Burdock & Rose

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

Tag: travel

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.

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.

Don’t Bug Me: Herbal Spray & Bite Remedies

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A PureMichigan summertime is made up of camping trips, picnics, and summers by the lakeshore surrounded by family and friends. But usually unwelcome visitors to the festivities include the pesky mosquitos, ticks and spiders – unavoidable in our forests and backyards.

To fully ensure you will stay bite free, cover the skin up in lightweight fabrics – tech ware for the lake and woods are now increasingly more affordable and available to extend the enjoyment of being in the outdoors. To prevent the pesky (and potentially infectious) tick bites, be sure to wear shoes, socks and tuck long pants into the socks while hiking in the woods or through tall grasses.

While there are many commercial chemical bug sprays on the market to help deter and even soothe bothersome bug bites, it’s best to go chemical-free when at all possible. There are plant-based and natural alternatives to helping keep the bugs away and the itching at bay. Consider making your own blends of herbal bug repellant!!

Plants helpful for deterring mosquitoes include yarrow, catnip, lavender, and lemon grass. Click HERE to view my recent segment on WZZM Take Fivetalking about these plants, or click HERE to order my book, “Midwest Foraging”to ID these plants in the wild!

Burdock & Rose’s “Don’t Bug Me” Herbal Bug Deterrent & Skin Soother

For herbal tincture formula, mix equal parts tincture:**
Plantain
Chickweed
Yarrow
Catnip

Combine herbal tincture formula. Add 1 part formula to 1 part distilled water (50/50) blend to a spray bottle. Add essential oils of lavender or lemongrass as preferred, 15 drops/4oz bottle. Can be spritzed on clothing and skin to deter bugs, and also can be used topically to soothe bites.

**Plants can be foraged in the wild and prepared as tinctures or purchase tinctures pre-made from reputable sources like Mountain Rose Herbs.

Got bites? Plants helpful for soothing bites, scratches and itches topically include plantain, chamomile (as a tea to apply topically, or tea bags added to a soothing bath), chickweed, and calendula. Other natural remedies to relieve scratching include baking soda baths and applying zinc oxide on the scratches (especially to dry wet, weepy rashes). Avoid using oil-based creams and lotions on bites as that can increase irritation.

In the event of suspected West Nile virus (influenza like symptoms), visit your doctor but also consider an herbal protocol like echinacea, elderberry, boneset, yarrow, elderflower and medicinal mushrooms like reishi and maitake to support the peripheral immune system while fighting the virus. In the event of a suspected tick bite that may carry Lyme’s Disease (symptoms include a bull’s eye marking, rash, fever, dizziness, blurred vision), visit your MD immediately to seek antibiotic treatments.

 

 

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.

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

Travel & The Forager

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Last month, I turned a spring ski session into a usnea harvest outing while in the mountains of Montana. If I am in a new area, or bioregion with plants different than the ones from my own homeland, you can be sure I am out learning plants and gathering those I know and that are useful in my apothecary.

Traveling gives me a unique perspective as a forager and herbalist. It allows me to gather medicines I don’t have immediate to my neighborhood (once of course I have firm bearings on the plant’s distribution and a potential gathering site), and it helps me appreciate the uniqueness of the land of both where I am visiting and where I live. AND it gives me a reason to seek out local, regional plant guides!

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Usnea species or Old Man’s Beard grows prolifically in Northern Michigan and across alpine regions of the Midwest, across the Rockies and beyond. It’s a common lichen and useful in the apothecary as a tincture for infections in combination with herbs like echinacea. I gathered this usnea to compare it to the usnea local to my bioregion to see how they may differ in flavor and depth.

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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!!! 

On a plant writing sabbatical…

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Headed across the Midwest, with my camera and laptop in tow.

Destination is Big Sky & Jackson Hole for a writing sabbatical, working on my next book — “The ReWilded Kitchen: A Forager’s Guide to Edible & Medicinal Plants of the Midwest” (Timber Press, 2014).

Here, I stopped just outside of Gary, Indiana off of Interstate 94 to get up close with Chicory. Since Ancient Greek times, it’s been referred to as a Guardian of the Roadways (Wood). The wild Chicory, a delicious bitter green similar in flavor to cultivated Endive, is in full bloom and lines the roadways of the Midwest. Slow down and say hello to her!!

The choice of spot to take her photo — just a few miles from the US Steel complex in the heartland of the Rustbelt — was pretty intentional. Being a city-dweller myself, I am always drawn to the layering of industry, people, plants, “contamination” and the remediation of land. As a forager, the idea of contamination is real and is important — prudent knowledge of plants and potential contamination from the surrounding land is always top of mind for harvesting and health’s sake.

That said, I frequently wax poetic over this dichotomy in my mind… “I live in the city, my environment is contaminated, thus everything is toxic and I cannot eat it.” … Certainly lead, heavy metal contaminants are toxic to human health and foraging must be done prudently, but is bug juice and spicy Cheetos from the corner store more nourishing and less toxic than chicory on the same corner growing in an empty lot??

Without jumping to conclusions that the Chicory salad greens would be the better choice (factoring in all processes and toxicity of processed food), it’s a good conversation starter…

¡Eheu! (El Canto Errante) ~ Rúben Dario

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 On my way out of the country I picked up a copy of Ruben Dario’s poems in the Managua airport, hoping his modernist/romantic style would help me through the sense~making of travel in such a beguiling country. Having been in love with several of Dario’s other pieces, it was ¡Eheu! (El Canto Errante) that I felt flow through me as the plane departed and headed for the States, leaving behind many amazing people and experiences. I just wanted to share, hoping that you might like it.

¡Eheu! (El Canto Errante)

~ Rúben Dario 

Here, beside the Latin sea,

I speak the truth:

I sense my antiquity

in the rocks, the oil, the wine.

How ancient I am, dear God,

how ancient I am!

Where has my song come from?

And where am I going?

The cost of knowing my own self

is the long moments of profound despair

and the how and the when–

And this Latin clarity,

what use is it here

at the entrance to the mine

of the me and the not-me?

I am a student of the clouds,

I think I can interpret

the confidences of the wind,

the earth and the sea–

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A few vague confidences

about being and non-being,

and fragments of awareness

from today and yesterday.

I stopped and cried out,

as if in the midst of a desert,

and I thought the sun was dead,

and burst into tears.

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Recalibrating

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I took a walk through the fields and in the woods this morning in one of my most favorite areas in GR– the gravel pits and down by the Grand River in and around Johnson/Millenium Park.

Not only did this help re-root my person back to my own land after being away in Nicaragua for the past few weeks, but it also gave me a chance to stop and say hello to some of my favorite plants as they move into winter’s hibernation.

I recommend getting out in all seasons, if you want to work with plants. It’s good for both an herbal practice and for the heart– even on those cold mornings (and remember, there’s never the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing).