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(the Old English word for LIFE)

Month: September 2020

Cactus & Corn Tortillas

Last weekend I hosted the incredibly knowledgeable Enrique Villasenor, local healer in training, who taught all about how to use Opuntia species of cactus (aka prickly pear) for healing a vast array of health conditions. It all goes back to “balance” he says, and this plant helps us do that. Even if we aren’t suffering from a chronic disease (such as Type II diabetes which it helps to reverse), it helps the body stay balanced and maintain health. For the event I offered a tasting of what you can do with the leaf pads also known as nopales.

One of my favorite things to eat is tacos and I have been experimenting lately with making them out of different flours and unusual ingredients. For this event I opted to try adding them to a basic corn tortilla recipe. Because I like things to be colorful, I added a generous handful of spinach for added green color. Way better than any sort of artificial food coloring.

Tortillas de Nopales

  • 4¼ cups masa harina
  • 4-5 cactus pads (nopales)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 sprigs cilantro
  • 1/2 bunch spinach
  • 1 tablespoon chia
  • salt to taste

Combine together the cactus, cilantro and spinach together in a high speed blender which will create a thick liquid.

In a bowl, add the masa harina and slowly add the cactus mix and the warm water, until the dough is soft and is not sticky.

Once the dough is at its desired consistency, add the chia seeds, and lastly, the salt.

Separate the dough in even, small balls. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to an hour.

Flatten each ball between two sheets of plastic wrap with a tortilla press, or with a wine bottle or roller. Cook each side for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they puff, on medium-high heat, with a lightly greased skillet or comal. Keep in mind, nopal burns a little easier so keep your eyes on the tortillas so they don’t burn!

These go great with grilled or sauteed nopales, salsa, avocado and cashew cream with a bit of lime. Enjoy!

Read more  by this author  here 

Wild Greens and Pinyon Pine Cream Sauce

I think the first “wild food” recipe that I ever made was a nettle pesto. I would speculate, though, that is probably most folks initiation into wild foods. It is abundant, found nearly everywhere, and quite simple to make without messing it up too bad. Success is fairly inevitable. Now, after many years of diving deeper and deeper into the complexities of flavors in wild plants and mushrooms, I try not to roll my eyes as my social media feeds are flooded with pesto recipes. However, nettle remains one of my favorite greens to use in the kitchen and not to mention medicinal herb.

I won’t go on about its incredible attributes—those can be easily found elsewhere and probably somewhere on an old recipe here for soup. So let’s get on with something slightly different you can do with it (or any other wild or cultivated greens you have on hand).

The first time I created this, I used a wild spinach (also called New Zealand spinach) that grows near coastal regions here in California. I created this sauce to pair with some chia/acorn pasta ravioli with morels for a wild food dinner. I heard from few folks that they were literally licking the plate so as not to miss a single taste of that vibrant green flavor.

Of course, the flavor will have a different profile depending on what greens you use, but this is just a starting point. To be honest, I’m horrible at writing down recipes, much less following them. If I feel inspired, or think of some crazy idea, I’ll find a recipe that sounds similar and then I start substituting and switching things up, tasting along the way. I really have to get better at notes for my book.

Recipe: Wild Greens and Pinyon Pine Cream Sauce

1 lb wild greens, nettle or wild spinach recommended
1/2 c pinyon pine nuts, shelled (or sub commercial pine nuts)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
2-4 cloves of garlic, diced
1/4-1/2 c mushroom broth (or other broth), plus more to thin
2 tbsp avocado oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste

  1. Blanch your greens: Put a pot of water on to boil while you wash and de-stem your greens. Set aside a large bowl of ice water. If you’re working with nettle, you can use gloves at this point. (As soon as they are cooked, their stinging hairs are no longer active.) Submerge the greens in the boiling water for 1 minute, until they turn bright green. Remove quickly and place in the ice bath to cool.
  2. Heat the avocado oil in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add the onion and shallot and saute until just translucent, about 3-5 min. Add the diced garlic and saute for about 1-2 min more, do not allow the garlic to burn. No one likes burnt garlic.
  3. Strain the water from the greens and place them in between a few paper towels and press, removing as much water as possible.
  4. Combine the greens, pine nuts, onions, shallot and garlic into a high speed blender with the broth and lemon juice and blend, adding more broth (or water from cooking the greens), to thin to desired consistency. Add salt to taste, about 1/2-1 tsp.

This could even make a great soup as well, just add more broth or water. I used it recently as a sauce to complement fermented mushrooms in a dish for a wild food tasting:

“Sea of the Land” Fermented lobster mushroom with pickled black mustard seeds and nettle and pinyon cream sauce.

Read more  by this author  here 

Lemon Rosemary Chicken of the Woods Mushroom

I have found that this normally “dry” wild mushroom is an excellent candidate for sous vide, rather than the usual saute. Add in your favorite herbs and seasonings and its lends an incredibly tender and juicy texture. I was a little disappointed in the small size of my only find of this mushroom so far this season, but the younger the mushroom, the better.

When cooking these mushrooms, as with all wild mushrooms, be sure to cook them thoroughly. I know from experience. There’s a bit of controversy about whether or not the ones that grow from eucalyptus are edible or not. I think it all has to do with proper preparation. These I harvested were growing from a eucalyptus stump and my kids and I all enjoyed them without a problem… except everyone wanted more.

Here’s my recipe for Lemon Rosemary Chicken of the Woods (of course, you’ll need access to a sous vide machine):

Lemon Rosemary Chicken of the Woods


A good sized portion of chicken of the woods mushroom, sliced
One sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and chopped coarsely
Two-three sprigs of thyme
2 T Soy sauce (or alternative)
1/2 tsp Smoked paprika
3-4 (or more) cloves of garlic
Juice of one lemon
1/4 c vegetable (or mushroom) stock
2 tbsp Avocado oil

Optional finishing: pinyon pine vinegar or more lemon juice

Combine everything except the mushroom in a mixing bowl. Taste the flavoring and adjust to preference. Add the mushroom and toss in the marinade. Carefully pour everything into a vacuum seal bag and seal tightly, making sure to remove all excess air. Cook sous vide at 160° F for 2-3 hours.

Remove mushroom from the bag and either heat to desired temperature (a few minutes in the oven is nice), and serve, with a finish of either pinyon pine vinegar (gives it a wonderful, delicate mountain aroma) or more lemon juice.

Read more  by this author  here 

Foraging Baja 2019

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Traveling affects the spirit in unimaginable ways. But it takes that first step into the unknown to expand the mind and to expand the perception of our world in a way that changes us forever.

This year, I co-lead a week-long foraging and botany adventure into the mountains of southern Baja. With the focus of finding and tasting local wild plants and mushrooms, we explored the different micro-climates of the semi-tropical Cacti and Legume Forests of the cape region and Sierra de Laguna mountains. Plants ranged from familiar variations of species I have found in Southern California (US) and the Sonoran Deserts of Arizona to completely unusual and rare species.

Baja Plant List:

Anise Marigold Tagetes micrantha
Baja Black Sapote Diospyros californica
Baja Bouillon Bush Cordia curassavica
Begonia californica
Cardon Barbon Pachycereus pectin-aboriginum
Cliffbrake “Peyote Fern” Pellaea ternifolia
Copal Bursera empanada & hindsiana
Coral Vine San Miguelito Antigonon leptopus
Cordia curassavica
Croton caboensis
Damiana Turnera diffusa
Desert Honey Persimmon Diospyros intricata
Desert Passionfruit Passiflora arida
Encino Negro Quercus brandegeei
Giant Desert Lavender Hyptis Alba
Heimia salicifolia
Huerivo Populus brandegeei
Melon de CoyoteIbervillea sonorae
Mexican Oregano Lippia graveolens
Palo de Arco Tecoma stans
Palo Blanco Lysiloma candida
Peeromia umbilicata
Pitaya Agria Stenocereus gummosus
Pitaya Dulce Lemaireocereus thurberi
Purple Pitcher Sage Lepichina hastata
Resurrection Plant Doradilla Selaginella lepidophylla
Water hyssop Bacopa monnieri
Water leaf Talinum fruiticosum
Wild Fig Ficus brandegeei & palmeri
Wild Grape Vitus peninsularis
Wild Plum Cyrtocarpa edulis

November 22

On the group’s first day together, we arrived at Sol de Mayo, our base camp for the trip where they had beautiful rustic cabins and a very basic kitchen. Because of the rural location, we didn’t have some of our ususal urban comforts—electricity, paved roads, hot water, and for some of the trip, cell service. We got to enjoy our dinners by candelight every evening. It was a great introduction to the countryside and helped everyone disconnect and unplug (literally). Our first dinner was huilatcoche (corn fungus) and squash blossom tacos from the local market.

November 23

From our cabins, we could hear the waterfall. For our first adventure, we hiked into the wilderness, exploring and identifying the plants we encountered and learned their edible and medicinal uses. After our trek up the river trail, we headed back down for a swim at the waterfall and its refreshing crystal clear water. Our dinner was battered squash blossoms and tacos with wild water leaf, puffball mushroom and purslane.

November 24

After collecting damiana and bouillon bush herbs, we visited a nearby Eco-Community located on a permaculture mango farm. We learned about permaculture, eco-friendly building and sustainable community with the founder Ryshek. He offered us a generous tasting of the abundance of fruits grown on the land. We found a tarantula and several other wild creatures along the way.

November 25

Explored San Dionisio Canyon with guides who took us to some amazing waterfalls and swimming holes with natural slides. Afterwards we went on a hunt for the Baja Black Sapote, also known as the Chocolate Pudding Fruit. After climbing the one tree we found with only a few ripe fruits, we got to enjoy its unique taste. We collected acorns as well and shelled them under candelight to prep for other meals.

November 26

A tropical storm started to settle in, but we headed to the Santa Rita hot springs to warm up and relax. For some of us, it was our first time soaking in a hot spring! Then, we rock-hopped through the canyon, at some points crossing the river waist deep with our packs precariously hovering over the water. We made it to a natural pool that seemed as if it was artistically carved in the rock with a shallow and deep ends, diving, slides and even rock benches to sit in the water. Afterwards, we headed back to base camp to relax. Dennis made a mushroom and seaweed soup using the bouillon bush herb (it smells like Top Ramen!) and the Agaricus mushrooms we found. I made savory acorn cakes, socca style, with lots of toppings.

November 27

The tropical storm settled in and rained all day, causing flooding and washed out roads. Not a problem, we had our robust “El Burro” van to take us out to the Sierra Cacachillias to search for rare desert honey persimmons. We didn’t find many ripe ones, but just enough to bring back to make a syrup for the next day’s acorn pancakes. It was a wild ride through the wet sandy roads that were more like rivers on our trek back to the mountains, dodging the heirloom cattle that liked to sleep in the roads at night.

November 28
With the intense rains, many of the roads were washed out and witnessed several cars stuck in the mud. But, again, “El Burro” got us out to the coast to Cabo Pulmo. Our original destination at the coral reef for snorkeling was closed unfortunately, but we still found a great spot to swim in the warm water of the Sea of Cortez and collect coral on the beach. Afterwards, we headed to the Buena Fortuna gardens for a Mexican-style “thanksgiving” dinner. Most of the foods were gathered from the 11 acre gardens and ended with an epic “pumpkin pie”. We then took a tour through the garden led by Dennis exploring unusual and exotic plants. After the tour, a few of our group partook in hapé.

November 29
Departure back to the united states.

This trip has opened my eyes to a larger and more complex abundant world. Traveling enlivens the soul and challenges our routines and comfort zones. I hope to share many more exciting adventures with you all in the future.

Read more  by this author  here 

Tom Kha soup with Chicken of the Woods Mushroom

One of my most favorite soups but with chicken mushrooms in place of real chicken.

1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 onion sliced
2 garlic cloves chopped
a few Thai chiles, halved
3 quarter-inch slices slices galangal or ginger
1 lemongrass stalk pounded with the side of a knife and cut into 2-inch long pieces
2 teaspoons red Thai curry paste
4 cups turkey tail mushroom broth (see note)
4 cups canned coconut cream or coconut milk
6 oz. chicken of the woods mushrooms
8 oz. maitake mushrooms
1-2 Tbsp. coconut sugar
1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp. soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
2-3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2-3 green onions sliced thin
fresh cilantro chopped, for garnish

Note: Make your own wild mushroom broth by simmering turkey tail mushrooms (or any other edible wild mushrooms) for an immune system boost, or store bought mushroom broths are available.

  1. In a medium pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, chile, galangal or ginger, lemongrass, and red curry paste and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until onions are softened.
  3. Add mushroom broth and bring to a boil. Reduce head and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. In the meantime, boil or steam your wild mushrooms for at least 40 min.
  4. Add in coconut cream or milk and mushrooms. Simmer until mushrooms have absorbed flavors, about 10 min, then add soy sauce, coconut sugar, and lime juice, plus more of each to taste.
  5. Cook 2 more minutes, then ladle into serving bowls and top with sliced green onions and fresh cilantro.

Read more   here 

Oh, Darling Red Clover

The next wonderful weed I’d like to talk about is one that positively affects so many body systems.  She’s such an important herb for women to know about and make part of their daily lives. I use her for men and children, though, just as frequently.

Trifolium pratense is the botanical name of red clover, and refers to what she looks like and where she lives. Red clover has sets of three leaves (tri-folium) and is found in meadows (pratense).

Red clover is the national flower of Denmark and the state flower of Vermont. Though I’ve never yet gathered her blossoms…

To continue this blog, please visit NY Spirit where it was fully published!

Read more  by this author  here 

Evening Primrose: Energetic Medicine for the Heart

Evening Primrose is a beautiful biennial wildflower in the Onagraceae or evening primrose family. A basal rosette of hairy leaves forms in the first year and in its second, the plant shoots up dense spikes of showy, 4-petaled, fragrant yellow flowers that bloom, as the name implies, at dusk.
A widespread weed that is native to eastern and central North America and naturalized in Europe, evening primrose is well-known in the supplement industry for its pressed seed oil and highly valued for its rich fatty acids including linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid. The seed oil is commonly sold in capsules and used extensively in Europe for treating premenstrual syndrome, especially breast tenderness and cramping, as well as regulating prostaglandin production and liver function. It is also commonly used in midwifery to assist the cervix in softening and effacing during labour.
While much of the research on evening primrose focuses on the seed,  the entire plant is in fact edible, and medicinally it has many uses as a vulnerary, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and relaxant nervine. Herbalist Kiva Rose states “It can be a most useful calmative, especially suited for nervous exhaustion, hormonally oriented irritability and depression and anxious, tense children. It is of an uplifting character, and useful in cases of mild to moderate depression, most noticeably so when associated with exhaustion, addiction withdrawal and chronic digestive issues.”  Acutely it can be helpful for spasmodic coughing, cramping and topically as a poultice or salve for wounds and venomous insect bites.
Evening Primrose Flower Essence
Energetically, evening primrose has a gentleness in her medicine that softens the edges by working with the heart and solar plexus chakras to open fully to love and relationships without fear of rejection and addresses imbalance on a soul level. It is indicated for those who feel rejected in early childhood, most often by their parents and for those whose strategy to cope with rejection is to avoid any deep emotional connection.
Evening primrose flower essence also works on our shadow side, which often hides aspects of our personality that we don’t like, so we ignore them. As a flower essence, evening primrose illuminates these hidden emotions and aspects and brings them to the surface and as uncomfortable as that can be it also can bring a great sense of inner peace. This essence can also be helpful to those who fear parenthood and the emotional bond that comes with it. It helps to cleanse difficult or toxic family relationships and can be especially helpful in healing mother issues for both the mother and the child.
To read more about Evening Primrose flower essence and many others, join our Herbal Village today for access to our member’s area!
Have you worked with evening primrose flower essence before? Let us know in the comments to continue the conversation!
Wild Rose College Evening Primrose Flower Essence Monograph


Written By:

Becky Starling is a Community Herbalist and College Coordinator with Wild Rose. A prolific organic gardener and reiki practitioner, Becky creates herbal remedies and inspires and educates folks about plants and their many uses. She is the founder of Cedar Hill Herbs where she creates herbal tea blends and remedies from homegrown and ethically wildcrafted plants.

Read more by This Author here 

Herb Gathering Interviews

At the 2019 Vancouver Island Herbs Gathering, our own Dionne Jennings took some time to interview some amazing Canadian Herbalists including Netta Zeberoff, Colleen Emery, Jeananne Laing and Patrick Kooyman. Enjoy!!


Written By:

Becky Starling is a Community Herbalist and College Coordinator with Wild Rose. A prolific organic gardener and reiki practitioner, Becky creates herbal remedies and inspires and educates folks about plants and their many uses. She is the founder of Cedar Hill Herbs where she creates herbal tea blends and remedies from homegrown and ethically wildcrafted plants.

Read more by This Author here 

Pink Yarrow Flower Essence: Protection for the Heart

Achillea millefolium, known more commonly as yarrow has long been admired for its protective qualities, dating back to medieval times when folks would hang yarrow above their door in midsummer as protection from evil spirits and illness. Its cluster of flowers providing an umbrella of sanctuary and safety for those that need help setting appropriate emotional and energetic boundaries from forces around us.
All Yarrow flower essences possess a certain amount of protection energy, but where pink yarrow specialties lie are in protecting the heart. Pink yarrow flower essence allows you to ‘have an open heart while still feeling protected’ to permit you to be ‘compassionate without feeling vulnerable.’ It can be super helpful for those who find it hard to differentiate their own emotions from those of people around them as well as those who are grieving and find it hard to integrate their feelings.
Medicinally yarrow is a well-known styptic with an affinity for the circulatory system. Often known as the ‘Master of Blood’ it can help regulate blood flow in the body’s circulatory system and can clear out stagnation. Suppose we look at the aura in terms of our energetic circulatory system. In that case, pink yarrow essence can assist in stopping the bleeding or permeating of the aura with the surrounding energetic or emotional environment. It has the ability to help shift any lingering stagnant energy from the aura, allowing you to create meaningful and loving relationships with those around you.
Working with both the root and heart chakras, pink yarrow is grounding and loving and, therefore can be helpful for our little ones, helping them feel supported, safe and loved in the world around them. It can also be used to help heal generational wounds that have been passed down.
Do you feel that pink yarrow flower essence could be helpful to you? Let us know if you have tried this energetic medicine!

Wild Rose College Pink Yarrow Flower Essence Monograph


Written By:

Becky Starling is a Community Herbalist and College Coordinator with Wild Rose. A prolific organic gardener and reiki practitioner, Becky creates herbal remedies and inspires and educates folks about plants and their many uses. She is the founder of Cedar Hill Herbs where she creates herbal tea blends and remedies from homegrown and ethically wildcrafted plants.

Read more by This Author here 

Herbs Not Safe for Pregnancy

This list of herbs isn’t exhaustive and features some of the most common herbs we use in Western Herbalism. In a lot of cases, there are no actual studies that indicate whether a plant is actually safe to ingest while pregnant and its safety profile is based on the potential hazard for harm.  It is necessary to research thoroughly any herbs you intend to use while pregnant and always err on the side of caution. This document covers the internal use of herbs, the topical use of these herbs such as calendula is considered safe to use during pregnancy.
This category of herbs should be avoided as they chemically complex and contain powerful constituents such as alkaloids that could be harmful to a developing baby.
Barberry Berberis vulgaris
Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis
Blue Flag Iris versicolor
Boneset Eupatorium perfoliatum
Borage Borago officinalis
Calamus Acorus calamus
California Poppy Eschscholzia californica
Celery Seed Apium graveolens
Cinnamon Cinnamomum verum, C. aromaticum, C. cassia (Large doses)
Comfrey Symphytum spp.
Damiana Turnera diffusa
Elecampane Inula helenium
Eucalyptus Eucalyptus spp.
Frankincense Boswellia serrata
Goldenrod Solidago spp.
Goldenseal Hydrastis canadensis
Gotu Kola Centella asiatica
Horehound Marrubium vulgare
Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis
Juniper Berries Juniperus spp.
Kava Kava Piper methysticum
Lobelia Lobelia inflata
Ma-huang Ephedra sinica
Mimosa Albizia julibrissin
Oregon Grape Root Mahonia spp.
Osha Ligusticum spp.
Pleurisy Root Asclepias tuberosa
Spikenard Aralia racemosa
Emmenagogues/Uterine Stimulants
Herbs that fall under these categories can stimulate the uterus and encourage menstruation and therefore quite obviously should be avoided during pregnancy. Some of the herbs listed in this category are also some of our favourite culinary herbs and while sprinkling these herbs on your meals shouldn’t be a concern, large or medicinal doses should be avoided.
Angelica Angelica Archangelica (All Angelica spp.)
Ashwagandha Withinana somnifera
Basil Ocimum basilicum (Medicinal dose)
Beebalm Monarda didyma (all Monarda sp)
Bethroot Trillium erectum (All Trillium sp.)
Black Cohosh Actaea racemosa
Blue Cohosh Caulophyllum thalictroides
Buchu Agathosma betulina
Calendula Calendula officinalis

Cedar Thuja occidentalis

Cotton Root Gossypium herbaceum
Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium
Marjoram Origanum majorana (Medicinal dose)
Motherwort Leonurus cardiaca
Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
Myrrh Commiphora myrrha
Nutmeg Commiphora myrrha (Medicinal dose)
Parsley Petroselinum crispum (Medicinal dose)
Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium
Sage Salvia officinalis (Medicinal dose)
Southernwood Artemisia abrotanum
Thyme Thymus spp. (Medicinal dose)
Tulsi Ocimum tenuiflorum
Vervain Verbena officinalis, V. hastata
Wormwood Artemisia absinthium
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Laxatives are not recommended during pregnancy as they increase contractions of the intestines, also known as peristalsis, which in turn can cause the uterus to contract. However constipation can definitely be an issue during pregnancy; bulking laxatives such as oatmeal and flaxseed and would be better alternatives as well as eating a balanced diet which includes plenty of fiber and increasing water intake and exercise.
Aloe Aloe vera
Senna Senna alexandrina
Cascara Sagrada/Buckthorn Rhamnus purshiana (All Rhamnus sp.)
These herbs can cause hormonal changes in the body and are therefore avoided so as not to disrupt the delicate balance of hormones that the body creates to sustain pregnancy.
Agave Agave americana
Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum
Ginseng Panax spp.
Hops Humulus lupulus
Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla spp.
Licorice Glycyrrhiza glabra
Peony Paeonia spp.
Sarsaparilla Smilax officinalis
These herbs contain compounds that are deemed harmful to both the mother and her unborn baby. Although classed as toxic these herbs are sometimes given under close supervision as low dose botanicals but quite obviously should be avoided during pregnancy.
Arnica Arnica spp.
Black Walnut Juglans nigra
Devil’s Claw Harpagophytum procumbens
Foxglove Digitalis spp.
Lily of the Valley Convallaria majalis
Male Fern Dryopteris felix-mas
Mistletoe Viscum album
Peruvian Bark Chinchona spp.
Pokeroot Phytolacca spp.
Rue Ruta graveolens
Tansy Tanacetum vulgare
* Note that some herbs will fall into more than one of the herbal actions listed however for ease of reference they are only listed in one category.


Written By:

Becky Starling is a Community Herbalist and College Coordinator with Wild Rose. A prolific organic gardener and reiki practitioner, Becky creates herbal remedies and inspires and educates folks about plants and their many uses. She is the founder of Cedar Hill Herbs where she creates herbal tea blends and remedies from homegrown and ethically wildcrafted plants.

Read more by This Author here 

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