Across South Australia right now is a sea of yellow. Oxalis pes-caprae also known as sour sobs is in flower. In our house we call it the love heart plant as its little leaves are in the shape of love hearts. These normally get pulled out in gardens due to them smothering and competing with plants around them. Before getting rid of them pluck the flowers and make a dye with them. This is a lovely activity to do with kids.
Kids seem to already know some of the secrets of this little plant because they will often pluck the stalk and suck the ends for the sour flavour hit. If you have a little person collecting flowers with you, let them eat the stems and leaves too. The stems, root and leaves are all edible. It has a lemony sour flavour and is harmless in small amounts. If you want to eat it in larger amounts just boil it first and discard the liquid before eating.
To make the dye collect a few cups of flowers. Fill and boil a kettle with about 1.5 litres of water. In a pot, add the flowers and boiled water and let steep. After 5 mins or so you will get a vibrant yellow water.
The fabric doesn’t need to be in the water for long to become dyed but if you leave it in for at least half an hour it should allow for the dye to be soaked up well by all the fibres and give a more even colour. Use natural fibres for this – eg cotton, wool, linen.
To make yellow, use either vinegar. To make orange, add bicarb soda. Now, I’m still trying to find an effective natural fixing agent for this dye as the yellow went orange after the first wash and vinegar and salt wasn’t strong enough to hold the colour after the wash.
If my family had to pick one habit of mine that annoys the heck out of them its when I’m driving or walking and stop to look at plants. Today when out and about I saw a cleared house block and had to stop. Normally these cleared blocks are pretty barren and usually sprayed to keep the weeds down. This one wasn’t so I wanted to see what was growing. I was pretty surprised by the diversity of edible weeds on this block.
Most of the cover was from Mallow Malva neglecta. I really enjoy eating Mallow. It has a very mild flavour and has a slightly gelatinous quality to it. If you find it growing in your garden leave it in there and start eating it. Other plants will grow happily around it. Harvest the smaller leaves up to about the size of your palm, these can be eaten fresh. The seeds and young roots can be eaten too. It’s most likely taken over this block as this is compacted clay soil. The mallow is healing and fixing the soils on this block by aerating and breaking up the clay with it’s deep taproot and bringing up nutrients from deep in the soil up to the surface.
Other edible plants found were:
- Lambsquarter Chenopodium album
- Love lies bleeding Amaranthus caudatus
- Narrow leaf plantain Plantago minor
- Common blackberry nightshade Solanum nigrum (only eat when the berries are at purple/black powdery bloom stage)
I’m sure there was much more there but this is what I saw in a few minutes. When I got home I went out to the garden and also found stinging nettle which is also a good edible winter weed. Best to eat the young new shoots when using these for cooking. They need to be cooked first to get rid of the stinging hairs. These can be eaten like spinach when cooked, or fermented into nettle beer. As they get older the stems can be used for weaving.