The Pot Stirrer’s Broths

Nourish. Food is the mortar for our castle’s walls and is a key element in warding off and rebounding from illness (more on the castle as metaphor for immunity in another post). Winter is a good time to slow down and think through how you are feeding yourself. Quality and habits matter for not only digestion; but for proper absorption of the minerals and goodness our healthful diets have to offer to us.

Have you ever noticed that those times you are really stressed, eating junk, not sleeping  and BAM. Sick. Yea.  I hate that. During cold & flu season and if you are recovering from an illness, injury or surgery– pay particular attention to reducing refined sugars, excess caffeine (a tough one for me — I love my espresso), excess alcohol, conventional dairy and gluten. These foods not only lack in the nutrient density needed for healing; they negatively affect blood sugar, sleep patterns, adrenals– the whole lot of it.

Make sure the meals that you eat throughout the week are filled with healthy, organic and even wild plants of all colors (I love late afternoon snacks of veggie juices and smoothies as easy ways to get extra fruits & veggies into my day), eat fermented foods (pickles, kimchi, kefirs — all are probiotic dense and FANTASTIC for digestion), bitter flavors (stimulates bile production — also AWESOME for digestion), and healthy fats (get your Omega 3s!!). Oh, and Vitamin D! And C! And….

Broths!  I am a big believer of the nutritive power of mineral dense plant & bone broths. Both are key components in my cooking and broth is a useful food to easily get nutritive plants and minerals into my family’s diet in a bioavailable way.

Bone broth has been in simmering on the stoves of healing kitchens across the globe and across time — In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the bone broth is a key component to building yin deficiency and nourishing the body, and the Jewish Bubbe knows that chicken soup is her form of penicillin. It’s an ancient food.

My chicken broth fortified with nutritive herbs and mushrooms

As a cook, a good broth (vegetable, chicken or beef) is a must to have on hand in the pantry and is essential in many recipes. I guess I’ve become a bit spoiled — my homemade broth is leaps above the stuff at the supermarket and making it at home allows for quality and price control. And as an herbalist, I know how healing a good bone broth can be for a recuperating body and can help build immunity.

Bone broths build blood, support the adrenals, build connective tissues, bones, teeth, and gums in a whole foods way rather than solely derving the minerals we need from supplements. Broths can be especially powerful when power-packed with nutritive herbs and medicinal plants like nettle, red clover, oatstraw, seaweeds, horsetail, astragalus, burdock and wild foraged medicinal mushrooms like reishi, maitake, shitake, and chaga.

Sun curing foraged Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae) for my broths

While there is no replacement for the tissue healers that come from cooking with bones (from healthy, pastured animals), plant-based broths (simple decoctions of plants) can be equally valuable for those wishing to adhere to plant-based diets. You’ll find my recipe below is pretty plant packed, and super powerful. I’ve included my recipes at end the of this piece.

Broths = Comfort food

I use both the bone and plant broths for sipping warm in a mug — a perfect food when sick, particularly with fever or for feeding the body when recuperating from surgery or severe illness. I prefer to enjoy it rich and full-flavored. If it is too rich for your tastes, broth can easily be thinned with additional water to taste. I also integrate broth into soups, use them to cook grains, rices & pastas, and even add the plant broth into smoothie recipes for added minerals.

A note on my recipes — I cook by sense and feel. Ingredients listed are in “ish” amounts. Please let me know if you have questions, or share links to additional broth making resources — I am always looking for great information.

Foraged Red clover, Nettle & Oatstraw from my gardens for a Plant-Based Broth

Plant-Based Broth. (Vegan) High in bioavailable minerals such as Magnesium, Calcium, Silica, Potassium.

Herbal infusion mixture — Goal is approx. 2 cups (ish) dry herb total: Red clover, Nettle, Raspberry leaf, Oatstraw, Astragalus (2 sticks), Bull kelp seaweed, Horsetail (if suffering from muscle tissue injury), dry Burdock, JujuBe, and Wolfberries.  In case of Gluten Intolerance, remove Oatstraw and increase Nettle, Red Clover, Raspberry leaf.

1 cup dry mushroom of choice — Shitake, Chaga, Reishi, Maitake — mix match as you wish, or 3 TBSP powered mushroom (MushroomHarvest online offers great mushroom blends). Mushrooms can support cellular repair, have powerful polysaccharides, and are antioxidant rich. Plus they are magical.

Magical Foraged Maitake


Simmer herbal mixture and mushrooms  and decoct SLOWLY in 4 qts of water for 20 minutes. Simmer, boil, whatever. I used to be really concerned about the boil until I realized what I was shooting for here was simply a MINERAL EXTRACTION from the plant material. You can’t destroy minerals with heat – they are an earth’s element so heat won’t destroy them and a long cooking/extraction time is needed to extract minerals.

Strain & store in Ball Jars or containers and refrigerate. Keeps for 2 days. Freezes well. I love this as chilled ice tea, warm in a mug, added to smoothies (in place of the water) or as my vegan base for soups and other dishes.

I also soak grains, cook rices, pasta in this sweet, yet neutral flavored broth. For a more aromatic broth, sweat carrots, celery, onion and garlic then add broth with a bouquet to create a more flavorful soup more suitable for French style soups. It’s very versatile.

Simmering a Plant-Based Broth with green onion for a quick soup seaweed soup base


Bone Broth

Brown 2 lbs of organic, pastured soup bones ( for sources near you — I love using oxtail) in a large stockpot (I have a big 12 quart pot that works well for this). For chicken broth, I brine and then roast a whole chicken, remove the meat and use the softened bones in soup with a small ratio of water, herbs. But similar process. And I always make sure to add the feet.

Add a few tablespoons of oil along with chopped carrots, onions and heads of garlic. Sweat. Then add 1 cup vinegar to deglaze the pan (those are the good, tasty bits) and this will help extract minerals from the bones.   Cover completely with water and fill the stockpot. Stir in additional dry herbs:

1 cup Bull kelp (or other) seaweed

1 cup Nettle

1 cup Raspberry leaf

1 cup Oatstraw

1 cup dry Burdock root (or several fresh roots, cleaned and chopped)

1 cup Red cover

1 cup Horsetail

1 cup Comfrey

2 cup Medicinal mushrooms (Shitake, Chaga, Reishi, Maitake)

Astragalus — a few sticks

1 cup Wolfberries

1 cup Jujubes

Bring all ingredients to the pot to a boil. Skim off scum that boils to the top, then reduce to a simmer. Over the course of 7 days, I bring the pot to a boil then simmer for 8-10 hours.  I refrain from stirring the pot (haha) then strain through a colander and add into pint jars, which I then freeze for later use.

Food Safety 101 recap: When cooking stock on the stove top for extended periods of time, food safety can be managed by bringing stock to a boil and boil for at least 10 minutes before serving. Do the same before straining and putting into steralized jars to help ensure any potentially dangerous bacteria (i.e. botulism) is eliminated before eating or preserving. 

A few ingredients for Burdock Stew


Nourishing Burdock Stew (Can be Vegan, GF if made w/o Oatstraw)

Plant or Bone Broth, prepared as above directed above

1 cup brown rice — cooked, optional

1 cup adzuki bean — cooked, optional

1 onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

3 reg sized, peeled and chopped Burdock root (available at many Asian grocers if you don’t dig it up yourself)

3 carrots, chopped

Salt, pepper to taste, or even Parsley, Thyme, Sage and Rosemary.

Sautee onion, garlic, sweat Burdock & Carrots, then stir in cooked rice & beans (optional). Cover with prepared plant or bone broth.  Simmer again for 20 minutes to meld flavors. Eat and savor this nourishing, nutrient dense soup.


Additional resources:

Jim McDonald’s recipes, musings and links on Broth

Chef Michael Rhulman’s Recipe for a Stovetop Stock plus links & Yummy bacteria convo

The Nourished Kitchen on Bone Broths with links to easy crock pot recipes.

My favorite SeaWeed Source: NatureSpirit Herbs

Need herbs? Organic, bulk herbs available from Mountain Rose Herbs. But they can also sometimes be sourced locally using 

Grassfed, pastured healthy bones for stock: LocalHarvest.Org for a farmer nearest you

Mushroom sources at Mushroom Harvest

Returning to the SouthWest for Traditions, Bringing my kids along to join the Herbalism Resurgence

This year will mark my third year journeying to the desert southwest from the Mitten State for the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference. While only a few days long, the past two Traditions gatherings have played a pretty significant role in developing my confidence in growing as an herbalist. At the core it has helped me connect with the network of people committed to moving our relationship with the soil, the plants and with each other to a deeper level.

I am not by nature a dry, desert southwest person. I am a water person — a woman brought up in sailboats, on the water, on the beach. I do love a good warm summer; but constitutionally, hot and dry aggravates me in excess. Add wind, well, then I am a crumbling mess to blow away on the breeze.

Despite my mermaid proclivities, and much to my own amusement, I have fallen in love with the beguiling power and mystique of the desert Southwest. I am certainly not the first one to declare my enchantment for this place —  the desert, but the mountains, forests, canyons.

When I first acknowledged in my heart that my calling was to be an herbalist; my husband gave me Michael Moore’s classic, “Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West.” The book was his own personal copy, a relic of his childhood spent studying plants and traveling in the desert southwest, among the canyon lands and mountains. That gift, for many reasons, was very special to me and no matter that I am a girl of the Mitten, Moore’s enjoyable book remains as one of my most treasured.

Not long after my husband gifted me Moore’s book, Moore’s book in tow, I travelled to the mesas of New Mexico to attend the first Traditions at the Ghost Ranch. I found the spirits of the mesas calling to me, infusing my psyche with their ancient advice and encouragement. I left the first gathering with my heart expanded and with a sense of anticipation and uncertainty not knowing how my practice would unfold.

I returned home, a year passed. In that time, I launched my herbal CSA and actively began teaching in my community and continued learning from the plants and my teachers.

The second Traditions rolled around and I returned to the Ghost Ranch. This time only to be called to my knees (literally) by the ancients to pay attention to my intentions and question my own strength and motivations.

I fortunately was surrounded by caring souls who I realized I could show my weakness to — dear kindred spirits that had my back and let me collapse, and helped me back on my feet.

Upon returning to my home, I continued to be challenged on the physical level, with a winter spent recovering from knee surgery.   In the time span of nursing an injury, I continued to teach, contemplate more, and rest. Learnings came from paying attention, giving the time to healing as needed when recovering from a surgery. I actively worked to feed and strengthen my body. Pace has and continues to be an issue, and I still have to be mindful not too take on too much or push to hard.

And now, it is time to return to the southwest for traditions for a third time — to Arizona to the Coconino National Forest and Mormon Lake. Today I find myself comfortable in where I am as an herbalist — comfortable in what I know and comfortable not knowing as much as the herbalists more experienced than I. But at the same time, believing that I have something to contribute, something of value as part of growing this resurgence.

Traveling to Traditions with Children in Tow

One of my intentions this year while recovering from my knee injury was to contemplate what sort of practice I wanted to shape — what my practice would be like for my clients relative to my community’s needs and how it would fit into my own lifestyle given that I have children to care for as the primary hearth-tender at home.  Now, many of you that personally know me know that I am not the kind of mom for whom being a mommy comes easily. If left to my own devise, I could work on projects and plan and scheme for 14+ hours or more a day — I get my energy from my work (Did I say I had a problem with pacing myself?).

I will be honest — I was frustrated when I had to consider changing my travel plans considerably to accommodate my home schedule (husband’s travel, blah blah blah). Then, the clouds parted and it was suggested by a friend (Thanks, Gina!!!) to just bring my kids! And thanks-be to the patron saints of travel, so far arrangement-making has been relatively headache free. Needless to say, I am NOT driving the 29 hour trip to schlepp my kids to Arizona (Thanks, Rebecca!!!).

Of course the kids’ immediate response was, “Yay — no school!”  But also, much to my surprise was, “Wow — 7Song has a plant walk for kids,” and “I can’t wait to see Rebecca McTrouble!” Even, “I can’t wait to heal people at my first aid class.” {All giggles on my end}

They excitedly read through the classes for the weekend, marking their names to the classes they wanted to attend. I was delighted to see them excited about taking a kids herbal first aid class and Jacob even saying he wanted to go to all the kids classes and even sit in on 7Song’s Street Medic class.  Emma picked up on Jacob’s excitement at wanting to go to all the classes — “as long as there are crafts,” she said.

I am really grateful to the organizers — particularly to Kiva Rose, Katja Swift and to Kristine Brown — who have made it a priority to create programs for kids so they can be involved in the resurgence of herbal medicine.  Because of their really great advice about shaping a good experience at Traditions with kids in tow; I plan to set aside my own agenda (dammit — how I really, really, really want to sit through all of the great classes on the agenda and absorb!!) and shape our experience by letting my kids discover, inquire, make friends, get outside and just be.

For me, finding good flow and a reasonable pace has always been challenging. Aligning my life and work to the seasons has allowed me to shift and flow with not only the cycles of nature, but of the days, and minutes and hours and the curveballs that get handed to me all the time. Respecting the need to shift and be flexible is difficult for me; but helps me just “go with it”  so even with this upcoming weekend with other herbalists, I can flow into this space with my children in tow and integrate them into the tribe of herbalists I love and admire so dearly.

And now, with what at first I saw as a tremendous barrier, I now see as an exciting opportunity to introduce my children into my tribe of herbalist folk and hope they too feel they are part of the next generation of herbalists. Because they are.

Hawthorne for the Herbalist’s Heart

The Hawthorne

Today I was called out to the fields in search of my Hawthorne tree. It’s a tree of the faeries, a tree that in folklore in linked with the spiritual heart, fertility and death.

Even approaching this tree in a windy field, I felt a calm come over me. The winds — both those swirling about me and within me — calmed. Her branches spiked with 3″ thorns warned for me to hone my senses and to pay attention to the placement of my person, lest I desire to lose an eyeball. Each step, as I came into her fray, was taken carefully as I was on a rocky hillside and it wasn’t in my interest to fall into her spiny clutches. 

A profound, deep sense of peace comes over me when I sit at the base of this tree. Last year at this time, I collected the fruits from the ground as they had fallen before I arrived to gather them from the tree. I sat in the soft grass, collecting the newly- fallen fruits and found my senses sharpened, my ability to focus and attention increase. The wisdom offered to me that day was to Occupy nature. Occupy myself. Quiet down and find peace and softness.

Sitting there, colors became more vibrant. It’s almost as if I have those colors burned into memory the day was so clear. Much like the colors today. 

Hawthorne as both food and plant medicine is cooling in nature. The berries, high in flavonoids are an excellent food and can help dispel heat and inflammation in the body, having a particular affinity to the heart muscle.

And while there is an abundance of literature on the use of the leaves, flowers, berries and thorns of the Hawthorne for support of the heart, this post focuses on how I find myself drawn to the tree and her herbal abundance for her affect on me and my internal rhythm.

What I’ve learned by sitting with the Hawthorne.  It’s cooling nature helps bring that sense of peace to the one who’s agitated. Good for one who has a limited ability to settle down and pay attention. It can help bring the attention inward.

For the aches of broken-heartedness, it can soften the ache a bit. And for those who have a hard time being playful, the Hawthorne can help bring a bit of softness to a hardened heart. It teaches one how to be open and willing to receive soft, loving, nourishing kindness in a way that is respectful of space and boundaries.

I like to prepare the berries- harvested at peak ripeness- with leaves, flowers (both gathered earlier in the spring) into a brandy-based elixir, sweetened with raw honey (though it can stand on its own without the honey as well). It’s divine to take a drop here, there whenever there’s an achy, melancholic anxiety in my spiritual heart.

I am grateful for this lovely tree. She grows in a large field with hedgerows to either side of her that are lined with other Crategeous species that aren’t nearly as majestic or prolific — many of the trees in our area suffer from a rust blight. In addition to the blight, the frost patterns we had earlier in the year squelched what little we would have had in terms of fruit in the hedgerows.

I enjoyed my visit with my Hawthorne today. Alas, I didn’t bring an offerings to her as I should have, though I did find myself singing softly while gathering her berries. I will return on the New Moon with a proper offering in tow as a showing of my thanks and gratitude for her gifts of food and healing medicines and presence.


A few herbal musings on Hawthorne:

Sean Donahue

Darcey Blue

Henriette Kress on Hawthorne

Rosalee de la Foret 

About two years ago, I began documenting my forays in life — mostly edible and mostly of plants — on Tumblr.

It was easy. It’s been easy.

I’ve gotten great feedback for offering my aesthic and perspective on family, life, plants, cooking, and gardening in this way — short, simple, easy, visual. Tumblr has been a perfect platform for the immediate sharing of things I am contemplating and for sharing my point of view on a subject and hopefully my musings and ramblings have offered inspiration.

But now I am seeking more than an insta-platform to communicate what I see and am understanding. As my herbalism practice deepens and I make more connections to the plants and between the plants and to my community as a practitioner, I feel compelled to continue observing and also writing a bit more as means to share these insights. And housing it in a way that is accessible and archived. And hopefully this becomes a contribution to the resurgence of herbalism in this country — the medicine of the people.

Alas, I’ve resisted for a number of reasons — 1) I have no idea how to use WordPress. 2) I have no idea how to use WordPress. 3) I have a pretty irregular writing habit. I’d hate for people to get all expectant on my writing and musings — some of which take days, months even years (yes, this is true) for me to even synthesize and distill into something someone else can make sense of and appreciate.

I am doing this because I believe ~this~ is the next step in my calling.

So, irregardless of my anticipated sporadic contribution to this body of work, I do hope that you and others find my writings useful. If you are so inspired and inclined by my writings, please feel free to share your insights and experiences. I hope to learn along this path as well as share.

And if you were wondering as to the role of GoldenRod in this title, it was she who has encouraged me along the way to align with what lights my heart on fire.


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