Burdock & Rose

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

Month: July, 2013

On a plant writing sabbatical…


Headed across the Midwest, with my camera and laptop in tow.

Destination is Big Sky & Jackson Hole for a writing sabbatical, working on my next book — “The ReWilded Kitchen: A Forager’s Guide to Edible & Medicinal Plants of the Midwest” (Timber Press, 2014).

Here, I stopped just outside of Gary, Indiana off of Interstate 94 to get up close with Chicory. Since Ancient Greek times, it’s been referred to as a Guardian of the Roadways (Wood). The wild Chicory, a delicious bitter green similar in flavor to cultivated Endive, is in full bloom and lines the roadways of the Midwest. Slow down and say hello to her!!

The choice of spot to take her photo — just a few miles from the US Steel complex in the heartland of the Rustbelt — was pretty intentional. Being a city-dweller myself, I am always drawn to the layering of industry, people, plants, “contamination” and the remediation of land. As a forager, the idea of contamination is real and is important — prudent knowledge of plants and potential contamination from the surrounding land is always top of mind for harvesting and health’s sake.

That said, I frequently wax poetic over this dichotomy in my mind… “I live in the city, my environment is contaminated, thus everything is toxic and I cannot eat it.” … Certainly lead, heavy metal contaminants are toxic to human health and foraging must be done prudently, but is bug juice and spicy Cheetos from the corner store more nourishing and less toxic than chicory on the same corner growing in an empty lot??

Without jumping to conclusions that the Chicory salad greens would be the better choice (factoring in all processes and toxicity of processed food), it’s a good conversation starter…

Twilight Chicory Callings…

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… A plant has been calling me…Chicory.  It’s been playfully waving to me from the road side for the last several days that it has been in bloom. But it wasn’t until late last night while I lay in bed reading about its virtues that I felt the strong need to return the call and head outside and play. It was the pull of the earth — perhaps the pulling of the plant itself — that urged me to my feet and up from the warmth of the covers of the bed. Still in pajamas and with bare feet, I plod out into the yard and into the dampness of the evening where the Chicory stood in the twilight, extending to the sky … To me it said:

“Eat me. Embrace my bitters. It is the medicine you need. I will clear what’s congested. I will give you clarity in your mind’s eye so you may see what you need to see. I will part the clouds so you can see the road you need to travel. I will help you deliver the nourishment you will need for this long journey.”

I nibbled and munched and contemplated the bitterness of its dry, coarse greens as its solitary blue flower waved above my head.

***Thank you, Matt Wood, for such being a wonderful plant teacher and the compelling writer that you are. It was your work that led me outside to the garden last night to spend time with the Chicory… I was perusing “The Earthwise Herbal” for your writing on Feverfew, when the Chicory monograph — right adjacent to it — nearly lept off the page and pulled me from my bed…