Herbal Wellness

St. Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval herbalist! 

By Shanon Sterringer ~ WRHS Member

Ph.D., D.Min, MA Theology, MA Ministry, BA
Ordained Priest, GSC
28958604_1305092429592591_6233557259574575104_o

It is hard to believe it has been almost a year since I had the privilege of presenting Hildegard the Medieval Herbalist at one of the monthly WRHS meetings.  Many of you are familiar with this amazing woman who practiced healing, not only through the use of foods and herbs, but precious gemstones.  Her work Physica serves as an encyclopedia for the use of many natural elements for holistic health and well-being.  She sees their healing properties existing through her theological understanding of viriditas (greening power) which she believed was the life-source that came from our Creator Source.  Viriditas animates and sustains all that is alive.

119732238_2848817461886739_938376626784666237_n

St. Hildegard of Bingen describes amethyst in her work, Physica in the following way: “Amethyst develops when the sun shows its circle, as though it was crowned, which it does when it prefigures some change in the vestment of the Lord, in the Church.  Amethyst grows as a gum, and so there are many of them.  It is hot and fiery and a bit airy, since the air is a bit cool when the sun shows its circle.” She goes on to describe how to use it medicinally.  For Hildegard, God’s providence permeates every particle of the created world and therefore everything in nature has an ordered purposed.  Human beings are a part of the divine order and therefore will find benefit in mind, body and spirit from the natural world.

IMG-7654

One herb that is of particular interest to Hildegard, and Hildegard followers today, is fennel.  In her work she recorded almost two full pages on fennel including the following: “In whatever way it is eaten, it makes a person happy and brings a gentle heat and good perspiration, and make for good digestion… Eating fennel or its seeds every day diminishes bad phlegm and decaying matter, keeps bad breath in check and makes one’s eyes see clearly, by its good heat and beneficial powers.”  Fennel tea and seeds are often consumed today following meals to aid in the digestive process. 

This is a photo from the back of the Hildegard Haus in Fairport Harbor (where I live and pastor a community of faith).  Growing alongside of the church building is a beautiful crop of fennel.  Last year I worked in the dye garden and in the fall, I was invited to take a handful of fennel seeds from one of the plants.  This small handful of seeds produced an abundant crop here in Fairport Harbor. It is so beautiful, in part because it captures Hildegard’s charism and the spirit of the Western Reserve Herb Society.  While I have truly missed being at the WRHS garden this year, I feel gratitude each day as I walk out into the courtyard at the Hildegard Haus to visit the fennel plants. 

119684571_2846814212087064_4647987445127667702_n

Another popular Hildegard themed treat is her recipe for “Cookies of Joy” or sometimes referred to as “Nerve Cookies” because they are meant to calm one’s nerves by bringing joy.  These cookies are often made from spelt flour (one of Hildegard’s preferred grains) and include her “Spices of Joy” mixture – cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.  In Physica, she wrote: “Take some nutmeg and an equal weight of cinnamon and a bit of cloves and pulverize them.  Then make small cakes with this and fine whole wheat flour (or spelt) and water.  Eat them often.  It will calm all bitterness of the heart and mind, open your heart and impaired senses, and make your mind cheerful.”  There are many recipes circulating for these cookies and when I have hosted retreats or events, many different versions often appear on the buffet table.  Some very unique, and all delicious!  A recipe is included at the end of this blog post, but I encourage you to play with it and make it your own!

Hildegard of Bingen died on September 17, 1179 and so her feast day is celebrated each year in her memory and honor.  We not only celebrate to remember who she was and what she did in 12th century Germany, but to be inspired to bring some of the charism of this remarkable woman, a German Benedictine Nun and Mystic, into our world today.  She has much to teach us about the created world, including the rich treasures of plants, trees, herbs, precious stones and foods.  Her wisdom reaches far beyond this blog post, but for now we can start by kicking back with a cup of fennel tea and a cookie of joy - actually in her book, Hildegard says to eat five or six of them each day!  

119744733_2848984918536660_4872124868863757034_n

Above is a photo of me from our Hildegard “feast” we celebrated as the culmination of a 12-day international virtual pilgrimage with participants from all over the world.  We started in Fairport Harbor each day and then traveled to Germany and experienced the viriditas (greening power) of Hildegard’s homeland through her art, music, preaching and of course, her use of herbs, plants and precious stones. As you can see on the table in front of me, I celebrated with spelt, chestnuts, fennel tea and cookies of joy!  May this season of harvest be overflowing with viridity!

In her book, From Saint Hildegard’s Kitchen: Foods of Health, Foods of Joy,  Jany Fournier-Rosset includes the following recipe:

Cookies That Bring Joy

 12 Tbsps+1tsp butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

4 egg yolks

2 ½ cups spelt flour

1 tsp salt

2 rounded tbsps “Spices of Joy”

Melt the butter under low heat, add the sugar, honey, and egg yolks, beating lightly.  Add the flour and salt, combine gently.  Refrigerate this cookie dough after mixing, for at least one hour.  Remove from refrigerator.  Roll out onto a floured surface, cut with a cookie cutter. Bake on a baking sheet at 400 F for 10-15 minutes until golden, watching closely.


The new book "Wild Remedies" is easy to use and enjoy!

Todays post was written by our guest author and good friend Paris Wolfe!

Former Blogmaster for The Herb Society of America, Paris Wolfe planted her first herb garden in 1990. She’s been growing, cooking and crafting with herbs ever since.

 

Download (11)

I can’t decide whether “Wild Remedies” by Rosalee de la Foret and Emily Han, released in March 2020, is a foraging book or a healing foods book.  The authors go both ways with health benefits of “weeds” like dandelion, chickweed, violet as well as fruits like apples, blackberries, elderberries. It doesn’t really matter because the book, with its lush photographs, appeals to the garden goddess in me.

This isn’t an encyclopedic tome. And that’s a good thing. The authors limit the book to 25 plants -- most foraged – for a more comprehensive examination. Keeping it under control makes information accessible to the casual reader. Most, if not all, of this list can be wildcrafted in Northeast Ohio.

An experienced herbie and forager, I was impatient as the authors covered ecology basics and foraging “rules of the road” in the book’s first few chapters. These chapters include journal prompts and exercises that felt elementary to me. Or maybe I was just impatient to get to the action.

Rosalee-de-la-Foret-Emily-Han-Featured-Image-within-post

As the authors explored individual botanicals, I was smitten. These were plants I knew –and I was learning new ways to use them. Each chapter includes growth habits and summary information. Medicinal properties are discussed followed by information on ecology, harvesting and use. Chapters close with easy-enough recipes. Please consult your physician before using any herbal remedies for medicinal purposes.

I received my copy in April and started with what was in season … dandelions and violets.  The first thing I made was the Dandelion Maple Syrup Cake. The cream cheese-based frosting, walnuts and raisins made it seem a bit like carrot cake. Even the skeptical eaters at the table enjoyed it.

For my next production I made violet oxymel – a mixture of violet-infused white wine vinegar and honey. That was the essential ingredient in a Simple Violet Cocktail. The first cocktail was gin-based. I’m going to repeat the recipe with vodka. I might like that better.

I cannot wait to try recipes with plantain, wild mustard, nettles, purslane, burdock and so much more. I just need a prolific, untreated “weed” patch to supply the ingredients for healing teas, tasty side dishes, delicious desserts and enticing bath products.

Here is the recipe for the wonderful Dandelion Cake!

Dandelion-cake-2nd-try

DANDELION MAPLE SYRUP CAKE – from Wild Remedies

Cake

1⁄2 cup butter, softened

1⁄2 cup maple syrup

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3⁄4 cup freshly picked dandelion flowers (sepals and bracts removed)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)

1 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 cup raisins, chopped (optional)

1⁄4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

 

Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1⁄4 cup butter, softened

1⁄4 cup maple syrup

1⁄4 cup freshly picked dandelion flowers (sepals and bracts removed)

 

 

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9 x 2-inch glass pie plate.
  2. Mix the butter, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the dandelion flowers and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Mix the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir well. If using, mix in the raisins and/or walnuts.
  5. Press the batter into the greased pie plate. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.

 

For the frosting: Use a handheld mixer to combine the cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup. Taste and add more maple syrup if desired.

 

Assemble the cake:  When cooled, invert the cake onto a sheet pan or large, flat plate. Frost the top and sides. Sprinkle the dandelion flowers on top.

 

Interestingly enough, this earthy book has much interactive, digital support. Right away I joined its Facebook page and book club. On the Facebook page, members share their recipe successes, photos and questions You can get more information on these by visiting Wild Remedies Book. Or following the following links …

Facebook
@LearningHerbs

@HerbalRemediesAdvice

Instagram
@rosaleedelaforet

@misschiffonade

@learningherbs

YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/user/HerbMentor 

Photos were given to us with permission from the lovely authors who are shown in the 2nd photograph....


Anise Hyssop-An Unsung Herbal Workhorse

 

By Kathy Shriver - WRHS Website Chairman

 

Untitled design - 2020-04-28T100957.069

When I joined the Western Reserve Herb Society in 2016, I was excited to work in its historic Herb Garden. We were able to choose a section that peaked our interest and since I am obsessed with flowers, so jumped at the opportunity to work in the Edible Flower Section.  There we grow several dozen varieties of flowering plants and herbs and the blossoms of all of these are edible.  I was drawn to almost all of them because the flowers were bright and beautiful and lent themselves to being a show stopping part of a salad, baked goods, drinks or could be beautiful and edible garnishes.  And then there was this one lonely anise hyssop plant in the corner that I never paid much attention to.  You see, I don’t much care for the taste of anise and I had no idea what a hyssop was.  But what I did notice week after week was what an amazing bee magnet this plant was. 

Fast forward to 2018.  I made a late-in-the-gardening- season trip to a local organic nursery to buy some herbs for my home garden.  The selection wasn’t as grand as it would be at the beginning of planting season so I wasn’t able to get everything I wanted, but I saw some anise hyssop there and thought to myself since this is the Herb of The Year TM for 2019, let me add a few of these….at least the bees love them.  I hadn’t done any research about them and planted the four plants entirely too close together, not realizing how tall and wide each one would grow.  By the end of summer, these 4 plants had grown into quite an impressive “hedge” of tall, purple blooms surrounded by pollinators of all kinds:  Bumblebees, honey bees, and butterflies buzzed constantly from flower spike to spike.  Brushing up against the foliage to harvest other herbs released a sweet smell of anise into the air.  I decided one day to taste some of the leaves and flowers.  I was amazed at how sweet the flowers were and that the anise flavor was not as strong as I thought it might be. 

In the very early spring of 2019, I noticed some purple foliage poking through the soil.  I couldn’t figure out what it could be.  It seemed to be in the very spots I planted the anise hyssop the previous year, but purple?  Lo and behold, as the spring progressed and the weather turned warmer, the purple foliage started becoming more lush and more green.  I recognized the telltale shape of the semi heart shaped/triangular leaves and realized this was in fact the anise hyssop coming back.  It is a hardly perennial to Zone 4 although it is considered “short lived” perennial i.e. dies after about 2-4 seasons.  However, it is a self-seeder and as I discovered, I had several volunteer plants sprouting up around my raised garden bed.  Unlike other mints, anise hyssop doesn’t spread like wildfire so it is easy to relocate unwanted volunteers and keep the wanted plants from crowding out others.  Just keep in mind, it can get up to 3 feet in width and up to 6 feet in height so it will do best in the back of a flower bed (too bad mine is planted front and center and hides my calendula) and should be given plenty of its own space.  Once again, as the growing season went on, my anise hyssop “hedge” took shape.  This year, it grew so tall, it actually fell over on itself.  But even then, the pollinators came, and came, and came some more.

 

Untitled design - 2020-04-28T102355.481

I realized, as many others who also grow anise hyssop find, that it is a very useful herb that is often overlooked.  For one thing, it’s not well-known.  Had it not been the Herb of The Year TM for 2019, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  My preferred nursery always carries it, but your average garden center won’t.  Even though anise hyssop is not considered GRAS (generally regarded as safe) like more well-known herbs such as basil, rosemary or even lavender, herb gardeners have been cooking with it for decades, but you won’t find it among the fresh herbs for sale even at the most high end grocery stores.  And don’t try to look for it amongst the dried herbs and spices or extracts.  Anise hyssop is not that anise i.e. anise or anise seed-the herb that imparts a licorice taste or what you’d find as anise extract in the baking aisle.  Nor is it star anise-the lovely star shaped spice that makes frequent appearances in recipes this time of year. Despite its name, anise hyssop doesn’t contain high amounts of the principal component of anise, a compound called anethole and in fact, there are those (myself included) who think anise hyssop smells more like French tarragon or fennel than anise.  Which is why many prefer to refer to anise hyssop by its botanical name of Agastache foeniculum, rather than its common name.

Agastache takes its name from the Greek words ‘agan’ meaning very much and ‘stachys’ meaning spike.  The Latin ‘foeniculum’ refers to the fennel-like smell and taste.  Like other members of the Agastache genus, A. foeniculum is part of the mint family and can be identified as such by its square stems and its oppositional leaves.  The flower heads or inflorescence are made up of hundreds of tiny pale purple-blue or white flowers that produce nectar all day long.  As a result, pollinators find this plant a wonderful food source.  In fact, it has also been nicknamed “Wonder Honey Plant” by beekeepers who are known to plant A. foeniculum close to their hives.  The inflorescence flowers for up to 80 days. 

Although A. foeniculum thrives in dry, rich and neutral soil, it can also be found growing in the random crack near where seeds may have fallen the season before.  It does best in full sun, but will tolerate part shade.  Though the original plant may only live 2-4 seasons, because A. foeniculum self-seeds, one is sure to have additional plants year after year.  The taproot that forms helps give the plant its drought resistance.  It is also fairly heat, deer, disease, and pest resistant making it a great herb for someone who has areas in their garden where nothing else seems to grow.  Besides making for a pretty flower garden or a great way to draw all kinds of pollinators to your yard, A. foeniculum can be used to compliment fresh cut flower arrangements, create beautiful dried floral arrangements or made into potpourri.  In the kitchen, both the leaves and flowers can be used to make teas, cordials or infuse honey or liquor.  They add flavor and color to salads, custards, ice cream, and baked goods.  The flavor also compliments savory dishes like pastas, fish and beef.

Untitled design - 2020-04-28T101328.469

Agastache foeniculum can also be used for natural beauty or spa products because of its astringent, anti-inflammatory, cleansing and soothing properties and made into fascial masks, skin sprays and salves, or bath soaks.

So if you have some space in your garden this spring to sew some seeds or are able to find some anise hyssop plants at a specialty nursery, please don’t pass up the opportunity to add what will become an “herbal workhorse” to your yard.


The Feeling of Gardens to Come....

By Beth Schreibman Gehring -Chairman of Education Western Reserve Herb Society

This was written by my husband Jim one day after he came to pick me up from working in our beautiful Western Reserve Herb gardens. 

Sr Women Gardener3

Strolling through a large garden I found myself captivated by the smile on the Gardener's face, so I stopped for a moment to watch her at work. She looked up at me, stood up-right and in a wonderfully gentle voice she asked "can there be a more lovely day?" Finding myself in the midst of this most colorful garden with a bright blue sky and pleasant warm sunshine I not only agreed, I knew it was true.

"It is indeed just so lovely" I replied.  

I paused for a moment, but eager to keep the conversation going I asked her the first question that came to mind, "What do you do with your time when you are not in this beautiful garden?"

She looked at me and asked, "when am I not in my garden?" as a large grin spread across her cheeks revealing the most wonderful and generous wrinkles of joy.  

"Yes", I said, now feeling even more inspired.  "How about before you fall asleep or when you wake up?" I asked, sincerely wondering how she lived life outside this beautiful place that she obviously took such great pleasure in.

"That just might be the times when I do my best gardening work" she said, relaxing herself for a moment as she engaged me in conversation.  

As she continued I noticed a natural patience in her demeanor, which was easily portrayed by her soft and smooth voice. "Every night just before I fall asleep I am enveloped in the feeling of gardens to come, the one's that express such beauty and joy as I have yet to produce.  I know they are coming, because as I "see" these wonderful visions I can feel them as if they are real, I can smell them and touch them so vividly. They are to me in that moment as real as where you and I are standing right now. “

My mind was mesmerized by this picture she had so gracefully painted for me. My feelings rested contently in this garden vision, full of such beauty that was beyond the glorious place where we were both standing.

Sr Women Gardener4

"Of course, she laughed, my mornings are something else altogether".

 "I awake in the morning and in that moment I am present to a feeling of appreciation for all the joy and wonder that awaits me!"

She paused for a moment, smiling as she looked to the sky…

then looked at me and continued...

"The morning is when my feelings take root, backed by the images that spring forth in my mind, to bear fruit throughout the day, much like the seeds I tend here in this very garden."

"We often refer to it as gratitude, or appreciation, but for me it is like gardening, for when I open my eyes in the morning that is where my craft begins. I know in my heart that to be a good gardener it is so important to tend the soil, and to ensure the seeds have the right amount of sunlight, and always provide the right amount of water based on the unique characteristics of your plants."

She paused again, without a motion, as if to just take in the beauty that comes from an unseen place that at that very moment surrounded us.

"I feel that gardening has given me a gift for creating beauty both here" she said gesturing to the landscape around us, "and here" she said as she softly reached up resting her hand in the center of her chest. "It’s as if the sunshine, water and soil are just symbols for the thoughts, feelings and actions that, when properly tended to, ensures the same richness of experience in life as a well-tended garden, bringing to our senses the most wonderful sites, tastes and smells! "

She leaned upon her spade and smiled.

After a moments pause, she looked at me directly, eyes filled with a soft twinkle, choosing her final words with care. “For me it is such a blessing to know that one's life can be so whole and complete, no matter your career or passion.  I guess you could say that I am, simply put, a peaceful happy gardener –  both within and without, wherever I go, now in this conversation, while I eat and yes, even when I sleep. It brings me such joy that I cannot help but to wish this blessing for everyone I know.”

~James Gehring


What I am doing for the upcoming COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. February 26, 2020 , By James Robb, M.D., F.C.A.P.

By Beth Schreibman Gehring -Education Chairman Western Reserve Herb Society

 

 

A Season of Peace & Joy (24)

I’m posting this for anyone who  will appreciate this information. Many of you may have already seen it, as it is being posted all over the internet.  It is definitely a departure from our normal herbal articles but it is timely and necessary. I received from my sister Ellen, whose husband Dr. Peter Salk  over his lifetime has been very much involved with vaccine science, pathology and virology at the Salk Institute in San Diego, so I truly trust the source. This was written by a virologist who worked at UCSD in the 70’s doing early work on coronavirus’s.

Please do not substitute any of this advice for a good old fashioned trip to the Doctor if you begin to exhibit any symptoms at all! 

According to his research it is spread by contact, much more than air dispersion. He has lots of suggestions including the use of zinc. Jim and I truly hope that you find it valuable. --------

"As some of you may recall, when I was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, I was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). I was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, I have kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources. The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread in the US by mid to late March and April. Here is what I have done and the precautions that I take and will take. These are the same precautions I currently use during our influenza seasons, except for the mask and gloves.

1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.

2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.

3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip - do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.

4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.

5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.

6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home's entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can't immediately wash your hands.

7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!

What I have stocked in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:

1) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas. Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average - everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs) The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.

2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you - it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth - it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.

3) Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.

4) Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY "cold-like" symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available. I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this (edited: animal)-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available. I hope these personal thoughts will be helpful during this potentially catastrophic pandemic. You are welcome to share. Good luck to all of us!

James Robb, M.D., F.C.A.P. --------- James Robb, M.D., F.C.A.P., is a consulting pathologist to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research (OBBR), and is also the Leader of the cancer Human Biobank (caHUB) Biospecimens Subgroup, Latin America Cancer Research Network (LACRN) Pathology Committee, and National Community Cancer Centers Biospecimens (NCCCP) Pillar. He also serves on the Board of Governors of the College of American Pathologists (CAP). Dr. Robb's research interests include molecular oncologic and neurotropic virology.


Playing with Dandelions!

By Beth Schreibman Gehring Chairman of Education- Western Reserve Herb Society

A Season of Peace & Joy (20)

 

I  have always felt such an affinity for Dandelions. Where many see lowly weeds, I see necklaces, good wishes and fresh salad greens! When I was a child playing in my fathers’  gardens, one of the happiest signs of spring were when those bright golden, pollen laden blooms would appear all over our yard as if by magic! I couldn’t wait to get outside and play with them! That lovely golden pollen always tickled my nose and made me sneeze, but I loved it anyway! We all know that the dandelion provides the first and last food for our beloved honeybees and for that reason alone they should be worshipped.

As a child, “Who put them there?”  was  always my question , because I knew that my father hadn’t planted them. They seemed so magical.   I loved them…so much abundance and so much joy to be found in those smiling yellow faces.  I could never understand why he’d get so upset at my favorite pastime, which was to blow the seeds everywhere that I could, flower after flower.  My friends and I made long necklaces and head dresses and pretended that we were fairy queens!  I cried every time the gardeners mowed them down.  By the time I was 10  I finally convinced my father to just  let them be. That spring the dandelions returned with a vengeance as if to say….” Ha…you thought we were gone but we’ve been here for the whole time just waiting!”.  I was beside myself with joy the first time that I saw them reappear.  Dandelions have an absolutely unabashed generosity about them! Pick only one and the next day three will magically appear it its place. I still don’t know how they do that and that’s why I absolutely love them!

Dandelion or  as the French call it Dent de Lion or pissenlit  (the English call it Piss in Bed!) is one powerhouse of a springtime tonic. I love to use the leaves in salad, their bitterness is delightful on the tongue when countered by a salty dressing of olive oil, onion, egg and a bit of crispy bacon. Dandelions are known to have strong diuretic qualities.  When eaten as part of a meal they are thought to be unsurpassed for their cleansing and laxative qualities. In Iran, a wonderful green dip made of braised Dandelion leaves, onions and pine nuts dressed with lemon juice , olive oil and lemon zest is delicious when eaten with fresh yogurt and warmed pita bread.  Dandelion leaves eaten regularly are a marvelous tonic for the digestion and I love to make a simple wine  of infused Dandelion leaves and flowers.

Dandelion-wine-recipe-i539118940

Dandelion infused wine is a delicious and very pretty aperitif. Making it is simple. Just take a bottle of really good Riesling or viognier.
Open it and decant it into a large glass jar filled with several cups of  freshly washed Dandelion flowers. I also add a cup of fresh Lemon Balm and Lemon Verbena leaves! Add a cup of raw honey, shake well and let the whole thing infuse in a cool place for about a week.  Strain and decant the wine into a pretty decanter and chill it for another day or two. Serve this lovely springtime digestif in little wine glasses before dinner with wheat crackers and a crock of fromage blanc to which you’ve added a bit of lemon rind and dressed with just a touch of honey and salt for the perfect springtime aperitif!

 This spring as the lively yellow flowers begin to grace your lawns please remember that Dandelions could be your new best friend! They are an acquired taste to be sure, but once you make their acquaintance you’ll never want to be without them!


The Herb of The Year! Why do we study it?

 By Kathleen Gips ~ Ex- Officio Western Reserve Herb Society

Rubus or Brambles- The Herb of the Year 2020

The Herb of the Year ~ What is it all about? ~ Why do we study it?

In 1995 the International Herb Association (IHA) designated Herb Education Week to be the week before Mother’s Day every year. Soon after, they selected an herb for each year. The criteria were that an herb must fall into at least two of these three major categories: medicinal, culinary, or decorative.

At the time I was an active member in this marvelous organization dedicated to the retail and business world of herbs. Our members were charged with educating the public about herbs during Herb Education Week. So the public would become more aware of herbs and their varied uses, we were to explore, in depth, the herb of the year with products, written materials, seminars and workshops. What an excellent way for the educators to be educated. Focus on a specific herb and learn everything about it. How exciting! I loved researching the history, horticulture, culinary, craft and medicinal properties of all the chosen herbs. I treasured learning about my favorite herbs: lavender, scented geraniums, sage. I learned so much about some less common herbs like fennel, calendula and bergamot. Even mundane herbs such as lemon balm and mint gained new knowledge and respect.

A Season of Peace & Joy (14)

I became immersed in building my herbal expertise on each Herb of the Year. Some years challenged my level of excitement more than others. When it was horseradish and elderberry, I initially thought these were not herbs worthy of my passion. As I studied each of these herbs, I learned how wrong this first opinion was. Every herb has magical properties, rich history and many uses. I was rewarded with even more knowledge in my special world of herbs. In 2018 when I learned hops was designated as the Herb of the Year  , I thought, “Oh no! Not hops!”

Worse yet, I am not even a beer lover. My first introduction to hops came when I invited Jim Long to be a guest speaker at my herb shop to discuss his new book, “Making Herbal Dream Pillows". 

 I dutifully ordered hops for him, since they were an ingredient in his sweet dreams pillows that would be made in our workshop. Imagine my surprise when I opened the bag and the entire room smelled like stinky feet. Ewww! But then Jim explained the powerful relaxation properties of hops. So that is why my Dad fell asleep while drinking a beer and watching a football game. It was the hops!

My next introduction to hops was a golden hops plant that Mark Langdon from Mulberry Creek Herbs delivered to me to sell. Since my customers knew little about growing hops at the time, I was left with hops plants at the end of the selling season. So I planted them near an iron arch at the entrance to our herb garden. The vine grew quickly and prolifically covering the entire arch in a single season. What a magnificent show of beautiful chartreuse leaves and stunning green pendant flowers! It was a traffic stopper and attracted a lot of interest. Everyone wanted to grow these beautiful golden hops in their own garden. Imagine my surprise when it became my favorite landscape herb in the garden.

When we pulled the vines down after the first frost, I learned about the tenacious prickly tendrils of hops and came away with scratches and a skin rash. I learned about the very hardy nature of the hops plant as it came back each spring from nothingness. It spread its tendrils far and wide and even needed some restraint! What a resilient, tenacious, and beautiful herb plant. How useful it is in the garden landscape, the flavoring of beer and its calming medicinal properties. And there you have it!

A Season of Peace & Joy (15)

This is why the Herb of the Year is so important for those of us whose passion lies in the world of herbs. Our lives are enriched by studying the history, horticulture and uses of even the herbs that are not so well known to us!  We get to know these herbs by using them, observing them and even journaling about them and then suddenly a year has gone by and there is yet another new herb to get to know!

This year, our Herb of the Year is the absolutely delightful and sometimes completely frustrating Rubus, more affectionately known as Brambles, Raspberries, Blackberries or Brambleberries! This plant is definitely more familiar to me than Hops was, but nonetheless there is still so much more for me to learn!

The Herb of the Year fits very well into the mission of our Western Reserve Herb Society. Together we gather information about herbs and share that knowledge with the public.  So this year, we will all learn to be experts about  Brambles and we will  talk about them with anyone and everyone who will listen.

Join your fellow members as we stroll through  the Bramble patch in 2020, learning and teaching together.


Hopelessly in Love with Lovage!~ (and a wonderful Poultry Seasoning Recipe!)

                                 

                                              

By Mary Lynn Fruit ~ WRHS Program Committee

 

1
 

 I am hopelessly in love with lovage.  My affair with this wonderful plant began a few years ago when we  introduced it into the Culinary Section of the Western Reserve Herb Society Herb Garden.  Indeed, it was love at first "smell".

Lovage ( Levisticum officinale)  is native to western Asia and southern Europe and is believed to have hitched a ride with the Pilgrim Fathers to North America.  It has been used since Roman times and is very popular here in the United States.  It has many uses, both traditional and modern.  At one time, its leaves were laid in shoes to revive the wandering traveler, and at inns it was served as a cordial which was flavored with tansy and yarrow.  Today, a modern form is made by steeping fresh lovage seed in brandy and sweetening it with sugar.

Lovage is strongly aromatic, which is very similar to celery; however, it is more pungent and hints of anise, lemon and yeast.  The parts used are the leaves, stems, roots and seeds.  (The stems of lovage are hollow and make wonderful natural and eco-friendly straws!)  It is very easy to grow by division or seed, doing equally well in the shade or sun.  Its deep roots need moist, fertile and well drained soil.  It is a perennial in zones 3-9; it dies down in winter, but is extremely hardy and returns each spring.  It is one of the first up in the spring growing up to 15 inches tall by the time the dandelions make an appearance, and can grow to be six to seven feet tall!  It makes a wonderful background border to any garden.  Like other early plants, it is loaded with vitamins - particularly vitamin B and C.

Untitled design - 2019-11-19T155235.095

Lovage has many culinary uses.  It can be used like celery or parsley in many dishes, however, keep in mind that it is much stronger than these and a little goes a long way.  Its delightful taste diminishes somewhat in cooking, so you will want to wait until that last bit of cooking to add it.  Leaves, stems (chopped) and roots work well in casseroles, soups and stews.  Young leaves make a good simple soup on their own or combined with potato or carrots and are used in seafood chowders.  In addition, the leaves are good in salads; older leaves add a wonderful taste to bean or potato dishes and are good in stuffing. Try Lovage-flavored potato and rutabaga gratin, potato cakes with lovage, cheddar and baked vegetable dishes.  Whole or ground Lovage seeds can be used in pickles, sauces, marinades, crackers and all sorts of breads.

If you have never met this divine plant, I urge you to come to our Herb Garden in the Spring and visit our Culinary Section.  We will be delighted to introduce you!  If you come to our Herb Fair in October (the second Saturday in October every year at the Cleveland Botanical Garden) we have packages of dried Lovage for sale. I promise you - once you have tried Lovage, you will be hooked!

 

Untitled design - 2019-11-19T161103.504

Here is a recipe created by Kathleen Gips for the best poultry seasoning that you'll ever try , just in time for Thanksgiving!

This is a traditional herbal blend to use to season turkey, duck, chicken, game, stuffing and gravy.

Directions:

Mix together:

1/4 cup sage

3 Tablespoons thyme

3 Tablespoons marjoram

1 Tablespoon lovage

1 Tablespoon celery leaf

3 Tablespoons parsley

2 Tablespoons granulated onion

1 Tablespoon powdered rosemary

1 teaspoon granulated orange peel

 Use 1 tsp. for every 4 servings For full flavor crush herb leaves before using.

Herb Rub Recipe:
Mix 1/4 cup olive oil with 1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning. Stir to blend. Rub on outside of bird and under skin.

No salt or preservatives added.

 

 

 

WRHS Medical Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regard to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family, children and your friends, clients and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, and members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS, is used solely at your own risk.


Random Acts of Planting! ~ Sunflowers!

By Donna J. Payerle - Membership Chairman Western Reserve Herb Society

Image2

It is Autumn in Ohio and this morning while I’m filling the bird feeders, I wonder what will happen next Spring.   Last year I fed the cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, chipmunks, and squirrels birdseed with majority mix of black sunflower seeds.   The squirrels busied themselves defending their portion of sunflower seeds while dashing about my flower beds burying seeds.  What I didn’t understand until Spring was that they were busy planting sunflower  seeds.

Image1

This Spring I found about a dozen groups of emerging sunflower plants.   A few needed to be removed, but I kept nine of them to see what would happen.   Well lots did happen as they grew from 7 inches to 4 feet tall.   The sunflowers attracted goldfinches, humming birds, bumblebees, honey bees, wasps, and rather large ants.   Oddly enough I never saw a squirrel eating the  sunflowers as the goldfinches emptied them quickly.   I have three late blooming September sunflowers and their heads are bending close to the ground, so maybe the squirrels will eat those as the goldfinches have headed south.   If not, I will cutoff the sunflower heads and place them by the bird feeder, the squirrels will know what to do. 

Seeds are gathered and planted by squirrels of various shapes and sizes throughout the world from tropical rainforests to semiarid deserts, avoiding only the high polar regions and the driest of deserts.   Mankind started cultivating sunflowers about 2600 BC in Mesoamerica.   The North America sunflower was brought to Europe in the mid 17th Century.    Its popularity grew quickly and now it is a cherished flower on both continents.    

Image4

The sunflower brings joy as its round face follows the sun on sunny days.  It’s leaves are broad, coarsely toothed, rough and mostly alternate down the stem.  There are two types of flowers on a sunflower head.  There are the outer flowers, which resemble petals, called ray flowers.  Each petal is fused asymmetrical surrounding the center of the head called disk flowers in various shades of yellow, red and orange.  The disk flowers mature into seeds.   The disk flowers are arranged spirally, producing a pattern of interconnecting spirals where the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are successive arranged.   The pattern produces the most efficient packing of seeds mathematically possible within the flower head.

Sunflowers are amazing for many reasons.  The fruit of the striped white and black seeds are a rich source of vitamins of the B group and E.  Cooking oils is made from sunflower seeds.   The sunflower is very hardy and will grow in just about any soil.  Sunflowers are able to absorb heavy metals and toxins from the ground and it is often planted in heavily polluted areas.   These plants were used to reduce nuclear pollution after Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disasters. 

Image3

So I’m grateful to the squirrels in my backyard who planted seeds last Autumn and brought joy to my front yard and herb garden.    I so look forward to finding out what was planted for next Spring. 

Western Reserve Herb Society Medical Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regard to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family, children and your friends, clients and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, and members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS, is used solely at your own risk.

Pictures are the property of  Donna J. Payerle


Safflower is Dyeing for its Closeup!

By Kathleen Hale - Unit Chair Western Reserve Herb Society

 

Untitled design - 2019-11-10T192518.821

Well, Herb Friends, November is the time of year when mystics tell us that the barriers between this world and others, and the past, present and future grow porous, and we can learn many unusual things.  Take the Herb of the Month, for instance. A busy Agenda for the last few months   has meant that our good intentions to feature the relevant HSA Herb of the Month has gone a little awry. Today we are playing catch up, and I, who was appointed to tell you about October’s Herb, Safflower, will now tell you a little bit about its history and uses.

 

Safflower’s botanical name is Carthamus tinctorius. Which is a big hint as to why it is one of the earliest plants to enjoy human cultivation, and what those humans found so useful about it.  Consider Dendrobates tinctorius, the Dyeing Dart Frog. That’s “Dyeing”, with an “e”.  At least according to folklore, South American indigenous tribes used those frogs to dye their textiles. Although, there’s dying involved, too, because the highly colored frog is also highly toxic, and was used to concoct poison darts.  But the point is that the attribute, tinctorius, means that what is being described is highly colored, and useful in making dye.

Untitled design - 2019-11-10T193045.373

Safflower produces an orange to orange red dye, similar to saffron, which is has sometimes replaced as a food additive, as well (it has been known as “Poor Man’s Saffron”.) It is a thistle-like plant from the aster family. It has a deep tap root, and grows in arid places where that tap root makes survival possible. It grows wild throughout western Great Plains of North America. As a cultivated plant, Safflower is widely grown in the US, and has become a major crop in Russia. A summer annual, the Safflower grows from a flat rosette in the spring to a towering stalk of up to four feet, with spiny leaves. Those spines are substantial enough to have been used for animal fencing. Each stem is tipped with a cluster of up to five yellow to red flowers. The flowers are harvested for dye, and textiles colored with safflower were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Choi_007(9)

You may remember advertisements in which fields of happy yellow flowers accompanied the pitch that the product being sold had heart healthy safflower oil. Some varieties of safflower produce seeds that can be pressed to result in oil high in monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid).  The message was that animal fats were bad.  Safflower oil was good.  It’s more complicated than that. 

 

But you know how these things go.

 

You will find a fair amount of Safflower seeds in bird seed, commercially available both for pet and wild birds.  The oil from Safflower seeds is believed to be soothing to the skin, and is held to be useful in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis and acne.

 

There have been traditional medicinal uses for the flowers and oil from the seeds of Safflower for a very long time. Maybe because of its warm color and sanguine dye, Safflower is held to be warm in nature, and to be useful in the support of the heart and liver, and in healing bleeding wounds.  All the usual cautions apply.  In particular, use by pregnant women is discouraged.

 

Still, as a plant valued for its willingness to lend us its color, feed us, sooth us, and even keep animals out of the vegetable garden, Safflower is a stellar friend to us, and deserves a place as Herb of Any Month.

 

Western Reserve Herb Society Medicinal Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA and other government entity rules: the information and products you may learn about in regards to Herbal Wellness as a result of your association with WRHS are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  You, and you alone, are legally responsible for any and all decisions you make regarding the health of yourself, your family and your friends and even your pets. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have learned as a result of your association with WRHS. Reliance on any information provided by The Western Reserve Herb Society, members teaching or writing for WRHS or guests speaking at the invitation of WRHS , is used solely at your own risk. 

 

 

Safflower Dyed fabric photograph courtesy of the Korean Times