Burdock & Rose

wildly-crafted plant tales from herbalist, forager & author lisa rose

Herbal First Responders: Cold & Flu Care


Lisa M. Rose in a field of wildflowers in Millineum Park.

Gathering wild bee balm for my well-known Gypsy Tea.

Sometimes when you feel a cold or a flu coming on, it’s easy to brush it off and keep pushing ahead. But when that little voice tells you that your body has caught a virus, heed its warning!  Learning when and how to use popular herbal remedies can help you prevent from getting stuck at the corner of sick and miserable!

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

Plant medicines like elderberry can help shorten the lifespan of a virus — If you know when and how to use them! If you listen to your body’s call, and try preparations of elderberry elixir within the first 48 hours of the start of a virus, medical research shows that symptoms that come from colds and flus can be lessened by as much as 4 days. (1) Now, that doesn’t mean you can just chug elderberry elixir and NOT rest. Of course not. Resting is a crucial part to the body’s healing process.

But how does elderberry work? Elderberry is not only filled with antioxidants and flavonoids useful for the body, but it stimulates the body’s inflammation response against the virus. By triggering the production of cytokines – the inflammatory and anti-inflammatory agents that regulate the body’s immune system – elderberry powers the immune system which then inhibits the virus’ ability to reproduce. (2)

Elderberry is most commonly prepared as a syrup of the fresh or dry berries. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) syrup is easy to make (RECIPE FEATURED IN RODALE’s ORGANIC LIFE), but if you don’t have time, make a trip to your local health food shop to stock up, or better yet – support this local herbalist by stocking up with her elderberry elixir blends!! (Hint, hint) So at those first signs of illness – down that elderberry syrup in large tablespoon doses!


Gypsy Tea: Echinacea, Mints, Yarrow & Elderflower

While downing tablespoons of elderberry when I start to get sick, you will also find me making pots of my favorite tea traditionally known as Gypsy Tea- a formula that goes back generations. Gypsy Tea is a tea blend of aromatic mints (I prefer the wild bee balm, Monarda fistulosa), the bitter yarrow, and the relaxant elderflowers. I also add in echinacea for its additional immune boosting power, and sometimes garden herbs like sage and thyme for extra aromatics.

Gypsy Tea is also a great base in which to add honey and your elderberry elixir!To make your own Gypsy Tea, these herbs can be foraged from the wild, or you can procure your own herbs from a reputable forager or an online source like Mountain Rose Herbs.

Gypsy Tea Ingredients:

1 Part Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

2 Parts Elderflower (Sambucus nigra)

2 Parts Bee Balm (Monarda spp) or Peppermint

1 Part Echinacea (Echiancea spp)

Directions: Add herbal ingredients to a french press or directly to a pot of boiling water. Cover, let steep for 5 minutes and drink hot. And like Grandma always says, Put on a hat!  Cover the body, keep it warm, take to bed and REST. If you really are feeling crummy, consider making a large thermos of tea to keep hot by the bedside – this will help you to stay in bed and support the body’s immune system as it works on staying well.

Even herbalists get sick.

It’s easy to forget how to care for yourself once a virus settles in and your body begins to ache. Be prepared! Have on hand the ingredients you need to care for yourself allows your body to rest and fight off the virus. And remember to have a backup friend to rely on when you are at the corner of sick and miserable – even if it’s your golden retriever.

For more tips on making a plan for Cold & Flu season, click HERE.

A Few Other Good Links & Resources:

– Darcey Blue on Flu

– Todd Caldecott’s Ayurvedic approach to Colds & Flu 

–  7 Song’s Materia Medica for Colds & Flu

— Paul Bergner on Vitamin D


1)  “Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.” J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.

2) “The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines” Eur Cytokine Netw. 2001 Apr-Jun;12(2):290-6

Simply Sassy: A Mitten Gal’s Sassafras Rootbeer 

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The dunes of my childhood where sassafras grows in abundance.

While on a trail run through the dunes of Hoffmaster State Park this summer I realized that there is no other smell reminiscent of my West Michigan lakeshore upbringing than sassafras. That aromatic, spicy rootbeer fragrance of the sassafras floats on the breeze in the dew of the morning or after a wet, damp rain. It is one of those smells that truly defines my life.

You can imagine my delight when forager friend Sam Thayer recommended me to host a Minneapolis-based film crew to learn all about sassafras for their “How To Make Everything: Rootbeer” segment! I enjoyed taking the crew through the dunes woods of my childhood stomping grounds to gather the sassafras roots for their project. Check out our final segment on sassafras HERE.

Though it is fall and the leaves are rapidly falling from the trees, it isn’t to late to gather a few saplings to make a late fall batch of rootbeer! Want to make your own local rootbeer? Read more…

A Mitten Gal’s Sassafras Rootbeer 

Sassafras albidumSassafras is common along trails and beach areas and makes a delightful tea and culinary spice. Sassafras is a small deciduous tree that grows to heights of up to 60 feet or more in optimum conditions. It commonly has mitten-shaped, three-lobed and un-lobed leaves. Its bark is a rough and reddish brown, the aromatic roots range in color from white to reddish brown. The roots of a small sapling can be gathered in the spring or fall. Wash, chop, and completely dry them.

Here’s what you’ll need to make a simple syrup with sassafras and other woodland herbs for a refreshing batch of rootbeer soda pop.


  • 1/2 cup chopped roots of sassafras**
  • 1/4 cup burdock root*
  • 1/4 cup sarsaparilla*
  • 1 tbsp dry hops*
  • 1tsp juniper berries*
  • 10 wintergreen leaves*
  • 1 tsp dry ginger root*
  • 1 tsp spicebush berries (optional)*
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups MICHIGAN maple syrup


  • Simmer herbs in a pot with 4 cups boiling water for 5 minutes, covered to retain volatile oils.
  • Strain
  • Stir in maple syrup, let cool
  • Add 1 part sassafras simple syrup mixture to 2 parts club soda and serve over ice or with vanilla ice cream
  • Sassafras simple syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 weeks

*Some herbs can be gathered by hand from the wild, procured from your local health food store or ordered online. I like Mountain Rose Herbs as an online supplier for organic herbs. To learn more about sassafras or other herbs mentioned in this recipe? Check out my book, “Midwest Foraging.”

Boo-tanical Fun For Halloween


Snake Lady. Photo Credit: David McGowan

It’s that witchy time of year when the leaves blow from the trees and the winds howl through the misty October darkness. Apple cider, pumpkin carving and costume decorating is underway for the fun celebrations that fall across the last days of October. For a bit of botanical fun, my colleague at The Chicago Tribune and I were brainstorming lists of plants that could fit the scary and spooky bill for Halloween in his recent feature, “From creepy to dangerous, some plants a perfect Halloween fit.”

As a forager and herbalist, here’s my own Scary {but Edible!} list of Boo-tanical Horrors:

Poke (Phytolacca americana)

The pokeweed plant is very alien-looking with its bright purple clusters of berries and branching vibrant green stalks stretching across areas of disturbed ground and in waste places in urban lots and weedy garden plots.

Poke Berries

Many think this plant is poisonous – and if eaten incorrectly, it can be. But the pokeweed, despite all the warnings, can be made edible by eating the early, tiny spring shoots to make the traditional Southern dish of poke salt and the root and berries are used in herbal plant medicine. The berries make a beautiful purple plant dye to color fabrics and decor projects.

Prickly Pear (Optunia species)

Creeping along the ground with its red fruits dotting the landscape, the prickly pear cactus is the Midwest’s only wild cactus. The prickly pear grows in colonies, spreading across disturbed sandy and rocky soils, in south-facing locations.

Prickly Pear Photo Lisa Rose

Its spines ward off predators, but for those brave enough to handle the plant with leather gloves and remove it’s thorny glochids, the fruits can be used to make a delicious and fruity simple syrup for cocktails or sodas. It’s fruit can also be pureed to produce a fun and edible pink slime – perfect for Halloween tricks and treats.

Hawthorn (Crataegus species)

The hawthorn is a tree with a history of magic and folklore. The hawthorn grows as a rambling, hedgerow shrub with long and pointy spines lining its bark and branches warning everyone to hone their senses, lest they fall into the shrub’s spiny clutches while gathering the tree’s delicious fruits. Its berries are edible and can be used to make vinegar shrubs, cocktail syrups, and can be used similarly to that of the crabapple in cooking and hard cider-making.

Hawthorn Berry and Thorns

And as the hawthorn is known to be a plant of the faery realm, it’s worth remembering to take a gift of butter for the plant faeries and to sing songs while harvesting the berries. At the very least – and if you don’t believe in the plant faeries – signing songs or whistling is a good way to express thanks and gratitude for the tree’s fruits as you harvest and protect you from their potential tricks.

For more about these plants, how to harvest and how to prepare, check out my book, Midwest Foraging” and have a safe and fun Halloween season!


Running Toward Plants: An Interview

Edible Grand Traverse October 2015

Enjoyable interview talking about my book “Midwest Foraging,” wild edibles, and Leelanau County with Edible Grande Traverse Magazine.

Check out the full interview online, along with other cool wild edible recipes including a local hunter’s take on eating squirrel!

An interesting note, this interview took place in Lake Leelanau Sunday morning on August 2 as we watched the edge of the first line of the storms roll into the area. The change in weather and electric feeling of the air seeped into our conversation, eerily foreshadowing the events that were to unfold later that day with the horrifically powerful straight line winds that slammed into the Sleeping Bear shoreline…

For my essay from that epic and historic storm read After the Storm.


Claiming Our Place At the Table: Growing the Good Food Movement

Garden_Shoot 1755

Each one of us has an important role to play in growing the good food movement in Grand Rapids. What’s your role? Photo by Ryan P. Photo

On September 21, 2001, a group of about 25 people representing all sectors of the food community – from farmers to schools to clinics to social agencies addressing hunger – gathered at what is now known as Feeding America West Michigan. With Groundswell farmer Tom Cary at the helm and with me taking notes, we collectively organized Grand Rapids’ first food policy council. We all recognized and outlined the myriad of challenges facing our fractured food system in Grand Rapids, including race, the built environment and socio-economic disparities, to name a few.

This community effort – over time – faced its own hurdles and challenges in the decade that followed. Programs in the community came and went, and today – while the food system landscape is completely different, the core issues faced then remain the same.

Since I published the local food documentary, Grand Rapids Food: A Culinary Revolution (History Press, 2013), citizens have continued to take up shovels to clear grass and concrete and build gardens. When policy gets in the way, citizens continue to appear at policy meetings to help coax our leaders to make change.

From the outside, it can appear that the local food system in Grand Rapids has taken off – from beer to markets, it could seem that the larger Grand Rapids community has benefitted tremendously from the various additions to the Grand Rapids food landscape. 

But has it?

For nearly 14 years to the day, I’ve been engaged in helping grow the local food community in Grand Rapids. It’s been a pleasure to call the Grand Rapids cadre of food activists my most dear friends – those working to increase access to fresh foods within the urban community through a myriad of channels – community gardens, urban farms, food cooperatives, a more effective pantry system – to name a few. 


When stepping into the Wealthy Theatre on Monday for the Urban Roots local food community conversation I left my preconceived ideas, assumptions and past experiences at the door. I arrived open to learn of new endeavors and to be inspired by new faces on the front lines.

Surprisingly, I was glad to know only a few faces as part of the group. I was excited to hear about the experiences of other community organizations and people working for systems change in Grand Rapids. It was inspiring to witness the passion and commitment of others trying to make change in the ways they knew, yet humbling to realize the vast expanse of work that still is ahead, with many hurdles to tackle.

Addressing Systems Issues as a United Front 

In the recent opinion article penned by urban farmer and local food expert Levi Gardner, many of the issues raised with the Downtown Market are larger systems issues that face all of Grand Rapids – particularly those that are immediately relevant to food access rooted in socio-economic disparities, race and segregation because of our built environment. 

To be fair, the criticism the Downtown Market has received isn’t because the market isn’t a needed piece of food systems infrastructure for the local downtown community — it is. The Downtown Market has tremendous potential to bring people together, to be a welcoming space for people to learn and share knowledge. The Downtown Market has tremendous potential to serve the local community as a food hub, meet local access needs and provide an economic platform for vendors to be able to affordably participate in economic exchange. 

The Downtown Market has received criticism because the greater community  wants its leadership to rethink its outreach, its purpose, its messaging and how it engages a diverse set of audiences. The greater community has needs and is asking the Downtown Market to proactively help meet those needs. The community wants the leadership of the Downtown Market to be present and responsible for being part of the solution. And as a point of order: as a publicly funded institution, the Downtown Market leadership has an ethical obligation to do so, and to ensure it is inclusive of all backgrounds in an intentional way and to actively be a part of community conversations.  


Growing Roots. Photo by Shane Folkertsma.

But let’s be real: This isn’t an issue that faces solely the Downtown Market. While it’s easy to critique a large organization like the Downtown Market, we all need to examine the ways in which we each engage and mutually support open and honest dialogue. We need to examine how we engage each other in the various aspects of our work, helping to make it accessible and inclusive and actualize co-learning.

My own food systems learnings have led me down the path to foraging, wild edibles and herbalism as a form of healthcare. Admittedly, I find that it’s easier to sit in the woods, alone, working with plants rather than people. But I know that its the education I have to share that I feel can help effect change and so I work in my community as a community herbalist and teacher about the natural world.

To that end, I, too, am holding myself personally accountable to consider how I design my work to address issues of race, culture, poverty, education, socio-economic disparities and health disparity in our City. To work in partnership with others in the community, rather than shy away from working at it alone because it is “easier” or without political (read exhausting) drama. And to invite others to be part of the conversation, and helping make a place at the table for many voices to be heard. 

It is only by working through difficult conversations and partnerships that we can grow. Stonewalling, boycotting and judgement won’t get us where we need to be. Repeatedly showing up and being open to arriving to new destinations will get us where we need to be. When we shut down – close each other out – we will go nowhere. 

We need process and intentionality, but we also need to allow room for organic growth. And be accountable for each other and help our organizations grow in the directions our community needs. 


Grand Rapids’ New Mayor-Elect, Rosalyn Bliss, an active leader who helped champion the urban hen legislation in GR. Photo by Ryan P. Photo.

Leaving Room for Organic Growth

Intentionality is important. Each decision should be made with focus and purpose. But it is also worthy to be flexible and open to change and new directions. I leave you with a segment from my book, Grand Rapids Food, where a local gardener talks about the vision for their community gardening space. 

Amy contemplates the future of the community garden space. “I would like to see it be a place where the neighbors are investing their time. For what we have — the social aspect — It’s what draws people here. We have such a small space compared to other community gardens. But it’s perfect for our block — we aren’t trying to reach large scale. Certainly people can come from anywhere, but we want  the neighbors to enjoy this. To be their garden.  

“Beyond that? I don’t know. I think that is the enjoyment — that we have of these dreams. We just start in one place and keep moving forward. Which is exciting because people’s needs change, the neighborhood changes. I like that space to be open — it leaves room for creativity. Let’s keep the master plan in the shed.” 

It is my wish that you, too, can be inspired to move forward with intentionality and openness to continue to address the rooted issues that face our food system in Grand Rapids.

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High Summer Wild Harvests


The days are long and warm for now, but we all know that winter will return and with it – cold and flu season as well as all sorts of other general maladies we face across the year. There are many ways to keep the ills and chills away with wild plants!

Some helpful herbs that can be gathered from the wild now include:

Echinacea (Echinacea species): Echinacea is well-known for its abilities to help the immune system clear an infection. Gather the plant from the wild or even use the cultivated echinacea from the garden to prepare a homemade tincture or tea.

Goldenrod (Solidago species): This beautiful, showy yellow plant frequently gets blamed for everyone’s August allergies, when actually it’s the ragweed that causes the summer sneezes. Goldenrod can be gathered now and dried for tea or prepared fresh as a tincture to help stop the leaky, drippy allergy sniffles. A great cat allergy remedy! Goldenrod also makes a great salve to help rub out aches and pains and can be used similarly to arnica.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Yarrow is a classic summer plant, and is nearly at the end of the harvest season. Gather the leaves and flowers of this plant to use as a tea for colds and flus. It mixes well with Monada and elder flower. Yarrow also makes a great salve to help rub out bruising.

Bonest (Eupatorium perfoliatum): Boneset is a traditional native plant that’s been used for viral infections and fevers. It can be gathered from the wild and dried for tea. It’s good blended with more aromatic (and flavorful) plants like

Monarda (Monarda fistulosa): Monarda is also known as bee-balm and all varieties – both the wild and cultivated – are wonderful to dry to a tea to ward of a cold. The tea is highly aromatic and can also clear sinus infections and clear a foggy head.

Elderberries (Sambus nigra): Great for supporting the body’s immune system to fight off viral infections like a cold virus or influenza. The berries can be gathered at peak ripeness and prepared into a homemade elderberry elixir.

For more information on these plants, view my recent segment on WZZM13 and pick up a copy of “Midwest Foraging!”


After the Storm: Leelanau, Wild Plants & New Beginnings


Leelanau County is a beloved place for me. When my family and I watched the devastating storm slam into the beach on Sunday, August 2 – with its winds reaching speeds of nearly 100 mph- and then witnessed the extensive devastation that has left Glen Arbor and many surrounding areas still without power, my heart seemed to break open.

Many folks suffered extensive damage to their homes and businesses. The landscape has forever changed. It will be some time before the beloved trees grow in and the property damage repaired.

In the days that followed the storm, stories that came out of the Glen Arbor devastation were tales of resiliency. Shopkeepers powered through, despite the lack of power. People fed each other and had each other’s backs – a communal responsibility to pull through and take care of one another: a quintessential trait of a small, Northern Michigan community.

As I entered Glen Arbor for the first time since the storm for a book signing at The Cottage Book Shop on Saturday, my mouth was agape at all the felled trees. My memory flashed back to 1998, where my hometown of Spring Lake fared similar destruction from straight line winds. Nearly twenty years later, the town’s landscape still shows open spots where the winds ripped the tree canopy to shreds.

While I was having flashbacks, my daughter noted something different: “Mom, all the trees have fallen down around it, but the sign for Glen Arbor is still standing.” Yes, I thought. The plants will regrow and come back. The land and the community will heal itself.


The wild lakeshore of Sleeping Bear has weathered aeons of storms … the shifting sands change daily, as do the plants. I love the snakegrass and beach peas (Laythrus japonicus – and yes they are edible) that grow along the Leelanau shoreline.

Working with the wild plants have taught me so much – they’ve helped me grapple with the cycles of life and death, find peace in the struggle and offer hope in moments of the unknown and despair. I’ve learned that the wild plants hold the keys to our past and can unlock the doors to our future – if we choose to sit and watch and listen and pay attention.

Listening to the Land

6am. Sunday, August 2.

I woke up with coffee on my mind, contemplating a long run. As a runner, those Sunday long runs are sacred to me. As a mom, those quiet moments before the house wakes are equally sacred. With the latter more infrequent, I chose to linger a few more moments and savor my hot steaming cup of Joe while looking out over the water.

As I listened to the rustle of the trees, I could feel that the air was unsettled, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. There weren’t any bird noises – which is unusual as normally the morning noises include the chirps of the finches, cardinals and an occasional screech of a passing heron or an obnoxious blue jay. This humid morning, however, there was only sound of the rustle of leavings coming from the on shore breeze as it swirled through the trees and out across the bay. I didn’t know what it was, but I sensed things were off. Little did I anticipate it being the wild storms our shores were about to weather.

Fast forward seven days.

6am. Sunday, August 9.

The morning light is still gray, with the sun yet to rise up over the ridge to cast light onto the western shore. The birds are already awake and the morning on shore breeze is gentle, casting dancing puffs across the water. Like last weekend, I wanted that same indulgence of a quiet morning with my coffee, but my dog really wanted to go for a run. So, I decided to take the dog for a lap up to the top of Overby Hill.

Across time, humans have made their way to the highest points on the landscape to seek inspiration and solace. Pyramid Point, Alligator Hill, Empire Bluffs – these are just a few of the sacred Leelanau spots that have offered sweeping vistas and inspiration to people for thousands of years.

For me, I’ve been seeking solace and wisdom from a less notable high point: Overby Hill off M22 in Lake Leelanau. For the past several months, I’ve been drawn to include this hill in my regular runs. For obvious reasons, it’s a killer hill, and for a runner, a ball-breaker if you want to improve your abilities to run hills. What draws me more, however, is the landscape of Overby. 

From M22 to Overby, I pass the cedar swamps and through the fields of goldenrod, milkweed, Queen Anne’s Lace and poison ivy. The roads winds up the ridge with its hardwood forest and tender woodland gullies.  Up the steep climb, the gravel road opens up at the top of the ridge to a plowed field and orchard.

Colleague and Glen Arbor Sun editor, Jacob Wheeler recently asked me about my running in an interview – ironically on the morning of August 2 – inquiring as to what I think about on my runs. Today, I simply wanted to be out with the plants, open to any secrets the land wanter to share with me.

I lumbered up the hill with my dog and I listened to the winds again. They were playful winds, rustling the leaves of the birches, beeches, oaks and maples. The quaking aspen leaves waved to me as I went by.

Then it came to me. They knew. Last Sunday, the trees, the birds …  the land knew the storms were brewing. The behavior of the wind and animals were signals that something was amiss.

Having grown up downstate just minutes from the Big Lake and the daughter of a sailor, my father always taught me that if you listen to the land and the water, they will talk to you. Nature will tell you what you need to know.

When I reached the top of the hill, I took notice of all the wind-fallen green acorns that littered the road. Signs that the ripe acorn masts are soon to fall.

At that moment, I knew that it was in the acorns that we are reminded the land will heal itself, and despite the brutal force of its storms, it will also offer us the resources we need to move forward.

During my plant talk at The Cottage Book Shop, I asked my listeners to consider how the land might heal itself going forward after such a devastating storm. We talked about the acorns that were shaken from the trees. The acorns are not only the rebirth of a new growth of oaks, but also a complete and complex carbohydrate, filled with plant proteins and healthy fats. We will have a good year for acorns this fall – a wild food from the land that can nourish and sustain us.

The land – with all her natural systems of regeneration – will fill in the cracks. We talked about the native and “invasive” plants that will fill in now where the disturbed soil is exposed, revealing the seeds in the soil’s seed bank to the sun and water. 

While we are still in the midst of cleanup, it will be interesting to watch and observe nature’s approach to the restoration work. And perhaps of all the tools that are helping the community get back on its feet, our ability to watch and listen will carry us through this long haul of renewal.

Many thanks to shopkeepers like Sue Boucher of Cottage Book Shop for carrying on and the endless UpNorth Michigan hospitality.

Author’s note: I submitted this essay of musings to the Glen Arbor Sun after my “Midwest Foraging” book signing on August 8 at The Cottage Book Shop. This is a short narrative not only on the storm; but as a naturalist and plant person, reflecting on my never-ending quest to better understand nature’s ways as means to help me live a deeper, more connected life to both the land around me and with my community. 

“Midwest Foraging” Featured in Chicago Tribune

INTERVIEW Midwest Foraging_Chicago Tribune


To read the entire Chicago Tribune article, click HERE.

Go Nuts with Walnuts: Italian Walnut Liqueur


Cocktails flavored with different plants and herbals are now all the rage among foodies and at popular restaurants. Beyond the garden, foraged, wild flavors can be gathered from the woods and fields to be blended into infused liqueurs, simple syrups and handmade bitters for the cocktail cart.

The windfall of falling walnuts becomes noticeable in mid-summer as the green fruits of the black walnut begin to drop. Your main competition for this fruit will be the local wildlife, particularly the ever-aggressive squirrel.

The wild walnut of the Juglans nigra (black walnut) is a forager’s delight – not only does it offer delicious nutmeats for cooking and baked goods, but the green hull has a fragrant, citrus-like aroma that infused in liquor makes a delicious aperatif.

Traditionally, nocino is made from the English walnut, but here in the Midwest, black walnut may be used. In some literature, there has been question whether or not the juglone content of the roots in the black walnut render the nut inedible (as it is a gardener’s nightmare for plants intolerant of the juglone), but there is enough traditional and contemporary use of the black walnut to negate this potential concern. The only issue that the black walnut may cause is in companion planting in the garden! 

For more tips on identifying the black walnut, get a copy of my book, Midwest Foraging to take with you into the fields! 

In “Midwest Foraging,” I describe that  the green hulled walnut can be transformed into a traditional Italian digestif known as nocino, an aromatic spicy liqueur that contains clove, orange peel, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Try making a nocino with the herbs of the spicebush, tulip poplar, and wild ginger.”


To make your own nocino, gather 4 quarts of green walnut hulls. In the kitchen, stuff large ball jars to the brim with the nuts, including a tablespoon each of clove, juniper berries, orange peel, cardamon, ginger, and 2 cinnamon sticks. Cover completely with vodka (or white wine), and let macerate for 8 weeks. Strain and preserve in a glass bottle to let age.

Enjoy as a sipping liqueur or in a dessert course with fragrant cheese and dark chocolates.

Summer Staycations: Foraging with Kids


Collecting sumac drupes for sumac lemonade

There’s no better place on earth in summer than #PureMichigan. Summer vacation is a time to load the car and head to the lakeshore – bikes tied to the back and sandals in tow. The great thing about our Great Lakes state is that we are never more than 20 minutes from an outdoor adventure that can rival any escape to greater terrain up north or out west.

As part of your outdoor escape, get the kids, neighbor’s kids, and even dog outdoors to plan an foraging expedition to learn wild edibles. From bogs to dune habitats at the lakeshore, this is a great chance to expose children to parts of Michigan they’ve never experienced before AND teach them new outdoor skills.

Short on time and want an even lower cost excursion? Plan this endeavor to take place in your own backyard! There are many wild edibles to discover right outside your doorstep.

To begin to learn and identify wild edibles with the children:

Pick a place to explore: Let the kids select the plants around them to learn, sometimes the most adventures can actually happen right outside the back door in the yard!

Safety: Remind the explorers to never pick nor eat a plant until they can properly ID the plant.

Remind the children of the rules of foraging: Ask permission if it is private property you are exploring and respect the rules of any parks area.

Respect plant sustainability: Teach the children that we are stewards of the land and can help plants grow and propagate, especially native plants and never harvest plants that are on the threatened or endangered list.

Pack a foraging kit: Include a notebook, colored pencils, a camera and perhaps a snack, sunscreen and bug repellant (need an herbal recipe? check out my blog here).

Find the right expertise: Head to the library and select a few good field guides and consider picking up a copy of Midwest Foraging at your local bookstore.

Let this journey be kid-led. Let them explore the outdoors, make a plant journal and even let them get really dirty. Create a cool certificate or bad for those kids completing the adventure and celebrate them for trying something new. It’s low-cost, high-yield activity that offers lessons that last a lifetime.


To find a trail: 

Thanks to the glaciers long ago, the ecosystems of Michigan area are very diverse. And what better way to learn about them than to explore them on foot with the family in tow?

In Kent County, the Kent County Parks Foundation and The Friends of Grand Rapids Parks offers miles and miles of maintained trails in its expansive parks network that local residents can explore free of charge. The State of Michigan also offers great resources for hiking. Headed north? Try the Leelanau Land Conservancy for ideas of local nature walks. Some programs offer walks free for area residents.

Be sure to add to your summer bucket list nature centers and eco-preserves to walk the trails and experience the land that might be different. Remember, many of these habitats may have stringent rules prohibiting foraging – be sure to use these areas as learning laboratories only, taking nothing and leaving only footprints.


Gathering black raspberries in the hedgerow behind our house.

Click HERE for my kid-friendly Staghorn Sumac Lemonade recipe and for more easy tips for foraging with kids, visit WZZM13 Online: Staghorn Sumac.


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