Browsing the archives for the Herb category.


Make Your Own Herb Infused Honey

General Posts, Herb, Medicinal, Raw, Recipes
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Honey is amazing. There’s a lot of buzz going on right now (pun intended) about how bad sugar is, to which I heartily agree. Added sugar is in way to much of our “food” (processed food), things you wouldn’t even expect such as spinach dip or tomato sauce have oodles of added sugar. This is terrible for one’s health. And don’t even get me started on corn syrup.

However, true to form in our Western way of thinking, a carb equals a carb equals a carb. A fat equals a fat. To most Western trained dieticians, fat from an avocado is the same as fat from prime rib. It counts as fat. And sugar counts as maple syrup counts as honey counts as corn syrup.  It’s all added sugar, it’s all carbs, it’s all the same right? I disagree.

Way back in the nineties a WHOLE big chain of health FOODS stores would not sell anything with sugar. It was awesome! I could go to their bakery and things were honey sweetened, maple syrup sweetened, brown rice syrup sweetened. It was great! But then along came new sugar crystal products. Suddenly there were signs up in the store (literally!) about how honey is just the same for you health-wise as sugar, how a carb is a carb, and they realize how close-minded and out-dated their belief system is and BOOM, from then on the shelves were FILLED with cereals and other  foods with sugar. Now at the bakery if you try to find something with only maple syrup or honey, well, good luck.

Honey, especially raw honey, contains living enzymes as well as vitamins and minerals, includiing  B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and certain amino acids. The minerals found in honey include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.

Honey has been used by herbalists for thousands of years. Honey has anti-bacterial properties, anti-tumer properties, energy boosting properties (well, ok, duh, sugar.) Herbalists have used honey to treat sore throats, coughs, nausea, all sorts of things.  And believe me, when you make your own baked goods or foods with a little honey or maple syrup, there is literally a little honey  or maple syrup. You are being mindful and conscious and getting way less sugar than the loads you get hidden in the products at the grocery store.

Honey is also a great way to incorporate healing herbs and wild edible plants into your diet. I love making things like infused honeys, vinegars, jams and butters that I actually use. It’s nice to make a tincture every once in a while, but those tend to sit on my shelf for years. The other things I use daily.  (I also love drying plants to use as teas, I use these all the time, too!)

Herbal and wild flower infused honeys are so amazing. I add them to tea, spread them on toast or rice cakes or drizzle them over homemade scones. And they are wonderfully easy to make. First get yourself some high quality (which usually means local) raw honey. Then find some empty jars. Now find your favorite herbs or wild flowers and you are in business. In general here is what I do:

  • Fill the jar halfway with fresh plants. Good ones to use for honeys include: violet flowers, calendula flowers, any kind of mint, sage, basil, anise hyssop, ginger, fennel.
  • Next pour honey over the herbs to fill the jar. Use a chopstick to tamp down and release air bubbles.
  • Cover and let sit in a warm place (the sun works well!) for at least 10 days before use. The honey will keep a long time, just keep the herbs right in there. They won’t mold, honey will act as a preservative. And the herbs are yummy to eat when spread on bread!
  • Label! Label as you would everything: the plant or plants, the medium (honey) and the date, including the year.

Herbal Infused Honeys and Sun Tea

Herbal Infused Honeys and Sun Tea

Above are three honeys I made recently:  calendula and chocolate mint, lemon balm leaves and lemon peel, the third is sage leaves. On the left is chocolate mint sun tea. All you do to make sun tea is fill a jar with fresh herbs, cover with water, put the lid on and set it in the sun for at least 6 hours, but that is another post!

Enjoy!

~ Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac

Food Under Foot

Birch Center for Health

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In The Media

General Posts, Herb, Medicinal
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Frick Park Walk

Frick Park Walk

In case you want to follow Food Under Foot in the news, there have been 2 amazing articles about us recently:

  • Pittsburgh Magazine columnist Leah Lizarondo mentions us in her awesome article Girl Gone Wild

Great recipes for wild foods can be found in both places!

Also, we had 2 excellent wild edibles walks yesterday at the Frick Park Earth Day celebration. Thanks to everyone who came! I will get a blog post up soon with everything we saw and discussed. Unfortunately, the rain erased most of the emails I collected from participants so if you don’t get the email from me that’s why. I hope you find us anyway. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter in the green box in the right margin!

Yesterday I finished the book 29 Gifts by Cami Walker. I’ve taken the challenge: give 29 gifts in 29 days. I also joined the community.

Day 1 of giving was today and so far my gifts were “wild”:

  • showing columnist Leah Lizarondo a wonderful nettle patch in Frick Park (for her upcoming NPR interview!!)
  • Harvesting nettles for my daughter Ella so we can make Nettle Pasta together (she’s been asking me since the nettles have come up.)

Happy happy Earth Day!

~ Melissa

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Frick Park Walk

General Posts, Herb, Identification, Poisonous or Toxic, Raw, Tincture
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Our first walk of the year was so much fun! We had great weather and lots of enthusiastic people. We identified at least 12 wild edibles (including Dryad’s Saddle, an edible mushroom that everyone got to take home.) Unfortunately we didn’t find morels…but join us on Saturday for our Earth Day walks and who knows what we’ll find!

discussing wild edibles at a wild edibles walk in Frick Park

discussing wild edibles at a wild edibles walk in Frick Park

We found and discussed:

Dandelion

dandelion flowers

dandelion flowers

Plantain

Plantain

Plantain

Chickweed

close up of chickweed

close up of chickweed

Japanese knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

Dryad’s Saddle

Dryad's Saddle

Dryad's Saddle

Purple Archangel (Purple deadnettle)

Lamium purpureum, purple deadnettle

Lamium purpureum, purple deadnettle

Violet

violet

violet

Broad Leaf Dock
Burdock

Burdock

Burdock

Nettles

stinging nettles

stinging nettles

Cleavers
Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

May Apple

We discussed making:

Our next walks are this Saturday at the Frick Park Environmental Center for their family-friendly, free, Earth Day Celebration! The festival is Saturday April 21, 2012  from 11:30 to 4, and we will lead two walks at 1 pm and 2 pm.

Hope to see you there!

~ Melissa

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Wild Brunch: Knotweed Juice with Nettle/Garlic Mustard Potato Pancakes

General Posts, Herb, Look-Alikes, Medicinal, Recipes
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Japanese knotweed juice with garlic mustard/nettle potato pancakes

Japanese knotweed juice with garlic mustard/nettle potato pancakes

Happy April!

I feel like spring is really here with the abundance of wild edibles around.

The juice above is Japanese knotweed stalks, cucumber and apple (juiced in a Jack Lalanne Juicer)

Japanese knotweed stalks, leaves stripped off

Japanese knotweed stalks, leaves stripped off

So delicious and super nutritious: Japanese knotweed has the highest natural concentration of resveratrol, an anti-oxidant which is good for the heart and brain, is anti-aging and anti-cancer. Supplement companies used to use grape skin to make resveratrol supplements…no more! Now they use Japanese knotweed (usually the root). What a great way to use this terribly invasive weed.

Japanese knotweed’s newest use is as prevention and treatment for the symptoms of Lyme disease, which is why I may drink this juice every day that the stalks are available. I am in the woods a lot and am often pulling ticks off me (yuck!) I’m also going to tincture the root soon (it’s best to do when the plant is not flowering, so early spring and fall): I will dig up the roots (which are orange/yellow in color), clean them, chop them and add them to a glass jar that I fill with 100 proof vodka, which is 50% alcohol. I will take pictures and post what I do step by step. For more information on treating Lyme disease with Japanese knotweed and other natural remedies, see Stephen Buhner’s book Healing Lyme: Natural Healing And Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis And Its Coinfections

By the way, the above juice is truly yummy: sweet and tart and incredibly thirst-quenching!

The potato pancakes are a bit more decadent:

1 large potato, peeled, grated
1/4 onion, grated
1 egg
1/4 cup flour (I use gluten free flour such as buckwheat or rice flour)
handful garlic mustard chopped - use more if you want!
large gloved handful of stinging nettles, blanched to remove sting and then chopped - use more if you want!
1/4 cup grated spicy Jack cheese (optional, yummy)
salt
pepper
olive oil for cooking

Mix all ingredients in large bowl.
Lightly coat frying pan with olive oil (rather than deep frying, you can also bake these at 375 til browned, 30+ minutes)
Spread a tablespoon of batter into pan (fits about 3 at a time in my cast iron pan).
Cook on medium high (turning down if oil begins to smoke) for about 3-4 minutes until browned, flip and cook another couple minutes.

Can serve with applesauce and sour cream or just enjoy as is…so tasty!

CSF-ers can look forward to all the wild ingredients in this weeks share, and others can find these ingredients in plentiful amounts these days…at least here in Western PA!

Love and nettle stings,

Melissa

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We’re back! CSF, Walks and Wild Ally

General Posts, Herb, Poisonous or Toxic, Raw, Tincture
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nettles

nettles

We’re back!

As you probably noticed, we have not posted in a while…even though spring has come so early and wild edibles have been bursting forth from the ground! That’s because our computer broke (boo!) and then when we finally got a new one it would not let me do blog posts (I finally realized I had to upload and work through Mozilla Firefox instead of Internet Explorer, though I have no idea why.)

So now we’re back and like spring we are bursting with excitement and lots of information!

First: our CSF (Community Supported Foraging) is about to get up and running! Our first pickup will be Thursday April 5, ONE WEEK FROM TODAY! How exciting! We realized if we waited until May to begin we would probably miss morels, fiddleheads and all sorts of early spring treats.

Don’t fret if you missed the boat on the CSF for this year (we only offered 10 shares for our flagship year)…we are still offering wild produce locally through Green Circle Farm’s weekly produce list. (And we may even offer our very own “list” soon, we’ll see how it goes with the CSF and Green Circle Farm.)

Our friend Erika at Green Circle Farm offers a weekly abundance of all sorts of things: raw milk, raw butter, grass fed beef and other sustainably raised animals, free range eggs, produce from the Pittsburgh Public Market, she even had wild ramps this week available (and not even from us!) Visit her website to be added to her list (you get a weekly email, place your order by a certain date and then pick up at one of various locations around Pittsburgh.)

Also, we will have a weekly newsletter for the CSF-ers with info about the wild plants and recipes, and we will post those newsletters here on our blog. So you’ll get lots of yummy recipes and tidbits of info of what to do with all the amazing food and medicine popping up right under your feet all season long.

Second: WALKS!

We have heard you loud and clear: you want walks and more walks this year. We are working on our schedule, and it even includes a MOREL HUNTING WALK this year!! Oh yes we did! I hope you will all join us. The full schedule will be up soon but I will let you know this: we will be offering two walks again at Frick Park’s Earth Day celebration this year. The date is Saturday, April 21, 2012 and our walks are at 1 pm and 2 pm. Be there!! This is a super fun, free, family-friendly celebration of nature at the Frick Environmental Center on Beechwood Blvd in Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh) PA. The festival itself is from 11:30 to 4. You will be overwhelmed (in a good way) with fun and music and arts and crafts and food and walks and more!

Third, now is the best time of year to get started on a Wild Ally!!! Did you do one last year? Pick another one for this year! An ally is a wild edible plant that you study, learn from and enjoy intensely over the course of the season. I have created a workbook of exercises for you to do with your ally. I really find this is the best way to get to know (and love) wild edible plants (and medicines!) Our workbook is STILL pay-what-you-choose, so make sure you grab one today!

As you have probably noticed, wild plants are up early and in great abundance this year! I was out yesterday and in addition to all the nettles, deadnettle, garlic mustard, onion grass, wintercress, chickweed, and dandelion that are out, I saw fiddleheads, Japanese knotweed shoots, burdock and have heard the murmurs of early morel mushrooms in the wind.

Let’s get this party started!

Coming up in this blog (I have so much for you…trying to get caught up!)

  • What to do with all this (yummy) Japanese Knotweed
  • CSF Newsletter “0″: making a Ginger Bug starter for wild sodas
  • Walk schedule, including our all new Morel Hunting Walk
  • “I smelled ‘em before I saw ‘em….Nettles”
  • And so much more!! So stay tuned my friends!

Walk with care and don’t forget to look up sometimes; there are some amazing birds out there!

Love and nettle stings,

Melissa Sokulski of Food Under Foot

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Burdock Burrs: More Than Meets The Eye

General Posts, Herb, Medicinal
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Burdock Burrs

Burdock Burrs

So. Here is a dead burdock plant (Arctium lappa). You can’t dig the roots on this one. If you walk too close the burrs stick to you and getting them off can be a pain.

But is there more here than meets the eye?

In fact there is (but you probably knew I’d say that!)

Inside the burrs are the burdock seeds. This is why the burdocks stick to anything that walks by: to spread its seed around. You’ll likely pick off those burrs sometime later, deposit the seeds there and voila, the plant has traveled. Those seeds will take root and a new burdock plant will grow.

And the seeds themselves? Useful, of course! In Chinese medicine the seeds are known as Niu Bang Zi and are boiled into a tea. They treat constipation and also help bring out a rash if someone is coming down with something like measles or mumps. This progresses the disease along to help speed healing.

One trick to making burdock seed tea: use the whole burr. Don’t open the burr to get the seeds out unless you are wearing protective eye wear like goggles. Don’t get me wrong: the burr opens very easily, but those velcro-like outer burrs break off and float through the air…I know from experience this winds up in a trip to the ER (or a very nice/patient eye doctor who will see you in her/his office at any hour.) It isn’t worth it. Just bundle the burrs up in a cloth tea bag and boil the whole thing in water for 20 - 30 minutes.

So just because a plant looks/is dead doesn’t mean there isn’t a whole lot going on!

Happy Foraging - even in winter!

~ Melissa Sokulski, Food Under Foot

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Garlic Mustard Horseradish

General Posts, Herb, Medicinal, Raw, Recipes
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Garlic Mustard Greens emerging from the ground.

Garlic Mustard Greens emerging from the ground.

Today I harvested garlic mustard for the spicy white roots to make a horseradish-like condiment.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an invasive plant, brought to America in the 1860’s as a culinary herb. It spreads like wildfire and often will displace native mustards and cresses. Many parks hold days where people can come volunteer to pull out garlic mustard so it doesn’t take over other native plants. This is one weed no one will mind you pulling!

Now is a great time to use garlic mustard: the leaves are tasty and not too bitter, as the weather warms the leaves get more bitter and lose their spicy garlic mustard flavor.

washing the garlic mustard in a colander

washing the garlic mustard in a colander

To make the condiment, harvest the entire plant, and wash the roots well. The roots are white and have a horseradish-like smell. They will taste spicy.

Garlic mustard roots

Garlic mustard roots

I chopped the roots:

Chopped Garlic Mustard Roots

Chopped Garlic Mustard Roots

I blended the roots in a food processor with a bit of salt, a couple teaspoons of water and about 1 tsp apple cider vinegar and blended until it looked like horseradish: (It stung my eyes! Pretty spicy…)

Blended in a food processor with a little water, salt and apple cider vinegar

Blended in a food processor with a little water, salt and apple cider vinegar

Here it is, in a jar:

Garlic Mustard "Horseradish!"

According to Chinese Medicine, the spicy or pungent taste of horseradish and garlic mustard enters the Lung meridian, and is known to clear the sinuses and help the body get rid of respiratory infections. (For more on Traditional Chinese Medicine and health, visit our sister website Birch Center for Health.)

Here in Pittsburgh, wild edibles are just emerging from the ground. Today we also found nettles! What is popping up where you live? We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks!
Melissa Sokulski, acupuncturist, herbalist
Food Under Foot

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Making Burdock Root Tincture

General Posts, Herb, Identification, Medicinal, Tincture
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As promised in the previous post, here is how I made my own burdock root tincture.

Look for a first year burdock plant. This time of year it will still be green, large leaves in a basal rosette on the ground. You’ll likely find them next to the dead second year plants, which are brown and covered with burrs.

Burdock

Burdock

Below you’ll find one of the burdock roots we were able to get from the ground. Burdock has a long thick tap root, it’s nearly impossible to get the whole thing out, but do as best as you can.

Burdock Root

Burdock Root

After I washed all the dirt off, I peeled and chopped the root, below:

Peeled and Chopped Burdock Root

Peeled and Chopped Burdock Root

I put some of the chopped roots on drying racks to dry (I actually used my dehydrator, but you can air dry them as well, in a dark, airy place), and the rest I put into a glass jar and covered with 100 proof vodka, to tincture:

Burdock Root in a Jar, Covered with 100 Proof Vodka to Tincture

Burdock Root in a Jar, Covered with 100 Proof Vodka to Tincture

I could have covered it and put it away for six weeks, but instead I made use of my Vitamix (a high speed blender), and blended it all together. This way, I’ll be able to use the tincture faster:

Burdock Root and Alcohol Blended in the Vitamix

Burdock Root and Alcohol Blended in the Vitamix

I labeled it with the date, what was inside (Burdock Root) and what the solvent was (100 proof vodka). Two weeks later I poured off some of it, filtering it through a paint straining bag purchased at Home Depot (2 bags for $3). You can also use cheese cloth or other cotton cloth napkin to filter. You save the liquid (that is your tincture) and compost the plant matter. I poured off enough to fill a 2 oz dropper bottle, the rest is still in the jar in a dark cabinet.

Let us know what you do with Burdock. I’ll soon post a pictorial of how I made the delicious fermented vegetables with cabbage and burdock root. Now is a great time of year to harvest the burdock root. If you’re unsure how to identify it or what to do with it, make sure you sign up for our 5 free ebooks (the green box in the margin to your right.) The first book is on Burdock, so you’ll receive a ton of information right away after signing up.

Have fun, stay safe!
~ Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac.
Food Under Foot

Also please visit our sister blog, full of information on general health and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

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