Wild Blessing’s Final Fling – Plantasia

Who am I? Beautiful even in death. Job well done, seeds spread at my feet, standing tall to point to my babies in Spring and then… I return to the earth to nourish still…

Nature’s wave has retreated into the earth, silenced by the snow and ice but still very much alive in it’s apparent slumber.

Leaves danced to the forest floor for their final curtain call and the cold frosts forced the energy back into the roots…stored for reawakening and the joy of Spring.

As I type this 20 inches of snow blanket my beloved mountains.

The white backdrop accentuate last year’s seed stalks as silhouetted skeletons and place holders for the next generation.

There are gifts in every season and it is wise follow the flow so as to get in sync with nature and it’s offerings. This post is a summary of 2018 year Wild Blessing adventures, our Final Fling…Plantasia.  I invite you to join us.

Teaching Tuesdays are free. We meet together from 11-12 at the Todd Mercantile.

Teaching Tuesdays

…we meet on the porch of the cozy Todd Mercantile to befriend one another, to befriend the plants and compose plant poems to share. The things we have learned about each other have been inspiring and sometimes surprising.  With that same questioning twist I introduce each featured plant.

My teaching rhythm begins with the question of the day, a related quote or Scripture, preceding an introduction to a new green friend to appreciate….exploring it’s nicknames, lore & history, observing it’s characteristics using all of the senses, and expounding on it’s many gifts: Edible, Medicinal, Useful, Beautiful and Spiritual and even Questionable 😉

Foraging Fridays

…we follow the energy from roots to fruits: learning together, shopping in a variety of wild grocery stores, sitting still and quiet in various settings just to listen to nature’s hum, garbling our catch, making a glorious mess as we cook wild recipes in my kitchen, crafting with nature’s scraps, and sharing our wild repass around the table together.

Relationships with the plants are deepened and relationships with one another are forged.

Wild Blessings Final Fling

Everything culminates at the Final Fling held early in November. Our big event begins with an Organoleptic exam (sight, touch, smell, taste, hear), a wild potluck, and then a time of sharing green offerings from the heart. The gifts from the heart included dance, theatrics, songs, crafts, prayers, poems, prose, preaching and pictures of our year together.

I was and still am in awe….remarkable talent and such passion in every single offering. I am humbled for the privilege of leading such a diverse and passionate group of nature lovers in the appreciation of Wild Blessings.

My offering to my wild students for Plantasia was to compile many of the photos of our year surfing nature’s wave together. So many adventures, so many plants, so much FOOD, great times together with those I love. It was hard to cut it short enough to make it more viewer friendly but I kept thinking…’Oh gotta have that one and remember the SNAKE!?’ A rich year of learning and loving together. Thankful.  The slideshow I compiled of our 2018 Wild Blessings adventures is here.

Enjoy the fun vicariously and next year perhaps you’ll join us to surf Nature’s Wave together.

Organoleptics Quiz

I had so much fun selecting things from nature to quiz my wild students on. Plants to identify by sight, touch, taste, smell and even hearing.

The winner, who identified the most items, received a copy of my mentor Linda Runyon’s must have book, “The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide”

Our sensory test all set up and waiting for the wildness to begin!

It is joyful to experience nature with all of our senses.

Sight is usually the first frontier of learning about plants: observing closely the stem arrangement, the changes as the plant evolves through its stages of growth…

Close your eyes and feel the velvety softness of a wisteria seed pod, or the prickles of a Chestnut seedpod burr, or the glassiness of a castor bean…can you tell the difference between a Chestnut and a Buckeye with just your fingers, can you tell what leaf you are holding by its venation and margins?

Using only your sense of smell can you tell what plant you are relating to?

Wild tastes are subtle and wildly nutritious, if you had a line up of wild teas could you tell the difference between Lemonbalm, Linden, BeeBalm, Elderberry or Goldenrod tea? what about the medicines made from these same plants, can you taste a tincture and say “that is Plantain”

The depth of understanding and experience with plants can go deep and wide. I want to know every plant in all its stages of growth: by its physical characteristics, its smell, its feel, its taste raw or cooked, the way it sounds when the wind blows by or the way the seeds rattle in its pod.

And this takes personal experience. No one can teach you these things it is acquired by those who want to know and reclaim all the Creator’s gifts of food and medicine and beauty.

Having fun ‘herbing around’

Our Wild Potluck

Everyone brought food to share made with wild edible plants they had harvested and preserved throughout Nature’s Wave. We had dishes made with Chickweed, Burdock stems and roots, jelly made with Queen Anne’s Lace, Black Walnut cake, Pumpkin Cheesecake with Acorn Ginger crust, Lambsquarter cheese pies (tiropitas), a wide variety of wild teas and kefirs and wild seed crackers and salads.

Everything was delicious and it was so rewarding to have my students bring wild food THEY had prepared to share with me. Felt like I had passed on the wild chef baton!

Lumini Merced marinated Burdock stems to perfection for this completely wild offering. Super delicious! She also made these cookies with Evening Primrose and Plantian seeds, gluten free of course.

I made a Pumpkin Cheesecake with an acorn crust. My favorite acorns to forage for are Chestnut Oak acorns. They are the easiest to leach of the tannins and the tastiest!

Amy made her grandmother’s Black Walnut cake

I froze Lambsquarters when they were tender and young in early Summer and have that stash to use throughout the Winter for a spinach substitute. I made the tiropitas for Kacey Brown, her favorite!

Sweet and sour Burdock root: we have made Burdock root into BURGERS, MUSHROOMS, PEPPERONI. A most versatile and wildly nutritious and delicious edible root!

Plantasia: plant offerings from the heart

Many mornings I hike to my sit spot and watch to watch the sun rise or just sit and be still in God’s presence and observe His wonders. The morning of our Wild Fling Finale these verses popped out at me as I read in my Bible. We began our sharing time with these fitting Psalms.

“Your wondrous works declare that Your Name is near

and they who invoke Your Name rehearse Your wonders…

Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;

make known His deeds among the peoples.

Speak of all His wonders.” Psalms 75 and 105

Brook Brown’s offering

Twelve new treasures revealed to me this season
American Chestnut, Beautyberry, Lambsquarters, Cornflower, Burdock,
Comfrey, Elder, Milkweed, Mullein, Knotweed, Self Heal, Poke

A rainbow of colors popping out from the hazy curtain of green that I used to look past
Learning your formal name as well as your nicknames
Your family characteristics, origin, history. Where you like to live
Observing your physical appearance as well as your quirks and oddities

I love to use my senses to learn more about you
How to eat you, the medicine you are for me, How useful you are, Or what to be wary of

My favorite about this past season has been the chance
to write about you each week
and share with other wild friends

A wildfire started by Holly Joy and then fanned by kindred spirits
We are all on this wild adventure together
Cheering one another on as we learn more
How, through plants, the Creator, shows His never ending love for us

Laura Weant’s Offering

Laura is not only a plant lover but she is the pastor of Bethany Lutheran church in Todd. She sang to us For the Beauty of the Earth and All Things Bright & Beautiful and then led us as we sang the verses together. I took this picture from the loft. Truly blessed. Thank you Laura!

You just never know what talents are hiding within your friends. Laura is a poetry genius and also has a beautiful voice.

All Things Bright and Beautiful – Cecil Alexander 1848

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Amy Todd Paine’s offering

Amy attended Teaching Tuesdays a handful of times but whenever she did it was such a delight to listen to her read her resulting poem. A gifted writer she hopes to compile a book of flora and fauna in the Appalachian mountains. She is off to a great start, her poems that she wrote on Mullein, Goldenrod, Purslane are among my favorites. I will definitely be buying her book when it is published and link to it on my blog! Amy is not surprisingly an English teacher and is a Shakespeare fanatic, her offering was to expound on the plants referred to by William Shakespeare in his many plays.

Amy is so in love with this poet and writer that she celebrates Shakespeare’s birthday every year!

Aurora Randolph’s offering

Only 15 and going on 38 Aurora has an active imagination and is creative beyond measure. She is a costume designer, Girl Scout leader, homeschooler and an authentic wild child. Here is her plant offering.

Aurora shares Amy’s obsession with Shakespeare, she even goes to a Shakespeare camp every summer. 🙂

All the Woods a Stage
All the woods a stage, the trees, shrubs, and flowers the players
They have their blooming Springs and shedding Winters
and one plant in its time plays many parts
it’s acts being seven ages

The first is the same for plants of all kinds
The seed is where it all begins
Then a sapling, with its small size growing strong for its full life ahead
And then the bloom, from green trees to colorful flowers,
this performance is a sight to see.
Then fully grown ready for what the Lord has in store

And then, if by chance, it is eaten by a forest creature
or used by a human for food or medicine….
It becomes part of them and continues there
And so it plays its part

The sixth age shifts into a rest that it, like everything else,
slips into when our time has come
The last scene of them all, is not an end pre se, more of a new chapter
It becomes one with the Earth from which it came
And that’s how the play goes on the regal stage of the forest

Tracey Terry’s offering

Tracey is a scrapbooker extraordinaire. She shared a scrapbook page that she had designed and decorated with Dandelion seed puffs blowing across the page. Hidden in a pocket behind a photo of her son and Emily was a letter she had written to her future daughter in law expressing her love for her and comparing her thoughts in nature analogies. Wow, Emily is going to be blessed. We sure were.

Lynn Maxwell’s offering

Lynn Maxwell always takes pictures of every Teaching Tuesday and Foraging Friday and so I don’t usually have to think about chronicling our adventures since she has my back. Lynn has attended more events than anyone and has learned so much that she often cooks wild for neighborhood potlucks and is always sharing her knowledge when hiking with her hiking club members. Lynn’s poems are usually fun or funny and often rhyme. She shared a prayer that used to be said at the turn of the century and which we will use from now on when in our Gratitude circle before we partake of our wild food feasts. Thank you Lynn for all that you do and for being you!

Lumini Merced’s offering

Lumini was a dancer in New York City in her twenties. This hidden talent was not all that hidden because her demeanor and mannerisms are always graceful. What she shared with us left everyone speechless, no one even dared breathe. The video I took with my phone was pitiful and I hope she will preform this dance again for perhaps a talk I give next year at the library or at a church on Wild Foods and Nature’s Wave. This gift of love and life touched us all to the core. Thank you Lumini!  Her offering is calls Plants as Teachers and it is the most beautiful depiction of Nature’s Wave I have ever seen.  Enjoy it on the video.  I will feature the written text in a blog on Nature’s Wave.

Maggie Russel’s Offering

Maggie had been downloaded a message from the Creator on anointing and she shared it with us. Maggie’s beautiful spirit and capable hands craft so many beautiful things often resembling or using gifts from nature. She sells her creations at craft shows and on main street in Blowing Rock at Bless Your Heart. I hope next year Maggie can join our Teaching Tuesday class more often.

Loretta Sable’s offering

Loretta is a nutritionist and shared a poem she wrote about eating real food. Amazing how many lives she has changed with her message of nutrition and wellness. I so appreciate her wisdom. She is a once and awhile Wild Blessings student! Loretta is a wild blessing!

Lynn, Loretta and Susan spreading Milkweed seeds just for fun!

My heart overflows with love and gratitude to our loving Creator, to creation’s wonders and to the ones that adventure with me into the wild, into the stillness…reclaiming together our heritage and wild riches. Who is up for another year of surfing nature’s wave and adventuring forth into the wild?

“Oh Lord, how many and varied are Your works.
In wisdom You have made them all.
The whole earth is full of Your riches.”
Psalms 104:24

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord and sing praises to His name
for You oh Lord have made me glad by what You have done.
I will sing for JOY at the work of Your Hands.”
Psalms 95:1,4

Curses and Blessings…BURdock

Burs & Thistles, Curses & Blessings

A study of Arctium lappa….common Burdock

“I passed by the field of the sluggard and by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,

and behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;

its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.

When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction.

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,”

Then your poverty will come as a robber and your want like an armed man.”

Proverbs 24:30-34

 

Burs and Thistles may seem like a curse as described in these scriptures but to an herbalist who appreciates the hidden blessings in burs and nettles they are rather celebrated. I hope by the end of this article you will look at Burdock with deep respect as a green blessing of great value.

Burdock is a delectable edible, an incredible medicinal, and diversely practical in a multitude of fascinating ways, is one of my most treasured weeds. The botanical or formal name for Burdock is Arctium lappa. These nicknames give hints into some of it’s famous characteristics: Beggar’s Buttons, Cockle Burr, Gobo Root , Stick Button and Snake Rhubarb

Before discovering Burdocks green blessings for myself, I only knew it for it’s annoying hitchhiker seed pod burs that would get stuck in my collie Skipper’s fur coat every Fall. Another one of nature’s ways of distributing the seeds far and wide.   Interestingly, these infuriating hooked seed pods became inspiration for Velcro as an ingenious fastener. Dr. George De Mestral, a Swiss engineer, inspected them closely under a microscope and upon examining their simple design of hooks and loops he developed and patented Velcro in 1951.

Burdock is a biennial which means its growth cycle lasts for two years. The first year the energy is in the tasty nutritious roots and the leaves are large like elephant ears growing like a rosette collecting energy to store in the roots. The second year the energy shoots up a tall stalk creating prickly purple flowers that morph into those irksome prickly seed pods. It is all about going to seed and then spreading the life far and wide.

Edible

The Root

The Japanese have cultivated Burdock not as a weed but as a delicacy for hundreds of years. They call it Gobo root.   The best time to dig for the root is in the first year of growth or in the Spring of the second year before the energy shoots up a large seed stalk and the root is tough and fibrous. Once the roots are harvested and cleaned there are numerous tasty ways to prepare this nutritious delicacy. Sweet and Sour Burdock roots, Burdock in stir fries and stews, Burdock roots in a roasted casserole, Pickled Burdock roots, and Burdock Burgers is something I tried recently and they are fabulous…just about any way that you would eat or cook with a carrot works just as well with Burdock.

Sweet and Sour Burdock Root! Perfect for stir fries and soups.

A decoction differs from a tea in that it is typically used to make a strong tea from roots, barks, seeds and wood.  A simple infusion would never extract the minerals and goodness from these green gifts.  So to decoct Burdock root, fill a pan with a quart or more of water, adding the Burdock root slices and boiling them (at first) and then simmering them till the liquid is halved and the roots are tender when bitten into.  Once the roots are al dente then you can make them into whatever your imagination can cook up.  I have made Burdock root taste like BACON just by taking these prepared roots and stir frying them in bacon grease to serve with Elderflower Fritters and Elderberry syrup.  I have also made them taste pretty close to Pepperoni by adding the same spices need to make Pepperoni to the cooked roots and simmering them in a bit of the Burdock pot liquor till marinated before popping them on your wild pizza!  Another fun option is to season these cooked discs with parmesan cheese and Chicken Piccata sauce to taste like mushrooms.

After decocting the roots to make them tender, save the liquid (pot liquor). It is delicious, rather mushroomy in flavor and can be added to soup stock for the enhanced nutrition.

Burdock ‘mushrooms’ on chicken piccata

 

The Stems & Stalks

The stems of a first year basal rosette of Burdock are an often overlooked wild edible gift. They are a bit stringy, like celery but with a bit of peeling they can be prepared to taste not unlike string beans. Boil them till al dente and smother with a Bernaise Sauce, or just butter and salt and pepper them to taste. Any of the stems of the Burdock plant can be enjoyed if it is tender, juicy and not rigid and stiff, thus with a discerning eye these petioles can be enjoyed throughout the Summer.

The Italians call Burdock, Cardoon, which means ‘edible stem’. They collect the stalks or stems of the first year plant in May. The thick juicy stem is like Rhubarb. Take strings off, steam a little bit, chop in chunks, bread them and fry them. They claim it tastes better than eggplant parmesan. Can’t wait to try this next May!

Burdock juicy stems are sort of a wild green bean. They are delicious if picked at the right time and of course prepared properly as well.

 

Leaves

No. just. No. Some say these are edible but I am certain they have never tried them. Bitter is too kind a word for how they taste. Perhaps if you boiled them in 100 changes of water they might be passable but with so many delicious and delectable wild edibles why eat Burdock leaves…

Flowers

My mentor Linda Runyon lived off the land for many years. She loved Burdock in all it’s offerings including it’s baby flower clusters. She claims that if you harvest them early enough they are not spiky and can be boiled to perfection and enjoyed as a pea. Again, I have never been that hungry and find the texture prickly even in it’s early beginnings. But feel free to experiment.

Medicinal

Alterative, Diuretic, Diaphoretic, Bitter, Anti-psoriatic, Demulcent, Anti tumoral, Anti septic, Anodyne, Cell proliferant, Tonic

Burdock is a powerhouse of healing awesomeness. This is the classic case of letting food be your medicine and medicine be your food. The tastiest way to get the medicinal benefits of Burdock is to eat it but making tinctures of the root and the seeds has great healing value as well.

Among it’s vast healing benefits Burdock is famous for: aiding digestion due to it’s high fiber content, detoxifying the liver as a bitter, balancing hormones and the metabolism , reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure with it’s high concentration of potassium which is a vasodilator relieving tension within the cardiovascular system, controlling diabetes with it’s high levels of insulin, lowering overall blood cholesterol, skin condition from dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, rashes…can be transformed from the inside out with Burdock mainly due to it’s ability to flush the liver and detox the blood. It is a main herb in Essiac tea, an effective herbal cancer treatment. Externally, the large leaves of Burdock can be used as poultices for burns or rheumatism. Burdock poultices improve blood flow to the injured and infected area, fighting infection and speeding healing…and SO MUCH MORE.

Hope and Lily (two of my wild apprentices) hanging Burdock leaves to dry for burn bandages

The Amish gather and dry Burdock leaves, storing them in their hospitals for use with burn patients. They are an anodyne (pain reliever) and dulls pain, antiseptic and kill germs, cell proliferants and multiply new cell growth, and they won’t stick to the wound.

The seeds are also highly valued for their medicine. Their impact is more immediate than the rest of the plant medicine but not  as long lasting in effect. To see long lasting changes in your health the whole plant medicine should be taken faithfully for several month to see changes in degenerative conditions.

Harvesting the seeds is a challenge. Herbalist Jim MacDonald recommends putting the seed burs in a paper bag, and then another paper bag, then a contractors black trash bag and then drive over them with car tires… Then be super careful not to get those nasty stickers into your skin, if you do get prickled like a porcupine use duck tape to remove them.

Practical & Useful

Burdock plates are especially great for picnics. I love the way they look for a wild meal table as well.

Plates: My foragers always collect large Burdock leaves to use for their dinner plates for our wild food feasts.

Fans: During hot Summer months a Burdock leaf can morph easily into a cooling fan

Baggies: Ever wonder what people did to carry lunch to work before the invention of baggies? Dock means large leaf and Burdock leaves can be elephant ear size! Wrapping food in a large Burdock leaf kept food fresh in haversacks for centuries.

Bandages: Using Burdock leaf over a wound is not only a way to protect it but it’s powerful constituents also aid in the wound healing.

Handiwipes: I’ve also used Burdock leaves to clean off a table or counter top

TP: never tried it but…why not?

Teething: Native American women used the fresh Burdock root and strung it for when the young ones were teething. It worked to quiet them down and soothe their gums.  I wish I knew this when my kids were babies, it sure beats the plastic toys we give them to chew on.

Umbrella: Giant Burdock leaves make a handy umbrella in a pinch

Deflea pets: Simmer a handful of brown burs, strain and cool. Use this infusion to wash your pets and kill fleas quickly!

Poop patrol: My neighbor JD picks up his dog Foscoe’s poops with Burdock leaves to keep our yards poop free!

Cultivation

If digging is not your thing, take an old bale of wet hay and knock together four 1 x 4s like an empty-bottomed flat to fit right on top of the hay bale. Then fill this with garden soil and plant your burdock seeds in there. They will germinate and send their roots down into the hay. To harvest, remove the boards and pull apart the hay to reveal perfectly formed and tender burdock roots.”  I have never done this but it is on my bucket list for sure!

In Summary

So now that I’ve enlightened you as to the phenomenal gifts of Arctium lappa: it’s edibility, powerful medicine, usefulness and playfulness perhaps you agree that these annoying burrs are a worthy reminder of God’s Goodness and Provision for us.  I am grateful for their ingenious method of hitchhiking on a passing pant leg or four legged furry animal to spread it’s life far and wide.

Bring on the Wild Blessings!

Heather digging up Burdock roots for our wild feast

Quick tip, my favorite way to wash edible wild roots is sitting on a rock in a mountain stream and working the roots into the sandy soil until they are scrubbed clean.