Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Not-Really-An Art of Tea Making

I’ve worked with Susanna at The Rosemary House for a few months now and I am still amazed by how resourceful and sustainable both Susanna and Nancy (owner of Sweet Remembrances) are in their lives as well as their businesses. It’s encouraged me to adopt new ways of doing things and try to be less wasteful.

One aspect I have adopted is recycling tea. The tea that isn’t used during store hours is often poured into pitchers and makes a delicious iced tea. This inspired me to take all the old tea we have in our house and start creating new tasty concoctions that will substitute the sugary beverage I’m always tempted to buy at the gas station.

So far it’s worked well. I have been able to experiment with a lot of different flavors and herbs to make some interesting tea.

My favorite so far has been mixing ginger, honey, and hibiscus flowers into a tea. Once it’s chilled it is a refreshing drink that is great for digestion and getting through the winter. The bright red color that comes with brewing the tea makes it even more inviting.

I also enjoy mixing herbal teas with traditional green, white, and black tea. Iced raspberry leaf and white tea is great for the afternoon. It perks you up as you’re beginning to feel the three o’clock drag. Green tea also has the same affect. I often drink the green quince or green pomegranate we have on their own or with hibiscus flowers.

Originally I never saw myself as much of a tea drinker. I had always been more than happy to grab some store-made iced tea along the way or even tea bags from (gasp!) Lipton or Bigelow. Now that I’ve started making my own, however, I feel better and look forward to what new flavors I can try.

Let me know if you have any neat blends or ideas. I can always use a new experiment!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Herb of the Week: Chicken of the Woods


By Molly Sams

As many of you know my mother was able to harvest a massive amount of these mushrooms in the late summer. We have plenty dried but I wasn’t quite sure what we would use it for. 

In the same month I had learned about immune tonics, stimulators, and stabilizers in Homestead Herbalism. While we had learned about astragalus as an immune tonic, I was curious about what grew locally that worked in a similar way.

So I asked Susanna Reppert-Brill what was a local immune tonic. She suggested to use chicken of the woods in place of astragalus. Susanna also recommended using chicken of the woods among other ingredients to make a broth, which was similar to what I had learned in Homestead Herbalism. This way it can be frozen and eaten all winter long to promote a healthy immune system.

“Wildman” Steve Brill also suggests using chicken of the woods in soups, stews, and grains. Many use it for as a chicken substitute because it has a lemony chicken flavor.

Sierra Potomac also found that chicken of the woods might inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and can lyse or break down bacterial cell walls. Which is why chicken of the woods may help your immune system remain strong and keep the rest of your body healthy.

So as your roasting the chicken for tonight’s meal, keep the broth and mix it with veggies, chicken of the woods, and anything else your family likes. If you have any mushrooms left, freeze them and sauté them with vegetables for a healthy and flavorful meal.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Rosemary House's Fairy Festival

By Molly Sams

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to work at The RosemaryHouse’s annual fairy festival. It was not the first time I had ever worked at a festival (I’ve done several seasons at the PA Renaissance Faire and a year at Pennsic) but I was amazed by how quickly and how thorough each part of the festival was organized and executed. For a weekend, the garden truly became something completely different.

Unlike the other festivals I have participated in, this one was just for children. While many faires and festivals discuss being family friendly they do have some deviations. This festival, however, is definitely just for kids and I found that refreshing. It was nice to see so much focus go into the children having fun and making memories. There were plenty of activities for them and it was nice to see the parents enjoy watching their children have a great time. Even the people working and the parents become enthralled with the spirit. Before you know it, everyone is a fairy or gnome, knight, or whatever they want to be.

Or a moss man!

The detail that The Rosemary House and Sweet Remembrances puts into the festival is what makes it so magical. Nancy makes sure her fairy lunches are absolutely perfect and delicious while Susanna and Lori work for days making each part of the garden a perfect home for a fairy. The whole block seems to be a buzz for a week before the festival. 

Just one of the many works of art at the fairy festival

Everyone who works there does their best to make the fest as much fun as possible from fairy songs to the yearly fairy promise at the end. The children draped over their father’s shoulder or sleepily rubbing their eyes after a long day were still excited and smiling as I gave them their fairy name. Susanna and Nancy have a wonderful time creating the festival and it shows through each craft, play and song. If you are able to take your little ones to The Rosemary House for next year’s festival, bring your camera; you won’t want to miss a beat.

I was able to snap a picture of this little fairy before she ran off to more adventures!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Herb of the Week: Echinacea

A welcoming and brilliant pink plant to bees, butterflies and gold finches, Echinacea is a fantastic herb for an immunity boost during those winter months and it can be a great addition to your garden.

Echinacea is commonly the first tincture new herbies make. Often used to stimulate the immune system, this herb can be fantastic during cold and flu seasons. Used as a tincture, tea, and mixed with elderberry it can help with a dry scratchy cough or an achy body. Echinacea should be taken to stimulate the immune system, not as a tonic taken everyday as my mother says, “When people learn about Echinacea's immune boosting properties, they often decide to take it every day in an effort to avoid every becoming ill.  This is much like continually sounding the alarm bell at the fire station, and eventually the fire fighters become exhausted and fail to respond to the call.  Some people "pulse" Echinacea by taking it 3 days on, and then, a day or two off.  I don't.  I just keep Echinacea at the ready and use it before the bug gets a good hold.  If you miss that window of opportunity and a virus or flu gets a grip, reach for elderberry.”

While many use Echinacea for it’s medicinal uses, it is also popular among those who landscape. The plant has tall, vibrant pink flowers and a unique cone shape, which catches the eye. Because of its height, many use it as a way to line gardens or property boundaries. It can look much more appealing than a fence. The plant needs to be divided into clumps about every four years according to Missouri Botanical Herb Garden to avoid over crowding.

To make a tincture Sue Hess suggests quartering the heads of the flower before putting them into a food processor. After that you can pour grain alcohol and water over the mashed herb and let it sit for several weeks. While Echinacea can be made into other forms, I enjoy the tincture so it can be mixed into tea or soup, that way you can take your medicine but in a more comforting way.

So as the school days drag on and the children begin to catch things here and there you will have something ready to keep them going until the holidays.


Sunday, September 07, 2014

Second 5-Year Volume - PreSale Special

"Through the Seasons" is in the works, and it will be our most ambitious project to date. 
5 full years of The Essential Herbal Magazine (30 issues included - $150 single issue value - for only $48) covering the years 2008 through 2012.

If you liked our first 5 years (2 volumes, By the Hearth, and Under the Sun), you're going to love this great big herbalpalooza of a book!  We're still working on it, so we can't give you the exact page count, or show you the cover just yet.  But it's good.  Very good.  Some of the reasons you'll want to own it:

Organized into chapters
Completely indexed
Perfect bound paperback with color cover.
Over 400 pages (8 1/2 x 11) covering all of the ways we use and enjoy herbs.

Chapters include topics such as:  Medicinal information, Cooking with Herbs, Foraging, The Herb Life, Soaps & Body Care, Growing and Gardening, and Traditions.

Expected delivery date: Early November (just in time for gift-giving)
Order now, and save.
Presale - Print version $48, with  FREE SHIPPING (US ONLY)PDF version $40 available world wide (save $8 on presale)

AND... Molly is finishing up an Herbal Word Puzzle book that will include 45 puzzles - a mix of crosswords, word-finds, and scrambles.  All preorders will receive a pdf of it absolutely free - so be sure to send us the correct email address!  They won't be on sale until after the special closes, and then they will go for $7.95.  So take advantage of this offer today, and save big!

Please let your herbal friends know so that they too can get this great deal.  Thanks!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Herb of the Week: Lavender


As mentioned in previous posts, my love affair with lavender is somewhat recent. Before this year I had always associated the herb with pain of sunburn and trouble sleeping from an early age – not the best start to a relationship. Since then, however, my taste and knowledge about the herb has changed and I find new reasons to love it all the time.

I first enjoyed the smell during a lavender wand making session in Sue Hess’s Homestead Herbalism class. The Latin root word, lavare, means, “to wash,” and since ancient Rome, people have used lavender in their bathing rituals, cooking, and laundry because of its fragrance. Recipes are still being created today to use the fragrance and benefits of lavender.

Lavender Hair Mask (using Sue Hess’s Herb-Infused Therapeutic Oils: Simple Method #2)

You’ll need:

1 oz. Lavender flowers
8 oz. Olive oil
Rosemary essential oil

To make:

Place lavender flowers and olive oil into Mason jar with tight fitting lid. Put jar into crock pot, do not completely submerge jar. Set crockpot to warm setting, keep an eye on the jar to make sure it does not become too hot. After two to six hours turn off the crock pot and let sit over night. Then strain and place in a clean glass jar. Keep Rosemary essential oil in separate bottle.

To use:

Pour about a quarter sized amount into your palm and rub into your hair. Repeat until oil is equally dispersed into your hair. Massage one to two drops of rosemary essential oil into your hair after you have thoroughly covered your hair and scalp in lavender infused olive oil. Place hair in a hair clip or shower cap and leave on for ten to 15 minutes. Wash and style your hair.

Some believe that the scent of lavender washes more than your laundry and your hair, though. Many use lavender in dream pillows, essential oil drops, and bubble baths to help calm a restless mind. I rarely use lavender before bed but I do keep a lavender wand in my car to calm myself during traffic jams and enjoy using candles and spritz to give my room a fresh scent and help my mind relax and focus while studying or reading.
Many people love the herb for its culinary uses. While working at the PA Herb Festival in York, Susanna Reppert-Brill found chocolate and lavender popsicles. They had just enough of a balance that the lavender was sweet instead of perfumey, a task I still have yet to master in my own experiments.

Because lavender has been used for hundreds of years, there are numerous uses we have found for the herb. Don’t be afraid to experiment with this herb in your beauty, bathing, and culinary recipes. The herb can be beneficial and smells fantastic. Have fun!


Hess, Susan. Homestead Herbalism: Materia Medica and Other Herbal Gatherings. Chester County, Pa, 2013-2014. Herb-Infused Therapeutic Oils page. Print.

Hess, Susan. Homestead Herbalism: Materia Medica and Other Herbal Gatherings. Chester County, Pa, 2013-2014. Lavender page. Print.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Sky Juice (for bug bites)

We have a couple things going on here right now.  #1 is a little almost 1 year old named Sky living with us, and #2 is a flea invasion that seems to have come from nowhere.  They love Sky.  She's down there where they are and they see "feast!"  Her mama is beside herself every time she sees that perfect little body covered with bites.  So we're working on the invasion.
In the meantime, the little body is where I come in.  One of the things I love most about working with herbs is that there are very few times when I feel completely helpless in the face of things like this.  That's a real blessing.  I can set to work.
There were a few specifics when thinking about what to make:
*All ingredients should be non-toxic and preferably edible.
*No stinging alcohol or vinegar
*Too widespread for oily balm or salve (she's wiggly enough as it is)

The yard was full of great ideas.  The jewelweed is hanging through the porch railings.  The calendula is in the garden.  The plantain is throughout the lawn.  The peach leaves from the tree in the side yard I decided to add after hearing Jamie Jackson of Missouri Herbs sing their praises. 

I chopped everything finely and heated them gently for about 15 minutes.  We have a small 4 cup coffee maker that is great for one or two cups of brew, but additionally, when I want to really strain things well, I just use the front end - meaning that we don't use the water tank, just the strainer and pot.  It never gets plugged in or turned off for this.  No balancing mesh strainers, no extra measuring cups or utensils - easy.

When the tea had been strained, about 4 drops of lavender essential oil was added to the 2+ cups of liquid.  One ounce went into a small spray bottle.
The rest went into ice cube trays.
This way, after 2 days, we'll toss the remains in the spray bottle, wash it out, and put in new juice from a melted ice cube.  The ice cubes would be very soothing on a large rash too.