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Ganoderma tsugae Reishi, also known as the mushroom of immortality, is believed to be one of the most medicinal mushrooms ...

Reishi AKA The Mushroom of Immortality

Ganoderma tsugae

Reishi, also known as the mushroom of immortality, is believed to be one of the most medicinal mushrooms ever known. (I'm about to whip out some Latin, so I apologize to non-science nerds. You can just ignore it, if you want.) There are multiple different species in the United States.  They grow mainly around the northeastern US on dying hardwood trees such as oak, elm, maple, beech, and hemlock. Ganoderma lucidum is the species mostly commonly utilized in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Ganoderma means something like, "bright skin," lucidum, "shining."

In the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, where I live, Ganoderma tsugae is the most common species, because it grows on dying hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis, not to be confused with poison hemlock, Conium maculatum, in the carrot family). Unfortunately we have a lot of dying hemlock here, due to damage from the non-native insect the wooly adelgid. The past couple of years, I've found another species, Ganoderma sessile, growing on maple trees, when I've visited Ohio. Sessile means, "stalkless". There are other species, as well, and debate on how similar they are genetically, whether some may be the same species or not. 
Ganoderma sessile

Full of vibrant and healing energy, reishi is a very powerful ally. It is one of the most important adaptogen herbs in chinese medicine. It has been utilized for anxiety, high blood pressure, hepatitis, bronchitis, Alzheimer's, insomnia, and asthma. Some of its most famous benefits, are that it has been considered anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer), immune boosting, life extending, and stimulating to brain neurons. Reishi is commonly taken by tincture, an alcoholic extraction, or by tea. 

How to make reishi tea or stock: 
Some people believe it takes a long time, 12 - 24 hours, to extract the constituents (medicinal components). If you harvest your own reishi, cut them into long, thin pieces before dehydrating. They're extremely tough and hard to cut once dry. They're dry once they break cleanly in half. You can break them into smaller pieces and grind them in a coffee grinder or leave in small chunks, and cover with at least twice as much water. (You can add veggies and herbs, if making a stock, or other roots, if you want to make a tea blend.) Bring to a boil, turn heat on low, and let simmer for around two to twenty-four hours. The longer you simmer, the more water you need. Strain out reishi pieces and enjoy! Some of y'all who know me well, know I'm a traditional Herbalist, so I'm not always big on exact measurements. If you want more details, check out this reishi article from my friends at No Taste Like Home.

If you make your own tea or stock, let me know (in the comments) how it goes and if you create any fabulous new recipes of your own. If you don't want to make your own, check out my reishi tincture on my Etsy site. 

Co-written with Savannah Smith, previous intern. A republished blog just in time for reishi season.

It's spring and seems like the warmth is finally here to stay in Appalachia. Yesterday, in the May rains that have been common la...

Savory Wild Greens Pancakes

It's spring and seems like the warmth is finally here to stay in Appalachia. Yesterday, in the May rains that have been common lately, during my Wild Foraging and Herbal Medicine Making Apprentice Day, one of my students exclaimed how vibrantly green all the plants were. It's true, you can see the glow of aliveness in everything. Being a Florida born plant person, I admit winters are tough for me. I invite all of us to take some time to sit in the sun and bask in the beauty of everything awakening after the long, cold season. 

The early spring greens are transitioning from their tenderness to a harder fibrousness. At this point, they're not as tasty as raw salad greens. So what do we do with them? Cook 'em up! I found out from my awesome homesteading friend, Meredith (also the incredibly knowledgeable and generous author of the new super helpful website all about her family's journey with Lyme Disease, as a way to help others on their journeys with Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses) who grows lots of nettles, about nettle pancakes. How did I never know about these before?! Apparently they are super popular in Nordic countries, and called nokkosletut. 

Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, is the species most commonly thought to be medicinal. However, I like the taste of our wild wood nettle, Laportea canadensis, better. They are both in the nettle family, Urticaceae, with stinging hairs. Of course, to protect yourself from the stings, wear leather gloves, though the sting is medicinal, too, for arthritic conditions, gout, etc. I'll add any of a wide variety of wild greens to these, like dandelion, day lily, violet,  and chickweed. Just remember to make any bitter greens, like dandelion, a small amount of the total greens, or you'll end up with bitter pancakes.  You might like that, though. Remember how great for us bitters are?!

Dandelions are a great bitter for preparing the digestive system for fatty or meat-containing meals,
and for toning the liver and gallbladder. 
These pancakes are pretty simple to make. Make them thinner, like crepes, for best results. As you can tell from the pictures, I'm not too concerned with making perfectly shaped pancakes. You could try to make some fun shapes, too, if you're feeling creative. I made these gluten and dairy free, with gluten free flour and coconut milk, but substitute your favorites. You could also make this vegan by using flax seeds or other egg substitute. Cultivated onions or garlic can also be substituted for the wild onions. 

These are so simple to make, I hope you try them in many different reincarnations with different greens throughout the various seasons. Let me know, in the comments, your favorite additions and how they turn out. One awesome topping I came up with is fire cider aioli! Just mix some fire cider and mayonnaise until it gets to your desired consistency. I added some ramp salt for extra yumminess! 
My asymmetrical pancakes 
Savory Wild Greens Pancakes Recipe

2 cups semi-loosely packed stinging or woods nettle leaves
2 plants-worth of medium sized dandelion greens (or about 20 leaves)
2 cups milk of choice
2 cups gluten free flour
2 eggs or substitute
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon wild onions, chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon dried, crumbled bee balm, bergamot, or oregano leaves, or 2 tablespoons fresh
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil of choice, plus extra for skillet

Combine all ingredients in Vita Mix or other food processor. Run until just well mixed. Add more oil to skillet over medium heat. Ladle batter into hot pan so you have small (two inches wide), thin pancakes. Cook two minutes or until edges start to dry and they hold together to flip. Flip and cook another two minutes or until done in the middle and light brown.

Nettles about to be whipped up 
Ideas for toppings:
Goat and other cheeses
Sour cream
Hot sauce

Happy foraging & eating!

Want to know more about what's growing on your land? Want to find out what you can safely eat or work with as an herb? I offer botanical...

Spring is the Time for a Botanical Property Survey

Want to know more about what's growing on your land? Want to find out what you can safely eat or work with as an herb? I offer botanical property surveys just for you. You'll get to come out with me for a botanical walkabout of your property. Invite your friends, family, or neighbors, and make it a party! On one of my most memorable surveys, a client invited his neighbors and friends, who wanted to know more about what was growing in their region. We found a huge patch of hen of the woods mushrooms. Then we barbecued them and some burgers for a post-survey feast!

The walk takes at least a couple of hours, and you will get to ask burning questions you've been dying to have answered. Afterward, I will provide you with a spreadsheet of the edible, medicinal, and poisonous plants on your land.

Here's an example of what (a part of) your personal survey could look like. It is customizable so that you can reorganize it by common (English) name if you prefer. On my last survey, we found 72 species!

The price is $150 for the first two hours and the spreadsheet (+ transportation fees), and $50 for each additional hour. If you have a large property, want something more detailed, or are interested in learning what is growing through each seasonal change, we can discuss how to make that happen. Email me now for more info, and to schedule. The spring calendar is filling up fast; get in touch now!

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.