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Healing Wise ...
with Susun Weed

An attitude of gratitude – Thanksgiving
With a full and joyous heart
I acknowledge the blessing of life
And the abundance that surrounds me.

Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday in November, is an American holiday that is very special to me. Sure, as a child, I was told the happy lie that it was a commemoration of a feast shared by the Puritans and "Indians."

There may have been a feast. People of the Great Peaceful Nations did indeed greet newcomers with a baked pumpkin. Wild turkey, as well as deer, abound in the Eastern states and are traditionally hunted in late November, or when ice forms on puddles overnight. And, though there were massacres (especially in the West, and on both sides), there was a great deal of cooperation between the "natives" and the "whites" in the East. A feast is not impossible.

But what I actually got from Thanksgiving as a child was vastly different from what I was taught. I wasn't focused on relations between the settlers and the indigenous peoples, I was focused on relations in my own home. And Thanksgiving brought a lot of different relations – as well as relatives – to my home.

My mother had special china that was used only on Thanksgiving. And special flatware – real silver! – which went with it. Oh, and special glasses too – crystal! Special serving dishes were retrieved from their storage places, washed, and filled with tasty things that weren't the least bit normal: tiny white pickled onions, crisp whole cucumber pickles smaller than my smallest finger, radish roses, pimento-stuffed green olives, black olives from a can, cheeses from exotic, far-away places.

Dinner was always a special meal at my home. But Thanksgiving dinner, which happened at a different time than all other dinners, was the acme of dinners. Neither Christmas dinner nor Easter dinner, both of which were honored as special events in my childhood home, came close.

Thanksgiving dinner was a holy ritual, a sacrament, that was taking place in my home, in front of me, and that I was actually part of. It made my heart burst with joy.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, why not make one evening meal special this week? What foods would people who lived where you live now but 300 years ago have eaten? Eating those foods honors the Ancestors, honors the Ancient Ones, honors the Spiral of Life as we spiral into winter. And the easiest of those Ancestor foods to find, and to eat, are the wild foods.

What are you waiting for? Grab your basket, and your coat, and come with me. Let's pick a Salad of Thanksgiving.

Green blessings are everywhere.

Thanksgiving Salad Weed Walk
Though it is cold (and colder), there are still green plants for our salads. Here are more than a dozen different things we found to eat in a ten minute walk. All of the plants in our Thanksgiving Salad were found growing around a residence for elders on the banks of the Esopus Creek where it meets the Hudson River in Saugerties.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria officinalis)
Our official major salad plant, for which we give endless thanksgiving. This hardy green will be available until it is buried by snow. For now, it is the main ingredient in all our late fall, early winter salads. Not too bitter, and not too spicy, but just right for colder weather. Let's pick lots of this one.

Plantain (Plantago majus)
Plantain is one hardy plant. The little leaves are tough at this time of the year and will need to be finely chopped into our salad. I love their "woodsmoke and friendship" smell. No more than two leaves per plant, please, into your basket. We want lots of plantain next spring too.

Wild Carrot Tops (Daucua carota)
Last month I couldn't find any first-year leaves of wild carrot to show the students at a class. Now, they seem to be everywhere. Wonder where they were hiding. Although they are a little hairy, wild carrot leaves will be exceptionally tasty in our Thanksgiving salad, so let's pick a lot.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Remember that dandelion leaves are at their sweetest and most palatable after the first frosts, so gather all you can find, without taking too many from any plant. Cut them into smallish pieces, to improve the texture and to spread the bitter, mineral-y taste throughout the salad.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Sorry for the blurry photo. I guess the chickweed was shivering when I photographed her. There isn't a lot, so we will only take a small amount. But the bland, crisp taste of chickweed is just the foil we need for the stronger flavors we have harvested, so let's keep our eyes out for another patch.

Cronewort (Artemisia vulgaris)
The little leaves of my friend cronewort (AKA mugwort), minced, will add a savory, slightly bitter bite to our salad. Just a few will do the trick. Yes, you can still make a cronewort vinegar, with leaves or roots and leaves, if you can find young growth, which is generally easy.

Young Cress
The cold days are the favorite days of all the members of the cabbage family. We've already picked lots of garlic mustard, but let's add some of this little cress. We can toss the leaves in whole since they are small.

Wild Chives
These wild chives are found in any lawn that isn't doused with chemicals. They offer sulfur compounds that help us stay healthy in the winter. Yummy in salads, but great creamed into butter and served on baked squash. Or try a wild chive vinegar.

Sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)
This persistent edible green is showing up in more and more places over the past few years. Hooray!  Despite its untidy look, puha (as it is known in New Zealand) is a prize green for salads. We won't take more than 2-3 leaves per plant though.

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta)
What a lucky find! This tender green won't be around too much longer. I am so happy to have its bright, tart taste in our salad. Harvest as much as you can.

Wild Carrot Flowers (Daucua carota)
This is unusual. Perhaps this spot has a warm microclimate. Perhaps this wild carrot was trimmed back and decided to flower anyhow. The flowers are edible and make a nice decorative touch to our salad.

Susun Weed’s books:

Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year
Author: Susun S. Weed. Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations.
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Healing Wise
Author: Susun S. Weed. Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode. Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations. Retails for $21.95

NEW Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way

Author: Susun S. Weed. The best book on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Introduction by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations. Retails for $19.95
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Breast Cancer? Breast Health!

Author: Susun S. Weed. Foods, exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen. Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations. Retails for $21.95

Down There:
Sexual and Reproductive Health the Wise Woman Way

Author: Susun S. Weed Simple, successful, strategies cover the entire range of options -- from mainstream to radical -- to help you choose the best, and the safest, ways to optimize sexual and reproductive health.
Foreword: Aviva Romm, MD, midwife, 484 pages, Index, illustrations Retails for $29.95
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