On January 27th over 10 brave souls earned their Hard Core Wild Food Foraging badges. Half the class had cancelled due to the torrential rain we were getting, but these folks braved it all. Shuttling back and forth with a friends 4-wheel drive, we got all the cars out of the muddy one mile driveway….except mine! We shared a fire, talked about wild food plants of the Santa Monica Mountains, and processed California buckwheat and toyon berries. Then we enjoyed a delicious feast of wild nettle/dandelion/spinach spanakopita, wild amaranth pesto, local meats, California buckwheat pancakes with raw buttermilk and butter we made ourselves, flaxseed crackers, toyon fruit leather, toyon magic balls, macademia nuts, acorn cookies, teas and juices.
Over 75% of this meal was made using locally grown or gathered ingredients. The California buckwheat pancake recipe can be found under the ‘Buckwheat Buzz’ post below. Please check back to see the remaining recipes posted.
Despite its common name as cowboy cologne, California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica) is used by Native Americans predominantly as a woman’s plant. This evergreen shrub, found in the foothills of California’s coastal sage scrub plant community, is abundant and wonderfully aromatic. Its dried out silver-green leaves are narrow and cluster in bunches. I have really come to crave the flavor of this tea.
Cecilia Garcia, a Chumash healer, and Dr. James Adams, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Southern California, teamed up to write a recently published book Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West. They say that the tea can be drunk safely, in moderation, and that it will bring back pleasant memories.
Many female friends tell me they have irregular menses. There is a wide body of reports from the scientific community regarding the disruption of women’s menstruation cycles due to pesticides, hormones, and various chemical pollutants found in food. Click here to view research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology on this topic. Follow the recipe below every month, and drink one cup 3 times/day during the 4 days before your period begins.
California Sagebrush Tea
12 cups water
2 Tbsp dried California sagebrush (loosely packed)
Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Add sagebrush and let steep for at least 4 hours. It’s best to let it steep overnight, strain out the sagebrush, and refrigerate the remaining amount.
The lines between food and medicine are oftentimes blurred. I believe this is why the term Food is Medicine is so universal among cultures. I look forward to using California Sagebrush as a seasoning in roasts and other foods that would compliment its strong flavor.
Who says we have to limit wild food plants to just gastronomique delights? Our skin happens to be our largest organ, and it ‘eats’ and absorbs what we put on it. When I was introduced to California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica) I had to let out a big yeehaw! It is commonly known as cowboy cologne, since it’s said that the cowboys used to rub it all over their bodies before a night out on the town. Well, it’s 2007 and this wanna be cowgirl reckons it’d be alright for the ladies to partake as well.
I have been making my own lotion for some time, not wanting to feed my skin with the colorings/fake scents/preservatives/etc. so often found in today’s skin care products. The following is my favorite face cream recipe, adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s original. Click here to see her wonderful herbal work at Sage Mountain, or here to order her ‘Herbs for Natural Beauty’ book with the original recipe. Like Rosemary says, smooth it over your body as if you’re anointing yourself with precious balm.
Cowgirl Face Cream
2/3 cup distilled water
1/3 cup aloe vera gel
¾ cup apricot, almond, or grapeseed oil
1/3 cup coconut oil, or cocoa butter
½ to 1 oz beeswax
4 Tbsp dried California sagebrush, packed loosely
Use some cheesecloth to tie up the California sagebrush into a ball. Then drop the ball into a crockpot dedicated to infusing oils, or set up a double boiler on your stovetop (see photo below). Infuse your oils on the lowest heat setting possible for at least 4 hours. If using double boiler method put on lowest setting and cook for ½ hour. Turn off the heat and let stand, reheating when you are ready for the next step.
The next step is to take out your cheesecloth ball of California sagebrush. Sqeeze out all of the oil being held inside and add your beeswax. Oftentimes you will not get an already measured piece of beeswax, but they will have written how many ounces you have on the front of the bag. Heat a knife over your stovetop and use its heat to help cut the beeswax into one ounce pieces. You will then be ready to place your 1-ounce of beeswax into the infused oil (and if you cut the whole chunk into 1-ounce pieces you’ll be ready for the next time you make face cream).
While the beeswax is melting over low heat, in either your crockpot or double boiler, mix your waters. Set the waters aside for later. Once your beeswax is melted into your infused oils, pour them into a blender. Let cool until they become creamy looking (you can speed this process by putting the blender in a cool area). Once it becomes a cool semisolid, turn on your blender at its highest speed and SLOWLY drizzle the room temperature waters into the oils. The key to this emulsion is to pour the waters into the oils, not the other way around. Blend just until it looks like frosting, but don’t over beat…it will thicken as it sets. Pour into cool sterilized glass jars and keep away from heat.
To the Cowgirl in us all!