In the spirit of turning over a new leaf for the new year, we're bringing a new focus to the blog in addition to Herbal Preparedness: Botanical DIY! To kick it off, we’ve put together a list of 12 things every herbalist needs to do for 2015. Call them your Resolutions or (if you hate New Year's Resolutions) call them your bucket list- but either way, do them! And we want to help.
We’ll still have plenty of in-depth articles coming your way on herbal preparedness topics. Being herbally prepared is practical and important- but without a good foundation of health, there’s not much point in other preparations. Health goes so much farther than taking a capsule or a premade extract, and we think that creating an herbal lifestyle that is gorgeous, delicious, and amazing at every turn should be at the top of the page for every herbalist’s to do list!
In addition to trying out some of the tips and projects below, we also encourage you to pick an unfamiliar herb every month and read up on it. We’ll get you started with our new monthly article series, Botanical Feature- not only will we be posting an original IH article on an unusual or often overlooked herb every month (starting with Peony for January), we’ve put together a first-rate roundup of resources so you can learn even more.
If you're looking for some fun, creative ways to boost your herbal skills over the coming year, this is the place to be. So without further ado, here is The Independent Herbalist’s Ultimate New Year's Resolutions/Botanical Bucket List for 2015!
12 New Year's Resolutions for Every Herbalist: A Botanical Bucket List
1. Establish a Local Beat
Plants are at the heart of what we do, so every herbalist needs to feel connected to their local ecosystem. Find a local hiking trail, a neighborhood walking route, or a local park and commit to explore it once a month for the coming year. Besides, walking is good for you. Take a field guide and learn to identify plants along the way. For best results, spend some time every month browsing the field guide while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee- you'd be surprised how far this goes in helping you. Before long, you'll start to think "Hmm, this looks familiar. . . " and looking up the plants will be that much easier. I'll be photo documenting some of my favorite haunts and excursions this year and sharing here to the blog. Be sure to tag me on twitter or facebook to share yours, or add #herbalhaunts to your instagram photos or twitter pics.
2. Make an Herbal Treat or Confection
Who says herbal preparations have to taste nasty? Not this herbalist! Try an herbal nut butter ball like this one at Methow Valley Herbs if you don’t believe me. Or perhaps some Rose and Hawthorn Turkish Delight like the one at Cauldron and Crockpots. Or maybe an herbal infused honey, or liquor, or lollipops. . . The possibilities are nearly endless!
3. Make an Herbal Jelly
Mint, Rose, Lavender, Dandelion- if you can make a tea with it, you can turn it into a jelly! These unusual herbal delicacies are fantastic on home baked goodies or even in meat and vegetable dishes. Perhaps stirred into yogurt? Mmmm. I’ll be revisiting my Dandelion Jelly post from the archives, with updated tips and tricks this March.
4. Have a Tea Party
Actually, have lots of tea parties. Herbal teas are good for you and come in an astounding array of flavors and varieties. I love tea, and the only thing better than a tea party is an impromptu herbal tea party in an unusual location. Think "like a picnic", but less prep needed and way more wow factor. Oh, yes- in April, we’re going to show you how. I’m also going to be introducing my own line of goodies this year, Hawker and Pedlar: Teas and Botanical Curiosities. But Shhhhh! That’s going to be a surprise! ;) Mountain Rose's Sunday Steep is a need to know resource for tea recipes, and then there's this roundup of 52 tea recipes at A Delightful Home.
5. Grow Something Herbal-y
Every herbalist should try growing a plant at least once. Be careful, though, you might get hooked- tending plants is fascinating. Buying a plant is usually a good investment for first time gardeners, because herb seeds can be a tad finicky. . . .ok, actually, they can be a pain in the backside- some of them take a whole year of twiddling their thumbs underground before they sprout. My personal favorite plant for first time herb gardening from seed is valerian- it’s unusual, comes up quickly, grows like a weed, and has beautiful vanilla scented flowers. Don’t despair if you are short on space- in May we’re going to focus on neat things to be grow in containers. Here's a few ideas (well, 35 of them) to get you started. Oh, and these are really great, too.
6. Make a Specimen Book for Medicinal Trees
Trees are often overlooked by the beginning herbalist- and sometimes even by experienced herbalists too- which is a shame. So many trees have provided medicinal barks, leaves, and flowers throughout history, not to mention fruit, nuts, dyes, basketry and furniture-making materials. So why not spend a little time getting to know them? Even though the best time to harvest tree bark for herbal uses is in the spring or fall when the sap rises, June will be a good time to collect and press leaves and take bark rubbings (Think it sounds grade school? You know me better than that. Just wait.)
7. Have a Midsummer Night’s Dream
Make herbal dream pillows or eye mask and enjoy some Dreamy herb tea. July is the perfect month to focus on herbal traditions surrounding sleep and dreams, maybe with some summer stargazing thrown in. Homespun Seasonal Living has a delightful article on herbal dream pillows that shouldn't be missed.
8. Soak in an Herbal Bath
Luxurious and decadent, soothing and calming, or simply rejuvenating- there are herbal bath add-ins for every mood and purpose. Check out Mama Rosemary's herbal bath recipes, or the ones over at Crunchy Betty. Come on, even Martha Stewart likes Tub Teas! In August, we’ll look at home spa treatments based on turn of the century health secrets and as well as other more serious ways to use herbs in the bath.
9. Add an Adaptogen
A special class of herbs known as adaptogens have been studied for their ability to support our bodies during times of stress and to boost fitness. Herbalist David Winston wrote a great overview on adaptogens that's a must read. In October, we’ll take a look at why they are useful and ways to incorporate them into the diet. Whether you’re a survival buff wanting to maintain peak fitness, someone battling a stressful, high performance job, or simply a curious herbal hobbyist- learning about adaptogens is a great way to take your herbal skills to the next level. Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston is the book to get if you want to learn more.
10. Make an Herbal Infused Wine
Believe it or not, infused wines were once a standby in the herbal bag o’ tricks. The interesting thing about wine as a menstruum, or liquid used when making an herbal extract, is that it can be made at home from start to finish. Brandies and vodkas, the more common choices of herbal hobbyists for their elixir making, require special licensing and legalities to be produced. Not very DIY friendly at all. Herbal wines can be made start to finish at home (doesn't this violet wine sound intriguing?) Herbal infused wines, which start with either a homemade or store-bought fruit wine, can be incorporated into menu plans, enjoyed on special occasions, or help set that perfect seasonal mood. In addition to being used in more traditional ways, of course. We'll explore this topic even more in October.
11. Get Creative in the Kitchen
Sure, everyone’s familiar with a sprinkling of so-called culinary herbs in recipes to add flavor and spice to cooking. But did you know that you can use herbs to infuse oils, butter, salt, and vinegar for even more incredible variety? If you haven’t ever experimented with these wonderful recipes, you definitely should. There’s a good primer on the topic at The Mountain Rose Blog, and Kami McBride wrote a book that I absolutely adore called The Herbal Kitchen. Just in time for the holidays, we'll be experimenting with new and different culinary infusions here on The Independent Herbalist in November.
12. Learn to Love Bitters
Bitters- bitter flavored herbs that help support digestion and health- were once an important aspect of the herbal recipe compendium. Learning Herbs provides a handy run-down (and recipe) on why bitter herbs are important for health, and there's more great info to be found in Blessed Bitters by Jim McDonald. Convinced? Check out this article at The Kitchn for ideas to make your own. We'll be gearing up for all things Bitter in December.
I can't wait to share 2015 with all of you, and hope you have wonderful herbal adventures in addition to your prepping. Remember- all work and no play makes Jack (or Jill!) a boring herbalist!
Best wishes for the Best of Health,
Tell us in the comments- What's on your Botanical Bucket List for 2015?
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