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 our legal fund to support our 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, davidwinston.org
Guido Masé, aradicle.blogspot.com
Henriette Kress, Practical Herbs & henriettes-herb.com
Michael Moore, swsbm.com
Rosalee de la Foret, herbalremediesadvice.org
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

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Noxious? Invasive? Abundant!

One of the advantages of knowing the virtues of "weeds" comes with preparing spring vegetable garden beds. I don't turn the soil of these beds. At most I use a broad fork to loosen and aerate the layers of topsoil without disturbing them. After all, those layers are vital ecosystems that support my own intentions, and so much more! And at the least, on those beds that haven't been stepped on, I loosen only the top layer with my hand fork, to prepare the bed for seeds.

As I prepare each bed, each in its own time, as I make it ready to receive, I remove rooted friends that I both allowed to grow from last season as well as those that snuck in. Pictured here root-examples of both. Can you name them?

The longer, straighter roots at the bottom of the bowl are Taraxacum officinalis radix, the beautiful dandelion root. I harvest these in every season, but spring is generous and they're so easy to remove from the soil of my main vegetable garden. I clean them, dry them, roast them in the oven until they're brittle-dry and store them in a jar for enjoying as a delicious, bitter and nutritional, roasted-root beverage that supports my digestion, my liver, my gallbladder, and then some... a nutritional tonic beverage that is often referred to as dandelion root coffee. Yet, as one who honors her organic, fair trade, morning coffee, I don't use that term... the flavors between the two are distinctly different.

Dandelion is often (too often) described as a noxious weed. This pickles me like you can't even imagine. This all too ubiquitous phrasing demonstrates our modern perception of Nature... as something inferior, something to be judged harshly, demonized and controlled. As for me, on the contrary, I see this botanical not as noxious weed, but rather as an abundant food (and Medicine). Which... it is. I use the leaves, the flower petals and the roots. And, dare I say it, we all "should."

But before a rant commences, let's take a peek at those other roots ...

The more pale roots on top, the ones with reaching fingers, are the roots of a local invasive called Allaria petiolata radix, the root of the plant commonly known as garlic mustard. This plant pops up all over my little acre and, like the dandelion, I harvest it in every season, and right now I'm focused on gathering the roots to chop and grate to macerate in living apple cider vinegar for several weeks, and I use the young early spring leaves in salads and in cooking. The vinegar will get used in salads and in other ways, and the root is used as one would use our more conventionally known horseradish. And its flavor is similar, though not as fiery. It's quite delicious. And what a great way to leverage the (invasive) abundance of this botanical! Later in the season I add the flowers to salads (to prevent a few seeds from spreading, and later still I'll collect the seeds to use as one would use any mustard seed. But, more on that in its own season.

My point ~ in this moment, anyway ~ is that Nature is generous. Holistically so. It's time that we all remember this, before its completely forgotten.


Walk in the Woods, LLC