Fermentation + Kombucha: Culture Your Health Video @ NOFA NJ Winter Conference. Jan, 2015

Heres a look at the playlist from my “Fermentation + Kombucha: Culture Your Health” Class at NOFA NJ Winter Conference, January 2015. In it, I discuss many of the relevant aspects of knowing if you truly have a fermented probiotic food, how to make your own, the science behind the health of living and probiotic foods, as well as the alchemical symbolism behind the art of fermentation.

For those who would like to take a fermentation class, I’m looking forward to sharing “The Alchemy of Fermentation Class @ Golden Drum in Brooklyn, NY. Feb 28. More info can also be seen on my calender.

 Read more about “Symbiosis with Bacteria” on this article with lots of links posted.

Read more about fermentation practices here.



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Free Radical Media Interviews

Just finished up a new interview with Free Radical Media, which will be coming out next week. Here’s the first interview we did back in 2014. It was a lot of fun and we got to discuss some great topics on everything from the sentience of nature, to botany, to the business behind exotic plant marketing.

And while youre at their site check out their other great podcast interviews with some really inspiring guests! I also got the chance to check out the talk with Susun Weed about herbal practice, not seeing the self as broken, and lots of wonderful herbal gems. Susuns interview can be heard here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW85A26usGM

Here’s part one of my interview, more to follow.

The Sentient Intelligence of Nature – Free Radical Media part 1

Make sure to like Return to Natures youtube channel – www.youtube.com/returntonatureskills

and Free Radical Media – Click Here


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The Zen of Chicken of the Woods – New Video

Here’s a video on ethical and sustainable harvest of the Latiporus mushrooms, of which there are 2 or 3 species in North America; namely laetiporus sulphureus, and laetiporus cincinnatus. Commonly known as the chicken of the woods mushroom, this is a beautiful, and relatively easy mushroom to identify. They are amazing in a stir fry, and research has actually been shown that they are active against staph infections, ” All strains demonstrated antimicrobial activity against a wide spectrum of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria during agar and submerged cultivation including methicillin-resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and glycopeptide-resistant strain of Leuconostoc mesenteroides.” –  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12741318

Check out more videos at the Return to Nature Youtube Channel as well as www.returntonature.us for upcoming classes and lessons.

Join www.facebook.com/returntonatureskills

More Videos Here

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Guanabana – An Anticancer Fruit – Seeking the Medicine @ Colombia

IMG_8224.JPGBefore leaving Colombia we had to try Guanabana! It’s a huge investment of a fruit; a big mama from the plant family: Annonacea.

This family hosts the magical exotic flavors of cherimoya (Annona cherimola), sugar apple (Annona squamosa), custard apple (Annona reticulata), and the only tropical fruit that grows in North America; the pawpaw (Asimina triloba) – my personal favorite! Also this family is loaded with heart- healthy fats, something very rare for fruits.IMG_8219.JPG

Andres told me that his grandmother may hIMG_8220.JPGave blended the whole fruit with seeds – and research shows that the whole plant is worked with medicinally, especially notable is it’s work against cancer (see more here)

After tasting it’s magnificent flavor I decided to try it in a smoothie. It was excellent!  Here’s what delicious recipe followed!


Guanabana smoothie:

8 oz Guanabana – seeds removed 1 banana 1 Cup Almond milk Cinnamon (to taste) Ginger (to taste)



Read more adventures in Colombia:


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Upcoming Classes in Howell, NJ

Saturday, December 13th, 2 pm - Foraging Manasquan Reservior @ Howell, NJ – We will forage the park for early dan mentorship classwinter cold and flu medicinals as well as seek the last remaining mushrooms and nuts of the season. 

Dress warm and bring a camera and notebook for recording the plants we find.

RSVP Required for meeting location: Dan@ReturntoNature.us – 25$ suggested donation.

10849933_10154904475600504_2689975593781275692_nSunday, December 14th, 2 pmSeeking Ayahuasca Visions in Colombia: Dans Journey with an Indigenous Shaman + Potluck – Join us for an intimate sit down and potluck gathering as Dan shares the story of his Ayahuasca journey with an indigenous shaman in Columbia. We’ll hear a detailed account of his experience, have open discussion and share in a potluck after. 

RSVP Required for address: Dan@ReturntoNature.us
Donations welcome!

Potluck: Bring a vegetarian dish to share and your own cup, bowl and utensils. Extra points for organic, local and sustainable ingredients! Help us in our effort to make our community gatherings as sustainable as possible by avoiding disposable items….please no trash!
Become a part of the Return to Nature Facebook community for frequent updates, videos, articles and more: https://www.facebook.com/ReturntoNatureSkills/events

Subscribe to Return to Nature’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/ReturntoNatureSkills

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The Power of Palms – Seeking the Medicine @ Colombia

Hola from Colombia,

It’s been a profound experience so far here. Once we arrived at our first stop (yogeshram ashram), I was excited to begin discovering which plants were around us. As with most places I’ve been, all I haIMG_0475d to do was look exactly where I was to see an incredible biodiversity of plants. In just 2 days of being here I have discovered over 30 familiar plants. From palms to many fruit trees right on the property that we are staying.

As far as palms, I found a tree on premise which fruits reminded me of the long racemes of acaii; the now famous jungle berry full of antioxidants ( and marketing) – to test this berry I carefully broke it open, smelled it, then touched it slightly on my tongue to get the signature of the plant. It instantly began to burn in a way that was familiar; the burn of calcium oxalate.IMG_7565.JPG

This is the substance that lichens secrete to digest rocks and is also found in North American plants such as the jack in the pulpit plant (Arisaema triphyllum). It is also related to the substance in the kidneys that forms as kidney stones (oxalic acid). After some facebooking and googling I was able to find that it was actually a fishtail palm – Genus: Caryota; C. mitis with it’s clumping leaf stems. Also, closely related is C. urens which apparently has individual stems. The fruit/seeds of all fishtails have oxalic acid in them.

From Green Deanes website:

IMG_7566.JPG” Urens means “stinging” and the fruit does contain a chemical that does sting. That said, the kernel of the fruit is edible but it has to be cleaned completely of the stinging outer flesh.

This was one so-called toxic plant that was true. However, that did not keep natives from using this palm. The primary product of the genus is a sugar substitute called kitul honey or jaggery. The juice from the flowers is boiled in a large wide-mouth vessel making golden syrup. The fruits have raphides of calcium oxalate and are not eaten. The seed kernel is edible, however.”

Also about jaggery/panela:

IMG952015“Jaggery/ Panela: a concentrated product of date, cane juice, or palm sap (see palm sugar) without separation of the molasses and crystals, and can vary from golden brown to dark brown in color. derived from the boiling and evaporation of sugarcane juice. considered Non-centrifugal cane sugars. Non-centrifugal cane sugar (NCS) is the technical name given to traditional raw sugar obtained by evaporating water from sugarcane juice.”

And an article about the taste phenomenon of calcium oxalate :

Upon researching this plant, and knowing it was a palm, this led me to realize that all palms (minus sago which is a cycad) are in the same Family; Arecaceae – this also includes acaii, and coconut, dates as well as Palm fruits. It’s incredible to realize that Palms exist in one form or another all over the world. It’s also amazing to track this IMG_7560.JPGphenomenon biologically. All of these plants presumably have a common ancestor, and yet they are spread all throughout the world. Some being the most sweet and tasty sugary fruits of the world (dates coconuts etc) and some such as these fishtail palms have an immense self-protecting agent. It’s also interesting to meditate on the fact that this would enable some animals to spread the sweet seeds, and enable the other oxalic containing plant to deter predation, unless one animal was able to evolve past the oxalate. Always ask the question, how did this happen? If you get into the right state perhaps nature will reveal it to you.

Much more to come soon,

Nov 30, 2014



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Foraging Herbalist Mentorship – 2014 Slideshow

Heres a look at pics from the Foraging Herbalist Mentorship of 2014. See next years program @ http://returntonature.us/mentorship2015

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Seeking the Medicine – Colombia, Nov. 2014 – Itinerary, Packing List, Plants List

The Itinerary: We leave From JFK Airport Thursday am to Cali, Colombia. We will stay for several days at a friends ashram, then take a bus to Pasto, Colombia. From there we will meet a guide Sebastian who speaks very good English and will translate for us. From there we will stock up, have a meal, and travel to a small village of Valle de Sibundoy in Putomayo called San Francisco. From there we will meet and work with Taita Domingo Cuatindiyo; an artist, activist, and ayahuasquero who our good friend has studied and stayed with. We will drink and do ceremony with him as many days as is called. If we are able within the time there we will ask Sebastian to take us hiking into the rainforest, he knows the area well. While with these teachers I will ask to film with them and go on plant walks to learn whatever I can of plants. I have also been given botanical lists of plants (See Below) , and it is apparently also the rainy season so mushrooms should be in abundance that I will document and photograph as well as ask any locals of their knowledge about them.

Health Care:  It seems malaria and yellow fever are low in putomayo area, but govt websites say to be careful. For these issues, prevention and application during earliest stages detectable, I have 16 oz (enough for 2 people) of a formula that I made. It is a good general antiviral, and antibacterial, but also specific toward malaria or yellow fever. It consists of Sida acuta, olive leaf, Artemesia annua, burdock root, and redroot. I also have a small medical kit containing some band-aids, gauze, cotton swabs, and salve, with essential oils of lavender and peppermint, as well as lots of my home made bug spray – this will be a good test. I also have foraging know how which will be interesting to see how it expands during my time there – Examples such as any evergreen sap for cuts or fungal infections, wild papaya leaves as a tea for intestinal issues (plus the seeds of the fruits), as well I will be seeking teachers while there to broaden any level of foraging and herbalism applications of wild plants. I hope to be able to film this and provide clips on my website, facebook, and Instagram.

The other concern while traveling to Colombia is the FARC – this is a militant guerilla group in certain areas. As I have been told they don’t kidnap westerners and are much more interested in drug trade issues with the government. There are no known issues with tourists and the FARC in the last few years, and supposedly they live on the coast.

Gear: I will be bringing a hammock with mosquito net, water filter and 32 oz stainless steel water bottle (can be used to boil water), firestarter, clothes for 70 degree days, rain pants and rain jacket, and get rain boots there if it decides to be a rainy week when we are in the forest. Otherwise I have simple hiking shoes. I will try to film and take photos on my smartphone, with a solar charger as well as extra rechargeable batteries; hopefully this can make some quality filming with very special medicine teachers, as the time is right.

If you are interested to help these journeys become better documented, better preserved, and more interactive, please consider helping the mission of return to nature by making any donation through paypal to Dan@returntonature.us

Here is a video of Taita Domingo speaking for the forest


And his art work:


Plants List (Huge thanks to Timothy Lane):

“I made a general list, mostly of species utilized for fruit. These species I encountered in northern Ecuador, and around Bogota Colombia. Many were planted by humans, but several are also found wild (or feral).”

Various types of citrus

Manihot esculenta (Tapioca)

Babaco (Vasconcella × heilbornii)

Guava (Psidium guajava)

Persea americana (Avocado)

Selenicereus megalanthus (vining cactus with yellow ‘dragonfruits’)

Carludovica palmata (Panama Hat Palm)

Monstera deliciosa (“Ceriman”)

Coffea arabica (Coffee)

Eugenia stipitata (Araza)

Syzygium paniculatum

Annona cherimola (Cherimoya)

Musa velutina (bright magenta self-peeling banana full of seeds)

Musa / Bananas of all sorts.

Quararibea coddata / Matisia cordata (“Sapote del Monte” / “Chupa Chupa”)

Syzygium samarangense (Pera roja)

Bunchosia argentea

Phyllanthus acidus

Carica papaya

Theobroma cacao

Annona muricata

Annona squamosa

Annona reticulata

Annona glabra

Spondias purpurea (“Ciruela” or hog-plums)

Spondias dulcis

Pouteria sapota (“Mamey Sapote”)

Pouteria sp.

Tropaeolum tuberosum (Mashua / Anu)

Oxalis tuberosus (“Oca”)

Sechium edule (Chayote)

Passiflora resticulata

Passiflora quadrulangaris

Passiflora tarminiana / P. mollissima (banana passionfruit)

Passiflora edulis

Passiflora foetida

Passiflora capsularis (bright pink fruit, splits open naturally)

Inga edulis (long thin beans)

Inga vera (small, blocky, fuzzy brown beans)

Inga spectibilis (very wide beans)

Prunus salicifolia (Capulin cherry — much like wild black cherry)

Juglans neotropica (tropical black walnut — looks almost identical to our Juglans nigra)

Sambucus peruvianus (Elderberry Tree)

Clavija sp. (“Mongon”) – more of a mid-elevation rainforest species.

Solanum muricatum (pepino melon)

Solanum betaceum (tree tomato) – “Tamarillo”

Solanum quitoense  – “Naranjilla”

Rubus rosifolius (rose-leaf raspberry)

Rubus niveus (“mora” / blackberry)

Rubus urticifolius (nettle-leaved raspberry)

Margaritaria nobilis (riversides, near water — very sour when green/underripe)

Bixa orellana (“Achiote” / Annato)

Physalis peruvianus

Physalis angulata

several other Physalis not ID’d but edible

Many of the common weedy species are familiar:

Phytolacca rivinoides (longer berry raceme, smaller leaves)

Portulaca oleracea  / Purslande (“Verdolaga”)



Plantago species

Erechtites (burnweeds)

Sonchus (Sow Thistles)

Bidens (Beggar’s Ticks)



Wild mustard/brassica types.

You may see a few wild tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

Various other Solanums.

+ Alibizia saman (Raintree) – (edible pod pulp).

Yaje: Baniseriopsis capii

Tetrapterys methystica

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Black Nightshade (A mystic fruit)

Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum/americanum) is a little known, yet edible and delicious fruit. In some foraging guides it is seen as poisonous, but this is likely due to confusion with other Solanum species such as Solanum dulcamara. Here’s a video showing the characteristics of this plant, and a comparison with others that may look similar to some seekers. And of course, always verify all wild foods with a trusted expert.

Much more videos on my Youtube channel and Facebook Page

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Pics From Foraging @ Mountainside Park, Montclair, NJ

Heres a look at some pics from the foraging class in Montclair, NJ – Oct 25, 2014

Happy Foraging!


Further Suggested Reading: Foraging Articles

Foraging Videos: Click Here

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