3 herbs to try this winter

winter herbs

By Kathy Larson

I was recently asked what my favorite winter herbs are. The first ones to pop to mind were echinacea, horehound, eucalyptus and other cold weather “remedies.” But even though these are wonderful herbs that I turn to from time to time, they really aren’t my everyday winter favorites. The three herbs that I rely on almost daily during the short, cold days of winter are ginger, peppermint and calendula flowers.

Ginger: I feel warm and energized just thinking about a hot cup of ginger tea, and a strong ginger tea soak is also a treat for my feet when I work outside in the winter. On a blustery winter day, there is nothing I like better to warm up with than a hot, brothy miso soup with lots of ginger, hot chilies, shitakes and Chinese veggies. Continue reading

Preserve delicate flavor for year-round use with salt-dried fines herbes

Fines-herbes-1By Tom Havran

Fines herbes (feenz erbs) is a traditional French blend of delicately aromatic and flavorful herbs used to season subtly flavored dishes, such as eggs, buttery sauces, vegetables, chicken and fish. Gourmands prefer fines herbes made with fresh herbs, but you can salt dry fresh herbs to create an easily stored version with good flavor.

The classic fines herbes blend consists of tarragon, chervil, chives and parsley leaves. These herbs can be air-dried, but their constituents are so volatile and delicate that their unique flavors are largely lost into the air in the process. These same constituents are readily soluble into the fats and oils used in cooking — which is why they are preferred in their fresh form.

Fortunately, there is another way to capture some of fines herbes’ rare and elusive goodness. Salt-drying the fresh leaves will quickly desiccate the herbs and provide you with a delicately-seasoned salt to use long after the fresh herbs are no longer available. The addition of salt dramatically shortens the drying time, while the vast surface area of the crystals and their interlocking structure help to contain and fix the fugitive flavors of the fines herbes. Continue reading

Breitenbush Herbal Conference, Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center, Oregon

The Breitenbush Retreat and Conference Center is a worker-owned cooperative on 154 acres of wildlife sanctuary in the Willamette National Forest of the Oregon Cascades. Even the description is full of beautiful words!

An event is held at this stunning location that we’re proud to sponsor: the Breitenbush Herbal Conference, an annual gathering for herbalists, healers, and students. As the Herbal Conference website describes it: “People come from all corners to celebrate and learn from some of the most inspiring teachers in the herbal community. The healing waters and ancient forests of Breitenbush provide an incredible setting for this magical gathering. Workshops, demonstrations, herb walks, and merriment, appeal to all levels of students.”

Our herbal expert Tim Blakley has been in attendance as a teacher at this event from the beginning, and happily returned this year to reunite with some of his fellow conference founders. He provided us with the delightful then and now photos below.

The event served as a fundraiser to benefit our friends at United Plant Savers as well. United Plant Savers is a group of plant enthusiasts committed to raising public awareness of the plight of our wild medicinal plants. They are dedicated to protecting these plants through organic cultivation, sustainable agricultural practices, and the replanting of native medicinal species back into their natural habitats. Their membership reflects the diversity of American herbalism and includes wildcrafters, seed collectors, manufacturers, growers, botanists, practitioners, medicine makers, educators and plant lovers from all walks of life.

Teachers at the first Breitenbush Herbal Conference, 1984.

Reunion of teachers, 2011. Tim Blakley is on the left in the front row.

Let us know if you’ve visited this beautiful spot in the Cascades, or attended the conference!