Burdock & Rose

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

Category: Being an Herbalist

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.

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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

Footnotes:

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

Loving Organically

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As part of the Rodale Team, I was asked to think of ways that I love organically. What gave me the most inspiration was thinking about the ways people have loved me. I am very, very grateful to be surrounded by love that shows up in unexpected ways – a call from a best friend when she knows I am about to crack, a note from my children telling me I am a good mom. A quiet moment of peace sitting with a sunrise that grants me faith and hope for the future. The gratitude love list is endless.

To that end, I can only hope I can extend these ways of loving back into the universe.  How do you love organically? 

How I Love Organically
By Lisa Rose

I love organically by sitting with a friend who might be sad. Not trying to fix things, because we aren’t here to fix each other. Rather, offer space that is safe and kind with room for feelings to exist as they are.

I love organically by being patient with my lover when he is angry with me. I try to wait for him to process feelings without responding, or judging even though it might be tough. Just letting their anger ”be,” and recognize it actually might not be about me.

I love organically by including a small note in my child’s lunch, wishing them luck on their test or telling them they make me proud because of who they are.

I love organically by watching my children’s swim meet. All of it. Without checking my phone (that’s a long time).

I love organically by sending notes in the mail to folks that do nice things for me. To remind people they matter in my life and I appreciate them and their role in my life.

I love organically by taking time to pay attention to the weedy hedgerow alongside my condo complex – noticing when there’s trash or garbage that’s accumulated in the hedgerows and clean it out. Caring for the earth’s spaces that no one else seems to care about.

I love organically by taking a deep breath when I am driving and someone cuts me off. I try not to take it personal – who knows? They may have just come from the ICU visiting their child in the hospital. Or maybe they are tired from working three jobs and are just trying to get home.  Or maybe they just learned they are getting a divorce. I never know what someone is going through. I try to treat them with grace and kindness.

Grace and kindness and my presence. That’s how I try to love organically.

Boo-tanical Fun For Halloween

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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!

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

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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. 

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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.  

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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. 

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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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The Roots of My Practice

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Maya healer and wonderful friend, Don Daniel Pool-pech. Tulum, MX

“If you don’t do the work of the heart, then you will always have pain.” ~ Don Daniel, Maya plant friend in Tulum MX, 2015.

I traveled to Tulum first in 2009, the first of what began as many trips to the Yucatan and the beginning of a love affair with such a magical place.  It was on that trip that I met an herbalist from Colorado – Shelley Torgrove where she introduced me to her Maya teacher and plant healer, Don Daniel Poolpech.

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Don Daniel and Shelley Torgrove, Tulum MX.

 

At the time of that trip, I was between “careers” … I had recently left my work as the director of our local nature center, which included leaving the small nonprofit I had founded called Mixed Greens (we created school gardens to teach nutrition education programming to urban schoolkids). I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was doing some food systems consulting, but that wasn’t tugging at my heart-strings. My children were little, then-husband commuting to Ghana (yes, Africa) and I was needed at home. NGO work had burned me out, having babies had sucked me dry — I was fried. And I was only turning 30.

I remember telling a farmer friend of mine I was so tired that I couldn’t even bother clearing away the leaves from my garden. His reply – maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe you should sit and listen to the plants. In Tulum – and upon meeting Shelley – I said out loud, “I want to work with plants as an herbalist” (even though I had no idea what that even meant – and still don’t haha). I just ~knew~ that being an herbalist was my calling.

Don Daniel, seeing how anxious I was (about everything) gave me blessings and a strong sedative tea. He told me (in Spanish) to drink it, as it’d help heal my stomach, clear my head and open my heart. Then he sent me back north to begin my path as an herbalist…

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Vinca blanca, an ingredient for my tea from the garden of Don Daniel in Tulum, MX.

Now 2015, I went to him with gratitude and humility and prayers for clarity and strength as I begin this next chapter in my life.

Don Daniel took me into his garden to harvest plants for my medicines and taught me their names. I dried the plants in my window of my rental car, as an impromptu solar dryer. Plant medicines for my own healing, to carry with me as I head back north to continue along the path.  Hopeful. Softer. Less anxious. Focused. And free. There’s healing power inherent in gathering your own medicines.

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My visit with Don Daniel in 2015

My plan is to return to Tulum within the year with my own students, to introduce people to the culture, food and herbal traditions of the Yucatan. We will stay in Tulum with locals, ride bikes, swim at the beach, dive into cenotes, eat nourishing foods and learn a bit from Don Daniel’s ways of Maya healing. It will be adventure of rest, renewal and growth. Look for an invitation soon to join me on a trip in May of 2016.

For now, I am partnering with Shelley on a fall excursion in Maya healing with Don Daniel. Interested? Take a look at Shelley’s website, Artemisia & Rue for the October 2015 excursion. We’d love to have you join us.

A Herbalist’s Pilgrimage to Tulum

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The Ruins of Tulum, MX 2015

Tulum has always held a special place in my heart. My first visit was in 2009 and I instantly fell in love with her people, ruins, beaches, city and plants.

Since that time I’ve made many visits around the Yucatan – Merida, Valladolid – all lovely places with unique personality. So in choosing all places to visit again, I chose Tulum.

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Sipping coco frios at the Ruins. Tulum 2009

This trip to Tulum was special. I was alone, with dictionary in hand. Sort of a soul-searching trip with not much on the books save for rest, eating, beach and plant study with my Maya friend and teacher Don Daniel.

I came down here again to recognize my own transformation over the years and the beauty of growing into my skin – despite all the heartache and pain of moving through that ever changing life of our’s. I needed to be able to document it for me as a reminder that life molds us like clay. And that we are shaped by so many people and experiences and not to push away any of it but embrace it. Pull it closer.

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Same place. Same Chacos. Older, wiser (up for debate). Definitely softer and open to new beginnings. Tulum 2015

I needed to see for myself that I didn’t push any of it away- but rather embraced the challenges over the past years, survived and am vital and full of life. No matter how painful it is to go into the darkness, dig deep and find the source of what really makes “us.” Put those roots deeper into the earth. Add water. Soil. Sun. Grow.

Appropriately enough, Tulum in Maya is translated as New Beginnings.

I traveled to the ocean to wash away the detritus of the past few years with the salt water beneath the ruins. To release myself from the strangling anxiety and to be open to new experiences for the future, to reconnect with the plants that first called me to be an herbalist.

To find rest and renewal and encouragement, to dig deep and be courageous to “live in the not knowing” – as Don Draper would say.

To be free.

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Sometimes, you get the signs you need. In English. Tulum, MX 2015

The last days of winter…

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The last days of winter are always the longest days. It’s like being 9 months pregnant – just when you thought it was your due date and the baby’s ready, you are forced to weather out 10 more days, waiting for change. And with spring, just when you are about to sell the proverbial farm lot, stock and barrel, the weather breaks and plants spring forth from the ground.

Well, even with that nice 65 degree day us Michiganders had Monday, we aren’t to spring… yet.

The snow is retreating and has left behind a trail of winter – dirty snowpiles and trash along roadsides. Maple syruping continues (READ MORE HERE), but it’s too cold still for planting cool weather crops directly in the soil– maybe we will see the soils warm enough over the next 10-20 days to plant sweat peas and other cool-weather greens for spring salads.

As for the wild and weedy plants that come up on their own time (like birthing babies), I am finally seeing the familiar and cold-tolerant field garlic in clumps among the leaf litter, mullein basal rosettes starting to unfurl and dock leaves stretching their long leaves.

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It will only take a bout of warmer weather and we will see many other plants spring forth from the soil — the chickweed, cleavers, garlic mustard, dandelion greens and violets to name a few… all are right around the corner.

Want to learn more about what’s coming up for spring foragers? I invite you to come to my next class, Foraging 101 with Ada Parks at the Ada Parks Learning Center. We will cover foraging basics and head outside for an early season plant walk.

Check out my other plant walk classes coming up this spring – lots of opportunities to learn about the wild edibles around you! Click HERE to see the listing – there’s something for everyone!

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In the meantime, the land wants some help in spring cleaning. Take a moment or two this weekend to collect a bag of trash off the road or in a nearby park. It’s a good deed for the land, and nourishing for the soul to be a caretaker of the earth this is about to offer us another season of life.

The Magic Nectar of Maple Syrup

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Who doesn’t love that dark amber nectar of real maple syrup – the sweetness of the trees and one of the earth’s most decadent and natural sweeteners? Click HERE to watch me rave about syrup on WZZM13.

We treat maple syrup like it’s liquid gold in my house – a precious food that I love to use in cooking. Why is real maple syrup like liquid gold? Because it is! Not only do the sugar maple trees grow in relatively small range across the globe, but it takes up to 60 gallons of sap to produce just ONE gallon of maple syrup. Consider that next time you are incredulous over the price of real maple syrup in the market — most commercial brands are made entirely of corn syrup – not a drop of that natural sap. Cheap and totally not the real deal.

In its raw form, the sap is a drinkable beverage that endurance athletes are realizing has a similar content of electrolytes as coconut water – and local, too. The sap also contains trace minerals of zinc, manganese and some iron, and these minerals remain as the sap cooks into maple syrup.

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A variety of trees and species can be tapped to produce a syrup sweetener (maples and birches), but it’s the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) specifically that produces that sweet, vanillin flavored syrup we all know as REAL maple syrup.  The sugar maple grows as far east across Canada into Vermont, as far west as Wisconsin, and as far south as Georgia – making a heart-shaped area in the northeast in which superior maple syrup can be produced. Read more HERE to learn about the syruping process.

As a sweetner, maple syrup has half the glycemic load of refined or white sugar, making it a good choice for those minding their sugar intake (all of us, right?).

It’s delicious of course in pancakes, stirred into coffee, topped over oatmeal and drizzled over ice cream. But maple syrup has lovely savory uses as well – as a glaze for meats and fish, balsamic dressing, or drizzled atop stinky cheeses.

And the baking and candy making – oy – the candy making. My favorites are turning maple syrup into caramels and toffee. Super yum.

Maple syrup is also a useful sweetener in my herbal apothecary for tonics and tinctures, like my Dark Storm Bitters. The maple syrup can also be used as a base to make an iron-rich yellow dock syrup supplement for those needing an iron supplementation.

And these are just a few maple syrup uses… what are your favorites? Any special ways of using it in the apothecary?

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Maple Fleur de Sel Caramels 

What’s more decadent than a delicious caramel? Why, one that is made with maple syrup, of course! These classic French-style caramels are styled similarly to a Fleur de Sel caramel.

The use of maple syrup in lieu of the commonly-used corn syrup will require close monitoring as the mixture reaches 248 degrees, but results in a much more balanced vanilla flavor that’s worth the effort managing the viscosity.

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Ingredients: 

1 cup heavy cream

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature

1 teaspoon fleur de sel

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

Parchment paper, baking sheet or pan and a candy thermometer

1) Prepare pan with parchment, oil slightly – the caramel making process is a sticky one.

2) Bring cream, butter and fleur de del to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

3) Boil syrup, sugar, water in a large saucepan, dissolving sugar and gentle stirring until syrup comes up to a boil.

3) Stir in cream, stir constantly and simmer until the candy thermometer reaches 248 degrees.

4) Pour caramel mixture into the prepared sheet, let cool.

5) Cut into strips or bite size candies, wrapping them in pieces of cut parchment, twisting ends.

6) Caramels store in a cool location for up to two weeks.

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A Winter’s Foraging Walk

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Folks frequently ask, “Can you forage in winter?” and my response is always a resounding yes! While there aren’t the summer’s berries and flowers to be found in the deep snow of the Great Lakes; a forager can delight that there are barks, buds, and even sap to be gathered in the cold of January and February.

Not only are there plants that can be gathered in the winter, but wintertime is a perfect chance to practice your plant identification skills – you can practice keying out plants and trees from last season’s leaves, stalks and barks as well as discover new plant stands for spring harvesting. Moreover, I am a believer that we should spend time outdoors in all four seasons – it helps with seasonal depression, can boost immunity and is just all around good for the soul to get outside and appreciate the natural world around us.

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Just this past weekend, I headed out with my trusty and patient companion, Rosie, to walk along the icy Lake Michigan shoreline in northern Michigan. As I made my down the beach, I said hello to the overwintering uva-ursi who will soon have pink flowers again in May.

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I saluted the stately milkweed, whose pods looked like a well-crafted sculpture against the white snow. I even bent down to collect a few handfuls of juniper berries for spice and tea in my kitchen.

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I hiked along the front dunes, stopping at the clustering stands of Poplars to gather their aromatic and resinous buds to make a Balm of Gilead warming muscle salve.  Stopping at each tree (stands of P. grandidentata; though stands of P. tremuloides, P. balsamifera, and P. deltoides are also common on the foredunes of this area), I tasted the buds for that signature resinous-camphor-like flavor on my tongue so I would know which buds to gather. My dog stopped along with me — patient and musing as to why her human companion was tasting trees again. I tasted to be sure they were the most strong buds. Not surprisingly, the flavor varied from tree to tree.**

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The large-toothed aspens delighted me with super resinous buds – way more warming, resinous and spicy than the quaking aspens (P. tremuloides) back downstate in my own woods and in the nearby back dunes, from which I’ll gather bark later in the spring for bitters blends. The buds will vary from species to species and from locale to locale. Use your senses to determine strength and how you might want to use them.

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The buds will be extracted into a coconut oil base to be made into a muscle salve. If I have enough, I will also extract the buds into a tincture of high-proof alcohol to make a topical liniment for tight and sore muscles. The poplar buds can be formulated also with goldenrod, St. John’s Wort, and yarrow for a well-rounded muscle salve or liniment.

Balm of Gilead Infused Oil Recipe : Add 1 cup fresh Poplar buds (taste for resinous and aromatic flavor) to a mason jar, cover completely with olive or coconut oil. Let steep for 6 weeks and then strain. For faster extraction, simmer mason jar in a double boiler with water or in a crock pot. Finished oil can be used alone as a massage oil or used as a base for a nice salve.

**A note on sustainability: Poplars drop their branches during heavy windstorms, making it most sustainable foraging to gather barks and buds from fallen branches. Buds can be gathered from live trees, but do gather only a handful from tree to tree, and be sure to give thanks for the harvest the trees offer. 

 

 

 

The Path of Practice

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Next weekend, I will run my first full marathon. But 8 weeks ago, I wasn’t so sure that’d I’d be able to finish my training program, let alone run the Grand Rapids Marathon on October 20.

This summer, after I had returned from my writing sabbatical out west, my dad had a catastrophic accident that had him in the Neuro ICU with a traumatic brain injury.  To support his healing journey, I dropped everything — cancelled a dozen events on my book tour, stopped accepting new herbal clients, bagged my foraging schedule and of course, put my marathon training on the back burner.

The past eight weeks in hospital have been all consuming. When I wasn’t obsessed with changes in my dad’s vitals or detailing extensive family updates, I was trawling through NIH data on traumatic brain injuries and calling around getting personal recommendations from colleagues in the healthcare industry to help me understand my dad’s options for care.  Not to mention, understanding the insurance landscape. When I wasn’t at the hospital becoming a short study in traumatic brain injury, I was at home, trying to be a mom and MAYBE get in a shower and comb my hair.

Running was the last thing on my mind. I could barely manage to make sure I ate and slept properly. I lightened up completely on my training schedule. The runs I did log were grueling — sloppy and difficult. At every mile my mind said stop. I was mentally and physically exhausted — particularly the first two of the four weeks my dad was in the ICU. I won’t recount to you the crazy things I did because I was sleep deprived, but WOW. It was like a throwback of the early days being with a newborn.

But I did get out there, and I did run. In those first few weeks of my family’s crisis, I felt they were all maintenance miles. Nothing fancy, fast or special. I was grateful to have logged two 20 milers before my Dad’s accident, and I did get one slow 20 miler into the books mid-September — so I didn’t have to stress about “knowing” I could conquer the distance.

In the past two weeks, as my Dad’s recovery started to uptick, the clouds parted. My own brain fog lifted and I have been able to run again. I am also slowly getting back to work that’s on my desk.

While the road of rehabilitation remains a long one for my dad and his recovery will remain at the center of my world, I am taking steps forward to reintegrate “work” back into my daily life.

My publisher will be happy to know that the copy for my upcoming foraging book with The Timber Press (2014) will be nearing completion by the start of the new year. I am also rescheduling a few book signings. And although classes will remain on hold and I will not be accepting new clients until at least 2014, I will be studying with Canadian herbalist Caroline Gagnon as a student in her mentorship program in Burlington, VT. In this time, Caroline will help guide me as a practitioner and assist me in planning next steps in my own professional career — which I believe may be leading me in the direction of medical school.

I will say — putting my work on hold in the past few months was as hard as putting my marathon training on hold. I was afraid that by putting things to the side, I wouldn’t be learning or “getting ahead,” even though being completely available for my father was — and continues to be — of utmost important to me. This inspirational blogpost by Worts and Cunning: Taking Root: 10 Steps to Deepen Your Practice, however, caught me to reframe all of this in my mind.

Looking back over the past 8 weeks, I took inventory of my experiences and my feelings. I haven’t been passively standing on the sidelines. I have been immersed fully in a difficult situation — the new order and tasks at hand have offered me a deeper perspective on healing and a new understanding as to the depth of my own mental endurance. And I am sure the lessons I have learned will continue to unfold as I walk the path of my practice.

So what are those next steps? 26.2 on October 20. A celebration of miles logged and miles yet to traverse.

How do you celebrate and stay rooted to the path of your practice?