Burdock & Rose

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

Month: December, 2012

“Chestnuts Roasting on a Open Fire”

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… A holiday mantra that hits the airwaves at Thanksgiving and then repeats on loop through the December holiday madness. We hum the tune, but have you ever added chestnuts to your table during the holiday?

The chestnut is a pretty amazing food, filled with protein, minerals and vitamins and energy in fact, if ever needed to rely on a nut (Hunger Games, anyone?).  And it’s pretty versatile too. Chestnuts can be roasted, boiled into soups and ground into flours.

For an easy holiday appetizer that kids will enjoy, I suggest roasting chestnuts stovetop for snacking while that Christmas turkey or ham is in the oven.  They can be peeled and enjoyed warm from the shell. They have a very neutral, almost buttery flavor making them an easy food for children to appreciate.

We first introduced our own children to the chestnut several years ago on a fall foraging jaunt. One Sunday afternoon, the husband and I loaded the kids into the car for a Sunday drive west from Grand Rapids to Winkel Chestnut Farms to learn more about the chestnut. The Winkel Farm grows about 20 acres of chestnuts and have been doing it for over 20 years.  While we had missed their regular UPick season; the owners, Leslie and Dick, were super cool to let us bring the family out to forage for fallen nuts on the ground.

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My children listened to the farmers tell us the story of the American Chestnut — how it was once prolific throughout the eastern United States until the Chinese Chestnut tree was introduced in the late 1880s, when a virus it carried affected greatly the American Chestnut and nearly wiped out its population completely.

After about an hour of searching through the grass, we’d gathered several quarts of chestnuts. The children took it upon themselves to turn the ground foraging into a competition.  We wished we’d brought leather gloves — not realizing how spiky the spines of the chestnut were!

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We giggled and laughed in the sunshine, trying not to puncture our fingers with their spines.  Farmer Leslie fired up the roaster and showed the children how the nuts should be scored on the bottom before roasting. The kids loved the taste of the warm nuts and were excited about adding chestnuts to our Thanksgiving menu. And while my children would have tried the warm nuts straight out of the cast iron pan during the holiday, making that venture out to the chestnut farm gave us a bit of family time together outdoors and taught the kids a little about the food’s history and ecology.

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So now, each fall my kids see chestnuts at the farmers market or hear “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” they will know more about the chestnut than it being just a healthy food. They will have memories of our family heading out and foraging for them underneath the chestnut trees.

And to me that’s what creating a culture of food around the table is all about — creating lasting memories and new holiday traditions with loved ones.

***To find a chestnut farm or farmers market near you, check out LocalHarvest.org. And for ways to prepare chestnuts, check out the many ways you can prepare chestnuts on FoodIly.com.

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Raw Herbal Truffles

Life sometimes can be hard to swallow.

That’s why the universe invented aromatic herbs & raw honey. And truffles.


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A quick fix for an achy-heart, these herbal truffles use raw cacao, raw coconut, raw honey — are rich in antioxidants and are filled with wonderful aromatic herbs that lighten the spirit. For extra magic, I like to add in my wildcrafted Chaga mushroom {cuz you know, all the cool kids are cooking with Chaga — read my earlier post on Chaga Chai}.

And for medicinal love, the honey can soothe a sore throat and the herbs open the sensorium and even stimulate digestion. So this recipe can be multi-purpose — check out my suggestions for variations on the recipe at the end of this post. I’ve also included an easy list of shopping sources in case you need help procuring the ingredients.

Raw Herbal Truffles

Here’s the short & sweet of it. {Warning: It’s a ISH recipe, meaning if you really, really, really need exact measurements, you won’t get them here. Particularly because 1) That’s how I cook, 2) quantities really depend on preference}.

To prepare to make the truffles with minimal mess and stickiness, oil a mixing boil with coconut oil to reduce honey stickiness and have ready a smaller bowl to dust the truffles with additional cacao, sea salt and lavendar flowers. Have a prepared sheet of parchment ready so the truffles may dry.

Pulverize into powder (spice grinder or by hand in a mortar & pestle): 

1 cup Masala Chai Blend

1/2 cup Rose Petals

1/8 cup Lavendar Blossoms

Add to the mixing bowl with: 

1 cup Chaga powder (optional)

1 cup raw Cacao powder

1 cup raw coconut (optional)

1 tsp of sea salt

Slowly stir in raw honey until a thick paste is created — stir with a wet spoon or spatula — or for extra theraputics stir with your hands. Not too much, just enough to create a ball consistency. Too much and the truffle will mush, sag, and will be overall just too sticky.

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Roll out each ball by hand, a tablespoon size works for a bite-sized bit. Smaller if you feel the taste is too flavorful. Dust with additional cacao powder, add a sprinkle of sea salt and decorate with lavender flowers.

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The flavors won’t do away with the ills of the world, but they can lift the spirits and offer herbal hope. One bite at a time.

~~~

Alternative recipes: 

Truffles digestif: Add a TBSP of dandelion root, marshmallow root & burdock root to the Masala Blend for grinding. Friend & herbalist Gina Brown adds Triphila powder for an Ayurvedic twist to further aid in digestion. Eat one as a dessert or before a meal.

Throat-coat & sinus truffle: Add marshmallow root (abt 1/3 cup) to the Masala Blend when grinding. Eat one hourly to soothe throat and open sinus.

Easy-peasy Shopping Sources: 

Bulk herbs for masala chai can easily procured online via Mountain Rose Herbs

Bulk chaga powders can be found at Mushroom Harvest

Raw cacao, coconut oil, coconut can be found in bulk at Wilderness Family Naturals

Raw honey (as well as locally grown herbs, which I recommend) sources can be identified at LocalHarvest.org or check out your local farmers market.

For you people in GR:

Spice blends can be procured at Penzey’s, Harvest Health & Elder & Sage

Raw honey can be procured at Siciliano’s as well at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market

 

 

 

Peace in Silence

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As I look out my window typing this, winter has definitely settled in. Cold sun. Branches icing. Big, fat snowflakes float gently from the sky.

I pause to admire their beauty.  The quiet outside is a reflection of what I am feeling inside – a settling of peace, quiet, and contentment that only a moment of silence could offer. But then, that feeling lasts only a *moment.* The chaos around me whips me back to reality with a start – the phone rings, my dog barks, and my youngest child screams from another room needing my help. Sigh.

“How do I carry that sense of peace and contentment with me throughout the day,” I found myself wondering.

It is a theme I ponder often. How do I live in chaos, uncertainty, surrounded by suffering and *still* remain to be at peace? Peace. Peace is what I want for myself the next year. It would be cliche to say I am hoping for peace on earth. I mean, don’t get me wrong, that would not be a bad thing. But I think if I ever want to hope for a more peaceful world, I need to work on it myself and only hope that others want to join me on this same path.

So come along with me …

To find peace and contentment, I will need to suspend judgement, acknowledge that this moment is all I have – I’ve not been promised another.

I will try to remember that everyone around me is doing the best they can with what they have and I will try to honor the highest in everything they do.

I will look to the sky, the trees, the birds, the insects and to everyone around me and accept that they are already perfect… and also remember that I, too, am already perfect and can stop with the self-judgement to be more [insert blah blah blah here].

And even in a time of being socially networked, I will seek out the silence and quiet. To pause, be still, observe and re-find the joy that is always there in the silence waiting to be experienced.

So come along with me … My hope for you in this new year is that you have peace in your heart, a quiet mind and joy in your song as we embark upon yet another trip around the sun together. Collective peace, quiet and joy would be so awesome, non?

~~~

De-Stress, Rest & Restore

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The halls have been decked and gifts have been swapped, and in the midst of what can sometimes seem like holiday hell, hopefully there is a moment or two where you can catch your breath and rest.

Winter’s season, by design, is a time to turn inward, rest and reflect. It’s a time where many set New Year’s Goals and Resolutions and this is a perfect time to ask yourself, “What do you need to keep in your life in the next year to make you thrive? What doesn’t serve you that needs to go? These aren’t the easiest questions to answer, but recognizing that you ~do~ have the power to make your life work for you. And in this time of shoddy economy and global breakdown, if not now, when?

While resting in this quiet, take time and really rest and then you may hear the answers you already know.

Stress & Modern Day Bears 

I daresay that stress is one of the worst contagious illnesses of our time — and it’s absolutely preventable. The impact of this stress on our bodies is the underlying cause of chronic disease and general unhappiness. The fight or flight response to stress can be likened to being chased by a bear (thanks Herbalist Howie Brownstein)– the body’s systems shut down, healing all but stops and panic dominates. And while we aren’t chased by literal bears in our day-to-day activities, our modern day bears come in all forms — email, text, phone calls, CNN streaming in the airport, the 6pm news, the piles of bills on the counter, budgets, busy schedules. And these modern day bears chase us upwards of  80 hours of our week.

Many people feel out of control, unable to manage the day-to-day pressures, especially given the current pressures of the local economy and overall state of global events. LIttle do we realize that we actually have all the power we need to make choices and repair our body’s depleted systems that have been impacted by our daily demanding routine. Part of that power is taking a moment to remember and realize the impact of our choices on our health and then making a conscious shift to a lifestyle that is more supported of our values and nourishing to our lives.

That shift does not, however, happen overnight.  Peeling apart the layers can take time, struggle and dark moments.  But with the courage and determination to restore quality to your world and with the help of some basic guidance of the plants in our natural world, we can heal ourselves from stress.

Revisiting the basics to handle stress

In order to stay strong in the face of stressful situations, as cliché as it may be, we need to remember to rest and to eat. If you can’t change the stress, get more rest and get more sleep to start.

A healthy body eats whole, nutrient dense foods. Of all colors and flavors. And remember: NOURISH with Healthy Fats! Omega 3’s, fatty acids.  The brain and nervous system absolutely need healthy fats to function to the fullest.  Choose foods that are chemical free and local to the extent that your body allows.

Get your ZZZs… SLEEP MORE!  Regular sleep patterns seem to be quite a luxury nowadays, but sadly, this lack of sleep is a contributing factor to weight gain and deprives our body of the desperately needed rest and restore time so it can recover from our demanding wake time.  Many studies are revealing that as a culture we are sleep deprived.  Re-organizing and re-prioritizing our evening schedules is necessary to be able to accommodate about 8 hours of sleep that the average person needs to maintain a healthful body.  Not all people require this amount of sleep, but many do.

How to support a regular sleep schedule? Reduce after-hours activities that include screen time. Late night computer and television use can actually disturb the REM sleep patterns later in the evening. Try to cut off screen time after 9 or 10, and certainly avoid the urge to turn the screens on if you are unable to fall asleep.

Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening. This can affect the body’s ability to fall asleep later at night. Limit alcohol consumption to dinner time.  Having the proverbial nightcap may be a relaxant beverage, but regular, late-night consumption of alcohol can also disturb REM sleep patterns (not to mention, relying on alcohol or other heavy narcotic to support regular sleep can lead to longterm dependency).

AND MOVE during the day!  Restlessness at night can be a sign that you aren’t moving enough during the day. The body needs to MOVE to manage cortisol levels that spike when under stress, and getting in regular exercise can significantly improve sleep habits.  Exercise need not mean a gym membership — it can mean gentle walking, stretching, dancing — anything just to keep the body lithe and circulation flowing.

Get some bodywork! ACUPUNCTURE, BODYWORK & MEDITATION: For those folks who travel internationally across timezones or those working night and swing shifts, this can mean a regularly disrupted sleep pattern that can last for days on end.  Consider supporting these work transitions with regular treatments of acupuncture.

Other regular bodywork treatments like massage, cranial sacral and acupressure can relax the body and help release tension that builds up because of the stress response. Additionally, adding in a mindfulness practice such as meditation or guided imagery can help break the patterns of circular thinking and can support an unloading of the day’s proverbial baggage, leaving space to rest and restore.   

Starner’s go-to herbs for Peace in Chaos

Herbs are our allies to help us move toward a life of making choices that serve us to lead brighter lives. The herbs ~cannot~ be a substitute for making those choices. That is our responsibility and we all have the power to do what needs to be done — they are here to support that. Here’s my fave short list of herbs that I love to have on hand to support the nervous system as we try to manage stress in our lives.

Reduce anxiety, improve clarity with AROMATICS. Rose, Geranium, Mints, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Bee Balm, Oregano, Basil — all these herbs have aromatic oils that can be uplifting and can provide clarity in times of stress. They can be sought out as teas to sip (the ritual of making tea in and of itself is calming) or as essential oils to vaporize in a room (or cupped in your hand) or added into a carrier oil for massage (remember those foot baths!).

Bliss out your stressed state with RELAXANTS & CALMATIVES (aka Nervines) and alive anxiety, restlessness. Chamomile (also aromatic and helpful to relieve stomach upset), Lemon Balm, Raspberry leaf, Spearmint, Catnip, Rose, Blue Vervain, Passionflower, Skullcap, St. John’s Wort.  All can be used as tea, or tincture, and some can be used extracted into oils for massage… Experiment a bit! For circular thinking — I like Passionflower, Wood Betony, Blue Vervain.

Help get better sleep with SEDATIVES. Hops, Kava Kava (gives me the giggles), Valerian (can sure calm spasm, quell anxiety and induce sleep in most people, and can agitate a select few– test it out first).

Build back up your nervous system with nourishing NERVINE TONICS. Herbs that can actually restore tone to the central nervous system used over time include Milky Oats (Avena Sativa), Nettle, Passionflower, Skullcap. There are others, but those are a few favorites (and toning needs to be done with lifestyle change).

What’s the correlation to stress and digestion? In times of stress, the body slows the digestive process and this can inhibit the proper uptake of core nutrients leading to a different sort of malnutrition. BITTERS are a MUST for helping stagnant digestion that is symptomatic of excess stress.  BItters ~should~ be had as food and a main staple in our diets (think dandelion leaves, Romaine lettuce, fennel, Chamomile tea) but they can also be integrated into our diets as classic digestifs (such as commercial Campari or Angostura) or tinctured bitters (I hand make my own bitters with a variety of herbs such as Orange Peel, Cinnamon, Aspen Bark, Fennel, etc). If there extreme digestive deficiency and there is ulcer, etc., more must be done with diet and herbs that can support the mucosa to heal should be introduced (marshmallow, slippery elm, etc).

~~~

Remember that everyone’s path (and constitutions) are different, so herbs that work for one may not be suited for another.  And the *right* herbs that are good for you now in this moment may not be the herb you need later down the road. Be open to this and if you want to talk more about what might be right for your constitution, schedule a time to talk with me about your needs.

Links:

Great Lakes Herbalist jim McDonald on Bitters 

Fascinating article on our culture of pill popping for stress: New York Magazine “Listening to Xanax” (2012)

¡Eheu! (El Canto Errante) ~ Rúben Dario

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 On my way out of the country I picked up a copy of Ruben Dario’s poems in the Managua airport, hoping his modernist/romantic style would help me through the sense~making of travel in such a beguiling country. Having been in love with several of Dario’s other pieces, it was ¡Eheu! (El Canto Errante) that I felt flow through me as the plane departed and headed for the States, leaving behind many amazing people and experiences. I just wanted to share, hoping that you might like it.

¡Eheu! (El Canto Errante)

~ Rúben Dario 

Here, beside the Latin sea,

I speak the truth:

I sense my antiquity

in the rocks, the oil, the wine.

How ancient I am, dear God,

how ancient I am!

Where has my song come from?

And where am I going?

The cost of knowing my own self

is the long moments of profound despair

and the how and the when–

And this Latin clarity,

what use is it here

at the entrance to the mine

of the me and the not-me?

I am a student of the clouds,

I think I can interpret

the confidences of the wind,

the earth and the sea–

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A few vague confidences

about being and non-being,

and fragments of awareness

from today and yesterday.

I stopped and cried out,

as if in the midst of a desert,

and I thought the sun was dead,

and burst into tears.

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