Archive for the ‘The Forager’s Basket’ Category

The Healing Terrain: Coming Home to Nature’s Medicine

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Now Available, Plant Healer’s Newest Book:

Coming Home to Nature’s Medicine

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
with Kiva Rose, David Hoffman, Phyllis Light, Robin Rose Bennett, Juliet Blankespoor, & Dara Saville
Foreword by Judy Goldhaft (Planet Drum Foundation)

309 pages, 8.5×11” B&W Softcover – $29

Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book

The Healing Terrain front cover 72dpi

“Rightfully at the core of all Natural Healing is nature, from the herbs it provides to the positive healthful examples it offers.  By deepening our conscious relationship with the land, we create the opportunities and conditions for increased sensual engagement and creature awareness, empowerment and self-authority, uninhibited pleasures and fun, and greater effectiveness at nearly everything we might try to do in life.”    –Jesse Wolf Hardin

I’m excited to announce the release of the third book in our healing trilogy, “The Healing Terrain,” written with my partner Jesse Wolf and our Plant Healer allies Phyllis Light, David Hoffman, Juliet Blankespoor, Robin Rose Bennett and Dara Saville.  I’ve watched for the past year as Wolf searched out the most amazing photographs and art, and placed them in the most visually pleasing ways, illustrating inspiring content about the art of wildcrafting and growing herbs, biorgional herbalism, plant natives and “invasives,” the healing powers of nature, becoming more native, rewilded and empowered as healers, and connecting with place.  Those of you who know my personal story, know how crucial my canyon home and its native medicinal plants have been to the healing of my body, mind and spirit.  Along with the other two titles in this trilogy (“The Plant Healer’s Path” and “The Enchanted Healer”), “The Healing Terrain” strives to provide insights and tools for your own deepening connection with the source of all medicine and healing: this living earth.

Judy Goldhaft and Peter Berg, directors of Planet Drum. ©2009 IWe’ve been blessed to have Forewords to our other books written by herbalists like Matthew Wood and Phyllis Light, but this time we reached out a little further, and are thankful to have one penned by Judy Goldhaft.  Judy and her life partner Peter Berg have been two of the greatest influences on what we have come to know as “bioregionalism”: the practice and art of living sustainably in place.  Back around the time the pioneering “Whole Earth Catalog” was featuring the first photo of our planet taken from outer space, San Francisco was coming alive with social and eco activism, and Judy was busy using dance and theater to raise consciousness and inspire change.  From her work with the Diggers to directing the wonderful Planet Drum Foundation, she has lived a life and done the work that makes her the perfect person to introduce our book.  Her complete Foreword follows, along with the table of contents.  Your order will be shipped direct from our printer, CreateSpace, sparing us storage and shipping.  Hope you love it!

Thank you.   –Kiva Rose

Ainu Snyder quote poster

Foreword to The Healing Terrain

by Judy Goldhaft

It’s always amazing to pick up a book and discover it is not the book you expected.  Jesse Wolf Hardin said he had put together a book about using plants in healing and healing the places plants live.  Sounded simple, interesting and very bioregional.  But the book is a deeper more inclusive investigation than Jesse’s brief description. The book is a journey for those who have forgotten how important place is, and a handbook for developing an awareness to relate to a place while becoming a more balanced and whole person.

girl and deer 72dpi

The Healing Terrain recognizes the importance of a life-place (bioregion) to our beings and our health. The book begins with a deep exhortation to the reader to discover his or her own place as the first step in healing oneself, becoming a healer or becoming a complete person. It challenges the reader to recognize their personal place and to refocus for a more meaningful life, and then provides the tools to do this.  There are lists throughout the book to help actualize practical manifestations of the abstract ideas, helping the reader travel beyond the philosophical discussions of place and rootedness to actually experiencing and delighting in their bioregion.

amazing-garden-flowers 72dpiThe word bioregion represents a deceptively simple idea. The concept realigns priorities so humans are contained within the place (bioregion) — not governing or exploiting it. This simple notion opens up the possibility that the whole interdependent ecosystem could become the basis for a society’s decisions. This deeper understanding of a bioregional outlook is reflected in the importance that “Rights of Nature” are being given in South America.  New social mores are emerging which are entwined with the natural world.

Living with the planet requires diversity, adaptability, creativity, and self-regulation. Within this book difficult questions are dissected, examined, and considered from a multitude of perspectives. There are bold in-depth discussions of the tangled questions about living with other species and the authors are fearless in considering all topics — including wildness, bodily functions and sex. The tone of the conversations is always balanced and inviting, never preachy or judgmental.

Man hugging Basil 72dpiThe voices in this book come from people who have been putting bioregional sensibilities in the center of their lives for years. The community presents a series of personal approaches to universal ideas. They are deeply rooted where they live and encourage you also to become aware of your bioregion, in a very deeply understanding way.  They provide guidelines to reconnecting to the earth and personal heightened awareness while welcoming diversity and recognizing how difficult it is to do this.  The two main voices balance and fulfill each other. Jesse Wolf speaks poetically yet in-depth about historic, social, scientific and political considerations and analysis; Kiva Rose weaves a fabric of personal experiences and direct observations that she shares openly with ingenuousness and heartfelt warmth. They provide different paths and explanations to access the information and heart of this work.  From the section “The Healing Roots of Home”:

“On a practical level, to live bioregionally is to acknowledge and participate in the ecosystem we are a part of, rooted – in a very literal sense – in the land that we live on. What this means will vary according to the needs of the land in a particular area, whether it is establishing trees or restoring the soil… or simply helping maintain the diversity that already exists with careful harvesting practices and a prayerful attitude towards the spirit of the land.”

House with Roots 72dpi

The book itself has been thoughtfully put together, its format a manifestation of the ideas being expressed. The pictures and quotations are intrinsic aspects of the book. Each reiterates the ideas and could be the subject for meditation or rumination. This collection of philosophizing, musings, experiences, graphics, epigrams, and quotations reinforce each other and produce a balanced whole. It doesn’t just encourage “a vital return to balance,” the book itself is a balance—of head and heart, scientific and experience, words and graphics — a truly accessible set of information on many levels.

The Healing Terrain is like a long love poem to a bioregion — water is treated as a lover, there is a love affair with the geology, plants are longtime companions, etc. Be prepared to fall in love.

Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book

Elka gathering wild herbs and food in a misty S.W. forest.

Elka gathering wild herbs and food in a misty S.W. forest.

The Healing Terrain Contents

I.    Nexus: Grounds For Healing
Jesse Wolf: The Journey Home: The Call to Stay & The Call to Roam
II.    Rooting – Where We Are, & Where We Most Belong
Jesse Wolf: Tips For Cultivating Sense of Place
III.    Grounding – A Geology of Place
Kiva Rose: The Weedwife – Coming Home, Weedy Ways
IV.    Healing Waters – Sweet Medicine, Hydrotherapy & River Tales
Jesse Wolf: Creating an Organic Calendar
Kiva Rose: The Ripening Fruit – Living With The Seasons
V.    Bioregions – Defining, Being Defined By & Drawing FromStellaria 72dpi
Dara Saville: Place-Based Herbalism – Practicing at The Crossroads of The Southwest
Kiva Rose: The Healing Roots of Home – My Journey Into Bioregional Herbalism
VI.    The Landed Healer – Finding, Purchasing & Restoring Land
Jesse Wolf: 15 Tips For Wildlands Restoration
Jesse Wolf: Strategies For Land Protection
Kiva Rose: Reading The Leaves – Learning The Names & Ways of  Plants
VII.    Building a Relationship With a Plant
Juliet Blankespoor: Planning Your Healing Garden
Dara Saville: Gardening Natives –  Reflecting the Wildlands in Your Medicine Garden
Kiva Rose: Deep As Root & Song – Wildcrafting
VIII.    Plant Adventuring
Jesse Wolf: Herbaria: The Importance & Joy of Plant Collections
Kiva Rose: In The Pines – Pleasure & Healing From an Ancient Tree Ally
IX.    In Balance – Invasive Species, Natives, Healing & Wholeness
Jesse Wolf: Guidelines & Reminders
Robin Rose Bennett: The Terrain of Home – The Healing Land, Commitments of Love
Kiva Rose: Sustainable Wildcrafting & Foraging – Tending The Wildest Garden
X.    ReIndigination – The Necessity of Learning to Become Native Again
Phyllis Light: The Geography of Healing
XI.    An Ecology of Healing – Treating The Body As An Ecosystem, & The Ecosystem As A Body
David Hoffman: Deep Ecology, Deep Healing – Herbalism’s Place In The Living Whole
Kiva Rose: The Cartography of The Heart – Finding The Road Home
XII.    ReWilding – Unleashing The Wild Empowered Healer
Kiva Rose: Spiraling Deeper
XIII.    The Blooming – Growing, Thriving, Spreading Our Seeds


Shrooms & Ferns poster

Click here to Order: Healing Terrain Book

(Thank you for reposting and linking to this announcement!)

Grape Leaf Suppers – by Loba

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Grape Leaf Suppers

by Loba

To walk the canyon in early Summer is to saunter through waves of the most beguiling scent I’ve ever known– the grape vines are flowering! It comes at me from a distance, just a hint of sweetness, then it grows and grows until it I am completely drunk on grapeflower. I lean against the rocks under their vines, surrendering moment upon moment… forgetting all the things I have to do, and deciding that picking grape leaves for supper is at least as important as any of them. Now the grape flowers have become fruits– the little grapes are swelling with the wonderfully welcome monsoon rains! And the grape leaves are still perfect for picking.

There’s not many foods that don’t take kindly to being wrapped about in a grape leaf. It’s refreshing to realize that we don’t need bread products to have the fun experience of piling complementary foods together and eating them with our hands, as in a sandwich, or a burrito. The extra fun of stuffing your own grape leaves is that every single leaf can be filled differently! Their tartness perfectly complements rich meat dishes or simply grilled steak or chicken, baked yams, hummus and other bean dishes, creamy nettle dip, even simply steamed or sauteed vegetables, especially mixed with any of the above. They’re also wonderful wrapped around certain fresh vegetables, especially fresh red peppers, with a bit of cheese and/or an olive and a bit of pesto. One of my favorite ways to serve supper this time of year is to arrange a beautiful, large platter of different foods, sometimes all of them cold, if it is a very hot day. I go through the pantry and coolers and find whatever scrumptious little treats and leftovers might be hiding in there, and slice up some fresh things, and decorate the whole creation with little piles of fresh grape leaves. Their bright green is so beautiful with all the other colors, it’s enough to make me hungry even when it’s almost too hot to think about eating! It’s beyond fun to take each leaf and fill it with any assortment of mouth-watering yummies! Don’t forget to admire each one before you eat them! We also have a lot of fun informing each other of particularly good bites. Suppertime conversation often goes like this, “Oh, I just had the best thing! It was a bit of yam, with some goat cheese, preserved lemon and some olive paste, and a bit of that elk!” “Oh, I have to try it!” “Did you try the roasted garlic with the chard and some eggplant yet?” “Yeah, it’s even better if you put a little hummus in there.”

If you don’t have lots of lovely little treats hiding in your pantry this time of year, you can go to the natural foods deli and get some olives and smoked meats, and marinated things, and delicious cheeses. But here are also some very easy dishes or condiments for you to consider having around for a inspiring summertime grape leaf feast! Some of them do require using an oven, which I suggest either doing in the morning if you have cool mornings where you are, or using a solar oven, which I am most likely to do whenever it’s not cloudy. I also tend to cook any sauteed dishes in the morning, whenever I can make the time.

Roasted Garlic
Gingered Eggplant Relish
Wild herb (or basil) Pesto (see recipe in a previous blog)
Baked Tofu
Delphi Chicken
Elk with Grape leaves
Simple Sauteed Kale with Lemony Leeks
Fresh Corn and Nettle Saute

Roasted Garlic

What a delight it is, to squeeze tender roasted garlic cloves from their papery shells and add this magic substance to just about any meat or vegetable or bread-like treat. If you use a homemade chicken broth with plenty of fat to roast it in, you won’t need to add any olive oil to the pan. But it will come out delicious either way you choose to make it, as long as it has just enough time in the oven.

To Roast Garlic in an Oven:

Several heads of Garlic (4-6, depending on size)
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons chicken broth or water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or rosemary oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch or two of thyme

Place the whole garlic heads in an 8 inch pan. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan, and swish the pan around a bit to mix things around. Place in about a 350 degree oven for about 60-90 minutes, or until the garlic cloves have darkened and shrunk a bit, and are quite soft when you squeeze or poke at them.

coming soon– how to roast garlic in an open fire!

Baked Tamari Tofu

You can buy good packaged baked tofu at any whole foods store, but it’s much more fun to make your own.  This home baked tofu is so irresistible that I have a hard time not devouring the entire batch as it first comes out of the oven.  If I hope to share any with Kiva and Rhiannon, I make sure to double the quantities.

(serves 2)

8 oz. package raw tofu, firm or extra firm
1/3 cup tamari
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger, minced
4 or more cloves garlic, minced

Slice the tofu into 1/2” pieces.  Put the tamari, ginger and garlic in a wide shallow bowl, or a loaf pan, letting it soak for at least a half an hour, turning once.  Preheat the oven to 375˚.  Remove the tofu from the marinade and arrange the slices on a greased pan.  Bake for about 20 minutes, watching carefully and rotating the pan if needed.  The slices will shrink and firm up considerably, but should still be moist inside.  Enjoy straight from the oven, as a garnish on soup, pasta, or rice, or as party to my Udon Noodles With Tofu and Peanut Sauce (see p. ?).

Gingered Eggplant Relish

This one’s great so many ways, with chicken or fish, in burritos, on polenta, in sandwiches, mixed into scrambled eggs and on and on!  I’ve made many variations on this theme, but the onion, ginger and garlic are always a constant.  I suggest that you try it without the dill and coriander before you try it with…. it’s so good both ways!  I love eggplant so much, it’s always on my list when someone offers to bring me treats from the city.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or butter)
1 medium eggplant
1 large onion
6 medium-large cloves garlic
2-4 tablespoons minced grated fresh ginger (to taste)
1 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
1 tsp dried dill (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Chop the onion into small pieces and cook with the grated minced ginger, in a skillet until halfway tender in the olive oil.  Chop the eggplant while the onion is cooking, in chunks a little bigger than the onion pieces.  Add the eggplant, and stir as often as you can while you are mincing the garlic.  Add the garlic, and the dill and coriander if you like, and stir frequently until everything is tender but not mushy.  Do you have any homemade sesame crackers around?  I hope so!  If not, you’d better try it immediately on some good bread!

Delphi Grilled Chicken

What evokes summertime more than lemony grilled chicken, redolent with fresh herbs?  With fresh corn-on-the-cob and a big Greek salad, this is the perfect meal for clan get-togethers on those sultry Summer evenings.  I like to put on some extra sticks of juniper on the campfire where we grilled, to delight the kids and light up the faces of our friends.
We prefer dark meat, as it’s more flavorful and juicy, so we often buy packages of nothing but thighs.  If not, we purchase a whole chicken that I cut up into quarters. The chicken soaks in the marinade overnight, which is also used to baste the bird during cooking.  Served as is and hot, or mixed with some plain yogurt or sour cream, it makes a scrumptious sauce!

1 whole chicken, or 6 thighs, rinsed in cold water

Lemon Rosemary-Thyme Marinade:

Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup canola or olive oil
2 tablespoons honey, warmed (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, (or 1 tsp. dried, ground in a mortar)
6-10 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix up the marinade in a nonmetal bowl large enough for the chicken to fit comfortably. Combine all ingredients with a whisk or a fork, put the washed chicken in the bowl and bathe it with your hands in the marinade. Cover the bowl with a plate and put in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours, turning at least once.  Remove chicken from marinade and grill 4-6 inches above medium coals, turning as needed, for 30-40 minutes or until the juices run clear when a knife is poked in close to the bone.  Careful not to overcook it!
Marinade Variations:

•Spicy Caribbean Marinade
Omit rosemary, increase honey to 4 tablespoons, add 2 jalepenos, seeded and minced finely, plus 1/4 teaspoon each of ground allspice and nutmeg.

•Mexican Marinade
Substitute the juice of half an orange and one lime for the lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro for the herbs.  Add 2 teaspoons ground chile powder and 1 teaspoon cumin.

•Sesame Ginger Marinade

Instead of the herbs, substitute 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger and add 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil.  Add up to a teaspoon of cayenne if you happen to like it spicy.

Elk and Grape Leaf Stew

Mediterranean flavors complement stewed elk meat in this earthy, hearty dish. I like to serve this with a salad or a simple dish of sauteed greens or green beans. It’s also lovely on corn tortillas or any flatbread, with scrambled eggs, or even as a simple snack, served cold with some fresh grape leaves or other greens suitable for stuffing. Try it with some Red Chile or Paprika Sauce and homemade piima cream for an extra special treat! And do be sure to try it with the fresh mint or pickled mint garnish– it’s sooo good! If you can’t get elk meat, both buffalo and lamb would be worthy substitutes.

1 lb. elk stew meat (or 2 pint jars Home Canned Elk)
1 onion, diced, sauteed in 1-2 tablespoons butter till golden
3 cloves garlic, minced, sauteed with the onion
1 1/2 cups chopped grape leaves, fresh or preserved
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika or Aleppo pepper
1/3 cup sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet
1/3 cup Homemade Olive Paste, or chopped kalamata olives
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, or 1/4 cup chopped pickled mint leaves

Pickled Mint:

Simply pour apple cider vinegar over whatever amount of fresh mint you can get into a jar. Be sure to cover the mint completely. Ready to serve after 1-2 days.

If starting out with fresh elk meat, cut into small pieces, heat a skillet to medium-high and brown in a tablespoon or two of butter. Place in a medium sized pot, barely cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender, usually about two hours.
If starting out with Home Canned Elk, simply empty the contents of 2 pint jars elk meat and broth into a medium sized pot. Add the rest of the ingredients except the mint, and simmer until the grape leaves are tender. Time will vary depending on the thickness of the grape leaves, usually somewhere between 20-45 minutes. Garnish with the chopped mint leaves before serving.

-Love, Loba

(Excerpted from Loba’s upcoming cookbook — Share freely so long as credited)

The Forager’s Basket: Wild Dock Greens

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The Forager’s Basket: Wild Dock (Rumex spp.) Greens

by Kiva Rose

Botanical Name: Rumex spp. (and here, specifically R. obtusifolius and R. crispus)

The myriad tongue-shaped leaves of Dock are often the very first greens to appear here in the canyon each growing season. With their sour but mild flavor, we’re always thrilled to get a taste of vibrant freshness of Spring and eat dozens of panfuls of this tasty delicacy every year. Neither Rumex species mentioned here are native, both originating in Europe and are sometimes invasive in parts of the US. To me, this means all the better to eat them up and keep their spread under control. If perchance, you aren’t lucky enough to have any yummy wild or feral Rumex near you, they are easy to spread by seed in your garden or even in a pot indoors. In fact, I seem to accidentally be growing some wild Dock in our potted Bamboo right now.

Taste seems to a vary a great deal within the Rumex genus, and I can only comment upon those I’ve actually tried. While Yellow Dock (R. crispus) is fairly abundant here and is one of the Rumexes most often used as a wild green, I actually far prefer the larger and more tender and mild leaves of R. obtusifolius, also known as Round Leaf Dock. Often accused of being unpalatably bitter by popular sources, I find Dock greens to be far less bitter than Wild Mustard or many other often enjoyed greens. While these tenacious plants do quite well without any maintenance at all, we keep our Dock patch well watered to reduce any bitterness and to keep them going strong all Spring and Fall, and even giving us smaller amounts of fresh greens through the hotter Summer. Some species of Rumex are irredeemably bitter, and while they can be boiled in several changes of water, I find this pretty much ruins their texture and prefer to search out the very common species that taste better.

Wikipedia and some other sources will tell you that all Dock is considered slightly poisonous, but this is only true inasmuch as the leaves tend to be sour and somewhat astringent, and thus can give you a bellyache if you try to eat a large amount raw. And while I like a small amount of raw Dock green chopped finely and added to other salad greens, I think it would be difficult to eat enough to cause a problem. Rumex spp. do contain high levels of oxalic acid, which is thought to prevent the absorption of key minerals if consumed to excess. Oxalic acid is much reduced by cooking, which also makes the greens much tastier in my opinion and is the way we prefer to eat almost all of our Dock.


Simply gather the most tender and green looking leaves. I like the extra sour flavor of the stems, so I’m always sure to gather from the stem base rather than just the leaf. Dock greens can remain crisp and fresh if kept in a cool place for many days, making them an easy green to keep on hand. If you don’t have refrigeration, you can also keep them in a bucket of cool water for a few days.


None really, just wash well to get any grit out of the leaves.

Food Preparation

My favorite form of Dock greens is to cook the whole leaves until tender in a bit of butter or bacon fat in a cast iron frying pan. When bright green and wilted, we add a splash of vinegar (rice wine vinegar is very nice here) and a pinch of brown sugar to a panful. Stir a few times and remove from heat. Serve with butter and salt. Prepared this same way, you can add some caramelized onions, sauteed garlic, with or without tomatoes or tomato sauce, black pepper and wild game for a simple but delicious meal. Also great with bacon and eggs for breakfast.

If you are using older Dock leaves it can be useful to to place all the leaves in a pile with stems facing the same direction and cut them width-wise down the middle. Add the half with the stems first, and then add the other batch when the stems turn a vibrant green. Doing this allows the tougher stem end to cook thoroughly and become tender while preventing the more delicate end from becoming soggy or overcooked.

The young green leaves can also be chopped well and added to any salad where a crisp texture and tart taste is desired.

Medicinal Notes

  • Dock leaves tend to be somewhat astringent, and are well known for stopping the pain of Nettle stings. Crushed and used as a poultice, they are moderately useful for minor scratches, cuts and other abrasions.
  • The yellow to orange roots of Rumex crispus have a long history of use in herbal medicine as an alterative, laxative and iron tonic.
  • The white roots of Rumex obtusifolius can be used as a moderately strong astringent in a pinch.

All pics ©2010 Kiva Rose & Jesse Wolf Hardin

The Forager’s Basket: An Introduction by Kiva Rose

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

The Forager’s Basket: An Introduction

by Kiva Rose

Basket of NettlesIn the pages of childhood storybooks, the primal forests of human memory and the landscapes of every traditional culture are the images of mothers and children digging fat tubers from the woodland floor, travelers picking wild greens along their path, solitary monks selecting the choicest fruits from mountain grown mulberry trees and medicine women choosing the roots most likely to bring healing and wholeness to those in need. Nomadic peoples, tribal communities and even the earliest of our agrarian ancestors, all immersed in the ancient task of gathering the nourishment they need to survive and thrive from the land they live with.

Since I was a small child, I have loved the joyful ceremony of berry picking in the summer, the sweet slow rhythm of nut gathering come Autumn and even the quiet collection of evergreen tips in the snow. My enthusiasm for the rich taste of all things wild has only grown as I have moved into adulthood, and even now the Spring’s first red Wax Currant berry elicits a distinctly undignified squeal of joy. Living as I do among the exceptionally diverse flora of the Gila bioregion of southwestern New Mexico I am ever more excited by the poetry and practice of being immersed in intimate relationship with the fertile soil and cool springs, meadows and woodlands of my home.

Here at the Anima School, we prefer to depend as much as possible on the wild seasonal fare we gather ourselves from the rocky arroyos and lush riverside we live among. Our Canyon calendar often revolves around what will be ready for harvest at any given time, and it is with excitement and anticipation that we await each shifting season and every arrival of fresh abundance. From the first spicy Mustard greens of late Winter to the tart purple Gooseberries of July to the fat brown Acorns of September, we are wealthy indeed in delicious, incredibly nourishing food.

Having direct contact with our sustenance not only grants us a special connection to the land, but also allows us to have a deeper understanding of the vitality, nutritive value and overall goodness of what we are eating on a daily basis. This is especially true when we are eating plants gathered from untamed, undeveloped ground. The complex and deeply nourishing nature of wild foods is unmatched by even the finest cultivated produce. The wildness of the plants connects us to the wildness in ourselves and assists in bringing us back into relationship with our own original natures. Foraging is an ancient way of engaging our primal natures, of stepping back into intimate relationship with the earth and our own bodies.

With this in mind, I’m beginning a new series of posts here on the Anima Lifeways & Herbal School blog entitled The Forager’s Basket which will encompass the identification, harvesting, processing, preparation, preserving, utilizing and eating of wild plants. I intend for this series to introduce the beginning wild foods enthusiast to the concepts and the exploration as well as provide further insights, recipes and inspiration for the seasoned forager. We will begin with White Fir, a favorite Winter tea and spice that can be utilized year round. I hope you all enjoy and benefit from this new series!



The Forager’s Notebook: Rocky Mountain White Fir
Abies concolor

a_concolorWhite fir is a native of the American Southwest, but is grown as an ornamental throughout much of the northern United States. Here in New Mexico, it grows in middle to upper elevation mixed conifer forests, often on north facing slopes. It can often be found in association with Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) and Southwestern White Pine (Pinus strobiformis) here in the Gila National Forest.

Like all firs (Abies), White Fir has flat leaves arrange singularly in a somewhat spiral like formation along the branch. These flat, two-sided leaves (as opposed to several sided or round-feeling needles) help to differentiate firs from other conifers, especially those in the Pine family (Pinaceae). White Fir is unique in our bioregion in that it has unusually long leaves (sometimes over two inches long) that are the same color on both the upper and lower side side of the branch.

abies_concolorWhite Fir is tender and juicy, and when you cut a leaf in half and press down with your fingernail you can often see the aromatic and sticky liquid dripping out of the resin canals. It is also significantly less bitter than Douglas Fir tends to be, making it far preferable for most edible uses. It has a sweet, orange-like flavor that lends itself very nicely to both savory and sweet dishes, and to a wide variety of beverages.

Here is a distribution map of where Abies concolor can be found. Additionally, you can find further information and images of the plant here (photographs). If White Fir doesn’t grow in your bioregion, I suggest searching out your local Abies (or even other Pinaceae members) and exploring their taste and general character as a substitute.


I usually just clip the last several inches of any branch. These fresh fir tips especially tasty when they have new growth. Be sure not to take too much from any one tree, your impact should not be visible to any but the most observant eye.

Additionally, if White Fir is plentiful in your area, you may also want to collect the sap for edible and medicinal uses.


For edible uses, you will want to strip the leaves from the branches as needed. The tips tend to remain fresh for at least 2-3 weeks, especially in cooler weather, so I often prefer to simply gather as much as I need for that time period and use them fresh. However, the dried plant it also useful, especially for teas and infusions.

For medicinal purposes, both bark and leaves are desirable, and I prefer the fresh plant for all preparations when possible. Exceptions may be made again for infusions or decoctions if needed. Again, store in as whole a form as possible after harvesting to prolong freshness and viability. The sticky pitch may also be gathered when available.

Food Preparation:

General Spice: White Fir leaves can be finely chopped and added to almost any dish in need of a little zing, and makes a great local substitute for lemon zest or orange zest in many recipes. It’s certainly not identical to either citrus fruit, but provides a similar note, especially in wild food and game recipes. It is excellent in frittatas, omelets, quiches, venison stew and even on pizza.

Pestos & Sauces: It can also be ground finely and used in a variety of pestos. Because of its resinous character, and somewhat tough (compared to most herbaceous plants) texture, I recommend blending it with other plants for pesto. I especially like it combined with Basil as well as the less traditional but equally amazing Beebalm (Monarda).

Chocolate: The fresh leaves, especially the younger leaves, chopped finely and added to dark chocolate concoctions of all kind makes a very nice treat indeed. It adds slightly spicy, aromatic and citrusy flavor to the chocolate and is especially favored by those who have a fondness for orange peel or zest with the chocolate.

Teas: White fir adds a wonderful sweet citrus note to nourishing infusions and long-steeped teas. When used on its own as a beverage, it seems best prepared as a short decoction, lightly simmered for about 15-20 minutes. It’s flavor greatly compliments the rich, nutty flavor of roasted Southwestern acorns in teas.

Medicinal Notes

Abies spp. have a great number of medicinal applications which I will only touch on here. A more in-depth monograph will follow on my herbal blog, The Medicine Woman’s Roots.

Like Pinus spp. the pitch is very useful (but somewhat milder) as a drawing agent to pull out splinters, and as an anti-bacterial wound covering. It can also be taken internally in small doses (a single pinch at a time) as an effective expectorant in chronic or cold, boggy, non-productive coughs. White Fir leaf and bark syrup is generally considered a more palatable preparation for the same affliction, and also useful for sore, achy throats.

An infused oil can be made of the leaves and is useful in the treatment of sore or stiff muscles. The same oil can be made into a general salve, and will be stronger if combined with melted Fir pitch. I especially like this salve when the White Fir needles are combined with Cottonwood buds, Piñon Pine pitch and Artemisia leaves. Not only is it very effective in healing wounds and abrasions, it smells amazing!

The bark and leaf decoction is a stimulating diaphoretic and has long been used to assist in relieving unproductive fevers. The same decoction is anti-inflammatory and very soothing to eczema, hives and many rashes, especially those of a chronic nature.

White Fir photos (c) 2010 Russ Kleinman, Vascular Plants of the Gila

Foraging: Finding the Wildness in our Food

Sunday, September 21st, 2008


Fall is surely here, as the leaves shift from green to gold and the light sparkles against the dew in the cool mornings. Most years, activity tends to drop off a bit when Autumn sets in, but it has been a surprisingly busy season this time around. Somewhere between the steady stream of guests, more and more students, kitchen remodeling, harvest time and book design, it often feels as if we have barely enough time to sleep. And really, who wants to sleep with this much bounty surrounding us, just waiting to be tasted? It’s been great fun to wade through the piles wild herbs and food we’ve been gathering in order to create some tasty new concoction. Just yesterday I spent my morning in the kitchen with Loba coming up with a new variation on chutney that involved peaches, olives (green, kalamata and spicy cracked green olives), apples, green chiles, cardamom and even chardonnay. It was so incredibly good that we made a huge pot to can along with the freshly made salsa (with green chiles and chipolte). We stood over the wood stove for hours tossing in pinches of this and that, tasting and retasting until it was just perfect. Today Loba is making applesauce with feral green apples we found in the mountains and I’ve been sorting through my still drying raspberry and peach leaves before settling down to immerse myself in student work. The Medicine Lodge and kitchen are both overflowing with the goodness of the season, and the smells of roasted green chiles, lemon balm, wild mint, apples and berries waft out of our doors.

While I unabashedly love all good food from anywhere in the world, there’s nothing like the wild foods we gather from right here at home. The water we drink is mountain rainwater, our greens are watercress from the river and our favorite nuts are the small acorns of the evergreen oaks and rich pine nuts from the piñons so prevalent here. When we eat meals made of mostly canyon foods, we can taste the river, the wind and sunlight of this magical place. The native plants here are tenacious and vital – full of the qualities we most need, and rooted in the earth in a way we daily aspire to emulate. And foraging is a primal activity, something that our bodies remember from forever. Everytime we pluck a berry we re-enact the primary ritual of the first humans, and of every animal.

While gardens are both beautiful and useful, I like to hunt/gather as much of our food as possible. One reason for this is purely practical in that the SW doesn’t generally support farming practices without a great deal of added water and hyperviligence (and sometimes armed warfare) to keep the crops from critters. The Southwest is a delicate eclology in many ways, easily disturbed by overgrazing, human ideas of water management and a growing population. It’s simply not ethical or sensible to use gallons and gallons of our precious rainwater to grow thirsty foreign vegetables when there’s free food to be had from the woods and meadows. There’s water in the river of course, but most vegetables are easily outcompeted by native plants, become invasive or get eaten up by the bugs and beasts. We prefer to attempt to work in cooperation rather than competition with our neighbors, both human and otherwise.

white-astersm.jpgAnother reason is more philisophical and has to do with avoiding the change in relationship and power dynamic required to shift from hunter/gatherer to agricultural. Our experience is that, here at least, this works better for the land and for us. We don’t spend valuable time chasing off hungry raccoons and bears that would have been better utilized gathering abundant greens and berries, and we get the benefits of mineral rich, easily sustained wild plants. I don’t prescribe this for all people in all places, but it’s what works for us and what we choose to do. We do make a point to actively encourage useful wild plants near the houses by spreading seeds and some transplanting and every year we cultivate a few small patches of herbs and easily grown veggies. Whatever grows and thrives is welcome as long as it doesn’t do so to the exclusion of other flora. We support diversity above all.

There’s an amazing variety of wild foods to be had in this supposed desert we live in, from blackberries to nettles to acorns to watercress to rabbits and turkeys and elk. The vitality and nourishment of these foods and medicines are exceptional and in so many ways, connect us ever deeply with the land they’re rooted in and born from. Our whole family loves wandering through the canyons, mountains and riversides of the Gila searching for each season’s abundance. We each have our favorite personal special spots as well as places we all gather from each year like the particular dip in the big arroyo that acts as a stone bowl to catch piles of falling acorns from the great oak that grows over it. With every sun-warmed brown nut I place in my gathering basket I feel my actions as an echo of the indigenous peoples of this place, and of my ancestral mothers harvesting with the same motion and intent. Walking with the same barefoot steps, carrying food back to my family.

-Kiva Rose