Category Archives: herbal recipes

hydrosol & facial recipes

20130722_185400As promised, here are a few of the recipes we created last night at the hydrosol workshop.

A hydrosol is a steam-distilled essence of a plant.  If you do not have a still, you can create your own hydrosols by piling fragrant, fresh plants (rosemary, lavender, fennel, elderflower, rose petal, calendula…) into a stainless steel or enamel pot with a domed lid.   Continue reading


July 24, 2013 · 3:03 am

rose hip soda

English: Some rose hips in close-up

In college, I built myself a thatch hut and lived in the woods on a bed of leaves and cattail down.  I foraged for food in baskets I wove of kudzu and honeysuckle vines.  And under that bed of leaves, right on top of the hand-hooked rag rug made of my old t-shirts, was my secret stash of Diet Coke.

I have finally, many years later, completely weaned myself off of corn-syrup or chemical-cocktail sweetened sodas.  But I am still a sucker for a fancy fizzy drink!  There is something that sings to me about a sun-drenched porch on a sweltering day, listening to the soft fizz and clank of ice cubes in a cold glass.

So I have learned to make my own sodas.

Here is my current favorite recipe:

Rose Hip Soda

2 tbsp. dried rose hips or 1/2 cup fresh

1/2 cup agave nectar or honey

1/2 cup kefir grains or 1 cup kefir whey or yogurt whey

1/2 organic lime

filtered water

~Place the rose hips, sweetener, and kefir grains or whey into a two-quart jar. Squeeze the lime juice in, then cut up the peel and throw it in too.  Add enough filtered water to fill the jar.

~Screw the lid onto the jar and leave it in a warm place for 2 days.

~Strain the soda into two glass bottles (empty mineral-water bottles or swing-top bottles are great).  Add enough water to fill to the very top. Screw the lids on tightly, label, and return to a warm place for another 2-3 days. Transfer to the fridge.

~Open them carefully and over a sink—they get REALLY fizzy.

~Pour over ice, add a slice of lemon, and sit on your sun-drenched porch!

I make this recipe with lavender too, which is DELICIOUS, substituting dried lavender flowers for the rose hips and lavender-infused raw sugar for the honey.


If you are unfamiliar with kefir grains, they are a lovely little squishy organism that you use to make your own kefir (or, as it happens, soda.)  If you do not have kefir grains, check to see if there is a chapter of the Weston A. Price foundation near you; often these gatherings are replete with kefir and kombucha and other fun k-things.  Or you can use whey from homemade yogurt (or store-bought if it has live cultures and isn’t sweetened).  The whey is simply the watery part.  To obtain kefir whey, let your kefir sit out a day longer than you would normally to make it, and it will separate into curds and whey.  Strain out the grains, pour off the whey, and use the curds to make kefir cheese!

This recipe is adapted from Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice, which is highly recommended for anyone who likes a little bit of storytelling and cultural history with their recipes.

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May 23, 2013 · 4:15 pm

famine and feast


fallen cherry petals on the herb spiral

Oh, the abandoned abundance of nature.  Autumn does not scatter leaves artfully here and there, but strews them in an eight-inch-deep blanket all the way to horizon.  Spring is not a few petals drifting on the wind, it’s a snowstorm of color that lasts for weeks.  Until it’s gone.  And then, sometimes, there is nothing at all.  For days, weeks, months on end.  For all that we cleave to the storied ‘balance’ of nature, there is nothing moderate or balanced in the least about natural systems.

Right now there are violets clustered everywhere, their drooping heads hidden beneath their rapidly greening heart-shaped leaves. I gather them by the fistful, walking by the stream, and when I turn to go home I see that I have made not the slightest dent in the wash of purple. Next week, they will all be gone.

Last year a friend had a particularly productive winter squash patch and we feasted on squash all winter.  Now our compost pile is overrun with squash seedlings, deep green and veined and beautiful, but doomed.  They are competing for sun, water, space, and most will not survive.  Beside the compost pile is a small mountain of grass clippings; I stalk the neighborhood with my wheelbarrow and cart them away.  There is always more than I can carry this time of year.  But a few months ago—nothing.


I’ve been letting this sink in today.  Could it be that there is nothing wrong with me?  Could it be that is is natural to have periods of deep, flowering, intense productivity followed by a fallow season?  Could it be that there is no such thing as life balance?   Continue reading


April 26, 2013 · 1:44 am

the perfect is the enemy of the good

English: Photo of Bee Balm Plant (Monarda)

It has taken me so long to plant my little garden here.  There was far too much information coursing through my mind—ecotones and hedges, guilds, layered food forests, medicinal companion plants, swales and ponds and microclimates.  I would gaze out at the muddy clay of this unfamiliar soil and feel too overwhelmed to start.

Or, more truthfully, too fearful of making a mistake.  Of not building a garden complex enough, beautiful enough, after all of these years of landscape design and permaculture  training.  Garden after garden that I’ve designed, labored over, loved, and left behind.  After a while it hurts.  So I built no garden here.

But somewhere I read this, or heard this—I forget now where— “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”  And I realized that I was doing what I have done far too often in my life, letting my desire for perfection inhibit me from acting at all. Continue reading


April 13, 2013 · 12:50 am

where we touch earth

Healthy feet of an 11-year-old girl who regula...

I’ve been musing lately over the relationship between our treatment of our bodies and our treatment of the earth. For many of us, our bodies are the only animal we have close contact with each day; they become our exposure to the natural world, the  only wild landscape we inhabit.

Yet think of our bodies:  we work them, groom them, put chemicals on them; we sanitize them, remove some parts, and inject foreign substances into others.  If we take the time to think of them, it is with frustration or dislike.

If there is a locus point for this analogy, it is the soles of the feet–where we touch earth.  I love the biblical story of Martha and Mary.  As Martha bustled around, righteously busy, Mary ignored what I imagine was a lot of passive-aggressive sighing and carrying on, and focused on sensuously bathing Jesus’s feet.  When Martha complained, Jesus stuck up for Mary, essentially stating “she’s got her priorities straight!”

When we really think about it, where has all of our righteous busy work gotten us? Would we not be better served to slow down and bathe the feet of those we love, tend the places of connection, honor the hard work of these bodies, these landscapes?

I’ve been building gardens lately, spreading compost and decomposed leaves and layering bark into pathways.  I take great pleasure in doing this work barefoot, the warming soil of spring beneath my feet.  At the end of the day it is hard to tell where the earth ends and my feet begin.  Last night, after dancing contra barefoot, I returned home and set the water on to boil.  I scooped a little sea salt and honey into an empty lemon peel, then used the peel to carefully scrub the soles of my feet.  When the water boiled I poured it into a mason jar filled with fresh rosemary, let it steep, then added it to a basin of warm water and slipped my salt-and-honey-coated feet in.  I sat there for several minutes, letting the rosemary tea work its magic, feeling so grateful.  For everything.


This is a recipe I have used with great effect in my workshops; tending people’s feet tends to bring them right into a state of receptive openness for whatever comes next.  To tend your feet or those of a loved one, here’s what you’ll need:

-Mason jar filled with fresh rosemary, lavender, calendula, or rose petals (dried is fine; you’ll need about 1/2 cup)

-Boiling water

Pour the water over your herbs and leave to steep for several minutes. Strain, and add this strong tea to a basin of warm water.  Add a tablespoon or so of baking soda for especially tough callouses, and a few drops of essential oil if you like (rosemary and lavender are both wonderful.)  Have a towel ready near the basin.

-empty half of a citrus peel

-2 tbsp. dead sea salts

-1 tbsp. raw honey

Place the honey and salt in the cup of the peel; use it as a washcloth to gently exfoliate the skin of your feet over the basin of tea.  Place your feet in the basin and continue to wash them with the citrus peel.  Relax.


April 8, 2013 · 2:20 am

tea for cold prevention

A Kerr mason jarEnglish: Ripe crabapple covered in icy glaze d...English: This is a picture of smaller branches...

it’s been quite a week around here–first mama nature threw us a one-two punch of freezing rain followed by freakishly summery weather, and then everyone around me began succumbing to variations of fever, flu, and pneumonia.

(favorite conversation of the year, tangentially:

me: my head really hurts.  i think it’s all the temperature fluctuations.

friend: headaches are usually a symptom of repressed guilt.

me: i’m pretty sure it’s the temperature fluctuations.

friend: it’s repressed guilt.

me: it’s global warming.

friend: it’s repressed guilt about global warming. )

For a while I tossed down my elderberry tincture (thanks, Michelle Wilde!) and drank my kombucha and nettle/hawthorn/red clover infusion and I was fine. But after two days of tending sick offspring, my throat started to tickle. And then I woke up sounding like Brigitte Bardot.

When we lived in California, there was a lemon tree in the backyard that, due to wonderful positioning against a south-facing wall and the location of the compost pile on its dripline, produced ALL YEAR LONG.  And in those golden days, when I got that old tickly-throat-brigitte-bardot feeling, I would climb for a few lemons and brew up a pot of lemon-garlicraw honey tea.

But lemons don’t grow in this bioregion. So I’ve been experimenting, and here’s what I’ve come up with for an antibiotic/diaphoretic/antimicrobial/vitamin-c-boosting powerhouse of a stop-the-cold-now tea: Continue reading

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February 28, 2013 · 2:05 am

making your own herbal foot soaks

making your own herbal foot soaks

Foot soaks are an undersung, glorious pleasure. Formulated with ginger and mustard, they can help stave off a cold. Formulated with lavender and kava kava oil, they can soothe and unwind. With rose petals, cocoa butter, and honey, they set the stage for a delightfully frisky evening. Continue reading

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February 26, 2013 · 7:44 pm