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Archive for October, 2011

Grassy Driveway

They paved the front yard and put up a parking lot.  To my mind, they (meaning neighours) have done this all too often on my street, as parking pads are installed on the front of their properties.

I’m not a fan of parking pads for a number of reasons.

  • They diminish the area where rainfall can penetrate into the soil, thus increasing the runoff and pollution into our storm sewers, streams and lakes.
  • They create hazards for pedestrians when cars back up onto sidewalks.
  • They add to the urban heat island because they reduce the amount of trees and other cooling greenery in the city.
  • They take away from the amount of on-street parking.
  • Parking pads and cars on front lawns are unsightly and are a blight to the streetscape.
  • Finally, they may increase the value of your home, but could decrease the value of your neighbours’  homes.

To widen a driveway or build a parking pad,  a homeowner needs to obtain a permit from the City, and they need to pay the City every year to use it.  The City posts a list of all the legal parking pads on its web site.  I checked the list for my street, then went out to compare it to reality.  I counted 71 parking pads or widened driveways on my street and 41 of those are listed as legal.  Perhaps its time to crack down on illegal parking pads in my neighbourhood??

Many people may have legitimate reasons for needing a parking pad.  But others could get away without one.  The good news is that the City of Toronto offers incentives for re-greening a front yard parking pad.  The City, at its expense, will:

  • Plant a tree in the boulevard in the front of the house.
  • Re-sod the area.
  • Remove the curb out.
  • Provide free down spout disconnection service.
  • Offer a free water conservation audit to the property owner.
  • Provide one year’s free permit parking, for one vehicle in the household.

I noticed that a few of the parking pads in my neighbourhood are not being used for parking cars.   One household is using their parking pad as space for a small shed.  Another simply put planters at the front so no-one would park there. My favourite is the household that has turned their driveway into a grassy hill.

Hopefully more and more people will take advantage of the City’s incentive program and reclaim space for city greenery.

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Look no further than the sidewalks in your neighbourhood for some nutritious snacks!  The other day I went hunting for edible weeds, and I found ten nutritious ones in one block alone.  Going a bit further afield, I found a total of 13 edible weeds and I likely missed some.

Now I wouldn’t recommend eating these plants that are sprouting by the sidewalks: they may be growing in contaminated soil, or have been visited by the neighbourhood dogs.  But I decided to share the information about these plants with you to illustrate that the plants we usually just want to get rid of can be beneficial to us.

Purslane

Purslane

Purslane plants are succulent and can can make do with relatively less water. They do well growing in the cracks between sidewalks and in people’s yards. This plant’s stems contains alpha-linolenic acid, one of the desirable Omega-3 fatty acids.

The other day I even saw Dr. Oz recommend the plant on his show. He told the audience that these omega-3 fats coat our membranes and joints. Purslane’s stems are also high in vitamin C.   You can make them in salads.  “In my home, we mix them with yogurt and garlic and it’s just spectacular.” says Dr. Oz.

Plantain

Plantain

This plant is ubiquitous in my neighbourhood. Plantain’s young leaves are edible raw in salad or cooked as a pot herb.  You can also blanche and saute with garlic. They are rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. The herb has a been  used as  medicine since ancient times.

Mallow

Mallow

I remember my mother showing me how you can eat the green seeds of these plants.  She didn’t tell me that all parts of the plant are edible — leaves, stems, flowers, seeds and roots. Mallows have been used in various times in history  as a survival food during times of crop failure or war.

Dandelion

Dandelion

This is another food that my mother fed me in my youth.  She made a (rather bitter) dandelion salad.  Perhaps she picked them at the wrong time, because it’s best to eat the leaves when they are young. The dandelion’s uses are actually quite varied.  Its flowers, leaves, stems roots all can be used. Anglo-Saxons and Normans found that the plant prevents scurvy. Dandelion roots are used to treat numerous conditions.

Lamb’s Quarters

Lamb’s Quarters

Lamb’s Quarters  has been grown as a grain crop in the Himalayas and is often harvested from  the wild in Africa. Its young leaves can be eaten raw or lightly cooked.  The seeds, which are closely related to quinoa, are filled with protein, vitamin A and calcium, and can also be eaten.

Goutweed

Goutweed

As its name suggests, goutweed is used for rheumatic diseases. This disease category includes autoimmune diseases and diseases that affect the joints and soft tissues, such as gout. Goutweed is also used for hemorrhoids, as well as for kidney, bladder, and intestinal disorders.

Burdock

Burdock

Burdock’s root can be pickled or boiled in soups and stews.  Eating it is also purported to get rid of poisons in your system.  You may know burdock more for the “burs” that cling to your clothes as you pass by.  I heard that these clingy seed pods were the inspiration for the invention of Velcro.   

Chicory

Chicory Flower

Chicory has a variety of uses. Its young leaves can be used to make salads. The root can be boiled. And, the dried, roasted and ground root of the chicory plant can be used as a substitute for coffee.

Sumac

Sumac

You can make a  lemony drink with sumac by steeping the red fruits in cold water overnight.  Be aware that poison sumac has smooth leaves and spaced out white berries. Edible sumac has tightly clumped red flowers with jagged, leaves. Many  Middle Eastern chefs dry the berries of sumac, and then grind them up into a spice powder.

Sumac is said to contain calcium, potassium, magnesium, citric acid and antioxidants. The bark is used  as an astringent tea. It’s also reported to be antibacterial.  Sumac was used extensively by Native North Americans for food and medicine.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese knotweed

Those who eat Japenese Knotweed often describe it as tasting similar to a lemony rhubarb. The young shoots can be sliced raw into thin rounds in salad.  Some people also cook  it into a dessert.

Wild Carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace)

Wild Carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace)

Deep fried carrot flower is supposed to be a delicacy. The root can be eaten while young, but quickly becomes too woody. Be warned however, that you should be absolutely sure it is Wild Carrot because it is very similar to poison hemlock!

Red Clover

Red Clover

Red clover’s flowers can be chopped in salads, steeped in tea, or cooked in soup.  I often pull out a number of the petals at a time, and suck  the ends that were attached to the base to get a nice little jolt of sweet. Now I know why honey bees like them.

So now that I’ve described some of the uses of the plants above, I hope that you can look at these “weeds” in a different light.

Note: Refer to an expert or published plant-identification guide before ingesting any plant. Photos in this blog are not meant  for identification.

References

http://www.altnature.com

http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/living-green/dandelions.html

http://www.turtlestuff.com/category/The-Weed-Patch-63

http://www.landscape-america.com/problems/weeds/edible.html

http://chefdaniel.farm-bloomington.com/?p=115

http://bicyclegardening.blogspot.com/2011/04/edible-weeds-aegopodium.html

http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/qna.html

http://www.veggiegardeningtips.com/surprising-lambs-quarters/

http://www.squidoo.com/malva

http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/latest/weeds-edible-plants-0409#ixzz1XV3KqHkd

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