Bring on Spring / Lettuce is Boring Radicchio & Parsley Salad

In keeping with the seasons, I don’t eat much in the way of raw salad-type vegetables in the winter.parsley-bunch This salad was an exception last winter, during the first trimester of my pregnancy. It is a great break from boxed mixed greens, and is packed full of fresh flavour and fantastic nutrition. Also, it answers the eternal question of what to do with the rest of the bunch of parsley when you use 1 tbsp in a recipe. Now you know: make salad!

If you haven’t used radicchio before, it is the pretty little purple hued vegetable in the lettuce radicchiosection of the produce store. It is classified as a bitter (but i think it sweet as well), making it an excellent ally to digestion and liver function.

This salad is: Liver Loving, Energizing, Detox-supporting, Cleanse-friendly, Nutrient-dense, Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free (it is a salad!), Nightshade Free (if you omit the red pepper), Nut-free, and most importantly, Tasty.




½ a head of radicchio, chopped

1 bunch of parsley, chopped

1 bunch/bag of spinach, stemmed (optional)

½ an English cucumber, sliced or cubed

1 red pepper, chopped



Juice of ~1 lemon

Olive oil ~1/3 cup

Celtic Sea Salt ~1 tsp

Optional: 1-2 tsp Dijon mustard; 1 clove garlic, pressed


Wash all vegetables well. Add the first two or three ingredients to a salad bowl and mix. Top with cucumber and pepper.


Mix dressing ingredients in small jar, close lid and shake to blend. Dressing ratio should be approx. 2/3 lemon juice to 1/3 oil, or half and half if you prefer a less acidic dressing. Adjust ingredients to taste.


Pour dressing over salad, toss, serve.


This salad is a great accompaniment to zucchini-salmon fritters or beef & lamb koftas.

Kitchen Herbalism: Red Raspberry Leaf Vinegar

Red raspberry leaf in spring

Herbal Vinegar in Mason Jar

Herbal Vinegar in Mason Jar

Wildcrafting note:

Raspberry is abundant in wild and semi-wild spaces throughout temperate North America and Europe, and perhaps can be found in your own yard or a local abandoned lot. Ideally harvest the leaves for use before the fruits appear. In the Toronto area, this means later June or early July.

NB: Always be sure to confirm the identity of a plant before harvesting or consuming.

What you’ll need: 

  • Red Raspberry Leaves (fresh or dried)
  • Organic Vinegar (apple cider, wine, or rice)
  • Mason Jar

What to do:

  1. If using fresh leaves, let them wilt and dry out a little before starting and make sure there is no additional moisture (water drops etc) on your leaves.
  2. Fill your clean, DRY jar with raspberry leaves.
  3. Warm vinegar in a non-reactive pot. Pour warmed vinegar of your choice over the leaves, submerging them completely and filling the jar with liquid.
  4. Seal the jar and place in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks.
  5. Strain the vinegar through a cheese cloth or a clean, white cotton cloth.
  6. Rebottle your vinegar (keep bottle out of direct sunlight).
  7. Enjoy! As part of dressing for green, bean, or grain salads or as an aperitif to aid digestion (1 TBSP in a cup of water before meals)

WHY red raspberry vinegar:
Vinegar is especially valuable for extracting alkaloids, vitamins, and minerals from plants. Vinegar is a good choice for tonic remedies that are intended for regular use over a long period of time to strengthen and build the system. Vinegar extractions can be used by children and are a good choice for adults who avoid alcohol. One tablespoon of this vinegar extract provides about 150-200mg of calcium. And…it’s delicious!

Read here for more about using Red Raspberry Leaf as medicine.


Natural Solutions for Seasonal Allergies

Good news: you can manage your seasonal allergies naturally!

Naturopathic News: there isn’t one natural medicine that works for everyone.


What’s good for allergies? Seasonal allergy symptoms occur when the level of inflammation in our car-exhaust590_284x213bodies reaches a certain threshold. For some, this is purely due to extreme sensitivity to pollens, along with dust, animal dander, etc. For others, it relates also to the level of smog they are breathing in, the amount of stress they are currently swimming in, and any foods they might be eating that aren’t a good fit for their systems.

Personally, my “seasonal allergy” symptoms go away when I go camping, as this is a happy, no-stress place for me, and there is way less smog in the back woods. (Luckily, pine pollen is not a trigger for me!). Others notice that when they are in other provinces, even in a city, their symptoms vanish. This can be related to the change in local pollens, the air quality, decreased stress of vacation, or any combination of these things.


allergies_flowers&tissueOn a physiological level, seasonal allergy symptoms relate to increased histamine release in the upper respiratory system. Thus, many people find relief by using natural antihistamines such as quercetin and nettles. For others, though, the inflammation needs to be stopped at a different point in the inflammatory pathway. A common intervention point for seasonal allergies is the liver. Using herbs such as milk thistle and antioxidants such as N-acetyl cysteine for liver support can vanish allergy symptoms completely for a subset of people.

Other people’s symptoms respond immediately to a targeted homeopathic remedy, or to gemmotherapy, while still other people find acupuncture gives them the best relief.

While there are some common prescriptions for allergy relief, the right fit for you will be as unique as your life situation, your history, and your current physiology.

My advice? Don’t guess, and don’t suffer needlessly. Book a consult to get your body ready for allergy season, sneeze & sniffle-free.

No Dairy? No Problem. Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium

Fortified soy beverage, 1 cup: 300 mg

Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate, ½ cup: 258 mg

White beans, cooked, 1 cup: 202 mg

Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans), cooked, 1 cup: 80.4 mg

Salmon, canned with bones, ½ cup: 181 mg

Sardines, canned with bones, 1 (92g) can: 251 mg

Almonds, ¼ cup: 103 mg

Sesame Seeds, paste (tahini), 1 tbsp: 63.9 mg

Figs, dried, 5 medium: 90 mg

Bok choy, cooked, ½ cup: 84 mg

Kale, cooked, 1 cup: 93.6 mg

Collards, cooked, 1 cup: 266 mg

Rapini, boiled, ½ cup: 78 mg

Okra, boiled, ½ cup: 65 mg


Canadian Nutrient Files,
USDA nutrient database for standards records
(via and
Nutrition Almanac by John Kirshman & Nutrition Search, Inc. McGraw-Hill, 2007.)

“I drink milk for my bones”

 Dr Mahalia Freed ND, nutritional myth-buster

I regularly encounter the myth that we need dairy products for healthy bones. My clients tell me they don’t want to give up dairy, as osteoporosis runs in their family. Or, they tell me, “I don’t want to do that to my kids”.

Let me set the record straight: you don’t need milk products for healthy bones!

Adults don’t need dairy, kids don’t need dairy.

But, don’t I need calcium? Don’t my kids need calcium?

Yup. And many other minerals.

You don’t need milk products to get calcium!

As stated by researchers in a recent (July 2013) editorial in JAMA Paediatrics, “Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk, an evolutionarily recent addition to diet.”

But I thought I needed milk products for healthy bones!

Throughout the world, bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that do not consume milk compared with those that do. Moreover, milk consumption does not protect against fracture in adults, according to a recent meta-analysis” (Ludwig D and Willett W. 2013).

Furthermore, “Milk consumption increases serum concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-1, an anabolic hormone linked to prostate and other cancers” (ibid). Why increase cancer risk? Or the risk of type 1 diabetes, also associated with dairy intake?

Ludwig and Willett conclude: “For those with high quality diets (including green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and adequate protein), the nutritional benefits of high milk consumption may not outweigh the negative consequences.”

Milk, it doesn’t necessarily do your body good. You don’t need it, and neither do your kids.

More info on bones, calcium, and health:

What do I do for healthy bones?

Where (else) can I get calcium?

Healthy bones need which nutrients?

urban herbalism: nettle joy

Mahalia Freed, ND

I live in the city.

10 minutes by public transit and I am in the downtown core. There is a highway very close to my house. And also, there are green spaces, and there are wild plants. Medicinal, weedy, wild plants. The blessing of using medicine from the earth, the beauty of it, is that the medicines we need are very often right in our (metaphorical) backyards.

Today I harvested wild nettles. I truly love nettles. They are not only a medicine I prescribe often – for everything from seasonal allergies to low iron – but they are delicious and nutritious as food. Allergic to spring pollens? Nettle tea to the rescue! Pregnant? Nourish with nettles! Gathering this particular weed, then, brings me great joy.

Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle)


By their sting, nettles teach us to be fully present, fully aware of our bodies in space. If your mind wanders, and your shirtsleeve doesn’t entirely cover your forearm, nettle will bring you back with a sting that lasts and lasts. I was reminded. Thank you, nettle. If you are thinking about gathering nettles yourself: wear long sleeves, long pants, and gardening gloves, and make sure to pull the gloves up over your sleeves!


Because I was harvesting near home in a well-used public park, I happily engaged in quite a bit of impromptu herbal education. I answered people’s friendly queries as to why I was choosing to pick a stinging weed with musings on potential recipes I could choose for dinner, and I expanded on some of nettle’s uses in addressing inflammation, seasonal allergies, pregnancy, and more. I learned from one woman passing by that she grew up eating nettles in India (different species, same idea), and another couple paused their workout to tell me about a raw nettle eating competition in England (don’t do it. Remember, it stings!)


transporting the urban nettle harvest


Wildcrafting guidelines teach that one should never harvest things that are endangered or rare in the area in question. Pick plants that grow abundantly, and then take no more than 30% of the stand in that place. But please, harvest only what you will use. Depending on the plant, a little may go a long way. Lucky for me and the other urban harvesters, nettle is prolific. I harvested nearly the maximum I could fit in my bike’s panniers, which in this patch was maybe 2%.



Drying Nettle

A Wildcrafting ND’s Office

While in the past I have preferred to dry herbs spread out on a screen, our current space doesn’t allow for this. Hanging herbs in bunches is another easy, reliable way to dry them in any (indoor, ventilated) space. I strung some twine across the bay window in my treatment room, and tied bunches of 5-9 stalks across it. When that row was full, I moved onto the hallway.


Prep Tip

Gather any loose leaves and put them aside for dinner. If the loose leaves don’t add up to enough for your pesto or soup or frittata or sauté plans, keep some stalks aside. Wearing your gloves (you always wear gloves when handling raw nettles!), grasp the stalk near the top and strip off the leaves from top to bottom. They should come off easily this way. Strip as many stalks as you & your crisper drawer need. If you aren’t using them all right away, store fresh nettles in the fridge in a plastic bag, like most produce.


Wild Nettle Pesto with Rice Linguini


  • ~5 cups fresh raw nettles
  • 2-4 cloves raw garlic, finely chopped or pressed (4 was intensely garlicky)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup walnuts or pine nuts (or sunflower seeds or almonds)
  • 1 tsp celtic sea salt, or to taste
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • Pasta of choice (I used organic brown rice “linguini-style” noodles, and made enough for two generous servings of pasta. We have pesto leftover)



Nettle Pesto

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Wearing gloves, add your nettles to the water to blanch them. Simmer 1-3 minutes, then remove and drain off excess water. Reserve the nettle-blanching water to cook the pasta. Add pasta to the boiling water. While pasta is cooking, roughly chop your squeezed out nettles and measure them. You should have about 2 cups now. If not, adjust other ingredients as needed. Dump nettles into a food processor along with pressed garlic, olive oil, sea salt and nuts/seeds. Process until smooth-ish. Add lemon juice and process again. Taste it. Isn’t it delicious? Adjust seasonings as desired. I ran out of olive oil so I increased the nuts, and then had to add salt to balance out the bitterness in the walnuts. Delicious results, though!


Dump cooked, drained pasta into a big bowl, and toss with pesto to generously coat. Add more pesto. People never use enough pesto.

Top with whatever you fancy and have on hand.

Nettle Pesto Linguini with Grilled Chicken & Sun-dried Tomatoes


My choice today: chopped leftover grilled organic chicken breast and sliced sundried tomatoes. Would also work with other leftover meat, grilled veggies, marinated tofu.


I gathered weeds instead of going grocery shopping today, and I had a delightful day. I highly recommend taking a week-day afternoon off from your to-do list, and getting to know a local weed. And your neighbours 🙂


Sesame Broccoli with Arame & Daikon

(Mahalia’s Recipe)

This recipe is a simple “side” that integrates a sea vegetable, Arame.  With the classic Japanese flavors of toasted sesame with soy sauce, this broccoli dish will disappear fast. Perfect to accompany broiled/roasted tempeh, fish or chicken with ginger-tamari marinade, this dish is fancy enough for a party and easy enough to be part of a weekday meal.


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Spice Things Up Quinoa & Black Bean Salad with Cilantro Pesto

Vegan, gluten-free

This salad is build around a spicy cilantro pesto recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen. Thank you, Lorna, for the many tasty meals you have contributed to since I bought this book in 1999! Find her book here: It is a valuable kitchen resource for tasty and wholesome vegan meal ideas, or for a primer on how to cook beans or grains, or how to assemble an awesome salad, every time.

  • 1 batch Cilantro Pesto (recipe below)
  • 1 can black beans (Eden is BPA-free) or 2 cups cooked black beans (about 1 cup soaked and simmered)
  • 1 cup raw quinoa, cooked in 2 cups water
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 stalk broccoli, cut into bite size florets/pieces and steamed
  • sprouts if you have some on hand
  • avocado if you have some on hand
  • whatever other veggie you are inspired to add

Cook quinoa in 2 cups of water with a bit of salt. While quinoa is cooking, chop veggies and put into salad bowl, leaving the avocado aside. Make the pesto. Remember that quinoa cooks faster than rice and take it off the heat when it is done (about 15-20 minutes)! Letting it sit with the lid on for a few minutes helps make it fluffy. Combine all ingredients (except avocado) and toss. Add avocado to individual bowls.

Serve warm for a 1-bowl week-night dinner, and pack up leftovers for a delicious – if garlicky – lunch.

“Coriander Pesto”

From Lorna Sass’ Complete Vegetarian Kitchen

Cilantro is not only delicious, and cleanse-friendly, it also supports detoxification as it nourishes.

Note from Lorna: Great served over plain boiled beans or grains, or on bean and grain salads.

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice, approximately
  • 1 cup tightly packed minced fresh cilantro (coriander)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts or sunflower seeds, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove minced fresh garlic (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp mild chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt, or to taste
  1. In a food processor or jar, combine all the ingredients.
  2. Use immediately or store in a well-sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  3. Makes 1/3 cup

Shiitakes & Greens Sauté

This quick, simple dish is flavourful, and deeply nourishing.

If you have shied away from Shiitake mushrooms in the past, now is a chance to enjoy them. Their rich flavor provides an ideal counterpoint to the bitter freshness of Dandelions. Shiitakes are immune-enhancing and antiviral. For more about Dandelions, see .


  • 1/2 lb or so of fresh Shiitake mushrooms, sliced (can use dried – soak in just-boiled water first)
  • 1 large bunch dandelion greens, washed and chopped (or substitute kale or collard greens)
  • 1 large onion or 2 small onions, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste


Heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Sauté onions, garlic and ginger in oil, adding water as needed, until onions are very soft. Add salt, shiitakes, with more water if needed, and let simmer at medium heat, covered, for about 8 minutes. Add dandelion greens/kale/collards and more water if needed, cover, and continue saute/simmering until greens are cooked (about 5 min).

Weeds as Nourishing Spring Food: Dandelion Greens

by Dr. Mahalia Freed, ND

Dandelions, ubiquitous indicators of warmer weather, are perfectly positioned to support our health – especially our livers – through the transition to spring.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

The greens are deeply nourishing. Rich in vitamins and minerals including beta-carotene, B vitamins, calcium, iron, and potassium, dandelion greens have an alkalinizing effect on the body. These much-maligned weeds are safely diuretic, and contain nutrients that specifically support detoxification pathways via the kidneys and the liver. Additionally, their bitter flavor stimulates digestive function, from the stomach down to the intestines, including stimulating bile production in the liver. For those of you thinking of a spring cleanse, guess what? Dandelion is truly a detoxifier, as enhancing bile production allows for enhanced elimination of wastes from the body.

Find dandelion greens at your local supermarket, or harvest them from any chemical-free patch of grass. If harvesting, note that they get more bitter as the season goes on.