Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wild Edible Walk

We had our wild edible walk today! The weather held beautifully and we had a great turnout of interested, interesting people. Thanks so much to everyone who came.

We saw edible and medicinal:

  • plantain (plantago major and minor)
  • red clover
  • dandelion
  • mugwort
  • burdock
  • lambsquarters
  • garlic mustard
  • sumac
  • evening primrose
  • mulberry tree

and we saw poison:

  • white snake root
  • crown vetch

we brought along to show:

  • quickweed
  • amaranth
  • black walnuts
  • paw paw

we talked about making:

  • pesto
  • vinegar
  • oils
  • tinctures
  • dream pillows with mugwort
  • green smoothies
  • salads

I hope everyone takes advantage the list of resources that we gave out! Here are some highlights:

Wildman Steve Brill: pictures, illustrations, stories, recipes
Prodigal Gardens - lots of great pics, info and recipes
Harmony Hikes Wild Edible Page - videos and information

The book we use (that we had with us today) is: Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide

And don't forget this blog! You can sign up for email updates (upper right margin).

Also, please sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter, which has information about local wild edibles as well as information on our upcoming events. We'll definitely do more wild edible walks next year, starting early in the spring.

Thanks again!

~ Melissa

Friday, September 26, 2008

Foraging Friday: Staghorn Sumac

Today we went out and gathered staghorn sumac, to make a lemonade-type of drink for people to sample at the Wild Edibles Walk tomorrow. (We forgot the camera when harvesting, but the above link takes you to Wikipedia...great pics and info.)

Above are the sumac clusters on the table, and below I've put them in a jar.

I'm filling the jar with cold water (cold water preserves the vitamin C). I'll fill the jar to the top and let it sit overnight. Tomorrow morning I'll strain and add sweetener like honey, agave nectar or maple syrup to taste.

The Wild Edible Walk is tomorrow (Saturday, September 27)! We will have the walk rain or shine, unless it is a total downpour or there is thunder and lightning. We're meeting at 10 am on the south side riverfront park...the upper trail. If you have a question about the weather and the walk, call our office after 9 am Saturday, and we'll have a message on the machine letting you know whether the walk is on or not.

We hope to see you soon!

~ Melissa

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Raw Dinner and other news

Last night we had our raw demo and dinner at the Birch Center! I had so much fun -- what an amazing group of lovely people! Thank you so much for everyone who came, it was so much fun to get to spend time together like that.

I really enjoyed the Squash Soup. Here is the recipe for that:

3 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash
2 apples (peeled, chopped)
2 cups apple juice
2 cups water
6-ish dates
1+Tbsp cinnamon
some ice to keep cool while blending

Blend all ingredients in high speed blender until smooth. It was really good!

And someone earlier asked for the final recipe to the chocolate sauce. Here it is:

Equal parts:

hemp oil
honey or agave nectar (maybe slightly more sweetener if you want to hide the nutty taste of the hemp oil)
raw cacao powder

also: 1 tsp vanilla extract and sprinkle of salt


We had it on top of an apple crumble: sliced apples topped with chopped pecans and dates.


In other news:

There is an upcoming potluck (and lecture about the food/cancer conncection) with the Pittsburgh Raw Food Meet-Up Group. This will be October 5 in Allison Park. It's free...just join the meetup and you can keep up to date with raw food potlucks and events.


Also: our Wild Edible Walk is scheduled for this Saturday, Sept 27 at 10 am. The weather forecast is showing possible rain. We plan to walk if it is overcast, drizzling or light rain. If it is a downpour or has thunder or lightening we won't walk. We'll have a message on our answering machine by 9 am Saturday morning, so if you're in doubt, just call (412) 381-0116. If you haven't joined our mailing list, please click here and join...then we can keep you up-to-date with all the latest.

Thanks so much!

~ Melissa

Monday, September 22, 2008

Way down yonder in the paw paw patch...

We found paw paws today! We were in the patch yesterday, but didn't see any. We double checked that the trees were paw paws, then went back today with our good friends Wendi and KDCat from, and we struck gold!

Here are three paw paws - all were soft and ripe and delicious! Most others we found weren't ripe yet, still too early. The ripe ones were sweet and soft and tasted like cardamom with a hint of lemon.

Yesterday I found some interesting information on paw paws on line, in this blog.

I do still have one unripe paw paw that Dave knocked off the tree (thinking it was ripe) that I will bring with me to the Wild Edible Walk on Saturday, Sept. 27. They look like green mangoes, but are actually native to this part of the world. It's so nice to eat delicious, seasonal, local, native, WILD fruit!!

...It is curious that I've never seen paw paws, mulberries, or black walnuts - all local - at any farmers markets or even the coop. Yet bananas, of course, are everywhere, all the time. Hmmmmmm...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Black Walnuts

Wow, a whole week went by since the last post? How did that happen?

This past week we foraged for Black Walnuts, which are in season right now! They are falling off their trees and they look like tennis balls on the ground (same color, shape and approximate size.) Unfortunately I didn't take pictures (I will next time!) but you can find out more about harvesting black walnuts from wildman Steve Brill's website (pictures, description, recipes - click plants, then black walnut.) There is also good info with pictures on black walnuts here.

You can actually make a little money gathering these and selling them to hulling stations: about $10 - $13 per one hundred pounds (hulled). However, if you take the time and energy to shell them, you can actually sell them at markets and such for $10/pound. (We just plan on eating ours.)

We found them in our neighborhood around the South Side Slopes, and today we went to Schenley park and found a great tree there (on a little out of the way path by a creek, so beautiful!)

We step on the green shells to get the walnut out, then we gathered them into a bag (wearing gloves, and even so, my fingers got stained.) We'll dry them and then get a nutcracker and nutmeat pick to open them and extract the meat.

We'll have some to demonstrate at our Wild Edible Walk this coming Saturday, September 27! Unfortunately we didn't see any Black Walnut trees down on the southside riverfront trail, but we'll bring the green walnuts and once you see them you'll be able to find them yourselves...they are very easy to spot once you know what you are looking for!

And there a still a few spots left in our Raw Foods Dinner and Demo, coming up this Wednesday, Sept 24. Please give us a call if you want to come: (412) 381-0116. I really feel it will be a very fun evening! The menu is:

  • green smoothie
  • butternut squash soup
  • raw burritos with spiced nutmeat, corn salsa, and guacamole
  • tomato basil salad
  • nutmilk chai
  • fruit with chocolate sauce

Finally, a woman contacted me who REVERSED her diabetes at the Tree of Life Refuvenation Center in Patagonia, AZ. Her acupuncturist has some reservations about staying on an all raw diet through a cold winter, and she wanted input from me (as an acupuncturist familiar with raw foods.) You can read about her and my response here.

Til next time ~ (which will hopefully be sooner than this last time, and include pictures!)

~ Melissa

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Steel City Sunday: Palace of Gold

In an attempt to stay true to the themes of this blog, today I'll share with you a place we visited yesterday, just over an hour outside Pittsburgh. We ventured to New Vrindaban, WV (outside Wheeling) to visit the Palace of Gold.

The Palace itself is an amazing, ornate tribute to the man who brought the Hare Krishna movement to the US: Prabhupada. It was built by disciples - who had no previous building skills - in the 1970's as a place where Prabhupada could come and stay and do his work of translating Sanskrit texts into English. Along with a tour of the palace and a walk through the palace's beautiful gardens, we visited the temple and talked to many people who live there today.

The community was so friendly and open, and had organic gardens and even runs a small farm training center. The animals we saw (cows and goats) were happy and healthy. It was really a pleasure to discover this hidden gem so close to Pittsburgh!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tomato Basil Salad

This is the best salad of the summer so far! My four year old gobbles it up. It is definitely going to find it's way onto our menu for the Raw Demo and Dinner coming up on September 24!

It's easy: five simple ingredients:

  • 3-5 heirloom tomatoes, depending on size - right from our garden. so many heirloom varieties, delicious!
  • 2 Tbsp chopped basil - right from our garden. mmmmm
  • 1 small clove garlic (we finished all our garden garlic!)
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt (I've been using that Himalayan salt.)

Chop tomatoes and basil. Crush (or chop) the garlic. Mix olive oil and sprinkle of salt to taste.

Sooooo good...and the "sauce" you'll find at the end is amazing - you'll definitely want to drink this (or sop it up with bread or something.)


Monday, September 8, 2008

Foraging Friday - Monday Edition

We had such a beautiful time camping at Raccoon Creek State Park this weekend for Ella's birthday. Yesterday we went on a hike to find the Healing Mineral Springs, a spa destination site of the 1800's. On the way we were all stung by this plant:

Ella got welts on her leg, Dave on his arm. I was stung as I pinched the flowers in my fingers, explaining why it was not nettles, even though it looked like it. Well, it IS nettles! The nettles I am familiar with have flowers that bloom up and down, while these flowers spread out. So, I learn something new every day.

We rubbed plantain leaves on the stings and welts which caused the pain and itching to stop and the welts to disappear. The book at the part office said you could rub jewelweed on as a remedy as well. Once we found the iron-rich cold mineral springs we went under them and any residual anything completely disappeared.

But we were more careful walking back, as the mile+ trail was literally overgrown with flowering, stinging NETTLES!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Treatment Tuesday: The Earth Element and Digestion

To the right is a picture of Raw Squash Soup, which is beneficial to the Earth element, and which we will be enjoying in our upcoming Raw Foods Demo and Dinner, September 24, at the Birch Center.

Late summer is officially here! In Chinese Medicine, late summer (and all changes in season) relates to the Earth element, which is about digestion, and is the center of our health. The colors of the Earth element are orange and yellow, which are also the color of many foods coming into season right now: squash, corn, peaches, pumpkins. These foods have a sweet flavor and in moderation are beneficial to the earth element.

In Chinese Medicine, having strong digestion is very important to overall health. No matter what people come in to see us for, we always get around to asking about digestion, because it tells us a lot of information about the state of overall health.

If this element is weak, we may see digestive systems such as gas, belching, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and IBS, but we will also see symptoms such as fatigue, bruising, muscles aches and heaviness. Mentally a person may just not have their "get up and go", and will rather nap or sit around the house. They may worry or obsess about things, and may even have insomnia, even though they are so tired during the day.

Acupuncture treatments can help support the Earth element and alleviate these symptoms. There are also wonderful Chinese herbal remedies such as Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang and Gui Pi Tang which help balance this element, and are chosen very specifically to match what is going on for each individual. For more information or to schedule an acupuncture appointment, calls The Birch Center at (412) 381-0116, or email

Here are some other ideas which you can do at home to help balance your Earth element:

  • Eat green foods, especially leafy greens, which are thought to have a bitter property and relate to the fire element, which is the "mother" of the earth element and thus helps strengthen it.

  • Though sweet is the flavor of Earth, avoid overly sweet and processed foods, which tend to weaken this element. Avoid foods with sugar, corn syrup and white flour.

  • Eat your heaviest foods in the morning, from 7 am to 11 am, when the energy in the Earth element (digestion) is strongest. Stop eating by 7 pm in the evening, when the energy in this element is the weakest. This is an incredibly important and powerful thing you can do to balance this element.

  • In Chinese Medicine, it is recommended to lightly steam your food for easier digestion. In following a raw foods diet - which is usually not recommended when the earth element is weak - I find that including a lot of green leafy vegetables and blending the food (green smoothies or energy soups), is actually an excellent way to boost this element.

  • Processed fruit juice (bottled from the store) is too sweet and not recommended. However, if you freshly juice fruits yourself, always cut with plenty of water and add some green juice: some spinach or Romaine leaves in to help balance the sweetness.

  • Get outside! This way your body can absorb the last of the warm sunshine and can really mesh with the season.

  • Moderate exercise (outdoors is best) will also help this element, as exercise keeps the energy of the whole body flowing. When energy becomes stagnant, this often causes the wood element in our body (responsible for the smooth flow of energy) to attack and weaken the earth element.

Our September newsletter is about to go out, and there is an article all about late summer, the Earth element and your health. Sign up here for our newsletter now, so you don't miss it! Also, there are still spaces available in our Raw Foods Demo and Dinner. To sign up please call us at (412) 381-0116.

Thanks, and enjoy this beautiful time of year!

In Health,
~ Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac.
The Birch Center for Health