Malabar Gourd, Malabar Squash, Fig-Leaf Gourd, Pie Melon: There are many names for the Cucurbita ficifolia. No matter what you call it, this is one of the most amazing squashes EVER. Tremendously versatile – it can be used in soups, stews, goulashes, pies, puddings, beverages, and more! Every part of the plant is edible. The biomass is incredible! Join me on this Malabar Squash hunt and be prepared to be amazed!
Fresh fruit in late December! What a treat! Autumn Olive, aka autumn berry, Elaeagnus umbellata, is an amazing shrub. It is a nitrogen fixer, great for pollinators, and provides fruit when little else is available. The berries are high in lycopene and antioxidants and can be made into jams, syrups, elixirs, wines, fruit leather, tossed into baked goods, sprinkled on salads, or eaten fresh by the handful. I love this shrub. And the red berries beneath fresh snow are strikingly beautiful. But BEWARE – this plant can be invasive in some areas!
Today, we are on a quest for the cottonwood – Populus balsamifera – and more specifically, the cottonwood buds on windfall branches with which to make a healing salve. Cottonwood is powerful medicine – the bees make propolis out of it, so that should tell you something – and now is the best time to collect the buds for making what is commonly known as “Balm of Gilead.” Prepare for a sticky adventure. The scent will make you swoon….
As it turns out, Daphne laureola, aka Spurge Laurel, our mystery plant, is NOT a friendly plant! It is both dangerous and invasive! If you see it in your backyard (or elsewhere), destroy it ASAP! It is on the Noxious Weed list in Washington State and many others throughout the U.S. Do not touch it with your bare hands! The sap is highly poisonous.