100+ Natural Gift Ideas for New Moms 

If you’ve looked for a baby shower gift lately, you know that there are tons of baby clothes, body care products, and toys on the market these days. But, while many of these items are created for babies, not all of these items are necessarily safe for them. Unfortunately, many conventional baby products are made with toxic materials and ingredients that can cause a variety of health issues, including allergies, developmental problems, and cancer. Selecting the right gift for new moms and their little ones can be a difficult task if you are trying to find natural alternatives to these commercial products. Fortunately, this massive round up offers over 100 baby-safe gift ideas for the new mom in your life.

 

The following gift ideas are for the crafty folks. For those of you who prefer to buy a gift, keep reading, there’s lots of ideas for you too.

DIY Baby & Mama Personal Care Products:

  1. Bottoms-Up Salve adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health – This salve is great for healing and soothing diaper rash, cuts, scrapes, and irritated skin making it a great addition to any new mom’s diaper bag or changing table.

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Photo Credit: The Nerdy Farmwife
Ingredients:

  • 1 part calendula flowers
  • 1 part comfrey leaf
  • 1 part comfrey root
  • 1 part St. John’s wort
  • Olive oil
  • Beeswax pastilles

Directions:

Combine 2 ounces of herb mixture with one pint of oil and let steep in a double boiler over very low heat for several hours. Check often to make sure that the oil isn’t overheating and burning the herbs. This will make about 2 cups of herb infused oil.

Strain the herbs from the oil and compost the spent herbs. Return the herbal oil to the double boiler and 1/4 cup grated beeswax per cup of herbal oil.

When the beeswax has melted, place a tablespoon of the mixture in the refrigerator for a few minutes until cooled. This will allow you to check the consistency. If the salve is too hard, add a little more oil. If it is too soft, add a little more beeswax.

When the salve is finished, pour it into a glass jar or tin. Spruce up your container with a label or other decorative touches. The salve does not need to be refrigerated, but should be stored in a cool place, as it will melt if overheated.

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Photo Credit: Mountain Rose Herbs
2. Cloth Baby Wipes from Evergrowing Farm – These cloth wipes are easy to make and are safe for baby and the environment.

 

3. Mama & Baby’s Massage Oil from Mountain Rose Herb – This gentle massage oil is perfect for soothing baby’s delicate skin and is also the perfect gift to pamper a new mama.

Photo credit: The Herbal Academy

 

 

 

4. Child’s Herbal Bath Sock from The Herbal Academy – Herbal baths are a great way to nourish and heal baby’s skin. These cute bath socks are easy to make and allow baby to benefit from an herbal bath without any extra clean up for mom.

 

 

 

5. Three Nursing Balms for New Moms from the Nerdy Farmwife – These three nursing balm recipes vary in complexity and are all wonderful, safe options for sore, dry nipples.

Photo credit: Mountain Rose Herbs

 

 

 

6. For more DIY gift ideas, check out these 5 Calming DIY Gifts for Moms from Mountain Rose Herbs

 

 

 

 

The following gift ideas include some lovely natural body care products that you can buy for baby & mom if you’re short on time or if DIY just isn’t your thing.

Natural Baby & Mama Personal Care Products:

7.  Natural Baby Powder from Wild Blossom Herbals – Conventional baby powders can contain ingredients that are toxic and potentially cancer causing. This baby powder is a wonderful alternative as it is made with only natural, baby safe ingredients.

Photo credit: Wild Blossom Herbals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Baby Massage Oil from Wild Carrot Herbals – This massage oil is made with gentle ingredients that are safe for baby’s delicate skin.

Photo credit: Herbal Revolution
9. Mother Lovin’ Tea from Herbal Revolution – Help nourish and uplift a new mama with this lovely tea blend that is specifically formulated to provide extra nutrients and minerals, balance hormones, and support the nervous system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Mountain Rose Herbs
10. Baby’s Balm from Mountain Rose Herbs – A soothing salve that’s perfect for baby’s skin and bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Many Benefits of Red Clover 

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a lovely little plant that grows abundantly in meadows and along roadsides here in Southwest Michigan and in temperate regions across the world. It is a favorite among farmers, foragers, and herbalists.  In his book, Back to Eden, herbalist, Jethro Kloss, called red clover “one of God’s greatest blessings to man.” And for good reason! This wonderful legume is edible, medicinal, and extremely useful in the garden.

We planted red clover heavily our first year at the Augusta Creek Permaculture site to aid in the transition from lawn to forest garden as it helps to force out unwanted weeds and grass. It also loosens poor, rocky, or clay soil and fixes nitrogen. We chop and drop it throughout the season to prepare areas for planting and feed other plants. It is a low-maintence, easy to grow perennial and is a favorite cover crop among farmers because it easily adapts to a variety of climates, grows quickly, and has few issues with diseases and pests.


Red clover has many medicinal uses. It is blood purifying and improves liver function. It also has antispasmodic and expectorant properties, making it helpful for coughs and other bronchial issues.

It is helpful in aiding the healing of skin problems, such as skin eruptions, eczema, psoriasis, skin growths, and fresh wounds. It is also a great herb for treating skin problems in children, as it is very gentle. Because of these properties, it is a wonderful addition to healing salves.

Red clover and nettle combine well for treatment of skin problems. This lovely clay mask is simple to make and naturally purifies oily, acne prone skin types. The clay draws out toxins and gently exfoliates. Red clover and nettle cleanse and heal problem skin.

Red Clover & Nettle Exfoliating Face Scrub

  • 1 cup betonite clay
  • 1/4 cup finely ground dry red clover blossoms
  • 1/4 cup finely ground nettle leaf

Combine ingredients and mix well. Store in a glass container with a lid.

To use: mix a small amount (1-2 teaspoons) of the clay & herb blend with water to form a paste. Apply mixture to face and massage gently into skin. Rinse with warm water. If desired, follow with an astringent facial spray (click here to learn how to make your own dandelion, cleaver & violet toner!) then a little bit of a natural moisturizer.

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Curry Ketchup Recipe

This homemade ketchup is quick and easy to make and is definitely worth the effort. Whip up a batch before your next cookout to impress your friends. After all, nothing screams gourmet like handcrafted condiments.

The best homemade ketchup is made by cooking down ripe, fresh tomatoes for 10-12 hours until they turn into a thick sauce. But, most of time tomatoes aren’t in season (at least here in Michigan!) and sometimes you don’t have half a day to make ketchup. So, in those cases, you cheat a little and use organic tomato paste. The flavor will be just as rich and tomatoey and this little trick will definitely save you a lot of time!

Because you don’t have to wait for this ketchup to cook down, you can make a batch in about 15 minutes, meaning you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the wonderful summer weather.

The curry in this recipe compliments the tomatoes in delightful way and lends some interesting flavor to a classic condiment.

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz organic tomato paste
  • 4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 5 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • A pinch of chipotle powder, I use just the tip of a spoon
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Directions:

Combine tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, water, and molasses in a sauce pan and whisk together til well combined. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk well to get rid of clumps.

Simmer on low for about 10 minutes to let the flavors meld. Add more water if needed as the sauce is cooking and before serving if the ketchup is too thick.

Serve with hot dogs, burgers, or potatoes.

Making your own condiments is a wonderful way to reduce your intake of highly processed foods and honestly, they just taste better! Enjoy making this handcrafted ketchup for your next cook out this summer. This tasty twist on an old favorite is sure to be a hit!

Natural Goat Care: Soothing Herbal Tea

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Herbal teas are wonderful for goats and my girls love them. This particular blend is one of their favorites and is a good all-purpose tea to help tone and strengthen their systems. I like to make up a batch for them periodically, especially during more stressful times- like heat, baths, hoof trimming, or transport- or during the changing of seasons to help give their bodies a boost during wet or cold periods.

The ingredients in this tea are naturally soothing and nourishing. Chamomile is a gentle sedative and anti-spasmodic. It also tones the digestive system and helps to relieve constipation and expel gas and worms.  It is a natural pain reliever, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory and helps to heal wounds (making it great for external use too!). While it is a very mild, safe herb its use should be limited with pregnant goats.

Lemon balm is an uplifting, tonic herb that helps to soothe anxiety, depression, heart palpitations, and insomnia. It is also beneficial to the digestion system and relieves gas and cramping. It makes a lovely tea and can be fed fresh by the handful.

Nettle is a very nutritive, toning herb that helps to cleanse the blood. It is rich in iron and other important minerals. Herbalist, Juliette de Baïracli Levy, used this herb for her animals to help prevent contagious diseases and worms. She says that nettle makes animals more spirited and gives them shinier, fuller coats. It can also be used to treat poor appetite and arthritis, making it a good herb for older animals.

Oats are very nutritious and are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are important for strong bones, teeth, hooves, horns, and hair. They are soothing and toning to the nervous system. Oat tea is a good tonic for sick animals.

Honey boosts energy, soothes coughs, and reduces stomach and throat inflammation. Goats also love the taste so it makes a great addition to herbal teas to help make them more enticing.

As an added bonus, this tea is great for humans too! It’ll often enjoy a cup myself when I make up a batch for the girls.


To make this tea, you will need –

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon chamomile blossoms
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon balm leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon nettle leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon milky oats
  • 1/2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 1/2 to 1 quart water, room temperature

This makes enough tea for two adult Nigerian dwarf goats (a small breed). If you have big goats or more goats you will want to double (triple, quadruple, …!) this recipe. You can also make a bigger batch and keep some in the fridge for a day or so. It won’t keep for very long though, so don’t make too much at once. 

To save time, combine equal parts of each of the dried herbs in a clean glass jar with a lid and just add 4 tablespoons of the tea blend per quart of boiling water when making tea. 


Directions:

Add herbs and to a glass quart jar. Pour boiling water over them, cover, and let steep till tea is warm, but the jar is not to hot to hold. Strain out the herbs using cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer, pouring the tea into another jar. Press out all the liquid from the herbs and compost them. Add honey to the tea, cap the jar and shake well. Let cool to room temperature.

Once the tea has cooled, dilute tea with 1/2 to 1 quart water. See what your goats like and adjust it to their tastes. You may have dilute it with a bit more water if your goats aren’t keen on trying new things, but once they get a taste for teas, they will likely drink them down happily. Mine sure do!

Teas are just one great way your goats can benefit from herbs. Our girls also love fresh herbs and homemade herbal treats. To learn how to make your own natural goat treats, click here.

Have fun crafting your own herbal teas and treats to keep the goats in your life happy and healthy!


Resources:

The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Baïracli Levy

Molly’s Herbals: Natural Care for Animals. www.fiascofarm.com 

Dandelion: More than a Weed

The dandelion (Taraxacum officiale) has a bad reputation for being a nuisance and is often considered an undesirable plant in lawns. But, this common weed is edible, medicinal, and a valuable source of food for insects in the early spring.

Dandelions are truly one of my favorite plants and I get so excited when I see them starting to come up each year. I love our dandelion packed yard and I cringe when I see people mowing down or spraying big patches of dandelions. They are so useful! All parts of the plant can be utilized in making food and medicine.

Dandelion leaves are a delicious bitter green that are delicious in salads, soups, pizzas, pastas, stir fries, and more. They can also be used in teas and salves for medicinal purposes.

The roots of this plant are also edible and medicinal. They are best collected between June and August when they are the most bitter. Cut them in half before drying to speed the process. The leaves can be collected anytime. The roots also can be used to make tea. They are often roasted and then simmered to make a strong decoction that tastes a lot like coffee (but doesn’t have the same effect). I also enjoy adding fresh, chopped root to stir fries and soups.


The blossoms are my favorite part of the plant to use in the spring as they are plentiful and very cheery. They make lovely infused syrups and jellies. I also like using them in a unique veggie patty. Each year when the dandelions are in bloom, I harvest tons of flowers for different projects. This spring, I made dandelion blossom wine, fermented dandelion blossom relish, dandelion blossom kombucha, and dandelion blossom syrup.  I infused witch hazel extract with dandelions blossoms and other spring herbs for a lovely soothing, facial toner.

I have really enjoyed adding dandelion root and leaf to many different tea blends this season, including a wonderful kidney tonic tea.

Below are a few of the recipes I just mentioned:

 

Fermented Dandelion Blossom Relish

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups dandelion blossoms, packed
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly ground coriander
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 Tbsp salt (use a salt without additives like iodine, or anti-caking agents, like calcium silicate)

Equipment: 

  • 1 wide mouth pint jar with lid
  • 1 fermentation weight – we like these ones from Tamarack Stoneware. They’re very well made, pretty, and they work like a charm.

 

Directions:

Add the dandelion blossoms, garlic, and spices to a large bowl. Mix everything together roughly with your hands, shredding and smushing the dandelion blossoms.

Add salt and water and continue to scrunch and mush everything together with your hands until the blossoms are all broken up and the mixture is well blended.

Pack the blossom blend and brine into a quart jar (you may have a little brine left over). Push the solids down firmly so everything is well covered by brine. Place your fermentation weight on top to keep everything submerged (if things aren’t covered in brine they will get moldy). Cover jar with lid, but do not tighten down more than a half turn. You want the gases to be able to escape or it may bubble over (not that I would know…).

Set jar on a warm shelf out of direct sunlight and check it periodically. Give it a taste every so often to check how much it has fermented and once it has reached your desired level of tanginess, store it in the refrigerator to slow further fermentation. I let mine ferment for a month, but your taste might be a little bit different, so give it a taste sooner than that.

Enjoy this tasty fermented relish on veggie hot dogs, tempeh burgers, or with grilled pita. It’s a tangy, garlicky condiment that is as unique as it is delicious.

 

Dandelion Wine

I made an adapted version of this dandelion wine recipe that was published in Mother Earth News in 1978. I used honey instead of sugar and added grapefruit. This season was my first go at dandelion wine so it will be interesting to see how it turns out. This beverage takes about 2-3 weeks to ferment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hungry for more ways to enjoy this plant? Below are a lot more fantastic dandelion recipes for you to try this season:

Breakfast:

Dinner – Main Dishes & Sides:

Dressings & Condiments:

Dandelion Kombucha

Beverages:

Desserts:

 

In addition to being edible, dandelion is also has a variety of medicinal applications. It can be taken internally or used externally to treat many different conditions. It has been used traditionally to help treat liver & kidney problems, UTI’s, skin eruptions, eczema, anemia, and more. Dandelion tea can be drunk to help ease stomach aches. It is a nutritious herb that can be helpful for anemia. This plant helps to purify the blood. Dandelion also aids the heart and can decrease blood pressure. Dandelion leaf tea is a diuretic that can be helpful for fluid retention, weight loss, and cystitis.

Dandelion is great for your skin too! It is healing, soothing, and helps reduce inflammation. This makes it a  wonderful addition to salves, lip balms, and facial toners.

Dandelion, Violet & Cleaver Facial Toner

This facial toner is simple to make and is beneficial for all skin types. Witch hazel extract is produced from the leaves and bark of the Witch Hazel shrub  and is naturally astringent and anti-microbial. It helps to reduce bags and puffiness around the eyes. It can also shrink pores and help to heal blemishes. Infusing witch hazel extract with these skin soothing, spring herbs makes it a perfect cleansing, facial toner that can also be used to relieve skin irritations.

Ingredients:

Directions: 

Add herbs to a glass jar with a lid. You will want to fill the jar roughly 3/4 full (you want enough room for at least 1-2 inches of witch hazel on top of the herbs.) Don’t pack the herbs down in the jar too tightly as you want everything to be evenly submerged in liquid.

Pour the witch hazel extract over the herbs and put the lid on your jar. Place in a cool, dark place and let infuse for 2-4 weeks. Shake your jar daily (if you remember). The witch hazel will start to take on the color and scent of the herbs.

When your concoction has finished infusing, strain out the herbs with a cheese cloth. Store in a clean bottle or jar (be sure to label your jar!).

Pour a few drops of aloe vera gel into a 4 oz spray bottle, fill to the top with your infused witch hazel. Shake well and spritz on your face to tone and cleanse skin.
Below are some more delightful dandelion body care recipes to enjoy:

13310558_1729956513940045_5088574184601419208_nAs you can see, there’s no need to spray or mow your dandelions this year. Instead, you’ll surely have lots of ways you’ll want to use this cheery little plant for food, medicine, and skincare.
Do you have any favorite dandelion recipes? Let us know!
Other fun DIY dandelions ideas:

 

 

 

 

Resources:

A Modern Herbal: Volume I. M. Grieve. 249-254.

The Way of Herbs. Michael Tierra. 127-128.

The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. David Hoffman. 69-70.

Back to Eden. Jethro Kloss. 123-124.

“Dandelion: The Dandiest Weed of All.” Herbal Adcademy. https://theherbalacademy.com/dandelion-the-dandiest-weed-of-all/

“A Family Herb: Dandelion.” Herbal Academy. March 9, 2016. https://theherbalacademy.com/a-family-herb-dandelion/

Grilled Tempeh Sliders

Summer is just around the corner, which means it’s a perfect time for some outdoor cooking. We love spending warm evenings on the deck or by the fire pit cooking our dinner and enjoying the weather. Not heating up the house with the oven or stove is an added bonus!

When many people think of grilling, they think meat – hog dogs, hamburgers, steak, chicken, etc – but there are many tasty meatless ways to enjoy cooking on the grill this summer. Tempeh, tofu, and many fruits and veggies are delicious grilled. There are also some very tasty  veggie “hot dogs” available at the natural food stores near us that are made from real vegetable not weird “meat like” ingredients. They are worth trying if you can find them.

This easy tempeh burger recipe is a favorite warm weather recipe around our house. Grilled veggies make a simple, delicious side dish. We use whatever’s in season. Asparagus, corn, zucchini, sweet potatoes, leeks, beets, and peppers are just a few tasty options. Be creative!

This recipe makes enough for 4 slider size tempeh burgers. This is enough to feed 2-4 people, depending on how hungry people are and what your side dish options are like. You could easily double the recipe to make more burgers if you are feeding more people.

 

Ingredients:

Sliders –

  • 8 oz tempeh patty
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 cup liquid aminos
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 small, “dinner roll” sized buns, sliced in half

Toppings –

  • 2 slices onion, diced
  • A handful of fresh arugula leaves
  • Condiments of your choosing. Some great options are: homemade pickles, slaw, ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce (click here to find out how to make your own!), or mayo

Directions:

Cut tempeh patty into 4 equal pieces.

Combine liquid aminos, molasses, and diced garlic together in a wide dish. The dish does not need to be very deep, but ideally will be wide enough for the 4 tempeh pieces to sit in the bottom next to each other.

Add tempeh to liquid and spoon marinade over the pieces so they are drenched. Let marinate for about 30 minutes, occasionally flipping the tempeh so that each side has soaked for a bit in the liquid.

Start your grill. Once it is hot, add your tempeh patties. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until both sides look nice and brown. As the tempeh cooks, spoon some marinade over it occasionally to keep it from drying out and to add more flavor.

When the patties are nearly done, add your buns to the grill, sliced side down and cook them just a few minutes, until toasted. Then take everything off the grill and assemble your sliders using the arugula greens, onions, and condiments of your choosing. We like topping our sliders with things like ketchup, mustard, diced olives, assorted veggie pickles, and barbeque sauce.

homemade veggie pickles – asparagus, kohlrabi, & beets
We make our own super tasty pickles and condiments. It’s a lot easier than you think and it’s more than worth the effort. Some of the best condiment and assorted veggie pickle recipes come from my favorite canning cookbook, Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff. We especially love her recipes for zucchini pickles and ketchup. So tasty! I would definitely recommend picking up this book if you like preserving your own food.

 

Enjoy crafting your own tasty tempeh sliders this summer. We’d love to hear about any awesome variations you come up with!

Purple Dead Nettle: Not Just A Weed

Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium Purpureum) is a lovely and useful herbaceous plant. It grows abundantly around our site in Southwest, Michigan and I see it popping up all over this area. It can be found throughout the US, Canada, and many other parts of the world. This hardy weed thrives in lawns, roadsides, and can grow in a variety of conditions. It is also frost tolerant. It is most commonly found growing in loamy or sandy soils, but will also do well in clay soils. It is an self-seeding annual. Each plant produces lots of seeds (it’s estimated to be several hundred to several thousand) and those seeds can germinate year round.

Purple dead nettle is considered to be an “invasive species” due to its ability to thrive and reproduce in many environments. In fact, much of the literature available on this plant is geared towards methods of eradication, including pulling up the herb to control its population. It is interesting to note that purple dead nettle seeds germinate better when the soil is disturbed. “Invasive” plants like purple dead nettle often grow in places where humans have disrupted the natural balance.  These plants are simply trying to restore equilibrium to their environment. When we pull and spray these plants we are further disturbing the areas where they grow and actually increasing their ability to return and spread.

If we care about the environment, should be be attempting to eradicate these species, like purple dead nettle, that have been determined to be invasive? Research shows that meddling with nature isn’t necessary and could cause more harm than good. Tomás Carlo, assistant professor of biology at Penn State, states that “Invasive species could fill niches in degraded ecosystems and help restore native biodiversity in an inexpensive and self-organized way that requires little or no human intervention.”In 2011, he conducted a study on how invasive species affect their ecosystems.  He found that some invasive plants actually helped improve natural areas that had deteriorated due to human use. He stated that attempting to get rid of invasive species could actually harm the newly found balance in these ecosystems. In fact, the areas he studied, for example,have actually had an increase in the native migratory bird population because the invasive plants that grow abundantly there provide an important food source that had previously been displaced by human development. Carlo also stated that trying to eliminate invasive species on a large scale could also be a waste of time and money. He explained that when organizations try to rid an ecosystem of a particular invasive plant, it often ends up growing back despite all of their efforts.

Instead of pulling and spraying these weeds, we can appreciate and utilize them. Invasive plants often play important roles in their ecosystem. For example, purple dead nettle blooms in the early spring and is an valuable food source for insects when not much else is is flowering.  Many invasive plants are also useful to humans and make wonderful food and medicine. They require little to no care as they often occur and thrive naturally in our gardens and yards. These wild edibles can be a great low-maintenance, free food source. Foraging wild greens like purple dead nettle is easier than tending to more fickle commercially grown greens and is certainly cheaper than buying organic greens at the store. If you aren’t sure how to forage purple dead nettles, visit the Edible Wild Food site for more tips on finding and identifying this plant so you too can enjoy this spring green.Always be sure you properly identify a plant before eating it! For more foraging tips, check out our post on foraging spring edibles.

Purple dead nettle can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves have tiny little hairs that some may find strange texturally, but I have found that they aren’t bothersome when the plant is cooked. The leaves taste similar to spinach. When bruised, the plant has a noticeable green, earthy scent. Purple dead nettle leaves are great source of fiber, iron, and other important nutrients. They can be used in recipes much as one would use more conventional greens like kale or spinach.

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Foraging Spring Edibles

Spring is my favorite time for a walk in the woods. I love seeing everything come back to life and explode into green again. One of the very best things about spring though is the great opportunity it provides for foraging and wild crafting some fantastic wild foods. Finding and harvesting wild food is a great way to get outside, learn more about nearby the forests and fields,  and to enjoy unique, fresh foods.

Though foraging for your own food may seem daunting, it’s actually really easy to do. Many of the woods, fields, and riversides by your home will be full of plants that you never realized were edible. When I go anywhere where wild plants are allowed to grow, I am on the lookout for wild edibles (even if I won’t have the chance to forage them). You would be surprised to see the many places that food grows. You probably have some food growing in your front yard right now.

As a society that is very out of touch with nature, it is important for us to learn about wild plants and their multitude of uses. The following tips will help you begin to take advantage of the food that is growing all around you.

  1. Choose your foraging site wisely. I never forage plants for food off the sides of roadways or in places where I think people may be inclined to spray chemicals. Though many plants found in the wild are safe to eat, the toxic chemicals that people carelessly introduce to the environment are not at all safe for human consumption and can make you very sick. I don’t say this to scare you. Just be smart about where you forage and consider any potential toxins that may have been introduced to the area.
  2. Respect the Forest. Be sure to treat the area that you have chosen to forage with respect. Do not over harvest one small area. You want the plants to keep coming back every year so you, and others can enjoy them. Insects and animals depend on plants and fungi for food and habitat. Don’t ever take more than you need and never ever take all the plants from one spot. Be considerate to the plants you are harvesting and don’t harm them any more than necessary. For example, if you are foraging something just for the greens, snip only the leaves, and leave the roots and part of the established plant intact.
  3. Don’t Forage from Nature Preserves. Nature preserves protect the health and well-being of their land and the plants that grow there. Don’t ever collect plants from protected areas.
  4. No Trespassing. Know who owns the land you plan to forage and make sure you have their permission to do so. Most people don’t mind if you take their nettles (actually most people thank you for doing so), but just make sure you ask first.
  5. Know What You’re Harvesting. While much of what grows in the forest is edible (even though it may not taste great), there are certain plants that can be dangerous if consumed. Know how to identify the plants you plan to eat and make sure you know the proper methods for preparing them (some plants aren’t edible til they’re cooked). In general, our nature phobic society is too cautious of plants, however, there really are some plants that can make you sick so just be smart about what you eat.

wild ramps growing in the forest
Now that you have an idea how to forage, let’s talk about what we’re looking for. The plants available will certainly vary based on where you live, but the following plants are common in many areas of the United States.

 

Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) 

Nettles are by far my favorite spring food to forage. They are delicious and amazingly versatile. I’ve used nettles in teas, soups, smoothies, paninis, pastas, pizzas, spanakopita, infused vinegars and oils, and more. Nettles are also great for you. They are low in calories and high in important nutrients like potassium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. After a long, hard winter, nettles are the perfect nourishing food. Below are some great recipes for using the nettles you harvest this spring.

For more information about nettles, check out this video where herbalist, jim mcdonald, talks about them in more detail.

Morels

You’re probably already familiar with this edible mushroom. It is one of the most well known wild springtime foods and I often see people looking for them along the forest trails I frequent. Often morels are sold in grocery stores and at the farmer’s market in the spring, but they are very expensive. This definitely makes it worth it to forage your own if possible. As with anything you are harvesting, be sure you are able to properly and confidently identify any mushrooms before consuming them. For more tips on hunting morels, check out this quick guide.

There is a very short window of time during which you will find these delightful fungi, but if you can locate some, it’s certainly worth it. They are very tasty sautéed with butter or as a unique pizza topping. Check out the recipes below if you’re looking for ways to enjoy morels this spring.

Ramps

These wild leeks are another one of my favorite spring foods to forage. They have a fantastic onion-garlicky flavor and are great on salads, pizzas, and eggs.

Though ramps are easily enjoyed in a variety of dishes, it is best to harvest them sparingly. Recently, ramps have become an increasingly popular wild edible. Over harvesting this slow growing plant can easily cause an area to stop producing and that’s what’s happening more and more now that ramps are in high demand. If you’d like to read more on the topic, this wonderful post from Heartstone Herbal School goes into more detail about how to harvest ramps sustainably and why it is important to do so. 

When foraging ramps you should harvest only the leaves (and don’t take more than one leaf per plant) so the rest of the plant can remain and continue to grow. The leaves are just as flavorful and versatile as the bulbs , so you won’t be missing out.

For some ideas of how to use ramps, check out some of the recipes below.

 

Violets

Violets make wonderful infused vinegars, gins, vodkas, syrups, and other beverages. They can also be used in wild flower jellies. I love using violets as a delicate garnish on a salad or any other spring dish.For more information about using violets and some great recipes, check out this post I wrote earlier this spring about wildcrafting violets.

Dandelions

This common weed is one of my favorite springtime foods. All parts of this cheery little plant are edible and each has a variety of uses. The nutritious leaves are great in salads, stir fries, egg scrambles, pizzas, pastas, and more. The root can be used in teas, bitters, and stir fries. I especially enjoy using the sunny yellow flowers in the springtime. These make syrups, wine, fermented condiments, and veggie burgers. Check out the recipes below for more ideas.

For more information on foraging dandelions, click here.

Chickweed

Chickweed is another nutritious and tasty common weed that is easy to find in the spring.  There are many delicious ways to enjoy this pretty little plant. Some of my favorite uses are adding it to salads, sandwiches, pizza, pesto, or egg scrambles. Chickweed does not store well because it is so delicate, so it is best to use it fresh and soon after harvesting.

 

There are many more spring edibles worth collecting and eating. I’ve just mentioned a few of the ones I find and use most commonly to help get you started. We are always finding and foraging new things, so check out the blog throughout the season for more recipes and information about our favorite wild edibles.

If you’re looking to learn more about plants you can forage and how to enjoy them, I recommend checking out the book Foraging and Feasting by Dina Falconi. It is beautifully illustrated and has lots of great recipes and tips for foraging and cooking with a variety of wild plants. You may also enjoy perusing the following blogs for foraging tips and seasonal recipes:

 

Happy foraging!

Augusta Creek Permaculture Forest Garden: May 3, 2016 Plant Walk

Spring is a truly lovely season in the forest garden. Today was an especially beautiful, sunny spring day here at the Augusta Creek Permaculture site. There’s lots popping up right now and so many things I’m excited about. Below are some of my favorite springtime features of our site.

Perennial Flowers

Perennial flowers are a great way to add so much beauty to your yard or garden with very little effort. You simply plant bulbs once and the flowers come back year after year. It’s magic. This past fall I planted tons of flower bulbs so this spring has been an especially colorful one. We had lots of snowdrops, then crocus and daffodils, but now those have died back and the tulips are stealing the show. They are all assorted colors – yellow, pink, red, purple, orange and many multi-color blooms – and are popping up all over the forest garden. It’s wonderful.

Asian pear blooms

Fruit Trees & Bushes

We incorporated many types of fruiting trees and bushes into the forest garden. Many of them are leafing out or flowering right now, including:

  • Honey berries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Wild black raspberries
  • Asian pears
  • Cherries
  • Persimmons
  • Plums
  • Paw Paws

The great thing about fruiting trees (besides the fruit) are their lovely flowers. I love the delicate blossoms on our Asian pears and cherries!

cherry blossoms
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honey berry blossoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hops

Herbs

As an herbalist, growing my own herbs is very important to me. It’s a great way to control quality and to ensure the herbs I’m using in my food, medicine, and Wild Blossom products are grown sustainably, organically, and with love. A few of the herbs that are coming up in the forest garden right now are:

  • Hops
  • Red clover
  • Dandelion
  • Cleaver
  • Chickweed
  • Plantain
  • Yellow dock
  • Burdock
  • Violets
  • Yarrow
  • Purple sage
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Catnip
  • Mint
  • Purple dead nettle
  • Comfrey
  • Mullein
a patch of chickweed, purple dead nettle, violets, cleavers, chives, and dandelions
cleavers

 

 

mullein

 

purple sage

 

 

 

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comfrey

 

 


 

garlic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Edibles

We have many other plants with edible berries, bulbs, roots, and leaves incorporated into the forest garden. Many of these plants are perennial and self-seeding, making for a low maintenance edible landscape.  While our perennial crops get well established (some things need to grow for a few years before they can be harvested or produce fruit), we are also incorporating some annuals for a more immediate food source. Some of the things coming up, leafing out, and blooming on site now are:

  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Strawberries
  • Horseradish
strawberry blooms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ornamental Bushes/Trees 

These lovely bushes and trees provide beauty and diversity to the forest garden and are useful in many ways, including providing habitat for birds, insects, and other animals. I also enjoy using branches in unique bouquets. Some of my favorite ornamental trees/shrubs we have are a red bud – which has lovely pink blooms in the spring – and the red leafed maple that grows in front of our home (both are pictured below).

red bud

I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour of the Augusta Creek Permaculture site. If you are interested in a live tour or have questions about any of the plants we are growing and how we are growing them, feel free to contact us. We love talking about plants and are always glad to show people around the forest garden.

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maple

 

 For more information about forest gardens, check out what Martin Crawford and Sepp Holzer are doing at their sites.

Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Smoothie


 This tasty smoothie makes a great breakfast. It’s perfect when you’re short on time as it is very easy and quick to make. The peanut butter in this recipe provides protein and fiber to help keep you full. Additionally, both peanut butter and almond milk are a good source of magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, and other important nutrients. 

Bananas pair well with the peanut butter in this smoothie while providing potassium, vitamin C, and many more vitamins and minerals. Maple syrup adds sweetness and can be omitted if you like your smoothie a little less sweet.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of almond milk
  • 2 bananas
  • 3 Tablespoons of natural peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup

Combine ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. This recipe makes about 4 cups of smoothie.