PLANT LIFE
               AT
STRAIGHT CREEK VALLEY FARM
Mullein
The Mullein plant is not particularly beautiful to look at, but I have really come to
appreciate it and whenever I see one growing by the side of the road or at the edge of
one of our fields, I mark it's location in my mind.  I am one of many people who get
occasional  sinus headaches, perhaps a privilege of living in the humid Ohio River Valley.  
Whenever I feel a headache coming on, I dash out to the nearest Mullein plant, snip off
one of its thick velvet-like leaves and tear it into small pieces.  I drop the leaf pieces into a
pot of water and bring it all to a rolling boil and wait until the water turns a light brown.  I
then strain the water into a cup and lightly sweeten it with honey from our bees.  Mullein
tea has a slightly musky, but quite pleasant flavor.  By the time I have finished my cup of
tea, I can't help but smile, as I realize that my sinus headache is a thing of the past!
Jewel Weed
I have learned that Jewel Weed is a wonderful treatment for poison ivy.
When I was younger I could roll in poison ivy and laugh at my younger brother as he
suffered.  With age I have realized that I should not have laughed, for now I scratch and
ooze right in there with the worst of the sufferers. My allergy to poison ivy, oak and sumac
did not start until I was 45, but thankfully, I did not have to scratch too badly for too long.
At the age of 49 we bought Straight Creek Valley Farm. On one of our first spring  walks,
already scratching through my jeans, my husband introduced me to the magic medicine of
jewel weed.

Jewel weed is a wild flower that grows beside road and stream banks. It is a succulent
annual with a multi sided stem, that grows from spring until the first frost, when it dies
quickly back. The small hanging flowers, that appear in late summer, are orange or yellow
and are sometimes spotted. I learned that the name jewel weed refers to the way water
droplets bead up on the leaves in small silvery jewels. After a rain or a misty morning the
droplets really do sparkle like jewels in the sun.

Another common name for the plant is “touch-me-not”. This name derives from the fact
that as the seed capsules dry, they shrink and curl, creating considerable internal tension.
The slightest touch causes the capsule to spring apart and the seeds to go flying out.

I remember how on that early spring walk, my husband told me about the plant’s curative
properties. I was sceptical, but my ankles were red and swollen with poison ivy pumps. He
told me to mash the flower's petals between my fingers and to rub the wet petals over my
rash. Almost immediately I felt a calming relief of the burning itch. I gathered up a few of
the plants, and throughout the day I would apply new coats of jewel weed juice. By evening
the rash was completely gone! No over the counter, or even prescription, remedy had
ever worked so well.  I was amazed.

Jewel weed works by actually neutralizing the poison ivy’s oily antigen. Some over the
counter remedies even list jewel weed an ingredient, but unfortunately, tinctures made
from the plant, are only be half as effective as the fresh juice and take far longer to work.
There are many folk remedies that use jewel weed as a poultice to treat bruises, burns,
cuts, eczema, insect bites, warts, and even razor burn and I know from personal
experience that jewel weed juice also effectively and immediately treats stinging nettle. (I
have been known to pull up a stinging nettle bare handed when weeding my garden).  In
short, jewel weed is a valuable plant for anyone who frequents the outdoors to know and
be able to find in a jiffy.
Pawpaw
We have several stands of pawpaw trees at Straight Creek Valley Farm.  The stands
all grow close to the creek, but not right on it, by the edges of fields or along the road.
The tree trunks are slender, averaging about four inches in diameter, and the trees
rarely seem to exceed fifteen to twenty feet in height.  An entire stand of pawpaw trees
often grows from a single tap root.

The pawpaw is apparently the largest edible fruit native to America.  The individual fruits
can be up to six inches long and can weigh as much as a pound.  Each fruit contains
ten or so lima bean sized seeds, that usually run down the center in two rows.  These
seeds make eating the ripe fruit a bit difficult, for the seeds need to be scooped or spit
out.  The seeds themselves are actually quite poisonous, but the work of eating around
the seeds is well worth the effort.  The light yellow pulp has a wonderful banana custard
sort of consistency and taste.  If the fruit is chilled, the taste is totally wonderful, but
unfortunately, the ripe fruit has a very short shelf life, only two to three days, if that.  
Because of this short shelf life it is difficult to sell pawpaw fruit commercially or even at a
farmers' market, although I have sold  a few down at the farmers' market in Ripley.  

I have also heard that pawpaw can be substituted for bananas in banana bread recipes,
and as soon as our pawpaw fruit ripen this year I plan to experiment.  I promise to get
back with you and let you know how my breads turn out.

I also vaguely remember a song about pawpaws from my childhood ... something about
picking up pawpaws way down younder in the pawpaw patch.  If anyone knows the
words, I'd certainly love to hear from you!
Straight Creek Valley Farm
Mullein has long been recognized as a medicinal herb. It is claimed that it can be
effectively used as an analgesic, antihistamine, antiinflammatory, anticancer, antioxidant,
antiviral and sedative herb.  It also is alleged to be an effective fungicide and even
pesticide.  It seems odd though, that a pesticide could relieve my headaches.

Some folk claim that an infusion of Mullein flowers in olive oil is a wonderful ear drop that
can also be used to calm toothaches.  Dried leaves, when smoked like cigarettes, are said
to relieve asthma attacks and coughs. The dried leaves are also highly flammable and can
be used as tinder with which to start a fire.  A poultice made from Mullein leaves is said to
soothe both sunburn and chapped skin and a bright yellow dye can be made by simply
boiling Mullein flowers in water.

Folklore asserts that witches would use candles, made with wicks of Mullein, in their rituals.
This lead to another common name for the plant, Hag's Taper, and even farther back in
time, it is said that Odysseus used Mullein to protect himself from being turned into a pig
by the enchanting Circe, daughter of the Sun.  

Recipes
Tea: An aromatic tea can be made by boiling 1 tablespoon of dried leaves or root in 1 cup
of water for 5 - 10 min. A sweeter tea can be made by infusing  either fresh or dried
Mullein flowers. Some suggest that for children and the elderly use milk instead of water
when making the tea. Sweeten with honey if desired.

Mullein oil: Use flowers, seed, and root that have been placed in blender or crushed. Fill
jar with the crushed plant and cover with olive oil.  Set the jar in a warm place for two
weeks. Finally, strain before use.