Sticky Monkey Flowers
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Sticky Monkey flowers grow on a woody shrub averaging .5 to 1.5 meters in height, and the plant is comprised of elongated leaves attached to upright stems, giving it a bushy appearance. The dark green leaves are lanceolate to elliptical in shape, generally reaching up to ten centimeters in length, and grow in an opposite formation on either side of the stem. The leaves are also semi-tough, covered in a distinct coating of sticky resin. This resin makes up almost 30% of the leaf’s weight and is released from many small glands found across the leaf’s surface. The shrubs also produce seasonal blooms that grow in pairs and form from tubular bases, expanding into 4 to 5 broad and flat petals two centimeters in length. The petals fold slightly back, revealing a center filled with four anthers and a two-sectioned stigma atop a slender pistil. The white to ivory stigma is sensitive and will close within seconds of a pollinator touching it. If the stigma is successfully pollinated, it will remain closed, but if it is unpollinated, it will reopen. Sticky Monkey flowers widely vary in color, depending on the specific variety, and range in orange, yellow, red, to variegated hues. The flowers have a mild, vegetal flavor and a delicate, crisp, and succulent texture. The leaves are chewy and contain a strong, herbal, salty, and bitter taste with mint and sage undertones.
Sticky Monkey shrubs grow year-round, with blossoms appearing in the spring through summer.
Sticky Monkey flowers, botanically classified as Diplacus aurantiacus, are an evergreen shrub belonging to the Phrymaceae family. The drought-tolerant shrubs are ancient plants that have been growing wild along the coastlines of the Western United States and Mexico for thousands of years. Sticky Monkey flowers are also known as Bush Monkey flowers, and there are many different varieties found in various soils along rocky coastlines, chaparral, arid habitats. The flowers were given their animalistic moniker from the bloom's supposed resemblance to the face of a laughing monkey, and the sticky descriptor was added to describe the plant’s resin-coated leaves. Sticky Monkey leaves seasonally produce a sticky resin that is used to protect the leaves from developing larvae of the butterfly Euphydryas chalcedona. The resin helps prevent the larvae by overeating the shrub’s leaves, as the resin makes it feel full, and once the larvae transform into butterflies, the shrubs will reduce their resin production. Sticky Monkey flowers are foraged blooms mainly used as a decorative element in culinary dishes. The entire plant is edible, including the leaves, flowers, and roots, and the leaves are incorporated on a small scale into cooked preparations. The shrub’s most well-known use is as an ornamental landscape plant. Sticky Monkey shrubs attract beneficial pollinators, especially butterflies and hummingbirds, and the flowers bloom for an extended period, creating visual interest in gardens.
Sticky Monkey flowers and leaves have not been studied for their nutritional properties as they are generally a foraged item, not commercially cultivated for culinary use. The leaves contain some sodium chloride, also known as salt, which was used to help replenish the body and flavor bland culinary dishes among indigenous peoples. The leaves and flowers were also traditionally used for their antiseptic properties to prevent infections.
Sticky Monkey flowers and leaves are edible but are used on a limited basis, mainly in cooked preparations. Young leaves can be harvested from the shrub, washed, and tossed into green salads raw, or they can be incorporated into sauces as a subtly bitter, herbal flavor. Mature leaves generally contain a bitter taste considered unpalatable when raw, but the bitterness dissipates with cooking. Sticky Monkey leaves can be boiled, sauteed, or steamed and consumed similarly to spinach. The cooked leaves can be incorporated into egg dishes, blended into marinades, mixed into pickle brine for added flavor, or used as an herbal flavoring in a bed of cooked greens. Try slicing the leaves into thin strips and placing them on top of meats or fish while they are grilled. The leaves can also be steeped in hot water to create an herbal tea with a light, minty taste, or they can be combined with green tea for a more robust flavor. In addition to the leaves, the flowers can be used as a decorative garnish over salads, grain bowls, curries, roasted vegetables, and meat main dishes. The flowers can also be coated in sugar and placed on desserts such as cakes, tarts, ice cream, or mousse. Sticky Monkey flowers and leaves should be used immediately after harvest for the best quality and flavor. They will only keep for a couple of days when stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Sticky Monkey flowers were traditionally used for medicinal and ornamental purposes among native tribes throughout California. While the leaves were sometimes used as a salt substitute to flavor cooked meats, the leaves and roots were mainly integrated into teas to help with internal issues. The Miwok tribe, a group that resided in the forests near modern-day Yosemite, steeped roots in hot water and consumed the tea to help reduce symptoms associated with diarrhea and indigestion. The leaves were also crushed into a topical treatment and placed on top of burns or irritations to soothe and calm. In addition to the leaves and roots, the Miwok tribe wove Sticky Monkey flowers into wreaths and placed individual flowers into children’s hair. It was common for the Miwok tribe to have free-flowing hair, and the flower wreaths were worn around the neck as decorative adornments. The Pomo tribe, an indigenous community based in the Sanel Valley near Mendocino County, used Sticky Monkey flowers to help soothe minor scrapes and wounds. The flowers were also used as an eyewash. The Pomo tribe often lived in poorly ventilated dwellings, accumulating smoke and dust. The Sticky Monkey flowers were used in a medicinal wash to help treat bloodshot eyes.
Sticky Monkey flowers are native to the Western United States and Mexico and have been growing wild since ancient times. The bushy shrubs have been found throughout chaparral, woodland, and coastal sage scrub sites from Southwestern Oregon to Baja California. Sticky Monkey flower shrubs thrive in most soil types, primarily ones with sufficient drainage, and are drought-tolerant plants often used in domestic gardens. Today Sticky Monkey flowers are still found in their native habitat and are used in restoration projects along the coast and inland valleys. The shrubs have also been introduced on a small scale in home gardens in Australia and South America.
Recipes that include Sticky Monkey Flowers. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Wild Food Plants||Sticky Monkey Flower Tea|