Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Snow Shopping

Snow days can be good for cruising around the internet, and maybe making a purchase or two. 
We're having quite the spring snow storm and that inspired me to put a little discount on our teas.
Use the code:  spring to get a 10% discount AND a little surprise.  This is valid through Monday, 3/26/18.  Rumor has it that Mother Nature will pull herself together by then, and remember what spring is supposed to look like!   CLICK HERE to see the teas.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Greens Soup for Spring

I made a small batch of soup early last week. 

It lasted through 3 meals, which is plenty for me, but if you have a family to cook for, this recipe is very flexible, so double or triple it for your crowd.  If you're interested in learning more about wild foods and how to get them onto the table, this recipe is almost foolproof and so delicious that it will please a lot of people who wouldn't normally *voluntarily* eat weeds. You might also want to check out our book - Wild Foods for Every Table.

This particular pot of soup contained a couple of cheats.  Sometimes the plants show up when we haven't prepared.  I used bouillon and instant potatoes for the base.  You may certainly use the real thing instead!  This was a spur of the moment, thrown together thing - which is part of the beauty of food just coming up out of the ground, unbidden!
Potatoes are rarely in the house, and a $1 bag of instant can last a month or two because it's only used in soups.  There is NEVER enough broth around here.  The soup was spectacular.  Here we go...
Starting on the left, chickweed, cheese, mushrooms, nettles, and wild onions down the center.
1 quart stinging nettles
2 cups chickweed
3 or 4 wild onions
1 pint mushrooms (any kind)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 large bouillon cube - chicken or vegetable
1/2 cup instant mashed potatoes
Splash of olive oil
6 cups water

First, a walk around the yard,  The nettles are up about 3 or 4 inches, and are growing thickly.  It took no time to gather a quart of them.  No onions in the house, so I grabbed a few wild onions/garlic.
stinging nettles
~Inside, rinse the greens, pick through them, and then chop them up a bit with kitchen shears. 
~Peel the onions and chop finely.
~Put oil into a 2 qt pan, and LIGHTLY saute the onions. Add mushrooms.
~If needed, use a little more oil.
~Add 2 cups water with the bouillon when the mushrooms are a releasing some liquid and softening. Heat on medium high until it starts to simmer.  In the meantime...
~Mix the instant potatoes into remaining quart of water and pour into the pan.
~When it starts heating up, dump in the greens.
~As soon as the broth starts a light boil and the greens soften, use an immersion blender until most (but not all) of the mushrooms and greens are blended.  If you don't have an immersion blender, put about 1/2 of the soup into a blender until smooth.
~Add the cheese and stir.  Use additional cheese as a garnish. 
~I had some leftover chicken that went in at the end.  Croutons would be delicious too.
Chickweed (about 4x life size)
All in all, this was probably 1/2 an hour from yard to table, and it was really good. 
There were a couple other greens out today.  In the next month or so, the selections will be too many to list.
Hairy Bittercress

Ground Ivy (among many names)
Red Dead Nettle
All of these can be used, as well as garlic mustard, plantain, daylily leaves, dandelion leaves, violet leaves, clover, and on and on...  You CAN even use domesticated vegetables, if you like :-)

Friday, March 16, 2018

This year, try something just for fun.

If you're kind of new to herbs, hopefully you've spent time over the winter reading about herbs, weeds, roots, berries, and flowers that can be used in herbal tea. If you're not a newbie, you're chaffing at the bit to get out there and touch/smell/taste some fresh botanical treasure.
I've written and spoken several times about an experiment from one of my first years of seriously involving myself with plants.  That spring, summer and fall, I gathered small sprigs and handfuls of everything that crossed my path that could be used as infusions.  You may have many things that are completely different from what I gathered.

First they were thrown into a large market type basket (except roots or berries which should dry separately), and gently tossed every day when I walked past.  After a week, I switched to a second basket while the first basket finished drying.  Once dry, they went into a gallon jar.

On it went all during the warm months.  Young nettles, and chamomile dried along side the blossoms of various fruits and leaves from raspberry and strawberry.  Mints and borage flowers, elderblossoms and violet flowers and leaves eventually turned into calendula, echinacea leaves and flowers, basil and thyme.  Rose petals, sage leaves, lavender, St John's wort, raspberries, and plantain in June.
Mimosa, rosehips, hibiscus, marshmallow, beebalm, and motherwort will cross your path on hikes.  Lemongrass and ginger may be native to you, here they come from the grocer - and go into the jar.  Wild oats, linden blossoms, and catnip may wind up in there, too.  Honeysuckle?  Sure!
Visiting friends' gardens had me looking for things that would go into those baskets.  Juniper berries, a ginseng leaf, some hyssop or catmint tucked gently into a pocket for the ride home.  Passionflower leaves, tendrils and petals from a wild vine, and a hops strobile or two, some pine needles find their way into the basket.  The zests of lemon and orange is diced and dried, and some is added to the jar.  Someone grows stevia, and just a few leaves will sweeten the whole jar.
Fall arrives and elderberries are dried for the tea.  Lemon balm and verbena are welcome additions.  The list goes on and on.  In the end, I added a sprinkle of fennel seeds, some cinnamon chips, and a little licorice root.  Depending on where you live, you may find other things.

Fruits like blueberries, currants, or raspberries are delicious, but after they are dried, cut them into smallish pieces.
Finally, shake it all together. 
Over the winter, use that jar up.  No two cups/brews out of the jar will be the same.
You will have learned a lot about blending herb teas, because 99% of those cups of tea will be tasty.  1% will be either boring or bitter.  Either way, they are all an experience.  By this time next year, you will either be eager to start over, or you will have learned that there were some things that you particularly liked (or disliked), and be looking forward to getting more of that.  You will also know that you can blend luscious teas with no fear.
Get ready now, and start thinking about this so you're prepared.  Keep a basket in the car.  It's one of my favorite things to do.
Of course if this is not feasible for you and you're a tea drinker, visit our Virtual Tea Shop

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Violets, Jewels of the Field

From Mar/Apr '16

    One of the things I look forward to most every spring is stepping out into the field, basket in hand, to collect the sweet smelling violets blooming across the fields.  Visions of candied violets and sweet smelling salve fill my mind.  As I follow my well-loved path I spy the first inklings of spring.  Blooming dandelions, the wild onions shooting up and chickweed starting to come to life. Often I find them cropping out in mounds along the wood line as far as I can see.  Before I know it my basket is filled to the brim with my sweet smelling harvest. 

    Violets are one of the easiest herbs to identify in the wild making them a great beginner herb to forage.  Wild sweet violets have dark green, heart shaped leaves and small, purple or white flowers. While there are no poisonous species of viola it should be noted that African violets are not true viola.  Violets are most often found in fields along a wooded area or in a damp shady wooded area.  When harvesting from the wild be sure to find a place away from the road and in an area free of pesticide spraying.  You can always ask any groundskeeper if the areas you have scouted out are sprayed.  As with any wild harvesting you truly need to find a place as far from auto pollution as possible. 

     While violets can be cultivated, and have been by the Greeks as early as 500 BC., I find wild harvested violets to have better flavor.  As they propagate by throwing runners much like a strawberry where you find one plant you are sure to soon find more.  Finding only one plant has always been a rare occurrence for me. In much of North America you will find them blooming anywhere from the end of February and well into April.  With two blooming seasons they can be harvested later in the year but spring will find an unmatched abundance. The spring bounty is also has sweetest aroma of the year.

    Native North Americans commonly used them for medicinal purposes, including the treatment of cancer.  More recently the list of attributes include the treatment of ailments such as eczema, psoriasis and cradle cap when made into a salve for topical use.  Making a syrup or dried tea from your harvest to aid in the treatment in migraines, whooping cough and other respiratory symptoms is a great item to keep in your home Herbal medicine chest. And my personal favorite uses, candied and fresh salad greens.  Rich in vitamins A & C, both the leaves and blooms can be added to salads. They have a delicious mild spring flavor. 
    Some of my personal favorite uses are to make them into a violet infused oil for salve and making violet sugar.  And of course, drying for herbal tea.  Always use fresh violets, picked early, just after the morning dew has burned off for the best flavor. For tea I use a 2:1 ratio of two parts dried violet leaves and one part dried chamomile or violet flowers.  Prepare this as you would any other herbal tea.  Aside from being delicious, it also aides in respiratory problems.  Especially handy around cold and flu season. 

    Here is a recipe I love making with my two young daughters.  Together we collect about half a cup or so of just the blooms.  We place them in a clean, dry pint jar and fill 3/4 full with sugar.  Cover and give a shake to mix well.  Let it sit for about a week, giving a shake once or twice a day.  This is my girls’ favorite part.  After a week or so sift out the now dried up blossoms and discard, leaving the sweet, lightly flavored sugar. This is wonderful for dusting treats and delicious in lemonade and teas. 

    One final recipe I'd love to share is my very own personal recipe for wild violet salve.  You will need one cup of violet infused oil. I make this using a very small crock pot set on warm.  I add about a cup and a half of grapeseed oil, and one cup of mixed blooms and greens to the crock and stir.  Be sure they are free from excess moisture.  I like to do this part in the evening and let the combination steep all night.  Be sure your crock pot has a warm setting which is very different from low.  In the morning simply strain your oil.  This will make a little more than one cup.  Exactly what you need for this recipe.  Set a double Boiler on low and melt about one half cup of beeswax.  When melted add the violet oil and blend well.  At this point I add five drops of lavender essential oil.  This is when you will want to test your salve for consistency.  Take a bit out on a spoon and allow to cool.  Test on your wrist to see if this consistency suits you.  If you prefer a harder salve simply add a bit more beeswax.  When you have it the consistency you like pour into your desired storage.  I like Small glass jars for this. Even repurposed jars if they are clean and dry work well.  Allow salve to cool before closing the lids. 

                I hope you're feeling inspired to add wild violets to you herbal medicine chest.  Confidently foraging for and harvesting your own supply. 
By Elisha Goulet, third generation wild crafter
Some recipes:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

How Women Came to Have Knowledge of Plants

Previously published in The Essential Herbal

How Women Came to Have Knowledge of Plants
From This Side of the Ocean
Jackie Johnson N.D.

This story was told to me by an elder-mentor many years ago in upstate New York.

Long ago there was an old woman who lived alone on the edge of village close to the forest.  Her husband had walked on many years before, and her children were all married with families of their own.  She rarely saw them.  Although they left food for her, she was beginning to feel useless, cooking only for herself, keeping the lodge for only one.  Her thoughts were turning to the land of the setting sun.

One spring day, as she sat alone looking into the deep pine forest, a young man limped out of the darkness and came toward her.  He was so thin and badly injured with broken bones, deep cuts, and scratches all over his body.  She helped him into her lodge and onto a spare bedroll she still kept.  She covered him and as she gave him a drink of water, she fretted.  She told him she would run for the village healer and bring him back.

The young man stopped her saying “I know what needs to be done, but I am unable to gather what I need or to prepare the treatments.  Can you do this for me if I tell you how?”

Feeling very incapable and inexperienced to deal with wounds of this magnitude, the woman reluctantly agreed to do as he asked.

She went to the meadow to gather the plants he requested…and they were just where he said they would be growing.  Quickly she took only what she needed while thanking them for being there for her, and returned to the lodge.  The young man was there and still alive.  In great pain, he explained to her how to make the plants into medicine and how to apply them.  He told her what to put in the water she kept in a pot on the fire and he drank what she offered him.  He showed her how to make rawhide casts and how to use them.

The woman was grateful she could help the young man, and he grew stronger each day and his health soon returned to him.  She was so happy to feel useful again.

One morning she awoke and found him very sick.  Again, he told her to go to the edge of the forest and get what was needed.  The plants were right there and she thanked them, gathered some, dug others, and returned with her basket full.  The young man told her to prepare these, differently from the first ones, but she learned and he recovered from this illness.

This went on throughout the summer and early fall – an endless cycle.  The young man would recover only to fall sick again from a different ailment or injury.  He would patiently explain to her the plants that were needed, where they should live, how to prepare them, and how to administer them. 

The time passed too quickly.  The old woman found herself fulfilled as she cared for the young man; healing him, feeding him, and watching him get stronger and putting meat on his bones. 

She found herself laughing at the stories he told of his people (that she thought were a very strange bunch), and she shared stories of her family and of her loneliness.

By fall harvest time, the old woman’s lodge had been transformed.  Vines, leaves and berries were hung everywhere drying.  Pouches of plant medicines filled her baskets.  People of the village were visiting  to ask her advice on this or that.  She was no longer lonely.

Too soon the trees were bare, their leaves fallen to the ground.  The nights were cold.  The young man had healed and stayed healed and she was pleased to see the amount of weight he had gained.  Her heart knew he would be returning to his own people.

Soon the winds changed.  They came from the north and brought snow with them.  It was on such a morning the old woman was awakened by a cold blast of north wind and snow by the closing of her lodge door.

Quickly she arose and threw on her warmest robe.  She knew the young man had chosen to leave and she wanted to say goodbye.  She walked out of the lodge and saw his fresh footprints in the snow.  She began to follow them.

Half way to the forest she stopped and tears formed in her eyes and a knowing came into her heart.  The human footprints had suddenly ended.  One step ahead and disappearing into the dark woods were the tracks of the bear.

And so, it was in this way that the Medicine Bear brought the healing ways of plants to woman.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Essential Herbal March/April 2018 (#98)

This issue was interesting to put together.  Our deadline fell on the same day we were flying across the country for a week with the west coast crew.  It happened, though, and now it's in the mail.  We're working on a cool new website that should be up soon, and the time of year that is typically sleepy and dreamy, is anything but!  Hopefully this explains the dearth of blog posts.  I'll get back to it soon.

Here's the new issue (SUBSCRIBE):

                             First, look at that fabulous Springtime cover by Aimee Bungard!

Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams   
        Where I explain my tenuous relationship with math.
Western Beargrass, Sandy Michelsen
        Traditional uses as food and medicine for an unusual (and beautiful) plant.
Slough with the Old, In with the New, Cathy Calfchild
         Skincare with kitchen cosmetics!
Molly of the West, My Latest Skincare Obsession,  Molly Sams
         Someone is having a good time checking out the Asian markets.
The Best Culinary Herbs You Have Not Yet Tried, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh   
         There are a couple in here that I will be trying this summer for the first time.
Ferns - The Ancient Ones, Debra Sturdevant  
         Ferns have a lot to offer us, in medicinal and culinary ways.
Cold/Congestion Shower Tabs, Tina Sams   
         Still some nasty germs floating around.  Breathe deep in the shower.
Scented Geraniums - A Victorian Delight, Barbara Steele   
         Good info on why you'll want these beauties in the garden.  Also, I just noticed a huge glaring error (on our part - not the info).  Sigh... it wouldn't be TEH without one or two.
         Make some jelly with the included recipe.
Dill - More Than Pickles, Maryanne Schwartz  
         Lore and information, along with a couple great recipes. 
Flower Essences: Healing “Co-creatively,” Jen Frey
         Jen talks about the sparkling Dinoflagellates and an essence she made off the island of Vieques.  Learn about the history of essences, how we communicate with plants (or perhaps how they communicate with us), and how to make your own essences.  
In Memorium: James (Jim) A. Duke, PhD, Susanna Reppert/Brill
         We lost an immense influence and an amazing mind.  Susanna remembers him here.  
The Case for Cannabis - A Natural (R)Evolution (Part 2 of 2), Lisa Camasi 
         In part 2, Lisa shares the different properties that occur in some of the various components     and how to best utilize them for medical relief.
Plant This Instead, Kathy Musser   
         Kathy helps guide us through readjusting our goals when perhaps we don't have the proper site  for the plant we originally visualized in a particular spot.  Lots of ideas!
What are Liberty Teas? Jackie Johnson  
         Most of us don't know that the Boston Tea Party was just one of many such revolts.  There were also many substitutes, and Jackie provides us with some historic blends!
Reflections of Winter, Gale La Scala
         Some people aren't done with winter yet.   And from the other end of the spectrum:
10 Ways to Combat Cabin Fever, Rita Richardson

There you have it.  Subscribe today - HERE
See you all next time!  Be sure to read the blurb about our 100th issue discount page if you're a business that herbies need to know about (no MLM's and at the publisher's discretion).  It's a great way to make some waves. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Southern Folk Medicine - Book Review

This book comes out on the 16th of January, and if you haven't pre-ordered, get it now.  This book is unlike any other you might have on your shelves and you're going to need it.  This changes the way we will be looking at things from here on out.

To begin with, there's a foreword by Rosemary Gladstar.
There's an afterword by Matthew Wood.
And in between, Phyllis D. Light will open your eyes and mind to a whole different way of perceiving body constitution and how herbal energetics (which has always been too open to interpretation for me) correlate with southern blood "types."  The quotes are there because the types are not A, B, O.  They align with the 4 elements.  This system makes sense.
She starts with the history of how the tradition came into being.  You'll notice a connection with Ayurvedic and Chinese systems, but Southern Folk Medicine is its own healing method.

I've only had it a few days, but I know this is a game-changer.


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