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Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Tuesday, December 03, 2013 3:18 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Greetings of joy to you all.

    ‘Tis the season to celebrate evergreens.

    Now that the deciduous trees have lost their leaves, the evergreen trees hold the day. Pines and hemlocks, firs and spruces, cedars, junipers, and balsam beckon us with their aromatic green needles. They seem to promise immortality.

    Could it be more than a promise? More than a vain hope? Could the evergreens keep us ever green, that is, always young? All edible evergreens are loaded with vitamin C, a nutrient in short supply during the dark months. Before global transport of food, those who ate evergreens in the winter were at a real advantage: They certainly were healthier and they probably did live longer.

    You, like I, can probably go to a nearby market any day this winter and choose from a variety of fresh fruits including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, bananas, apples, oranges, pomegranates,* and kiwis. No excuse for any of us to be lacking in vitamin C.

    But even a hundred years ago, back when good girls and boys got an orange in their Christmas stocking (and bad children got a lump of coal), vitamin C rich foods were scarce in the northern climes all winter long. Unless you knew the secret of the evergreens, that is!

    So invite some pine or cedar or spruce into your life and your home this December. Harvest a bowl of cedar berries and eat one or two everyday. Make some white pine, or pinon pine, or lodge-pole pine vinegar. Put up some balsam or cedar or spruce oil. Hang an evergreen wreath on your door. (American feng shui!) Swing a jumiper swag across your mantle. Toss some evergreen needles into a pot of boiling water and make the air smell like a forest. Burn cedar to attract healing energies.

    Or even buy a small evergreen tree and live with it for a while. Decorate it. Hang your wishes upon it. Hang a star on it. Breathe with it. Open your heart to green blessings.

    Susun

    * Lots of info on the healing properties of pomegranate coming soon for mentored students.

    ~ Weed Walk ~

  • Monday, November 25, 2013 8:31 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Mullein Chai


    • 1 quart - mullein infusion
    • 1 quart - milk, raw preferred
    • 2 cinnamon sticks, each
    • 2 T fennel seeds, whole
    • 1 pinch nutmeg, powder
    • 2 pinches cinnamon, powder
    • 3 tablespoons honey or 6 tablespoons maple syrup



    You will need two pots one medium pan for making the infusion and one large pan for making the chai milk.


    To make mullein Infusion bring one quart of water to a boil. Add to the pot with boiling water, one ounce or 2 cups chopped dried mullein leaves, flowers, and stems. Turn the stove off, cover pot with a lid and let set for four or more hours.


    Strain well through a sieve and cloth if hairs present, the infusion should be dark in color and free of plant particulate, if needed strain again.


    To make the milk chai, put milk and spices and sweetener into a large pan with heavy bottom on low heat, taking care to not scald the milk.


    Let the milk, spices, and sweetener infuse on very low heat for 20 plus minutes....then pour the strained mullein infusion into the pan with milk chai.... continue to heat on low flame for a while longer..... you can begin to drink the chai at any time now. Add additional sweetener if desired...


    To store the mullein chai, let it cool on the stove-top until room temperature, pour all contents of the pot (including the spices, but not the mullein herb discarded earlier) into quart or half gallon glass jar or pitcher, store in the fridge for future use. You can reheat if desired or drink cold, will last up to a week..


    Enjoy and to your health!!


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  • Monday, November 25, 2013 8:08 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weed Walk

    Tantalizing Thyme
    In First Nations cultures around the world, the winter months provide time for handwork – such as processing food plants, sewing and decorating clothing, mending and creating storage containers – and for storytelling. When I sit down with a basket of dried plant matter, I like to imagine someone is telling me a story as I work with it. (If you would like to do the same, it is best to turn the TV, the CD player, and the computer, too, so you can hear the voices of the Ancestors.)


    Dried thyme (from the top): de-leafed stalks, leaf from 2012, new leaf, leaves and small stalks.



    Listen for the story in the plant. Listen closely but broadly. Perhaps the plant you are touching will tell you a story. Perhaps an animal ally will tell you about the plant. Maybe a daydream will arise. Be sensitive to information from all directions and in all manners.

    The thyme spoke to me of sunny days as I stripped the tiny leaves from her brittle, dried stalks. She shared with me a smiling, sunny, sweet-scented day decorated with fluffy white clouds and flashing flying birds. Ahhh.


    Orodell the cat wants to help.



    The main stalks of the thyme remain intact, but the smaller stalks break off and get in with the leaves, no matter how carefully I try to keep them separate. For culinary use, most of the stalk must be removed. A sieve with holes just the right size is helpful, as pulling the stalks out one by one with the fingers takes way too long. But note that even with that aid, there is still some stalky/leafy material left.


    Ready for use . . . almost.



    This stalky/leafy material has now been ground in my “coffee” mill – that I never use for coffee, it is only used to grind herbs – with a generous amount of salt. I used pink Himalayan salt in this creation. The salt acts as grit and helps grind the plant material. This is now ready to store and be used as a condiment: sprinkled on food at the table for an antioxidant boost, added to Tara cheese to make an instant heart-healthy dip, or added to an omelet.


    Thyme salt



    When I was done, I had three parts of the thyme, ready to use in three different ways: Stalks for tea, the nicest leaves for culinary use, and the rough stuff, ground into thyme salt.


    Finished products, up close



    Here is what I made (from the left): ground thyme salt, culinary thyme for soups, thyme stalk tea, to soothe upset stomachs, ease sore throats, prevent and treat colds, and bring the sun into the grey days of winter.


    Finished products



    ~ Recipe - Mullein Chai ~

  • Monday, November 25, 2013 8:03 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Green greetings to you all.

    And welcome to the last week of November.

    We are celebrating a holiday devoted to nourishment and thanksgiving, not to turkeys and Pilgrims, no matter what the ads may say.

    We are feeling gratitude for all we are given; and humbleness for all we have taken, in equal measure.

    And we are giving praise to all the green herbs, who breathe bliss into our hearts and spirits.

    Here’s that report from the naturopathic conference in Toronto, plus some time with thyme, and a fabulous recipe for mullein chai from Justine, my daughter and the mistress of our web wonderfulness.

    Everyone’s heart was definitely in the right place at the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors Conference. It did seem a little strange to me to attend a conference on natural healing and be somewhere where there was no nature. But the food was fantastic and the folks warm and friendly.

    As the time for my keynote address drew near, I found myself feeling uncharacteristically nervous. Everyone else had a power point presentation that was projected on three large screens behind them. I didn’t. Their slide presentations were reproduced in the proceedings booklet and the presenter basically read the slides to us, with more or less comments, depending on their style. I gave a talk about plants with slides only once, and vowed never to do it again.

    To learn about plants, we need to touch them, and smell them, and experience their love. Pictures are not the way to connect with the plants. Anyway, I prefer to entrance my audience, as any proper witch would. I wondered if the “doctors with green coats” would be willing to open their hearts? Would they take the risk of getting out of their heads and into the non-data supported stories of healing with nourishing herbal infusions?

    Of course they could, and they did. For a precious hour and a half, detoxification was left behind, the Scientific Tradition was put on hold, and we immersed ourselves in the green blessings of nettle, oatstraw, red clover, and linden. The emcee said it was the best-attended event of the conference. (Ah, gee. Thanx everyone. Blush.) I love nourishing herbal infusions. I love turning people on to them. Don’t you?

    Back at home, windy and rainy days give me a chance to play with the herbs I picked this fall and laid up to dry. Today I played with thyme. You will recall I dried the long stalks in a flat basket, lined with tissue paper. What now? Check out this week’s photos of my thyme projects for some ideas.

    And Justine has been enjoying a special winter beverage she created, Mullein Chai. Look for her recipe, so you can enjoy it too.

    Thanks so much to all of you who answered our survey about our proposed Healing Adventure in Costa Rica. Details are crystallizing and will come to you soon. And, yes, next winter I will be teaching in beautiful Costa Rica. Will you be there too? We are planning incredible adventures at waterfalls, in the ocean, at private beaches, in nature reserves, on Turtle Island (Tortuga), and in the mountains. So much to see and do and learn.

    Meanwhile, there is one more work exchange weekend at the Wise Woman Center, the first weekend of December. We are almost done raking and tucking the gardens in for the winter, but there is still plenty to do on our homestead. We hope you will join us.

    Green blessings are everywhere.
    Susun



    ~ Weed Walk ~

  • Tuesday, November 12, 2013 10:51 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Vegetable Soup

    Serves 16
    The end of the gardening year. This is better as a leftover as it improves with age.

    • Dice 3 onions and sauté in olive oil until translucent.
    • Add 3 quarts of vegetable broth and 2-4 quarts of cold water.
    • Add 6 carrots, cut slanty,
    • 4 golden beets, cut in half slices
    • 1 large or two small kohlrabi, cut into cubes
    • 4-6 cups cubed pumpkin or winter squash
    • one 10 oz package of frozen organic lima beans
    • ¼ cup dried parsley
    • 2 Tablespoons dried crushed celery tops
    • 2 Tablespoons dried nettle seeds
    • ¼-½ ounce wakame, cut small.

    Bring to a rolling boil, lower heat and simmer for 60-90 minutes.

    • Add 1-2 teaspoons granulated (or powdered) organic garlic
    • 2-3 Tablespoons herbs de Provence (thyme, rosemary, lavender, oregano, fennel)

    Serve with miso.



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  • Tuesday, November 12, 2013 10:45 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weed Walk
    Here are photos and info on some of our delicious finds at the CSA pick-your-own garden. Enjoy!


    Barbara’s cress (Barbarea vulgaris)
    This mustard family plant was growing profusely on the rows that had been harvested and left fallow. What a beautiful sight to see such solid masses of this shiny plant. Unfortunately, it is far too bitter for most tastes, including mine. Since it stays green all winter, it has been praised as an emergency food. Several bath in boiling water, which is discarded, will remove enough of the bitter to allow one to eat it. When it blooms in the spring, it is known as yellow rocket.




    Beans
    Just look at all the green beans that were left on the bushes. One long row of bush beans was too much for the members and lots of beans went unpicked. (Note to self: Pick more green beans next year.) Time to harvest the dried pods, spend a few mornings shelling the beans, and use them this winter in baked beans. Yes indeed, dried beans are the mature seeds of green (that’s why they call them green) beans.

    The pods that were completely mature and totally dried on the vines gave beans that were all one color. The pods that weren’t, produced beans in a rainbow of shades. (Mentored students, there is a bean story waiting for you.) I’ll save a handful of the seeds and plant them next year. Who knows, perhaps they will lead me to the magical harp and the goose that lays the golden eggs.



    Shepherd’s purse (Bursa capsella pastoris)
    Another mustard family plant enjoying the cool early winter weather. We found shepherd’s purse in all stages of growth out at the farm: some seeding plant and some just making new rosettes of leaves to overwinter.


    The photo is of a bowl of shepherd’s purse seeds. I found a massive stand of it this summer, with lots of seeds, so I harvested about half of it, stuck the seeds heads in a bag, and put it aside to deal with later. Now is later; later is now. These seeds were easily freed from their capsules and winnowed to make ready to use. Books say they were used to extend flour during lean times, but I have never really seen enough to make that a practical possibility. As you can see, even half of a massive stand yielded very few seeds.



    ~ Recipe - Vegetable Soup ~

  • Tuesday, November 12, 2013 10:30 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Green greetings of joy to you all!


    The last of the live-in apprentices and all of the live-out apprentices have now completed their studies and graduated. Congratulations to you all!! Praise for your hard work!


    Meanwhile, let us return to the pick-your-own CSA farm, where we were last week. Beyond the rows of herbs, the flower garden is mostly dead, except for some straw flowers and snapdragons, still bravely blooming.


    The ground under the wall of cherry tomatoes is aflame with red and orange dropped tomatoes, and, miraculously, some of them are still intact and tasty. Ever since my first garden in 1969 it has been my goal to have fresh tomatoes in the salad on Thanksgiving, and I believe I will achieve my goal again this year.


    Further along, the tomatillo leaves are wilted and dead, but the fruits are firm, and many have finally ripened into yellow. I am looking forward to putting up a few more jars of tomatillo lacto-ferment relish and to trying out some new tomatillo recipes I found. Here, at the end of this long row, are the husk tomatoes. They seem frozen in place, frozen in time. The little tomatoes in their papery coverings are firm and fine but I can’t find any that have ripened fully and the green ones I picked a month ago are still green, so leave them on the vines.


    Out in the picked-over, cleared-out pumpkin patch, the chickweed is making the most of an opportunity to cover the open ground, though, in places, the purslane is holding its own. Let’s stop for a while and harvest lots of the little star lady, or maidenwort, two of my pet names for chickweed. What will we do with this bounty? Chickweed pesto, chickweed tincture, chickweed oil, chickweed in salads, oh my!


    Look! Here at the ends of the harvested rows of greens are a few remaining plants from each row: Here is arugula, and mitzuna, and kale. All three are members of the cabbage family; and they like it cold!! Indeed, the mitzuna and the arugula are both flowering. Frosty mornings make them smile.


    And as we gather our treasures and head on back to the car, we are greeted by masses of Barbara’s cress and lots of shepherd’s purse, more cabbage family plants making the most of the short sunny days and frosty nights.


    It’s goodbye to the CSA garden for this year, but we will be back. How about you?


    We had a spectacular work weekend; had lots of fun and got lots of work done. We ate lots of vegetable soup that I made with the broth I cooked up last week. Yummy!


    There are still leaves to rake and compost to move. There are two more work weekends at the Wise Woman Center. Look for my 2014 schedule, coming soon, to learn what I’ll be doing next year.


    Green blessings to everyone
    Susun


    Ps. next week’s ezine will probably be late as I will be in Toronto at the Naturopathic Doctors’ Conference for the entire weekend.


    ~ Weed Walk ~

  • Tuesday, November 05, 2013 12:40 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Vegetable Soup Stock

    A quart of this in the freezer guarantees hearty winter soups in half the time.
    Next week I will share a vegetable soup recipe
    .


    • Skins and ends from 4-6 onions
    • Stalks from a bunch of parsley
    • Dill stalks and seed heads
    • Optional: Dried or fresh celery leaves
    • Optional: Carrot, parsnip, or beet ends
    • Optional: 4-6 leaves of beets, or chard
    • 1 tablespoonful sea salt
    • 3-4 quarts cold water


    Save the ends from your vegetable preparation for a week, excluding cabbage-family plants, and you will be ready to make this tasty broth, with perhaps only the purchase of a bunch of parsley.

    Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Tightly cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 2-3 hours.

    Cool. Refrigerate or freeze. Should make at least 2 quarts of broth.


    (Picture of frozen stock - red onion skin, dill and beet green broth)


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  • Tuesday, November 05, 2013 12:27 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weed Walk

    Here are photos and more info on some of our delicious finds at the CSA pick-your-own garden: two old friends and a new one. Enjoy!


    Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
    This herb gives us two different tastes. When it is green and leafy, it is called cilantro, and is clearly related to parsley. But after its lovely little pink flowers fade, small seed balls form. Those balls are the herb coriander, an important antioxidant and an indispensable ingredient in some cuisines. As we harvested, we made sure to spill plenty of seeds on the ground – in the hopes that they would grow back next year.



    Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus)
    This is another two-for-one plant: The leaves provided plenty of tasty cooked greens throughout the summer, and, now that the leaves are gone, there are seeds to harvest. Like most wild plants, pigweed amaranth ripens and scatters its seed over many weeks, so any harvest will yield more inedible chaff than edible seed. I harvest the seed heads into a paper or plastic bag, then put them on a cookie sheet in the oven at the lowest possible setting for 5-10 minutes to destroy mold spores. Then I rub the seeds out of the heads, separate the chaff, and store the tiny black seeds.



    Lamb’s quarter (Chenopodium album)
    And yet another plant to offer different nourishment from different parts. Like amaranth, lamb’s quarter gives us delicious leaves; unlike amaranth hers may be eaten in salads as well as cooked, and her stalks are usually too stiff to eat. This hardy annual may be found in leaf even now, as well as in flower and in seed.



    Lamb’s quarter, (Chenopodium album or ??)
    I have noticed several species of lambs’s quarter in my garden, but never one as pretty as this almost entirely purple one. Many plants turn purple when subjected to frosts, but this one doesn’t seem to have been frozen and was mixed in with green ones.



    Lamb’s quarter, (Chenopodium album or ??)
    And then there is this red-stemed variety of lamb’s quarter, to round out the offerings. I always prefer to pick lamb’s quarter at an organic farm (or garden) as it is a plant that concentrates nitrates/nitrites (abundant in synthetic fertilizers) out of the soil. Too much nitrate is not good for our health.


    ~ Recipe - Vegetable Stock ~

  • Tuesday, November 05, 2013 12:19 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Green greetings of joy to you all!


    Would you like to accompany the apprentices and me on a field trip? We are going to a local organic farm to see what there is to harvest now that first frosts have come. It’s sunny but chilly, so dress warmly.


    The farm is a CSA farm. Community Supported Agriculture. Rather like the initials after EagleSong’s name: CCH, which stand for Community Created/Certified Herbalist. If you aren’t already a member of a CSA, I urge you to join. Of course, in most part of North America, the gardening season is done, so it is perhaps difficult to think ahead to what you will be eating next summer. But now is the time to join a CSA. I am sure there is one in your area.


    First we have to drive south, to get to the bridge over the mighty Hudson River. What a stunning view! Rays of sunlight finger straight through banks of clouds into the river beneath us and the mountains at our backs. We leave behind the rocks of the Catskills and head to the “rich” side of the river, where there is fertile soil.


    Now back north along the river, through farmland. Acres and acres of pick your own apples, pears, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, pumpkins, and more, in season, not now. Sweet corn all gone, all eaten and enjoyed; all that is left are the brown stalks rustling in the fields. The eye goes on and on across the land with little impediment. So different from my cliff-and-hollow existence at home.


    Here we are. If the ferry were still running, we could have gotten here more directly, if a little slower. This way. We are going to the pick-your-own plantings at the CSA farm. I really enjoy this part of being a member; they have so many more weeds than I do, and they are happy to have me take them.


    What will we find? Where crops were harvested and the land unseeded, there are great swaths of barbara’s cress. Between the rows, lots of lamb’s quarter, amaranth seed heads, shepherd’s purse in flower, the large leaves of first-year mullein, and straggly first-year burdock. And in the herb garden, rows of frosted-on-the-tips dill and cilantro/coriander, plus thriving beds of parsley, sage, thyme, and chives, but only blackened stalks where the basils once grew.


    I’ll continue next week with our great finds in the rest of the cut-your-own garden at our CSA and turn my attention to the live-out apprentices, who will graduate this weekend, and my granddaughter, who will turn six in a few weeks, and the goats, who need to be bred so we will have milk and cheese and yogurt next year, and to make some stock for vegetable soup.


    Keep on looking for green blessings all around you, they are everywhere!
    Susun


    ~ Weed Walk ~


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