Monday, April 30, 2012

Wild Greens Pesto

We had great weather for yesterday's Food as Medicine class. And so, under sunny skies we munched on the edible and tonic garden weeds. So many folks from the class requested the wild greens pesto recipe, I decided to put it up on the blog for all to see...

Wild Greens Pesto

1/2 cup walnuts
2 large handfuls wild greens 
(I usually use garlic mustard, nettles, and chickweed)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic1/4 tsp salt
3 tbls olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor except the olive oil. Add oil one tablespoon at a time while processing. Continue processing for about three minutes. 

This is a great way to eat raw nettles without the sting. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Angelica Emerging

There are some plants in the garden that I am totally in awe of. I can't quite explain what it is about these plants, they just seem so powerful in a majestic and beautiful sort of way. Angelica is one such plant for me. I first added a small Angelica to a wet area of the garden a few years ago. Now there is a slowly growing patch of this beautiful plant. She is happily self seeding and naturalizing, as I had hoped she would, and there are now first and second year plants present (Angelica is biennial).

As she prepares to flower, Angelica begins to send up a thick, hollow, reddish stalk higher into the air. I have been visiting the patch daily, because she seems to be changing so fast now as she gets ready to open her blossoms...

At four feet and growing, I can almost see her getting taller.

Angelica's fragrant leaves can be used in salads (high in vitamins and iron) or as a healing poultice, but the real medicine is in the roots. This is an herb or women! The roots are used to strengthen the reproductive system, balance hormones, regulate menstruation. It is also useful for relieving hot flashes, making her an aid during menopause as well. Pregnant women, however, should avoid angelica.

Aside from women's issues, angelica has been relied on to treat muscle tension, chest congestion, bronchitis, pleurisy fever, cods, influenza, nausea, flatulence, colic, cystitis, urinary inflammation, and prostatitis in men. She stimulates the appetite, lowers blood pressure, strengthens the heart, spleen, liver and kidneys, and detoxifies carcinogens and disrupts the growth of cancer cells. Angelica also thins the blood, so it is recommended she be avoided by women with heavy menstrual bleeding.

A word of warning...Angelica is very easily confused with the very poisonous water hemlock. The two are almost indistinguishable to most folks. To be safe, I would not harvest angelica from the wild, it is just too easy to make a deadly mistake. The veins on the leaves can be used for identification, as angelica's veins end at the outer points of the serrated leaf edges, while water hemlock's veins end at the inner recesses of the serrations. The seed of the two plants are also very different.

I have used angelica root in my own teas, but have yet to harvest her myself from my young patch. I want to make sure she is well established before I begin digging her first year roots in the fall. For now I'll have to be content to nibble the leaves.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Today's class rescheduled!!

Today's herb class is postponed due to expected rain this morning. I am rescheduling the  Food as Medicine class for next Sunday, April 29th. Hopefully we will have a beautiful morning in the garden.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


One of the benefits of having children when you are studying the healing plants is there is never a shortage of conditions to figure out how to deal with. I've often come across some unusual names for health problems when reading old herbals (like what the heck was "the king's evil"), but one of the more interesting conditions used to be called "chilblains". I have always been intrigued by the word, but never managed to look it up. I now know all about chilblains though, thanks to my six-year-old and his toes.

This past winter Alden started developing red, swollen toes that itched and sometimes hurt. I began rubbing healing salves and oils on his skin, while trying to research what exactly was going on. I had a feeling it had something to do with the cold, since it was winter and our house is on the cold side (what with the wood stove heat). On top of this, it can require serious negotiation to get my boys to put on socks or slippers on cold mornings. My first attempt to figure out his condition left me baffled. None of the information I found seemed to match his symptoms exactly. Soon his toes healed and he early warmth this March put it out of my head.

Then in April the frosts came again and the house was colder at night. Alden had gotten used to his bare feet again and the red toes made another appearance. Back to the research, and this time I found it...chilblains. It is a condition where cold causes lessened blood flow in toes (sometimes fingers), blood vessels constrict, then warmth caused them to expand and they may crack, causing swelling, itching, redness and sometimes pain. Chilblains were more common before travel by car became common, and folks often had to walk long distances in cold weather. Some folks are more susceptible than others, and my Alden seems to be one.

plantian (photo by earthmama)

Keeping the feet warm is important for prevention. But it is also important to let the toes warm up slowly after exposure to the cold, as warming too quickly can aggravate the condition. Herbs that increase circulation, like cayenne and ginger, can be helpful, as well as healing and soothing herbs like calendula, chickweed and plantain. Juliette de Bairacli Levy, in her book Common Herb for Natural Health suggests steeping snowdrop bulbs in beer to treat chilblains (interesting). Soaking the feet in a tea, or making a paste to cover the toes can be helpful.

Chilblains usually heal up just fine in a week or two, but care needs to be taken to prevent cracked skin, blisters, and infection. I feel better that we know what is going on, it always helps to have a name for something. And now I can say, "put on your socks or you'll get the chilblains."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Still time to sign up for a medicine share...

If anyone is still considering signing up for an herbal medicine share this season, I'm extending the sign-up deadline to the end of the month. Just send me an e-mail to

Friday, April 13, 2012

Stinging Nettles!!!

I promise I'll do a new and original post soon (hey, it's garden planting season). For now, get out into the nettle patch...

She is known to nearly anyone who spends time outdoors by her sting, but not as well known for her gifts, and I have been blessed to receive her gifts for many years now.

"Rainer, do you want to say anything about nettles?"

"If you brush them they can sting you. But they are good in smoothies."

That's my boy! Yes, we drink nettles and we eat nettles. They are one of the most nutritious and nourishing of the tonic herbs, full of vitamins and minerals, including iron, selenium, and vitamins A, C and K (among many others). It is a powerful blood purifier, an excellent tonic for the adrenals, nerves and kidney. Regular use of nettles improves hair and skin, increases energy, reduces aches and pains, reduces allergies and rheumatism, and generally tones and strengthens the whole body. It is excellent to take during pregnancy and milk production, as it nourishes the growing baby, eases birthing, reduces post-partum hemorrhage and improves the quality and quantity of mother's milk.

Now is the time to harvest nettles, at least around these parts. She is just poking her head up and spreading her first few tender leaves. The tops are what we want, but how to harvest this prickly plant? I do not use gloves, and you don't need to either. I'll show you how.

My nettle patch came from a tiny plant given from herbalist Susun Weed's garden. She is the one who showed me how to harvest nettles without the sting (most of the time). Nettles sting because they are covered with little hairs filled with formic acid. When we brush up against the plant, the hairs act as a sling shot of sorts and shoot the acid onto us. But if we very deliberately grab hold of the plant and release it without brushing it, no sting.

Ready to try? Don't be scared. even if you do get stung, that's a good thing. The sting is therapeutic, especially for those with arthritic joints. Some cultures purposefully sting areas of joint pain and inflammation.

Once you have your harvest, what do you do with it? Well, you can infuse it (really strong tea), add it to soups, make a tincture, dry it, or, my favorite, make a smoothie...

Place harvested nettles along with any other greens in a blender, add a banana, some agave or honey, water or almond milk and any other fixins'. Blend until smooth and no big green pieces floating around.


Remember, nettles is an alterative, so you have to take her regularly over an extended period to feel her real benefits.

Also remember, this is not a salad herb. She will make you very unhappy if you attempt to eat her leaves raw without processing first. If you are brave and a little crazy (like me), you can take a leaf, roll it up, and roll it back and forth between your fingers, then pop it in your mouth. This should break up all those little hairs of acid. Why would one want to do this? Well, when getting to know the herbs taste is a wonderful way of gathering information and getting a direct physical contact with the plant, really feeling her energy.

Ready to make nettles soup? Recipe here.