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Green Valentine - by Susun Weed

Isn’t February fun! Ground Hog Day! President’s Day! Valentine’s Day! My birthday! February may be the shortest month, but it doesn’t stint on holidays. February is a good month for celebrating. And it’s a good time to reawaken your herbal taste buds.

Some of you - many of you - are thinking: “It’s still winter.” (It isn’t though.) “What herbs?” (I’ll tell you.) “Dried ones from the summer?” (No, fresh ones from field and forest.)

No matter what the date, there are always edible weeds available. I tested my belief by sending students into the streets and sidewalks of Amsterdam (Holland) on a breezy February day. Within an hour they had identified more than two dozen edible and medicinal plants - right there in the city. No matter where you live, there are greens available right now to sing a spring awakening song to your tongue and your heart and your spirit.

Listen to the trees. Here in the northeast, the maples are whispering: “Sweet, sweet.” Maple sap is flowing. Sweet aroma and an even sweeter flavor. Fresh, hot maple syrup is the sweet taste of the spring warmth to come, magically created by the warmth of the wood we harvested last fall. While waiting for the sap to boil down, let’s chew on some pine twigs and needles.

Evergreen pine needles are rich in vitamin C and oozing with antibacterial resins. Just the thing to prevent, or treat, colds and sore throats. If you feel creative, stuff a jar with pine needles - I prefer to use white pine (Pinus strobus). Then fill it to the top with pasteurized apple cider vinegar, cap with a non-metal lid, and label with the date and contents. Your pine needle vinegar is ready to use in a day or two, but the longer it sits, the better it tastes. After two months, it is strong enough to be called “Domestic Balsamic Vinegar”. If you have several pines to choose from, make several wee jars of different pine vinegars as tasters. Some pine needles are too resinous to be palatable. You can usually get a good idea of how strong the finished vinegar will taste by chewing a small clump of needles. Pinon pine needle vinegar is exceptionally delicious.

Put your ear close to the ground. That humming you hear is the sound of underground bulbs waking up and sending exploratory fingers into the air and light. Wild garlic and wild onion shoots break ground all through the forest, in my meadow, and scattered on the neighbor’s lawn. Soon the wild leeks will raise their voices in colorful chants. What groundhog could sleep through the shouts of a wild onion chorus? Their sharp, intense green taste reminds me to breathe deeply. And protects me against the flu.

Look! Wild cresses. And so many different ones to choose from. There in the stream, where the sun warms the bank: watercress with its sharp, bitter bite and trilling song. There at the edge of the garden, hunkered down against the cold: dark green winter cress, also known as St. Barbara's cress, belting out jazz in a saucy rhythm. (Later, when it shoots up and flashes its sunny flowers, we’ll call it yellow rocket.) Look there, tucked in between the rocks: the grey-green leaves of tangy rock cress, murmuring mantras. And right here, under our feet, on this hillock that faces south, where the ground has warmed, the cabbage-tasting, petite, dandelion-shaped leaves of shepherd’s purse. Do you feel the smile in their song?

We’ll gather a little of each of those cresses - they all taste great - but the main part of our salad will be this prolific cress: garlic mustard. It tastes like a blend of mustard greens and fresh garlic. And, like the other cresses, it is evergreen, and available all winter long wherever it grows. When I walk in the woods in the winter, I can hear it in snatches if the snow is not too deep. Always sounds to me like a doo-wop ditty it’s singing.

Let’s ask this one if we can have its root, too. I’ll brush the dirt off, you try a bite. Yup! Quite the taste isn’t it! That’s why its alternate name is “wild horseradish”. It’s a real sinus-opener! I put a handful of garlic mustard roots in my blender with a little sea salt and some vinegar. It makes a great fresh horseradish condiment. I crave the mustardy flavors of the cresses more in February and March than I do later on in the year, and I think they taste better now, too.

One of my favorite winter greens - miner’s lettuce - grows too far away (about three thousand miles) for me to harvest it. But if you live on the west coast, you probably already know where the nearest patch grows. I look for it in damp areas, especially seaside streams and roadside ditches. It’s an easy plant to identify, with its perfectly round, neon-green leaves, each pierced through by a tender stalk. It usually grows with chickweed, another wonderful winter green in areas where the winter is a little milder than mine.

Alright, I will tell you more about chickweed on our next walk. But not now, I’m hungry. How about you? Shall we take our prizes back to the house and make them into a salad while the soup is heating? I’ll make some cheese toast. After we’ve eaten, you must tell me that story you hinted at. A fairy led you on a wild ramble, you said. I know how it ends - with green blessings - but I hope you’ll reveal what happened on the way to those green blessings.

Susun Weed
PO Box 64
Woodstock, NY 12498
Fax:  1-845-246-8081



Susun Weed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopaedic knowledge of herbs and health. She is the voice of the Wise Woman Way, where common weeds, simple ceremony, and compassionate listening support and nourish health/wholeness/holiness. She has opened hearts to the magic and medicine of the green nations for three decades. Ms. Weed's four herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including: menopause, childbearing, and breast health.

 

Visit her site  for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more or contact her at:


Susun Weed

PO Box 64

Woodstock, NY 12498

Fax:  1-845-246-8081


For permission to reprint this article, contact us at:
susunweed@herbshealing.com

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Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.

 

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Browse the publishing site - Ash Tree Publishing - to learn more about her alternative health books.

 

Venture into the NEW Menopause site to learn all about the Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.

Or Join the Forum! Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Forum - an open space for discussion. Make yourself at home, post a message or start a discussion. This place is for you to share your questions, concerns, and comments with other wise women like you. Take a moment to register and become part of the community. Enjoy!
 

 

Susun Weed’s books include:

 

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year

Author: Susun S. Weed. Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $11.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

 
Healing Wise 

Author: Susun S. Weed. Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $17.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

 

New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

Author: Susun S. Weed. The best book on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Foreword by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $16.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on menopause, visit the site.

 
Breast Cancer? Breast Health!

Author: Susun S. Weed. Foods, exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen. Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations.

Retails for $14.95 Order at: Ash Tree Publishing

For more great info on Breast Health, visit Susun's Breast Health site.



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