The Herbalist's Journals RSS



Dandelions as Food and Medicine

Ah, the humble and tenacious dandelion. How city dwellers hate it, engaging in futile yearly battles to eradicate it from their lawns and seemingly every crack in the pavement. They're conditioned to as many municipal bylaws have rules against weedy yards and nosey neighbours are often all too keen to call in the bylaw officer if they think your yard doesn't meet the "standard" of the neighbourhood. There is no bylaw officer in my small town to enforce the rules, so I let my dandelions grow!  When I bought my house, the previous caretaker didn't apologize for the dandelions, he simply shrugged and said "I see wine, not weeds". When I visit the local farmers' markets in my rural area the...

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Chaga Medicine and Sustainability

Chaga is earthy, dark, and mysterious with centuries of mythology and folklore behind its use from British Columbia to Russia and China. Throughout history it seems to have been touted as a cure-all and a secret to immortality or, at least, to good health and longevity. Chaga is currently a "super herb" along the same lines as a "super food" which has catapulted it into the spotlight to the point everyone's heard of chaga or is using chaga in some way as a herbal remedy or supplement. Despite its current popularity, I've found many people still lack the knowledge of what chaga is, where it comes from, how it should be harvested, and how it should be processed and used...

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Balsam Fir, Chaga, and Chocolate

The Ottawa Valley is covered in a thick blanket of perfect white snow. Snow-covered trees, ice and snow-covered lakes, and ground so covered in snow that you need snow shoes to trespass where no one has shoveled or plowed. We may not always think of winter as a time to forage, but some very delicious treats can be made with winter-harvested botanicals. Two of my favourite things to wild harvest and cook with in the winter are balsam fir (abies balsamea) and chaga mushroom (inonotus obliquus). You may not believe it until after you taste my recipes (six in total), but these two Eastern Ontario botanicals can go very well with chocolate! You can keep the balsam fir and chaga...

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The Forager's Buying Guide

Calendars & Identification Charts (1) Pacific Northwest Conifer Identification Poster by The Far Woods  (2) North American Plants 2017 Calendar by Erin Vaughan  (3) North American Trees 2017 Calendar by Erin Vaughan  (4) Wild Edible Mushrooms of Quebec Poster by Mathilde Cinq-Mars  (5) Northeast Local Foods Wheel by Local Foods Wheel Calendars, charts, and posters make great gifts for new foragers and plant nerds as they can help one learn to identify native edible or medicinal plants, trees, and fungi. Beautiful identification charts and calendars created by illustrators and painters double as a resource and artwork. We are also impressed with the unique Local Foods Wheel -- a project created by three women to help teach about the locavore movement and also show which regional foods (including wild ones) are in season throughout...

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The Dryad's Saddle Mushroom

There is one mushroom I am often asked about every spring and fall.  It is a gorgeous mushroom at its prime, undergoing a transformation from an alien looking stub to a huge fan-like mushroom.  This mushroom is of course the “Dryad’s Saddle” or “Pheasant Back” mushroom, known by the latin name Polyporus squamosus (which is fun to say).  As the binomial name suggests Polyporus squamosus is not a gilled mushroom, but possess a porous surface of many, many little tubes.  It is from these tubes that the mushroom shoots its tiny white spores, often down onto the dead tree from which they are growing.  Because of this you are often able to find this mushroom year after year, sometimes twice a...

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