Burdock & Rose

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

Tag: midwest foraging

Wild Summer Refreshments: Sumac “Lemonade”

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In the middle of a hot and steamy July, there’s nothing like a tall glass of refreshing lemonade. But here in the Midwest, lemons aren’t local… but guess what? You can make that pitcher of lemonade – or a copycat “lemonade” without the lemons while using the staghorn sumac berries instead!

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Staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina

“What,” you say? Lemonade without lemons??? Well, ok, so sumac “lemonade” would more appropriately be called a tea. But that’s besides the point… Infused in cold water overnight, the sumac berries of Rhus glabra and Rhus typhina make a great-tasting, refreshing sour and citrus-like beverage that is delicious on its own or simply sweetened with honey and garnished with lavender for an extra herbal flavor.

Common in hedgerows and at the edges of the field are the staghorn and smooth sumac (Rhus typhina and Rhus glabra respectively). Both sumacs are common native shrubs whose flower clusters ripen into deep red fruit clusters toward the end of July and into early September. For more tips on identifying sumac, get a copy of my book, Midwest Foraging to take with you into the fields! 

The berries – or drupes in botanical language – taste sour like lemonade. Use hand pruners to gather the drupes into a bucket, choosing the clusters that are most bright in color and most uniformly red. In the kitchen, separate the red and sour drupes from the stems – be warned there may be a scattering of small bugs as you sort the plants.

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To prepare: Pack the drupes into a jar and cover them with cold water. Let them soak for a day or so in the fridge. Strain the liquid into a serving pitcher and voila – a delicious pink lemonade! Serve cold over ice and garnish with sprigs of lavender.

To see my TV segment on Staghorn Sumac Lemonade and easy tips for foraging with kids, visit WZZM13 Online: Staghorn Sumac.

The Herbalist’s Line

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I’ve been in-house blending organic teas at The Spice Merchants in Grand Rapids as their resident herbalist. My favorite combos are now located right there at the shop under “The Herbalist’s Line.”

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I also have some of my own wildcrafted, Burdock & Rose herbals in stock at the Grand Rapids location, as well as my book, “Midwest Foraging.” I’m pretty delighted to work with the Spice Merchants – it harkens back to the family business in Flint – my Grandfather’s wholesale tea and coffee business: Mack Tea & Coffee.

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You will see me around the DT Market every so often, working alongside their great staff answering herbal questions. I’ll try to get better at announcing when I’ll be around so you can stop by!

In the meantime, be well and drink tea!

Maple Syrup: A Forager’s Sweet Treat

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Drip. Drip. Drip. That’s the sound you hear of the maple tree’s sap dripping into buckets.

Did you know that 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.

Foragers – aka Sugarbushers – tap a variety of trees and species to gather sap to make syrup – from maples to walnut trees to birches.  Most commonly known is the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) that produces the sweet vanillin flavored syrup we all know as REAL maple syrup.

The sap has to be boiled down in an evaporator- this reduction process boils off the extra water to produce that condensed, sweet syrup. Caution – don’t ever try to evaporate the sap inside. My mom did this once, and it peeled the wallpaper off the kitchen walls and left a sticky residue on the walls. It is now a family joke, but it wasn’t funny at the time.

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An outdoor evaporator is used by the students and staff at the West Michigan Academy for Enviro Science to boil down their sap.

As a sweetener, 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.

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.

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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 sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

3) Boil syrup,  sugar 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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Want to learn more? Click HERE  to go to WZZM13 to learn how Maple Syrup is made or visit my other posts on the blog HERE to learn about the syruping process.

Botanical Balms For Dry Winter Skin

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Old Man Winter is upon us and rough lips, chapped cheeks and split cuticles are all signs that the dryness of winter months has gotten under our skin – literally.

I love winter.  As a runner and skier, the cold doesn’t keep me inside. BUT, the time outside in the dry cold can wreck havoc on my skin. Having a great skin-healing balm at the ready helps me enjoy the winter’s cold, as it protects my lips, cheeks, hands and feet from becoming overly dry!

Many products line the pharmacy shelves claiming to heal our dry skin and protect from chaffing and chapping. Conventional products often contain synthetic chemicals derived from petroleum, and while they may act like sealants on the skin, they do little to truly heal the dermis.

Fortunately the marketplace offers other options for skin care that are plant-based and more environmentally sound.

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Botanicals for Skin Healing

As protective bases; plant-based oils like coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, and rose hip oils are all excellent choices and are versatile for all skin types. The healthy alternative to parrifin wax in skin care is beeswax. This helps create a protective barrier from the elements while letting the skin sweat and helps support bee-keepers. 

While perusing the skin care aisle, look for creams that contain plants like plantain, calendula, comfrey, chickweed. These plants are deep-tissue healers that can repair the cracks and splits in the skin.

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Want to make your own skin-healing salve?

Visit Rodale’s Organic Life for my recipe for a Calendula Chapped Cheeks Balm!

Create a batch of chapped cheek balm in your kitchen with just four ingredients: herbs, olive oil, and beeswax. Beeswax helps solidify the balm and works as a protective layer on the skin without leaving a greasy feeling.

Apply the balm before heading outside to protect the skin from harsh elements. If your skin feels sensitive in the shower, apply the balm before you rinse off. It may sound counter-intuitive to getting clean, but it will protect your skin from drying hot water and allow the botanicals to soak deep into the dermis for healing.

If you don’t have time to make your own, support local. While there are large-scale manufacturers making these botanical ointments, there’s a chance you live nearby a local herbalist that makes these skin creams from plants in your area.

I get great reviews on my Burdock & Rose Botanical Lip and Body Balm – which is made from all local plants that I wildcraft. I also really love Autumn Moon’s Plant Glamour in Detroit, but you can also check out localharvest.org to help locate an herbalist in your neck of the woods.

And remember – keep those balms handy to help you enjoy the cold. As my dad used to say, “There’s never the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing!” Protect your skin!

Simply Sassy: A Mitten Gal’s Sassafras Rootbeer 

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The dunes of my childhood where sassafras grows in abundance.

While on a trail run through the dunes of Hoffmaster State Park this summer I realized that there is no other smell reminiscent of my West Michigan lakeshore upbringing than sassafras. That aromatic, spicy rootbeer fragrance of the sassafras floats on the breeze in the dew of the morning or after a wet, damp rain. It is one of those smells that truly defines my life.

You can imagine my delight when forager friend Sam Thayer recommended me to host a Minneapolis-based film crew to learn all about sassafras for their “How To Make Everything: Rootbeer” segment! I enjoyed taking the crew through the dunes woods of my childhood stomping grounds to gather the sassafras roots for their project. Check out our final segment on sassafras HERE.

Though it is fall and the leaves are rapidly falling from the trees, it isn’t to late to gather a few saplings to make a late fall batch of rootbeer! Want to make your own local rootbeer? Read more…

A Mitten Gal’s Sassafras Rootbeer 

Sassafras albidumSassafras is common along trails and beach areas and makes a delightful tea and culinary spice. Sassafras is a small deciduous tree that grows to heights of up to 60 feet or more in optimum conditions. It commonly has mitten-shaped, three-lobed and un-lobed leaves. Its bark is a rough and reddish brown, the aromatic roots range in color from white to reddish brown. The roots of a small sapling can be gathered in the spring or fall. Wash, chop, and completely dry them.

Here’s what you’ll need to make a simple syrup with sassafras and other woodland herbs for a refreshing batch of rootbeer soda pop.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chopped roots of sassafras**
  • 1/4 cup burdock root*
  • 1/4 cup sarsaparilla*
  • 1 tbsp dry hops*
  • 1tsp juniper berries*
  • 10 wintergreen leaves*
  • 1 tsp dry ginger root*
  • 1 tsp spicebush berries (optional)*
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups MICHIGAN maple syrup

Directions:

  • Simmer herbs in a pot with 4 cups boiling water for 5 minutes, covered to retain volatile oils.
  • Strain
  • Stir in maple syrup, let cool
  • Add 1 part sassafras simple syrup mixture to 2 parts club soda and serve over ice or with vanilla ice cream
  • Sassafras simple syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 weeks

*Some herbs can be gathered by hand from the wild, procured from your local health food store or ordered online. I like Mountain Rose Herbs as an online supplier for organic herbs. To learn more about sassafras or other herbs mentioned in this recipe? Check out my book, “Midwest Foraging.”

High Summer Wild Harvests

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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

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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

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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.