|Wise Woman Ways ~ Winter Herbal Kitchen|
Corinna Wood, Director, Southeast Wise Women
In this winter season when we don’t have the fresh herbs handy, like our foremothers, we rely on herbs that we have preserved for the winter. I drink nettle infusion almost every day, covering a cup of the dried herb with a quart of boiling water in the evenings, to steep overnight and heat up the next day for my warm mugs of infusion.
This week, I’ve also been enjoying brewing three other dried herbs, each in her own water-based form of extraction--depending on which method optimizes the medicinal properties of that particular herb.
I was delighted to find local reishi mushroom at the food coop in Asheville last week. I am adding a handful of the dried slices to each pot of bone broth, for the adaptogenic and deep immune support that reishi offers.
Similar to making stock, a long slow simmering is the most potent way to extract the medicinal properties of reishi, which adds a rich, deeper flavor to the bone broth. As the name suggests, adaptogens support our bodies and hormonal systems to adapt to a wide range of circumstances and changes, both physically and emotionally.
I am also making cold infusions of marsh mallow root. Now, we’re not talking about sugary puffs that you roast over the campfire! . . . Although the marsh mallow plant was originally an ingredient in the candy, contributing mucilaginous properties.
Marsh mallow (aka marshmallow) belongs to a family of plants known as the Mallow family (Malvaceae). The edible low-growing common mallow (Malva sylvestris) grows as a weed in many gardens, and I have enjoyed cultivating the much taller marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis) in my garden as well.
The mucilaginous properties of marsh mallow offer beneficial support for the mucus membranes which line all of our systems that are open to the world--including the respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems. As a winter ally, marsh mallow has a long history of nourishing the lungs and easing coughs.
Because some of marsh mallow’s mucilaginous and delicate medicinal properties degrade with heat, this is one of the few herbal infusions that I actually prefer to prepare with cold water rather than with boiling water. I put a half cup of dried herb into a pint jar, cover it with cold water and leave it on the counter overnight. The slippery infusion can be strained in the morning to drink, or refrigerated to extend the life for a day or two.
The third herbal preparation I’ve been enjoying, is, ahhh, tulsi, also known as sacred basil, an adaptogen as well. Those of you who know tulsi, may breathe a sigh just hearing her name!
I savored her in my garden all of last summer, and then just before the fall frosts, we harvested the remaining flowering stalks to dry.
It is such a treat in the winter to add a small bundle, tied up in cheesecloth, into a steaming bath. Or you can simply boil a small pot of water and inhale the steam (with a towel over your head to keep the steam concentrated) to relieve dry sinuses and skin. The pleasurable fragrance reduces stress, nourishes the skin, and opens up the lungs.
I know I’m not alone in this year round love affair with the plants! And that even through the winter, as wise woman herbalists, many of you continue to weave with the herbs in your day to day lives, from broths and infusions to steams and baths.
Keep using your kitchen creativity to dream up your own medicinal, fun, delicious, tonifying concoctions to nourish and soothe you through these dark days of winter.
|Save the date: October 13-15|
This October's Herbal Conference will be another powerful gathering of wise woman tribe, not to be missed! Registration will be opening in April. Mark your calendars for October 13-15, and stay tuned . . .
|The uncertainty of Imbolc|
|As the cycle of the year turns we are now at the half-way between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox at the point known as Imbolc, traditionally celebrated in the early days of February.|
You’ve heard of groundhogs day? The legend about the groundhog looking for her shadow on February 2, is a vestige of an ancient divination technique to determine how long the winter would last. If she sees her shadow, she will retreat to her den as winter will continue for six more weeks, until spring equinox.
In the 2017 We’moon, our very own Herbal Conference teacher Kim Duckett describes the Imbolc season:
“Imbolc in dark, cold winter can signify endurance in the face of adversity and scarcity: we may encounter fragility, tenuousness, uncertainty, darkness and despair beyond what we think we can endure. Women know these experiences. We have held both new life and death in our hands. We have wondered: will this child make it, will the addict live or die, will my lover come home, will I survive this loss? Will I be ok? Will there be enough resources to see us into spring?”
“I imagine our ancestors sitting in circle at this time of year, with whatever sources of light they had, listening to one another. Just so, we are invited to sit circle together and share how we “are,” what we need, what is frozen, what is thawing, what is fragile. In the deep winter, we begin again. We say Yes again each year: Yes to returning light, to the coming outward time. We are saying Yes to the living of life again and whatever it may bring. I speak of Imbolc as a time of Faith.”
Artwork by Martha Tree
We are deeply grateful to Herbal Conference teacher Olatokunboh Obasi, who has been an important part of Southeast Wise Women, particularly with the early years of the establishment of the Sister Love space as a place for women of color to gather and connect at the Herbal Conference. She also offered opportunities for all women to open up interracial dialogue around racial equity.
"Ola" is a powerful sister, teacher and role model who has played a pivotal role in helping to foster greater racial diversity at our conference, and to catalyze a movement around restorative justice and racial equality in the broader herbal community.
Ola is currently in need of support for herself and her daughters. To learn more about how you can help Ola and spread the word, see conference teacher Alisa Starkweather's call for support for Ola that just went out today. As Alisa says, "We have the power to lift one another up."
|Our favorite source for wise woman herbal support. Check out their new website~|