Wandering: The Herbal
We meet with Sydney local, Justina Edwards to discover the lost art of foraging and learnt about what kinds of plants are medicinal and edible on our herbal walk around Bronte.
There’s little that brings as much joy as wandering about in nature, taking in the sights and smells. Better still is when you come across objects of beauty; a coloured rock or shell, an un-trampled feather, or a patch of wildflowers blooming in the warm air of spring. These experiences are so much more meaningful when we can connect with what is actually around us. Being able to identify plants and having even a basic amount of plant knowledge opens up that world to a whole new level. Suddenly you are equipped with knowing how to take care of yourself and your loved ones by way of medicine and nourishment that is powerful, easy to access and free.
All around us there are wild plants just bursting with nourishing and healing goodness, but do you know which ones they are? There are plentiful varieties of common medicinal and edible plants around Sydney, some of which are native and some that have found their way over here from other countries and have easily adapted to our forgiving climate.
Pretty much everywhere you will see dandelion, noticeable for its sunny yellow flowers and speared leaves with jagged edges, reminiscent of a lion’s teeth. The leaves are smooth and hairless, and can be added to salads raw, stir fried, or pressed into juices. Deep below its sunny exterior grows its long tap root, which when dried and ground up makes a delicious coffee substitute that cleanses the liver. You can harvest your own fairly easily or don’t be shy to ask for a dandy latte at your local cafe.
Another common one is plantain, with longitudinally veined leaves and a spike of flowers growing up from the centre. Plantain leaves can be used in a poultice to relieve insect bites and stings – just chew a few leaves in your mouth until a soft pulp is formed and apply.
Around Bronte in particular you can also find scurvy weed, chickweed and marshmallow as well as some natives like warrigal greens, dianella, lilli pilli and tea trees. There’s also the infamous hill of nasturtiums which gets raided by gourmets and chefs. Nasturtium leaves and flowers are edible and high in vitamin C, adding pops of colour to salads and a peppery tang.
Anywhere you go you will find a unique variety of edible and medicinal plants happily growing, whether living in a crack in the pavement of a city, or in the bush surrounding it.
It pays to know even a handful of these. The sense of self-sufficiency alone is reason enough, let alone having an excuse to wander around, recognising which of these plants can help your friends and family stay vibrant.
Justina started The Herbal after beginning her studies in herbal medicine. She handcrafts a beautiful healing balm made with plant based oils and extracts, take a look at her work here.
Disclaimer: Make sure you know how to properly identify plants before consuming, as there are some varieties which are similar in appearance and can be considered toxic. Always take care to ensure there haven’t been any pesticides or herbicides sprayed in the area recently.