Wild Weed Wisdom

Nurture Your 'Inner Wild' with Foraged Edible and Medicinal Plants

Urban Hazelnut Harvest

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My First Urban Hazelnut Harvet

Today after dinner, we all sat around the  table and chatted about our day while cracking the hazelnuts we had collected two years earlier, with my two daughters, now aged three and five.

We had gathered them in the park by Anne Frank’s original house in Amsterdam. There are two rows of tall, mature hazelnut trees along the walkways bordering the sidewalk, and we just scooped the nuts up. Leah was just a year old, so I guess my big helper was Anika, three years old at the time. She still remembers it. And so do I – it was my first urban hazelnut harvest.

Herbal Sleep & Dream Pillows for Wild Weed Kids

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Dream and Sleep Pillows usually give off a wonderful aroma of sweet and pungent herbs, such as lavender, cedar, chamomile, rose, and anise. Some of the other herbs are not quite so aromatic, but still offer benefits to sleep and dreaming – motherwort and hops. Max (aged 6) is getting a good dose of some Rosemary from her basket! To learn about how to make your own Sleep or Dream Pillow, click here.

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We all put special notes, words and/or drawings into our pillows to personalize them and fill them with intent. The children LOVED this concept, and dove into the task of carefully customizing their pillow. Here is 5-year-old Anika with her drawing.

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In the bottle you can see dried hops (sleep enhancer), in the background is a bottle of Calendula (gentle, loving dreams) and the loose, dried herb is mugwort (enhanced dreams). Children don’t really need this herb to enhance dreams, but I found such a nice patch, that had been out all winter, and was therefore less potent, I thought it would be nice to introduce it. Plus, it is great for kids to see the herb on the stalk, and pull the dried leaves of themselves.

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There was some Motherwort (Cardiaca leonorus) growing on-site, and I also had some dried with me… I explained to the children how, aside from the traditional use as a heart-remedy, Motherwort also bathed you in “Mother’s Love” when you felt lonely, angry, jealous, or just plain sad. Or just when you wanted a hug, and your Mommy couldn’t be there. All the kids said they’d like this, especially because they wished they could snuggle with their Mom’s all night long. Marou’s pillow was made with great care, full of all the loving herbs – Motherwort, Rose, Chamomile and Calendula, especially.

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Filling the pillow with loving thoughts…

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We first had a tour of some of the living herbs growing at the VU Hortus – Rosemary, Sage, Motherwort, Cedar, Birch… and then added some extra I provided.

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This bag of Rosebuds made each child sigh with happiness, and close their eyes with joy. Can you imagine how they may help with happy, loving dreams? (They also taste divine when added to a pot of black tea)

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Another good look at the bags (bath-linen mittens) we used. Easy to make yourself as well, with old cloth hankys, for example.

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Amelie did a great job stripping the dried leaves off of the Mugwort stalk.

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… and again, this time it’s Mateo.

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We also added Mullein, to help keep nightmares at bay and have nice dreams. The kids loved the idea of herbs to help with that. Here, I am holding some dried flower-head; there was also some fresh Mullein growing on-site that we discovered and talked about.

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The children helped harvest Rosemary leaves and we put them in the pillow – also to ward off bad dreams – and of course, we all ate some!

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Here’s a nice, fat, young, Motherwort leaf! Perfect for feeling loved and protected.

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A wonderful day.

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Herbal Sleep and Dream Pillows

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Herbal Sleep and Dream Pillows

By using certain blends of herbs and flowers, kids can easily make their own customized dream pillow, which, in theory, enhances sleep, creates vivid and meaningful dreams, or gives relief from nightmares. Research has shown that herbs, flowers, and essential oils can indeed have a positive effect on our ability to relax, and even on our very dreams.
In many cultures, little pillows filled with relaxing herbs were tucked-in along with children at bedtime to calm and comfort them during the night. Of course, for safety reasons, these pillows should be very small, and kept away from a baby’s face. The herbs used here are subtler than in a potpourri. If traditions hold true, these little sleep pillows will promote a deeper, more restful sleep, and keep bad dreams at bay.
Instructions for Herbal Sweet-Dreams Pillow:
A quick and easy way to make pretty dream pillows is to buy 100% cotton, pocket-style baby wash cloths. If you wish, decorate with water-proof paint or marker, or embroider them with a monogram, add a felt patch, or whatever suits your fancy. Fill them with dried herbs, and sew the edge closed.
Herbs for Dream Pillows
Anise: Use against nightmares – in small quantities.
Calendula: For restful sleep.
Catnip: Restful sleep. Perfect for babies and children.
Cedar: Shields bad dreams.
Chamomile: Relaxing and sweet dreams.
Hops: Deep sleep and healing.
Lavender: To de-stress, relax and rejuvenate. Lavender is good in an herbal blend or on its own.
Lemon Balm: Well known to  banish anxiety and insomnia, as well as headaches and stress.
Mugwort: Energy-field protection.
Mullein: Guards against nightmares.
Rose petals: For loving, peaceful dreams.
Rosemary: Protection against bad dreams; use just a bit, as it has a strong aroma.

Wildcrafting

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Wildcrafting

Always a good idea to give resident critters a chance to flee your harvest!

Wildcrafting – gathering plant material from it’s native “wild” environment – is becoming much more popular as an alternative source of food and medicine.

While in many ways nature-based herbal medicines and wild food foraging is ecologically sound – reducing carbon output, reducing chemical use, and, especially, reducing the immense drug-burden (from excreted pharmaceuticals) on soil and water-tables – there is still an impact, especially when there are simply more foragers at large, or if harvesting is done in a non-sensitive manner (trampling plants, pulling then up by the roots, over-harvesting, using endangered plants, simply – not being aware).

Responsible wildcrafting means to ethically harvest those plants which are most prolific and regenerative (dandelion, burdock, cleavers, for example) with the least amount of negative environmental impact.

Many wildcrafters have, or develop, a deep sense of kinship with the plants and surroundings, and make an effort for the protection and sustainability of natural areas. Equally important is an awareness of the ecological and personal relationship between individuals and our sacred Mother, Earth.

If I may, here are few suggestions:

Take the time you need to closely observe your surroundings over the course of days, months and years. That way you’ll know which plants are readily abundant, when they are in harvesting season, and which plants to protect. You’ll also form a respectful, friendly – even loving, relationship with the plants. Allow them to enter into your heart.

Be discreet. Others who witness you plucking plants may go ahead and do the same, but without your awareness and knowledge – especially children, who so love plants but also need some guidance on which are safe to eat, which flowers are abundant for picking, etc.

Know which plants are on the endangered list.

Harvest plants with a sense of respect and gratitude. Do so when in a calm emotional state, so you can stay aware.

Give back to nature in some way, and share your knowledge with other like-minded people. Try to join herbal walks with an experienced guide. Go out on your own, with not one, but two identification books, and look up one or two (or more) selected plants carefully. Touch the plants, smell them, talk to them, listen. If you know the plant is safe to eat, have a nibble. The greater the hands-on experience, the more you’ll remember.

A well-trained wildcrafter will avoid damage or depletion of our natural heritage, and she or he is integral in passing on the herbal knowledge of those who have come before them. If this is you, we need you, and our children need you.

Homemade Herbals

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Homemade Herbals

I make most of the family’s medicine, customizing what I feel each member needs. Leah had a lot of congestion and mucus, so her tincture included chickweed, plus burdock for overall health (blood, liver, especially). Anika got burdock and dandelion as a winter tonic. You can see both girls signed their name to the “mother jar” of tincture – they felt pretty special that Mommy was custom-making something for each of them (plus I like the idea of their energy engaged as part of the formula). The teasel root tincture is for me – it is often used for Lyme’s Disease, but I was using it to help repair muscle tissue in my shoulders… which is greatly improved – and a surprise benefit was a better menstruation – non-painful, light flow, short duration (I used to get periods so painful, I’d faint. The flow was heavy and lasted, sometimes, for 10 days.)

I cannot for sure say if this can all be attributed to teasel, or to osteopathy, which I am also receiving. However, a definite improvement is noticed overall, and I’m happy regardless of what caused it. However, if you’ve tried teasel, I’d love to hear back about your experiences with it.

English: Dipsacus laciniatus (cut-leaved tease...

English: Dipsacus laciniatus (cut-leaved teasel) at Skokie Lagoons in Glencoe, IL. Photo by Cassi Saari (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rowan Berry Jelly

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Rowan Berry Jelly

Back in January, the rowan berries were still abundant on the bushes by the playground, so we decided to pick a few for ourselves. The bushes were so laden, that within just 10 minutes, my 5-year-old and 3-year-old had picked their two hats-full (hats make great berry-baskets, in a pinch!). We took the berries home, sorted them (that’s what we are doing in the picture) and cooked up a tart jelly, good to eat with meat.

Beautiful Moment

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Beautiful Moment

This magical photo was taken on Day 1 of Wild Weed Kids – a cold day in March, at the Vu Hortus Botanicus, in Amsterdam. This little girl was searching for leaves, twigs, buds, bugs, shells or anything natural, to put into our Texture Cafe, where we displayed our discoveries and described how they felt, smelled like, looked like… a beautiful, playful, day.