chickweed as an herbal remedy, but one of the best ways to use chickweed is to soothe and cool physical conditions that are hot and dry. Chickweed is a versatile plant, perfect for making a powerful salve that you can use for hot, itchy, and inflamed skin problems, such as rashes, clean wounds, and bug bites.

Do you have an itchy, inflamed skin condition? You can try using chickweed as a poultice or salve, as well as taking it internally as a tea to bring cooling relief.

Do your lungs feel hot and irritated, and you have a dry cough? Try a tincture or tea of chickweed to moisten and soothe the lungs.

And, chickweed offers benefits beyond its healing properties. Want a nourishing green food that takes seconds to harvest and tastes delicious? Try making a chickweed salad or chickweed pesto.

Friend or Foe?

Chickweed is a low-growing herbaceous plant that, in the right conditions, forms a thick mat along the ground. It thrives in cool, moist conditions and grows readily in disturbed soil. When I lived in the Seattle area, I often found chickweed growing on organic farms, and the farmers were more than happy to have me harvest the plants.

Chickweed's small white flowers look as if they have 10 petals, but technically they only have five petals, with a deep divide down each center.

Chickweed flowers are said to look like stars. The genus name, Stellaria, means "star-like." The leaves are oval-shaped and grow opposite along the stem.

But the most distinguishing trait of chickweed is something you may need a magnifying glass or botanical loupe to see.

Take a very close look at the stem of chickweed, and you'll see a row of tiny hairs growing along one side of the stem. With each leaf node, the row of hairs shifts around the stem.

These botanical traits will help you identify chickweed. Remember to always be absolutely certain about a plant before you use it internally or externally. If you have any questions about the identity of a plant, find a local forager or an extension agent to help you.

Chickweed is best used when it's young. Harvest it before it flowers, or just as it's coming into bloom. Chickweed that has gone to seed may be too tough or stringy to be enjoyable in meals.

Chickweed has easily disturbed roots, so the best way to harvest the plant is with scissors. Simply cut several inches from the top, leaving enough stems and leaves for the plant to continue growing. Chickweed will grow back with a flourish after each harvest!

Tips for Making Oil and Salve

Chickweed is a very moist plant, which means it has a high water content when it's fresh. Infusing herbs that have a high water content in oil can make the resulting oil or salve go rancid more easily, or cause it to mold.

That's why it's necessary to dry the plants a bit. However, here's the tricky part: Chickweed is best when fresh. How, then, do you make a shelf-stable herbal oil or salve?

Here's what I do to reduce the high moisture content of plants that are best used fresh. First, harvest the plant and let it wilt overnight. The plant material will lose a lot of its moisture but wont completely dry out. Then, use the warm oil method for extracting the plant into the oil. This gently heated process will help drive off any remaining moisture that might later cause the oil to spoil. The chickweed salve recipe that follows includes step-by-step instructions for this process.

Soothing Salve Recipe

This is a super-strong salve made with a delicate plant that brings soothing relief to hot and dry tissues. Consider this salve for bug bites, hot rashes, clean wounds, or any itchy skin conditions. The optional lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil is also wonderful for the same conditions, gives the salve a nice scent, and is a mild preservative. This recipe makes a soft salve. If you anticipate storing this in a warm location, you can add more beeswax to reinforce its solid form. Up to 2 ounces of beeswax can be used in total. Yield:four 2-ounce containers.

* 2 large handfuls fresh chickweed

* 1 1/4 cup olive oil

* 1 ounce beeswax

* 30 to 50 drops lavender essential oil, optional

Prep the day before: Chop fresh chickweed finely and arrange it in a thin layer on a cutting board or cookie sheet. Allow to wilt for 12 to 24 hours.

The next day: Add wilted chickweed to olive oil. You'll get the best results if you have roughly equal amounts of chickweed and olive oil.

[1] Place the mixture in a blender or food processor. Blend for 15 to 20 seconds, or until the chickweed and olive oil are well-blended. (This will further break up the cell walls, helping the extraction process.)

[2] Place blended mixture in the top of a double boiler, or in a bowl on top of a pan containing 2 inches of water. (The water shouldn't touch the bottom of the bowl.)

[3] Bring water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir oil occasionally, and continue heating until oil is quite warm to the touch. Turn off heat and allow mixture to sit for several hours. Repeat this process (reheating and allowing to cool) several times within a 24- to 48-hour period to fully extract the chickweed into the oil. Don't let the oil get so hot that it smokes or that the plant material begins to "fry" and get crispy--you only need to get the oil warm enough to extract the goodness. When the oil is well-infused with chickweed, it will take on a vibrant green color.

[4] After 24 to 48 hours, strain out the plant material through a double layer of cheesecloth.

[5] Measure 1 cup of the infused oil. (Extra oil can be used as a body moisturizer. If you don't end up with a full cup of oil, add a little plain olive oil to make up the difference.)

[6] Using a double boiler or a pan on very low heat, melt the beeswax. The smaller your pieces of beeswax, the faster they'll melt.

[7] After the beeswax has liquefied, add the chickweed oil. Stir well to combine, using as little heat as possible. Add lavender essential oil, if using.

[8] Immediately pour into tins or glass jars of your choice.

[9] Let the salve cool until it hardens. Label and store in a cool place.

This salve will last for up to a year and will provide you with various forms of welcome relief throughout the different seasons.

Cleanup tip: Use a paper towel to wipe out the pan you used to make the salve while the pan is still warm. Wipe out as much as possible, then wash with hot, soapy water.

Rosalee de la Foret is an herbalist and the author of Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Food and Remedies that Heal. Visit www.HerbsWithRosalee.com to get a free course on herbal energetics.
Gathering the
Fresh Taste of Spring

Early spring is the best time to harvest delectable chickweed. This
salad recipe and Chickweed Pesto (on Page 32) are from Wild
Abundance, a permaculture and homestead school in North Carolina.
Harvest, feast, preserve, and enjoy!

Chickweed Autumn Olive Salad Recipe

It's hard to beat a fresh salad made from wild edibles that have
been foraged from your own property. This easy salad recipe will
come together in minutes.

Directions: Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Put all
dressing ingredients into a food processor or blender and process
until liquefied. Pour dressing over salad ingredients, toss, and
serve. Yield: about 4 servings as a side.

Salad Ingredients

* 6 cups leafy (not overly stemmy) chickweed, rinsed, and
chopped very finely across the stem in 1/4-inch lengths

* 1 to 2 cups ripe autumn olives, redbud flowers, locust
flowers, or dried cranberries

* 1/2 cup queso fresco or soft goat cheese

* 1/4 to 3/4 cup black walnut pieces, roasted sunflower
seeds, or soaked and roasted pecans

Dressing Ingredients:

* 1/3 cup fresh basil or Monarda spp. (bee balm or
horsemint) leaves, just coming up in the spring

* 1 cup olive oil

* 1 1/8 cups honey

* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt


Recipe by Natalie Bogwalker, Wild Abundance, and provided by Aiyanna SezakBlatt. Learn moreaiwww.WildAbundance.net andwww.AiyannaSezakBlatt.com.
Chickweed Pesto

You can make this pesto early in spring, before
your basil has come in. Recipe courtesy of Natalie
Bogwalker, Wild Abundance. Yield: about 2 cups.

Directions: Harvest chickweed with a knife or
scissors to avoid dirt. Rinse carefully, and swing
through the air to dry.

Make pesto in 2 batches. Add half the ingredients
to a food processor or blender and pulse in
short bursts until greens are well-chopped and all
ingredients are blended. Repeat with remaining
ingredients.

Eat fresh, store at room temperature for up to a
week, or freeze for up to 4 months.

Tip: Freeze in ice-cube trays, and empty the frozen
pesto cubs into zip-close bags for future use.

Ingredients

* 6 cups fresh
chickweed

* 5 cloves garlic, or
more to taste

* 1 tablespoon sea
salt

* 1 cup toasted black
walnuts, English
walnuts, sunflower
seeds, or pecans

* Zest of 1 organic
lemon

* 1 cup olive oil


Caption: Chickweed's small white flowers look as if they have 10 petals, but they technically only have five petals with deep divides down their centers. When attempting to identify chickweed, look for a row of tiny hairs along one side of the stem that shifts around the stem at each leaf node.

Caption: Prepare the chickweed the day before you plan to make your salve. Leave the freshly chopped chickweed arranged flat on a cutting board to wilt for 12 to 24 hours before adding it to your olive oil. You'll get the best results using this wilting method and equal parts chickweed and oil.

Caption: After it's set, a well-infused chickweed salve will show off a vibrant green color.

Caption: Pour the salve mixture (chickweed-infused oil, beeswax, and essential oil) into tins for storage.
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Author:de la Foret, Rosalee
Publication:Mother Earth News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2019
Words:1778
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