Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Tuesday, December 09, 2014 5:05 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    The moon is waning, its fullness giving way to darkness. It is the beginning of December, nights are still lengthening here in the Northern Hemisphere as we approach winter solstice, the longest night.

    It is time to go back to our roots, to get into our roots, to dig deeply into our selves. In areas not yet covered with snow, these are the last days to dig roots, before the ground freezes solid. And the last chances of the year to make wild salads, too. So follow me and let’s see what there is to eat outside. Our weed walk commences here.

    It is time to snuggle in and put down the electronic device and read a book or a magazine. In addition to books, I read lots of periodicals.  Since our work weekend Saturday was windy and rainy, we chose to stay inside, telling stories and cutting the year’s harvest of dried stinging nettle into small pieces ready for making infusion. After lunch, we looked at periodicals focused on herbs. And I have listed them for you in a special supplement.

    There is a special openness to the winter air. A special clarity to winter sounds. And a special joy in the green blessings of winter.


    ~ Weed Walk ~

  • Thursday, November 27, 2014 10:33 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Thanksgiving Weed Walk, contd. 

    Red Clover Blossoms (Trifolium pretense)
    The persistent, cheerful red clover blossoms add the finishing touch to our bowl of wild greens. If you need to feed a crowd, or didn’t find as much as you hoped for on your walk, add some lettuce; it will still be a wild salad. Enjoy!!

    Violet (Viola species)
    Don’t the violet leaves look delicious. They are so rich in vitamins, especially A and C. And their mild, slightly-sweet taste is just perfect with bitter garlic mustard and minty ground ivy. Cancer- and cold-prevention in one tasty leaf.

    Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum)
    The leaves of the common tall daisy are exceptionally delicious. They are, in fact, one of my favorite salad greens, in moderation. The leaves are small and intensely green, indicating lots of antioxidant vitamins.

    There it is. Our Thanksgiving Salad, a gift of abundance from Mother Nature to her children. Green blessings to you all.

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  • Thursday, November 27, 2014 10:25 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Thanksgiving Weed Walk, contd.

    Sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)
    This persistent edible green is showing up in more and more places over the past few years. Hooray!  Despite its untidy look, puha (as it is known in New Zealand) is a prize green for salads. We won’t take more than 2-3 leaves per plant though.

    Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta)
    What a lucky find! This tender green won’t be around too much longer. I am so happy to have its bright, tart taste in our salad. Harvest as much as you can.

    Wild Carrot Flowers (Daucua carota)
    This is unusual. Perhaps this spot has a warm microclimate. Perhaps this wild carrot was trimmed back and decided to flower anyhow. The flowers are edible and make a nice decorative touch to our salad.

    ~ Thanksgiving Weed Walk, contd. ~

  • Thursday, November 27, 2014 10:00 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Thanksgiving Weed Walk, contd.

    Chickweed (Stellaria media)
    Sorry for the blurry photo. I guess the chickweed was shivering when I photographed her. There isn’t a lot, so we will only take a small amount. But the bland, crisp taste of chickweed is just the foil we need for the stronger flavors we have harvested, so let’s keep our eyes out for another patch.

    Cronewort (Artemisia vulgaris)
    The little leaves of my friend cronewort (AKA mugwort), minced, will add a savory, slightly bitter bite to our salad. Just a few will do the trick. Yes, you can still make a cronewort vinegar, with leaves or roots and leaves, if you can find young growth, which is generally easy.

    Young Cress
    The cold days are the favorite days of all the members of the cabbage family. We’ve already picked lots of garlic mustard, but let’s add some of this little cress. We can toss the leaves in whole since they are small.

    Wild Chives
    These wild chives are found in any lawn that isn’t doused with chemicals. They offer sulfur compounds that help us stay healthy in the winter. Yummy in salads, but great creamed into butter and served on baked squash. Or try a wild chive vinegar.

    ~ Thanksgiving Weed Walk, contd. ~

  • Monday, November 24, 2014 7:25 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Thanksgiving Salad Weed Walk
    Though it is cold (and colder), there are still green plants for our salads. Here are more than a dozen different things we found to eat in a ten minute walk. All of the plants in our Thanksgiving Salad were found growing around a residence for elders on the banks of the Esopus Creek where it meets the Hudson River in Saugerties.

    Garlic Mustard (Alliaria officinalis)
    Our official major salad plant, for which we give endless thanksgiving. This hardy green will be available until it is buried by snow. For now, it is the main ingredient in all our late fall, early winter salads. Not too bitter, and not too spicy, but just right for colder weather. Let’s pick lots of this one.

    Plantain (Plantago majus)
    Plantain is one hardy plant. The little leaves are tough at this time of the year and will need to be finely chopped into our salad. I love their “woodsmoke and friendship” smell. No more than two leaves per plant, please, into your basket. We want lots of plantain next spring too.

    Wild Carrot Tops (Daucua carota)
    Last month I couldn’t find any first-year leaves of wild carrot to show the students at a class. Now, they seem to be everywhere. Wonder where they were hiding. Although they are a little hairy, wild carrot leaves will be exceptionally tasty in our Thanksgiving salad, so let’s pick a lot.

    Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
    Remember that dandelion leaves are at their sweetest and most palatable after the first frosts, so gather all you can find, without taking too many from any plant. Cut them into smallish pieces, to improve the texture and to spread the bitter, mineral-y taste throughout the salad.

    ~ Thanksgiving Weed Walk, contd. ~

  • Monday, November 24, 2014 4:31 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    An attitude of gratitude – Thanksgiving

    With a full and joyous heart
    I acknowledge the blessing of life
    And the abundance that surrounds me.

    Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday in November, is an American holiday that is very special to me. Sure, as a child, I was told the happy lie that it was a commemoration of a feast shared by the Puritans and “Indians.”

    There may have been a feast. People of the Great Peaceful Nations did indeed greet newcomers with a baked pumpkin. Wild turkey, as well as deer, abound in the Eastern states and are traditionally hunted in late November, or when ice forms on puddles overnight. And, though there were massacres (especially in the West, and on both sides), there was a great deal of cooperation between the “natives” and the “whites” in the East. A feast is not impossible.

    But what I actually got from Thanksgiving as a child was vastly different from what I was taught. I wasn’t focused on relations between the settlers and the indigenous peoples, I was focused on relations in my own home. And Thanksgiving brought a lot of different relations – as well as relatives – to my home.

    My mother had special china that was used only on Thanksgiving. And special flatware – real silver! – which went with it. Oh, and special glasses too – crystal! Special serving dishes were retrieved from their storage places, washed, and filled with tasty things that weren’t the least bit normal: tiny white pickled onions, crisp whole cucumber pickles smaller than my smallest finger, radish roses, pimento-stuffed green olives, black olives from a can, cheeses from exotic, far-away places.

    Dinner was always a special meal at my home. But Thanksgiving dinner, which happened at a different time than all other dinners, was the acme of dinners. Neither Christmas dinner nor Easter dinner, both of which were honored as special events in my childhood home, came close.

    Thanksgiving dinner was a holy ritual, a sacrament, that was taking place in my home, in front of me, and that I was actually part of. It made my heart burst with joy.

    Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, why not make one evening meal special this week? What foods would people who lived where you live now but 300 years ago have eaten? Eating those foods honors the Ancestors, honors the Ancient Ones, honors the Spiral of Life as we spiral into winter. And the easiest of those Ancestor foods to find, and to eat, are the wild foods.

    What are you waiting for? Grab you basket, and your coat, and come with me. Let’s pick a Salad of Thanksgiving.

    Green blessings are everywhere.

    ~ Thanksgiving Weed Walk ~

  • Monday, November 10, 2014 8:33 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Woods Walk, contd.



    On our way home, you must stop and see what is happening in this low spot. It is completely covered in this small knotweed. The ground looks pink. The camera sees the ground ivy hiding in the midst of the knotweed. Hard frost will kill the Polygonum, while the Glechoma will continue on.

    I still await the first hard frosts to drive the energy of the plants into their roots. Once that happens, we will take our spading forks and make some tinctures. Until then, enjoy. And remember, herbal medicine is people’s medicine.


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  • Monday, November 10, 2014 8:15 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Woods Walk, contd - Mushrooms


    Late fall/early winter is often a great time for mushrooms. I think of them as a special gift to my immune system; lots of minerals to build powerful resistance to colds and the flu. Here are some of our recent special finds, including puffballs, inky caps, and a stand of orange turkey tail mushrooms.


    ~ Woods Walk, Contd.

  • Monday, November 10, 2014 7:39 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Woods Walk


    It is impossible to walk quietly in the forest today, what with the swish, crinckle, crunch of dried leaves underfoot. So don’t even try. Let your child be wild; kick and scrunch the leaves about as you will. Who knows what treasures such abandon will disclose.

    The light is dramatic now; with painterly sunsets mirroring the colors of the leaves. Some leaves seem to glow up out of the dark. Others are so densely colored that they seem to be underwater.

    None of these photos has been altered or changed in any way.


    ~ Woods Walk, Contd. ~ 

  • Monday, November 10, 2014 6:53 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    I was awakened this morning by the rattling of my window. A woodpecker was perched on the window ledge outside, attacking the side of the window and causing quite a vibration. Finding nothing to eat, woodpecker flew away, leaving me to muse on the connections between wildlife and wild plants.

    A book by Bradford Angiers helped me understand this decades ago. In his book, he carefully included not only the ways that humans use each of the plants he highlights, but also the way wildlife uses and depends on these plants, especially through the winter.

    Yellow dock seeds are held high, providing food even in periods of deep snow. Barberry fruits dangle persistently, unflinching in wind and rain, sleet, ice and snow, and offering food for those daring enough to brave her thorns. And Jerusalem artichoke tubers are sumptuous finds for burrowing critters.


    There is so much to see now that the leaves are down. Take a long look as you walk. Soar in your imagination and see from the eagle’s eye view. Look across. Look down from the heights. Allow yourself to open up to the broad perspective.

    Come, let’s go for a ramble in the forest. I know we will find some mushrooms. And perhaps a miracle or two as well.

    Green blessings are everywhere.


    ~ Woods Walk ~ 

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