Friday, February 10, 2017

Meet Trifolium pratense – Red Clover

Welcome to another opportunity to meet and dance with the botanical world! This time we're meeting and dancing with sweet red clover, Trifolium pratense... 

Family: Fabaceae (legume family)
This botanical family includes herbaceous perennials and annuals, as well as trees and shrubs. Those crazy botanists!

Trifolium is a genus of clover. Trifolium pratense is a species of clover, commonly called red clover. It's native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia and is a perennial that has naturalized throughout North America and in many regions around the globe. And I am grateful. 

As a backyard farmer, I honor Trifolium as a nitrogen fixer, making nitrogen in the atmosphere biologically available in the soil to nourish and sustain the soil and other plants. Over the years, as we've given up the mower for the scythe, we manage our "lawn" more like a meadow, and as a result we have so much more diversity on our little care, including Trifolium (and so many other plants, pollinators and birds!).

Harvest: Tops in flower, new blooms. Leaves from the young plants before bud and bloom start their show. Harvest the tops and you’ll get subsequent harvests – think deadheading.

Taste: Bland and sweet.

Humors: Moist and cool.

Actions: Nutritive, alterative, anti-cancer, improves appetite, promotes fertility, mild sedative.

Constituents: Vitamins, minerals, isoflavones, alkaloids, and more.

Contraindications: As a nutritional infusion: none.

UsesI tend to think of Trifolium as a beautiful food, loaded with vitamins and minerals like B complex (Thiamine, B1, Niacin), C, Calcium, Chromium, Magnesium, Nickel, Phosphorus, Potassium and more. As a nutritional infusion it is widely considered safe for long-term use with children, the aged and convalescing, pregnant and breast-feeding moms.

It has a tradition as a blood cleanser and has a history of being used to flush heavy metals (IE: lead) and other toxins from the blood. I’m not sure about the heavy metals, but I recall a gentleman carpenter who worked with treated wood. He was young, robust, and in otherwise Good health, but began feeling tired and noticed an inactive rash forming over his body. After a conversation, I suggested only two things: That he commit to wearing heavy work gloves when handling any treated wood, and drinking red clover infusion. Within a couple weeks both the rash and the fatigue waned out of his awareness. To this day I encourage anyone working with known toxins to drink red clover infusion and engage their common sense.

The isoflavones in Trifolium are often credited with its ability to improve many menopausal “symptoms” as well support prostate health. 

It’s considered an important menopausal herb, one that supports hormonal harmony, eases flashing, enhances vaginal lubrication, memory, bone density and flexibility, and general energy levels. It was during my own menopausal journey that I nurtured relationship with this plant and made it a weekly ally.

Trifolium has a steadfast folk history for its use in treating cancer. It has been used to treat cancerous ulcers and has associated research that suggests an affinity with breast health, making it a favorable breast ally for prevention and treatment. During my own breast challenge I engaged her Medicine in the form of nutritional infusion, tincture and added it to many a favored tea blend. Not to mention floral bouquets and blessing waters.

Research indicates that regular ingestion of the infusion softens breast lumps, has reversed pre-cancerous and cancerous circumstances. It has been shown to play a role in preventing breast cell receptors from absorbing cancer-causing estrogens (it has constituents that mimic estrogen and connect to the receptor sites. It is considered a safe and powerful anti-cancer herb and is even reputed to repair damaged DNA, reversing pre-cancers and in situ cancers. Susun Weed considers it protective to the uterus (esp. during tamoxifen trmt - L HRT for hormone-positive cancers & many post-menopausal breast cancers).

Red clover. Everything you hoped soy would be with none of soy’s problems. Red clover has ten times more phytoestrogens than soy in a much safer formulation. It’s the world’s leading anti-cancer and cancer-preventing herb. Do watch however if you’re in menopause because it’s also a fertility promoter, and if you don’t wanna have a surprise baby be a little careful with the red clover, and especially be careful with Oatstraw.” ~ Susun Weed

It alkalinizes blood, protects the liver and lungs and can ease constipation.

It's also been credited with lowering blood cholesterol levels.

Externally, as an infused oil, it is a wonderful skin softener and it makes a nice breast massage oil that can help in shrinking lumps, countering cancer, as well as a support to the lymphatic system in reabsorbing and processing “waste” cells. It’s a sound addition to internal and external breast treatments – for wellness or treatment.

Dance with Trifolium pratense – Red Clover

And dance often! Here's some music and steps...  

Red Clover Lemonade
2 servings
1 ounce red clover tops
boiling water
1-2 lemons (or to taste)
2 T honey (or to taste)

Weigh out one ounce of red clover. Place it in a quart jar. Pour to cover with boiling water, cap and allow to steep and cool at least four hours. Strain.

Squeeze the juice of 1 to 2 lemons (limes are quite tasty, too). Blend in the honey and add to the red clover infusion. Served over ice (or not) in a stemmed glass with a wedge of lemon and enjoy.

Red Clover Buttermilk Soda Bread
from Leda Meredith, published in Mother Earth News, 2014 - Yields one loaf

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment paper.

1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour (pastry flour makes this bread more tender. If you can’t get whole wheat pastry flour, use a mix of half all-purpose and half whole wheat flours)
½ cup red clover blossom florets (stripped off of the tough bases/cores)
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp caraway or anise seeds (optional)
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
¼ cup melted butter, plus one more tablespoon reserved for brushing on finished loaf
1 tbsp. honey

Whisk the dry ingredients (including the fresh or dried red clover blossom florets) together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones. Stir to incorporate the flour. Don’t stir too much though—it’s okay if there is still a little dry flour here and there, and for this dough lumpy is good. You want the dough to still be somewhat soft and sticky, but coherent enough that you can shape it into a loaf. If the dough seems too goopy, add more flour a little at a time. I sometimes need to add as much as 1/3 c. additional flour. Some cracks on top are okay and actually make the finished loaf more attractive in a rustic way. Scrape the dough out onto your baking sheet. Shape it into a disk approximately five to six inches in diameter. Bake 25-35 minutes until golden. While still hot, brush with remaining tablespoon of butter. Let cool on a rack.

Red Clover Syrup
1 ounce red clover tops
boiling water
3-4 cups of cane sugar
½ organic lemon or orange, seeded and chopped – including the peel.

Weigh out one ounce of red clover. Place it in a quart jar. Pour to cover with boiling water, cap and allow to steep and cool at least four hours. Strain.

Measure, by volume, your liquid, multiply by two and you’ll have your sugar measure. Add the sugar to the infusion, heat gently until the sugar is dissolved, add the citrus and simmer gently another 20 minutes (or so). 

You can hot bath can this syrup or simply store in a cool, dark place until ready to use. 

I use herbal syrups, like this one, as a sweetener, as I would honey. It’s a nice addition to beverages, hot and cold, as well as dressings, baked goods, over pancakes, on yogurt, toast and so on and so forth.

Red Clover Jelly
4 cups long-brew infusion
¼ cup lemon juice
2 packages powdered pectin
8 cups sugar

Stir the lemon juice into the infusion. Stir in the pectin and bring to a boil, constantly stirring. Once a strong boil has been reached, add the sugar all at once and return to a rolling boil. Boil for one minute, skim and pour into jelly jars. Process as you would any other jelly. EnJOY!

In general …
Add the young leaves (harvested prior to flowering) to salads or soups. They may be cooked and enjoyed as with any green, though with greater effort to collect enough to make it worthy. Some folks grind the dried herb into powder to use in ways similar to a grain flour. The roots may be cooked for food as well.

As for the blossoms, simply pluck the flower heads from fresh red clover to add to salads, soups, pancakes, muffins, biscuits, rice, vegetable and meat dishes.

I'm already looking forward to the first springtime leaves and blossoms, but until then, I'll leverage my dry stash for dancing!


Walk in the Woods, LLC
Whiting Mills
Winsted, Connecticut

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Join us for World Fire Cider Day of Action!

Get ready for World Fire Cider Day of Action! What can you do, you ask? Well, no matter where you are in the world, you can start here:
Learn more and Take Action!
➽ Make yourself a big batch of fire cider!
Sign the Petition!
➽ Flood the Market ~ sell your own version of Fire Cider!
➽ Support the Boycott call stores in your area and let them know about the issue.
Donate to the legal fund to support the amazing legal team!

I'll be starting my day getting fired up with a shot of Fire Cider, and then straining some versions I started before the ground froze a couple months ago. I may make a bean soup and add a shot of it... and a salad with olive oil and Fire Cider. Oh my... so Good and Good for you!

And in the evening I'll be hosting a Free Fire Cider Action & Education Potluck at my Walk in the Woods studio in sunny Winsted, Connecticut. Join us if you're in the area!

Walk in the Woods, LLC
Whiting Mills suite 310

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Meet Avena sativa – Oatstraw

Meet Avena sativa – Oatstraw

Family: Poaceae (AKA Gramineae or “true grasses.”)

Avena is a genus of some 30+ species, commonly called oats, which have been cultivated for thousands of years for food for two and four leggeds.

Parts used: Aerial parts – dried stems and leaves, flower bud (milky tops), seed (grain).

Harvest: Milky oats, oat straw, oats. Harvest the tops and you’ll get subsequent harvests.

Taste: Bland and sweet.

Humors: Moist and cool.

Actions: Nutritive, nervine, relaxant (some say sedative) - one that can enhance alertness (so it’s sometimes seen classified as stimulant – because of its nutritional actions), emollient, demulcent, rejuvenative, tonic (to the endocrine system, with an affinity to the adrenals, esp. in milky form, and to the digestive system and the integumentary system). It is sometimes noted as adaptogenic, antidepressant, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, anti-tumor/cancer, diuretic, neurotonic. It’s credited with reducing cholesterol levels and so is considered supportive to circulatory functioning.

Composition: Hollow stems, plugged at intervals with leaf-bearing nodes. Leaves are usually alternate with parallel veins. The leaves are often hardened with a form of silica making them stiff, rough, and sometimes sharp, which discourages foraging and grazing. The flowers are most often arranged in spikelets and are usually hermaphroditic (possessing male and female components and self-pollinating), with the exception of maize, which is anemophilous (wind pollinated). The fruit is called a caryopsis, meaning a simple fruit, one that we call grain.

Constituents: Carbohydrates, silicic acid, protein, flavinoids, saponins, alkaloids, and more. Rich in calcium and other minerals and vitamins too.

Contraindications: None, unless you are allergic oats, celiac, sensitive to gluten. So far, both research and experience demonstrate that gluten sensitivities aren’t triggered by using oat straw on the skin.

With respect to gluten, Henriette Kress says it best: “While oats doesn't by itself contain gluten, "normal" oats usually contain minute amounts of glutenous grains. This could be because of crop circulation (growing one grain after another means that some of last years crop will grow this year as well), because of the harvesters and grain storage not being completely cleaned between crops, or because the mill doesn't take care to clean out all gluten-containing grains. Whichever it is, gluten-sensitives do well to avoid "normal" oats.”

Some say Avena should be avoided during pregnancy and while breast-feeding, though this seems counter intuitive and intellectually contrary to me.

Medicinal use: Rich in calcium, phosphorus, and potassium and other nutrients, oats are good Food and Food is Good Medicine. Oats offer respectable nutrition and help to nourish the debilitated nervous system. As a nutritive herb, it is rich in silica, carotenes, and folic acid and is a good source of antioxidants and chlorogenic (phenolic/protective) acids.

Often referred to as an adrenal tonic by contemporary herbalists, it has proven itself, time and again, as a reliable ally for those who are exhausted and for convalescence. I’ve found it to be a sound ally during times of mental/emotional/physical stress, especially when tied to grief.

Addiction, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, nervous tension, stress and all similar conditions we understand and experience show how oats (as Food, water infusion, vinegar infusion, tincture and talisman) act as a strengthening tonic for mind and heart (and then some).

Oats are soothing & nourishing, used internally and externally, helping to calm pain from damaged nerves and to nourish the regeneration of damaged bones, lung, and muscles, and generally support healthy tissue growth throughout the body.

Nervous System: Avena is sometimes referred to as a nerve tonic, though I find that the references to “nerve tonic” point not to the physical aspect, but rather to the subtle associations of the nervous system … such as insomnia, depression and anxiety. I’ve found it, in all its forms, from tea to tincture, to subdue irritability and the resulting behaviors. Know what I mean?

Renal System: Oats are credited with prevention of scrofula, prevention of gravel and stones in the bladder and kidneys, clearing to urinary congestion. This sings the song of Food as Medicine to me.

Integumentary & Skeletal Systems:  Oats support and strengthen the bones and tissues, including veins, strengthening their connective tissues & increasing their flexibility. Avena is cooling and soothing to dry, itchy skin. For years I used a long-brew infusion to add to my baths (and to sip while bathing) to manage my “winter skin” which was a significant challenge during my corporate days, working in those horrid-dry “environmentally controlled” buildings.

It’s a nutritive addition to the diet as it is rich in silica, which is necessary for building the outer layer of skin, hair and finger/toenails. Oats, in all forms can harmonize hormones, protect adrenal glands, support the thyroid, and improve the strength of veins. It’s also credited with powers to increase the libido, as any notable nutrient-rich Food/Medicine should! Oatstraw infusion can be an ally while taking the L Dexamethasone (Decadron), use to counter the side effects from chemotherapy, which can cause excessive energy followed by exhaustion. It’s supportive to many in easing hot flashes, frazzled nerves and other menopause “symptoms” (infusion or tincture: 25 gtt. bid). Micheal Moore lists: Angina pectoris, as an adjunct for fear of death, constant guarding against pain; Functional neurocirculatory disorders; To prevent anxieties when insomnia is feared; General insomnia in sthenic individuals; Narcolepsy; Menopause, with sense of pressure and pain in ovaries, uterus, sacrum, bladder with nervousness and sense of confusion; or with melancholia after hot flashes; Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), with easily startled disposition, easy adrenergic discharge, jumpy; Appetite poor, nervous, weak (with Trifolium); Hysteria with adrenergic-induced exhaustion.

Chakra association: I’ve not yet settled on a single chakra, as oats – in all of its parts – seem so supportive to us – in all of our parts – the whole body and being.

Culinary use: Nutritional infusions, Nutritional vinegars. All manner of cooking and baking. Oat straw as a Tisane/Tea.

David Hoffman, Medical Herbalism
David Winston,
Guido Masé,
Henriette Kress, Practical Herbs &
Michael Moore,
Rosalee de la Foret,
Susun Weed, multiple books
A Modern Herbal, by Mrs. Maude Grieve
Culpepper’s Complete Herbal
Wikipedia – for some of the botany descriptions
Personal notes from multiple sources
Personal experience

Dance with Avena sativa – Oatstraw

Avena Columbiana – a Central American stewed oatmeal beverage
2 servings
¼ c oats (cracked or rolled)
1 c water
1 cinnamon stick
1 clove (or more, to taste)
2-4 T sugar (to taste)
1 c milk

Combine the oats and the water in a pan, bring to a simmer, and adjust the heat to gently simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cinnamon, clove, sugar and milk, bring up to heat and gently simmer another 20 minutes. You want the oats to be silky-soft.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool, remove the cinnamon and clove, then chill for (at least) a few hours.

In a blender, puree until smooth. Add water if too thick. Enjoy chilled, in a fine, stemmed glass.

Oat Tonic from Susun Weed
Nourishes and rehydrates
A little something extra for sick young ones, nauseated moms, those recovering from any gastro-intestinal problems, including surgery.
1 c oats
1 c water
1 t lemon juice (or vinegar)
1 t raw honey
1 t water
Pour boiling water over oats and let stand overnight. In the morning add remaining ingredients.
 Mix well, strain through a cloth. Take by the spoonful.

Nourishing Oatstraw Infusion
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the, from my perspective, most obvious dance… the nourishing oatstraw infusion, brewed in the Wise Woman tradition.

1 ounce (by weight) of oatstraw
1 quart of boiling water

Place your oatstraw in a quart vessel (I use a canning jar or one of my French presses), pour the hot water over the herb, give it a loving stir, lid it and let it steep 4-8 hours for a mineral rich – and quite tasty – beverage.

And so much more. Trust your Knowing and sense of Play - have fun and be well by Nature!

Walk in the Woods, LLC
Whiting Mills
Winsted, Connecticut

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Weeding is Harvesting

Yesterday I was cleaning up a section of "garden" and harvested a respectable bucket of Taraxacum officinale radix, better known as dandelion root. Some folks call this activity "weeding." I call it harvesting.

This morning I finished cleaning and preparing the roots for the oven, where they gently roast until they're nice and dry. I'll leave them in the cool oven until I return from the studio this afternoon when I'll double check them for dryness before packing them in jars for storage and enjoyment in the months and seasons ahead.

How do I enjoy them? I give them a rough grind and simmer them in water, strain and sip and enJOY! You might like to add a bit of cane sugar or local honey, or a splash of local milk, but I like mine "straight up!" Not only is this mellow, bitter brew delicious, it supports and sustains my physical being as an ally to general digestion, to liver, gallbladder and then some. Of course the leaves are delightful in salad, cooked as a green and addition to springtime soups. And the petals, those beautiful, bright, sunshiny petals are notorious for brewing liquid sunshine (dandelion wine and mead), and I love adding them to my sourdough pancakes (and other baked goods)

I harvest the root (and its other parts) from spring to autumn. I still have some dry roasted roots from last season, which delights me greatly!

So remember: Weeding can be harvesting and harvests equate to abundance and abundance is... everywhere in Nature. Respect that. Deeply.


Walk in the Woods, LLC

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Springtime Wild Harvest Egg Drop Miso Soup

This is the season for spring soups! For me, so many of our wild friends have so much nutrition and flavor to offer us, it would be shameful not to leverage, honor and appreciate their generous offerings!

Last night I harvested some leaves of Rumex crispus (curly dock), Taraxacum officinalis (dandelion) and more tops from the patch of Urtica dioica (nettles) for an egg drop miso soup. I also snagged some alliums ~ chives and egyptian onions from the cultivated gardens.

To me, this is "fast food." Fast food that is Good for you and virtually free! I chopped and simmered the wild greens for about thirty minutes in water salted with alaea sea salt, added the alliums and simmered another few minutes. I cracked two fresh-laid eggs, whisked them with some water, stirred them in, removed the soup from the heat and stirred in a tablespoon (or so) of mellow miso.

Just one bowl of this soup with a side of spring salad greens was remarkably filling, not to mention delicious and nutrient rich!

What are your favored wild harvested foods in this vernal season? We'd love to hear. Leave us a comment and let us know!


Today's Bud Walk


Wood Sorrel - great lemon taste for my salad


Wood Trillium

Red Clover


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Allaria petiolata - Garlic Mustard

Today I return to Allaria petiolata... garlic mustard, remember? I've been harvesting more roots to macerate in vinegar. To me, this is a wonderful way to attempt to tame this wild (and generous) invasive. The infused vinegar often ends up in some version of fire cider I make in autumn, among other formulations and on its own.

I made a simple pesto with the greens (just finely chopped with a touch of sea salt) and froze it in tablespoon-sized dollops for the freezer. These will be good to add to all manner of cooking.

Already I see the bud stems forming on the second year plants and it won't be long before they explode into full bloom. At that point I often wander and pull up as many as I can (the stem seems to make them easier to grab and unroot) and pile them in the sun to dry well before composting. The plants that miss this culling will have their flowers leveraged and then their seeds. More on that in their season!

With that, I challenge you to venture out in search of Allaria to leverage as the food that she is!

Walk in the Woods, LLC