Sunday, June 23, 2013

Horse Nettle - A Thorn FIlled Weed in the Texas Tradition

I’ve heard it said that everything in Texas bites, stings, or sticks.  Now we all know that Texas is full of lovely flowers and can be home to many varieties of our favorite vegetables.  That being said however, Horse Nettle lives up to the old Texas folklore.  

Here is a picture of one of the plants in our garden:


I wanted to show the flowers and fruit, but the flowers are a week or two off and they won’t have ripe fruit for a month or two.  Here is a link to some good photos to help you recognize it easier:

Horse Nettle (Solanum carolinense) is found in the eastern part of the U.S. and as far west as West Texas.   Our garden is full of them and they are full of thorns!  The stems and leaves both play host to some nasty, rather large ones (thorns that is).  I won’t go near them without gloves.  The root system boasts a long tap root, making it hard to pull out and, also puts out rhizomes to help spread the plant far and wide.  It is a member of the nightshade family and like a lot of nightshades, it is poisonous.  The root, leaves, flowers and fruit all contain an alkaline that can cause it to be potentially fatal.  Don’t be fooled by the lovely tomato like fruit it bears – it can be dangerous stuff.

That being said, the flowers do attract bees and some moths and a few birds and small rodents are known to eat the fruit.  In the past, it was used by some American Indians as as a sedative and antispasmodic, and although it isn’t considered by most people today to have any value medicinally, there are some herbalists that still use it.  Here is an informative page that claims horse nettle can be used in the treatment of epilepsy, asthma, bronchitis and other convulsive disorders.

I also read an article that claims the leaf can be applied directly to the skin to treat poison ivy.  I would think you’d have to de-thorn it first! 

Medicinal uses or not, for now I do my best to keep the horse nettle out of our garden.   Whether you choose to cultivate it or kill it, be careful!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Many Uses Of Borage

Lovely borage.  Not only is it a great companion plant for most things in the garden, the blossoms are both delicious and nutritious and it is very pretty when in bloom.  All that being said, it seems that there should be something to do with the plant more than just eating the blossoms and admiring it.  Although the leaves are edible, my family finds the prickly, fuzzy texture of them to be a bit of a put off.  My daughter put the leaves on her sandwich one day and declared it ‘ok but not great’.  A quick trip to the computer led me to a sight that claims borage jelly is pretty good.  It uses both the leaves and the blossoms -  both of which we have plenty.  Here is a link to the recipe:

After making sure we had all the ingredients on hand, I sent the kids to pick the borage.  They came back with plenty and we went to work.  Guess what, I actually followed the directions!  Well, all except for the one that says to use dry pectin.  I had unknowingly picked up the liquid variety.  Never having used it before (and rarely using pectin at all for our jelly), I had no idea if I needed to alter the recipe to adjust for it.  I ended up just using it in replace of the dry and following the rest of the directions as written.

It didn’t gel.  I ended up with seven half pint jars of very runny jelly.   Always looking for the bright side of things, I declared it syrup and we had pancakes for dinner.  I added a bit of fruit and we enjoyed our creation very much!

I found another recipe for borage jelly that I plan on trying next.  If you look at this recipe, you’ll notice that it doesn’t call for any sugar and uses honey instead.  I like the sound of that.  I wanted to try it before blogging here so that I could report the results, but the local stores were out of dry pectin and I didn’t want to repeat my mistake (if indeed that had anything to do with it).  Either way, they say that practice makes perfect and I have plenty of plants to practice on.   

If you’re not a jelly or syrup fan, here is a whole page of recipes using borage.  They range from salads to soups to cocktails, and there’s even a recipe for borage fritters!

All in all, it seems that there are many uses for borage if you’re just willing to explore a little bit.  Here in Texoma land, we need to take advantage of the plants that grow well, and borage seems very happy here.

Happy Gardening!