Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Tuesday, September 16, 2014 4:49 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Some help for you in distinguishing between cronewort and lamb’s quarter. But the real way to tell the difference is simply to smell. Cronewort is aromatic and lamb’s quarter is not.

    These small flowers start out green, then gradually become reddish, purplish

    Lamb’s quarter
    These flowers are smaller and rounder. They start out green and gradually get browner.

    Here they are together.

  • Tuesday, September 16, 2014 4:16 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Mighty Mint Weed Walk Contd.

    Cultivated Salvias
    These two mints are probably hybrid salvias, cultivated for their showy and long lasting flowers. Since they are not aromatic, I do not use them for tea, honey, or vinegar. But if I lived nearer to where they are growing, I would be tempted to put some of the flowers in my salad.

    Shiso (Perilla frutescens)
    As tender as basil, the shiso must be harvested before frost. That’s now! Time to pick bunches to dry. I always make several jars of shiso vinegar to help me stay strong in the winter. I even put away a small bit of shiso honey, though I rarely use it as a tea.

    Creeping Jenny (Glechoma hederacea)
    No longer flowering, but in abundance in most gardens and many lawns, even if there is no other mint growing around you, I wager this one is. Like the others, it makes a honey that soothes the throat and a calcium-rich vinegar.
    And don’t forget to use your rosemary, sage, lavender, thyme, and marjoram before the frost.

    Green blessings are everywhere.

    Special Supplement ~

  • Tuesday, September 16, 2014 2:11 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Mighty Mint Weed Walk

    I think of mints as the days cool. These wonderful plants may be frost-hardy, like sage, or they may die when the temperatures fall, like basil and shiso. Even the hardy ones appreciate a fall pruning, so let’s go find some mints to harvest. Be sure to have your vinegar already pasteurized and cool, and a good supply of pourable honey on hand. You may want to tincture a few mints too, so check your supply of 100 proof alcohol. Ready? Let’s go.

    Large-leaved Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
    This is the wild spearmint of Woodstock. It has very big, light green leaves. I have found it growing in abundance in many places: behind the health food store, on the edge of a pocket forest between two developments, and in Justine’s backyard, where I took this photo. A vinegar or a honey of this light and lively mint is just right.

    Cultivated Spearmint  (Mentha spicata)
    And this is the spearmint that is usually grown, with darker, smaller, unfuzzy leaves. Note that spearmints bloom from the tip while peppermints bloom around the stalk. Notice the long stamens protruding from each blossom. Can you find the wasp in the one photo?  I love this as a vinegar or a honey.

    Cultivated Bergamot (Monarda)
    This bright color is the result of cultivation and hybridization. I prefer the wild red and light purple varities, but accepted a cutting of this cultivar and have never been able to convince it that I don’t want it to go in my garden. I cut the flowering tops to dry for use in cooking, as a substitute for oregano. Or I make a vinegar of it.

    Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
    We have cut endless amount of lovely lemon balm from this patch and it is still in flower. Since we have several jars of lemon balm vinegar, it must be time to put up a jar of lemon balm honey.

    ~ Weed Walk, Contd. ~

  • Tuesday, September 16, 2014 2:04 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Green greetings.

    How the wind doth blow! The cronewort is blowing in the stiff cold breezes of autumn. And here comes autumn equinox. This is the perfect time to finish our Third Eye Opening Blend. And the last plant we need to tincture is cronewort, Artemisia vulgaris. (Often called mugwort.)

    I brought Artemisia vulgaris to my land 35 years ago. Having read that it marked the home of the Wise Woman, I thought it imperative to have some.

    Long ago, I read, when people were not literate, they knew where to find someone because the tools of their trade were in evidence. For the healer, the herbalist, the Wise Woman, Artemisia was the tool of their trade, so it was grown and displayed in front of the house.
    As populations moved to cities, where it was difficult to grow Artemisia in your (nonexistent) garden, a Wise Woman hung a dried bunch of Artemisia by the door or painted a picture of it on her door. 

    The Artemisias are a large genus of mostly scented plants. If you don’t have Artemisia vulgaris growing near you, any of the other scented species will do. For sisters in the desert, that will likely be Artemisia tridentate, sagebrush. For sisters in the orient, that will probably be Artemisia chinensis, which is processed into moxa sticks. Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) and wormwood (Artemisia absinthum) are other commonly-grown scented species.

    Don’t confuse cronewort blossoms with lamb’s quarter blossoms. They look alike, but smell very different. Photos of both are at the end of the weed walk.

    To make your tincture, simply cut the flowering tops of your chosen Artemisia, fill a jar with finely cut pieces of plant, then fill the jar with 100 proof vodka, label, lid and wait six weeks. That will bring us to Halloween, the beginning of winter, and a great time to take your Third Eye Opening Blend. Look for the finish to the recipe then.

    Meanwhile, let’s take a walk in the golden sunshine of autumn and visit the many mints still flowering.

    Green blessings are everywhere.

    ~ Weed Walk ~

  • Monday, August 18, 2014 9:07 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Seedy Weedy Walk, contd.

    Amaranth Seed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
    It is difficult to determine if the amaranth seed is ripe without shaking the seed head. I take a bowl to the plant and rap the seed head against the inside of the bowl. If small black seed fall out, I continue to rap the seed head against the bowl. I repeat this action every day or two until the whole seed head is brown and falling apart. The seeds are so small that they easily fall through a mesh strainer, leaving the inedible husks behind.

    Burdock Seed (Arctium lappa)
    Here are the beautiful flowers of the burdock. Which are followed by the burdock burs, clingy, hooked burs which trouble dogs, sheep, aond children of all ages. Inside those burrs are seeds. I have loosened a few, so you can see that they are still too young to harvest. Like the other seeds, they will be brownish black when mature and ready to turn into hair oil and other remedies. Removing the seeds from the burrs is not easy; and made more difficult by the irritating hairs surrounding them. Complete instructions on making the famous Russian scalp tonic are in Healing Wise.

    Nettle Seed (Urtica dioica)
    Still too early to harvest the nettle seed; it is quite green yet. Patience, patience. One of my favorite additions to grains, we put nettle seed in muffins, pancakes, corn bread, brown rice, oatmeal, everything!

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  • Monday, August 18, 2014 8:00 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Seedy Weedy Walk

    Plantain Seed (Plantago major)
    What a great crop of plantain seed this year. Some stalks are two feet long! Here is a nice patch of plantain seed, just ready to begin select harvesting. Most of the seeds are still green. I leave those for a while, to mature and darken. Like the ones in this basket, which are brown and ready to harvest and dry. Once fully dry, the seeds and husks are stripped by hand from the stalks, and stored in jars. I drop a silicon gel packet in with my wild seeds to keep them dry.

    Plantain seed makes a delicious addition to any grain, from oatmeal in the morning to brown rice at night. To use on its own, as a mild, bulk-producing laxative, just soak a tablespoonful in a cup of cold water overnight and drink it in the morning, seeds and all. Plantain, like most wild seeds, is a good source of the omega fatty acids so critical to heart health.

    Queen Anne’s Lace Seed (Daucus carota)
    The seeds of wild carrot are famous as a natural birth control. They are not sold commercially, so if you wish to use them, you will have to harvest them yourself. I watch for the seeds to turn brown, indicating that they are ripe. But, if I wait too long, the “basket” holding the seeds opens and scatters them to the ground. Apprentice number seven, Robin Rose Bennett, has extensive experience in using these seeds to control conception. Women in India take a tablespoonful of the ripe seed after fertilizing intercourse to prevent implantation.

    Yellow Dock Seed (Rumex crispus, R. obtusifolia)
    The seeds of the yellow docks are delicious in vinegar, tolerable when cooked as a grain, and magnificent in autumn and winter flower arrangements. One lovely day in a bygone September, Grandmother Two Worlds laughed at my attempts to loosen a yellow dock root from my rocky excuse for soil. “We use the seeds,” she confided. “So much easier to harvest.” Yes, but not easy to use as a grain, for the husks are astringent and bitter, and must be removed. I have not found an easy way to separate the yellow dock husks from the seeds, so I use them exclusively for vinegar. And a tasty vinegar it is, indeed.

    ~ Seedy Weedy Walk, contd. ~

  • Monday, August 18, 2014 4:11 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    The first leaves of autumn bring beauty in unexpected places. It is time to harvest seeds. Let’s go on a walk and see which seeds are ripe and ready.
    The seeds that are closest to my heart are not the seeds of plants, however. They are seeds in the form of women who have apprenticed with me. Each unique woman is a precious seed, a thread in the healing cloak of the Ancients, a spark of the fire of the return of herbal medicine to the home. This year I celebrate 30 years of shamanic apprentices.
    Like most of what I do, I didn’t plan to have an apprenticeship program. (Any more than I planned to teach herbal medicine, or than I planned to offer correspondence courses, or than I planned to write books!) Yet I not only have an apprenticeship program, I have had one for 30 years, and I have graduated 300 apprentices.
    In 1983, a lovely young woman approached me at Omega Institute, where I was teaching a five-day course: Talking with Plants. She announced, in her sweet, shy, and sparkling way, that she would be coming to live with me for a month the following year in order to complete an herbal program she was enrolled in. And which month would be best for me? Daphne opened the door and made a path for other women to follow, into my home and into my heart. We are still in touch, thirty years later. Still loving each other and still amazed at the way the wheel turns us up and turns us down.
    Before Daphne, the first official apprentice, were several unofficial apprentices: women who learned herbal medicine from me without formal instruction, but by being in my presence, by living with me. The foremost of whom remains my ideal apprentice, Clove Tsindle. At least that is the last name I remember her by; I believe she has changed it once again. And moved from the last address I had for her, too. Do get in touch and set us all straight on what you are doing, oh beloved apprentice of my dreams. You are important to me in ways you could never imagine.
    In ways that I could never imagine, the apprentices have shaped me, have crafted me, have pushed and pulled on me, helping me to fashion myself and to create a program that is not just about herbal medicine, no just about wild food, not just about goats and cheese and yogurt, not just about talking with the plants and understanding psychoactive plants, but about being a deep, passionate, useful human being.
    My live-in apprenticeship program is intense. It is not for the faint of heart or those who need to be tended to. Apprentices are challenged mentally, emotionally, physically, and psychically. Challenged to be true to themselves. Challenged to give up the useless search for perfection. Challenged to live passionately. Challenged to stretch their bodies and their minds.
    For every apprentice who graduates, two fail the program. The three hundred women who have graduated are women who have both feet on the ground and their head firmly planted in the present. Some are working as herbalists: teaching, training apprentices of their own, writing books, counseling, touching. Others are “merely” using what they learned to maintain optimum health and help their families to health. Every one of them is a precious spark from the fire of my fervent belief that herbal medicine is people’s medicine: of the people, for the people, by the people.
    I have devoted my life to helping you reclaim the medicine that grows outside your door. You don’t have to be an apprentice. You can learn at a distance, without interacting with me personally at all: via my extensive YouTube library on wild plants and herbal medicines, via my teaching videos, a host of CDs and MP3s recorded at conferences, via my radio shows, by reading the periodicals I regularly contribute to, and by way of my wonderful books and my amazing website (created and run by my amazing daughter, Justine Smythe).
    You can come a little nearer to me as you learn: via my online courses and online chats, by calling my Tuesday evening blogtalk show, by taking any of the four correspondence courses I offer, or by enrolling in one of my mentorship programs. You can draw nearer still: spend time with me at a conference, (upcoming ones: Green Nations Gathering and The International Goddess Festival), attend class with me in your town, come to the Wise Woman Center for a moon lodge or stay for the day and study with me and the goats. Or you can walk into the dragon’s den, take your courage in both hands, and beg Baba Yaga for fire by applying to be an apprentice, like these three hundred women.

    Green blessings
    Susun Weed

    ~ Seedy Weedy Walk ~

  • Tuesday, August 05, 2014 11:05 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    August Harvest

    Two plants that you may not think about harvesting are ready for your consideration: corn silk, actually the styles of the female corn flower, and loosestrife, that obnoxious invader of wetlands.

    Corn silk
    I really love corn silk as an ally when I want to soothe the bladder. Here you see the silks from six ears of organic corn laid upon tissue paper in a wire mesh basket to dry. And here are the ears of corn with their silks still on them. I carefully peel away the green leaves embracing the corn, leaving the silks exposed. A gentle twist of the top, where the silks are brown and hardened, and then a sturdy tug frees them from the ear of corn. When dry, I store in a glass jar. (One of the few herbs I store in glass.) A big handful in a quart of boiling water brewed overnight will ease overactive bladder, honeymoon cystitis, and menopausal after-intercourse burning.

    Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
    You will find loosestrife in wet areas where cattails and Fragmites reeds grow. Expect to get your feet wet when harvesting these flowers. Just a small jar of tincture is all you need. By now, you will have your chicory flower tincture brewing. But if you don’t, it is not too late. Next month we will make a tincture of flowering Artemisia vulgaris to complete our Third-Eye Opening Blend.

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  • Tuesday, August 05, 2014 10:55 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Mushroom Walk, contd.

    Fairy Chanterelles (Chantharellus cinabarinus)
    My books say these little, bright orange chanterelles are edible, but I don’t eat them. First of all, most things in nature that are brightly colored are not really safe to consume. Not that I mistrust the books, but more I trust nature to show me clearly when I need to beware. Secondly, these mushrooms are very, very small and I do not think the effort of harvesting would be repaid with more than a bite or two. And last, and perhaps most important of all, would the fairies ever forgive me if I consumed their favorite playground under the oak?!!

    Charming Fairy Mushroom
    I don’t know the name of this little delight, but I am certain that the fairies do. Perhaps if I sleep with my ear to the ground, they will whisper it to me in my dreams.

    Coral Fungus (Clavulina cristata? Ramaria formosa?)
    Clavulinas are edible and taste mild. Ramarias are poisonous and taste bitter. Since there are plenty of delicious mushrooms to eat that I know for sure are edible, I don’t mess with any of the many coral fungi that grow in my woods. They sure are pretty though. So I feast my eyes instead of my gullet.

    ~ August Harvest ~

  • Tuesday, August 05, 2014 10:41 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Mushroom Walk

    The weather has been perfect for the mushrooms to fruit: cool nights, hot days, and lots of rain. I am blessed with many sorts of delicious chanterelles. Here are three of my favorites.

    Black Chanterelles (Chantharellus cornucopioides)

    The “horn of death” is not easy to spot in the leaf litter, but once you spy one, you will surely see more. The color ranges from deep black to fallen leaf brown. The ones in the first photo are growing so closely together that they look like a mushroom rose. I pick them carefully, leaving several large ones (grandmothers) to sporulate (reproduce). I break off the dirt at the base of those I pick and rush home with them to saute them in generous amounts of organic pasture butter. Two little girls lend their hands to carry our finds home. Such a heavenly taste!!

    Golden Chanterelles (Chantharellus cibarius) 
    These big, meaty chanterelles are easy to spot. They lie like shards of sunlight on the forest floor. They  inhabit forests throughout the temperate zone and are beloved by all, for they are easy to identify and delicious. Notice that the chanterelles do not have gills, like most mushrooms, but folds. Also notice that they are vase shaped, rather than umbrella-like.  In German golden chanterelles are pfifferling, a name that always makes me smile. Perhaps I will name a goat after them. A favorite way to prepare these mushrooms is to pull them apart from top to bottom into shreds and then slowly simmer the pulled apart ‘shrooms in full-fat milk or cream.

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