Monday, April 25, 2016

Garden Understories is now based in Nelson BC!


Ahhhh, Wowie. My family moved to Nelson BC early this year and I'm so happy to say my gardening services are now available here. I am offering the same garden work and play (listening to nature, permaculture inspired, soil building, silent and human powered,  mulch heavy...), except that my beloved trailer, built with scavenged materials around our former home in east Vancouver, did not make the trip. So I'll be travelling by foot or car. You can have a look at the Services page to read more about what I offer. Reach me at 250 505 4403 or email gardenunderstories@gmail.com if you might like some help in your garden this year. 
                         -Monica

Friday, November 6, 2015


This Sunday November 22, I'm looking forward to hosting a free workshop: Introduction to Urban Foraging, at the Hastings Community Centre in Vancouver. These workshops are fun and informative conversations about some of our most common "weeds". They are packed with info about the plants, what they offer, and how you can get to know them and bring them into your life. I choose plants that are seasonal and in everyone's neighbourhood, so people feel confident begin wildcrafting as soon as they leave. There will be samples of tea, vinegars, food and even tinctures, as well as a little booklet to take home. Join us for some lively discussion and inspiration!

Sunday, November 22, from 11-1. Meet at Room 9, Hastings Community Centre, 3096 East Hastings Street, Vancouver. This workshop will be indoors and outdoors, so please dress appropriately!
Registration Required - Please email me at gardenunderstories@gmail.com
or call 604 202 9755



Friday, April 17, 2015

A CHICKWEED PRIMER
Delicate and delicious, lush green colonies of Stellaria media ("among little stars") can still be found throughout Vancouver. Here's an introduction to this wonderful little "weed"...

ID: Chickweed has teardrop shaped leaves with pointed tips and little white flowers. The flowers appear to have ten petals but upon closer examination they are actually five very deeply cleft petals... little stars. Its stems are densely branched. If growing alone, it spreads out close to the ground; if growing among other chickweed plants, they support each other enough to appear upright.  

Chickweed has two defining characteristics: The first is if you carefully break a stem apart, you will reveal an elastic inner core (remind me to update with a photo of this). The second is that the plant is hairless, save for a single line of hairs travelling down each stem. This line of hairs changes position between each leaf node.

LOOK-ALIKES: Mouse-Eared Chickweed looks very similar, except it's hairy all over. You can eat this one too, but probably want to cook it first .

Scarlet Pimpernel is considered poisonous and looks and grows just like Chickweed except it has: a square stem, no hair, dark spots on underside of leaves and reddish flowers. Also, if you perform the elastic inner core test, this plant will fail. I have yet to encounter Ms. Pimpernel in Vancouver.

FIND IT: Chickweed loves the cool moisture of late winter. It has a great flush around this time in Vancouver, and dense colonies seem to sprout up out of nowhere. You can still find it a bit later in the season in fertile well drained soil if the area is moist and somewhat shaded, but many exposed patches will have yellowed and dried up by this time. But not to worry, there will be another flush with the cool rain of autumn. I've still been finding nice patches at the base of large trees in parks and boulevards around the city.


HARVEST & PROCESS: Snip off the top 1 to 2 inches of the plant; any further down and it may get a bit too stringy to enjoy. I always do a little taste on site test for characteristics like bitterness (chickweed isn't bitter) and stringiness. 


At home, wash in a sink-full of cold water  


and pick out the inevitable bits of grass and other plants.
This can also be an opportunity to check for lookalikes in your harvest. Although this process may seem tedious, it can actually be quite meditative, and you'll really get to know these little starry plants as you sort through them, which will help you find them in future.

FOOD: Chickweed is full of vitamins and minerals, all of which I am not going to list here this time around. It's mild tasting and makes a great base for salads. It can also be used on sandwiches or anywhere you would use sprouts. It can be made into pesto, and also cooked into dishes (add just a couple minutes before turning off the heat). Some people liken its taste to corn silk.

Chickweed (and some dandelion) ready for our salad tonight:


MEDICINE:  If you associate chickweed with cool, starry nights (the star-shaped flowers), you will easily remember when to use it. It grows in cool, moist conditions, and passes these qualities to us - helping with hot, dry inflammation and irritation (especially itchy skin conditions) Poultices, salves and teas are some easy ways to use Chickweed.

As if food and medicine weren't enough reason to encourage a patch of chickweed in your garden, it is one of the most important forage plants for birds (it's called chickweed, after all), and a nitrogen fixer to boot!

I will be hosting workshops in Vancouver featuring Chick and other Weeds in the next month. Details will follow...

Some references:

Don Ollsin - grassrootsherbalism.com (my herbal teacher, check him out!)Pathways to Healing, A Guide to Herbs, Ayurveda, Dreambody and Shamanism by Don Ollsin
Healing Wise by Susun Weed
Edible Wild Plants by John Kallas
www.wildfoodsandmedicines.com





Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Garden Understories


Garden Understories is a people-powered garden service. 
In brief, we provide garden care, spring and fall clean-ups, 
food gardening, design, and more. 
We travel by bicycle and use hand tools. 




We work with nature 
to create gardens people love,
that love them back.



If you need some help in your garden, have a look around here, 
and get in touch: gardenunderstroies@gmail.com  
250 505 4403