Gardening season is upon us in northern New England. After a series of late winter snow, freezes and thaws, spring seems like it is finally here to stay. When considering plants to enrich our landscape, the array of species at our fingertips is staggering. A trip to the local nursery will reveal an impressive array of glossy-leaved, long-flowering, insect-resistant plants from all over the world. Many of these plants are hybrids, a cross between two different species. Some are genetic anomalies, with double flowers or leaves and flowers that are a different color than either of the straight (parent) species. The hybrids and anomalies may have an altered growth habit, with some or all of the plant growing much bigger or small than the natural plant. Sometimes the nectar and pollen producing parts (the pistils and stamen) are replaced with much showier petals. For example, breeders have developed a sterile double-flowering bloodroot, a lime-colored Echinacea, and a sumac with purple leaves. These are indeed flashy, but from an ecological standpoint, most of these plants are dead weight in the garden, as they contribute very little to the ecosystem.
(Left) Double flowered ‘multiplex’ bloodroot. This cultivar is useless to hungry spring pollinators since its pollen- and nectar-producing parts are no longer present.
(Right) Echinacea ‘green jewel.’ It is less likely that pollinators will be attracted to a flower that differs radically from the straight species.
Despite all the eye candy available to us, many gardeners are starting to think more broadly when we plan our gardens and landscapes, beyond just aesthetics. Alongside our personal needs for food, medicine and beauty, the plants […]
Every spring, I dig up dandelions. When I started my first garden, this was an act of fear: “If I don’t get them out now,” I used to think, “they’ll dump seed everywhere!” These days, I still pull dandelions from our small garden in the spring. But I don’t discard them anymore – every part gets used. The roots, bitter and sour, get finely chopped and roasted in a cast iron pan until they set loose an enticing, nutty aroma. After they cool, they’re ready to mix with coffee in the French press (recipe below.) The greens, juicy and salty, go right into a big salad. And we make fritters from any early flowers we find.
If you’re gathering dandelion, either from your garden or on a foraging trip, take the root too, and bring it into your kitchen. Don’t clean that root off too much: a gentle rinse before use will spare the bitter root bark, a reminder of where our medicine comes from. Isn’t it incredible to get back outside after winter, dig into the soil, and interact with raw, living herbs again? The intimacy of working with plants is a tonic in its own right, but it also reveals how close and connected our medicine can be: we need not seek it out in wild, remote places, nor trust only that which is expensive, refined, and manufactured. The dandelion is right there, waiting. It is a safe, simple and powerful way to bring herbalism into the lives of those […]
Spring is approaching and it is the perfect time to renew and refresh our best and most beautiful selves. Our beauty rituals and routines offer a luxurious moment of calm, self-love and appreciation. What we use to nourish ourselves internally has as much of an impact as what we use externally. What we eat, where we live, and how we feed our body and soul all play a significant role in how we outwardly represent ourselves. No beauty products can replace how you are feeling on the inside. It shows on the outside when we feel good physically and mentally. Happiness and self-love are beautiful.
Tending to the Internal Garden: What you put on your skin matters, but it’s more important to pay attention to what you are putting in your body. The age old saying, “beauty starts from within” is true in many ways.
What you put into your body will also determine the health of your skin, hair, and overall physical being. It can be helpful to seek out the advice of a skilled herbalist or do research on your constitution, because often our constitution is optimally paired with specific foods or energetic qualities of plants, and this knowledge can help you work with imbalances. Gaining insight into our individual internal garden allows us to understand better what foods, plants and ingredients work best for us.
Whole foods rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins support your hair and skin. So load your plate with whole grains, leafy greens, root vegetables, berries, avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, superfoods like raw cacao, turmeric, maca, and green superfoods like spirulina.
Spring is a time of bursting forth. If you made the best of winter, then you hovered quietly and with introspection refining your truest wants and needs; your deepest purpose. You took care to concentrate your energy, knowing that when the days grew longer and the air grew warmer, you’d need to have something left in storage to make your grand entrance into spring. Just like a tiny seed in waiting—wrapped in cool, subterranean darkness–you prepared for the moment of manifestation. And now, with your face to the sun, it’s time for action. Think of yourself as a seedling right now. Filled with so much hope, potential and purpose, but still a little fragile.
Despite the inspiration of spring, it’s important to remember that our bodies need a little extra TLC to weather the dramatic transition. Set yourself up for sustained energy by being gentle on your body and incorporating nourishing and supportive herbs into your self-care routine (which now, more than ever, is important!). Like a seedling invests its first burst of spring energy into building a strong root system–the necessary foundation from which it will grow and fruit all season, so do I.
I dig the nutritive roots of dandelion and burdock—simmering them as a tea or adding them to soups and spring’s first salads, and tincturing some for future use. I reach for turmeric and solomon’s seal root to support my joints, which are always a little more vulnerable this time of year when I start being more active. I also find every wild, edible green imaginable and adorn almost all of my meals with their spritely, nutrient-dense deliciousness.