Burdock & Rose

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

Tag: trees

The Pine: A Woodland Tree Medicine

FullSizeRender (3)

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.

“Chestnuts Roasting on a Open Fire”

IMG_1573

… A holiday mantra that hits the airwaves at Thanksgiving and then repeats on loop through the December holiday madness. We hum the tune, but have you ever added chestnuts to your table during the holiday?

The chestnut is a pretty amazing food, filled with protein, minerals and vitamins and energy in fact, if ever needed to rely on a nut (Hunger Games, anyone?).  And it’s pretty versatile too. Chestnuts can be roasted, boiled into soups and ground into flours.

For an easy holiday appetizer that kids will enjoy, I suggest roasting chestnuts stovetop for snacking while that Christmas turkey or ham is in the oven.  They can be peeled and enjoyed warm from the shell. They have a very neutral, almost buttery flavor making them an easy food for children to appreciate.

We first introduced our own children to the chestnut several years ago on a fall foraging jaunt. One Sunday afternoon, the husband and I loaded the kids into the car for a Sunday drive west from Grand Rapids to Winkel Chestnut Farms to learn more about the chestnut. The Winkel Farm grows about 20 acres of chestnuts and have been doing it for over 20 years.  While we had missed their regular UPick season; the owners, Leslie and Dick, were super cool to let us bring the family out to forage for fallen nuts on the ground.

IMG_4740

My children listened to the farmers tell us the story of the American Chestnut — how it was once prolific throughout the eastern United States until the Chinese Chestnut tree was introduced in the late 1880s, when a virus it carried affected greatly the American Chestnut and nearly wiped out its population completely.

After about an hour of searching through the grass, we’d gathered several quarts of chestnuts. The children took it upon themselves to turn the ground foraging into a competition.  We wished we’d brought leather gloves — not realizing how spiky the spines of the chestnut were!

IMG_4741

We giggled and laughed in the sunshine, trying not to puncture our fingers with their spines.  Farmer Leslie fired up the roaster and showed the children how the nuts should be scored on the bottom before roasting. The kids loved the taste of the warm nuts and were excited about adding chestnuts to our Thanksgiving menu. And while my children would have tried the warm nuts straight out of the cast iron pan during the holiday, making that venture out to the chestnut farm gave us a bit of family time together outdoors and taught the kids a little about the food’s history and ecology.

IMG_4733

So now, each fall my kids see chestnuts at the farmers market or hear “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” they will know more about the chestnut than it being just a healthy food. They will have memories of our family heading out and foraging for them underneath the chestnut trees.

And to me that’s what creating a culture of food around the table is all about — creating lasting memories and new holiday traditions with loved ones.

***To find a chestnut farm or farmers market near you, check out LocalHarvest.org. And for ways to prepare chestnuts, check out the many ways you can prepare chestnuts on FoodIly.com.

IMG_0348