These herbs are fresh

We became members of the GreenStar Co-op after we moved to the Ithaca area. Co-ops are rather unique because its members are also its owners. Not only do they get the products and services they need, but also have a say in the Co-op’s business decision. As Co-ops go, GreenStar is pretty awesome with three locations in the small college town of Ithaca. I love their progressive focus on building a sustainable future, using profits in the local community, purveying many products from local farmers, supporting local schools and nonprofits, and harnessing the sun for its energy use. They even offer classes on cooking, nutrition, and environmental topics. They are undoubtedly a positive force in the community and we are so happy to be a part of it.

Whenever I walk into the Co-op, I am always amazed how happy everyone seems to be, whether they are working or shopping. Talk about good vibrations! It always seems like a wonderful place to work or volunteer, so every time I passed the employment/volunteer board I would look, hoping to find an opening in the Wellness department with hours that would fit my chaotic schedule. Last fall, I was overjoyed to see the perfect day and time available, and found out it was in the bulk herbs section.  It was perfect! I have a passion for buying in bulk. I even bring my jars to refill and the thought of being around herbs for a morning every week seems like a match made in heaven ~ and it is!

Not only do I get to be surrounded by all the lovely aromas of over 170 herbs and teas, I am learning a lot. I always knew the bulk herbs I was buying were much fresher than the any bottle of herbs but I had no idea how fresh. At GreenStar, they have someone refilling the bulk herbs daily. They order an average of 40-50 pounds of herbs each week. It takes me two hours to make sure all the jars are filled. If an herb is not being purchased on a regular basis, they don’t keep it around because there is no need to waste the shelf space; there are so many herbs vying for space. These herbs are fresh.

Just think about it ~ when you are buying prepackaged bottled herbs, you really have no idea how long they have been sitting on the shelf. In addition, you are committed to that specific amount. It’s not a big deal when you use the herb on a regular basis but from time to time, we all cook something that needs only a tablespoon of a specific herb that we will probably not use again for another year or more. And the cherry on top, over 80% of the herbs are organic while costing less than pre-packaged herbs. Who wants to buy a full bottle? Not me, so it’s a no brainer ~ buy the amount you need from the bulk herb section. It’s fresher and you can buy what you need, not what they want to sell you.

If you’ve never thought about shopping at a Co-op, I suggest you check out your local store. Here’s a directory to help you locate your neighborhood Co-op. You’ll be happy you did.

Yarrow tested first hand

I do not have luck with manual can openers. They all seem to leave a little connection; never a clean cut around the entire can. I have even shopped around and bought supposedly, “new and improved” can openers, but after awhile they all leave a small frustrating connection.

One day while making supper, I made a mistake. I was in a rush and had very little patience while opening a can. Instead of slowing down, focusing on the little connection and getting a good grip on the can opener or use a proper tool to release the little connection, I attacked the connection with a chopstick. As it popped up my thumb slid into the can with a very sharp edge. It was a bloody mess.

white yarrowI immediately ran cold water over my thumb for a minute or two then quickly grabbed a towel, wrapped my thumb, applied pressure, held my hand above my heart and ran to my garden where I picked and “bruised” several Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) leaves. I slowly opened the towel, wrapped my thumb in the Yarrow leaves with the towel around it, and held my hand above my heart.

Mathew finished making dinner, thank goodness he is much better at opening cans than his mother. After dinner was made and we were waiting for Mike to come home, I looked at my thumb. The bleeding had stopped thanks to Yarrow’s amazing hemostatic abilities. I was very impressed as there was a lot of blood when I first cut it. Since the bleeding had stopped, I took the opportunity to look at the damage. I suspect some people with a similar wound would have gone to the doctor for a couple of stitches, but I decided that it would heal okay on its own. I found a couple more fresh Yarrow leaves, bruised them, wrapped them around my thumb and taped a gauze patch around my thumb. Along with having great hemostatic powers, Yarrow is a powerful antiseptic.

close up yarrow

After dinner, I removed the bandage, no more blood, so I simply put a regular band-aid around my thumb. It was still rather tender but in good shape. The next morning, I was rather impressed at how well the healing process was going.

The day after

The day after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a week, it barely looked like a scratch.

A week after

A week after

I highly recommend that you learn how to identify Yarrow: once you do, you’ll find it is an excellent first aid herb. It can help you in a pinch (or cut, or a slice…). After all, I do have first hand knowledge of it (pun intended).

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Exploring Goldenrod

As I walked our new land the other day, I noticed the tips of the Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) were starting to glow with the promise of their brilliant illumination throughout the fall. The mere sight of them always makes me giddy and gives me such joy. Not only is Goldenrod’s sheer presence marvelous and soothing to the soul, it possesses numerous healing properties. A few year’s ago I started working with Goldenrod to ameliorate my allergies. After I started to delve deeper, I found allergies were just the tip of the iceberg. As I worked with it more I found it beneficial to almost every body system: respiratory, urinary, musculo-skeleton, digestive, cardio-vascular, nervous, and immune, along with soothing wounds, colds & flu plus being high in antioxidants. That’s when I realized I couldn’t keep it to myself and needed to share Goldenrod with as many people as possible. Sure, I can write about it but I think it’s always important to work with a plant in order to really appreciate it. So, I developed the class, “The Golden Answer.”

Well, folks, it’s time for another class. Please join me on Saturday, September 2, 2017, where we’ll explore the amazing world of Goldenrod and discuss the countless healing powers of this Golden Beauty. I hope you will join us and learn about its abilities to ameliorate allergy symptoms, support the urinary system, and soothe pain. And that’s just for starters. You will also learn to make a tincture to bring home.

Space is limited, so please pre-register at www.knowyouroots.com.

For more information, send me an email at debbie@knowyouroots.com

I can’t wait to share Goldenrod with you.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

Know Your Roots found a new home!

Spring is a time for new beginnings, and so it is appropriate that early this past spring we found our new home. Finding a home for our multigenerational family and business was no easy task. It took almost two years. Our list of needs and wants was great and nothing seemed to fit the bill until we walked into the house on Brook Road. It simply felt right, as if we always belonged there ~ home. Although it was very painful saying farewell to the land we nurtured for almost 7 year; it was clear that we were making the right move.

There are many wonderful features to our new home but the one that is hard to miss, are the gardens. The previous owners had cultivated the landscape for over 23 years with lots of love and intention ~ not to mention, hard work. As an herbalist and forager, the land will present many amazing learning opportunities for me. There are so many cultivated plants that I have never come across before. Some plant varieties are familiar, as I know their wild relative but others are quite foreign to me. It will be wonderful experimenting and learning from all my new green allies.

The land does have some of my favorites, while others are not to be found, so I did my best to transplant my dear plants into the nursery Mike built for them. Folks, let me be honest, this was very difficult for the forager in me. I felt like a fish out of water, I am not sure I did it right, but I do visit them a lot, ask them to grow and water them with lots of love and intentions. I hope they feel comfortable and will flourish on their new land.

Interestingly, Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) did not come back in abundance on the land at my old house this year. Therefore, I only took one small plant. Sadly, it wilted within the 2 mile drive to the new house. I was very nervous and planted it on the edge of our little stream bed in the back, as it likes wet feet. To my surprise, it is doing the best out of all the transplants and has already started to produce buds.

I am eager to teach and share our new land with you. My first class “The Golden Answer,” will held be on September 2nd. It will be fun exploring the Golden Goddess on our new land. I am particularly, curious to see how many different varieties of Solidago we will find. There are over 130 different species in North America. Our old land had huge stands of Goldenrod, which predominately 5 species. A time of new beginnings begins…

I am looking forward to sharing and exploring our new land with you.

Catnip chasing the biting insects away

The other day I read that an Iowa State University research group showed that the essential oil found in the herb catnip Nepeta cataria is about 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes in the laboratory. What a wonderful discovery!

Our home has catnip growing everywhere, especially along the edges of our home. It is in the mint family and spreads like it too, very prolific. The other night we were having dinner outside and little no-see-ums where nipping at our ankles. So, I mentioned the research to our guests and decided to pick some catnip and have everyone rub it on their legs. I also left the used stems on the ground under the table by our feet. Within a couple of moments, to everyone surprise, there was relief from the no-see-ums!

Insect repellent just doesn’t get any easier than that.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Foraging Black Birch

When I was about 8 years old, David introduced me to Black Birch (also known as Sweet Birch, Betula lenta), which is rather easy to identify when the branches are broken or scratched, it smells of wintergreen. Yellow birch also has a wintergreen aroma but not as strong. David taught me that I could make tea out of the Black Birch bark. After a long hike, we took a young branch and broke it into small pieces (each about an inch long, the thickness of a matchstick), added it to boiled water and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes (it’s important not to boil the twigs themselves, as they will lose its aroma). The water turned this beautiful red and smelled of wintergreen; the tea was delicious!

As my passion for the natural world grew, I loved to share it with friends. I found I could keep their attention if I identified plants that we could eat along the way. After a long hike, I would harvest some Black Birch and make tea for my hiking companions. This always impressed them and was a good ending to a lovely hike.

What I learned later was that Black Birch has analgesic and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory properties. Methyl salicylate compounds found inside the oil are effectively absorbed and used by the body to naturally treat pain. Methyl salicylate is related to the compound from which aspirin is derived from, so it was a perfect ending to a long hike and relieved any muscle aches we had.

When foraging it is important to properly identify the plant before eating or tasting. Peterson has an excellent field guide series.

Audubon also has a great series

P.S. I don’t think you can have too many field guides.

All information is shared for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

It is too early to start mowing

As I was sitting outside soaking in the magical spring weather, I heard the sound of a lawnmower. The first thing came to my mind was, “Shit, not already!” I surveyed our lawn, already a beautiful lush green, and decided that it wasn’t that high yet. What is wrong with these people! It is the end of April and still cool in the evening. It can wait.

A week later, I heard the lawnmower again. The sound makes me very anxious, because once I start mowing; my life is committed to mowing 3 hours a week, every week until the fall (we have a rather large lawn, unfortunately). That’s a lot of time and fossil fuels (we have too much lawn for a push-reel mower) committed to keeping the lawn shorter than 4 inches tall. So of course, I start thinking of reasons why I should and can put mowing off. The first reason that came to mind seemed very reasonable. Mike did not check out the mower to make sure it is in good working condition. Therefore, it really didn’t make sense for me to start it up, because I couldn’t fix it, if it needed fixing. Heaven forbid if it broke while I was mowing.

A couple of days later, I heard the same lawnmower again. This time I noticed the beautiful buds on the Redbud tree, they were starting to open up. Then I surveyed the lawn for violet ~ there were starting to emerge too. Well, that was a no brainer and my best excuse for not mowing. There is no reason to mow a lawn until after the violets have been harvested from the lawn for at least five or more salads. Sure, I can go into the woods to harvest them, but nothing is better than harvesting flowers and herbs from your lawn. And you cannot harvest flowers and herbs after you have mowed over them, yuck! So folks, I have the best reason (besides using fossil fuels) for not mowing our lawn for a little while longer. I need to harvest my “lawn” first. It’s good to be a forager!

A salad made last spring ~ now that's the perfect reason to not mow the lawn.

My first spring salad of the year ~ now that’s the perfect reason to not mow the lawn.