Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Tuesday, February 18, 2014 10:46 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings to you all.
    Perhaps you think I am crazy to have said that spring is here in light of the record snowfalls. Still, it is not the snow nor the cold that defines winter, or any other season, it is the amount of light and dark in the days. And the light is stronger and longer! Just look at the leaves these roots are putting out. A beet top and two pieces of horseradish can’t be wrong. It is indeed spring.

    Next week I’ll share important information about the value of snow, “the poor person’s fertilizer.” But for now, let’s look at breakfast.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Study after study has finds eating breakfast makes your day better, and it makes your whole life better. But it is not part of most of our lifestyles. Eating a big breakfast is easier for a goat herder than for an office worker, granted. Many people push themselves to wake up at hours that are not metabolically healthy for them. Eating a large meal when you don’t want to be awake can be difficult.

    So many people eat something in the morning, because breakfast is important, right? And that something is usually refined carbohydrates – like bagels, donuts, sweetened cereals – washed down with coffee. I actually think it may be better not to eat at all in the morning than to eat like that.

    We need protein at breakfast, so we will have energy all day. We need to consume about half of the calories we need in a day at breakfast. We need fat at breakfast, so we can think well (and so we can produce hormones that make us feel good) all day. The classic bacon, eggs, potatoes, and toast covers the bases. (And eggs have been exonerated; they are heart healthy.)

    But if you can’t – for one reason or another – eat a hearty breakfast, here’s the good news: A glass of nourishing herbal infusion counts as a good breakfast. A glass of nourishing herbal infusion – such as nettle, oatstraw, red clover, or comfrey leaf – provides more protein, vitamins, and minerals than most breakfast cereals.

    Oatmeal is certainly the exception to granolas and other ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. And, with a little bit of attention, but not much time, it can be turned into a magnificently nourishing accompaniment to your glass (or cup) of nourishing herbal infusion in the morning.
    I published the recipe for enhanced oatmeal in my green book Healing Wise (under the name Wild n’ Oats) over twenty years ago. It is still a cold weather mainstay for breakfast at Laughing Rock Farm decades later, so it has indeed stood the test of time.

    Let’s go make some.

    Green blessings.


    p.s. If you missed the great teleseminar on Healthy Hearts with Robin Rose Bennett (one of my first apprentices), you can still listen to the recording here.

  • Tuesday, February 04, 2014 1:01 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Simple horseradish sauce

    Grate horseradish on the very finest screen of a box grater.

    Add a little salt and a little vinegar.

    Eat immediately with cabbage, kale, bread, or meat. If you are brazen, eat it neat.

    Creating this sauce with fresh horseradish will make your eyes stream and clear your head all the way through the crown chakra!

    Fancy Horseradish Sauce
    • Add a little beet juice or grated beet and your Horseradish Sauce will be red.
    • Add a little cream and a tiny bit of sugar and you will have Cream Horseradish Sauce.
    • Add a little astragalus root powder and you will have Horseradish Immunity Sauce.

    A variety of homemade and store-bought horseradish sauces.  From the left:  Cream Horseradish Sauce, Horseradish Sauce, Wild Garlic Root Sauce (one year old and still strong).  Plus two jars from the store each labeled: “Contains horseradish root, vinegar, and salt.” And there’s a bit of  whole horseradish root in the shot too.
  • Tuesday, February 04, 2014 12:54 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Horseradish Tincture

    Makes your eyes water and clears your sinuses. Intense!

    Slice horseradish root into thin even disks. Cut disks into thin even strips. Chop strips into a small dice.

    Fill jar to the top with diced horseradish.

    Add 100 proof vodka and label.

    While it is typical to wait six weeks before using a tincture, if the horseradish is finely chopped, this tincture can be used within 24 hours after preparation. The longer it sits, the stronger it gets. Start with 5-10 drops doses and increase as needed to clear nasal and sinus congestion.

  • Tuesday, February 04, 2014 12:45 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings to you all.

    Can you smell spring? Is it green? Is it sweet? Is it wet?

    Before you tell me that winter isn’t over, I want you to go outside. Not just once, but once a day for the next few weeks. Look at the buds on the trees. Watch as they respond to the growing light, swelling and getting ready to unfurl. Be on hand for the real beginning of spring. Now!

    Put your hands on the trunks of trees and see if you can feel the sap rising. When the daytime temperatures are above freezing and the nighttime temperatures are below, the sap surges up the tree. This is when we tap the maples and gather some of their copious sap to boil down into maple syrup. Be on hand this year for the running of the sap. Now!

    Be on hand for the first emerging leaves in the garden. Be there when the purple nettle shoots first break ground. Be looking when the cronewort leaves double in size overnight. This year watch spring from the very beginning. Starting now! Watch it culminate in flowers, not start there.
    In this photo, you can clearly see the sprouting leaves of the horseradish root I bought at the supermarket. There are two strong plants there, as well as all the root I used to make Horseradish Tincture and Horseradish Sauce.

    Cabbage family plants, like horseradish, love the cold weather of very early spring. In some areas, they will overwinter and spring into action with fresh leaves in the coming weeks. As the light grows, so do they. (Since I have temperatures below 0 F, my brassicas do not survive the winter.) In the woods, it is time to look for wild cresses, like Barbara’s cress and watercress, and that most reviled of modern weeds: garlic mustard, also known as wild horseradish.

    This year plant some brassica seeds – radishes or kale, bok choy or collards – in the garden as soon as you can, as soon as the frost is out of the ground. And plant some horseradish too.

    Horseradish. The horse of radishes. The crying radish. Dear friend of my sinuses. And one of the few perennial brassicas. A culinary plant, yes, but a highly medicinal one as well.
    Horseradish is in the markets now and the roots usually have buds on the upper surface. If planted (along with several inches of the root) within 4-6 weeks of being purchased, they generally grow into fine plants. Just one horseradish root will provide you with a plant or two for the garden and plenty left over to try out this week’s recipe.

    Green blessings are everywhere.

  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014 3:19 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk, contd.

    Here are three cosmopolitan weeds that wind up in my salads no matter where I am. Do they grow where you live too?

    Oxalis (Oxalis stricta?)

    One of my favorite salad plants, growing lushly by the porch at Casa Smythe. I will have to wait for it to flower to be certain of the species, but I can still eat it, even if I don’t know precisely which oxalis it is, as all oxalis leaves, and some of their roots, are edible, and delicious. They add a wonderful sour note to the salad. That means lots of vitamin C.

    Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

    Also one of my favorite salad plants, also growing, though not so lushly, by the porch at Casa Smythe. Double yum. This is a cooling, refreshing plant with plenty of texture, taste, and value in the salad. It is also one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids (PUFAs).

    Sonchus (Sonchus oleraceus)

    The third party to the salad is a slightly bitter green related to lettuce. It is a weed that I have seen everywhere in the world, from the tropics to the northern forests, from city lots to flower gardens. And  it is always adopted and used by the natives. The leaves have a distinctive feel, almost crisp, like endive. Note that the species name of both the edible purslane and the most edible sonchus is the same as the species name of cabbage, which is Brassica oleracea.)

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  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014 3:14 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk, contd.

    The next two photos are of my own house plants. Though I saw plenty of these plants growing wild in Costa Rica, I didn’t photograph them. Both help heal the skin. And since the combination of tropical sun, salt water, and constant heat fosters and allows many skin problems to develop, I am thrilled to have two new weedy allies that can help me when I am in Central America.

    Sansevieria (Sansevieria trifasciata)   Lengua de suegra

    This is one of the sturdiest of all houseplants, enduring lack of water and light with grace. It is most commonly known as Mother-in-law’s tongue, for its long, tough, pointed tongue-like leaves. In the part of Costa Rica where we will have our Adventrue, it covers the cemetery island just off the coast. (You can walk over when the tide is low.) Lore claims it is a ward against snake bite, perhaps because the leaves look like snakes. Science has uncovered antiviral properties in the juice, which is often used to treat skin rashes and sore.

    Tradescantia (Tradescantia zebrine)   Hoja de Milago

    This common houseplant, which I know as Wandering Jew, or Moses in the Cradle, endures lack of light better than lack of water, but, like the sansevieria, must be kept from freezing. It grows easily, creeping and vining wildly when it has plenty of water. It is an official medicinal plant with anti-herpetic, anti-septic, astringent, hemostatic, and anodyne properties. Who would have thought?! The juice from the crushed leaves is applied directly to cuts, herpes sores, infected cuts, painful bruises, abrasions, and bleeding wounds. “The fresh juice is used to combat . . . neuralgia of the face.”

  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014 3:04 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk, contd.

    A field of darn yellow composites.

    And some darn purple composites too.

    The local medicine mint.

    Beautiful wild pea

    Incredible structure of inflorescence of a palm tree.

  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014 2:57 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Weed Walk

    Pretty flowers just for you. Most of these photos were taken by Justine. Thanks dearest daughter. Some I know something about, and some I don’t know nothing about. (A special “Thank you!” to the Florida girls who wrote in with the names and uses of some to the Florida flowers that I shared last month.)

    In addition to the beauty parade on this page, look for two medicinal weeds of Costa Rica that you probably have on your windowsill, and three weeds that grow in Costa Rica (as well as where you live) that are great in salads. So many green blessings! Once again, I rely on my Medicinal Plants of Costa Rica by Ed Bernhardt.

    Dainty little white flowers and some blue ones too.

    Pretty blossom and bee. 

    Red puff. 

  • Tuesday, January 28, 2014 2:50 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings once again from the heart of winter.

    Spring is inhaling deeply and waiting for the right moment to exhale its greening force (viriditas). Remember, the first day of spring is actually February 2, not spring equinox. And that’s this week!

    There are several large ponds here at Laughing Rock Farm, and, of course, they are frozen solid after this past week’s single digit temperatures at night. My granddaughter Monica-Jean and I have been enjoying running around on the ice. The goats think we are crazy and cannot be convinced that they could walk on water too. The wild animals do not share their disbelief, if I read the tracks in the snow correctly. Squirrels, cats, rabbits, and other critters are happy to scamper right across the ice. (But no deer tracks; I guess they agree with the goats.)

    I love to sort and organize in the winter. When my mother died several years ago, I found (in her closet) a box of letters that I had written to her, starting in 1963 and continuing, with ever less frequency, until the 1990’s. I am so glad she saved them.

     Initially, I thought I might type them out; they are handwritten in peacock blue ink. Then I thought I might scan them; the envelopes are wildly decorated. But I couldn’t seem to find the time to do either. I realized that I could find the time to read them however, and that is what I am doing, reading and recording them. It gives me an opportunity to editorialize and comment on the letters, as well. It will be awhile before there are enough of them to share with you, as I am reading one or two a day and there are several hundred of them. But tuck it into your bonnet, as a treat to savor some day in the future.

    Here comes my birthday. (Feb 8) Yes, I will be 68 this year. Amazing.

    I have not been in the kitchen except to make favorite dishes, like goat cheese lasagna, so no new recipes for you this week. But I do hope to spend some time in the herbal pharmacy, sorting and organizing soon, so perhaps next week I will have a delicious recipe to share.

    And here comes the last of the bouquets we picked for you in Costa Rica, including some information on medicinal uses of two house plants that most people have. Enjoy the flowers and get ready to look at those house plants with renewed interest.

    Green blessings are in the most ordinary places.

    ~ Weed Walk ~

  • Tuesday, January 21, 2014 5:32 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    A Bouquet from Costa Rica, contd.

    Fallen yellow flowers from a tall tree at Cabo Blanco Reserve

    The tree with the yellow flowers.
    These fairly common trees are wildlife magnets. Wherever we saw them, we could be sure to see monkeys or hummingbirds or something enjoying the flowers.


    Orange blossomed trees
    This stunning tree is so covered with orange blossoms that it seems to be a cloud. It is not so common as the yellow-flowered tree, and I did not have a chance to make its acquaintance, except from a car speeding by, but I suspect it is also beloved by all.

    Purple and white flowered shrub
    I loved the individuality of the blossoms on this cultivated shrub at Casa Smythe. Some are purple, some are white, some are sorta in between (and they don’t seem to change color), and all happy together. And the shape of the flower is intriguing as well, is it not? Easy to imagine fairy house there.

    Yellow-flowered shrub
    The last flower in my boquet for you to brighten up your winter day, is also on a cultivated shrub at Casa Smythe. It is as big as it looks. Each leaf is about the length of my hand, and the flower dwarfs them. Since the leaves are glossy, and slick is slick in the plant world as well as the human one, I am going to find out definitely what this is before I start tossing the blossoms into salads, but don’t they look delicious? !

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