Monday, April 18, 2016

What To Eat In Springtime

The fast procession of Spring blossoms is dizzying -- Acacia and Loquats, Anemones and Redbuds, Violets, Primroses, Bluebonnets and Black Eyed Susans; Irises, Pear Trees, and snow white Yarrow. The flowers of this Season are too many to name. Come Springtime, there is just no stopping the momentum which propels all of life forward.

It is this incredible burst of green life which makes Spring the most opportune time to gather wild edibles and brew daily teas from the herbs growing just beyond your door. It is these plants which thrive in Springtime which have an astounding ability to reawaken the body and sharpen the mind, in preparation for the coming season of fullness. It is a time of deep green nourishment, and we hope you will join us, in drinking deep of all that spring has to offer through this verdant introduction to our favorite seasonal wild foods.


Viola spp.

Parts Used  //  Leaf + Flower
Energetics  //  Cool + Moist
Herbal Actions  //  Demulcent, Astringent, Vulnerary, Alterative, Nutritive

Violet tops the list of our favorite Spring edibles.  The leaves are pleasingly succulent and satisfying eaten raw and the flowers are mellow but fragrant with a subtle sweetness to them.  Wildcrafted Violet leaves + flowers are two of the star ingredients in our Healing Breast Oil. Used externally, this blossoming beauty helps to keep the lymph flowing smoothly, relieves tenderness and swelling, helps to prevent and resolve lumps, bumps, and other growths, and increases the suppleness and resilience of the skin of the breasts and nipples.  Also called Heartsease, due to both the shape of its leaves and its affinity for gladdening a heavy heart, Violets help to bring a subtle brightness back to the world during bouts of ennui.  Enjoy leaves and flowers eaten fresh on the trail or added to salads.  The Leaves can also be made into a truly unique pesto with an incredibly unique and indescribably delicious demulcent quality.  They're particularly rich in vitamins A and C and help to keep digestion and elimination regular with their nourishing mucilage.

Stinging Nettle

Urtica spp.

Parts Used  //  Leaves
Energetics  //  Drying, Stimulating
Herbal Actions  //  Anti-Inflammatory, Nutritive, Alterative, Rubafacient, Diuretic

Nettles is, perhaps, the most famous and infamous of all herbs.  Those who meet it unsuspectingly in the wild, don't soon forget their encounter.  The sting of nettles lingers for up to twenty four hours and can be likened to an electric buzzing as it dissipates. Historically, some have taken advantage of this irritating quality and intentionally undergone what is referred to as Urtication (for the latin, Urtica spp.).  Urtication involves intentionally stinging oneself with Nettles in order to bring circulation and immune factors to a certain part of the body.  It has been used to counteract joint pain, numbness (I can only laugh at this...), baldness, and more spiritual ills which have driven the Soul from a certain part of the body.  While I have never personally undergone Urtication, I am curious about attempting it on my increasingly overtaxed right thumb (thank you, iPhone),

Nettle is incredibly rich in minerals -- most notably calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron -- making it useful for addressing a wide range of complaints including adrenal fatigue, spasmodic cramping, anemia, and general weakness.  It is one of our favorite herbs to enjoy as a nourishing infusion and it combines well with Raspberry Leaf and Oatstraw for this purpose.   Note :: Do not try to eat this plant fresh unless you have been shown how by someone who has done so and remained unscathed.  Do not harvest leaves plant has gone to seed.  Enjoy the fresh leaves as a strong infusion or cook them with olive oil, garlic, and spinach for a real treat. Dried leaves can be powdered and added, to smoothies at a later date.  Oh, and we cannot sing the praises of our Wild Onion + Nettle Seed Finishing Salt loudly enough.  It is so good.


Stellaria media

Parts Used // Aerial Parts
Energetics // Cooling
Herbal Actions // Nutritive, Vulnerary, Demulcent, Diuretic, Anti-Inflammatory, Alterative

Chickweed is a true darling of Springtime.  It often grows in close quarters with Cleavers and the two make a winning combination as a daily tea to breathe life back into the body after a long winter's rest.  Chickweed is also a favorite herb to infuse in oils and salves for its incredible skin healing properties.  Used both internally as a tea or food and externally as a wash, salve, or oil, it is one of the finest plant allies for resolving longstanding skin conditions.  It combines particularly well with Dandelion and Rose to this end, particularly when the underlying cause is hepatic.  Easy to digest yet incredibly nutrient dense, it is a favorite food for restoring the body after illness or convalescence.  Super Abundant in most places where it grows, Chickweed can be enjoyed daily in salads, smoothies, and pestos.


Lamium amplexicaule

Parts Used // Aerial Parts
Energetics // Mildly Cooling
Herbal Actions // Nutritive, Astringent, Vulnerary

Henbit is, at first glance, a diminutive and innocuous plant.  It grows tenaciously through cracks in city sidewalks, covers lawns and parks, and unfortunately, goes mostly unnoticed even by plant lovers.  It's taste is mild and mineral and its small purple flowers possess a subtly sweet nectar and seem to have a sense of humor about the world.  Add it to pestos, infuse it in vinegar, or enjoy it to other spring greens raw or cooked.  The entire plant is edible and quite tasty.  A strong infusion of the entire plant can be used as a compress to soothe bites, stings, mild skin irritations, and swellings.  And, as the name implies, Hens love it.


Tradescantia spp.

Parts Used // Leaf, Stalk, and Flower
Energetics // Cool + Moist
Herbal Actions // Demulcent, Vulnerary, Nutritive

This succulent and mild blossom is coming up through the sidewalks and blooming in thickets in lawns and on by ways. She is cool and moist, sweet and tender. With a distinctly nourishing and demulcent quality, she balances the Vata nature of Spring with ease. Her prolific flowers can be enjoyed raw in salads or smoothies and and the young leaves and shoots can be cooked along with wild onions. Due to the mucilaginous quality of this plant (think okra) it can be added to soups, stews, and gumbos as a thickener. Additionally, this mucilage lends a cooling soothing quality making Spiderwort a great choice for helping to heal mild burns in a manner much like Aloe Vera. Pro tip, eat a few flowers along the trail and see what color they turn your spit!


Gallium aparine

Parts Used // Above Ground Parts
Energetics // Cool + Dry
Herbal Actions // Vulnerary, Lymphatic, Diuretic, Nutritive,  Alterative, Anti-Inflammatory

Cleavers encourages the flow of lymph throughout the body and can help to resolve fibrocystic tissue.  Helpful both internally as a tea and externally as a wash for eruptive skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and boils.  This incredibly prolific plant has an affinity for the urinary tract and kidneys and acts as a stimulating and soothing diuretic in cases of infection.  A relative of the dye plant Madder, the roots can be used to produce a red dye -- though this seems a futile endeavor considering the pithiness of the roots.  Enjoy above ground parts as a daily infusion to support lymphatic health in spring or combine with Turks Cap Leaf + Flower and drink freely as a strong infusion for irritation or infection of the urinary tract.

Wild Arugula

Eruca sativa

Parts Used // Young Leaves + Flowers
Energetics // Warm + Dry
Herbal Actions // Digestive, Warming, Aperient, Nutritive

Wild Arugula is a real treat in its immature "micro" stage. Peppery and stimulating, it makes the perfect addition to any late Winter meal. I especially enjoy it sprinkled over eggs, added to beans and rice, or as a simple salad tossed with lemon and oil and backed within a roasted winter squash. It can be enjoyed mature as well but becomes increasingly spicy as it grows larger. Try it in this state thinly sliced, sautéed, and added to a kale salad with bacon, dates, and blood oranges. One of the first flowers to emerge on the cusp of Winter and Spring -- the bright yellow blossoms make a for a sunny garnish when most edible flowers are still months away.

Wild Onions

Allium spp.

Wild Onions are one of the first feral foods to appear in Spring.  I am here in Central Texas, in Austin, where I was born and raised, and these tender alliums are everywhere!  My mother's lives just up the street from a remarkably vital stretch of water and wild.  Less than a quarter mile from a medium sized highway, this natural sanctuary so tucked away, feels like my own private Eden whenever I come to visit her.  The diversity of wild foods and medicines which thrive in this small haven is astounding.  The Wild Onions are some of the first to find their way onto my plate in Spring, along with cheerful dandelions blossoms and their delicious bitter greens.  Then there are the diminutive and tart Oxalis leaves, the creeping Dewberry now in bloom, the overgrown mats of Cleavers, and the Pecans overhead just beginning to leaf out. There are also sizable Trout in good numbers in the creek, and though I'm not yet much of an angler, they've piqued my curiosity.  All of  this against a backdrop of what is to me, an iconic Springtime vision -- a profusion of edible magenta blossoms covering the Redbud trees.

Harvesting wild onions is a deliciously grounding way to reconnect with the Earth as she grows more fertile with each passing day of Spring. I recommend finding a patch of damp earth, dappled with sun and shade, and placing one palm flat on the ground as you gently coax each bulb from its subterranean resting place. The soft sound and gentle release as the roots succumb to the pull of your hand, moving from soil to sunlight, is marvelously wholesome and satisfying. It is also a resplendent thing to have your fingers covered in wild dirt. I like to leave just a little bit of it on the bulbs rather than washing them too thoroughly. I am a strong believer that a little dirt is very good for you. If that sounds strange, I encourage you read more about that here.


Taraxacum officinale

Parts Used // Entire Plant
Energetics // Warm + Dry
Herbal Actions // Digestive, Hepatic, Aperient, Nutritive, Diuretic, Alterative

First and foremost, Dandelion is an excellent nutritive herb. Useful as both a food and a medicine, Dandelion is remarkably mineral rich and high in antioxidants A + C making it useful in some forms of anemia as well as for strengthening bones + teeth. The implications of including wild and mineral rich greens in your daily diet cannot be overstated--eat a salad of of Dandelion leaves and blossoms each day of Spring and you will surely notice a marked shift in your mood, cognitive function, energy, skin, digestion, and general connection to all that is Wild, within and without.

The leaves of the Dandelion are a potent diuretic which, unlike diuretic medications, works to replenish the minerals (read :: potassium) lost through urination and ultimately to strengthen the kidneys and entire urinary tract through its careful use.  Because of its diuretic effect, Dandelion is an excellent choice for treating Urinary Tract Infections when combined with increased fluid intake and soothing herbs such as Marshmallow Root or Cornsilk--an infusion of the leaves is preferred for this application.  The entire plant, but particularly the root, acts on the system as a mild laxative, or aperient.  It helps to move sluggish bowels, making it an excellent choice for the change of seasons.  Its regular use improves liver function significantly and can therefore have a profound and lasting effect on skin conditions, hormonal imbalances, and even conditions as significant as Hepatitis.  Through its action on the liver, Dandelion effectively cleanses the blood and supports optimal lipid and hormone metabolism.  The bitter taste of the herb itself speaks volumes about its uses.  The powerful bitter flavor promotes bile secretion and soothes indigestion--particularly when the imbalance is caused by impaired fat absorption and digestion.  Greasy stool is a strong indication that Dandelion may be of great use.  The root of Dandelion is also incredibly high in Inulin--a complex sugar which nourishes the beneficial bacteria in our intestinal tract.  Healthy gut flora effects everything from cognitive function to auto-immune processes, so drink up.  To optimize Inulin extraction, a long slow decoction of the root is preferred--combine with Marshmallow Root (soothing and nourishing to the intestinal tract) and Burdock Root (also full of Inulin) for a heavy hitting dose of the good stuff!

Note // Proper identification is of paramount importance. Please consult a
field guide or local wild foods expert before harvesting any new plants you not familiar with. Additionally, always ask permission and offer sincere thanks to the plants for their sustenance.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Don't Throw Away Those Silica Bags Any More!

The silica gel bags we often find in shoe boxes usually end up in the trash, just because we believe they’re completely useless and even toxic.

However, the truth is that they are not poisonous whatsoever. Rather, they are filled with a substance called silicon dioxide which should not be eaten but can be very useful around the house. They’re a non-toxic inert desiccant that will dry out anything around them. Here’s how you can use them:

1. Put Them in Your Gym Bag

The main purpose of these little packets is to absorb any extra moisture and protect the item they are added to from growing bacteria or mold. Bacteria thrive in damp and moist environments so adding one of these guys to your gym bag will eliminate dampness and germs thus freshening it up. They can even remove a very foul odor.

2. Put Them Between Towels

Prevent your towels from getting damp and smelling unpleasant by putting a few of these in the towel cabinet.

3. Make Your Razors Last Longer

Instead of leaving your razor around in the bath where it’s always wet put it in a plastic container with a few silica bags inside. It will make it last longer.

4. Save Your Drowned Phone

If you happen to drop your phone in water and it gets wet, don’t lose hope! Instead of putting it in a jar of rice try the same with silica bags. Fill a jar with them and put your mobile in, it will be much more effective.

5. No More Foggy Car Windows

I absolutely adore this one, since foggy car windows cause me a lot of problems especially in this damp weather season. This goes to all you drivers out there; it’s a true lifesaver in the winter. Instead of waiting for your windows to defog, which in older car models can take forever, put a bunch of these silica gel bags under your windshield from the inside immediately. You’ll see that tomorrow your windows won’t be foggy. It’s the fastest way to stop your windows from fogging up and you’ll save yourself the 10 extra minutes needed to clean them up.

6. Save Your Old Photos

Old photos usually deteriorate with time, which is really sad because they are the sole reminders of our past and are quite dear to our hearts. Put a couple of silica gel bags in your box of old photos to save them from the dampness that can ruin them.

7. Save Your Make Up

Every women needs to have a bag or two of silica gel in her make up purse to stop the powdery make up from curdling.

8. Save Your Jack-O-Lantern

Simply adding a silica bag  to the inside of your jack-o-lantern will extend its shelf life significantly. Nobody wants to smell a rotting pumpkin breaking down on the porch in the fall.
There you have it, 7 fun and useful tips which can make your life easier. Next time you buy something with silica gel bags in it don’t throw them away, they can be quite useful. Can you think of another way you can use these bags, maybe you’re already using them for something we haven’t mentioned? Please share your thoughts and ideas, we can all learn something new.