Wise Woman Herbal Ezine

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  • Wednesday, October 23, 2013 11:46 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green Greetings!

    Let me catch my breath. This fall has seen me off and on lots of airplanes.

    Most recently, to the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference, a wonderful event created by my past apprentice, Corinna Wood, one of four past apprentices who have brought annual (and semi-annual) women’s (mostly) herbal conferences into being. What a blessing! I am so thankful that the Wise Woman Tradition is thriving.

    Highlights of my time at the SEWHC:

         Eating dinner with Sally Fallon and discussing organizing MEAL, Meat-eating Animal Lovers, an organization that will promote family farms and sensible meat eating and her new book on broths.

         Being there for Sally at the book signing with my goat cheese to tide her over until dinner. Whew! (I always travel with goat cheese!)

         Connecting with Corinna and hearing her say she is stepping up and taking on more responsibility to make the Wise Woman Tradition visible and available to all women. (I love you Corinna; and you already do lots and lots.)

         A wild midnight ride on the golf cart with a drunk mother. (We did not let her drive.)

         Being invited by the Soil Sisters (the ‘tweens group) to tell them why I so strenuously object to being addressed as “You guys.” I am not a guy.

         Being told many times that my books make a difference in women’s lives. (I experience such joy and delight in knowing that my work assists you.)

         Lunch at the Biltmore Estate after the conference with Corinna’s mother.

    This past weekend I taught the last two classes of the year at the Wise Woman Center. We were gifted with beautiful weather and lots of fall foliage. We made wild salads both days. In the picture gallery you will find a photo of Sunday’s exquisite salad, along with close ups of the ingredients.

    Winter is nearly here. Don’t stop eating wild foods. There is still plenty to enjoy. Soak in the warmth of the late autumn sun and see how many of our salad plants you can find.

    Green blessings.

    ~ Weed Walk One ~

  • Tuesday, October 01, 2013 1:01 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Making Wild Herb Vinegars

    by Corinna Wood

    Many wild plants can be extracted into vinegars, but chickweed, nettle, and mugwort are my favorites, both for medicinal value and sheer flavor. You can easily make these vinegars yourself, with one or all three of these plants.

    Chickweed is the most widespread of these three beauties. In fact, if you have garden beds, you probably know that chickweed loves rich garden soil and thrives in the cool, wet weather of Fall and Spring. But many gardeners don't realize that this "weed" is nutritious and delicious in wild salad or herbal vinegar.

    You can tell chickweed by its tiny, white, star-shaped flowers, which give it its botanical name, Stellaria media. Also look for opposite leaves. When you're harvesting chickweed for vinegar, don't forget to set aside some for tonight's wild salad!

    When it comes to wild medicinals, Nettle is one of the easiest to identify--if you're not sure you have the right plant, just brush your hand against it! The nettle sting, which is mild for most people, is felt immediately, and usually wears off within a few hours. The benign sting is actually used as a treatment for arthritic joints!

    There are two species of nettle in our area: "Barn Nettle," Urtica dioica, and "Wood Nettle," Laportea canadensis. Long used as an iron and adrenal tonic, Urtica diocia is the species widely recognized for its medicinal value, but either species can be eaten (and Wood Nettle stings much less). Nettle can be gathered with gloves anytime from when it peeks out of the ground until just before it flowers.

    Mugwort is a fragrant, magical herb that is traditionally used in dream pillows to make dreams more vivid and more memorable. It can be harvested for vinegar until it is one foot tall. After that, it becomes bitter and somewhat toxic.

    Mugwort can be confused with other plants, so check for its fragrant smell when crushed as well as the silver sheen to the back of the leaf. In fact, this silver color, associated with the moon goddess Artemis, is where Artemisia vulgaris gets its name. Try some in your pillow tonight!

    To use your harvest, follow these easy steps:

    1. Tightly pack a jar full of plant material. If you are using more than one plant, brew them separately so you can get to know what each of them tastes and feels like. You can always combine the finished product later.

    2. Fill the jar to the top with apple cider vinegar (raw, organic vinegars give you beneficial microorganisms much like yogurt does).

    3. Since vinegar rusts metal, a cork or plastic top is preferable. Placing a piece of waxed paper or plastic between a metal lid and the jar works too.

    4. Label your jar with the plant name and date harvested.

    5. The next day, the plant will usually have absorbed enough liquid to end up uncovered, so top off the liquid level. Check the liquid level once or twice over the first week.

    6. Six weeks later, strain out the plant material, and you have your own wild herb vinegar!

    Herbal vinegars are delicious in salad dressing, on cooked greens, in marinades, or in sauces. Some people prefer to take a tablespoon in water as a daily tonic.

    Our soils and our bodies in these times are chronically depleted of minerals, contributing to many health challenges, especially in the hormonal, nervous, and immune systems. It is much easier for the body to digest and absorb minerals from a wild plant, which our ancestors evolved with, than from a tablet! Because of its acidity, vinegar is the best medium for extracting the minerals from these nutritious wild plants.




    Corinna Wood is a wise woman, herbalist, teacher, visionary and mother. Over the last twenty years, Corinna has opened the hearts of thousands to the wisdom of the plants, the earth, and their own bodies.


    Corinna is the founder of Southeast Wise Women, which is hosting its ninth annual Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference, October 11-13, 2013 in Asheville, NC. She lives with her son at Earthaven Ecovillage in Black Mountain, NC, where she was an early member.






                                             Part Four - Tomatillo Recipe

  • Tuesday, October 01, 2013 12:51 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Lacto-Fermented Tomatillo Relish

              with thanks to Sally Fallon          

    3 cups finely diced tomatillo (or green tomato)
    1 cup finely diced onion
    1 bunch of parsley, minced
    2-4 cloves garlic, minced
    4 tablespoons whey*
    1 tablespoon sea salt
    ½ cup water if needed


    Add the first four ingredients, one at a time, to a wide-mouthed quart canning jar, pressing and stirring with your hand or a wooden pounder until the ingredients are mashed and mixed and their juices are flowing. Then mix in the whey and sea salt. Add water only if needed to fill the jar to the top with liquid. The top of the relish needs to be at least an inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for two days. Then refrigerate until ready to eat, at least three weeks later. No peeking! The fermentation can take a turn for the worse if exposed to the air at the wrong moment.


    * Buy some plain yogurt and let it sit for a while. The clear liquid that collects at the top is whey. Use it in this recipe.    



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  • Tuesday, October 01, 2013 12:09 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    A Tomato By Any Other Name

    The tomato family has lots of interesting members. Let’s look at a few I have seen this past week. (Frost is coming, and the tomatoes will be killed, but not yet, as of the end of September.)

    Cherry Tomato Flowers

    Look at these magnificent cherry tomato flowers. (Great shot Justine.) In this family the flower can have 5-8 petals, which sometimes look like a star, with separate petals, and sometimes looks like a bell, with the petals connected. There is always that beak in the middle, and the upward, outward flare of the petals. Let’s see how this flower and the fruit it bears changes as we trace it back in time.

    Tomatillos are closer to wild tomato than cherry tomatoes. This means they are easier to grow, more resistant to pests, and sturdier through adverse weather conditions. And that means they have denser nutrition and more flavor. You can see in these photos that the sepals (the sepals remain on the cherry tomato like a green star) of the tomatillo flowers grow as the flower falls off. They form a husk that covers the fruit throughout its formation and its ripening, and protect it from rot even when it falls to the ground. I notice that the husk around the tomatillo keeps it from rotting in storage. And when one does go off, it isn’t so likely to spoil its storage neighbors. Tomatillos are not as versatile as tomatoes, but even a little added to your diet can make a difference in your overall health.

    tomatillo flowers, open tomatillo fruits

     Tomatillo Flowers, Open                                    Tomatillo Fruits

    Husk Tomato
    Here are the sepals of the husk tomatoes busy protecting their most delicious fruit. The little tomato hiding within this husk is so sweet it makes super sweet cherry tomatoes taste sour. It is really like a little piece of candy. The browner the husk, the riper, and sweeter the fruit within. I need to stop eating these as a snack and start thinking of some way to cook them. Husk tomato pie? Small as they are, they are power packed with nutrition, being just a step away from the wild tomato.

    husk tomato

    Wild Tomato Flowers
    This plant appeared in my meadow without much fanfare. It was instantly recognizable (by the leaves) as something in the tomato family, but whether a gift or a pest was yet to be seen. It has been producing these husked fruits for a few days now, I have yet to taste them, but I am hoping for the best. This year two apple trees that grew from seeds in the compost bore fruit (after seven years of growth) and – amazing grace – they are producing edible, actually sweet and crisp and very yummy, apples, which is a great rarity. Usually apple trees that grow from seeds have inedible fruits.

    wild tomato flowers

    All Manner of Tomatoes
    Here are the fruits of cherry tomatoes (front), tomatillos (in tray, larger), and husk tomato (in tray, small). Check out the recipe for Lacto-Fermented Tomatillo Relish [link] if you have access to this nearly wild tomato. Be sure to remove the husks from the tomatillos and the husk tomatoes before eating them. For a treat, saute halved cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil with garlic, minced parsley, and some calamata olives, stoned and cut in quarters.




                                                                     Part Three

  • Tuesday, October 01, 2013 11:59 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Green greetings to you all.

    I have so much to share, I don’t know where to start. At the beginning? In the middle? Or from the present perspective.

    The last time I wrote to you, I was setting off for Malibu to be part of Goddess Spirit Rising, the First International Goddess Conference. My mind and memory are filled with a kaleidoscope of images and sensations: Lydia Rule’s goddess banners snapping in the wind and hanging from the walls to transform our meeting places, healing rituals from the four corners of the world, the most amazing altars and priestesses, Grandmother Z (Budapest) doing tarot readings, an emotional, exquisite Crone’s Crowning Ritual led by Ruth Barrett, embracing and catching up with old friends not seen for ages – Vicki Noble, Max Daschu, Joan Marler, and Adriennne Tully, to mention a few – Anique Radiant Heart’s bigger-than-life voice raised in hymns to the Goddess, Hecate’s Wheel spinning their musical magic, brightly-colored nylon spinners spinning in the constant breeze, walking up and up and down and down, the stairs, the hills, the stairs, the hills, and so much joy, so much love, so much Goddess energy!! I will be there next year (or in 2015 if it becomes a biannual event). Hope you can be too.

    Getting home was complicated by the early departure of my connecting flight, leaving me stranded in Detroit. I befriended a young mom and her 5 year-old daughter on the shuttle to the hotel (where they were stashing those of us left behind) and so had an enjoyable dinner and a magical morning. The little girl was reluctant to let me go after our dinner together, so I promised I would see her in the morning. (I knew we were taking the shuttle back to the airport together.) Imagine my delight when I opened my hotel room door in the morning to go to breakfast to find her standing there!! No, she did not know which room was mine.

    We ate another meal together and shuttled to the airport, where there was distress about our separation. I promised that we would meet, in a while, in the airport, though we were taking flights to different places. And so we did. Of course, ultimately, we did have to say: “Goodbye.” When we did, I promised her that I would always be her fairy goddess-mother and she had only to call on me in her mind to feel my blessing. She smiled.

    Home to a pile of correspondence, new mentorship students, lots of apprentice inquiries, and all the busy work that wells up as the days shorten, as well as my own ongoing reconnection with friends I had lost touch with over the years. Life is bringing me around the spiral again, showing me the view from a different perspective.

    Well, I told you I had a lot on my mind. As for plants, I think you will find these shots of interesting plants in the tomato family worth a glance. And please enjoy the recipe, which I adapted from Nourishing Traditions Cookbook, by Sally Fallon, who I will be seeing soon at the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference.

    There are only two more workshops at the Wise Woman Center this year, (Winter Readiness and Hands-On Herbal Medicine/Digging Roots) but lots of work exchange weekends coming up. The Catskills are beautiful in the fall. Do come and play with us.

    And enjoy green blessings.

    p.s. And to my mentorship students, lots of new articles – on turkey tail mushrooms, the benefits of butter, and the amazing abilities of pumpkin.


    Part Two 

  • Friday, September 13, 2013 8:45 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
    Wild Foods as Medicine

    Many women, deficient in minerals, don’t have the vitality, strength and energy to engage in the many projects they are called to.  A key in re-building our inner vigor is to lay a foundation of health through nourishing foods, including mineral-rich wild foods.
    For our bodies to function optimally – including the nervous, immune, and hormonal systems - women must ingest a broad spectrum of minerals. In our Western culture, many of our diets are mineral deficient.  Partially due to food choices, another factor is the condition of our soils.  The needed mineral content is simple not available after decades of large-scale, industrial farming, which has stripped the soils and washed the minerals out to sea.  Even our organic foods has less mineral content then when it was ingested by our ancestors.
    To get needed minerals, a common practice is to take supplements.  However, supplements come with at least several major obstacle, one of which is that they are not readily digested or absorbed.  Many are synthesized or mined, which makes them not only hard to assimilate in our bodies, but in our economies and regenerative cultures as well.
    Instead, Wise Women turn to the ways of our foremothers.  We build strong bones and greater vitality through nourishing foods and wild plants with which our bodies evolved - nettles, chickweed, dandelion, violet, yellow dock, whole yogurt and bone broths.
    Wild plants grow on the edges, often in soils that have not been denuded of mineral content.  As a result they provide an abundance of minerals and other nutrients.  A  recent New York Times article marvelled that dandelion greens having at least seven times the phytonutrients of spinach. Wild plants provide not only macro elements - calcium, phosphate, potassium, magnesium and others - but also micro elements known as trace minerals - iron, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, iodine and others. When we eat wild plants we receive optimal nourishment in a form that our bodies can readily utilize.
    Wild plants are easiest as infusions and soups.
    Infusions are an excellent source of minerals because of the long brewing time and large quantity of plant material used. A regular cup of tea brewed ten minutes with a teabag will have nowhere near the mineral impact of an infusion.
    The long cooking times for soups helps break down the plant's tough cell walls, which makes the minerals more available to our bodies (See Nettle Soup Recipe below). When cooking greens, allow them to stew for 20-30 minutes or more. Since women may be concerned about the vitamins content being destroyed by heat, it is encouraged to snack on fresh wild greens in addition to cooking them!
    Another key to minerals is the stage of a woman’s life.  Minerals are often lost through pregnancy, menopause and menstruation. While it is easiest to build bone mass in our 30's, we can do it anytime, even during or after menopause. Common methods of hormone replacement therapy and calcium supplements are generally not successful in building bone mass after menopause, yet, eating mineral rich wild plants and other nourishing foods, along with adding weight bearing exercise into our daily lives, can support us in our efforts to remain vital and healthy long into our elder years.
    Nourishing foods, and finding ways to easily incorporate them in daily life, are essential for women today.  For those who want a deeper experience, consider joining Corinna Wood, Susun Weed and Sally Fallon Morrel at the 9th annual Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference, October 11-13 near Asheville, NC.  Corinna will be teaching a class on “Weeds, the Wise Woman Way”; Susun will be, among other things,  teaching on the “Magic of Mints”, and Sally Fallon Morrel will be focusing on traditional nourishing foods.

    Mineral-Rich Foods: a few examples include yogurt, seaweed, and bone broth
    Mineral-Rich Wild Plants: a few examples include nettles, dandelion greens and yellow-dock leaves.
    Nettle Soup Recipe: Nettle soup is considered a macrobiotic delicacy, and nettle’s bonanza of nutrients stays with you long after the plates are cleared. Serve it up with some brown rice or bread and butter, and it will provide plenty of energy for an afternoon among the herbs, or an evening of great conversation with friends.

    Soup recipe:
    ½ medium onion
    2 cloves garlic
    olive oil
    1 cup diced carrots
    1 cup diced potatoes
    6 cups water or broth
    3 cups nettles tops
    sweet white miso, to taste
    Sautee the onions and garlic in a little olive oil. Stir in your carrots and potatoes. After a few minutes, cover them with the water or broth (vegetable or chicken broth work beautifully).
    If your nettle tops are small, you can put them in whole. If they’re larger than you would want to have on your spoon, put your gloves back on and chop them coarsely before adding to the soup. Bring to a boil and let it all simmer for 35 to 45 minutes.
    Dilute several spoonfuls of sweet white miso in some of the broth, and then add it to the soup bowls at the table so the beneficial microorganisms don’t get cooked by the boiling temperatures.
    Wise woman, herbalist, visionary and mother, Corinna Wood is the founder and director of Southeast Wise Women, and also the founder of Red Moon Herbs. She has opened the hearts of thousands of women to trusting the wisdom of the plants, the earth, and their own bodies.  www.SEWiseWomen.com

    Jackie Dobrinska joined the staff of Southeast Wise Women after attending the Wise Woman Immersion several years ago.  Today, in addition to running logistics at the Immersion, she provided photography and content for the web, newsletters, and social media, connecting an expanded web of wise women.
  • Wednesday, September 11, 2013 10:10 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Here are some photos of some amazing mushrooms that I found this week in the forest.

    Cauliflower Mushroom (Sparassis radicata)
    I could hardly believe my eyes when I came upon this lovely mushroom. I have never before seen it in the flesh, only in photos. Despite my warning about photos being an unreliable way to identify plants and mushrooms, there is no way to mistake the cauliflower mushroom for anything else. Nonetheless, I checked in three books before cooking it slowly (for about two hours at low heat) in butter and eating it. The texture stayed crunchy, but the taste was quite nice. It was not, as one book claimed “one of the best of the edible species,” I vastly prefer the complex taste of black chanterelles.

    Black Chanterelle
    (Cantharellus cornucopioides)
    These mushrooms are small, but like wild strawberries, their taste is huge. All chanterelles are funnel shaped and all of them are edible and tasty, no matter what color they are: white, orange, yellow, tan, or black. Chanterelles are distinguished by their lack of gills and their lack of pores. Instead they have wrinkle-like folds. I gently pulled one from the moss and turned up so you could get a good look at those folds. Again, there is no look-alike spoiler to confuse us. If it looks like a black chanterelle, it is a black chanterelle. I cook them briefly on a low heat in butter, then spread them on toast. The taste is deep and dark and rich with nuance.

    Spreading Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum)
    Coral Hedgehog (Hericium coralloides)

    I have only seen hedgehog mushrooms twice in the half century I have been foraging, not counting the three I saw this week! That more than doubles my lifetime count. The spreading hedgehog provides a handy resting spot for this red eft. The coral hedgehog reminds me that icicles will be decorating my eaves in a few months. One of my guidebooks says: “Hedgehog mushroom are one of the most beautiful sights in the woodland. They are edible, if that is your consideration.” I agree. I have never eaten a hedgehog mushroom. Perhaps the next time I find one . . .

    Spreading Hedgehog                                         Coral Hedgehog

    Wild Foods as Medicine

  • Wednesday, September 11, 2013 9:58 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Green Blessings of the Thunderstorm Season

    One of the great delights of autumn in the Catskills is the emergence of mushrooms.

    All colors, all forms, all shapes, in profusion or singly, on the ground and on the trees. Mushrooms are springing up everywhere.

    Mushrooms are magical. No wonder they feature in so many fairy tale illustrations. Like the tiny mushroom here, they have an ethereal quality that sends our imaginations journeying. . . just by looking at them.

    Let me repeat the warning that plants, and mushrooms especially, are not reliably identified by photos. The smell and the texture and the environment are all important in identification. Please don’t eat any mushroom without checking at least three sources. I have been finding and preparing wild mushrooms for over forty years and I still follow that rule when I am contemplating eating a new find. Unlike plants, mushrooms that smell and look lovely can be deadly. After all, dealing with death is the work of the mushrooms.

    All mushrooms help prevent cancer. Some actively counter it. Check out the photo gallery for some of the most interesting specimens of this week. (Mentor students, look for your upcoming tutorial on the latest, greatest anti-cancer mushroom: turkey tails.)

    Take the time this week to go for a walk in the forest and see what mushrooms have paid a visit to your neck of the woods. No need to identify them or eat them or do anything at all except sit and enjoy them.

    Next week I will report on my trip to the First International Goddess Fest in Malibu. Mushrooms? Flowers? Beautiful goddesses and incredible rituals? I am sure I will find all these and more. And coming up really soon is the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference. Come if you can; it is an experience you will never forget.

    And don’t forget to join me every Tuesday evening at my new blogtalk show. Call or email questions and I will answer them.

    Green blessings are everywhere.



    Weed Walk

  • Tuesday, August 27, 2013 12:49 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Lacto-fermented Cucumbers

    I can deal with lots of zucchini, but the recent flood of cucumbers left me grasping for creative ways to use the darn things. I even resorted to serve them as a cooked vegetable. (Not bad.) Then I checked out what Sally Fallon has to say about cucumbers, and lickety-split, I had them all taken care of. If you are awash in cucumbers, try this.

    • Wash cucumbers. Cut into your favorite pieces. I prefer spears. Some like slices.
    • Pack pieces tightly into a wide-mouthed canning jar.
    • If desired, add cloves of peeled raw garlic here and there in the jar.
    • If desired, add fresh dill or mustard seed.
    • Pour one tablespoonful of sea salt on top of the cucumbers in the jar.
    • Add four tablespoonfuls of whey to the jar. (Let some plain yogurt sit in your refrigerator for a while and a clear liquid – whey – will form on the top.) (Sally says do not use powdered whey.)
    • Fill the jar to within an inch of the top with non-chlorinated water.
    • Lid tightly. Very tightly.
    • Let sit in a shady place at room temperature for 48-50 hours, then refrigerate.
    • Your lacto-fermented cucumbers are ready to eat in six weeks but grow better with age.

    Thank you Sally Fallon

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  • Tuesday, August 27, 2013 12:45 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

    Photo Gallery
    Harvest time! Here are some seeds and fruits to harvest now!

    Burdock seed (Arctium lappa)
    Those stick-in-your-hair-and-on-your-dog-and-on-your-sweater-too burdock burrs hold a wealth of seeds revered for their medicinal powers. Many plants have seeds that are easier to harvest than their roots, but burdock is not one of them. Digging first year roots (not yet) is hard work, but getting at the seeds is stickery prickery work. For details on exactly how to handle the seed heads and how to make Burdock Seed Scalp Tonic, please check out the burdock section in Healing Wise.

    Sumac berries (Rhus typhina)
    Reach up for the fruit with the highest vitamin C content: the fuzzy red berries of the sumac tree. Not the smooth red sumac berries (Rhus glabra); they taste bitter. And not the white sumac berries (Rhus vernix); those are poisonous. The fuzzy, velvety, ones. The best ones are dark red and leave a lemony taste on your fingers after you handle them. I put four big heads in a half-gallon jar, fill it to the top with cold water, wait 4-6 hours and enjoy sumac-ade. I keep adding water to the jar of berries until there is no more taste; then I start over with fresh berries. Enjoy!

    Grapes (Vitis aestivalis)
    Wild grapes sting my lips!! Still, I can’t resist them. One of my first teachers was convinced that any problem could be cured with grapes and I, no doubt, internalized her attitude. The “Grape Cure” for cancer was one of the first alternative remedies I found that seemed to work with the body, rather than castigating it. Still very heroic in its though process, nonetheless, I credit grapes with helping to set me on the path of healing by nourishing. If you can’t find wild grapes to eat, do enjoy the cultivated ones showing up now at all the farm stands. (There’s lots more information on grapes for the mentored students. Click here.)


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