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The juicy chickweed is just starting to pop up out of the ground and shine its brilliant white star-shaped flower (the meaning of the fir...

Wild Foraging & Herbal Medicine Making Apprenticeship 2018

The juicy chickweed is just starting to pop up out of the ground and shine its brilliant white star-shaped flower (the meaning of the first part of its botanical name, or genus, Stellaria). It's one of my fave wild greens to munch on for a snack, add to salads, or make wild pesto from. It's also a great spring tonic to fortify our bodies after the long winter.

Are those the kinds of things you'd love to know? Or did you already know that, but want to know more about the most common and some less common plants of the eastern and central US, including how to identify them, grow them, harvest them, and make food and medicine out of them? Well, you're in luck!

The 2018 Wild Foraging & Herbal Medicine Making Apprenticeship program is starting sooner than you can say Stellaria! Here's all the details. Note that we have a brand new location, just outside of Asheville, to make it more convenient with lots of foraging spots! Because this program is so hands-on, there are a very limited number of spaces available, so register now.

There are a lot of herbal education programs out there, many more expensive than mine. So, what makes this one different? This program is completely hands-on and almost completely outdoors, in the natural habitat of the plants! Every season, apprentices rave about what a unique experience this is, offering what they've always looked for, but never been able to find. 

From a previous apprentice:
"[The apprenticeship] has been one of the best and most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I have learned so much from Abby and plan to continue. I would highly recommend to anyone who has an opportunity to attend a class, workshop, or her WANDER School, to DO IT!" - Lisa S.

Past apprentices have valued the gift of a day a week spent in nature. That simple time is life changing. Throughout the seasons, we become a close community, connecting to the earth, the plants, and each other, growing and learning together. This program is for all levels of plant enthusiasts, removing intimidation and fear of wild plant identification, teaching basic to intermediate botany, demonstrating herbal formulating techniques and so much more through a mix of the following and more (*season and weather dependent):

  • Hands-on Foraging/Wildcrafting (including instruction in safety, ethics, sustainability, and proper tools and foraging techniques)
  • Processing foraged/wildcrafted items (with information on preservation, cooking, and storage)
  • Herbal Medicine Making (of a wide range of herbal formulas and products, with samples and recipes to take home)
  • Small amounts of herb gardening (including seeding, multiple propagation techniques, and harvesting for medicine making)

Apprenticeship Dates (subject to change)
Wednesdays 10-4:00 at Sacred Mountain Sanctuary in Candler, NC

4/11, 4/18, 4/25, 5/2, 5/9, 5/16, 5/23, 5/30

6/20, 6/27, no class July 4th, 7/11, 7/18, 7/25, 8/1, 8/8, 8/15

8/29, 9/5, no class 9/12, 9/19, 9/26, 10/3, 10/10, 10/17, 10/24

$480/season, or $200 off if you sign up for all 3!

More inspiring words from a past apprentice:
"I feel like progressed more in plant identification in the few weeks with Abby than the rest of my time as a forager." - Carolyn D.

Happy Solstice! I'm so excited for the return to the light, to longer days of more sunshine and the return of vibrant growth start...

Banana Cacao Foraged Nut Bread Recipe

Happy Solstice! I'm so excited for the return to the light, to longer days of more sunshine and the return of vibrant growth starting sooner that it seems. It's holiday season, and along with that comes eating diversions. These can be tasty and satisfying at the time, but can wreak havoc on our digestion, immune system, skin, and mood, along with every other part of our body. I'm sure you already have heard lots of frightening facts about sugar, so I won't try to scare you with more. Instead I want to encourage you toward self-care during this season so you can feel your best. Instead of encouraging you to deprive yourself of sweet things, making you more likely to just binge later, let's look at some alternatives.

How can you substitute tasty healthy treats for sugary treats? Think about substituting more natural  sweeteners that don't spike your blood sugar. Try subbing maple syrup for sugar at a one to one ratio. You'll have to adapt your recipe a bit, to account for changing a solid to a liquid, but there's so many great recipes online these days. You could also try stevia, which doesn't raise your blood sugar at all. Make sure you use the green herb and not the white processed stevia. However, the taste may need to be acquired for some people and some never like it. Coconut sugar or molasses are other options, though eating a lot of these or maple syrup can still raise your blood sugar, so moderation is key. Here's a good article to check out about alternative sweeteners. You can also lower your fruit consumption and switch over to fruits that don't raise the blood sugar as much, like berries, pears, and apples.

Here's my holiday gift to you, a gluten-free, dairy-free, processed sugar-free, yet scrumptious recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth and, in moderation, provide a healthy alternative to those other sugary holiday downfalls.

* A few notes about the recipe *
Any wild nut will do, or store-bought nuts, too. I prefer the cacao over the cocoa powder. I think it tastes more chocolatey and has more antioxidants. Cocoa powder is a fine, inexpensive substitute, just try to stay away from the dutched cocoa powder. The dutching process supposedly reduces the antioxidants. (Check out a study here.) My professional baker friend said she doesn't like the Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour because it tends to make the end product grainy in texture. She recommended using coconut flour instead. I haven't had a chance to try that yet, but I didn't notice the grainy-ness anyway.

Banana Cacao Foraged Nut Bread Recipe

(In the large bowl)
2 cups mashed bananas
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (preferably homemade, look for a recipe here soon)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (recipe to make your own)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 - 1/2 cup nuts of choice, coarsely chopped (I mix hickory and black walnuts)

(In the small bowl)
1 3/4 cup flour (I used 1 cup gluten free [add your favorite brand] and 3/4 cup rice flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder or cacao nibs powdered (you can powder them in a coffee grinder)

Preheat oven to 350 (or 375 in higher altitudes). Mix the ingredients in the large bowl. Mix the ingredients in the small bowl. Mix the small bowl ingredients into the large bowl ingredients, stirring as little as possible, just until mixed together. Pour into a greased loaf pan or 7 x 11" baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick or fork comes out clean, after poked into the bread. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie's Chocolate Banana Bread 

Wishing you the happiest, brightest love and joy-filled season!
Let me know how this recipe worked for you in the comments. Do you have other yummy healthy recipes you like this season? Post them below.

Yes, it's that time again! No, not the holidays silly, it's time for the winter CSH share . What's a CSH share, you ask? ...

Treat Yourself to Winter Health

Yes, it's that time again! No, not the holidays silly, it's time for the winter CSH share. What's a CSH share, you ask? It's like a CSA share, or Community Supported Agriculture share. This is an awesome idea started by farmers that has started catching on (and even spread to us herbalists). The idea is that you pay the farmer a certain amount up front for the year. The farmer uses this money to buy seeds and equipment that they need to grow their crops for the year. In return, you get a share of whatever the farmer grows that year. It's a win-win!

A CSH share, or Community Supported Herbalism share, works a little differently, especially dependent on which herbalist you talk to. Just like I love to say: If you ask 10 herbalists the same question, you'll probably get at least 10 different answers! Anyway . . . the way I work my CSH shares, is that I offer a small and a large share of whatever formulas I make each season from wild herbs I've harvested the previous season(s). I make the formulas pertinent for whatever ailments might come up during that season, with some bonus fun additions.

Actually, I wasn't going to offer the CSH anymore because they can be an awful lot of work. However, after many of you asked me about when the next one would be out and told me you needed it, I decided to oblige :) It is pretty awesome to get to see and hear about you enjoying these formulas I've worked so hard to create from plants I've sustainably harvested. It's definitely a labor of love, and it's so cool how the whole community benefits!

This winter, there's 2 different shares, the Simply Winter Health, or small share, and the Treat Yourself to Winter Health (pictured above), or large share. They both come with my most popular formula, the High-C  Elderberry syrup with foraged elderberries, sumac berries, and rose hips, along with the Incendiary Fire Tonic hot sauce to keep you warm and healthy all winter long; and the Pucker Up lip balm based on my Every Purpose salve (that comes in the large share). You'll also get two new formulas that I'm super excited about: my Evergreen Salt, a great seasoning for holiday meats and more, and Clear the Crud sinus formula tincture (thanks, Natalie for the name!). That one is a mega blend of the fire tonic and elderberry syrup, mixed with wild harvested reishi mushrooms, usnea lichen, ground ivy, yarrow, self-heal, yellowroot, and local turmeric. Woah! Besides the salve, the large share includes the Mondo Mintastic tea with 3 wild harvested mints and peppermint, and the crowd favorite, the Harmony tincture, with herbs long valued for their mood lifting effects. (Find out more about the traditional mood-lifting herbs in this tincture, here.)
Treat Yourself to Winter Health CSH share
High-C Elderberry Syrup

CSH shares make great gifts for someone you love or your very lovely self for winter health support all winter long! Check it out now at The WANDER School Etsy Store. 

Wishing you a very happy, healthy, and joyful season! And if you need some other health and joy support, check out these great blogs from The WANDER School archives:
Nourishing Bone Broth Recipe

Self-Love Day and Fudge Recipe

Stay tuned for my brand new recipe for Banana Cacao Bread with Foraged Nuts!

Mimosa blossoms  As often happens in life, the good comes with the bad, and there's not always black and white on what's good ...

Gratitude & The Tree of Happiness

Mimosa blossoms 

As often happens in life, the good comes with the bad, and there's not always black and white on what's good and bad. Thanksgiving is my fave holiday because I get to eat lots of delicious local food that supports local farms and farmers, while spending time with the folks I love. However, it can also belittle the horrible atrocities that the Native Americans went through at the hands of the Europeans. And from what I hear, our meal doesn't resemble a lot of what was on the table at the first Thanksgiving, like corn, beans, and lobster.

Though the holidays are a time of love, togetherness, and gratitude, they can also be a time of stress, misunderstandings, and grief. Today is my beautiful daughter's 15th birthday! I am so grateful she came into my life, and for all the joy and lessons she brings me. However, we're also still in a great amount of grief after having to put down our poor puppy last week. Lots of folks go through great amounts of pain this time of year over the loss of loved ones currently and in the past.

So what can we do about it? Well, it's always important to count our blessings and be grateful for all that we have. But it's a fine line, we also need to grieve and feel our feelings, too, so they're not suppressed to explode later or cause deep physical or psychological issues. I've found being in nature and around those I love, plus journaling and meditation, all help tremendously. Find the self-care that works best for you and practice it continuously. Sleep and nourishment are huge!

Of course there's herbal allies, too! I have several faves, that's why I created a formula around them: my Harmony tincture, containing mimosa, hawthorn, St. John's wort (not recommended to take if you're already on antidepressants), and lemon balm. You can find it at my new Etsy shop here, or try one or a mix of several of the herbs in tea or tincture on your own. They can be great for any kind of heartache, depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Harvesting hawthorn berries

I super love mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)! It's in the pea family, Fabaceae, which you can tell by the pods it will get after the flowers. It's native to Asia, and some folks consider it slightly invasive, all the more reason to make medicine with it. It's also the tree with the super fun, huge pink powder puff-like flowers that bloom in early summer. I always think if there was a truffula tree, a la Dr. Seuss, this would be it!

In Asia, mimosa is called the "Tree of Happiness". Most people take it as a tincture of the flowers, leaves, and sometimes bark or twigs. In Dana Tate Bailey's great article, she says she likes to work with mimosa especially for grief and with those people stuck in loss or dealing with heartbreaking loss. She also reminds us how important it is to still feel our feelings and let ourselves grieve. I truly believe that. One of the great things about herbs, being natural, is that they can gently help move us along that process.

Moving into this holiday season, let's all try to have a little extra love and compassion for those around us. This time is stressful, and doesn't always bring out the best in any of us. And for those of us actively grieving or missing those we've lost long ago, the holidays can bring a little extra pain. Please reach out to someone and offer them a little extra love during this time.

Of course I can't go without mentioning how grateful I am for you! You are who I do all of this for, and without your support, I couldn't do it at all. Sending a big hug of thanks to you and wishes for a sweet holiday season!