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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.

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.