Plant Guide ‘Ebb of a Spring Tide’
Mary Mattingly: Ebb of a Spring Tide
On view May 20 – September 10, 2023
Plants are living markers of time, representing growth and renewal. Climate change has a profound impact on our planet, especially in coastal cities like New York City, where sea levels are expected to rise between 8 and 30 inches by the 2050s, and as much as 15 to 75 inches by the end of the century. To address this issue, Mattingly designed a salt-tolerant garden as a proposal for environmental resiliency. This garden, with its forty species of edible, medicinal, and pollinator-friendly plants, provides opportunities for regeneration and collective resourcefulness. It encourages us to consider how we can work together to adapt to our changing world through a restorative relationship with nature.
“The global shortage of agricultural land is exacerbated by salinization and the rise of salt levels in the soil. Coastal cities face significant challenges with salinization, particularly in regions affected by climate change-induced weather conditions that lead to more saltwater influence on the land.” – Mary Mattingly
St. Johns Wort
Swamp Rose Mallow
PROPERTIES & DESCRIPTIONS
Aloe barbadensis miller
Aloe vera is an evergreen perennial plant with edible leaves and seeds. It is widely known and used in herbal practice, particularly for its healing properties. The clear gel within the leaf is applied topically to treat wounds, burns, and skin disorders. It forms a protective barrier, promotes faster healing, and helps prevent infection. The gel contains aloectin B, which boosts the immune system. Simply cutting the leaf and applying the gel provides immediate relief for burns and skin problems. Aloe Vera is highly tolerant of salt and can thrive in soils with high salinity levels. This succulent plant is well-suited for arid and coastal regions.
The leaves and flowers are edible and the leaves are medicinal. Anise leaves and flowers are commonly added to salads, cooked foods, and teas. The leaves can be used externally in a poultice to treat burns; they may be ingested to treat colds, fevers, and cardiac weakness.
The entire plant is both edible and medicinal. The roots are ingredients in many medicines. The flowers and leaves are also suggested to provide health benefits through ingestion. The New England Aster can be added to salads, made into teas, and dried and stored for later use.
Bee Balm serves both ornamental and medicinal purposes. Its fiery tubular flower heads add beauty to the garden, while the herb can be used to make tea and treat bee stings. Some bee balm cultivars spread faster than others, and it can withstand extreme temperatures, making it suitable for salty and challenging conditions. The shoots, leaves, and flowers are edible; only the leaves are medicinal. Bee balm has antibacterial and antiseptic properties and aids the healing process of minor wounds when used externally as a cream or tea. When ingested, bee balm relieves colds and digestive problems.
Beetroot, also known as beets, possesses a taproot that is relatively salt tolerant. It can be cultivated using brackish water and goes by various names depending on the region. Beetroot provides a nutritious vegetable option despite salt exposure.
Bell peppers are highly nutritious, rich in vitamins (especially vitamin C), minerals, and antioxidants. They support healthy skin, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and promote eye health. Bell peppers have moderate salt tolerance and can handle some soil salinity, but monitoring and adjusting irrigation is necessary.
The leaf is edible and the root is medicinal. The plant can be used externally and through ingestion when made into a tea to stimulate the immune system, relieve cold symptoms, snake bites, and earaches, and to treat minor cuts, scrapes, swelling and bruising. Note: seeds are poisonous.
Fruit – Enjoy raw or cooked. With a bittersweet flavor, the small fruits, approximately 5 mm in diameter, grow in abundant clusters. Typically, the fruits are cooked and utilized in pies, jams, jellies, sauces, bread, and more. Notably, they are rich in vitamin C. Caution is advised, as mentioned in the notes above, due to potential toxicity. Flowers – Consume raw or cooked. The unopened flowers can be pickled and used as a flavorful addition to candies. Dried flowers make a pleasant-tasting tea. Young shoots – Some sources claim they are edible when cooked and can serve as a substitute for asparagus. However, as there are reports of the leaves being poisonous, caution should be exercised regarding this information.
Broccoli, part of the cabbage family, offers an edible large flowering head, stalk, and associated leaves. It falls within the Italica cultivar group of Brassica oleracea. While moderately tolerant to salt stress, broccoli fares better compared to vegetables like lettuce, onion, maize, or carrot in terms of salt tolerance.
Brassica oleracea var. capitata
The edible part of the cabbage is the vegetative buds. These buds develop into stems and leaves. The cabbage head is essentially an enlarged bud with a short stem and tightly packed overlapping leaves. Both the outer and inner leaves of the cabbage are edible. The inner leaves are particularly tender and have a sweet taste. While the core and stem may be tough, they can still be eaten when properly cooked.
Wild Onion/Garlic offers edible parts throughout the plant, including underground bulbs, long thin leaves, blossoms, and bulblets. The bulblets, resembling small cloves, are found at the top of the plant where it blossoms. Harvesting them is relatively simpler compared to digging for bulbs, although the bulbs themselves are typically easy to locate about four inches underground. This plant is referred to as both an onion and garlic due to its distinctive characteristic of possessing a potent garlic aroma despite being a wild onion.
The Coconut Palm stands out as one of the most salt-tolerant fruit trees suitable for garden cultivation. Botanically, the coconut is classified as a drupe, characterized by a tough outer covering enclosing the seed. While the coconut palm cannot withstand freezing temperatures for extended periods, it can endure a few hours of such conditions.
Daylilies are excellent salt-tolerant plants, thriving in various soil types, including sandy or clay soils. They are resilient during droughts and floods and can be seen flourishing along roadsides, spreading rapidly. Daylily leaves and shoots are commonly cooked and can serve as a substitute for asparagus or celery. They offer a delightful, sweet flavor, but it is advisable to exercise caution when consuming them. It is important to harvest and eat the leaves while they are still young, as they can become fibrous as they mature. Daylily flowers can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. The petals possess a thick and crunchy texture, making them a pleasant raw snack. Additionally, they provide a delightful sweetness at the base due to the presence of nectar.
The leaf and flower are edible; the whole plant is medicinal. Echinacea aids in treatment of upper respiratory infections, ear infections, sinusitis, hay fever, athlete’s foot, urinary tract infections, and the common cold. Note: tongue may tingle or become numb when ingested. People with tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases and liver disorders should avoid ingesting.
The leaves are edible when made into a tea. There are several medicinal applications for Goldenrod including the treatment of wounds and bleeding, urinary tract disorders, fungal problems, skin diseases, bladder and kidney stones, and much more. Goldenrod may be used to make a reportedly very effective mouthwash to treat thrush. Mustard, orange, and brown dyes can also be extracted from the whole plant, and yellows obtained from the leaves and flowers.
When the flower’s leaves are young, they can be enjoyed either raw or cooked. The flowers offer a gentle flavor accompanied by a pleasingly slimy texture, making them a delightful addition to salads. While the root is edible, it tends to be fibrous. The stems yield a low-quality fiber suitable for crafting cordage and paper. Additionally, the leaves can be used to make hair shampoo. Apart from their culinary uses, Hibiscus leaves possess diuretic, expectorant, and stomachic properties. The flowers, when prepared as a decoction, exhibit diuretic, ophthalmic, and stomachic effects. Moreover, they are employed in treating various skin conditions. A combination of flowers, leaves, and stems can be utilized to obtain black or green dyes, while an orange-gold to brown dye can be derived solely from the flowers. It is worth noting that certain flowers can produce a blue dye as well.
Brassica oleracea var. sabellica
Kale is renowned for its high salt tolerance compared to other Brassicas like Chinese cabbage and Swiss chard. It shows a notable increase in proline content, aiding in salt tolerance. Kale is a nutritious vegetable packed with vitamins and minerals, offering benefits such as improved digestive health, protection against certain cancers, and enhanced bone health.
The leaves and flowers are both edible and medicinal. Lavender treats restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and headaches through ingestion as a tea, externally as an essential oil, or as aromatherapy. Lavender oil has natural germicidal properties and is used in veterinary practices as a method of killing lice and other parasites on animals.
The flowers, leaves, seeds, and seedpods are edible. The roots, stems, and leaves have medicinal properties. There are several ways to prepare the flower buds and seed pods in cooking to add texture, flavor, thickness, and more to food. Medicinally, milkweed has been used in homeopathic recipes to treat asthma, kidney stones, warts, and a series of other afflictions. Note: older leaves can be toxic if consumed in large quantities.
The leaves are edible and medicinal. Peppermint oil can be inhaled as a vapor or made into a tea to treat cold symptoms, reducing coughs and sinus and mouth inflammation. Peppermint can help reduce menstrual symptoms, general muscle pain, headaches, and skin irritations. The leaves can be used topically and internally through ingestion. Peppermint oil is the most potent way to induce the plant’s effects.
Pickerelweed is a resilient, emergent aquatic herb that thrives in both fresh and saltwater environments. It derives its name from the pickerel fish, with which it is often found. Typically growing in shallow and calm waters, this plant displays its leaves and flowers above the water surface while parts of its stem remain submerged. Pickerelweed is versatile in its culinary uses. It can be consumed raw as a salad ingredient, cooked as greens, or even used as a substitute for flour. The nutritious seeds can be enjoyed raw or cooked, roasted as nuts, or boiled similar to rice. Dried seeds can also be ground into a grain suitable for bread-making. Additionally, the stalks of Pickerelweed are edible.
Edible parts include the leaf and flower; the flower is additionally medicinal. Chamomile has a calming effect when made into a tea. It is similar to effects produced by Valerium, but less strong.
Rosemary, a common herb in gardens, boasts both culinary and medicinal properties. It serves as a tonic, relieving depression, mental fatigue, and nervousness. Scientific studies highlight its rich content of volatile oils, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, which possess strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory effects. Rosemary encompasses a wide range of healing qualities, acting as an antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, astringent, cardiac tonic, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, nervine, stimulant, stomachic, and tonic. Its young shoots, leaves, and flowers can be consumed raw or cooked, with the leaves offering a potent flavor and the flowers presenting a milder taste. They are utilized sparingly in soups, stews, and vegetables like peas and spinach, as well as in sweet treats such as biscuits, cakes, jams, and jellies.
Russian Sage possesses significant nutritional value and lends itself well to various culinary applications, including cooking, salads, and tea. The delicate lavender flowers offer a sweet flavor that complements salads or serves as an appealing garnish. However, it is important to exercise caution as consuming large quantities of Russian Sage can be toxic to both humans and pets. Furthermore, this plant is employed in traditional medicine as a cooling remedy for treating fevers.
Sea Kale has a rich history of medicinal uses. Its leaves have been traditionally employed for healing wounds, while the juice extracted from its seeds has been utilized to treat gastritis. Cook the shoots like asparagus or eat all parts of the plant. Young leaves and shoots have a nutty flavor. The root is nutritious and can be eaten raw or cooked, with more calories when cooked. Leaves are nutritious too, for salads or cooking. Sea Kale plants typically have a lifespan of about twelve years and develop an extensive root system consisting of numerous easily harvestable small roots. The root tastes good raw or cooked, with more starch than potatoes and ample protein.
Flowers of sea thrift, also known as Armeria maritima, are edible. It is also infrequently employed in herbal medicine. However, the dried flowering plant does possess antibiotic properties and has been utilized in the treatment of conditions such as obesity, certain nervous disorders, and urinary infections.
Spatterdock has a rich history in traditional medicine, where it was utilized for various purposes. The root was commonly applied topically, and both the root and seeds were consumed to address different conditions. The seeds are edible and can even be ground into flour. While the root is also edible, it is worth noting that in some plants, it can be extremely bitter.
Spinacia oleracea L.
Spinach is a moderately salt-tolerant vegetable. In addition to its nutritional value, spinach has been recognized for its healing properties. Some of the notable medicinal benefits of spinach include bone-strengthening: Regular consumption of spinach contributes to stronger bones, reducing the risk of fractures, and digestive tract protection: Spinach supports healthy digestion and regular bowel movements while also preventing inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort holds a rich herbal legacy, especially as a valuable remedy for nervous ailments. The flowers and leaves of St. John’s wort exhibit a diverse array of beneficial properties. They are known for their many attributes including antiseptic, aromatic, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, sedative,and stimulant. As a result, this herb finds application in addressing a wide range of disorders, including pulmonary complaints, bladder problems, diarrhea, and nervous depression. Notably, in clinical trials, approximately 67% of patients with mild to moderate depression experienced improvement when incorporating this plant into their treatment.
Swamp Rose Mallow
The swamp rose mallow offers various edible parts, including leaf buds, young leaves, flowers, and roots. Leaf buds and young leaves can be eaten cooked or raw, while flowers can be consumed in the same way. The root is edible but tough. These parts contribute more to the presentation and texture of dishes rather than providing strong flavors. The seeds, when roasted, are a good source of starch and protein. Medicinally, the plant’s leaves and roots can be used to treat conditions such as dysentery, lung ailments, and urinary infections. The flowers can be applied externally to reduce swelling and pain from bruises or insect stings.
Wild sea beet (Beta maritima), a common seashore plant of all the coasts of Europe and western Asia, is believed to be the ancestor of both the leaf and root beets. Swiss chard, belonging to the same family as beets and spinach, exhibits moderate salt tolerance. Its dark green leaves are commonly used in salads or sautéed as a side dish. While not as salt tolerant as some other vegetables, Swiss chard can withstand moderate salt levels with proper soil management practices.
Tomatoes provide important nutrients like vitamin C and potassium. They’re also rich in antioxidants including lycopene, which is responsible for tomatoes’ characteristic color. Lycopene is linked to several benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Solanum chilense, a wild relative of cultivated tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.), is known to have exceptional salt tolerance.
Root – Cooked and consumed when several years old. It contains up to 40% starch and 6% protein. Caution is advised due to potential toxicity. The roasted seed can be used as a coffee substitute. Seed – Cooked and contains approximately 47% starch. Rhizome – Possesses antiscrofulatic, astringent, cardiotonic, demulcent, and sedative properties. A decoction of the root is used to treat dysentery, diarrhea caused by irritable bowel syndrome, bronchial catarrh, kidney pain, and sore throats. When combined with slippery elm or flax, it serves as a poultice for treating boils and abscesses. Flowers – Have anaphrodisiac and sedative effects. Known for their calming properties, they have been used to treat conditions like insomnia and anxiety.
Water Shield is an aquatic plant with slender, branching stems. The Leaves are entire, floating, oval to elliptic in shape, green above, often purple beneath, long-stemmed, and have the stalk or petiole attached to the lower surface instead of the base or edge. The small, purple flowers have sepals and petals that are similar to each other. The young curled leaf tips, which are coated with a thick transparent mucilage, are eaten as a salad with vinegar, sake and soy sauce, or they added to soups as a thickener.
The leaves and flowers are both edible and medicinal. Yarrow has many medicinal applications including the treatment of stomach cramps, cold symptoms, fevers, kidney diseases, menstrual pain, irritable bowels, and obstructed perspiration. Yarrow can be used in a tea and as a substitute for hops in beer.
Information and Image Sources:
Eat the weeds (https://www.eattheweeds.com/)
Missouri Plant Finder (http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/plantfinder/plantfindersearch.aspx)
Plants for a Future (pfaf.org)
Public Domain Pictures (https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/)
Washington College Botanical (https://www.washcoll.edu/)