[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 38 – 5 Ways to Get Ready for Spring with Herbs

Posted in Uncategorized on February 4th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far

5 Ways to Get Ready for Spring with Herbs

Each new year is a surprise to us. We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again, it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous state of existence…The voice of nature is always encouraging.” 

– Henry David Thoreau

We are halfway to spring! And none too soon, the kids are tired of cold, damp weather, lack of sunshine and warm sunny days to spend long periods of time outside. I have to admit, I am too. Winter is not my favorite season though I do like the down time to get caught up on things, I’d much prefer to be sitting barefoot out in my garden.

The cycle of the year is always shifting and at this time of year, the most evident shift is in the amount of light we get each day. We still eat dinner in the dark, though now, there is a bit of orange on the western horizon as we do so, reminding us that warmth and sunlight are returning.

During the winter especially, we love to celebrate anything we can to take our minds off of winter! This time of the year, we celebrate the halfway mark to spring with a few herbal activities. Today’s newsletter is all about those activities.


Start your herb seeds.
Last week’s newsletter talked about planning out your herb garden. If your seeds have arrived, go ahead and start them in an indoor planting bed. Kids love to plant seeds and an indoor planting bed can be made easily with a cardboard egg carton, some organic soil and a ziplock bag large enough for the carton to fit inside. Tear the top off the cartons (use them as trays for the bottom), fill each egg hole with moist organic soil, add the seeds and place them in the ziplock bag. You might want to write on the outside of the egg carton what seed is in each egg hole with a sharpie marker. The ziplock bag makes a nice mini greenhouse and helps to keep the soil moist longer. Set it in front of a sunny window and watch for the seeds to sprout.

Kids may enjoy keeping a journal about the daily activity, making notes on how long the seeds take to germinate, grow true leaves and get big enough to be planted into larger containers. The can also sketch the growth stages, this is great for them to do if they are choosing to work with 1 special herb for the year.


Make herbal candles.
We always burn a candle at dinner time, even if it’s light outside. It’s a nice representation of meal time and if I forget to light it, the kids always let me know. It signals our time together as a family without any outside electronic distractions and as long as the candle is burning, no one is allowed to use their phones, iPads or computer.

Beeswax candles are wonderful. The natural smell of the wax is soothing and they are long lasting. Try your hand at making your own beeswax candles. You can either dip them by using melted wax and wicking or if you prefer a simpler version, order some beeswax sheets and hand roll them.

Once they have been made, decorate the outside of your candles with herbs. To do so, choose the herbs you’d like to use. If you have access to all the herbs that you’ll be learning about for the year, use different leaves or flowers for each candle to burn for each month or try doing  a collage with a few herbs. Brush a bit of melted wax onto the back of the leaf or flower and stick it on the candle then dip the entire candle into the melted wax to completely coat the herbs.

For seeds, once the candles have been dipped, they can be stuck directly into the candle. Try doing a border of Coriander or Black Peppercorns, or alternate them on the same candle.


Update your nature table.
If you have a nature table, this is a great time to clean it off and get it ready for spring. We like to color coordinate our silk play cloths that we use for the table cloth with the season. This time of year, pale colors are nice or even pure white to represent the (hopefully) last of the snow. Our nature table is a collection of found treasures on our walks such as features, leaves, rocks, pods, seeds and so forth. Soon we’ll be finding remnants of egg shells as baby birds start hatching. Occasionally, an old nest that was blown out of a tree is added as well.


But for now, we add things that represent halfway between winter and spring. Animals who come out of hibernation, our friend the groundhog, seeds and so forth. Forced bulbs can add a touch of color, bright red tulips or deep purple hyacinths are lovely. A plate of herb seeds or a drawing of our herbal ally can be added as we anticipate their return in our garden. Even a bouquet of dried herbs and herbal flowers can be inspiring. Some of you are lucky enough to have Chickweed and other early risers showing up. If so, add a bouquet of it to your nature table.


Have a “Think Spring” mealtime celebration.
Dinner time is a special time for us. Everyone is home and gathered together, an occurrence that is more rare as the kids are getting older and involved with activities, work and so on. So when we can all gather together at dinner to celebrate, we love to do so!

Make some delicious herbal foods. If you’ve got that Chickweed or other early spring greens, add it to your salad along with some sprouts, many herb seeds are delicious sprouted. Red Clover, Alfalfa, Fenugreek, Fennel, Parsley, Milk Thistle, Burdock (one of my favorites!), Violets, Dandelion. You may be lucky enough to find some of your weeds sprouting in your garden already, just be sure to positively ID them before eating them. I often make sure to have lots of Burdock seeds in an area that I can harvest as they sprout. They are a delicious spring treat. Violets are also very prolific with their sprouts. If you would prefer to sprout your own, buy your seeds from the health food store. Use some herbal vinegars ind infused oils for your salad dressing.

Make some savory herbal muffins. Cornbread is a nice base and the yellow is a nice sunshiny touch.

Make some delicious Raspberry Lemonade or an herbal soda (see recipe below).

Herbal soda recipe

2 oz. herbal syrup of choice (Elderberry, Peppermint, Ginger, Basil, Lemon Balm, etc)

8 oz. seltzer water

This is the basic combination to make 1 cup of soda. Increase it to the amount you need for everyone.

Be sure to finish off your meal with a tasty herbal dessert! The Chipotle Flourless Cake is a great choice, perhaps topped with your favorite herbal ice cream. My current favorite is the Bay Laurel ice cream that was in last month’s issue.

Bay Laurel ice cream

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup Demerara sugar
6 Bay leaves
6 egg yolks
Pinch sea salt

Combine the cream, milk, sugar and Bay leaves in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Let the mixture infuse for up to 8 hours in the refrigerator. You may choose to chill overnight in the refrigerator.

Warm the mixture back up to just below a boil.

Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl with the sea salt until smooth. Gradually pour about one-third of the hot milk mixture into the eggs to temper them. Then stir the egg mixture into the cream mixture over medium-low heat, stirring the entire time.

Cook until the custard mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil or you will get scrambled eggs.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Refrigerate, covered, 4 – 8 hours.

Freeze the mixture in an ice-cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve with Bay Laurel syrup.


Start your spring cleaning!
This is my sneaky way of getting kids to help out with cleaning. We select old herbal vinegars that we’ve made over the past year that we have an excess of and use them diluted in water to make a natural cleaner that we use to start cleaning our windows (on nice springlike days), the kitchen and the bathroom. This is especially fun to do on a cold snowy day, using our cleaning tools and herbs to banish winter from our house and welcome the return of spring. We get into the nooks and crannies, cleaning out the wood stove dust and purging out old clothes that no longer fit us.

This is also a great time to go through any dried herbs you might have stashed away. If the herbs have lost their potency, compost them. We do a simple check: does the herb still look freshly dried or has it turned brown and dead looking? Does it still smell fragrant? Do they still taste as they should? While organizing your dried herb stash, you can make a list of what you’ve used for the past year and what you need to collect in the upcoming year. My kids love to crush and smell a bit of the dried herbs, especially the aromatic ones such as Peppermint. It can be an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon.

Don’t limit the spring cleaning to your house. If the weather permits, head outside and start clearing away the plant debris. This is a great time to review what was in the garden last year and challenge the kids to identify the plant skeletons. It’s also a great time to observe the trees before they begin to leaf out.


How do you like to get ready for spring? Do your kids enjoy participating in clearing out the garden and doing the spring cleaning? How do you bring herbs and spring together in your house?

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 37 – Planning Your Herb Garden with Kids

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments

planning your herb garden

My spirit was lifted and my soul nourished by my time in the garden. It gave me a calm connection with all of life, and an awareness that remains with me now, long after leaving the garden. 

-Nancy Ross

This time of year, seed catalogs arrive in the mail daily, stirring up dreams of the upcoming year’s garden and all the dreams and hopes that it holds. I get giddy just pouring over those fabulous pages of photographs, drawings and descriptions, always turning to the selection of new seeds to see what new options I’ll have at my fingertips this year.

While it’s exciting to go through them, it’s easy to get carried away and order more seeds than your garden can possibly hold or that you have time to manage. And, if you’re like me and you are including your kids in on the experience, it can get overwhelming really easily. So just where do you start? Today I’m sharing with you some tips and ideas on how to plan out a fantastic herb garden that you and your children will enjoy for a long time, from sowing to harvesting and beyond.

Be selective with your sources.

You’ll be getting all different types of seed catalogs with a huge variety of options: some are heirloom only, some gmo-free, and many with lots of gmo seed and hybrids. Toss out those catalogs with hybrids, especially if you want to save seed from your annuals, as hybrids do not grow well from saved seed. Gmo’s should be avoided as well. There are plenty of great choices with what’s left. Some of my favorite sources here in the USA are Horizon Herbs, Thyme Garden, Baker’s Creek, Bountiful Gardens and Pinetree Garden Seeds. If you’re interested in adding medicinal mushrooms to your garden (a great project for kids), try Fungi Perfecti.

Plot out your garden space.

Get a pad of graph paper from the office store and got outside to measure your garden. This is a great lesson for kids and they love to help out whenever there’s a tape measure involved. Next, go inside and plot it out on graph paper. Mark any permanent fixtures such as fencing, bird baths, tool sheds, raised beds, etc. You may need to go back outside once you have the rough measurements drawn on the graph paper to add in the details. That’s fine, and it’s good to double check your work.

Mark shady spots so you’ll know which locations are in full shade, part sun or full sun.

How about plots for the kids? Some kids like to have their own special plot while others like to just help out with the general gardening. Adding in a spot for a Sunflower garden house or a Passionflower (instead of a bean pole) tipi is a great way to get them involved in herbal gardening. Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy is a great book for inspiration as is her book Sunflower Houses: Inspiration from the Garden.

Don’t have garden space? Consider container gardening. You can grow many medicinal herbs in pots on your patio, deck, balcony or anywhere you have a bit of sunny space. Check out Pinterest for many ideas on how to grow a garden when you don’t have a lot of room.

Take inventory.

Do you have any perennials growing in your garden? Be sure to mark those on your existing garden space. Make a note of any that you know will be crowding out others (Comfrey, Mugwort, Motherwort and Mints are often the culprits) so that you can plan to get them thinned out as soon as they make an appearance. Do you have anything growing that is getting old and may not return? Some tender perennials such as Rosemary, Lavender and Sage often die off over winter, especially if it was colder than usual.

Plan ahead.

Now that you know what you have growing, what new things would you like to grow? Often it’s best to make this list before you start eyeing those luscious seed catalogs. Time for the wishlist later. What do you want to learn about this year? If you subscribe to Herbal Roots zine, you’ll want to have most of those herbs growing this year and now’s the perfect time of the year to start planning for that. If you are selecting random back issues that interest you and your kids, pick 10 – 20 herbs to start with.

Figure out planting requirements.

Now it’s time to dive into those seed catalogs! Seed catalogs are a wealth of information. Not only do they give a description of the plant but they’ll tell you how big each plant gets, if it’s an annual, perennial or biennial, if it needs lots of sun, shade or a combination and the zones it can grow in. Use that information to determine where you’ll place your plants in your garden. You might find it easier to slip the drawn map of your garden into a clear paper sleeve so that you can use a dry erase marker to mark the plants locations. Once you’re finished, you can place that directly on your scanner or copier to make a completed copy or you can remove the original drawing from the sleeve and write it with a pen.

Tackle the Wishlist.

Once you’ve got all the plants you absolutely want/need to have in your garden, go back over it and look for blank spaces. What do you need filling in? Make a note of that and now it’s time for you and your kids to have fun!

What new herbs catch your eye as you thumb through them? Is there an herb you’ve always wanted to grow but never have? One that you’d like to work with on a more intimate basis? Are most of your herbs quiet bloomers and you’d like to add a splash of colorful flowers to it? The more variety and color you have in your garden, the prettier it will be and the more likely it will be to attract natural pollinators (bees, butterflies and other insects) to help your garden flourish. Don’t be afraid to add a few vegetables in there as well. I love growing my tomatoes among the Borage and Basil and the Celery makes a great border for the Skullcap and Lobelia. I even leave patches of Dandelion and Violets amongst the plants too. Not only do they help to keep other ‘weeds’ at bay, but then they are easy to access when I need them.

Place your order.

Decide if you’ll be ordering seeds or plants or a combination of both. Seeds can be started in containers early so they’ll be ready for planting out after your freeze date while plants are generally shipped to you when it’s time to plant. Some plants self seed freely and can be direct sown at the proper time; instructions will be provided with each seed packet for each plant’s needs.

You are on your way to having an amazing herb garden this year! What will you be planting this year in your herb garden? Do you have any favorites you grow year after year? What new plants will you be trying out this year? Do you give your kids their own garden plot?

50% Off Sale on all BACK ISSUES!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 27th, 2015 by KristineBrown — 3 Comments


From now until Friday, January 30, 2015 ALL back issues are 50% off! Missing a few single issues? Need to grab an annual? Wanting to get the entire collection? Now’s your chance to do so at a great rate! Sale prices will be reflected in the cart.

This offer does NOT apply to the annual subscription.

Please note:  ALL issues are PDF form only, there are no paper copies available.

And, as a reminder, any time you subscribe to Herbal Roots zine, the entire year of 2009 comes FREE with your purchase so if you don’t have any of these issues, you can get 2 years for the price of 1!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 36 – Create a “Herb-of-the-Month” Club

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


One of my students told me that every time she learns the name of a plant, she feels as if she is meeting someone new. Giving a name to something is a way of knowing it.” 

― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

It’s a new year, making it a great time to start a Herbal Roots zine “Herb-of-the-Month” club!

Just what is a Herb-of-the-Month club?

“Herb of the Month” Club is a great way to get kids together to learn about herbs! Kids get together on a regular basis to discuss herbs, make herbal remedies, do crafts and learn about herbs.

What are the benefits of a Herb-of-the-Month club?

By committing to learning about 1 herb each month, kids will learn in depth about each herb. By joining together, they can share their ideas and experiences with their uses and study of that herb, reinforcing what they’ve learned while teaching each other.

How can I start a Herb-of-the-Month club?

It’s simple! First, decide who you want to be a part of your club. Are you homeschoolers? Perhaps you will want to create a group for your local homeschool cooperative. Or get together with a group of homeschooling friends who are interested. Those who are not homeschoolers can get together after school or on the weekends.

If you’re interested in hosting a Herb-of-the-Month club but don’t know a lot of people, hang flyers at your local library, health food store, church, park or a nature center if you have one.

Where can we meet at?

Libraries often offer community rooms. Churches do as well. Or meet at someone’s home, maybe take turns hosting the classes so that kids can see the herbs growing in a variety of settings. If you have a local nature center, try them as well.

How often should we meet?

It’s best to meet on a regular basis. Every week or every two weeks is a good choice. By meeting a few times a month, the kids will have a chance to discuss what they’ve been working on or learning over the previous week(s).

How long should we meet for?

Depending on the age of the kids, 2 hours is generally enough. Younger kids will need shorter times but will enjoy listening to the stories, singing the songs and doing a craft activity. Also schedule in some games (see our website for ideas on adapting well known games for herbs).

So, we’ve got the kids, we’ve got the location, we’ve set the dates, now what?

Decide if you want to do a pre-determined list of herbs for the year or let the kids select them at their first meeting. There are 72 issues of Herbal Roots zine at the moment, with another added on each month. You might choose to subscribe for a year’s worth of issues and follow along as they come out. For longer planning and more choices, choose from the 72 back issues of Herbal Roots zine!

Now for the fun part…

Each family purchases the chosen issues for the club so they can download and print off a copy for each of their children that are participating. Each child should also have:

~1 hard sided binder to put their issues in
~1 sketchbook
~Pencil bag
~Pencils for sketching
~Waterproof pen for sketching (Micron .5 is a nice brand/size)
~Kneadable eraser

Be sure the group has access to the following (or have each family provide their own):

~Magnifying glasses
~Colored pencils, watercolors, and/or watercolor pencils
~Clear packing tape
~Various art and kitchen supplies (see each issue for specifics)

story time

Optional (makes story and music time more fun):

~Musical instruments such as drums, maracas, rattles, triangles, sticks, tambourines

Once you have the issues, print off the first issue and flip through it. The newer issues (April 2014 and beyond) and older revised issues all have 4 week calendar schedules. You can follow those to plan out your weeks. Some of the activities can be done during the club meeting, some can be done at home. Here is a sample schedule for the outdated ones (I am in the process of revising all issues but it will probably take me a few years to get them all completed). Please note you may need to make some adjustments for it to fit the issue you are working with.

Sample Calendar

Alternatively, you can follow this schedule. If the group is middle aged kids and older, try to get the kids to facilitate the learning. Maybe they can appoint a ‘leader’ for each week to lead the discussion. Be sure to let them have time each week to discuss with each other what they’ve learned about the plant they are learning about.

If you are meeting bi-weekly, combine activities from weeks 1 & 2 and weeks 3 & 4.

Herb-of-the-month Club

Week 1:

If possible, have a live specimen available for the kids to touch, smell, taste, look at and get to know. If it’s growing in its natural environment, even better but a potted version will work as will some clippings harvested right before the meeting. Let the kids look at the plant but don’t tell them anything about it. You might choose to have a plant for each kid to take home with them for planting or using throughout the month.

Have the kids fill out the Herb Spirit page 1 with their impressions of the herb.

Discuss the plant, read the all about section to them (or have them take turns reading it aloud).

Play a herbally adapted game to reinforce what they’ve just learned about the plant.

Choose a recipe to do. Extracts (alcohol and vinegar) are best done early on since they need to sit for a few weeks before using. Oils can be done early on too, especially if salve making will be happening. If the plant is a food based plant (one that can be eaten), have them create a recipe and bring it to the next class or everyone to try out. Make sure to have them write down their recipes on the journal page in each issue or in their sketchbook. Remind them to shake their extracts daily at home.

Sing the song about the plant.

Give them activities to do throughout the week such as find the plant growing in their yard, sketch the plant in their yard, go online to read some of the links that are shared in the resource section, do a few of the puzzles and so on. Ask them to re-read the All About section in the next few days at least once so they become more familiar with the plant.

Week 2:

Have a live specimen available. Let them look at the plant up close and write down what they observe. Start with what they see on the plant. Every detail: hairs, leaves opposite or alternating or whorled? Stems square or round? Are there thorns? If flowering, what is the flower’s color? How many petals? How many sepals? What are the shapes of the leaves? Are they toothed?

Review what they’ve learned about the plant so far. Ask questions such as:

What is the plant’s botanical name?

What family is it in?

Is it an annual or a perennial?

What vitamins and minerals does the plant have?

Is it warming or cooling?

Drying or moistening?

Sweet? Sour? Pungent? Bitter?…

Have them name 5 actions (or do a round robin game and each kid names an action in turn and when someone can’t remember an action, they stand in the middle until all the actions are named).

Sing the song again and see if they can come up with another verse.

Ask about their extracts…have they noticed them changing colors? Have them describe their extracts and remind them to keep shaking them every day (and fun thing can be for them to sing the plant’s song to the extract each day when they shake it).

Choose another recipe to do. If they’ve made a food item, let everyone try them out.

Play another herbally adapted game.

Give them activities to do throughout the week: do a few of the puzzles, maybe make one of the recipes such as a tea. Ask them to re-read the All About section at least once during the week. Have them tell a friend or family member what they’ve learned about the plant.


Week 3:

Have a live specimen available. Review what they discovered through the magnifying glass last week. Have them look again if they want and sketch a few of the details in their sketchbooks. If it is included in the issue that you are working in, have them complete the botany section.

Review the All About section again or if they’ve been reviewing it at home, have them call out all the things the plant can help them with. Ask them based on the actions that they have what other things the plant might be good for (ie. if it’s a carminative, would it be good for an upset stomach? nausea? gas?).

Have them fill out the plant profile template.

If appropriate, have any of the kids been using the plant at home (for food or medicine)? For instance, say you are learning about Peppermint and someone had an upset stomach. Did they make a cup of Peppermint tea to drink?

Do a craft.

Week 4:

This is the week to wrap up!

Have them do Page 2 of the Herb Spirits. How did their answers change or stay the same? What did they learn about the plant that they were surprised to learn?

Pass around the live specimen. As each kid holds it, have them share one thing about the plant. It can be anything: a description of the plant, a use for the plant, a type of medicine they made from the plant, how the plant makes them feel (while they are looking at it or when they are using it). Maybe they’d like to recite a poem they wrote about the plant or tell a story they made up about the plant. Or how they will use the plant in the future.

Make a salve if appropriate for the plant you are learning about.

Sing the song.

Pretend to be the plant and dance like the plant would dance while you sing the song. This can start out as a discussion (would Burdock have a deep singing voice and move slowly since he works slowly in the body? would Blackberry or Rose have his claws out, grabbing at everybody? …)

Give the kids time to finish up anything in the issue that they haven’t had a chance to do.

Finish up with a celebration of that plant. Have an infusion or tea blend made (if appropriate, some might not be so good to drink!), or popsicles, herbal soda, etc. Make some herb themed foods to eat such as cookies or candied leaves or ice cream.


Other optional ideas:

~At the beginning of the year, after the plants are decided on, schedule a 2nd meeting to get together and either plant a community garden plot with all the plants they will be learning about that year OR plant seeds in pots for them to each take home.

~At the end of the year, have a herb celebration to honor the 12 herbs you’ve learned about for the year. Have food themed with the 12 herbs. Play herbal bingo. Winners could win herb seeds for the next year’s round of plants, decorated labels for their jars, or other herb related items.

Have you thought about creating a “Herb-of-the-Month” club in your area or have you started one already? Tell us what works well for you!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 35 – Turn Your Holiday Tree into Medicine and More!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 7th, 2015 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Turn Your Holiday Tree into Medicine and More!

As children observe, reflect, record, and share nature’s patterns and rhythms, they are participating in a process that promotes scientific and ecological awareness, problem solving, and creativity.” 

– Deb Matthews Hensley, early childhood consultant

Now that the holidays are over, you may be wondering what to do with that luscious cut pine (or spruce or fir) tree. It’s the perfect time to have a Pine medicine making party! Didn’t have a live tree? You can still do most of these activities, just go outside and prune some branches from the conifer tree in your backyard!

A word of caution: If you are using a recycled holiday tree, be sure to check with the source that the tree has not been sprayed with a flam retardant or other chemical sprays. Generally local tree farms do not spray their trees but sometimes commercial tree lots do.

From left to right: Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir and White Pine branches

From left to right: Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir and White Pine branches

What can you do with that tree? Here are 10 ideas that kids will love! (Pine, Spruce, Fir and Juniper can all be used for these projects):

~You can prop your tree outside to give refuge to birds and other small animals. It’s a special bonus for them if you have strung popcorn and cranberries on the tree for decoration. Make some peanut butter seed pinecones to hang on the branches for extra treats.

pine bird 04 - craft

To make a pine cone bird feeder, you will need:

Large pinecones
2 ft. yarn or twine
2 Tbsp. Peanut butter per pine cone
2 Tbsp. lard or butter per pine cone
Plate or pie pan

Make a slipknot in the end of the yarn and attach it to the top of the pinecone.

pine bird 01 - craft

Mix the peanut butter and lard or shortening together and smear over the surface of the pinecone.

pine bird 02 - craft

Pour the birdseed on the plate or pie pan. Roll the pinecone in the seed to fully coat.

pine bird 03 - craft

Place the pinecones in the freezer for about an hour to firm up the mixture. Hang in a tree outside for the birds to enjoy!

~Cut the trunk off to use as your yule log for next year.

~Prune off several branches and make a wreath out of them. To do this, get a wire coat hanger, bend the lower portion into a circle (leave the hook on the top for a hook to hang your wreath from. Prune your branches into manageable lengths, and using floral wire, tie the branches onto the wire. Continue going around the circle until it is completely filled. Decorate your wreath with winter symbols such as pine cones, snowflakes, birds or other woodland creatures and a bow if you’d like and hang it on your back door.


~Chop up some needles to make Pine Infused Vinegar. Simply fill a jar half full with the chopped needles and fill to the top with a good apple cider vinegar. It’s ready to use in about 3 weeks and will give a citrusy flavor to your vinegar. It’s great for sprinkling on meats, salads and beans.

~Harvest some needles to dry for adding to teas. Pine needle tea is delicious and full of vitamin C. Play around with adding dried needles to your favorite herbal tea recipes.


~Pine needle syrup is also full of vitamin C and great for soothing coughs. Make a basic syrup by first making a tea from the needles and water. Steep it for 30 minutes then strain off the needles. Measure your liquid and add an equal amount of raw sugar. Bring it to a boil and gently simmer until it has reduced to about half the amount and thickened. Pour into a bottle and store in the fridge.

~Infuse some needles in oil. Place chopped needles in a jar with your favorite oil. Coconut oil, olive oil and grape seed oil all make great oils. Place the jar in a warm place for two weeks until the oil has been infused. Strain it off. You can turn this oil into a salve by adding a bit of beeswax to the oil (melt together in a double boiler). Generally I find 1 oz. of beeswax for every 8 oz. oil to be a good combination.


~My friend Ananda Wilson of Amrita Aromatics makes the most delightful Fir needle elixir. She has the recipe for this plus many, many more ideas in this conifer filled post.

~Does your tree have long needles? Remove them from the branches and spread them to dry. Once they are dried, you can use them for making pine needle baskets. The Pine issue of Herbal Roots zine has instructions on how to do this. 

~Use your needles for cooking. The branches can be soaked in water and added to the roasting pan to give a citrusy flavor to your foods. My friend Lisa Rose of Burdock & Rose has a great write-up for culinary uses of various conifers on her website.

BONUS idea…

~After you have stripped the needles from the branches, bind a few branches together in bundles. Once they have dried, they make great fire starters.

If you had a cut tree in your house for the holidays, what ways have you found to recycle it? Leave us a comment!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 34 – Herbal Resolutions for 2015

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31st, 2014 by KristineBrown — 1 Comment so far


Your deepest roots are in nature.  No matter who you are, where you live, or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation. 

– Charles Cook

It’s the last day of 2014 and time for reflection on the past year as well as insight for the upcoming year.

Many made a commitment to themselves and their children this past year to learn about herbs and teach them to their children. The outpouring of emails in my inbox have been overflowing with stories from families returning to the old ways of medicine, using herbs that grow out of this amazing planet we all call home. Still others are just now joining in, determined that this will be the year they take the leap and learn about them with their children.

Wherever you are on your herbal journey, make a resolution/goal/intention to deepen that path more fully this year. Here are some ideas to get you started:

~ Commit to 1 or 2 herbs to focus on this year. This is especially helpful if you get overwhelmed with trying to learn about herbs for the first time. Choose a back issue or two of Herbal Roots zine that appeals to you and focus on them for the entire year instead of a month. Make every imaginable herbal remedy with that plant, even if it’s never been done before. How will you know the plants full range of use if you don’t try them all out? It’s better to know 5 herbs intimately than 50 superficially, you will have a better success rate at healing your friends and family with this method than trying to learn it all. Over time, that knowledge base will increase to knowing 50 plants intimately.

~ Pick a plant family to learn about this year. Learning about the details of a plant family can help in so many ways. For instance, when you’re wildcrafting or on a nature walk, you can learn to identify spot a member of that plant family even if you don’t know the specific genus and/or species. By doing so, you will know the major medicinal characteristics of that plant family. Thomas Elpel goes into detail in his botany books Shanleya’s Quest (and card game) and Botany in a Day.

~ If you haven’t already, start a nature/herbal journal. List the plants that grow in your backyard, write down the plants you want to grow in your garden this year, sketch pictures of the house plants or the skeletal remains of plants outdoors. This is a great time to do tree bark rubbings too and try to learn to identify trees by their bark. Commit to 10 minutes a day, or start with 3 days a week to write in your journals. Be sure to have a journal for each member of your family, even little ones who can’t write. They will enjoy tagging along, “writing” in their journals and “sketching” the plants too. Need some ideas on what to put in your nature/herbal journal? I’ve got lots of great ideas here.

~ Start a herbal study group in your community, whether it be homeschool, church, scouts or to the public in general. Learning together strengthens your resolve to actually take the time to study instead of adding it to the bottom of each day’s to do list that never gets crossed off.

~ If all of these things seem overwhelming, start small. Just make a commitment to go outside every day, rain or shine, for 10 minutes. Take a walk around the yard, block or through the garden to see what’s going on. How are the plants responding to the weather changes? What can you discover even when everything is under 6 inches of snow? You will be amazed at your discoveries. Over time, you might feel moved to write these observations down. You might also find that though you only intended to be outside for 10 minutes, an hour has gone by and the kids are building rafts to float down a nearby stream out of bark or picking rose hips to nibble on while they roll out snowballs to make a snow man. Generally, that first step is all it takes to open the door. Kids are more likely to go outside if you make the commitment to go yourself.

How about you, what are your goals/intentions/resolutions for this upcoming year? Have you made a commitment to get your kids outside, exploring nature and the plants more this year? Are you offering any classes for your homeschool group, church group or scouting group this year? Will you choose a few plants to focus on this year?  How do you plan to add herbal knowledge to you and your kids’ everyday life? Take a few moments to consider what herbal resolutions you have for 2015. When you’re done,  I’d love to hear about it, tell me in the comments!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 33 – Chipotle Flourless Cake Recipe

Posted in Uncategorized on December 25th, 2014 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar.

– Helen Hayes

This is our last week of Cayenne and then we’ll be moving on to Bay Laurel so I thought I’d share a family favorite. This recipe was given to me by my sister and not only is it delicious but it’s gluten free and has just enough heat to make it interesting but not so much that kids won’t love it.


Because of the season, I like to cut out a snowflake to place on top while I dust it with powdered sugar but at other times of the year I adapt it for over holidays as well (hearts for Valentine’s day, tulips for spring, a spiraling sun for summer, leaves for autumn…). It is quick and easy to make as well.

Chipotle Flourless Cake
by Kim Anderson

7 tablespoons butter
10 oz semi or bitter sweet chocolate

1 cup demerara sugar
5 large eggs

3/4 teaspoon powdered chipotle*
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/4 teaspoon ginger*
a pinch of sea salt*

powdered sugar

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 9″ spring form pan. Coat the sides of the pan and the parchment paper with butter. Set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring. When it has completely melted, set aside.

Mix together the sugar and eggs, on high speed in a mixer until smooth. When the chocolate mixture has cooled, slowly start drizzling it into the mixer until the entire mixture is combined.

Add the spices and stir to mix.

Pour into the pan and bake for 22 – 25 minutes until the center passes the clean toothpick test.

Set on a wire rack to cool. Release from the spring form pan, place on a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar. If you want to create a beautiful design, place a paper template on the top of the cake and sprinkle lightly. Carefully remove the paper template (I use a wide spatula to help lift it off, this is also a great job for the kids to help with as extra hands makes it easier to move away from the cake).

Serve up as is, with freshly whipped cream, or homemade ice cream (vanilla, cinnamon or cayenne are perfect compliments). For extra deliciousness, enjoy with a hot mug of Spicy Cocoa!

Happy Holidays!

*Need a source for your herbs? I choose Mountain Rose Herbs whenever possible!

[Herbal Rootlets] No. 32 – Fun Herbal Games for Kids

Posted in Uncategorized on December 18th, 2014 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


The physical exercise and emotional stretching that children enjoy in unorganized play is more varied and less time-bound than is found in organized sports. Playtime—especially unstructured, imaginative, exploratory play—is increasingly recognized as an essential component of wholesome child development.” 

― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

Blustery cold days, stuck in the house, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the holidays…sound like your household? Why not whip up a batch of spicy hot cocoa and break out the herbal games for the kids to play? It’s a great time to snuggle, enjoy everyone’s company and distract kids from the countdown.

There are some great herbal games to be found, here are our favorite fun herbal games for kids!

Herbal Games


Herbal Bingo
This is a free template I made up a few years ago to share with all my herbal loving friends. You can download it directly from our website, print it off onto card stock, cut out the pieces and grab a handful of pennies.


This game is a hit wherever we take it! Kids and adults alike love to play this cooperative board game. It has a delightful storyline, encourages self sufficiency and teaches about herbs. The game cards can be used separately as flash cards as well. And right now, you can grab it from Amazon for a great price with free shipping for Amazon Prime members.


Shanleya’s Quest Card Game
I feel that botany is an important part of learning about herbs. Learning plant families can help kids learn to identify plants in the wild as well as learn to identify what unknown plants can be used for. There is also a great little book that goes along with the card set to teach plant families as well.

Garden Games
While not specifically herbal related, these great games teach kids about the importance of growing plants.

BG_Cover Set up

Gathering A Garden Board Game
This game contains no plastic pieces, has beautiful colors and sweet illustrations. The characters move around the board and try to collect one item from each of the five categories for their garden. 


The Garden Game
I could gaze at this beautiful game board all day. It’s very attractive to children too. The object of the game is to plant the largest garden and save the most seeds but during the game, players plant seeds, take care of the plants, have harvest festivals, nourish the earth and help one another during natural disasters. 


Photo by Living Earth Games

Living Landscapes
This is a cooperative card game from Living Earth Games that teaches about permaculture gardening, teaching children how every part of the landscape is connected to its surroundings. I love the idea of teaching children permaculture techniques as it is a more natural way of gardening and teaches companion planting. This is a basic card deck as well that can be used for playing card games. 

Photo by Living Earth Games

Photo by Living Earth Games

Gaia’s Garden
Also from Living Earth Games, this is another cooperative game to teach how plants and insects work together to create a balance in the garden. 

Photo by Living Earth Games

Photo by Living Earth Games

One Seed
The newest from Living Earth Games, this cooperative game teaches plant life cycles! All the players help to grow a healthy plant out of seed into a plant , through the 7 growing steps and again into new seed.


Physical Games
Got a great romper room area and more than a couple kids who want to work off some energy? Try one of our herbally adapted interactive games!

What games do your kids like to play? Have you adapted any regular games to help teach about herbs? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear about it and would love to share it on our games page.

[Herbal Rootlets] No. 31 – A Wintertime Treat Kids Will Love!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11th, 2014 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.

-Rachel Carson

This time of year often casts a sense of wonder over children. The wonders of winter are upon many of us and often bring back our own memories of childhood.

Watching snowflakes fall from the sky, sticking their tongues out to catch a flake, laughing when a large flake lands on their eyelashes.

Icicles hanging along the edge of a roof can provide hours of entertainment, from breaking them off and watching them shatter on the sidewalk to eating them like popsicles.

Building snowmen and snow forts and snowballs. Sledding and snowball fights. Snow angels in the snow.

Sliding on a frozen pond. Chopping a hole in the pond to see how deep the ice is.

So much fun and joy! Even we adults still enjoy these activities (once we get past the grumbling of how cold it is and bundle up before trudging outside).

Such wild and joyous activities often warm our hearts but chill our bones so when it’s time to head back inside, have a warming cup of Spicy Hot Cocoa waiting. Marshmallows are optional!

It’s so delicious, you’ll want to make this recipe a winter time tradition.


Spicy Hot Cocoa

1 quart water
3 – 3” cinnamon sticks broken up
3 slices fresh ginger root
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup honey
1 pinch cayenne
Freshly whipped cream
Powdered cinnamon

Place the cinnamon sticks and ginger root in a pot with the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 4-5 minutes then turn off.

Add the honey, cayenne and cocoa and stir until mixed together. Pour into mugs and add a dollop of whipped cream to each mug. Sprinkle with powdered cinnamon.

Best served next to a warm fire.

This warming cocoa will warm the extremities, boost the immune system and delight the taste buds of all ages.


What wintertime activities do your children have a sense of wonder about? What activities do they draw you in to a sense of wonder of? Are you able to see these activities through your inner child’s eyes? What traditions do you have for both wintertime play and warming up activities? We’d love to hear about them, share with us on our website or Facebook page!

[Herbal Rootlets] No. 30 – Holiday Gifts for the Budding Herbalist in Your Life

Posted in Uncategorized on December 3rd, 2014 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


“If you wish your children to think deep thoughts, to know the holiest emotions, take them to the woods and hills, and give them the freedom of the meadows; the hills purify those who walk upon them.“

-Richard Jefferies

The holiday season is upon us and if you’re like me, you hope to choose meaningful gifts for your kids that will encourage their imagination and help to stimulate their love of nature (and herbs!). Or perhaps you have a special little someone in your life who loves to learn about herbs and you want to give them something to help nurture that. Today I am listing some of my favorite herbal gift ideas that I have given to my kids and my friends’ kids over the years that have been a hit.


Who doesn’t love a fun game? Games are a great way to learn about herbs. At Herbal Roots zine, you can print off a free Herbal Bingo game to use as a stocking stuffer.

Younger kids from 5 – 8 will enjoy Family Pastimes Walk in the Woods: A Co-operative Board Game. Gathering A Garden Board Game by Eeboo is perfect for the 5 and up crowd while The Garden Game by Ampersand is best suited for 8 and up. Though they are not herb specific games, they all bring awareness to the plants around us.

LearningHerbs.com is the maker of the popular kid’s game Wildcraft! and is a hit wherever we take it. This game is great for all ages. As a bonus, they are offering free holiday shipping right now.


Whether it’s stories about herbal adventures such as the popular Herb Fairies set, a kid sized herbal such as Lesley Tierra’s A Kid’s Herb Book for Children of All Ages or a subscription of Herbal Roots zine, books are a wonderful holiday gift idea for kids of all ages. With an annual subscription to Herbal Roots zine, they’ll get a gift that you keep on giving all year long! We’ve also got lots of book ideas on our website, simply go to it and click on the link that says ‘Book List’ for many more ideas.


If your kids are anything like mine, they like movies! So why not share some great herbal based movies with them? Juliette of the Herbs is a movie about the grandmother of herbal medicine, Juliette de Bairacli Levy and is a lovely view. Numen: The Nature of Plants combines herbalist interviews with a bit of scientific information.

Younger kids will enjoy David the Gnome cartoons and The Enchanted World of Brambly Hedge (which I cannot find for purchase but can be streamed from online, maybe a coupon gift pack for movie time could be created).


Herbal Supplies
Kids love to create! Create mini herbal remedy making kits that include herbs, a copy of a coordinating issue of Herbal Roots zine, oils, beeswax, glycerin, containers, etc. Mountain Rose Herbs not only offers dried herbs but also lip balm containers, salve containers, bottles and more!

Not sure what to put in a kit? LearningHerbs.com makes kits that offers a variety of herbal remedies to make such as Elderberry syrup and Calendula salve. This kit is on sale until Thursday at midnight.


Is your child into gardening? Does he like to help you plant and weed and harvest every year? Why not give him a gift pack of seeds to start his own herb garden? Kidzherbs by Sena Cech, daughter of Richo Cech of Horizon Herbs is a delightful kid’s guide to growing medicinal plants which includes a booklet and 12 seed packages.

When purchasing herb seeds, I look for sources that provide heirloom varieties such as Horizon Herbs, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and the Thyme Garden. Seeds make great stocking stuffers or put together a collection along with a garden journal for that budding herbal gardener in your family.

How about a trip to the local nature preserve or botanical garden? Stuff a brochure from your local natural place into your kids’ stocking with a date written on it. Or, include a few brochures and maps from several local places stuffed into a blank nature journal.

What are your favorite herbal gifts for kids? Do you have any holiday gifts for the budding herbalist in your life? Share them with us!

[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 29 – 3 Herbs of Thanksgiving

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26th, 2014 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!

Untitled 3

We return thanks to our mother, the earth,
which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams,
which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs,
which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases.
We return thanks to the moon and stars,
which have given to us their light when the sun was gone.
We return thanks to the sun,
that has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.
Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit,
in Whom is embodied all goodness,
and Who directs all things for the good of Her children.

~ Iroquois prayer

This week, across our country, we join in with millions giving gratitude. Thanksgiving means different things for different people and for me, as we prepare a meal using many of our own resources, it’s a time to give thanks for the plants and animals that live on our farm and provide so much for us.

Traditionally, many Americans celebrate with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and corn. Interestingly enough, our meals are often prepared with herbs that are not native to this land, just as many of us are not native to this land but rather those who immigrated through our ancestors and became naturalized to this land, as many plants have. While the typical herbs of Thanksgiving are native to the Mediterranean, many could not imagine a meal without them.

Kitchen herbs were originally selected as kitchen garden herbs because of their digestive actions. Most kitchen herbs stimulate digestion, helping the body to process foods that may not be so readily accepted, especially in the not so distant past when refrigeration wasn’t an option for food storage.

These herbs also offer other medicinal uses, making them great to have on hand, not only for cooking but also for assisting in healing common complaints. Because of this, they have found their way into the kitchen garden for hundreds of years.

Today, I honor and give thanks to these plants, for the food and medicine they provide.

Sage at HerbalRootszine.com

I give thanks for Sage almost every day! Sage has many uses: culinary, medicinal and beauty related. When combined with sea salt and baking soda, Sage makes a great tooth whitener. Add a bit of Sage essential oil to your favorite homemade deodorant mix and you can help to reduce the amount of perspiration naturally. A gargle with Sage tea helps a sore throat. And as a cooking herb, Sage is one of my favorites that I use almost daily in meals and desserts: try some Sage in the next Peach cobbler you make!

Sage is full of vitamins and minerals: calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin (B3), phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin (B2), selenium, silicon, thiamine (B1), tin, vitamins A and C and zinc.

Sage is anhydrotic, antibacterial, anticatarrhal, antigalactagogue, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, circulatory stimulant, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hormonal stimulant, memory enhancer and a vasodilator. Sage also reduces blood sugar levels, promotes bile flow and relaxes peripheral blood vessels.

Need a recipe to get started? Check out our recipe for making deodorant.


Want to learn more about the medicinal uses of Sage? Purchase a copy here.


rosemary at herbalrootszine.com

I give thanks to Rosemary often, especially when I need to focus for work or stay alert on a long drive. Medicinally, Rosemary stimulates: the mind (Rosemary for Remembrance), circulatory system and the nervous system. I never leave home without Rosemary essential oil as breathing in the scent helps to keep me alert when I’m on a long drive.

Nutritionally, Rosemary contains many vitamins and minerals: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin (B3), phosphorus, potassium, pyridoxine (B6), riboflavin (B2), sodium, thiamin (B1), vitamins A and C, and zinc.

rosemary issue

Do you have Rosemary growing in your garden? Learn more about Rosemary’s medicinal side with our issue right here.


thyme at herbalrootszine.com

I give thanks to Thyme, for soothing sore throats, especially combined with honey. (Check out our recipe for Thyme Infused Honey). Thyme also calms a cough and was one of the main herbs I used to support our bodies when we had Pertussis a few years ago.

Thyme is very high in Chromium, iron, silicon and contains lots of calcium, cobalt, magnesium, manganese, riboflavin, selenium, sodium, thiamine. He also has average amounts of niacin, tin and vitamin A and low amounts of phosphorus, potassium, protein and vitamin C.

Thyme’s main active ingredient is Thymol. This ingredient is responsible for his healing properties: anthelmintic, antibacterial, antioxidant, antispasmodic, aromatic, astringent, carminative and expectorant. He is also astringent due to his tannins.


Want to learn more about how you can incorporate Thyme into your herbal medicine cabinet? You can purchase this issue right here.


And a bonus herb…I cannot leave out this common thanksgiving accent!

Cranberries at HerbalRootszine.com

I give thanks to Cranberry, for all his tartness. And, as the bonus herb, this plant IS a native to North America. In fact, this is one native North American plant the settlers were grateful for. Early settlers learned from the Native Americans to use the berry for treating many problems including scurvy, digestive problems, loss of appetite and blood disorders. They even applied the raw, crushed berries directly on wounds to aid healing, keeping infection away.

Cranberry is high in antioxidants, calcium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Cranberry also contains average amounts of iron, magnesium, manganese, protein, riboflavin, silicon, sodium and thiamine and low amounts of chromium, cobalt, selenium and zinc.

cranberry sauce at herbalrootszine.com

This year, why not try Cranberry in a more natural form? Instead of opening a can, try our simple recipe for making fresh Cranberry sauce, your taste buds will thank you!


Want to learn more about the medicinal side of Cranberry? You can purchase our issue right here.

For those who are celebrating this week of gratitude, how many of these herbs will be finding their way into your meal preparations? Which is your favorite? Do you use them as medicine?

Hawthorn Syrup Label

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21st, 2014 by KristineBrown — Be the first to comment!


I’ve had lots of requests for the Hawthorn syrup label I printed for my bottle so I’m giving it to you!


Right click on the picture to save to your computer then copy into Pages or Microsoft Word, resize to the size you need it then print off and glue or tape to your bottle.

The Lonely Shepherd and His Little Lonely Sheep

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20th, 2014 by KristineBrown — 2 Comments

Hey Kids, check out this video on Hawthorn by Yarrow Willard!