medicinal Archives

Wild Edible Notebook—March 2015 Release!

WEN March2015 cover800 336x450 Wild Edible Notebook—March 2015 Release!

sassafrass 450x337 Wild Edible Notebook—March 2015 Release!

Sassafras leaves are dried and pulverized to make filé powder, an ingredient in gumbo filé. There is no evidence sassafras causes cancer.

Okay friends and fellow foragers, the March 2015 Wild Edible Notebook is here! For this month’s edition I am once again proud to feature works by several foraging and herbal writers in addition to myself. Big thanks are due to Wendy Petty, Becky Lerner, and Samuel Thayer for making this possible. Here’s a closer look at this month’s edition:

  • Making Things with Wild Thickeners – There are a surprising many wild thickening agents that can be reasonably substituted for store-bought kinds like flour, gelatin, pectin, and cornstarch. This piece provides an overview, and then gets down and dirty with filé powder, made from powdered sassafras leaves, and common mallow powder, made from the original marshmallow’s common cousin.
  • Does Sassafras Cause Cancer? – You might have heard that sassafras causes cancer, but there’s no proof it causes cancer in humans. Concentrated safrole extracted from sassafras has been shown to cause cancer in rats, but you’re not a rat if you’re reading this, and you’d have to eat a lot of sassafras to get so much safrole. I love my sassafras tea and I’m going to keep on drinking it. What do you think?
  • Foraging Tools on a Budget by Wendy Petty – I am tickled to present another original piece from my good friend Butter of Hunger & Thirst. In this story she describes her foraging toolkit, categorized from least to more expensive, along with how and why the tools are essential to her. Wild food foraging is indeed a thrifty activity that requires little to no financial investment. This story helps to make foraging more accessible to everyone.
  • Usnea Lichen: Powerful Lung Medicine by Becky Lerner – Hello? What’s this? An original piece from the talented writer Becky Lerner, author of Dandelion Hunter (Globe Pequot Press, 2013) and The story is about Usnea lichens–those slow-growing hair lichens you might know as Old Man’s Beard. The piece provides a useful overview of medicinal uses, identification, and even the author’s first-hand experience of the lichens’ spirit properties. I am honored that Becky shared her writing and expertise in this second-ever medicinal/herbal piece to be featured in the Wild Edible Notebook.
  • Book Review: Steven Rinella’s Scavenger’s Guide to Haute CuisineThe Scavenger’s Guide is an oldy-but-goody penned a decade ago by hunting writer and show host Steven Rinella. Here, a youthful Rinella chases unusual game—from pigeons, invasive English sparrows, and wild boar to seafood, fish, fowl, and big game—to create a historic meal featuring 45 dishes from the 1907 cookbook, Le Guide Culinaire, by Auguste Escoffier. It’s a cool adventure—a read that hunters, invasive species eaters, meat-lovers, and creative cooks are likely to appreciate. Also, Steven Rinella has a great sense of humor.
  • Rinella’s Meat Eater is Hunting, for Real by Samuel Thayer – Foraging author Sam Thayer invited me to print his review of a more recent book by Steven Rinella: Meat Eater (2013). The book consists of “real stories about a real hunter pursuing animals for all the reasons that people actually do that,” Sam writes, concluding: “finally, someone who thinks about hunting like I do.”
  • Wild-Thickened Porcini, Barley, & Sausage Soup – I made a big pot of barley soup in a porcini broth, then played with 2 handmade wild thickeners—common mallow powder and filé powder—along with some Cajun sausage. This recipe is the story of that.
  • South-of-the-Border Turkey, Duck, & Acorn Stew – Turkey and duck soup should be good anyway, but try adding acorn flour to thicken it into a nutty, rich stew, plus chipotle, cilantro, and lime for a South-of-the-Border flair. Sooo gooood.
Subscribe to Read

Read the March 2015 issue by subscribing to the Wild Edible Notebook for $1.99/month. The Wild Edible Notebook is an always-photo-filled, 50-page monthly magazine available in two subscription types:

  • OPTION #1: Your Choice of PDFs – We create multiple PDF versions of each month’s Notebook and post them here on the Member Profile & Downloads page. The versions are: 1) a screen reader/tablet version, and 2) a print-and-fold, to be printed 2-sided on legal size 8.5”x14” paper. Subscribers can download both formats. When you sign up, you get access to the past several issues plus each new issue as it comes out. Back issues are removed from the subscription periodically, but you can keep permanent copies if you download the files to your machine before that happens. Go to Wild Edible Notebook to subscribe to the PDFs via Paypal.
  • OPTION #2: iPad/iPhone App – We also have an iPad/iPhone app version of the Wild Edible Notebook, available through the App Store in the form of a Newsstand magazine. Permanent downloads are not available with this option, but it’s easy to use, and you will be able to access a year’s worth of content and counting as long as you are subscribed.
  • FREE SAMPLES – Check out a few free issues by joining the email list (scroll to the very bottom of this page and type your name and email address). You will receive an email with a link to the free download area (check your spam box if you don’t receive the email), where you can get a couple of the past Notebooks for free.

Seaweeding the Eastern Shoreline

sea lettuce Irish moss CT Seaweeding the Eastern Shoreline

Irish moss (Chondrus crispus), top right, and a species of sea lettuce (Ulva), collected in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

My parents shot me quizzical looks last summer when I announced my plan to gather seaweed in Long Island Sound, off the Connecticut coast. Not only would I collect, but also dry the seaweed at their house so I could take it back to Colorado with me for cooking experiments. I experienced similar incredulity from Connecticut’s DEP Inland Fisheries Division when I asked for a permit to harvest seaweed for personal consumption.

And yet, seaweed collection is a longstanding tradition along swaths of North America’s West Coast, where local indigenous peoples made—and continue to make—seaweeds a part of their diets.

In British Columbia, for example, the Kwakwaka’wakw and Haida packed layers of partially dried and fermented red laver (Porphyra abbottae syn. P. perforata) into tall cedar boxes along with boughs of Western red cedar and then left them for a month, weighted down with rocks, before unpacking and repeating the process several times to make seaweed cakes (Turner, 1997 ed.). They would later tear or chop these cakes into small pieces, soak and boil the seaweed and serve it with the rendered grease of euchalon—a small, greasy fish—along with boiled dog salmon or clams.

The middle and northern coastal First Peoples of the same region gathered herring spawn-covered blades of giant kelp—the brown algae Macrocystis integrifolia—and dried them out to later reconstitute, boil, and eat with euchalon grease or cut into strips for chewy snacks that children could carry to school with them (Turner, 1997 ed.). To protect herring populations, however, this practice is now illegal in most states without a special permit (Hahn, 2010).

Fortunately there are many spawn-free seaweeds—or sea vegetables—in coastal waters around the world, almost all of which are edible, conditions permitting. Read the rest of this entry

edible summit county wildflowers 450x337 Edible Plants Class Starts June 9 at CMC Breckenridge

Where they grow in enough abundance, bluebells can be eaten.

cow parsnip furled 450x337 Edible Plants Class Starts June 9 at CMC Breckenridge

Any idea what this high country vegetable is? We just had it for supper.

Just a heads up to interested parties–I will be teaching an intensive 3-week section of Survival Plants in Summer at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge from 6/9/14 to 6/28/14. The course covers edible, medicinal, and toolcraft uses of local wild plants, with a practical emphasis on edibles. Most sessions will be held in the field.

After a successful first class last summer, I have a lot of creative hands-on ideas in store for this second go-around, so I hope very much you’ll join us for what at present seems to be a relatively small group of eager plant enthusiasts.

Class sessions take place from 4-6:50 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday of each week, at the college and at different meeting places throughout the county. There will also be two full-day Saturday field sessions that run from 8 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. on 6/21 and 6/28.

This course was created by Cattail Bob Seebeck, who teaches seasonal sections at several Front Range community colleges. In Summit we are offering just this one section, and it will cover plants in season during the class, in Summit County as well as at field trip locations to be determined.

The class can be taken for college credit or just audited. CMC’s prices are among the most affordable in the country, especially considering the number of hours in the field you get for your money. The course code is OUT-156-BK01 and registration is through the college:

Please sign up by June 2. I will be in communication about the textbook and plans. Hope to hear from you!

-Erica aka WFG

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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.

Read the rest of this entry

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,, 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.

Read the rest of this entry

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

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