Burdock & Rose

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

Month: August, 2015

High Summer Wild Harvests

IMG_8557

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

IMG_6536

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.

IMG_5073

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

IMG_3888

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.”

IMG_4040

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

IMG_3989

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.

IMG_3985

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.

IMG_4022

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.