Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • 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? !

  • Tuesday, January 21, 2014 5:20 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    A Bouquet from Costa Rica

    There are so many interesting, amazing, fragrant, useful, unusual, and stunning plants that I actually picked you two bouquets.

    Coatimundi at Cabo Blanco
    This raccoon-like scavenger hangs around the parking lot at Cabo Blanco. While getting out of the car, I set down my bag containing my shoes (just in case) and some Hypericum oil. Don’t know which smelled better, but the coatimundi grabbed the bag and attempted to make off with it! Later, by the water, we saw a wild one, which, while not given to grabbing our bags, was, nonetheless, entirely unconcerned with our presence in its jungle.

    The jungle at Cabo Blanco Reserve.
    Here in the jungle are more than 475 species of plants, more than 950 species of insects, hundreds of species of birds (there always seem to be bird researchers in the park), mammals, and marine species. Vines loop and twist, and monkeys really do swing on them and play in the tree tops.

    Crystal clear waters at Cabo Blanco Reserve.
    The Reserve Absolut includes fresh water streams of amazing clarity. If you sit quietly, tiny little shrimp-like critters find their way to you and give you a pedicure by nibbling daintily on your cuticles and skin. The temperature of the water is slightly cool, the air is warm, wild animals go about their ways with no regard for the people, or if they do regard us, and the monkeys do seem to, it is to throw sticks at us.

    The path at Cabo Blanco Reserve.
    Volcanic activity – which is still ongoing in Costa Rica – has shaped the landscape, both in the jungle and on the beaches, with the unique forms of lava. And lava is not flat, so all paths in Costa Rica go either up or down, often steeply, like this one.



    ~ Weed Walk 2 ~

  • Tuesday, January 21, 2014 5:11 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Warm green greetings from the wonderfully frigid north.

    It is cold and I am loving it, as I usually do.

    The glitter of moonlight on freshly fallen snow is a sight that never fails to expand my spirit and bring a smile to my heart. Walking on water (frozen) with my granddaughter is another delight restricted to deep winter days, and one that thrills me.

    And how wonderful it will be, in just a few weeks time, when the sap begins to run under the bark of the trees and the buds begin their slow swelling that will culminate in an orgasm of leaf break, and spring, the greening force, veriditas, will be under way once more.

    And soon after that, after the snow drops and crocuses push up and unfold their pretty flowers, new apprentices will arrive, classes will begin, and goats will give birth.

    Speaking of apprentices, there are quite a few wonderful women coming for live-in apprenticeships in 2014, but no one, as yet, has applied to be a live-out apprentice. Live-out apprentices attend every one of my one-day classes (and you have two years to do it), plus they get to spend the Saturday night between classes at Laughing Rock Farm and have dinner with me (and breakfast at their lodging, the Nettle Patch). Live-out apprentices get lots of extras, like an extra free overnight on a Friday so you can attend moonlodge, and like lots of books including a field guide and some of my books, and attendance at any teleseminars or other radio show that I do on those weekends, and two extra weekends: one in April and one in November (one to get acquainted and one to graduate), and lots of love and wild salads and goats too! Check it out and apply now while it’s on your mind. This is one of the most fun, least stressful apprenticeships I offer. You have two full years to complete your commitment.

    On the next pages you will find the second part of the bouquet I brought home for you from Costa Rica. Next week, you get another bouquet from Costa Rica, picked for you by Justine. This week I have some special photos of a special place to share with you. Come with me to the very tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, to Cabo Blanco Nature Preserve.

    This photo of Monica Jean and I, resting after climbing up a steep part of the path, was taken at Cabo Blanco Preserve. Participants in our Healing and Well Being Adventures will spend an enchanted day there in the jungle of Cabo Blanco with Justine, Monica Jean and I, enjoying and delighting in the abundance of Nature, both the verdant plants and the copious and sometimes conspicuous animals. And good news! We have room for one more participant! Will it be you? Place your deposit and hold your place.

    Reports of folks enjoying pomegranate cordial are coming in. Good work. You can still make it, if you didn’t before, or if you want more.

    I had an opportunity to use the juniper berry tincture I made last winter. A small dose of 5 drops, repeated every four hours, worked really well to ward off an incipient infection. You could make some now, if you haven’t yet.

    May the beauty of winter touch you.
    Green blessings are everywhere.

    ~ Weed Walk ~

  • Tuesday, January 14, 2014 2:09 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    A Bouquet for You from Costa Rica, contd.

    Bind weed (Convolvulus species)
    This wild member of the morning glory family profusely covers the roadsides on the way to the ferry to the Nicoya Peninsula. It fades away as we get further from people and closer to the jungle. It likes to play at being wild, but it really prefers to hang out where people disturb the soil. The strong little vines have been used as a natural string. The flowers are unsafe to use; the entire plant is considered a dangerous poison.

    Small yellow flower (Asteraceae)
    This is a classic DYC (darn yellow compositae). The Aster, or sunflower, family is one of the largest in the world, and many of its members have small yellow flowers with rays. Since all plants in the Aster family are generally considered safe to eat and use as medicine, we could experiment with this one, even if we don’t know its name. The yellow flowers suggest a liver energy. If it tastes bitter, the next step would be to make a vinegar or tincture of the flowering top and try it out. When I experiment with a plant, I usually begin with the flowering top, as it is less likely to be poisonous than the root.

    Soterrey, Lantana (Lantana camara)
    Pretty poison, I call her. Enjoy the beautiful flowers and the beautiful butterflies and hummingbirds that love these flowers, and leave it at that. Do not even pick lantana as a cut flower. There are several toxic compounds found throughout this plant, which not only cause nausea, vomiting, and great weakness if ingested, they are also skin irritants. In a rather homeopathic use, though not in a homeopathic dilution, a wash of lantana – also called cinco negritos or bandera espanola – was used traditionally in Costa Rica to counter skin eruptions. I wouldn’t try it.

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  • Tuesday, January 14, 2014 2:01 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    A Bouquet for You from Costa Rica

    Weeds, glorious weeds. Some are the same everywhere, and some are delightfully different. When I can find it, I give you the Costa Rican name of the plant first.

    Amapola, Hibiscus (Hibiscus species)
    Everywhere you go in the tropics, you see hibiscus. This is one of the places where it pays to learn the plants by their families. Hibiscus is in the Malva family, and all plants in this family are all edible and medicinal and quite interchangeable in their uses. So if you know about marshmallow, you already know how to use hibiscus too. Hibiscus flowers are wonderful as a snack or added to salads. They can be dried for tea. The leaves and roots contain soothing substances.

    Escobilla, Strong back (Sida rhombifolia)
    While hibiscus is generally cultivated, and requires so little in care that it may as well be a weed, this little yellow flowered plant is the weedy version of hibiscus. Known as broom weed, or escobilla, in Costa Rica , it is “one of the most common herbs in the neotropics.” I have seen it in Puerto Rica, Jamaica, Florida, and of course, Costa Rica, happily growing on roadsides and in waste places. Like all Malvas, it is an expectorant and demulcent. It is also uses to cool fevers and relieve the pain of herpes.

    Lawn beans
    The legume family, the Fabaceae, has classic pea flowers and leaves in 3s (or any greater odd number), making it easy to recognize. All members of the family work in concert with bacteria to fix nitrogen in the soil. This is especially important in rain forests, where nitrogen is constantly washed away. When vanilla vines are grown on trees in this family, they can be grown organically, without fertilizers. Here are two tiny versions, one in purple-pink, and one in classic yellow. Compare these to the bean family plants in the bouquet I sent you from Miami. Their bean family sisters include not only peas and beans but red clover, alfalfa, and astragalus.


    ~ Weed Walk 2 ~

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