Posts Tagged ‘Nettles’

Herbal Infusion for Increasing Bone Density

I’ve been making lots of mineral infusions with nettles, oatstraw and horsetail, usually individual infusions, but sometimes combining them together.

I’ve shared in the past that one consequence of my 1998 car accident was that my brain injury got the primary healing attention, because it was actively disabling me. My neck and back, on the other hand, were pretty much relegated to yoga after the initial acute treatments. When I injured my sacrum in the Summer of 2011, my chiropractor friend, Ingrid, looked at my x-rays and couldn’t believe I have been functioning as well as I have. She found my spine a huge testimonial for the power of a raw food diet, in that my digestive nerves at that point were so compromised that if I hadn’t been eating enzyme-rich food, I likely would not have been able to digest it at all!

I’ve since concluded that for me personally, the raw vegan diet wasn’t enough, as I had gotten quite demineralized over the years. Adding some raw cheese and the occasional raw egg and sometimes a raw, fermented cod liver oil has really helped my teeth, which are great indicators of bone health. For this year, my primary health focus is on radical remineralization. I used to make an infusion a couple times per month, but now I’ve been drinking a quart or more per day. My body loves these infusions!

People often ask me “What’s an infusion?” “How do I make an infusion?” “How do I not break glass?” This video covers the difference between teas and infusions, and he gives you a step by step demonstration of how to infuse dried herbs. He also talks about the benefits of my very favorite “weed” ever: nettles. My new favorite infusion is oatstraw. Love it! Horsetail tastes pretty disgusting, but my body likes it. I’m going to experiment with adding a bit of fresh mint or lemon balm for flavor.

Anyway, super informative video below … Enjoy!

Gardening in Partial Sun and Poor Soil

Here’s a little photo update detailing our gardening endeavors. As I’ve indicated before, our rental property presents some challenges in that neighboring trees shade the only raised bed for veggies, and the side of the house has poor soil and a chain link fence. Without major digging and soil amendment, we’re still aiming for maximum productivity with minimum effort and space.

We may still add some hanging Topsy Turvy Tomato planters, making sure to fertilize regularly, since I learned last year that without regular compost or nitrogen boosters, the tomato plants yield very few good fruits. Good news, though: used coffee grounds make excellent tomato fertilizer. Just today, I arranged at our local co-op to bring in a bucket, in which they will happily dump all their used coffee grounds for a later pickup. Free and easy on the adrenals. 🙂

Anyway, here are some shots:

Backyard Raised Bed

Our shady backyard bed has volunteer broccoli from last year. We keep the greens active, rather than the full broccoli plants, primarily because I don’t want to deal with green broccoli worms. The leaves taste essentially the same without any extra maintenance besides the nearby marigolds. We’ve also got what appears to be a volunteer strawberry plant. We planted some bok choy and celery leftovers from store bought produce, both of which seem to be growing now. I have transplanted collard and kale that I started indoors from seed. Those are growing, but definitely not too quickly with all the shade. Nasturtiums and parsley seem to be doing well, though. In the back of the bed, we have asparagus roots from our landlord, and on the other side of the bed, we have green onions planted from the produce section, as well as some prolific nettles and chives that reseeded themselves from last year:

Nettles and Chives

I will be planting some Asian Greens known as “Tatsoi,” which are supposedly “fast growing and vigorous … popular as a baby leaf for salads.” I like the idea of speedy and hardy growers that can handle partial shade, because I really am a lazy gardener. That’s why I love my nettles and mints:

Apple Mint from David’s house where he grew up.

My new favorite smoothie is nettles, apple mint, strawberries, banana, water and lemon stevia. Super yum!

Peppermint I planted last year when I learned it would be illegal in the UK.

Another delicious smoothie is what we call Andie’s Candies: peppermint (or peppermint essential oil), carob powder, hemp seeds, spirulina, coconut water and vanilla stevia. Way yummy!

Garden Soxx with a Southern Exposure

I have partially planted these experimental Garden Soxx — some with my own plants grown indoors from seed, and some with seedlings from our co-op. Those compost-filled, black mesh bags heat up in the sun, so some of my less mature seedlings wilted. Without mulch, I decided that larger plants might fare better. We still may add some kind of mulch, but for now, this is what we have: two kinds of kale, ruby red chard, nasturtiums, Greek oregano, flat leaf parsley, tomatillo, green onions, garlic greens, all with marigolds planted at each corner of the bags. One of the more fun aspects of our gardening project involved my building a tomato “fort” with a large board to secure compost within the chain link fence and then logs and concrete castaways from our neighbors’ patio project. We filled the fort with compost from our backyard, and then I planted two tomato plants I had started indoors from seed, plus a relocated indoor basil starter. My indoor basil is still growing gangbusters!

Tomato Fort with Tomatillo in the Garden Soxx to the right

We have another experiment in the works soon. It involves me creating a few indoor starters of “Double Yield” cucumbers, and then transplanting them outside so that we know which are the right cukes to foster. According to Seed Savers Exchange, “Introduced in 1924 by Joseph Harris Co. of Coldwater, New York. In the words of the introducer, ‘The remarkable thing about this new cucumber is its wonderful productiveness. For every pickle that is cut off, two or three more are produced.’ Very early pickling type. Green 6″ long fruits are symmetrical, smooth, and uniform. 50-60 days … Can ..be started indoors 2-4 weeks before the last frost for an earlier harvest.” We will be planting these little guys under our side steps, allowing the vines to snake up the steps, a tomato cage, and the fence chain link fence. I created a little brown bag and rock “path” between the tomato fort and the steps for easier harvesting. Good thing I’m tiny and do yoga!

Cucumber Spot between the steps and fence

Other things in the works include New Zealand Spinach, which will never bolt, even in the hottest summer weather. I may plant those in some Gardeen Soxx alongside the other greens. I’d also like to check out a few other starter plants at Whole Foods and see if we want to do the Topsy Turvy tomato planters again. We do have two elder trees growing out back from last year’s planting. I don’t know if we’ll get any berries from them this year, though. Our window boxes will only hold flowers this year, and we’ve opted for a moisture control, non-organic soil for those, just to keep them lower maintenance than last year’s two waterings per day extravaganza. We did get some yummy kale and chard from those boxes with our nasturtiums, but they required more babying than I’m willing to offer this year. It’s all about ease and the yield this year, growing the right things in the right microclimate. I hope this inspires you in your own small plots, and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Nettles and Chives

Nettles and Chives

Spring has sprung in Madison, and I’ve got the garden goodies to prove it! Well, as you can see from the photo, I’m a Lazy Gardener as well as a Lazy Raw Foodist. I go for the perennials and not so much for the raking of leaves. Weeding? Um, since I actually prefer to eat wild things, I planted those nettles myself last year, having invited them to me energetically. One batch arrived from a potluck/foraging friend of mine via an unknown neighbor who dropped them off during a 2011 Reiki 1 class — just as I had mentioned how Reiki hones your manifestation skills. Touché! The other batch came as a gift from the same potluck friend after their own patch had grown beyond the capacity of nonstop nettle infusions and mortar-and-pestle’d salads. Here they are again, tender little leaves, spiking their way vigilantly through the ground as some of the first signs of spring.

I love nettles! And yes, that’s stinging nettles to you. 😉 These little ladies do leave quite a burn if you ignore them. David and I took a foraging walk in April 2011 with Kathleen Wildwood of Wildwood Institute, and she described it like this: “Nettles like to be noticed.” If you can remember that, you’ll be fine, but if you ignore them, or walk carelessly through their territory, they’ll hurt instead of heal. Fortunately, if you take the time to know nettles, then you’ll find that they contain their own antidote. Softening the leaves and rubbing nettle juice on the stung spots removes an otherwise lasting pain. I find this process so symbolic of life! How many people do you know whose seemingly sharp tongue belies a deeper character of total softie and powerful ally? When you go deeper than the sting, you discover all sorts of gifts and blessings.

Nettles nourish the blood, especially when boiled and allowed to sit in an infusion overnight. In this form, they contain high amounts of iron and other nutrients particularly strengthening for women. They improve skin texture and tone and can enrich just about any kind of cooked dish, if you prefer cooked food. Heat softens the stingers, so you can safely eat them. Last year, we attended a wild foraging dinner, and nettles appeared in everything from pasta to ice cream! I love wild foods because they’re beyond organic. Nothing messes with these superstars, and they help us to become stronger, wilder and free.

Fresh, freeze-dried, in a tea, or juiced, they alleviate allergy symptoms, and Kathleen Wildwood even uses them to help arthritis. On that same wild foraging walk, she shared how one troubled knuckle gets a purposeful early Spring nettle sting (without the juice), and that seems to numb the pain for the rest of the Spring and Summer seasons. She provided me with the herbal maxim, “When in doubt, use nettles,” and I do! I enjoy nettle tea all winter, sometimes plain and sometimes cooled and mixed with a bit of raw cacao powder and vanilla stevia. In the summer, we blend fresh ones in smoothies, and if we ever get out David’s Greenstar juicer instead of always buying fresh juice at the co-op, we might even juice some nettles this year! I like them so much, I gave them raised bed status and planted another patch on the other side of the house:

Backyard Nettles

And what about those chives?! They’re just fresh. We love them. I had been growing some inside the house, but our December and January travels took a toll on them. The batch in the first photo came from a starter plant last year, and it took off in the backyard garden, where only certain things agree to grow. We love them on salads, and I enjoyed reading about their magical and medicinal uses here. Grown outside they take very little care, and again, perennial gardening makes this Lazy Gardener very happy.

I do have plans for the sunny side of our house, armed with knowledge gleaned from last year’s many experiments. We will be building up the soil with compost and worm castings; shifting our garbage and recycling bins to the North side for the summer; and not allowing an accidental pumpkin patch to take over the top sunshine real estate this year. I’ve already started various kales, ruby red chard, oakleaf lettuce and, hopefully, some fairytale blend sweet peas to mix in with greens in the front window boxes. Coming soon to a mini-pot near me: more greens, heirloom tomato plants, a red pepper plant, and as soon as the frost leaves for good, I’ll get some cucumbers and the moon and stars watermelons planted in the ground. We started those melons too late last year, so they never fruited. This year, I’m determined to have not only a wild edibles yard, but also add some more magical elements to our evolving, 3-side of the house garden. My indoor herbs have done well, except for the chives. When it warms up a bit more, I’ll let the parsley, sage, basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano outside — probably right around the time our wild violets start blooming.

Mmmmmmhmmmm! It’s almost super yummy, just picked from the lawn salad time. Cheers!

Wild Foraging and Weeds: Why Wild Things Make My Heart Sing

Anyone who follows me on Facebook, walks in the woods (or anywhere!) with me, peruses titles on my growing stack of library books, or visits our backyard may possibly have noticed a teeny tiny obsession with all things wild. This is not something new, but it has most definitely intensified since October 2010, when I took an Urban Foraging Class on my first visit to Madison. In years past, I delighted in dandelions, lambs quarters, nettles and purslane, with the occasional sorrel mixed in for good measure. My friend Cecilia showed me a wild strawberry bush and fig tree in Petaluma, and we spent some blissful times gorging ourselves on Nature’s bounty. Perhaps it’s the faery in me, but I’ve always loved weeds, especially clover that attracts honey bees and Leprechauns … as well as forget-me-nots and all things foresty.

In addition to the woods, medicinal herbs have also held a space close to my heart, especially since I first began my Medical Intuitive practice while doing an apprentice trade with a Seattle herbalist of 50+ years (no longer practicing). In exchange for me “reading” his clients, he taught me what he knew about Chinese, Ayurvedic and Native American Herbal Remedies. We both learned lots and his clients benefited from our joint efforts. In my pre-“I not only believe in past lives, but I offer past life readings” days, he would assure me that I must have spent many lifetimes working as a healer because I seemed to just “know” all the remedies. I’ve gradually learned more on a conscious level, and I’ve obviously gotten over my reluctance to attribute any past life infiltration of knowledge! Still, one thing I missed in working with him was the experience of actual plants. All the herbs he used arrived as powders. The most I interacted with them was by taking them internally or counting capsules for his clients. I appreciated the ways he helped me heal from my brain injury, along with the training, but part of me longed to connect with the plants themselves.

Fast forward ten years: living in a house in eco-friendly Madison has provided me with a yard, unsprayed bike trails, and a community of people interested in permaculture, organic gardening and wild food foraging. I’ve since attended another urban foraging class, as well as a Wild Edibles Dinner, hosted by Kathleen Wildwood of Wildwood Institute. The gourmet, multi-course meal was foraged and prepared by the owners of Moonwise Herbs, and it truly inspired me with more community, delicious, deeply nourishing food, and a greater appreciation of the abundance all around us.

As a Lazy Raw Foodist and newbie gardener, I love so many things about wild foods! For one thing, they grow without effort. Instead of weeding the garden, watering the soil, and carefully fertilizing seedlings, you can just let the weeds have at it. I find this comforting, as I watch how slowly my cultivated seedlings have sprouted and begun to grow, in vast contrast to the abundance and fast spurts of dandelions, lambs quarters and wild violets. Our backyard came with lots of bulb plants like hostas and lillies, but I’ve also found wood nettles, bee balm, garlic mustard (great for pesto!), what appears to be plantain, clover, creeping Jenny, wild lettuces, a transplanted stinging nettle, ferns (for fiddleheads), various now potted mints, and some possibly edible leeks. We also inherited three raspberry bushes, two elderberry trees, and some burdock from a permaculture enthusiast who needed to trim back her bounty. These all look happy and vibrant among my kale, chard, chives, strawberries, herbs, nasturtiums and marigolds.

Much happier than my poor tomato plants! Dear me, if I based my gardening experience on the joy of some of the trickier specimens, I’d feel so discouraged that I just might quit. Instead, the weeds provide wonderful greens for smoothies and salads, as well as “proof” that our tiny, unplanned yard can provide abudant produce. If I expand my “garden” outward to include nearby bike paths, I find Juneberry trees, more elderberry, giant dandelions, large burdock and cattails, which I have yet to try. I hear that cattails offer all parts as edibles during various points of the year, but still want some help identifying which parts to harvest when. Our landlord, who lives behind us, also offered his crabapple trees and cherry tree during harvest time. These produce much more than birds and the nearby humans can handle without canning, freezing or dehydrating. Supposedly the crabapples make an excellent cider, and I’m happy to experiment when the time comes.

The Wild Edibles Dinner featured a dessert made from Japanese Knotweed berries, which some of you may recognize as a primary ingredient in Resveratrol supplements. Indeed, David Wolfe has mentioned Japanese Knotweed as a major immune system support for people suffering from Lyme Disease, and I used these to help my ex-husband recover from his Advanced Stage Lyme. There’s a saying among herbalists that Nature provides whatever you need nearby, so I find it interesting that Japanese Knotweed has become a massively invasive species in Wisconsin, where Lyme Disease also runs rampant. I’ve heard the same thing about teasel root growing fast in Oregon and other areas with a LD issue. I don’t have LD, but I must say, that Japanese Knotweed crisp rocked! So much so that I’m going to call the folks trying to eradicate it from a nearby park to see if I can harvest the unsprayed berries.

I love how Nature seems to “know” exactly what issue someone has and synchronously provide just the plants necessary for healing. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I consider humanity to be in a crisis state right now. From government to corporate to environmental abuses to the restriction of all herbs in the EU, we need to wake up and shift! Planet Earth does not require humanity for her survival. In addition to taste and medicinal properties, I love the resilient and unstoppable qualities of weeds. We are what we eat, and we could do much worse than weeds. In fact, weeds balance disturbed or unhealthy ecosystems. Things like dandelion, comfrey and burdock grow extremely deep roots, drawing minerals up to renourish depleted soil. Weeds spring up when the Earth needs healing. By eating more weeds, we can become, on a cellular level, Earth healers. By eating wild things, we become wild, too — more easily able to free ourselves from outmoded societal conditioning that destroys communities and our sense of connection with each other and our environment.

Harvesting local foods frees us from dependence on oil and the transportation system used to bring us the produce we take for granted. It also frees us from having to pay for food. Although I have plenty of money to buy groceries, I recognize BigBanks, BigOil, BigAg and BigPharma as major culprits in all things wrong with our world right now. I would love to live completely outside the system, and I keep researching ways to increase my own independence (and interdependence with more preferable groups). In the meantime, collecting weeds, wild foraging for edibles and seeding easy-to-grow organic plants at home, brings me step-by-step closer to greater harmony with the Earth and my own Nature-loving soul. Learning how to survive on wild items also lets me relax about potential world food shortages caused by poor weather conditions, disasters or disruption of food transportation.

I’m nowhere near my final goals, but I begin each morning marveling at the abundance and beauty all around me. I find it fun. The spunky part of me who’s familiar with Codex Alimentarius and Agenda 21 also gets excited to think of myself like a weed. In a world where governments at best fail to protect their citizens and at worst are actively creating weather, environmental and pharmaceutical conditions to destroy, starve or poison large portions of the population, eating weeds and wild things is my way of celebrating strength and life. Just TRY to eradicate dandelions! Just try to get rid of wild violets and garlic mustard. Even with the most intense chemicals and poor conditions, new ones will no doubt pop up. I have lambsquarters growing in my patio cracks! Feeling that resilience and expansion in myself makes me giggle. I also feel deeply nourished and joyful.

If you decide to forage, I strongly suggest connecting with experienced people in your area. You’ll also want to make sure the no one sprays or pollutes the plants you’d like to eat, and identification does matter. You’ll want to learn the key differences between wild edibles and poisonous lookalikes. If in doubt, don’t eat it! Personally, I find the learning curve exciting. Yes, it takes up a lot of my current time and energy, but I consider the process both recreational and restorative. In a world of change, those who cling to the old may perish, but those who adapt, thrive. I intend to flourish, regardless of circumstances, and I feel ever so grateful for the challenges that brought me more in tune with Earth and some beautiful humans and animals on this planet.