Update on help Dan get a Van Plan: A Huge thanks to all who have donated so far! So far we have raised about half of what it looks like I’ll need to build my forager van, feels like a great start! Check out more about the Forager Van Project at Help Dan Get A Van!
Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a controversial but medicinal and sometimes edible plant, depending on how correctly it is prepared. This plant can be VERY poisonous and shows up often where people don’t want it to grow, BUT, it has every right to be in north america, as the species name indicates. It IS a native plant!
In this quick video I show you one of the easiest ways to prepare it, ***with the caviat that for food, you MUST pick the young shoots only, that are under 12 inches tall and only take those shoots which have no reddening on the stem. This means that poke is only able to be harvested for food for a small window of time.
And remember, all wild foods, always be careful when trying any wild food, eat a small amount first to make sure you have a. prepared it correctly, and b. that you wont get a unique allergic reaction.
Check out lots more herbalism and foraging articles, videos, and upcoming classes at:
Here’s a look from the “Yoga of Plants” workshop at The Inner Warrior in Loiusville, KY, where I gave a talk on determining constitutions of wild herbs by taste based on Ayurvedic constitutional principles and webcasted it live on the Return to Nature Facebook page.
The Yoga of Plants: Learn the foundational practices to apply Ayurvedic constitutional principles to intuit and understand herbal properties and their effects on the body through your own ability to taste wild plants!
If you appreciate this class, and want to see more webcasts, please help cover expenses for doing so. You can make any donation through paypal to Dan@Returntonature.us
Also, check out lots more foraging and herbalism articles, videos, and upcoming classes on
Today we went exploring one of my favorite patches of wineberries. Said to be an invasive plant, I encourage everyone to cross compare that with the idea of shipping the equivalent berry from across the US or even worse, foreign countries with less-than-optimal employment situations.
It is an odd culture indeed that targets a local food source as something to get rid of, and to spray toxins on, then to happily go to a grocery store and buy an sub-par replacement, which is often frozen for shipping, always accompanied with tons of fossil fuel burning, and is old and therefore the antioxidant value has gone down.
This is extremely revealing to what has become of the distorted survival instinct of the human. And how hard corporations have been at this game of disconnecting us from our local ecology, and local food sources.
To recap, in case anyone is confused, berries are not dangerous terrorists and therefore do not need to be targeted and eradicated. I personally can think of several other solutions, and I’m sure you can as well.
What if, for example these local patches were managed and maintained by the local townspeople who saw it fit to pick berries from their local environment instead of feed into the delusions of corporate exotic agriculture.
If you would like another solution, how about raising children in a nature based way and teaching them of the local abundant wild resources. If we eat the wine berry, since most people prefer to poop in their county drinking water supply, the seeds will not reproduce. This would drastically reduce the numbers of seeds being sent to the environment.
Perhaps this would be an aspect of humans fulfilling their current ecological purpose, and would help caretake and manage local ecology which would rebirth a transition out of exoticised capitalism into a local cottage industry which rebuilds community, connection, and localizes dollar spending.
I forsee that with more research done, we will realize that ecology is compensating for human disconnection, and that humans don’t need to fight nature, but return to nature.
In this video, I share a look at some key identification points in identifying edible vs inedible mushrooms of the agaricus genus.
This genus of mushrooms is where the common store-bought “white button mushroom” comes from, but they are a lot tastier and much more fun to find in the wild.
The rules mentioned in this video only apply to this genus, and not all mushroom species. And remember, always get all mushrooms checked out and properly identified by an expert before trying to consume them.
In celebration of the season, we’re offering a limited edition “Summertime Herbal Goods” package:
Each package will be carefully and lovingly handmade to order with prayer and the healing power of plant magic!
Price: $57.00 (Includes $7 USPS priority mail shipping) which includes our 9 oz. Summer Soother Tea Blend, 2 oz. “Bug Out” Spray – Organic Insect Repellent, and our 4 oz. Raw Organic Maca Chocolate, and Our 4 oz. Elderberry Elixir.
To order send $57 total via PayPal to Dan@returntonature.us. Please include your shipping address in the notes section so we know where to send it!
Only 8 of these limited edition packages are available…don’t miss out on the magic!!
Please visit our online herbal apothecary and bee in touch for custom requests!
Registration Closes on May 14th – Beginning this May of 2016, I’ll be taking another group of students for a year-long training intensive program. This mentorship will be a deep culmination of the last 2 years trainings and represents a well-rounded practice of living “off-grid” and on your own ingenuity and skillset.
This will be the third year that I will be running a year-long mentorship to systematically teach each student to work in depth with diverse plant based skills that are essential for nomadic hunter gathering pathways. Each student, among getting to know the plants inside and out, will also progressively be brought to a state of camping “self-reliance” and have the ability to go anywhere and wildcraft food and medicine.
I have picked 4 awesome campground locations all in New Jersey which are all around 2 hours radius of central NJ. Scheduled Meeting Dates: Shelter – May 20-23 – Develop your own camp site, learn to camp and refine backpack gear, first aid kits, car packing, identify and forage edible and medicinal spring plants. Fire – July 8-10 – Once the gear and camp is easily set up, we will practice and discuss the intricacies of different firemaking aspects, including understanding firemaking techniques for different ecosystems and weather patterns, what can be harvested off of the landscape, and cooking and food preparation, This will be interspersed with plant walks, observation of growth patterns of differing plants and trees. Water – September 9-11 – Wild water harvesting, purification techniques, and ways to track landscapes for acquiring drinking water, mushroom identification and hunting aspects, and herbal medicine making and preserving aspects. Food and Medicine – November 11-13 – this is the time when camping becomes colder and gear becomes refined, learn to condition your body and dress appropriately, to keep and maintain fire, to prepare foods on fire, and to make medicinal preparations from the plants we have gathered throughout our adventure. There will likely be wildcrafted mead to celebrate a beautiful year together.
To learn more or to register, email Dan@Returntonature.us
Dan De Lion
Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa) is surprisingly an incredible edible food.
You may even have it growing on your property, but may have not realized all of its virtues as a food and medicine. In this article I’ll be discussing some of the aspects of this special cactus, which is the only native cactus of the northeastern United States, and grows abundantly throughout the southwest.
You actually can consume the pads, flower pedals, and also fruits, but all of them, minus the flowers, need processing of some sort. There are a few techniques that should first be understood about this plant as a food source.
Prickly Pear as an Edible Food:
The pads of the prickly pear are known in Spanish as nopales, and I often find them in international cuisine market where they are fully cleaned and prepared for eating. In the wild, they are very delicious, but also are full of glochids, which are these little minute hairs, that need to be cleaned off. The glochids can get into the skin or lips, or even worse – on the tongue, and are almost impossible to get out. It is guaranteed that as you try to get them out of your skin, you will painfully discover more. The fruit also has many rock hard seeds which you have to spit out. Native people ground up the seeds using a mortar and pestle to consume them; they are edible once ground. The flower petals of the Prickly Pear make a great and delicate food, something quite substantial for a flower. They also have a slimy consistency and are typically filling.)
Medicinal and Nutritional Aspects:
The whole plant is mucilaginous, which is, just as the word “mucous” implies – a slimy substance. At first, one might be offset by that quality, however an herbalist learns to deeply value this asset, necessary to nourish the healthy gut flora, but is a textural sensation almost entirely missing from our modern diet. The lack of mucilage, in the American diet, may actually be linked to constipation and slow moving elimination, which of course leads to the bodies toxification. Mucilage is able to coat the digestive tract, and as its nature suggests, it is cooling and soothing. From a holistic perspective, that means that it would be incredibly helpful in the case of any burn, inflammation of any kind, or any hot cellular processes such as ulcers. This also means that if you understand its principle action, you can stretch your imagination to when the need arises.
Key aspects of healing: Applied topically, this entails soothing for sunburn, having made it a great medicinal plant for desert or coastal tribes.
Applied internally, this offers calming, cooling, soothing, and lubrication to the entire body processes.
Fire Roasted Nopales:
Probably the most efficient way of harvesting the pads in the wild is to use 2 sticks as a tong, or fashion a chop stick and cut a pad off at its base.. DO NOT lay your hands into one of these things! [It is not the visible thorns that will get you, it is the near-invisible glochids.] From there you can actually roast it on coals to burn off the glochids and cook the cactus pad. Once this is done, you can cut the outside skin off and eat the inside flesh, which is much better when softened by cooking than it is raw, although you can eat it raw if need.
The fruits, also known as tunas are delicious to eat raw, although they also require careful removal of the glochids, or a very careful skin-peeling process. In a primitive or survival situation, if you don’t have a fire or the ability to make one, this takes creative thinking – think sandpaper, whether that’s a rock, or your knife edge. I highly recommend fashioning yourself some crude forest chopsticks to handle these, or wear very thick gloves if you have them. The fruits as well are sometimes sold in the store with the glochids removed. But, nothing is like foraging your own wild food!
Heres a video to help you further discern edible prickly pear cactus:
Foraging for Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) – An Ancient Ally
The History of Horsetail:
Horsetail is a common road and streamside plant which is descended from huge, tree like plants that thrived 400 million years ago during the Paleozoic era. A close relative of the fern, horsetail is a nonflowering plant found throughout parts of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North America. The plant is a perennial (returns each year from the same root structure) with hollow stems and shoots that look like asparagus at first.
It also contains spores, which historically gives us the understanding of this plant coming onto the evolutionary scene after its ancestors; the mushrooms, which arespore bearing, and before pollen bearing plants such as pine, which also learned the art of symbiotization with wind. This is long before flowering plants, which developed seeds, likely in association with mammals coming onto the scene. This is a direct example of plants predictive capacity at its best.
Identification of Horsetail:
To properly identify horsetail, look for them in wet riparian and drainage areas along the banks of streams, or where water is known to pool up at some phase of the year. One must also understand that all Equisetum species have 2 forms of plants; fertile stems (light colored due to lack of chlorophyll) which appear earlier in the spring and are followed by sterile stems which are green.
The green, “sterile” plant is what we want for harvest which are abundant in the spring. Once properly identified, it is recommended that one take no more than 30 percent of what is found. This also is coupled with a warning that sometimes horsetail likes to live in drainage areas, which is great for finding and identifying, but not so great for the uptake of potential toxins such as heavy metals and PCBs. This is often similar though, to most conventional food in the grocery stores that modern Americans have become so used to buying without thinking.
The green stems of horsetail are diuretic and homeostatic and help to remineralize the body, especially in the case of other wasting conditions or malabsorption, which can be seen by a skilled practitioner in tongue, facial, eye, hair, and nail diagnosis. Medicinally, Horsetail is deeply rich in minerals, high in silica, and the best time to harvest is before the stems drop to a 90 degree angle to the stalk. After that phase, the plant gets very tough and is reported to cause issues in the kidneys.
Once properly identified and harvested from a wholesome area, then dried, and powdered in a coffee grinder, one can consume ½-1 tsp of horsetail powder as a daily tonic by adding a little hot water daily of to strengthen bones, nails, and hair. It has a cumulative effects and differences will be seen over a few weeks to a month.
There is some debate whether the chemical constituents (mainly silica) of horsetail are extracted in an alcohol tincture, and to get around this one could make what is known as an acetate tincture – a mixed tincture of alcohol and vinegar, usually 75/25, or 50/50.
One can also easily extract horsetail in apple cider vinegar by chopping finely or powdering the plant, then adding to vinegar, stirring every few days, and straining in 2 weeks to 2 months.
One potential concern with long-term use of horsetail according to Arthur Haines, horsetails contain thiaminase, an enzyme that destroys vitamin B1 in the body and If used for long periods of time, it could lower body stores of this vitamin. This problem can be overcome by consuming more vitamin B1 when using this species and/or decocting for longer periods of time (thiaminase is a heat-sensitive compound).
Another way to get around this is take horsetail for 2-4 weeks on, and then 2-4 weeks off. As a forager and wildcrafter, these are natural cycles as we track the cycles of nature and receive different amounts of medicines each year from our known spots.