Tuesday, April 20, 2021

May/June 2021 Essential Herbal Issue - What's In It?

We just sent another issue out to subscribers.  There's lots of great stuff in it and we'll share the table of contents below.  If you're a subscriber, check your email!  If not, it's sure easy enough to subscribe!
We've got lots of other great herbal stuff to window shop, too :-)  HAPPY SPRING

Cover, Carolina Gonzalez
   Gorgeous burst of color and joy is just what we all need right now.

Field Notes, Tina Sams
    We're feeling all kinds of hope and recovery and can't wait to see some herbie faces!

Brunch Celebration, Alicia Allen
     Delicious options for celebrating life's happinesses.

Put the Lime in the Coconut, Marci Tsohonis
     Canna Coconut Gummies - You've got questions, Marci's been doing the hands on research.

Catnip - Not Just for Cats! Kristine Brown, RH (AHG)
     Such a valuable weed, too often overlooked.  Now you'll know.

Eggstravagance, Rebekah Bailey
     Baskets, boxes, and bags of eggs at the Bailey place!

Book Excerpt - The Story of the Gluten Free Kid, Jenel Schaffer
     A mother shares her experiences of getting the family off gluten via stories and fun recipes.

Garden Design (part 2), Kathy Musser
     Lots of options and elements for the variety of colors, heights, and textures of plants in the garden.

How to Substitute Fresh Herbs for Dried Herbs, Jessicka Nebesni
     Use the guideline in an included herb blend recipe!

The Green Man, Jackie Johnson ND
     A poem for the season

Peppercorns, Jackie Johnson ND
     On most kitchen and dining room tables, but what do we know about it?

Vinegar Drinks Class Notes, Maryanne Schwartz and Tina Sams
     We gave this class and the notes make a quick and easy guide.

Wedding Herbs, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
     Flowers and herbs can add much to a wedding, and their meanings enrich sentiment.

Book Excerpt - Ashkenazi Herbalism, Deatra Cohen and Adam Seigel
     Rediscovering the herbal past of a culture is a long, winding path.

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Book Review - Ashkenazi Herbalism

Review from Maryanne Schwartz:

When Tina mentioned we were going to do an excerpt from a new book on Ashkenazi Herbalism, I jumped at the chance to read and review the book. 


My results from 23 & Me were pretty disappointing (total French & German) except for one little .01% of Ashkenazi Jewish DNA. I’d heard the term and was somewhat familiar before because there are certain diseases that seemed to be connected with that heritage. Tay-Sachs disease is the one I remember.

For me, defining the area called “The Pale” where they lived was interesting in itself, and I thought perhaps that was where the phrase “Beyond the Pale” came from, but in further reading I found that the Pale usually refers to agreed upon boundaries where one is safe, so I think it’s the same idea, just that this area was in Russia/Poland/Germany.  I think we more commonly think of it as a ghetto, although ghettos were more like smaller settlements in specific parts of cities. My conclusion in respect to the phrase though, seems to refer to the idea of certain agreed upon limits in general, so if we are beyond the pale, we have passed normal boundaries in speech or action.

It took a lot of sleuthing and research to find the herbal history of the Ashkenazi people, but the author(s) discovered a history and hierarchy that sounded very familiar to the way healers and herbalists and midwives and physicians have developed in our own history:

The old ways remain, but they are pushed aside for the newer ways which are then pushed aside for even newer, and more powerful healers.  The earlier ways are still found to have value by many, even as they are cast aside by the newer, more scientific establishment. We are seeing a bit of this now with the return of respect toward midwives and the widespread acceptance of various supplements by many main-stream medicinal authorities.

Reading through the Materia Medica, the same thing is found to be true with the herbs themselves.  One herb may have been used for something in the past until it is found to possibly be doing more harm than good for that purpose, but that same herb may still contain value for some other afflictions. 

It is interesting to see how the herbs were used - and how their uses may have changed or how they may still be used in the current day. Even though this was across the ocean and many miles, many of the same herbs that we use today are discussed.

Although we are fortunate to be able to have access to the most up to date medicine of the day now, herbs are still so useful for many of the same first aid type occurrences as they were way back when..

Please Note:  The publisher (North Atlantic Books) has provided Essential Herbal readers with a very nice excerpt and a substantial discount code, which will be published in the May/June issue which comes out on April 20.  It is time sensitive, so if you want this book at a GREAT price, heads up!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Bring Back May Day Baskets!

 (From the 4/12/21 Just the Essentials Newsletter)

We have a friend who was telling us about how she makes a couple dozen really nice May Day baskets and spends May 1 making people feel special. Actually, she was saying how much fun SHE has doing it more than about how it made other people feel. It has me thinking about who I want to surprise in a couple of weeks with a little basket of goodies!

When I was in elementary school, we always made the baskets every year. Our grandmother was an elementary teacher, and Maryanne remembers dancing around the May Pole at Mimi's school, but I missed that. Bringing those baskets home to give away was so exciting! We only made one at school, so more were made at home. Mrs. Bortzfield and Mrs. Brubaker were older ladies who lived alone, and they were my targets. Mrs. Bortzfield always had candy any time she saw me, and Mrs. Brubaker had a huge zinnia patch outside her kitchen door and always let me take as many as I wanted.

May 1 doesn't always have a lot of flowers around here. Nowadays, there are a lot more bulb flowers like daffs, tulips, and hyacinths, but other than the tiny pansy plants we got at Sunday School for Easter, there weren't many flowers. We were forbidden from touching the dogwoods. 

This led me to searching the woods behind the house. The trees were a mixture of evergreens and hardwood, and that was where I found Dutchmen's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). They dropped me to my knees. I've written about that moment before; it started my fixation with plants. This tiny, perfect string of pants hanging on the line immediately stole my imagination and at 6 or 7 I was certain there were fairies hiding nearby giggling at my amazement. There are a lot of small things that can go in a May Day basket other than flowers. A few pieces of candy, a bar of floral scented soap, a small candle, some incense, some tea... you get the idea! There are a ton of spring crafts for kids (or adults) out there, and this is one that caught my eye:  

                  https://www.easypeasyandfun.com/printable-bug-paper-rings/ So cute! 

 Some inspiration:

Hand made Baskets

We have a few metal baskets HERE

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Sunday, April 04, 2021

Nettle Corn Chowder

 Yesterday I made the best Nettle soup ever! 

The recipe for my usual green soups depends on what is on hand, so it's unusual for me to write down the recipe - but it was that good.


Cutting without stinging - stick the colander under the leaves you intend to cut.

All the stinging hairs/needles are on the backs of leaves, and the stems.

Some of the ingredients are pre-packaged.  I use potato flakes and broth because there are almost never real potatoes in the house, and there is never enough broth for the amount of soup we eat in the spring.  You can make them from scratch, though. 

The dairy can be subbed too. 

Here we go...

1 T butter
2 T minced onion
1 stalk celery chopped
1 quart fresh nettle leaves
1 small potato, chopped (had here because Easter :-) )
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
1/4 C 1/2 and 1/2
1/2 C corn
2 slices bacon, cooked til crisp
1 quart chicken (or veg) broth
1/2 C instant mashed potatoes

Process the rinsed nettles with about 2 cups of the broth until you get a green slush.
Melt butter in pan.
Sweat onion and celery in the butter.
Add the processed nettle to the pan.
Add chopped egg and potato, and the rest of the broth.
Add corn and whisk in instant potatoes
Add 1/2 and 1/2 and bacon (bits)

Heat thoroughly.  Serve with crackers.  There won't be any left, but just in case, it can be refrigerated.

Just in case you have lots of nettles available, you may want to try this...


As I recall, I did find the nettle TOO strong, so you may want to cut it a little.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Spring Magic in The Kitchen and Beyond

 (also from the 3/27 Just the Essentials)

Below you'll find links to our posts for making violet syrup and scrub, as well as dandelion shortbread cookies.  

Don't forget to download your free copy of Wild Foods for Every Table
The  link can be found at the very bottom of our homepage:  www.essentialherbal.com
You can also SUBSCRIBE to The Essential Herbal Magazine there, and sign up to receive the free newsletter - Just the Essentials.




Stay tuned for more spring recipes and crafts!

Friday, April 02, 2021

Herb Plant Shopping!

Herb Plant Shopping!

Part 2 of our 3/27 newsletter (and an interview below)
SUBSCRIBE to our magazine and our free newsletter on our website.

Although most of the spring herb festivals are still not happening this year, it looks like the greenhouses and stores will be open.  Last year we were able to order plants and pick them up without looking at the other plants, smelling the varieties, or getting carried away.  I will be making up for that this year. 

For those looking to start out with a little control (hahahaha, whatever), I thought it might be helpful to share what plants have been or become the most important over the years.  Yours may vary, but this is a bare bones list.  Add as you like!  They are always in my gardens.  In many cases, even if something is supposed to be perennial or expected to reseed, I purchase extras if last year’s look puny, because having too much is not a problem.  

Culinary List:
Parsley – biennial, so plant some every year so there is always some to use.
Thyme – should be perennial, but often requires replacement.
Basil – I like to get Genovese, Lettuce Leaf, and Purple Ruffles for different dishes.  Never too much!
Sage – So delicious with fall dishes and once it’s in the garden, it can find its way into lots of meals.
Rosemary – adds so much to chicken and beef roasts and stews.  Very tender perennial here.

Cilantro – although not for everyone, the coriander is also good.  I LOVE it.  So fresh!
Chives – provides a relatively mild onion-y flavor in dips, salads, side dishes, and potatoes.
Oregano – be careful where you plant this aggressive, delicious pizza herb.
Dill – I didn’t know how much I loved this flavor until there was plenty of it to play with in the kitchen.
Fennel – we love it sliced into salads.  Delicious with orange segments, oil, and a touch of balsamic.
                            Options – marjoram, tarragon, horseradish, garlic
                   Wild seasonings – sassafras, sumac, mints, onions and garlic

Medicinal List:
Calendula – no matter how much we plant, it’s never enough.
Chamomile – considered perennial or reliable reseeders, they often wander off.  Great tea herb!
Rose – we’ve never had enough of this, either. There are so many reasons to grow roses.
Holy Basil – easy to grow and it might be our #1 herb right now.  Emotional equalizer.
Valerian – The roots are usually sought, but we use the blossoms.  They are perennial, but rodents do
          love the roots.

Peppermint – excellent cup of flavor and cheer.  Choose Spearmint for stomach issues.
Lavender – gentle, relaxing, and offers so much to us from fragrance to sleep.  I’ve learned that they                         aren’t as perennial as we’d hope.  I try to plant one or two every year, just in case.
Lemon Balm – delicious, so fragrant, relaxing, and easy to grow.
Echinacea – reliable perennial that reseeds.  We use the whole plant, only pulling up the roots on the                    plants that stray out of the garden.
California poppy – this has just joined the garden in the last decade, since sleep isn’t as easy as it once                      was.  Reseeds easily, but occasionally needs to be replaced.  

       Other options:  Elder, Saint John’s wort, Catnip, Feverfew, Horehound… don’t get me started. 

Jenel Schaffer from Sheep Hill Herbs interviewed me on several things - including favorite herbs.


Thursday, April 01, 2021

Ah ah ah CHOO!!!

The other day I was trimming the yews underneath the front windows, and although I rarely have a problem with seasonal allergies, they gave me an issue!  

A shower to wash off the pollen and some Snuffles tea set me right, but not everyone is so easily soothed.

(excerpt from 3/27/21 "Just the Essentials" free newsletter - sign up on our website)

Lancaster County is known for the allergens in the air.  We live on a tree farm surrounded by corn, wheat, and soybean fields, so we watched our kids suffer from spring until the first frost.   Maryanne’s son would try to go out and help his Dad with the Christmas trees, but tiny scratches from the needles would leave huge welts and hives.  My daughter Molly didn’t experience that, thank goodness, and loved working with the trees after they’d gone into dormancy. 

We tried for years to find natural solutions to their allergies.  We could sometimes find comfort for the symptoms, but the allergies weren’t going anywhere.  They moved to the west coast and for the first time in their lives the warm sun didn’t come with runny noses and weepy eyes.

I’m wondering if wearing masks helped people, having seen people mow lawns wearing masks in years past.  It would be nice to find that now that we all have masks, we could head off some of the pollen allergies!

Of all the things I tried for Molly, local bee pollen was the most effective for her.  Everyone is different, but that was the best for her.  We always have lots of nettles in the spring, along with other wild greens, but didn’t notice much difference in the allergies.  Some people find that nettles (tea, tincture, or as a side dish) help.

She loves our Snuffles tea.  Being a water babe, she also really enjoys hot baths with Eucalyptus Spice tub tea and it helps clear her sinuses.  Everything in the Sinus Comfort Set makes her feel better, and using licorice root sticks soothes the sore throats from post-nasal drip.

 NOTE:  We currently send out 3 publications.

The Essential Herbal Magazine and the EXTRA! are by subscription and there are 6 of each per year.  SUBSCRIBE

"Just the Essentials" is a promotional email through the website. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

So Grateful this Vernal Equinox

It is officially Spring.  We've missed an entire year of festivals, gatherings, and friends.  It just might be almost over.  My fingers and toes are all crossed.

It's almost unimaginable that it was over a year ago that most of us agreed to lock down for 2 weeks in order to help get this virus under control.  2 weeks stretched to 6, and then there was no end in sight.  We've all peered into this long tunnel, searching for a pinpoint of light at the end.  My book - Medicinal Herbs for Emotional Healing came out last March.  

Available on our website: www.essentialherbal.com
Click on the "books" tab

The signings and presentations I'd planned didn't happen, but the launch went okay, especially because the topic was so relevant.

Several times during this year, I've patted myself on the back for thinking ahead and having what I needed on hand, for staying in, and doing my part. It would be easy to go off on a self-congratulatory tangent, but the truth is that I was lucky.  I already work from home and lead a frugal life.  We stay to ourselves pretty much up here on the hill, so there was very little that changed except we only ventured into town once a week - with added anxiety. 

We spent 6 months working on new-to-us techniques in eco-dyeing, and I found the art form I've searched for my whole life.  I am in LOVE.

Mostly we do silk scarves, but that process results in some interesting cotton prints, too!

A few months before things got serious, we'd announced that printing and mailing costs were such that we could not continue to create a printed magazine, and would only be doing so for one more year.  Since 2002, we were determined to print as long as it was feasible.  We thought that would go on forever, but that was not to be... We DO have another 10 years to compile into a book, though.  We're saving our pennies for that mammoth project.

Our website started providing a fun and easy option for emails, so those who've signed up while visiting the site now receive "Just the Essentials" - a short newsletter every 2 weeks that contains a little of this or that, introduces new products, and occasionally includes an exclusive discount. 

Let's just say that keeping up with all of this makes me very happy to have 16 years of blogs and 20 years of magazines in my bag of tricks!

I can't tell you how many times I've stopped and considered how fortunate we have been to be able to make that decision and switch a few issues early.  We have one more issue in our first all digital year, and we are so grateful for the smooth transition.  We lost a few subscribers, and that was expected.  So many of our readers chose us because we were a print magazine, so it was a great surprise to find that the vast majority of our readers stuck around.  We've had some that dropped the magazine, but came back!  Most of our advertisers stuck around too - so we've got a lot to be grateful for, and we're determined to continue earning that loyalty.

In the meantime, we're still struggling a little bit getting used to the schedule, now that we added the "Extra!" that arrives in the months that magazines don't come out (thanks for the brilliant idea, Susanna).  Double the deadlines (for us - not the contributors), double the fun.

We get to play around with different ideas.
Sometimes we include a video link.  Couldn't do that before!

Our advertisers are included in the Extra as well as the regular magazine at no additional charge, so we feel we can give them a better value.

Sometimes we receive content that really fits much better during an in-between month, and the Extra is perfect for that, too.  

It's more work, but we are really enjoying it. Originally we promised that it could be just a recipe or a puzzle, but so far it's been a mini magazine.

With the weather improving and things loosening up, we're hoping to do more with our youtube channel now that I've realized time will not make me younger, thinner, or cuter.  No time like the present!  

We've got lots of ideas, but if there's something you'd like us to present in a 5 or 10 minute video, let us know.  Obviously, that's not enough time for major projects, but we can do a lot in a few minutes.

Another thing that has been an unforeseen challenge was trying to figure out how to present the magazines on the website.  For the past few years we'd been having a lot of fun creating a seasonal tableau for each issue to photograph and display on the home page.

We're getting there.  Little by little we figure it out.

We have been having a lot of fun this year, quietly writing and pondering here on the hill.  There are a few things I'm looking forward to, friends I've really missed and hugs to be given.  

Here's hoping you've gotten your subscription so that you don't miss out on anything!  We know how scarce extra money is and try to make sure we're more than worth it.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

What's in the March April '21 Essential Herbal?

 There have been many times during the last 20 years when working a couple of months ahead had the power to give hope and that has certainly been the case for the last month or so.  Between the weather, the pandemic, and some goofy joint issues that had both of us in physical therapy, it was good to just be in the future.  The sun will shine, the seeds will sprout, and Spring will arrive.  It always does.

This issue is full of warm, enlivening, interesting information, projects, and recipes.  We know you'll enjoy it.  Subscribe HERE.

Check out the cover and table of contents:

Cover, Susan Holliday

Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams
20 years ago in April, TEH germinated. It seems like yesterday. 
It seems like a few lifetimes ago.        

A Garden of Afro-Mediterranean Beauty, Carolina Gonzalez
Beautifying herbs from the Canary Islands                                                      

Warming Mustard & Ginger Bath Salts, Mountain Rose Herbs
Invigorating, healing baths.                                                                                 

Winter Aromatherapy, Tina Sams
Various ways to add moisture and fragrance into the winter air.                  

Book Excerpt “The Artisan Herbalist,” Bevin Cohen                                 
Wintergreen, from Bevin Cohen’s new book

One Pan Dinners, Alicia Allen
3 friends tested Alicia’s recipes and sent pictures along the way.               

Six Herbs for a Simple Stillroom Garden, Catherine Love                         
What if you had only enough room for 6?  What would you choose?

Black Drawing Salve, Marci Tsohonis
Step by step instructions for this distinctive and useful salve.                      

Checking Out Chicory, Kristine Brown
If you like dandelion, you’ll love chicory!                                                          

Garden Journey, Rebekah Bailey
We get to watch the ongoing renewal over at the Bailey place.                      

Baked Oatmeal, Tina Sams
An easy, delicious breakfast.                                                                               

Holistic Help for the Immune System, Jackie Johnson ND
Helping the body to heal itself is the best thing we can do.                           

Mulching with Herbs, Marci Lautanen-Raleigh
Grow and harvest your own mulch.                                                                   

Garden Design, Part 1, Kathy Musser
What are the different things to think about when planning a garden?      

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