Burdock & Rose

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

Category: environment

Eat the Weeds: Garlic Mustard

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Garlic Mustard: An Edible, Bitter Green

Dandelion, parsley, arugula, romaine, radicchio, endive are all delicious, bitter greens of springtime that make perfect addition to salads!  Why do bitter flavors matter? Bitter flavors of plants, while having a negative connotation to many, may be one of the keys to our wellness.  Bitter flavors help stimulate digestion, bile production and can support healthy liver function.

While Garlic Mustard continues to persist throughout our Great Lakes bioregion and threatens to crowd-out wildflowers and native vegetation, let us consider one of its virtues:  It is an edible, bitter green. Harvest away, be sure to replace the area with other plants native to the area to help reestablish the disturbed space and prevent another Garlic Mustard Invasion (that could be a band name, hehe).

Garlic Mustard Pesto

One of the most popular ways to prepare Garlic Mustard is preparing it as a versatile, delicious pesto. Variations on pesto recipes can vary to suit personal taste preference and the flavor of the Garlic Mustard that is being harvested.

Want to prepare a large batch? Pesto can be made without the nuts (they tend to taste rancid after thawing) and froze into ice-cube sized portions that will last for several months until the local Basil is ready for harvest here in Michigan.

The pesto can be added to pasta, used in soups (like a French soup au pistou), served on crackers with cheese as an elegant appetizer, or even used as a base for a wild foods pizza of local Michigan Morels, homemade soft cheese, and wild onion.

Recipe: Foraged Greens & Garlic Mustard Pesto

4 cups leaves, stems of Garlic Mustard (washed)

1 cup wild chives

1 cup wild garlic scapes

1 cup parsley (if desired)

1 cup walnuts

4 TBSP coconut oil

1tsp sea salt, pepper, squirt of lemon juice to taste

Add all to food processor, puree.  Check flavor, add parsley, salt, pepper to preferred taste. Serve over crackers, on pizza, pasta, soup… the ideas are limitless and the pesto can be used in similar ways to traditional basil pesto.

The Rise of Garlic Mustard

What is the adage, “A weed is a plant that is growing where you don’t want it?” Abundant in areas of disturbed soil – at the forest’s edge, along roadsides, and on river floodplains – the Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata, Brassicaceae) is deemed by many as a noxious, invasive species, choking out native vegetation and spreading wildly across the state.

The Roots of Garlic Mustard

The National Park Service describes the earliest appearance of the Garlic Mustard on the Atlantic coast to be documented in 1868. High in Vitamin C and a nutritious bitter green, it is believed that it was brought along by settlers to the area of Long Island, NY for food and medicinal purposes.

Since that time in the 1800s, Garlic Mustard has spread south and west and has wrecked havoc on natural areas throughout the Eastern United States, particularly throughout disturbed areas within fields, floodplains, and woodlands here in the Great Lakes BioRegion.

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What makes Garlic Mustard able to take over so much area in so little time? Garlic Mustard thrives on disturbed land and areas under development.

The Garlic Mustard Invasion

It is winter-hardy biennial plant and can reproduce lightning fast in its second year with its ability to produce hundreds of seeds once it goes to flower. And once the plant sets its seed, the seeds can remain viable in the soil for many years.  So if you want it out, pull it as it sets out its showy white flowers (photo above).

Picking Garlic Mustard for the Best Flavor

The early basal roots are more bitter in the spring, the fleshy stems less so – and it is sweeter in the fall after a frost. The roots are slightly nutty, and the second year plant should be harvested just before it flowers… But don’t get caught up in these rules — if you are pulling it to preserve other plants in your garden or a participating in a pull, use it and partner it with other flavors like parsley, walnuts and lemon to suit your palate!

Want to learn more about wild edibles? Check out my book, “Midwest Foraging!” Available online at Amazon.com.

The Pine: A Woodland Tree Medicine

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Winter is at its peak — the smell of cold, crisp, harsh air reminds us of the scarcity of the dark months. But even in the depths of winter’s darkness, nature offers us healing winter remedies for the season’s ailments.

Up above in the canopy of the woods, the boughs of pine (Pinus spp.) sends songs of its healing for the respiratory system into the breeze through the trees. Down below on the forest floor, the garlicky wild chives (Allium vinneal) poke through even the most frozen ground, cold but still carrying that flavorful aromatic of onion.

The drying, resinous aromatic pine needles and the stimulating flavors of the green tips of wild chives can be brewed together in a french press or tea pot as a loose tea.

This aromatic tea of the pine needles can release stuck mucous in the sinus cavities and can dispel the damp and stagnant lung mucous of winter’s respiratory distresses. The pine needles also adds in a bit of Vitamin C for an extra boost of this needed winter vitamin. Brew handfuls of both pine needles & tips along with handfuls of chives in equal parts hot water for 10 minutes. Sip hot.

Because of this tea’s drying nature, juice of lemon and the addition of honey are nice to add a soothing, coating element to the tea. Also from the woods, wild cherry bark (Prunus serotina) can be added to help quell an unproductive spasmodic cough to be more productive in eliminating congestion.

For sustainable gathering, collect fallen boughs and branches of the pine after strong winds have passed through the woods. The needles can be stripped from the boughs and used fresh for later use.  Clip the tops of the chives as they are perennial and will regrow as the sunlight returns to the forest.

The aroma of the simmering pine on the stovetop can also clear the air of stagnant winter ick that can collect inside the home. Simmer pine tips and needles on the stove, releasing the aromatic oils into the air. This brew can also be used as a steam inhalation by putting a few handfuls of the plants into a steaming pot. Remove from the stove and cover your head with a towel to help open the most stuck of sinuses.

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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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.

 

Summer Staycations: Foraging with Kids

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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.

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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.

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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.

Wild Gardens in the Windy City

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During a weekend of work and play in Chicago, I made my way down the stairs on Wacker to the riverfront for a morning walk. Musing about the layers of the city and metal beams my partner commented, “Chicago is a city built of steel with 3 dimensions.”

I thought more about that statement in relation to the environment- the three dimensions. The stark contrast of metal and concrete to the blues of the harbor and green of the gardens and uncultivated weeds. The intersection of plants and human development. How the plants are persistent, and how humans are affected – or affect – this presence. How nature expresses itself. How we express humanity toward nature in the city.

As we walked, I took note of the blooming lindens along the Chicago riverfront, the lambs-quarters popping up in newly sown grasses. The plantain edging the sidewalk and the succulent chickweed encroaching on the roses in a private garden bed.

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Through Millennium Park I walked and stopped, walked and stopped. In part for my own rest and to just watch other visitors around me fall into a comfortable relaxation among the plants. I appreciated the park staff’s integration of my favorite wild plants like elderberry in the formal gardens of Millennium Park.

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For a city of its size, Chicago has a refreshing abundance and intentional focus on green space and greening initiatives- from the new garden spaces (including edibles!!) in many of the municipal parks to the secret gardens and spaces across the city maintained by city residents. Green space is valued by Chicagoans.

Finishing the walk, I left the manicured gardens of Millennium Park and turned back toward the riverfront to climb the metal stairway to back up to the hotel.  I looked down at my feet, paying attention to the weedy plants along the alley and intersection. But then I stopped.

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Among the weedy plants, I noticed a small sign that said “Look Out For Plants.”

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Then another sign, “Please don’t walk here.”

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And another, “Fire Department Garden.”

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Sure enough, alongside my favorite wild weeds of burdock, dandelions, lambs-quarters and wild carrot were squashes and cucumbers planted in the spaces between a vacant lot and a sidewalk.

Beneath the cacophony of the steel overpass structure there was the human effort to cultivate nourishment in a small space of vacant land. The paper garden signs were a small request for people to be mindful and pay attention to these efforts. All offered quietly planted with loving tenderness.

I don’t know the front or backstory behind these plants – though I am curious. But less important than the story was that this small, cultivated space contrasted among the persistent wild, weedy plants and vacant lot did make me stop and take pause in appreciation for the humanity of the gesture.

It’s the simple things. Take notice. Care for what’s around us. Plant seeds. Even in places where you think no one will notice. Perhaps those are the best places to root your efforts.

Spring Break Fun: Junior Forager Adventures

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The Starner kids learning a bit of botany in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida.

 

Spring break is a time to load the car and head South to warmer climes, don sandals and enjoy the outdoors.

If you are headed out of town, be sure to visit area nature centers and eco-preserves to walk the trails and experience the land that might be different than in the Great Lakes. This is a great chance to expose children to plants that they wouldn’t find perhaps in their own neighborhood. Who knows? You may find your kids recognize some plants that are also found in Michigan!

If you are staying in Michigan over break, get the kids, neighbors’ kids and even dog outdoors to plan a Junior Forager adventure. Foraging can be one of the perfect activities for a staycation. You needn’t be heading to any place exotic to become a forager – foraging is an activity that can – and should – start as nearby in your own yard.

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In Michigan, Emma gathering early spring nettles in a nearby creek-bed.

 

Parents may say, “What’s outside now that I can forage or harvest?” or “How do I know what’s edible?” or “Where do I start if I want to forage?”

If you want to forage, head outside!!!  Here are my top five tips for Spring Break Foraging 101:

1) Head to the library and select a few good plant field guides for help with plant ID. I think Sam Thayer is one of the best wild edibles authors, but for beginning botany the Petersen field guides are a good start, and my book – “Midwest Foraging” will be available this June {Preorder here}.

2) Let the kids choose an area or two to explore. I recommend starting with your own yard, then maybe choose to explore a nearby park or a friend’s farm. Always ask permission, never gather from parks with rules against foraging, and most of all – know the plants before harvesting for the sake of safety and the plants’ sustainability.

3) Have the kids pack a notebook, colored pencils, a camera, and be sure they dress in weather appropriate outdoor clothing. Pack a lunch, too, if that’s your fancy. Make a day of it.

4) Then, head out, and pay attention. Practice your botany. Map plants on a notebook, notice their leaves, maybe sketch them in a book or take pictures with a camera.

5) Only taste and plants if you are 100% certain of their edibility. A few early spring favorites are violets, dandelions, garlic mustard and early field garlic. As the weather warms, the plants are going to take off! It’s also a good time to get those kids planting peas while you’ve got them outside!!!

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A much younger Emma, using Herbal Roots Zine to study Yarrow in New Mexico.

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

Want to have a few great materials to complement your wild plant learnings with kids? Check out Herbal Roots Zine – a great monthly plant magazine designed to help kids (and adults!) learn about plants and their uses!

Need expertise to organize a “Junior Foragers” adventure? Drop me a line to discuss private events at lisa.marlene.rose@gmail.com. Perfect for birthday parties!!! 

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. 

 

 

 

Holiday Cooking with Pines, Spruce & Firs

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Spruce tips (Picea spp) are a wonderful culinary flavoring in the kitchen.

 

From firs to pines to spruces– these favorite evergreens adorned many homes for the holidays with their fragrant boughs.

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to take down the trimmings– but wait! The boughs can serve an additional purpose: Before directing that greenery out to the compost or to the curb for recycling, think about repurposing those evergreens in the kitchen for both culinary flavorings and herbal medicine.***

Pines, firs and spruces are all edible and have various notes of flavor in their needles and branches. There is no finer way to bring the aroma of the forest into the kitchen and onto the plate than by cooking with these evergreens. High in vitamin C, the needles of pines, firs and spruces are notably bright, slightly sour, and citrusy in flavor. The needles can be used as a culinary flavoring in most recipes that call for lemon. Chop the needles and use them as an herb to flavor salads, butters, and vinegars for dressings. Add the needles to potato salads, bean salads, and pasta salads with other fresh salad greens. The needles, chopped, can also be used to flavor rustic breads in place of rosemary.

For the bar, spruce and pine needles can be made into a simple syrup or infused honey that can flavor mixed drinks or martinis. Beer brewers are becoming interested in using foraged ingredients and can use the fresh spruce or pine tips as a flavoring agent in the second fermentation cycle of brewing. A short fermentation will capture the desired aromatics and citrus high notes for a Belgian or wheat-styled ale without making the brew overly “tree” flavored.

Roasting meat or fish? Water-soaked boughs and needles can be used to roast or steam white-fleshed fish to infuse the meat with the flavors of the evergreens.

And for dessert, concoct a pine or spruce-infused honey to drizzle over ice cream (or can flavor ice cream!). The infused honey can also be served alongside a Stilton or local cheddar cheese — It is a sumptous way to savor the magical forest flavor.

These conifers also have a place in the herbal apothecary. As an herbal remedy, spruce, fir or pine needles can be made into a tea. Add boiling water to a pot of needles, cover, and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Its aromatics can open up stuffy sinuses and the astringency of the tea can help dry up runny noses and sinus gunk. Sweeten with honey, sip, and inhale the aromatics for best results.

Other musings on these conifers and their uses:

Pine needle tea

Fir body balms: (My friend and herbalist Rebecca McTrouble makes a divine White Fir Body Butter)

Spruce tip beer

Aromatic steam inhalations for colds and flus

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***Foraging note: Some things to give consideration before using the evergreen boughs for food and herbal use — make sure your boughs were sourced from a tree farm or nursery that uses chemical-free growing practices. It’s common in commercial Christmas tree farming to spray the trees with a fire retardant also, in addition to possible herbicides and/or pesticides used in the fields.

Don’t decorate your home with conifers for the holiday? The branches and boughs can be sustainably harvested off the forest floor after a winter’s wind storm without having to gather directly from a mature tree.