Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Tuesday, December 10, 2013 1:48 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings.

    Now that we have brought some evergreens into our homes, and now that we are smelling that refreshing, relaxing piney air, it is time to bring a flash of color in too. What better way to do that than with bright shiny pomegranates.

    Native to the Middle East, but now cultivated all over the world in frost-free areas, pomegranate is said to be the fruit of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. It is wise to consume pomegranates, and, because consumption slows aging and improves brain function, it may, indeed make you wise, too. ‘Tis said that the end of the pomegranate represents the crown of knowledge.

    When it comes to pomegranate, it is, paradoxically, better to consume the fruit juice rather than eat the fresh fruit. Many of the polyphenols (powerful antioxidants) of pomegranate, and all of the hormonal elements, are in the seeds and the skin of the fruit, the parts that most people do not consume. Juice makers juice the whole fruit however, so that bottled pomegranate juice, so long as it is 100% pure juice, has all the goodies from the inedible parts rolled into it. Yummy! Mentor students, there’s lots more info on pomegranate for you in the expanded ezine.

    Our last work exchange weekend of the year was a great success. We stacked firewood, cut dried herb into pieces ready to brew into infusion in the coming months (and with major dealers forced to raise prices due to lack, I am glad we worked hard at harvesting this year. We have a great supply of dried nettle to see me through the winter. And we have a great supply of herbal pestos, too. 

    Next up is my trip to Costa Rica. In addition to enjoying myself, Justine and I will be making everything ready for our first Well Being and Healing Adventure in Costa Rica, starting in December 2014.

    Before I leave, I will post my 2014 schedule, which is still, at this date, in the works.

    Due to my trip, my blogtalk show will have a short vacation. This evening will be the last one of the year. I will be back with you January 8 for more blogtalk answers and interviews. Thanks to you all for your tremendous support of my Tuesday evening blogtalk show.

    And I will also take a short break from writing new ezines. You’ll still get wonderful content, and may not even notice I’m gone. I will resume with the Jan 15th ezine. Look for the Costa Rica report and lots more.

    Keep looking for those green blessings. They are still all around you.

    ~ Weed Walk ~

  • Tuesday, December 03, 2013 3:49 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Homemade Balsamic Vinegar

    This easy vinegar is a delicious way to ingest natural vitamin C, trace minerals, and anti-infective, anti-oxidant resins. It may be made any day of the year, including in the middle of the winter.

    Fill a jar to the very top with needles from your favorite pine tree.

    In the Northeast, white pine is the tastiest. In the west, pinon pine tops the list. No pine is poisonous, so feel free to experiment with your local pines.

    Pines have long, thin needles, not short, flat needles like poisonous yew. If you are uncertain about the pine you have in mind, make a small amount the first time. Some pines are too resinous to make tasty vinegars.

    Then fill your jar with apple cider vinegar.

    Put a plastic, glass, cork, or other non-metal lid on the jar.

    Wait six weeks, then add to salads, soups, beans, anywhere you would use regular balsamic vinegar.

    If you are particularly impatient you could start using your homemade balsamic vinegar in as little as two weeks. The longer it sits, the better it gets.

  • Tuesday, December 03, 2013 3:30 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weed Walk 2

    Back Home

    White pine and spruce are ready to be made into remedies. How I appreciate the vibrancy of their green blessings as the wind whistles through the bare branches outside.

    Monica Jean makes white pine vinegar.

    Here is my granddaughter, Monica Jean Smythe, making white pine vinegar. The wind brought down a branch, and while it was still fresh, we broke off bunches of needles. The bunches included more woody stuff than I would have taken if I were harvesting from a living tree, but it made an exceptionally tasty vinegar. Stuff the jar full of pine needles.

    Then add your (pasteurized) apple cider vinegar. (With or without a little help from your friends.) Technically, the vinegar is ready to use in six weeks. Practically, it can used within the week if desired.

    Pine needles vinegar not only provides lots of active vitamin C, it is also a pulmonary remedy, opening the bronchia, countering colds, and keeping the sinuses in top condition.

    Spruce oil

    Spruce tips fill the jar, then we add olive oil and let it steep. In this case, Justine had combined shea butter and olive oil for an especially healing oil. Watch out joint pain; you have met your match.

    ~ Homemade Balsamic Vinegar Recipe ~

  • Tuesday, December 03, 2013 3:24 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Weed Walk

    Everyday Evergreens

    Justine, Monica Jean and I went for a walk around the neighborhood looking at the evergreens. Here is what we found.


    Cedar needles are flat and look like scales.

    The cedar tree is loaded with berries this year. (Seems all the trees fruited heavily this year; there was a bumper crop of apples, too.) A handful of juniper or cedar berries in sauerkraut elevates that humble dish to sublimity. Or soak some of the berries in vodka overnight for a taste of homemade gin. Go easy. The resins in these berries pack a wallop.


    Juniper needles are smooth little scales, like cedar, but their stems bristle with sharp needles that fight back when you try to harvest them. These juniper bushes guard the entrance to a path into the woods. Like the berries, the needles of the juniper are often blushed with a whitish bloom.


    Both juniper and cedar have bluish, dark purple berries, often covered in a white bloom. I suspect the micro-organisms of the bloom (yeasts? molds? bacteria?) have a lot to do with their healing properties and so do prefer to use the bloom-iest berries for medicines. (Mentored students: Go here to learn more about the medicinal uses of juniper and cedar berries.)

    ~ Weed Walk 2 ~

  • 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.


    * 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.

    ~ 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.

    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 ~

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