things that could be gross but surprisingly aren't

Connection.

(on connection, immersion, being an artist regardless of medium, and salt)

“Who is the person that you call an artist? A man who is momentarily creative? To me he is not an artist. The man who merely at rare moments has this creative impulse and expresses that creativeness through perfection of technique, surely you would not call him an artist. To me, the true artist is one who lives completely, harmoniously, who does not divide his art from living, whose very life is that expression, whether it be a picture, music, or his behaviour; who has not divorced his expression on a canvas or in music or in stone from his daily conduct, daily living. That demands the highest intelligence, highest harmony. To me the true artist is the man who has that harmony. He may express it on canvas, or he may talk, or he may paint; or he may not express it at all, he may feel it. But all this demands that exquisite poise, that intensity of awareness, and therefore his expression is not divorced from the daily continuity of living.” -- Jiddu Krishnamurti

salt2Herbalism, to me is just another form of art. A design starts with a few general ideas and solidifies into something solid and perfect and a formula starts as the same thing. Each design, each piece of art, each product, each formula is a message, and each message starts out as a series of separate things that in combination become something different entirely. When it all fits into place, I feel a *click* and for a brief second all is right in the world, until the cycle starts again.

I remember the moment distinctly, when my medium switched from pen and ink to plant matter. I was standing in the kitchen of my house in palm desert. I’d just dried some desert lavender and had put it in a jar. The light was bright white and it was spring, and so the windows and doors were all open. There was a breeze coming through the house and on it was the scent of lemon blossoms as it is for a brief period every spring. Standing there in the kitchen, I had this thought: I want a wall that’s covered in these jars of herbs I’ve gathered, and I want to know how to use them. It was a simple thought, but it was one that changed my life.

When it comes to herbalism and wildcrafting (or actually, life as a whole), I think people are often looking for immersion and connection. Its what I was looking for. I wanted to be intimately connected to the world around me. To understand its cycles, not in a cerebral way like someone who studies it as one would study a butterfly pinned to a table, but to understand it in my body. To not know where I ended and the world around me began. To be a part of my ecosystem, to know the plants and animals around me and how the cycles of life and nature moved. To have a place in the world. I’d been dabbling in herbs and nutrition before that, working in a health food store, gathering the odd plant that I knew to play with, but I started learning the plants around me in earnest, watching them, gathering them, learning from my own experiences.

There’s no quick way to it, as far as I can tell. No one course that teaches everything, or a magic potion or pill. Immersion and connection is a lifelong process, as its a relationship with a place and with the tools you’re using. As with any relationship, it requires attention, time and effort. But there are things that help. Incorporating herbs and gathered things into daily life is much easier if you do things that make it work for you, and that’s not necessarily what you think it *should* be. I’m not a daily nourishing infusion person, for example, as much as I wanted to be. I tried for a couple of weeks; it turned me off nettles for years (you still couldn’t pay me to drink a nettle infusion). For the most part my daily herbal drink involves freshly roasted coffee, with tons of cream. Does that make me a terrible herbalist? Nope, I’m just not an infusion person (for the most part). But I love cooking, and love playing with new flavours. I might not do infusions but I have a cupboard full of herbal infused honeys and vinegars, and spice blends made from things that I gather in different places. I have a jar of dried cactus buds, and another full of bay leaves gathered along the coast, and other jars labeled things like ‘Herbes De Californie’ and ‘desert blend’ and ‘bee balm meat sauce blend’. And this salt.

salt1This salt is my way to remember to take milk thistle and seaweed daily. Milk thistle grows most places as an invasive weed, and you can gather the seed pods in the summer, then spend an excruciating few days getting the seeds out. I won’t lie: its a pain in the ass. But its worth it*. Its one of the best liver supporting herbs out there, nourishing and supporting liver function. Seaweed**, the other main ingredient, is unbelievably rich in minerals, offering thyroid support through its high levels of iodine and selenium. Plus, it tastes good, and its another way to use herbs daily without having to remember to take a tincture or make an infusion. 

Nutritive Salt Blend

1 part milk thistle seeds, ground 1 part kelp, ground 1/2 part alaria or sea lettuce, ground 1/4 part bladderwrack, ground 3 parts sea salt

Instructions: So easy! Mix it all up and put it somewhere you'll remember to use it.

*Should you deem it not worth it you can totally order milk thistle seeds online. ** Some sources: BC Kelp. Maine seaweed. Mountain rose herbs. 

Banana-almond muffins

Some things are just meant to be eaten on top of a mountain. You know, picnic style. With the cold wind whipping around your face, and the ocean far away in front of you, and the sweat on your back starting to chill but not enough that you need to get moving again. Mountain top snacks. Like banana-almond muffins that aren't too sweet and taste more like a breakfast muffin than an afternoon tea muffin. The kind of muffin that gives you energy to hike the 6 miles back to the car when the rain is starting to drop big ploppy raindrops onto your already wet back. Yes. These muffins are perfect as a fuel snack. Though they ARE actually delicious with tea in the afternoon too, I mean, I've polished off quite a few. Today I had 2. Yesterday I had 4. The other day when I was hiking I had 3 on top of Sandstone peak. And then Carly had one, and Aaron had 4 (4!) and I've made 4 batches in one week, which means they're received very well regardless.

Ok, and the best part: I didn't tell anyone that they were kinda 'healthy' and they liked them anyway. I always find that if someone knows it's healthy then they have a lower standard for tastiness. As in: "it's great... for gluten free." I try not to judge things in that way because I'd honestly rather go without than fool my tastebuds into accepting a substitute. And don't worry, by 'healthy' I mean not laden with white flour and white sugar. They will still go straight to your ass, unless you're eating them on top of a mountain. Just in case you thought I was bringing you diet food. No, dear reader, I will never stoop that low.

A note on almond flour: I use blanched almond flour. I use the one by Bob's Red Mill. I had one packet that tasted stale and disgusting, and the whole batch of muffins had big crunchy almond chunks and that strange bitter almond flavour. They were not good. The rest of the batches were perfect-- moist and full of flavour, with no weird bitter almond taste at all. The tester for me is tasting the batter. If the batter tastes good, then the muffins will too. In fact the batter tastes so good that I insist on tasting it about eight times just to be sure.

Banana almond muffins

adapted very slightly from Elana's Pantry

makes 12

3 bananas with brown spots

1/2 cup melted butter

2 large eggs

 

1 1/2 cups almond flour

1 tb arrowroot powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup honey

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Mash the bananas in a bowl, and add the butter and eggs. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl, and then combine the two. Spoon into individual cupcake tins. Cook at 350 for approximately 30 minutes-- but check after 25 minutes. The top should be golden brown and they should not cave in under a gentle pressing.