Plantain & Parallels

Scrap Kitchen 07

Who else was loving last night’s Libra full moon?

If I’m being honest I used most of last night making vegan nachos and watching Tiktoks and the other half writing this (very last minute, I know). In truth, I was somewhat pooped from cycling into town (a mere 6 miles away) and going on a lil hike up a big hill. The cycle there was fine, the cycle back; unholy.

The Tarot Card for this week is one of my favourites, The Queen Of Wands. I think she beautifully symbolises hope for the coming months along with stability, sunflowers and cats. Wands are the suit of action, over this week ask yourself: How do you define security? Is this what you imagined for yourself? What sun are you turning to face? How can you provide for yourself but keep a resistant streak? Where can you embody a black cat?

A wonderful plant I harvest all year round is Plantain, not to be confused with the banana-looking staple of Carribean cuisine. This “weed” is recognisable to most people as something to be fiddle with at picnics. When the leaves are plucked, small filaments hang off the end, which are really satisfying to peel. But aside from entertaining children, Plantain is also edible and medicinal. The seeds, when dried can be used as a spice like peppercorns with a softer flavour, or they can be sautéed similarly to asparagus. The baby leaves can be used in salads (be very careful where you harvest this from since if you are anywhere in a city, chances are someone has trampled on it and a dog has more than likely left its mark). The older leaves can be used in soups, preferably blended, as they have a more chewy texture. The leaves themselves can be infused in olive oil and used to make a salve as discussed a couple of weeks ago. This salve is really good for insect bites, although the biomolecule that elicits the anti-itching effect is not yet known. Plantain is really abundant, but I am still going to caution you to never pick more than you need and remember it provides food for pollinators and local herbivores too.

The history of these plants is an interesting one, considered both a weed here and in the US where its colloquial name is “White Man’s Footsteps”, Plantain grows well in the small patches of dry earth; not always footstep size but usually along well-trodden paths. As the United States and the rest of the Americas, this small plant followed within the footsteps of the coloniser. But unlike many other species brought accidentally or purposefully from distant shores, plantain does not wreak havoc. Thinking here of the English Ivy, brought over to replicate rural forests thousands of miles away, which now takes over whole swathes of land, suffocating other plants and even felling trees under its weight. The parallels for colonialism here are striking. But plantain stands apart from these invasive species, instead adapting and fitting into the hollows and niches it is well suited for. Trying to repair the balance within the scorched footsteps. Within this, its medicinal prowess offers some semblance of healing. The point in all this being that you don't have to take over a place to become part of it, to become native to it. Of course, this was better explained in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass, which I’m sure you haven’t heard the last of from me. To become native to a place you cannot take by force, but must build yourself into the community, adapting to its needs and its niches. Speaking of filling niches, my favourite anti-capitalist of the week is a large tanker called Evergreen, good on you gal, disrupt that world trade.

Seasonally, artichoke is just popping up but that is not the most accessible of foods, price or nutritional value-wise. I did once see a woman eat the whole head, spikes and all, when I worked at a trendy vegetarian restaurant and seeing something like that changes a person. I would recommend only eating the fleshy bits on the leaves and the “heart”, but really isn’t artichoke an excuse just to put butter into your mouth? Fruit-wise pineapple is making an appearance, to save some for later try candying it, the recipe calls for canned but you can just cut rings out yourself and even save the scraps/rinds/skin to make Pineapple Tea. Another use for the pineapple peel is to make the super-refreshing Mexican drink Tapeche, a slightly fermented brew great for hot sunny days. Of course, the head of the pineapple is a classic for regrowing at home, simply pick off the dry leaves, let the cut end crust off and then place it in water to root for a couple of weeks. After which point you can plant it out.

For planting projects those with indoor space will want to start their slow growers ASAP, I’m talking tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, onions and maybe some salad just for fun. For those with outdoor space, a beginning sowing of peas might be a good idea. If you are wanting to plant something later in the season, consider planing a cover crop of oats, peas, clover and legumes. If mown-down (before going to seed) and mixed into your intended planting space, these plants can provide nitrogen and even phosphorous to subsequent plants as they break down in the soil. The podcast for this week is all about Seed Saving from The Urban Farm Podcast, this is a great introduction for those interested in seeds but are unsure where to start in terms of preserving it.

After finally writing this with hours to spare I’m going to sign off, but I’ll leave you with this. In the UK the government is working to infringe on its citizen’s rights to protest, most recently peaceful demonstrations were met with violence from the Bristol police. Before that, a vigil for a woman murdered by a serving officer was also disbanded with unnecessary force. This weekend several demonstrations were planned to oppose the government’s proposed changes to protesting laws. I encourage anyone and everyone to write to your local MP, share your views on this and to get involved with the next day of action Saturday, April 3.

In the meantime, leave a comment, throw a like at me and remember to stay scrappy.


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Image Credit: Phoenix Han and me

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If you missed last weeks’ update, Read it Here.