Festive Tree-Celebrating Salad

Tu Bishvat is a minor Jewish holiday that holds special appeal for tree-loving nature worshippers like me. It is described as a new year for the trees, and while it coincides with spring in the middle east, here in Toronto it is celebrated in the depths of winter, providing a welcome festive focus to January or February.

Friends of mine host a Tu Bishvat seder dinner every year. We start by going around the table and sharing which is our favourite kind of tree and why. I always have trouble choosing, but will pick one to highlight some of the medicine trees have to offer, like willow or hawthorn. They ask each guest to bring a food contribution in keeping with the tree theme.

I have brought this dish for several years. It is a yummy salad, providing a perfect counterpoint to rich winter food with its nutrient-dense ingredients, and bitter, sweet, and fresh flavours. But more tree-relevantly, it contains the fruit of two trees (avocado, pomegranate), the nuts of one tree (pecan), and the heart of another (palm). It also happens to feature red and green, making it in keeping with the colour theme of a certain December holiday 🙂 In our household, we think it pairs well with roast for Christmas dinner, too!

Consider this salad for a festive occasion in your life this winter.

arugulaPecanspomegranate on boardavocado1

Festive Tree-Celebrating Salad

vegan, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free

Salad:

  • 1 box baby arugula or 2 bunches arugula, washed & chopped
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cut into quarter rounds
  • 1 can heart of palm, drained and sliced in rounds
  • 1 medium haas avocado, diced
  • Seeds of 1/2 -1 pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup pecans, lightly toasted

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and toss well with dressing to coat.

For pretty presentation, toss arugula with dressing before adding the other ingredients artfully into the serving bowl or individual salad bowls.

Dressing:

  • Olive oil – ~1/4 cup
  • Lemon juice – ~1 lemon
  • Dijon mustard – ~ 2 tsp
  • Sea salt – ~ 1 tsp
  • Maple Syrup – ~2 tsp
  • Garlic, pressed – ~ 1 small clove

Combine dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake to emulsify.

Taste and adjust quantities as needed to please your palate.

Tree Medicine: Linden

(Tilia tomentosa, Tilia cordata, T. platyphyllos, T. europea. T. americana)

Aka Lime Blossom, Lime Tree, Basswood, Tilleul

 

These great trees create shade and spread calm on city streets where I live (in Toronto), and for the longest time, I had no idea of the medicine they offered.

I didn’t even know their name.

This knowledge gap is illustrative of the disconnection that plagues us here in the cities. The medicine we need is so often right beside us, but lacking an introduction, we have no idea. By sharing what I have learned thus far, I am aiming to change this. My hope is that you will be inspired to meet some of your plant neighbors, too, and spread the healing potential by sharing what you have learned with those in your circles.

 

Lovely Linden

(with thanks to herbalist Rosalee de la Foret for the alliteration that fits so perfectly)

 

Parts Used: Flowers (and bracts)

 

Form of Use: Tea (steep covered to retain medicinal volatile oils), Tincture, Bath

 

Actions: diaphoretic, antispasmodic, hypotensive, nervine sedative, digestive, demulcent, astringent, pectoral, antioxidant

 

Indications: cold or ‘flu with fever, nervous tension, nervous headache, high blood pressure (usually in combo with other herbs), insomnia (especially in kids), some types of PMS or painful periods

 

In France, linden tea a popular drink in the evenings, served in people’s homes as well as at five-star restaurants. The majestic tree it has long been part of the herbal medicine chest in both Europe and North America. And it turns out that Linden (Tilia spp) grows widely on both continents. Linden is a common choice for planting along city streets, and graces many a park.

 

When Linden blossoms in late June or early July, you can you can find the trees by their sweet scent, as well as by their distinctive lopsided heart-shaped leaf, with flowers attached to what looks like half of a maple key.

 

With a low-hanging branch, permission, confirmation of identity, and thanks to the tree, you may harvest the flowers for use in your household. I encourage you to expand your tea repertoire and get to know this #backyardmedicine this season! (If Linden doesn’t grow near you, you may purchase it from Mountain Rose Herbs or your local herbalist).

 

Harvest on a clear day, and spread flowers to dry on a clean screen or sheet, turning daily. Store in a sealable glass jar.

 

A cup of flowers to uplift you

Preparing and drinking tea is a ritual that many people enjoy. It is not an obligation, or a responsibility. It is a pause, it is nourishment, it is – in some cases – flowers in a cup. And yet, herbal teas – even the gentlest and safest of them, such as linden – can be powerful medicine.

 

 

 

Linden helps to cool and calm

This tree medicine is used to help bring sleep to anxious children (and adults), and to gently lower blood pressure. Linden is also used to decrease fevers during ‘flu. In a study at a Chicago hospital, children on bed rest who received Tilia (along with aspirin, if needed) recovered more quickly, and had fewer cases of ear infections, than children who received antibiotics alone, or antibiotics with Tilia. Note that Aspirin is no longer recommended for children – this study is older.

 

The herb is a great ally in times of stress. Linden calms the nervous system, soothing the nerves for sleep, relieving a tension headache, or easing an upset stomach. The herb is also known to ease menstrual cramps. Further, it is considered a heart medicine, where it protects the heart through its antioxidant actions and ability to dilate & heal blood vessels.

 

Bathe in Flowers

For the ultimate in nourishing self-care, treat yourself to a linden blossom bath:

Option A:

  • Place a few cupfuls of linden blossoms in a piece of muslin or cheesecloth, tied to keep the herbs from escaping into the bath water. Add to bath and fill with hot water.  Steep, enjoy.

Option B:

  • Brew a very strong pot of linden tea, strain, add to bath.

 

 

Safety

Safe for children, safe in pregnancy & during breast feeding, safe for long term use. Consult your naturopathic physician for information on use with your specific health concerns.

References & Further Reading:

Bruton-Seal, Julie & Seal, Matthew. Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies. New York, NY: SkyHorse Publishing. 2009.

 

Conway, Peter. Tree Medicine: A comprehensive guide to the healing power of over 170 trees. London, UK: Judy Piatkus Publishers Limited. 2001

 

Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science & Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press. 2003.

 

Mase, Guido. The Wild Medicine Solution: Healing with Aromatic, Bitter and Tonic Plants. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press. 2013.

 

http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2124007#hn-2124007-uses

 

http://vitalitymagazine.com/article/the-linden-tree/268 8900

 

http://www.methowvalleyherbs.com/2011/09/lovely-linden.html

 

The Original Brands

Nature-literacy, Backyard Medicine

There is an infographic going around on social media that is telling:

*Key at end

We are becoming nature-illiterate, and the consequences reach beyond not being able to identify the trees around us. It is telling that we can identify brands and not leaves. It speaks volumes about the values in modern, so-called ‘Western’ culture. And yet, we know that being outside, being near trees, gardening, being in green spaces are all good for us. There are even studies! (For more on the health benefits of being outside, see http://drmahaliafreed.com/action-in-stillness-stillness-in-motion-inspiration-for-harnessing-the-gifts-of-winter/ for instance).

Clearly, there is a crisis of disconnection.

Luckily, the solution is right outside our doors: right there, in the crack at the edge of the road. Right there in the untended yard. Right here on the café patio where I am writing. Literally.

By not having language for the plants around us, by not being able to name nor sometimes even SEE the individual species, we lose our access to the medicine the plants offer.

I don’t just mean seeing Hawthorn and knowing it is medicine for the heart, though this is valuable if you are into studying herbal medicine. I mean that, by noticing the plants growing around us we can benefit from the OTHER medicine they offer: the calming, uplifting presence of mature trees; the lesser known edible fruit delights that summer offers (mulberries! Service berries! Hackberries!); the subtle medicinal information for a plant that is determined by WHERE it grows, HOW it grows.

We can observe this. Some herbal traditions advocate choosing one single plant to work with for an entire year. One observes the plant through its different stages of growth, touches and tastes the plant’s different parts, talks to the plant, and listens for what the plant wants to say.

There is immense wisdom and value in this approach, and I have seen profound results when I have gotten to know herbs in this way.

And, the funny thing about herbs is that as you learn their names, and what they look like, you will start to notice them everywhere. They were there all along, but we humans make sense of all the sensory input we receive by limiting what we ‘see’.

We only ‘see’ what we can name.

And if we don’t ‘see’ the plants, we can’t connect to their medicine.

Just as it is much harder to have a meaningful conversation with someone new when you don’t remember their name – ahem, when you weren’t present when they told you their name – it is harder to engage with plants when you don’t know one from the other.

Luckily, we can remedy this situation. Easily, and for free.

My reconnection prescription is simple.

  1. Go outside. Stay a while.
  2. Be present (Ahem… look up from your phone. Or, pause the dialogue you are having in your head as you walk down the street.)
  3. Observe with an open mind & heart
  4. Ask questions (of the plants, of yourself, of others)
  5. Interact with the plants: use your senses to see, smell, touch; eat weeds (once you have safely confirmed their identity), make tea, make bouquets for your kitchen table.
  6. Watch what happens to the quality of your lived experience as you walk from house to car, from car to office – noticing and greeting these new friends growing everywhere in this city.
  7. Notice how you notice life differently as you observe its vitality emerging even from between the cracks in the pavement.

First steps:

 

Mullein
(Verbascum thapsus)

Choose one plant.

Make it one that you just keep noticing, everywhere you go, or one that has some medicine that is relevant for you, or one that you learn to be edible and tasty. Eg, red raspberry leaf, a well-known women’s tonic herb; or Dandelion, ubiquitous medicinal friend of mine. (for a snippet more on dandelion, see http://drmahaliafreed.com/weeds-as-nourishing-spring-food-dandelion-greens/).

Get to know it. If it’s edible, like dandelion leaf or burdock root, try it.

If it is a tree that you choose, hang out underneath it. Meditate, journal, daydream with it. Take notes. Watch the plant grow, watch how it responds to sunlight, wind, rain, temperature changes. Smell it, touch it. Share what you learn.

Want more steps, more info? Learn about harvesting and eating wild spinach.

Resources:

Try here  for online tree & shrub identification if you are in Ontario or somewhere with a similar range of ecological zones.

Here are some books I like, and find useful either for field identification or learning more about a plant:

  • Edible wild plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate by John Kallas, PhD . More.
  • Backyard medicine: Harvest & Make Your Own Herbal Remedies by Julie Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal. More
  • Wildflowers of Riverwood: Field Guide to wildflowers of Mississauga’s garden park and the Greater Toronto Area by Nina Karalin Barabas, PhD, and Eva Sabrina Bruni. http://www.riverwoodconservancy.org/items_for_sale.html
  • Lone pine series:
  • Ontario Wildflowers by Linda Kershaw
  • Trees of Ontario by Linda Kershaw

Image key:

Trees: (from left to right, top to bottom): maple, ash, pine with cone, oak, poplar & white birch

(*note that leaves are best used to identify a tree in context – bark matters, how the leaves are arranged matters, how serrated a leaf is matters, shape of catkins or seeds matters, and so on, thus, some of these identifications from the sketches are up for debate)

Brands: facebook, volkswagon, mcdonalds, lacoste, apple, & nike