Well, well! It turned out that last Thursday’s Community Dinner could be held outside on the patio, since the mosquitos were not in evidence.
So we did that — sorry, this is the only picture I took of the event:
And we eagerly awaited a promised after-dinner presentation by Jenny Yang, a friend of neighbor Jelene’s who had come for the first time the week before. (Jenny is sitting with white pants and white hair, approximately in the center of the photo.) She told us she could tell us about perilla, the abundant wild herb in the front yard (that we had apparently misnamed as orach), its many uses, as well as uses for hosta blossoms and mugwort. Ok!
Jenny had been especially excited to see perilla, and told me last week that it’s time to harvest it. So I did that, and filled a large drying rack with perilla sticks. There was still plenty left over. We are very lucky this year. Will it return next year? Reminds me of the Surprise Lilies which had suddenly graced the front yard only weeks ago and their blooms lasted a full two weeks!
Perilla comes in purple and green. Here’s purple:
Well, this week, the lessons began even before dinner where, for the early attenders, she concocted little fried cakes made of hosta blooms (“Just the ones that bloom open this day,” she said; “they will close by nightfall”); rinsed, stirred with a little flour and a sprinkle of sugar. Amazingly delicious!
We were still in the kitchen when she told me to go get three sticks of perilla and two sticks of lemon balm. Okay. I said. “But I don’t know what lemon balm is.” “It’s everywhere,” she admonished. “Look in the backyard.” Sure enough. I knew it would be a kind of mint-like plant, and tasted it to make sure. Yes. Lemony.
“The lemon balm will help moderate the taste of the perilla,” she said, and proceeded to rinse both perilla and lemon balm and set the five sticks with their leaves in a pot of water to boil. “For ten minutes.” She said. So we would need to remember, given that we would be outside.
Well, I did finally remember, and told her, and she rushed in to get what had now become a tea, golden in color. She brought the pot outside, and we each took a tiny amount to sip.
This was after dinner, when she had finally begun her official presentation, talking about perilla’s many uses, including for indigestion, mouth and gum issues, the leaves stop itching, great for food poisoning, allergies, helps bring out the flavor of meat; can be cooked or eaten raw, and of course as a tea. By this time we were excited to actually taste it, and amazingly enough, her friend Jelene, suddenly remarked, after two sips, that she had come to the dinner with swollen glands in her neck, and that they were draining! “They are draining!” She kept saying, clearly astonished. As were we all. There were other uses, but I no longer remember them. Here’s one url on the subject:
When I asked if there was a single herb that she would recommend for its many uses, a single most valuable herb, she immediately announced: PERILLA. Okay!
The mugwort, which we don’t have here (“Good. It would take over your yard”), she uses for foot baths, but only after drying for three years. She keeps her mugwort stuffed in three pillow cases, green pillowcase the first year, yellow pillowcase the second year, and brown the third year. Clever. The point of the pillowcases is they are good for being stomped on to break up the mugwort.
Then, the very next day, our regular CSA harvest brought out another herbal wonder, thanks to Alex, who knew that yarrow was good to stop bleeding.
Yep. I cut the tip of my right forefinger while cutting tiny little brussel sprouts. And despite pressure with wrapped toilet paper, the bleeding continued.
Until Alex, bless her, said, get some yarrow! chew it, make a paste, and cover the wound.
Okay! Did that, and bleeding immediately stopped.
All in all, an amazing two days.
Harvest crew, Alex in front, with Dan and helper this week, Tim.