2018-10-21 / Insight

From herbs to foraging, there are many plants to eat, use for remedies

BY KRYSTAL MORALEE
Contributing Writer


Witch hazel is just one of the local wild plants that can be foraged to use in homemade beauty products. 
Photo by Krystal Moralee Witch hazel is just one of the local wild plants that can be foraged to use in homemade beauty products. Photo by Krystal Moralee LAPEER — Lapeer County is full of woods, fields, lawns that haven’t been treated with chemicals and gardens in which weeds constantly threaten to encroach upon the peppers and tomatoes. For those in the know, there are plenty of good things out there with which to stock your pantry, makeup kit and medicine cabinet.

A traditional herb garden is a common thing for many cooks. Thyme, sage, chives, mint and oregano will grow, spread, and return each year with little to no attention, often one of the first green things to pop through the last crust of snow in the spring. That first pot of potatoes with sour cream and fresh clipped chives in the spring holds all the promise of fresh, tasty food to come during the growing season, and in the fall, growers will dry bunches of their herbs to use throughout the winter.

Columbiaville resident Gina Delisi’s inter- est in herbs was born from her love of food and watching things grow. Once she got married, she planted a backyard herb garden, with a goal of flavoring food.

“It was then that I realized I had no idea how to cook,” she said, laughing. “Being broke and on our own, we quickly got thrifty with what and how we were eating. Looking up recipes was when I started to find articles on using herbs for health and loved the idea of incorporating healing herbs into our food since mainstream healthcare was a bit too pricey.”

She continued to read about herbal uses, and found plenty of contradictory material, which she found discouraging. As she continued gardening at home, she decided to become a master gardener, and that’s when she met Jim McDonald, an herbalist from White Lake.

“Everything fell into place,” she said. “Suddenly, there was a whole realm of information that wasn’t contradictory, that had a rhythm and rhyme to how the herbs were used, that wasn’t based on selling a product.”

Delisi began dabbling in herbal remedies, making teas, salves, tinctures and herbed oils and vinegars. She became interested in becoming an herbalist, but there are a lot of legal issues there. In addition, she found that even though using herbs to enhance health is relatively simple, many people weren’t really receptive to it. People would ask her for a recommendation, and she’d suggest a tea or even cooking with specific herbs, but they didn’t want to the work. They wanted a magic pill.

“I wasn’t willing to do that. This wasn’t the way I wanted to practice,” she said. “The problem I ultimately wanted to help with, was not one of conventional medicine vs. alternative medicine. I wanted to help people to not have to take the medicine. To be the kind of herbalist I wanted, I had to figure out how to get the herbs into people. Suddenly, I realized, that people didn’t have a medicine problem, they had a food problem... If I wanted to help prevent disease, I had to get in at the ground floor – food!”

That was when Delisi began studying nutrition. She still creates herbal blends for cooking and remedies through her home business, Delisious Herbs, which she sells at a variety of markets and events.

“The neat thing about changing the conversation from medicine to food, is that people like to eat. They don’t like to take medicine,” she said. “Creating excitement and enthusiasm about self-care through tasty meals is motivating for people. It changes the conversation from something upsetting (disease) to something fun (food).”

And in those recipes, she said, she can incorporate delicious herbs and other things that from an herbal medicine standpoint can have great health benefits.

“Thyme and garlic will help to relieve the leaky-drippy congestion, honey and vinegar will soothe your sore throat from the post nasal drip, and I just convinced you to eat a home-cooked meal full of veggies loaded with vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids!,” she said. “This is where I tell you that if you fill your diet with healthy meals just like this, you might avoid or delay chronic disease, or at least not get that nasty cold that has been going around.”

Foraging for food, home remedies

Delisi and Carolyn Leduc-Krehel of Mayfield Township have both also dabbled in foraging, where you can go out into your own back yard or the woods behind your house to find wild edibles, remedies and beauty products. Mushrooms, wild leeks, common weeds like purslane, lamb’s quarters and plantain, wildflowers like violets and other plants that we pass by without a glance every day can become soups, salads, salves and soaps.

Leduc-Krehel said she has been interested in foraging all her adult life. She would listen and learn while her boys were in the garden club at the Chatfield School with Peter McCreedy, and started making herbal soaps at home. That led to salves, cologne, face cream, toner, shampoo and lip balm, and her small home business, Some Cool Road.

“I have a laboratory and science background,” she said, adding that creating these products while she was a stay-at-home-mom allowed her to satisfy some of her nerdy needs through weighing, measuring and mixing. She’s a self-described lip balm addict, so she decided to make her own, and she also enjoys making custom blends for friends.

“It’s just fun for me to look in my books and make something,” she said. “I like custom making stuff.”

The area is teeming with wonderful wild goodies, free for the taking. With wild plants, and particularly mushrooms, it’s incredibly important to check and double check to make sure you have what you think you have before using it, particularly when dealing with mushrooms, which can be toxic and even fatal.

Think twice, though, next time you pull a weed out of your garden. It could be lamb’s quarter, which can be saut√©ed like spinach, or purslane, which can add a burst of omega-3 fatty acids to your salad.

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