medicinal Archives

Florida Herbal Conference Starts February 28

Florida Herbal Conference live oaks 442x450 Florida Herbal Conference Starts February 28

Workshops at the Florida Herbal Conference take place lakeside in the shade of majestic live oaks draped with Spanish moss. Photo by Ralph Giunta.

Florida herbalist Emily Ruff grew a love for plants at an early age. Her father was a botanist, and her grandfather an urban farmer. At age 18, she traveled to Guatemala to work with medicinal herbs and to learn the traditions of what she describes, broadly speaking, as “our herbal ancestors.” Later, she studied under the late George D’Arcy, founder of the Florida School of Holistic Living for which Ruff now serves as director, as well as Rosemary Gladstar at Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center in central Vermont.

Although she spent nearly a decade as a practicing herbalist in Orlando, traveling to New England or North Carolina, as she put it, “to get my fix of the brother and sisterhood of the green people,” Ruff said she couldn’t help but feel isolated. “The Florida herbal community for a long time was largely disconnected,” she explained. But then Gladstar encouraged her to seek out other Florida herbalists.

“I started to poke around in the rocks and gardens and realized that in most of the major communities in Florida there was at least one practicing herbalist,” Ruff said. This realization became the impetus behind the Florida Herbal Conference, now in its third year.

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Practical Herbs by Henriette Kress

pract herbs front 350x450 Practical Herbs by Henriette Kress

Practical Herbs by Finland-based herbal teacher Henriette Kress is ideal for beginning herbalists and available in English, Swedish, and Finnish. It is soon to be followed by a sequel, Practical Herbs 2.

Plant lovers who like free online info might already know the voice of Henriette Kress, an herbalist and herbal teacher based in Finland who has hosted the multilingual website, Henriette’s Herbal, since 1995. It is one of the oldest—and quite possibly the largest—of the herbal websites out there.

A person can get lost reading at Henriette’s Herbal, with essay after essay by Kress and others. The herbal and culinary FAQs alone are troves of useful information, collaborated upon by many, and succinctly delivered. Whenever Kress makes an appearance, there is that distinctive voice with its “gentle wit,” as one writer described it, signed simply, “Henriette.”

For those willing to get lost for days—or months—the tech savvy Kress offers the entire site (a 2.3 GB data disk including 80,102 files) in DVD form for $25.

But for everybody else there is Practical Herbs—her 150-page full-color guide to using medicinal plants, available in English, Swedish, and Finnish, now with a Japanese translation under consideration.

Practical Herbs is ideal for the entry-level herbalist. It starts with an ample how-to section that’s easily read and navigated, covering “The Basics” such as picking herbs, drying herbs, making and using herbal teas, herbal oils and salves, tinctures, herbal vinegar, and herbal syrups.

Safety and sustainability are also addressed in this section, with simple tips like:

“Don’t pick large quantities of an herb you’ve finally located after years of searching. Instead pluck a twig, a flower, and a leaf, and take those home with you. Then double-check what you wanted the plant for, and which part of the plant you should gather for that purpose. Once you’ve identified a plant in the wild, you’ll spot it more easily in the future.” Read the rest of this entry

Wild Edible Notebook—October release!

WEN October 2013 cover800 343x450 Wild Edible Notebook—October release!The leaves are a’changing and the cool winds have begun to blow. Still, foraging season continues into October, and with it, a new-and-improved Wild Edible Notebook blows into town.

October 2013 brings many exciting changes to the Notebook, including a new look-and-feel with an improved cover and 2-column layout, designed to look better overall and also to improve viewing on smart phone devices. And, October 2013 and all future issues are available for iPad and iPhone in the Apple Newsstand! Improvements to the PDF versions include a wider screen reading PDF, a new 2-sided print-and-fold PDF designed to print on legal (8.5” x 14”) paper, and an Android-formatted PDF.

The October 2013 issue dives deep into rosehips, the fruits that develop at the bases of wild and domesticated roses. Not only are rosehips an excellent source of vitamin C, but they also lend themselves to numerous culinary preparations. Next is the tale of my mission to dry dandelion leaves for winter, inspired by the idea to make a nutritious green powder described by Colorado forager Katrina Blair of Turtle Lake Refuge. This edition also includes a review of Practical Herbs, a medicinal plant how-to by renowned Finland-based herbalist Henriette Kress, which will soon be followed by the book’s sequel, Practical Herbs 2. There are a handful of rosehip recipes by yours truly as well as my Colorado-based partner in crime, Butter. There’s a rosehip coloring page on the print version, and an announcement about the 3rd Annual Florida Herbal Conference, coming up in February/March of 2014, in all of them.

The procedure for downloading the Wild Edible Notebook has changed. Please visit the Wild Edible Notebook page for information on subscribing to the iPad/iPhone or PDF versions for $1.99/month. Your support makes the continued development of this publication possible, both on the content and technical sides.

To download a free issue of the Wild Edible Notebook and stay abreast of future developments, please join the email list by filling out your info at the very bottom of the website. Thanks!

Granola Bars with Rosehip Raisins & Wild Seed

rosehip granola bars 350x262 Granola Bars with Rosehip Raisins & Wild Seed

A nummy granola bar square made with oats, rosehips, and evening primrose seeds

For two years I bugged my friend for her grandmother’s granola bar recipe. “Erica! I finally found my granola recipe!” she emailed one day, and that was two years ago.

So last night, approximately four years after the idea’s inception, my long-hewn plans finally came to fruition when I recreated the bars—with much adaptation due to the lack of traditional foods in the house, and a couple of new wild ingredients added in, of course.

These chewy wild granola bars have some stuff in them that’s real good for you, and other stuff that’s not so much good for you—but they make a ridiculously delicious pocket snack. And of course they can be adapted for all manner of wild seeds, fruits, and nuts.

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Ode to the Dandelion Hunter

Dandelion Hunter cover 240x350 Ode to the Dandelion HunterThere’s a young woman who hunts dandelions and sundry other edible and medicinal wild plants out of an apartment in Portland, Oregon, relishing reconnecting with nature after a several-years-long stint sequestered indoors, surrounded by a plantless outdoors, working for a New Jersey newspaper.

We happen to share the same name—a similar moniker, anyway, her being Wild Girl, purveyor of the popular wild edible internet weblog, www.firstways.com, and me being Wild Food Girl, purveyor of the internet weblog you are holding in your hands right now.

I got really excited about Rebecca Lerner’s recently released Dandelion Hunter: Foraging the Urban Wilderness (Globe Pequot Press, 2013) after reading Sam Thayer’s early review: “Rebecca Lerner proves that foraging in today’s urban landscape is not only possible, but remarkably productive. In this charismatic and delightfully unpredictable book, she shares her experiences and insights in a way that touches upon the profound without being preachy.”

“Delightfully unpredictable” sounded right up my alley, not to mention “touches on the profound”—and I found both to be true.

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Nothing Left to Do but Self-Medicate

willow bark 350x262 Nothing Left to Do but Self Medicate

Probably not enough dried willow bark for pain relief.

This is great—not only did I jump off a bush (on my snowboard) in an attempt to skip over some rocks to a mogul that turned out to be solid ice and hear my knee go “crunch,” such that I am suddenly confined to home awaiting an MRI, but I am also coming down with a cold, sore throat and cough and all.

But, please, don’t read “This is great” as sarcasm. I honestly feel blessed by the universe—for now, jobless once more, I have opportunity to test my wild medications upon myself, not to mention the free time to write about it.

I figure I’ll start with the cold today and save the knee for next week. After all, it seems a little foolish to mend bones and ligaments until one is certain they are arranged in the right place. At present my right knee cannot straighten to save my life (though in landing that leap three days ago it did flex very much in order to do so). Read the rest of this entry

Tale of a Golden Foraging Opportunity

golden colorado hillside 254x350 Tale of a Golden Foraging Opportunity

Forager on a Golden hillside. Photo by Gregg Davis.

On our way home from Denver last Friday, Gregg and I made a detour up Golden Gate Canyon Road to check out a 93-acre ranch that Marilyn, who I met when she commented on a post, invited us to forage. (Actually, truth be told, I invited myself and she was generous enough to accept.) The canyon is breathtaking and so was her land, 93 acres of very steep hillside accessed by a potentially gnarly dirt road and then slowly through the cattle gate to where her family’s oasis is nestled.

She gave us a quick tour of the property, pointing out all the wild edible plants (even though I though that was my job), and then directed us up the hill. “Make a good hike of it,” she said, sending us on our way. 

Well, a “good hike” it certainly was—straight up, up, up, between the rocks, through the scrub, baking in the hot sun—and this after just completing three hours of skate camp in Highlands Ranch, also in the hot sun. So, for the first half of the hike (read: the up part), I was sweating profusely and frustrated with myself for my lack of excitement about the adventure, as I’d looked forward to it the entire week prior. It was all I could do to collect a few edibles while Gregg took photos. “We’ll come back when we’re less tired,” I said, trying to justify my attitude.  

But then, near the top of the hill in a ditch right before the well, something wonderful happened that snapped me right out of it: Gregg stuck his hand right into a patch of stinging nettles!  Read the rest of this entry

denver yucca2 262x350 Southwestern Fried Yucca Flowers—Just What the Doctor Ordered?

Colorado yucca flowers at 6,000 feet.

Late last summer, during a whirlwind west-coast visit, I found myself on an unlikely hike through prickly pear cacti up a Malibu mountainside in a private ranch of rented houses to a pool that was clothing-optional on Wednesdays. (Spending time with my friend Reina is always an adventure.) 

En route to the pool I tried to pick a prickly pear from atop a cactus in ill-advised bare-handed fashion, only to find that the spines, unlike those of thistle, for example, are quick to release from their fruity bearings and inject themselves into the unlucky plucker’s skin in great numbers. We’re talking 50 spines, give or take. Then, I made the situation even worse by attempting to remove them from my fingers with my teeth, thereupon transferring dozens of sharp hair-like spines from fingers to lips and tongue. 

This is not an entry about prickly pear (although I’ve had a request and one will follow!). It is simply to set the stage for a latent realization…  Read the rest of this entry

Warm and Fuzzy Mullein Celebration

mullein processing station 350x262 Warm and Fuzzy Mullein Celebration

Mullein processing station.

No matter which way I turn, mullein (Verbascum thapsis) seems to insert its fuzzy leaves into my life.

First there was the requested rescue mission to Aurora (on June 18), where Jim and Nancy invited me to weed out all of their mullein. Much to my excitement, there were about 20 big, healthy rosettes—a far cry from last year’s 10,000 tiny ones. This time I gathered enough mullein that when washed and laid out to dry, it covered three cookie sheets with a small mound of leaves on each one. 

Of course, this brought to mind the need to do something with last year’s dried mullein leaves, of which I still have a medium-size box full.  Read the rest of this entry

Whole Spring Dandelions Delight

dandelion shoot tangle 350x332 Whole Spring Dandelions Delight

A whole spring dandelion dug from the Denver dirt.

Yesterday another foot of snow fell at the house, which lies at 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies. So much for the few hints of green that were beginning to poke out of the dirt. Fortunately, Gregg and I scored some small spring dandelions last weekend at his parents’ house, which lies much lower at 6,100 feet in Aurora, on the outskirts of Denver.   

Weeding Dandelions with Love  

Gregg’s step-dad Jim was kind enough to let me weed dandelions from the part of the back yard where he doesn’t spray poison due to its proximity to the fish pond. We have a symbiotic relationship in that way—he needs edible weeds removed from his carefully tended landscape, and I want to eat them.   

Have you ever weeded dandelions out of a lawn by hand? It’s not so bad if the soil is soft. Between the soft soil and the long metal hand weeding tool Jim supplied me, it was simply a matter of carefully extracting the dandelions—taproots, leaf stalks, leaves, buds, and all.  Read the rest of this entry

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