Whew. It's been a month since my last post.
Moving house always causes chaos, but I'm finding some roots. I've been settling down, settling in, and unpacking.
I'll be back at the keyboard, and back into my workshop, soon.
In the meantime, I leave you with a super recipe based on our herb class today!
In class today, Jill Hoffman ND finished up a discussion with us about what is found on a typical CBC panel and we got into the differences between fats, omega 3's and 6's, and cholesterol. She also talked up some Winter Wellness information. then, Kristen and I taught a class on making Elderberry syrup and a digestive elixir.
So tonight for dinner, I sauteed up some rainbow chard (fresh veg! vitamins!) with a knob of butter (good fat!), a la Remedial Eating
. I sprinkled in some raisins (flavonoids!), and while they all softened and steamed, I toasted up some mixed nuts in a dry skillet (more good fat!). After the veggies were cooked, I turned off the heat and added a few tablespoons of the Elderberry syrup we made today to the hot pan (immune support!)
What a beautiful day!
Staying in the present, appreciating the “now”, is a difficult practice for all of us. Myself, I tend to fluctuate between the ticker-tape in my brain of to-do tasks that I haven’t finished yet, and the schedule and tasks I have set for tomorrow.
Today, I was dog sitting and took my charge out for her noontime walk. It is truly fabulous outside!
Here, in southeastern Pennsylvania, we’re about midway through autumn. We’ve had some nights in the upper 30’s, some days in the mid 80’s, and some days of torrential rain and wind. About half the trees are mostly or all the way empty of leaves, and there are still plenty left that are completely green.
As we walked, I had started out thinking about how different today is from the middle of summer. The sky is blue, but it’s lighter than that deep, dark blue you see in July. The sun is warm, but without the intensity that beats into my skin and feels like it is shining on my bones.
Then, since I was walking barefoot for maybe the last time this year, I crunched through some warm leaves. The next step, I was on soft grass that was warm on top and cool underneath. The driveways we crossed were smooth and hot, the curb was coarse.
A brisk breeze, maybe a wind even, kicked up. It had a beautiful cool edge, and a wild sound thanks to the dry leaves up high in the trees all around us.
I soaked in the light, the air, the sounds and smells and freshness that that walk held. I know that summer is over, along with its everlasting promise of warm and humid. I know that the near future holds cool, cold, dry, and rather uncomfortable weather. But for those 10 or 15 minutes, I knew what it was to be like to just Be.
This past Saturday, I attended an herbal conference that snuck up on me. It’s been on my calendar, as had the early-bird registration date, for ages. And suddenly, it was time to be there.
At the conference, I was asked how I found out about it, to improve their marketing efforts next year. Ummmm… I couldn’t remember. Maybe through the sponsoring farm? Am I a CSA member? Well, yes, but I’m pretty sure I discovered the CSA in researching the conference. (This gives some perspective- I probably signed up for the CSA in March or so. My share-buddy confirmed, I found the CSA for us through the conference, not the other way around.)
Well, however I came to be there, they were glad I was. And boy, so was I!
I plan to tell you more about the vendors, because they deserve their own special mentions and I got some really great stuff. And I can’t wait to tell you about meeting the wonderful, fabulous… but I‘ll wait and tell you her name later. Suffice, for now, to say that I met a real-life Herbal Rock Star, and a favorite Rock Star of mine at that.
Today, I want to tell you about the conference itself, and encourage you to put it on your calendar for next year. Right now, go ahead, the first weekend in October, I’ll wait. (Add a reminder, for about the first week of July, so you can look for early bird registration!)
Rebuild Yourself During the Harvest Roasted Veg with Pear and Sage, from You Grow Girl
Many, many of the people I've talked to this week have been extra tired.
I have a theory: that this fabulous weather is invigorating, inspiring, and motivating, and we're all doing much more than we were last week. In the absence of the hot, humid drag that summer can have on our to-do lists, we're suddenly presented with the both an ideal environment to accomplish tasks we've put off, and the foreboding of more inhospitable weather- of the cold, icy variety.
It is worth it, however, to take some time and consider what this season is about.
Flowers that have been lazily bobbing about all summer are suddenly putting out seed. Fruits that have been taking in the scenery, slowly ballooning in size, are suddenly ripening and falling. Animals that have been dozing on hot afternoons are suddenly out at all hours, munching away and putting on their winter storage.
This last flurry of activity is all about preparation, building up, maximizing, optimizing, and storage before winter- a season that's all about hunkering down, being quiet, resting and restoring.
This makes Autumn the perfect time of year to heal! (Keep an eye out, I'll make the same argument for the next 3 seasons, too. It's all relative :) )
Enjoying the bounty that Autumn brings us signals a shift in our eating patterns- from summer salads and crisp-tender veg and quick grilled meats, to long-roasting, stewing, souping, and crockpots. It also allows our bodies to shift from the quick, light fare that cools us in the heat, to heavier, warm, sweet foods (in an Ayurvedic Tastes sense) that also imbibe us with the energies of the earth as it goes through it's own storage rituals.
Root vegetables hold all the promise of next years' growth, stored in their sweet layers deep in the comforting, supportive earth.
Seeds (including nuts) hold that same promise, and hold a sense of fresh air, sunshine and youth in their tight shells.
Mushrooms wait all summer for the cool dampness September brings, and help to bridge the gap between layers of the forest, between freshly fallen leaves and rich, dark hummus underneath, in the same way that they work with your body.
Squashes, with their hard rinds perfect for outlasting the whole season, yield a melting, soft, sweet interior, and gift us with all those qualities too.
Here's an example of a whole day's meal plan, based on this transition time between full-fledged Summer and outright Autumn:
Many of these links are to my affiliate Amazon account. Should you make a purchase after clicking on one, I get a few pennies commission.
- The night before, I boil water (to make tea) and pour some over a hot cereal, like steel-cut oats or Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain. I let it sit til morning.
- The next day, add more water and cook about 10 minutes till the cereal is finished. While it cooks, cut some fall fruits like apples or pears into slices and warm in a pan with cinnamon and all those great pie spices, some butter and a little juice or water. I don't really "cook" them, just warm them up.
- Top the cereal with fruit, nuts, ground flaxseed, milk, whatever you like. I like breakfast with a big mug of Dandy Blend.
- Near lunchtime, since I'm at work, I put a whole acorn squash on foil in the toaster over, set at about 375, for an hour. When it's soft, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle in some maple syrup (or Razz's Shagbark Hickory Syrup!) (that's a direct link, for awesomesauce) and scoop out the warm flesh with a spoon, directly into your mouth. Fabulous!
- I also keep a container of organic miso paste in my office fridge, and a jar of leftover sauteed greens like kale or chard. Scoop out a dollop of miso, about a tablespoon, and put in a mug with a little water, stirring to dissolve. Add a pile of cold, cooked greens, and fill up the mug with hot tea water. Stir carefully and poof! You have an instant soup at the perfect temperature.
- At dinnertime, wash and prep some greens of your choice. Strip kale from its stem, chop chard (and dinosaur kale!) with their stems, rinse out the bok choi really well, use whatever you have on hand. I sautee everything in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. It's great over grains or rice, splashed with apple cider vinegar, Bragg's Amino Acids, sesame oil, or any other sauce, or just on its own.
- I was raised in a 2 veg-per-meal house, and my CSA is still putting out string beans. It's super easy to snap off the blossom ends, stir fry them till they're brown and delicious with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, then splash some sesame oil in after you've shut the heat off.
- On the weekends I like to make up a big stew to have a leftovers. A recent favorite is this Pork and Fennel stew (from EatingWell.com). I at least double the fennel, use a little less pork, and added some frilly napa cabbage and carrots last time, with extra tomatoes. Some meaty mushrooms would be super, too. The meat turns meltingly tender, and completely falls apart after a good long time in the crock pot or in a clay pot, so every bite ends up with a little bit of everything.
- I've also been getting amazing, quick cooking red potatoes from my CSA. I chop some into chunks and boil until tender, drain and put in a bowl with a few teaspoons apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, a little mustard, curry powder or my kitchari blend, and enough mayo or yogurt to make a great, warm potato salad.
Natural Support During the Changing of the Seasons
Autumn is a beautiful time in Pennsylvania, full of color and smells and textures. The sunlight is already changing by mid-August, a reminder that at the Summer Solstice, the sun came as close as possible and we began our descent toward Winter. The air changes, becoming dryer and crisper and full of stories about ripening and harvesting and dying. The insects and birds change their tunes, too, and even the thunderstorms seem less enthusiastic without their hot, humid, summertime energy.
These changes outside bring changes to my inside as well, and not all of them are welcome! While ANY drop in the humidity is wonderful, it immediately signals dry hands and lips. Then too, the very fact that the air isn’t oppressive and stifling anymore encourages me to get out and work more, do more, to prepare for the future and to maximize my present.
My birthday is in early September, so I have a clear marker as I think back over the years and see that, consistently, this time of year always brings upheavals, major shifts, and nostalgia to my world.
In the spirit of all these changes, all these signals that time is moving on again after the long, lazy(ish) days of summer, here are my Five Favorite Fall Fixes:1. Oil
As Miss Celine, Emily’s ancient stylist, shared on Gilmore Girls, “Olive oil on the inside, ahnnnd on the outside!”
Personally, coconut oil serves me well. I like how it tastes, and how it absorbs into my skin. I use it as deodorant,
as moisturizer, and as a cooking oil because it has a higher smoke point than olive so it’s harder to burn.
Anytime the weather turns dryer, I start upping my oil intake. I’ll add a dollop of coconut to a mug of tea, or make popcorn with it. I splash good olive on all sorts of dishes as a dressing. The local Home Goods sells metal, cylindrical containers of nice, fancy oils like Toasted Hazelnut and Grapeseed, that make their way into all sorts of meals. Good quality fish oils like Green Pastures
, also make daily appearances and do a LOT for me and my mood!
Avocado counts too, and I love to make a quick mash with lemon and Tulsi as a side salad or spread on top of anything that will hold it.2. Roots
Grounding, nourishing, strengthening- root vegetables give us all the same qualities they need to do their rooty jobs. In Ayurveda, sweet tastes are building, and roots are classic examples of sweet. Plus, they cook up so soft and warm and delicious, in a heavy, substantial way that just isn’t desirable when it’s warmer outside.
In addition to common vegetables like beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, rutabagas,etc, I like herbal root powders as well. Marshmallow root powder, combined with honey and bananas and coconut butter and sesame seeds is one of my favorite breakfasts. I sprinkle Licorice root powder into hot chocolate, or on a Mediterranean style rice pilaf with raisins and cinnamon. Dandelion root is a wonderful way to nourish the liver, especially as it works harder with denser fall foods, and I keep a jar of Dandy Blend at my desk for when I can’t simmer a proper tea for 10 minutes or so. Avena Botanicals makes a beautiful Restorative Roots powder
that I like to add to smoothies, or that I whisk into hot mild and just drink. 3. Adaptogens
Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help your body respond to stress and the environment in non-specific ways, rather than hitting one body system directly. They commonly have immune, nervous system, adrenal, and digestive effects that are calming, normalizing, or nourishing.
Many of these herbs are familiar to areas like Northern China and Siberia, so we Westerners are only learning of them recently because, seriously, their research is only recently being translated out of Russian and Chinese! It shows how ingrained the internet is in my understanding of the world, that I was surprised that not everything is available in every language, or at least the major ones. That’s slightly embarrassing... Several of Ayurveda’s popular herbs are also considered in terms of their ‘adaptogenic’ qualities and are expanding the materia medica available to us.
Eleuthero, Rhodioa, Ashwaghanda, Amla, Ginseng, Astragalus, Tulsi- these are all adaptogens. I’m still learning about them and their distinctions, and David Winston’s Adaptogens
is a good starting point. Another great resource are Avena Botanicals youTube videos
on specific herbs, like Ashwaghanda or Tulsi (aka Sacred Basil).4. Bones
Nope, no vegetarians in my house! In my view, quality care, quality lives, and quality slaughter leads to quality animal products. Bones, specifically in the form of bone broth, are a wonderful, rich source of gelatine, that softens and protects my digestive system. I traditionally am very dry and cold, so in the winter I suffer even more.
I usually use chicken or turkey bones to make soup, or to cook rice or grains. But in the dead of winter, I will make a beef broth in the crockpot that simmers non-stop. I have a mug straight up in the morning, and at least one more during the afternoon or evening. Every time I take out a mugfull, I add a mug of water back and just keep it going. Usually, I just use water and a shin bone, and it lasts several days before starting to chip and losing flavor. If I have veggie trimmings or a Reishi mushroom piece I will throw them in too. A splash of Apple Cider Vinegar
helps pull minerals out of all bones and into the broth, as well.5. Wool and silk
Fall is a sensory experience! The smell of crisp leaves, ripe apples, frosty mornings, the crinkle of your nose in the dry chill, the whisper of cool breezes on your face, the comforting feeling of a down quilt in the morning.
I knitted a long striped cowl scarf out of some yarns I found in a clearance bin. They are mixtures of merino wool, cashmere, and raw silk, and the smell of those fibers just says AUTUMN! to my nose. A wool jacket, a silk undershirt- I just love love love it.
Fall is a chance for me to really change things “on the inside, and on the outside” and prepare my body and my mind for true winter, true cold and short days and staying in more. Let it serve as an actual transition between the energy and exuberance that is possible in summertime, and the quieter, slower, indrawn resting that marks nature in winter. *Please note, the Avena Botanicals links go directly to the company website and youTube channel, and the rest link to my Amazon Affiliate Account. Thanks!
Last week I was lucky enough to take a tour of the Highlands Mansion gardens and wild areas with members of the Pennypack Farm Herb Study Group, led by forager Sarah Murray. Sarah lived for over 20 years in France, and developed an interest from her former husband François Couplan, a renowned expert on the edible plants of the world. Wild Carrot aka Queen Anne's Lace
We met in the evening and, knowing we had limited light, tried to get as much in as we could even though we could stop every few feet in just the tended CSA beds to find wonderful edibles! Right away Sarah pointed out Evening Primrose with her precious flowers and edible leaves, growing all by herself near the garden gate, and a lush hedgerow of Mugwort that led us to a discussion of Mugwort cake in Korean culture. Interesting note: Mugwort looks like Feverfew when it's young.
Velvet Leaf and pod
Lamb's Quarters was standing near the Basil rows, and Sarah explained she much prefers to call it by another common name, Wild Spinach, since that makes people more likely to try it! It's a relative of Quinoa, and the seeds can be used in the same way. A distinguishing feature is a white bloom, or powder, on the very young leaves. And yes, it tastes like spinach.
Wild Carrot IS Queen Anne's Lace! I didn't know that! She's a biennial, so the first year has low growing, ferny, carrot-like leaves and tiny carrot-like taproots that smell STRONGLY of carrot. In the second year, the flower stalk shoots up into the familiar white umbrel with the dark drop in the center. She has hairy stems and very aromatic seeds, unlike Wild Hemlock, a potential look-alike that is VERY TOXIC but has no smell (seeds, roots or otherwise) and no hairs.
We came upon Velvet Leaf, a relative of Marshmallow that I wasn't familiar with before. It develops a fun pod with edible seeds that taste a little like green peppers. The leaves are also edible, and lend an interesting texture to a pesto. Galinsoga
There was plenty of Red Clover all over the CSA beds as well, and we discussed the white chevron on the leaves that marks the medicinal plants.
Next, we found Galinsoga, a weed I have seen many times and one that Sarah didn't have a common name for. It makes a nice salad green and has edible flowers, too.
Finally, we searched out a patch of Ground Ivy that Sarah had scouted earlier. It's great for allergic sinus issues, but tonight we were going to make Ground Ivy Chips!
After it got too dark, we went back to one of our fellow walker's homes for snacks. We had a nice salad with all sorts of greens and flowers, a superb pesto and the chips, with some crackers and a fantastic tea of Hibiscus, Cinnamon, Stevia and Nettles.
More Foraged Plants from Fellow Walker Hilarie
Ground Ivy Chips:
Dressing - 2 tbs balsamic vinegar, pinch of salt, pinch of garlic powder, olive oil.
Mix ingredients in that order, then coat the washed and stemmed leaves
Place the leaves one-by-one on a lightly oiled cookie sheet, smoothing out so they are open and flat.
Place in oven preheated to 400º, and leave in exactly 3 minutes.
Remove leaves from sheet immediately and enjoy!
Garlic Mustard leaves, Velvetleaf leaves, and any other aromatic leaves work well (Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, etc.).
Soak 1 cup raw almonds overnight and remove the skins.
Place them in a food processor, and add the leaves, washed and stemmed (about 2-3 cups) and salt. You can also add fresh garlic for flavor.
Add 2-3 tbs coconut oil and blend. Add water or coconut milk to obtain a smooth texture.
Flooding on Stenton Ave
Let me paint you a picture.
It's about 5:30am, not yet dawn, not still dark. It's that time called the gloaming, between day and night. Usually, we experience the gloaming in the evening, at dusk. This morning, the light is deceiving- it's light out, but it's too dark to see.
You wake to thunder and lightning, and rain- persistent, steady, heavy rain. It's close to the time for your alarm, so you doze, and WAHWAHWHA your phone, charging next to your bed, goes berserk. An alarm blares, it vibrates like crazy. There's a flash flood warning. The air is warm, and has passed "humid" to become almost physically "wet."
Sure enough, there's detours on your way to work, creeks and streams have jumped their banks, neighborhoods are full of drivers trying to find a higher bridge. By 9am, it's still dark like it was at 7, but the rain is ending. Cicadas are humming like a horror movie.
Now, a second picture. You sleep with the windows open, and wake to bright, early morning sun. A 55-degree breeze slides over you and your bedsheet like cool water. You hear birds, and a few crickets, but little else. The air is dry, so very dry compared to yesterday that your nose crinkles inside a little. Because yes, these two pictures are only separated by 24 hours.
And that, my friends, is another reason to love PA. Sometimes August feels like July, and sometimes it feels like September.
In other news, I'm in the process of moving and downsizing my home, and I apologize for the scarce postings. I anticipate more breathing space by next week, and enough room to flail around by the end of the month. We'll dance again soon.
Sunny August- St John's Wort and Calendula Oils steeping, 24 hours later
These Healing Herb monographs are based on my experience and my research. Some are my common 'weed' herbs, and others are 'imported' herbs from Europe, Asia, etc, that are starting to pop up in more places like medicinal boxed teas and specialty supplements, so it's worth getting to know them.
In the introduction to David Winston's Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, he describes this class of plants simply: "...[they] help the human body adapt to stress, support normal metabolic processes, and restore balance." This is strong medicine.
Tulsi, or Holy Basil (so much fun to say! Holy Basil, Batman!) is an adaptogenic herb that is becoming more familiar to us Westerners, and is an important part of Ayurvedic medicine. It is closely related to the basils more familiar to us, including popular Italian Basil, and newly popular Thai Basil.
Adaptogens help your body adapt to stress, and by definition are non-specific. This means that Tulsi doesn’t just
- increase absorption in your gut and the bioavailability of nutrients
- or strengthen the nervous system tissues
- or clear brain fog
- or prevent excess cortisol and adrenaline production
- or enhance dopamine and serotonin
- or calm an over-reactive immune system
Tulsi has ALL
of these effects! Thanks to these actions, Tulsi can also
- relieve depression
- improve digestion and appetite
- increase the power of other herbs
- reduce the effects of colds, lung and respiratory problems, sinus congestion and headaches, and loosen mucous
- help recovery after radiation treatments
- enhance brain function and concentration, especially with ‘menopausal brain’, ADD, and injuries
Traditionally, people keep a Holy Basil plant outside their front door, and chew a leaf every time they pass. This practice qualifies as “food medicine,” and would give you a frequent, tonic-level dose of constant care. Tulsi powder could be added to your food as well, in smoothies or nut-butter herb balls or anywhere else a little powder could be tucked in, like butter or ghee- use your imagination!How to Take Your Holy Basil:
- You could add Holy Basil to your juicer or smoothie.
- Pre-packaged teas with Tulsi are becoming more available.
- A tincture could help move past “tonic” and into a more substantial “medicine” dose for someone who is significantly run down and depleted.
- Using a strong infusion in your homemade shampoos, or steeping Tulsi directly in your store bought ones, is a creative way to bring its medicine directly to your head.
Good quality Tulsi is available online, say from Herbiary
in Philadelphia, and it’s easy to grow your own- it will be an annual, unless you live in a very tropical clime. I have found good seeds at Herbiary, and actually got some seedlings from my CSA this summer. My sources for Tulsi information were: classroom lectures and discussions with Lynn Roberts (Ayurveda practitioner), The Ayurveda Encyclopedia
by Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha, Herbal Therapy and Supplements by Winston and Kuhn, Adaptogens by Winston, and HorizonHerbs.com.
My meditations are based on Dr Deepak Chopra’s 7 Laws of Spiritual Success, and on the request of a loved one who once asked me to imagine, just for that night, what it would be like to love myself. Read the Laws, imagine it for yourself, and grow into your beautiful being.
This morning, I was prompted to consider the Law of Giving and Receiving. There was a sentence that piqued my interest: “Each time I meet someone, I will silently wish them happiness, joy, and laughter.” What a beautiful sentiment!
I love myself, and I share my love. I wish everyone happiness, joy and laughter.
Meditation allows us to imprint a new thought pattern of our choosing into our hearts, to stamp it on the very iron in our blood, and to engrave it on our conscious and unconscious minds. We often spend a great deal of time thinking negative, hurtful things, about ourselves and each other. This is a chance to break that habit and introduce a new one, even if it’s just for that mediation session. The universe will hear you when you think something once, or when you think it 100 times.
What a lovely morning! (By that I mean hot, muggy, buggy and hot.)
Truly, though, I really love living in a temperate climate. Our summers are very hot and VERY humid, our winters cold and wet (last January we had a windy day that was 12 degrees, and a night that was 9. Couldn't even breathe!)
But that's just it. I love the changes, the shifts, the adjusting. Going outside after a thunderstorm wouldn't feel so clean and fresh if it weren't for the humid day that led up to it. The crisp, cool, dry mornings of Autumn are best enjoyed after the baking we just endured for the last several months. So even though I would love to see a night time temperature in the 60's, I relish this heat knowing that I won't have it soon enough.
My Tomatoes are relishing this heat too, as are the Chamomile and Red Clover blooms. There's a St. John's Wort oil just beginning it's second solar infusion to make it double strength, the single Calendula plant is giving out flowers one at a time, and the Dill and Cilantro have started to flower.
I love this time of year.