Sore throat season is upon us. (In full force, if you happen to live at my house.)
Perhaps because my kids are in school this year in some incarnation for the first time (Sage at technical college and Lupine auditing a couple of classes at our local Waldorf high school) we’re passing around bugs like it’s our favorite past time. And most of them involve a sore throat at some point in the journey.
My homemade sore throat tea has been a huge comfort for us during our rest and recovery. When I emailed the recipe out to my LüSa Organics email list this morning, I though you would enjoy it, too.
The process is a breeze, even if you’re new to herbalism. If you can simmer water or steep tea, you’ve got this. The tea is made in two steps: first a decoction (simmered tea), then more herbs are added and infused (steeped).
I hope it brings your family comfort in the coming days.
Combine cherry bark, fennel, cinnamon, and licorice in a small saucepan
Add 2 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes
Remove from heat, add remaining ingredients, and steep covered for 5 minutes
Sweeten with honey and serve warm
Makes 2 servings.
Psst… For those who follow along on Facebook and Instagram, yes, I’m still working on a series of 3 posts to share with the protocol we used during COVID, but it’s taking a bit. Thanks for your patience.
When we were in Ireland a couple of years ago, I stumbled upon Spoonful Botanicals, an intriguing fermented fruit-and-herb spread. Designed to be anti-inflammatory (and delicious) I was so tempted, but at €30.00 per jar it was way outside of my budget.
After we returned home I kept thinking about it and wishing I had been able to pick up a jar. I did a bit of researched and realized that fermented chutneys are commonplace in India, and searched around for a recipe to experiment with making my own.
Using a Nourishing Traditions raisin chutney recipe as my jumping-off point, I set to work grinding and fermenting aromatics and dried fruit.
Two days later, I cracked the jar, took a taste, and swooned. Oh, yes. This is just what I expected from the boughten, Irish version–and then some. It was spicy, sweet, and exactly what my body craved. I was hooked.
Is it a chutney? A fruity spread? I have no idea. Make a batch, then call it what you will. I won’t lie: it’s not beautiful, but the taste makes up for the appearances. (I promise!)
Why fermented foods?
Lactofermentation provides important probiotics to the digestive system. We make a habit of eating them daily: homemade Beet Kvass, sauerkraut, ginger carrots, and more. This spicy, fruity spread offered one more delicious way to included probiotics in our diet.
Anti-inflammatory Herbal Allies
Lately I’ve been experiencing more joint pain than I’d like. (I suppose any is more than I’d like, but this is quite a bit.) So I’m doing my best to limit inflammatory foods like sugar and refined grains, and to incorporate anti-inflammatory herbs in my diet each day.
A daily dose of ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and other allies is already going into in my morning tea, and I drink a shot of tart cherry juice most nights. But adding more anti-inflammatory foods and herbs felt like a smart decision.
This fruity-sweet ferment includes turmeric, pepper, and ginger–warming anti-inflammatories that can help alleviate joint pain. And it’s so delicious that after surprising Lupine with a taste on a bite of whole-grain pancakes yesterday, she dipped into the jar and spread a generous amount on her next helping. “It’s so good that I’m taking more on purpose.”
Ready to whip up a batch? It goes together in a snap and will keep for weeks in the fridge once fermented (if you don’t gobble it up before that.)
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp black pepper, freshly ground (fine)
3/4 C hot water
2″ knob fresh ginger (peel on), grated
3/4 C dried dates
scant 1 1/4 tsp salt (divided)
Combine raisins, turmeric, black pepper, and fennel in a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl. Avoid plastic or other materials that may stain from turmeric.
Add 3/4 C very warm water (approximately 100 to 120° F) water and stir to combine. Cover and allow to soak for 1 to three hours.
Meanwhile, combine fresh, unpeeled ginger with pitted dates plus 1 scant teaspoon salt in the bowl of your food processor. Process until a smooth, sticky paste results.
After raisin mixture has soaked and raisins have plumped somewhat, transfer the mix along with any remaining soaking liquid to the ginger and date mix in the the processor. Pulse for several minutes until desired consistency is achieved. (I like mine as a spread so it’s fairly smooth, but chunkier is fine, too.)
Transfer paste to a suitably sized glass jar (I used a pint), allowing at least 1″ of headroom. Tap jar gently on the counter, then insert a butter knife to remove any large air bubbles and tap again. Smooth the top surface of your paste with the knife.
In a separate container, combine 1/4 tsp salt with 1/4 C warm water. Stir to dissolve, then pour gently over the top of your dried fruit mix, completely covering the surface of the chutney. Discard any extra brine that doesn’t fit in the jar.
Tightly seal and set on a stain-proof plate or bowl. Allow to ferment at room temperature (out of direct sunlight) for 2 days.
After two days, open your jar over the sink, just in case any brine spills out. (The jar may be slightly pressurized from fermentation. A satisfying “pssssshhht!” sound is perfectly normal and not a cause for alarm.) Most of your brine will have been drawn down into the fruit mix, but if any surface brine remains, pour it off into the sink.
Stir well, sneak a taste, then refrigerate.
Allow to mellow for a few days if desired, then spread on crackers, pancakes, waffles, apple slices, or toast, or stir into hot porridge.
Fermented chutney will keep for three months or more in the refrigerator.
I joked yesterday on socialmedia that I’m going to have Sage (18) caption all of my photographs going forward.
This one? “I don’t know what you’re making in here, but it smells disgusting.”
Because, well, fire cider.
If you’re new to fire cider, I’m betting that this probably isn’t the most compelling sales pitch ever. But this witchy, pungent infusion is an incredible seasonal immune tonic. And funky scent or not, I’m betting that’s something we all could use in spades right now.
To set the record straight, Sage despises apple cider vinegar in any form. So that’s the main bit of trouble with fire cider for him. Layer over that the smell of sliced, fresh horseradish punching him in the nose when he walked in the room, and he just couldn’t do it. To me, on the other hand, it smells delicious, nourishing, and like fierce immunity magic in a jar.
Which, of course, it is.
Made with fresh onions and garlic, horseradish and aromatics, fire cider is spirited, spicy, pungent, and warming. This immune-supporting marvel is made with fresh herbs and aromatics, it’s just the kick our bodies need to stay healthy during this most challenging time. It takes just minutes to prep enough to last the winter, with extra bottles to pass along to friends. Will you make a big batch this weekend to share with those you love?
Don’t wait. Make it now, and it won’t be ready until early December.
Don’t let the specific ingredients or quantities listed in the recipe below limit your creative flex.
If you’re out of cayenne and want to add fresh chilis (like I did in the jar pictured below), go for it. If you’re vegan and want to sub maple for honey, knock yourself out. If you’re not eating alliums, cut them from the list; then boost the quantities of the other ingredients a bit to make up for the missing oniony-punch.
Because every herbalist has their own favorite fire cider formula, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. This recipe just happens to be mine.
Homemade Fire Cider Recipe
Makes approximately 3 pints
¼ cup chopped fresh ginger root (approximately 1 oz.)
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh horseradish root
1 small onion, finely chopped (approximately ½ cup)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1⁄4 teaspoon dried cayenne powder
2 tbsp rose hips (optional)
2 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tbsp dried thyme
¼ cup raw honey
3 cups (plus extra if needed) organic raw apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon (at bottling time)
Place finely chopped or grated vegetables, and dried herbs in a quart-sized mason jar. Add honey, then top off with enough apple cider vinegar to fill the jar to just above the shoulders (approximately 3 cups).
Stir well, then cover with a plastic lid or a metal lid lined with waxed paper or a food-grade plastic bag.
Infuse for 4 weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking gently once a week, or any time you think of it.
After 4 weeks pour your fire cider through a cheesecloth-lined colander and transfer liquid to a clean mason jar. Add lemon juice, and label with date and contents. Stored in the refrigerator, Fire Cider will keep for at least 1 year.
Take 1 tsp to 1 tbsp daily for adults; ½ to 1 tsp for children, throughout cold and flu season. Stir into a cup of room temperature water, cold juice, or (for the bravest among us!) take right from the spoon or shot glass.
Fire Cider may cause stomach upset in people with heartburn, acid reflux, or indigestion.
And finally, my (and most of the world’s) inspiration for my fire cider recipe is the lovely Rosemary. If you’d enjoy a how-to video of this simple process, her’s is below. I adore Rosemary, and if you don’t already, this video should be all that it takes for you to join me in the herb-nerd fan club.
Now get busy and make a quart or two for yourself, your family, your friends, and your neighborhood!
Together, we can find our way back to our roots, back to handmade and homemade, back to effective remedies made from what we have.
If you’ve been around here a while, you know my passion for putting down my laptop and phone, pulling on my boots, and getting out there with my kids–no matter the season.
Since they were small, we’ve taken any excuse we could find to toss the to-do list aside and dive headlong into seasonal projects, recipes, and celebrations (both when we lived in town and here on the farm).
To immerse ourselves in nature and the magic that exists when we unplug and connect with each other and the seasons, all through the year. From boisterous summer adventures to quiet winter celebrations, nature–and time together enjoying it–offers us so much.
Because this is where the memories happen.
So when Herbal Adventures was finally out in the world and my editor came to me to ask if I was willing to write a second book, I jumped at the chance.
And I knew exactly the book that I wanted to share.
In my heart for more than a decade had been a book that was begging to be written: a book of joyful, creative, seasonal activities for kids and their families to enjoy together, no matter where they call home.
With projects that are simple, accessible, sustainable, and fun (and best of all, almost always made with supplies you already have on hand). Projects that are as fun in the city as they are in the country; when done alone, as a family, or with a gaggle of friends.
A book that helps you find meaningful ways to celebrate of seasons, no matter what else your family holds dear.
Because there is such fun to be discovered when we put away our devices for an hour, a day, or even longer. And wherever you are is the just right place to start.
Within these pages, I invite you and your loved ones to connect, create, and play all year long. There’s no right or wrong way to unplug–all we have to do is begin. And with simple projects, delicious recipes, and joyful celebrations, you’ll find that more fun awaits than you ever imagined–all through the year.
With more than 50 projects, crafts, and recipes, plus ideas for gatherings to share with family and friends, there are adventures to be had in every season.
Host a springtime tea party, where you’ll nibble shortbread cookies and craft a mossy fairy garden in a teacup.
Or gather with friends for a summer potluck party. Blow giant bubbles, race leaf-and-bark boats, or camp out in your own backyard.
In the fall, enjoy a harvest party with your friends. Create a fall leaf rainbow, sip mulled cider, and bake bread over a campfire.
When winter comes, celebrate the longest night of the year with twinkling ice lanterns. Try your hand at candle dipping, make your own play dough, and pen your wishes for the coming year.
In The Unplugged Family Activity Bookyou’ll fall in love with every season–wherever you call home. So grab your family and friends, and get ready for an unplugged adventure that will last all through the year.
Best of all, The Unplugged Family Activity Book is already available for pre-order! (Release date scheduled for the Summer Solstice, June 2020.) For those looking for independent booksellers who will be offering my book, look no further than the links below, or request that your favorite indie book shop carries it come June.
Friends in the UK, Canada, and Australia, you find links to retailers in your region here.
Or add your name to the email sign-up form below, then I’ll be sure to drop you a note when my new book is released.
And finally, A huge thank you to everyone who has encouraged me to keep writing by reading my words here, purchasing copies of Herbal Adventures, and dropping sweet notes in my inbox through the years.
I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for your unflagging encouragement and enthusiasm. I mean that with my everything.
P.S. In other news, Herbal Adventures has been translated to French, and is coming out later this month! You can find the French translation here and a link to both (all three?) of my books here. The fun never ends!
Leave a comment below telling me what you think about this upcoming book. Are you on a mission to unplug with your family just a little more? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear about your journey.
Cold season, the flu, and now the dreaded coronavirus. Many of us worry to some degree about falling ill in the winter every year, especially during the bridge between seasons when the weather swings unpredictably from cold to warm.
And with the onset of every potential pandemic, we worry even more.
OUR FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE TO ANY VIRUS? A HEALTHY, ROBUST IMMUNE SYSTEM.
There is an intimacy that comes from harvesting your own.
And intimacy of life, of death, of healing.
This feels like a contradiction at first glance, but truly, these three are inextricably interwoven.
The fact that we harvest a life when we pick even a single bloom is evident if you pause to notice, cupping the still warm harvest in your hands. To be present to what we are taking as we reach into a field of flowers or a garden of greens and pick. It changes our hearts… so different than the task of of filling a basket at the grocery store with sterile, plastic-wrapped fruits and blooms.
Whether cucumbers from the garden, flowers from a pot on the porch, or wild food and medicine from the hills beyond your door, we connect deeply with that which we gather.
Because what a thing it is that we are taking! A bloom, a handful of seeds, a life. It takes life to give life, indeed, and I strive never to forget that as I move through my daily food and medicine preparations and consumption.
This weekend, Lupine and I wandered to the neighbor’s to forage one of our most beloved wild things, monarda (Monarda fistulosa). Also called wild bee balm, its fragrance is weaving through our hillsides these days, and the roadsides are alive with bees drunk on nectar and swaths of lavender blooms.
We love bee balm for sore throats, chills, tooth pain, and colds. Truly, I don’t know where we’d be without it. It’s a plant that called me to her years ago, with a summer sore throat. I was soothed, and instantly connected to this July beauty.
Monarda is one of my top three winter remedies (alongside elderberry elixir and elecampane syrup) for cold and flu season, and even this week a bottle was in daily use as a sore throat worked its way through our family. (It’s one of the ten plants I feature in my book, Herbal Adventures.)
But that’s the practical side of monarda. Today I’m musing about energetics.
I’m thinking more deeply about the connections we are so hungry for in our culture. Connection that we can find, just beyond our door.
In a neighbor, a friend, or a field full of wildflowers.
In western culture, we are starving for depth and connection. In a world of soundbites, social media comments, and isolation, we are hungry for intimacy, depth and meaning. And while there is no substitution for the real, warm, human connection, we also need nature.
We need earth medicine. Perhaps now more than ever.
And so everyday I step outside. In town, I look above the buildings to the birds winging overhead, and the tree branches dancing in the wind. And out here, where the wild things grow, I take my basket and set out to see what unfolds.
An I find what I’m seeking–always. It’s just not always what I expected to gather into my arms.
Some days when I return home my basket is empty, but always my heart is full. Other days (like this weekend) we come back with both–a full basket, and a full and peaceful heart. And a deeper intimacy with myself, the plants, and the planet.
Back home, as we processed our monarda harvest, the scent of our home was intoxicating. Our hands smelled of bee balm, our hair smelled of bee balm, our kitchen and hallway and bedrooms were electric with the scent.
The spicy, pungent medicine was already working, spinning its magic throughout our nest.
The lives that we gathered were becoming a part of us.
And I wondered… could this connection be so rich if these herbs arrived via post, packed plastic and paper and cardboard? Perhaps, but for me, stepping out and gathering my own makes me careful to not waste even one bloom.
How fortunate we are to have medicine growing right beyond our door.
The truth, of course, is that you do, too. From the central city to a family farm, shiny downtowns to the endless lawns of the suburbs: the medicine is there, just waiting for you to notice. It might be something you harvest with your hands, or perhaps only with your heart. Keep looking. You’ll find it.
As a teenager I still recall the sunflower that I watched over the course of the summer sprout, grow, and bloom on my daily commute between work and home, springing from a crack in the concrete on an exit ramp in the heart of Milwaukee.
I didn’t need to harvest that bloom to take in it’s magic.
What magic is blooming around you? Can you feel it? Smell it? See it? Take a moment today to find deeper connections, and to feel a few of the cracked pieces of you begin to heal.
Community does that, the plants do that, the earth does that.
They help us feel connection and intimacy. And all of it is free.
How fortunate we all are to share in that healing.
We spent last weekend at the International Herb Symposium in Norton, Massachusetts. The days were brimful with wonderful people, inspiring conversations, and more good juju than we’ve seen in a long while.
I attended a couple of herb walks, but mostly the kids and I were in our booth, talking about Herbal Adventures and LüSa Organics, and and connecting with herbalists from the world around.
Of special note: Rosemary Gladstar.
Rosemary’s books were my very first introduction to herbalism some 16 or more years ago. They were warm and approachable and made me feel like herbs were something I could delve into and fall in love with.
So many have this experience with Rosemary’s work. She makes herbs accessible and approachable to everyone.
I came to the symposium in part to meet her and thank her for the glowing endorsement she gave my book, Herbal Adventures, a snippet of which appears on the cover. We emailed back and forth last year, and I was so encouraged and inspired by her kind words (an excerpt is below), that I wanted to thank her in person.
Herbal Adventures has everything I appreciate in a good herb book: sound practical information and great remedies and recipes, all enhanced by personal stories and insights. This may be my new favorite!
– Rosemary Gladstar, herbalist and author
The best part, however, was that Rosemary and Lupine were the ones who really connected, after Lupine attended a plant walk that Rosemary led on the second day of the symposium.
Lu chimed in a few times on the walk with observations and her own experiences, and Rosemary appreciated her so. At the end of the walk she gave Lupine some props as her “co-teacher” which was fairy dust upon this twelve year old’s hearts.
The next day, I attended a class with Rosemary (without Lupine this time), and she was talking about Lu to her students, in the context of the importance of raising the next generation with a love and knowledge of plants and herbalism.
Oh, my. So sweet.
On the last day, we found Rosemary just before we left. I told her we wanted to say goodbye and capture a photograph, and she said, “I want a photo with Lupine!”
Of course she did.
And so did Lu.
Hearts full to overflowing, we’re on to the next destination. But we’ll be back to the International Herb Symposium, and for another Rosemary hug in the next few years. Of that we are certain.
Nurturing sick ones when we’re already feeling stretched or depleted can be challenging, can’t it? Yet it’s a frequent theme of motherhood—to give the things that we most need.
I’ve been feeling pulled in too many directions these past few weeks. Spread too thin, I have been desperate for some hard to come by solo time to simply nurture my own thoughts and dreams and desires. How grateful I was to carve out an hour last week for a much needed coffee date with a friend. It refilled my cup, and left me with some space to breathe during this brimful season.
And then last week Sage started feeling under the weather, and ended up with the flu. Needles to say, it’s been an intense week of parenting in that ways that illness or injury always area. That’s life, that’s motherhood, but I’m tired.
These ordinary bumps in the journey of having loved ones under the weather are just that–ordinary. Yet they’re awfully trying, too. I think we sometimes negate the feeling that bubble up around these ordinary hiccups of motherhood and life.
What might shift if we instead honored these messy feelings, and ourselves along with them?
So I’m reaching for balance as best as I’m able. Knowing when to say no, when to dial in my expectations, and when to rest. To sleep as long as I’m able, to pause for tea or to knit a row when I can, to steal away for a long, quiet soak in a hot bath. To remember that I, too, matter. And that I can’t nurture others without first taking care of myself.
It’s something many of us struggle to honor.
My self-care game has never been strong. But during these moments of need, it’s imperative I do better.
And so I will.
To all of the mamas out there, just struggling to get through this day or this season for whatever reason: I see you, I feel you; you’re not alone. You’ve got this.
One piece of my keep-it-together medicine is to get outside everyday, no matter what. Alone, with dogs, or with family, it’s keeping me sane. Fresh air, the light on the hills, the weather varying wildly day after day.
Yesterday Lupine and I headed out for white pine needles (Pinus strobus) from the tree in the yard for tea for Sage’s cough, and it was restorative just to feel the cold air on my skin. It wasn’t even a walk, but it was still a pause.
Back inside she chopped the needles and brewed tea for her brother, I organized the herb cabinet, and we strained tinctures, elixirs, and oxymels together. It felt like order in the chaos. It felt like an exhale.
We’re keeping the tea and bone broth and hot toddies flowing, and we’re keeping our sanity, day after day. I’m grateful.
As his illness moves its way toward closure, and the rest of us are doing our best to stay well in this small house full of abundant germs.
We’re all taking daily doses of elderberry and echinacea to shore up our immune systems and keep the crud at bay, sipping lots of herb-spiked teas and broths, and Sage continues to take elderberry, chaga, and other herbs as the symptoms call for.
Wild Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa) and ginger-sage tea for sore throat and chills, yarrow and elderflower for fever, white pine and elecampane for cough, etc., etc. I even offered him a little rose elixir last night for his (emotional) heart, which is so weary of all this time in bed, feeling miserable.
Since the flu has largely settled out at this stage as throat discomfort and cough, Lupine and I crafted two types of throat lozenges for him yesterday as a part of our homeschooling day. Unlike the sugar- or rice syrup-based candy-like throat lozenges, these are crafted only of powdered herbs, raw honey, and an optional few drops of herbal tinctures or elixirs. Intuitively, they feel much more nourishing than a sugar-based remedy.
The herbal pastilles we made were based off of this recipe. We modified the formulation based on Sage’s symptoms and the herbs we are most called to use.
Our first version (shown at right) we crafted from homegrown marshmallow root powder (in place of the slippery elm), homegrown garden sage, powdered rose petals, homemade wild rose elixir, and a pinch of ginger root powder.
In our second version we substituted Monarda (wild bee balm) for the sage, omitted the ginger we added to the first batch, and added some elderberry tincture for good measure.
As we rolled these little herbal throat balls in slippery elm and marshmallow powder, Lupine popped one in her moth to test our formula. “These are amazing!” she said. Amazing little herb balls.
So there you go. We made Amaze Balls.
And if nothing else, there will always be humor to get us through!
Today is the day that my shiny new (and first ever) book, Herbal Adventures, takes flight out into the world. I’m a bit awe-struck by the whole process, from being asked to write it, to spending an entire summer season experimenting, photographing, and writing about herbs.
And just like that, it’s a real thing that I can hold in my hands.
And – as it turns out – so can you! So many of you have already emailed to tell me that your copy already arrived, and you are already curling up with cups of tea and eager kids to read and explore.
The idea that your kids will grow up knowing more at a young age about herbs than I did as a kid? Well, that makes my heart glad.
If you haven’t yet picked up a copy, there’s still time. I stocked them in my own shop, and you can find them in plenty of local bookstores. (When you order directly for me, be sure to add the code “DOUBLE HERB BOUNS” for a couple of happy extras as well.) And if you share any public posts about the book or your family’s creations, add #herbaladventuresbook so that I might see it, too.
What more is there to say? Except: happy tea-brewing, poultice-chewing, balm-making, oil-infusing, and syrup-crafting, dear ones!
I can’t wait to see all that you and your family create.
It had been raining on and off for more than a week. Sometimes a cold, driving rain, others a depressing and meek but soak-you-through-anyway drizzle. I had planned to dig roots, but nothing about an unseasonably wet, windy October was calling me out to take on the task.
Finally, the clouds broke, the sun peeked out, and the roots (and leaves, and flowers) called.
We went for it.
From New England asters and mountain mint to one last abundant round of nettles, to roots of burdock, dandelion, chicory and yellow dock, there was so much to harvest–it was hard to know when to call it a day.
Finally Sage’s voice drifted down to the stand of asters where I was crouched, slowly picking, down in the creek bottom. “Mama, dinner’s ready!” (My kids each cook one dinner per week. This was his night, affording me the time to slip off and forage, since he’s self-contained in the kitchen.)
It was music to my ears. I picked a few more sprigs and headed home through the marsh.
Back in the kitchen, Sage’s meal enjoyed and the dishes done, processing time began. We scrubbed roots, chopped leaves, filled the dehydrator, and jarred up fresh tinctures and oxymels and elixers.
Lupine’s gigantic burdock root (pictured in her hands above) was the crown jewel of the day, and she carefully scrubbed away the soil, then tucked it into the fridge, researching recipes for her bounty. She’s considering giving it to Sage to use in his next batch of root beer, or perhaps making sweet-and-sour gobo, pickled (live-fermented) burdock root, or chopping and drying for tea. She’ll decide soon, then we’ll work on it together.
And today, I expect, we’ll set out again–this time to the garden for elecampane, marshmallow, and horseradish roots. Destined for homemade elecampane cough syrup, dried marshmallow root for winter colds and tummy aches, and horseradish to add to our fire tonic.
Oh, I do adore this time of year.
What’s happening in your kitchen, garden, or forest this week?
P.S. For those of you who pre-ordered my book, Herbal Adventures, they’re shipping soon! (Squee!)
Be sure to tag me on any social media posts when your book arrives with #herbaladventuresbook, and let me know which recipes your family is excited to try first.