Botany & Wildcrafting Course Review

Have you ever wanted to get into Wildcrafting, but didn’t know where to start? Herbal Academy has just released a new course, that for me is simply amazing. With our new property that the farm & homestead is on, I am out nearly daily trying to ID plants.

As Spring has finally settled in, every afternoon I notice flowers opening, trees blossoming, and new plants shooting up. There is no better time to get into the woods and poke around for the many wild edibles and herbs flourishing in your area than right now. The class was released today, and I am currently immersed in it, downloading the textbook PDF’s, printing them and studying.

I was given a chance to review this new course in exchange for my thoughts on it – and like all of the courses I have taken through Herbal Academy, I am always pleased with the quality of the content and the presentation. You can take the course at a slow or fast pace, and it comes with a full color printable textbook in PDF, for later use (I print all mine off and put them by class into 3 ring binders). One of the biggest parts is they cover the ethics of wildcrafting/picking and stress the importance of being careful with endangered plants.

While foraging and wildcrafting are hot topics now a days, the idea of trekking into the woods to forage for your own food and herbs may have you feeling intimidated. Or you may even be a little scared, which is to be expected if you don’t know what you are doing, especially when trying your hand at it for the first time. Even for myself, as both a hiker and a farmer, there is so much I don’t know! I was excited when the class was announced, as a goal of mine for our hiking trips has been being better at plant ID. Sure, I can identify most wildflowers, but greens? Not so much. And knowing plants that are also medicinal? Even better.

The Herbal Academy has just released Botany & Wildcrafting Course, a well-layed out course that will guide you through the art of wildcrafting, teach you the science of plant identification, and answer your many getting started questions, all while build your confidence along the way. Curated by an expert team of herbalists and botanists, this program explores plants as living beings, their fascinating ecological relationships, and the ways that our own ecosystem can shape your relationship with plants.

By the end of this class, you will have the information to safely wild harvest and use at least 25 common wild plants, and have the tools and know-how to independently wildcraft the plants in your region. You will be able to:

  • Name all the parts of a plant, including the parts that make up flowers, leaves, fruits, and stems.
  • Identify new plants anywhere in the world using a dichotomous key.
  • Understand how to decipher plant part differences such as leaves, flowers, and fruits of separate plant species.
  • Decode patterns in nature and gain insight into plant relationships and herbal and edible use by understanding these patterns.
  • Sense of the vast number of relationships that exist between plants and other organisms that are required for pollination, seed dispersal, and survival.
  • Understand how and when to use a plant’s binomial name and discover why a plant might have more than one name.
  • Dry plants in a way that maintains their vitality, aroma, color, and flavor.
  • Create your very own herbarium of pressed plant specimens.
  • Get to know plants on a deeper level through keying, drawing, coloring, and identification.

Like most Herbal Academy courses, you have the option to upgrade with a Botanical Illustrations Workbook, including 25 botanically accurate illustrations from the class ready for your coloring skills, summary monographs from class to complete your learning experience, and blank pages for additional sketches and note-taking. You don’t have to get it, but I can tell you from other classes, it is worth the small extra cost. 

The Botany & Wildcrafting Course is now enrolling students with a great introductory price through May 7th, and class begins May 7th! Through the 7th, the class is $50 off.

FTC Disclaimer: We received the course to review, those thoughts are ours. 

Creating A Living Winter Food Tree For The Animals

When our younger boys were preschool age, they attended a forest school, that was all outdoors. The first year we decorated the forest and made living winter food trees for the birds and squirrels that call the area home year-round. It’s a really fun project for the long Thanksgiving weekend, when the children are bored by Friday.

Evergreen trees show the treats well (the color popping against the deep green), however empty deciduous trees also work well. And if you live in a rainy area, consider decorating a covered porch as well. The animals will still visit, and your home will be beautifully decorated for the Winter Solstice (or Christmas).

A popular one was orange slices:

While we hung fresh cut ones, as we had a covered area, dehydrating them first makes it a lot less messy. And less likely the children eat all the supplies (hah).

Dried oranges are incredibly easy to prep, and can be done with lower quality fruit, than if you were eating the citrus fresh. I buy 3 pound bags of navel oranges at our local discount shop (Grocery Outlet), and wash them oranges well, then dry off. Trim the ends, slice and separate.

You have two choices, one is more gentle, the other is faster – a great option if you decide in the morning to wildcraft.

Dry on a dehydrator, at 135 to 155°, till dry. This may take 12 to 24 hours, depending on temperature in machine, in the house and the home’s humidity.

Heat your oven to 200°. Lay out the orange slices on cooling racks, over baking sheets. It will take about 2 to 3 hours till dry.

You can use grapefruit, lemons, limes, whatever you have on hand.

For hanging the dried slices, use a plastic or metal blunt end needle (for knitting). Hemp twine works well, or any similar biodegradable gardening twine. Avoid using fishing line as it is plastic, and can harm animals. Once strung as you like (you can make knots between each slice to keep from sliding), hang or drape as you like.

Cranberry garland:

If you missed this classic in school, I say it’s never too late to do it! One bag of fresh cranberries (which like the oranges need not be the best in shape, so if it’s marked down, grab it). Using a thinner needle (metal works better here), thread the needle with twine. If the twine is thin you will want to make a loop and knot. If thick, just knot one end. Simple sewing here. Thread on the cranberries, length-wise. You can knot between if they are slipping at all. Wind the garland around trees or bushes as desired.

Popcorn:

I only suggest popcorn if your winter is on the arid side. I don’t do it here, as it rains too much. Air pop organic popcorn, and use a sewing needle with a double section of cotton thread (knotted). Once a section is done, arrange on trees.

Finishing The Intermediate Herbal Course by Herbal Academy

This past week I finished and got my certificate in the Intermediate Herbal Course from Herbal Academy. Finishing it meant I had completed the Family Herbalist Path.

Online Intermediate Herbal Course

It was a long course, and taking it over the spring and summer months didn’t help it go fast. I worked on it at night, when I had chances, and farming wasn’t overwhelming me. Fall gave me a lot more free time with the children back in school (and no farm chores to eat up my days!). This isn’t a light reading class, and I’d say it really pushed me mentally. It was hard. When I was young, and in school, I wasn’t a very good student. My mind tended to wander. Honestly, I’d say it was because the studies didn’t hold me. Education I want to learn at, I do well with.

I took the Introductory Herbal Course in the start of the year, to see how I liked it.

Online Introductory Herbal Course

The course stuck a harmony in me, and left me wanting to take more. I learned more how my body works, than I had thought I might know in my life. It also opened up my eyes to why our youngest son’s body works the way it is, and ways I can help him with his issues. If anything, I took the schooling to learn ways to help the family.

I am continuing to learn, and am taking the Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course currently. Stress is always something I can work in, with 3 children and a farm to run. It’s a short course, and a great way to see if one likes Herbal Academy’s methods and presentation.

Enroll in the Herbal Self-Care for Stress Management Course

After that? I don’t know yet, but I am leaning towards finishing my courses and taking the third course in the entrepreneur path. It would complement my work in handcrafted body products, one of the main reasons I started my herbalist training.

Online Entrepreneur Herbal Course

The learning has been amazing though. I have gained more confidence in what herbs to choose, and how to use them and when. If anything, I make amazing herbal teas now.

During the summer, when I was having studying burnout, I took the short course, Herbal Materia Medica, and picked up the paper journal to go with it. It gave me time to force myself to sit down outside and study the herb plants our farm. My drawing might have a long way before I’d show it to anyone, but well, at least I am trying!

Enroll in the Materia Medica Course!

Each course they offer comes with PDF printouts, which I print and put in binders for future research. The many recipes shared in the courses I have in their own binder. From teas, tinctures, salves, and even food/drink recipes, I have so many I have been using.

Someday, I will have a working apocathary area on our farm for our use, where I can store my course binders and books for easy use. It’s a life goal. I’d love to have a small shop where my products are featured, with a work area for me, for doing research. A girl can dream.

But for now, back to my studies.

Building an Herb Pantry

Over the years, every summer and early fall I always harvest both herbs I grow, and local ones I can sustainably harvest (for example Nettles), and I dry them to preserve for use all year, to build a herb pantry. For example, I always stock up on Thyme, Rosemary, Sage and so on. Nothing from a store competes with home-grown dried herbs in the middle of January! They are light in texture, fresh and you know exactly what was used to raise them (in most cases nothing more than water and sunshine). To dry? Cut in the morning, and stash the cut herbs in new paper lunch bags, in a cool/dry area. The herbs will air dry, preserving the oils. Once dry, pull of the stems, and place in glass mason jars, marked. You can use a food dehydrator as well, however, use the coolest setting. You want to avoid cooking the delicate oils.

However, as I started studying herbalism, I found I needed more herbs so I could make medicinal teas and tinctures. This led to more plants being grown, especially for lesser common things like marshmallow and feverfew. This summer I started building a herb pantry for medicinal use (that is separate from our eating herbs, though I do use them as well in my medicinal work), that I keep in an easy to access, yet cool/dark/dry area, so I can work easily.

However, if you don’t or can’t grow them yourself, it is easy to source. My suggestions are to buy from Frontier Co-op (their products are used in many herb bulk bins in stores, always well-marked) or Mt. Rose Herbs, both of which are highly regarded. Only buy from sources that are trusted however. Avoid herbs and spices from discount stores, and in bulk bins where no brand is marked. You have no idea what was used on them, or if it is even the actual product. (Frontier sells in large quantities, Mt. Rose sells in smaller amounts)

Culinary herbs such as:

  • Basil
  • Bay Leaf
  • Cilantro
  • Dill seed, Dill Weed
  • Ginger
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage

Medicinal herbs & flowers:

  • Calendula
  • Chamomile
  • Comfrey
  • Dandelion Root
  • Hibiscus Flowers
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm
  • Marshmallow Root
  • Patchouli
  • Peppermint
  • Red Raspberry Leaves
  • Rose Flowers
  • Strawberry Leaves

There of course is so much more out there, including spices, and even more flowers and roots. Buy what you need, no more than an ounce or so at a time, unless you have a project in mind, and try to use up within a few months if you can, but make it a policy that once a year you clean out any unused herbs and spices, and send them to the compost pile.

For best results, don’t crush any larger leaves until time to use (such as red raspberry, or sage). Crumble, or finely pound, as needed. This keeps the essential oils fresher, for longer.

For best storage, invest in various glass mason jars, and seal tightly. Store out of direct light.

Dandelion Muffins

Wildcrafting and foraging are an addicting hobby, and if you want to start your hand at it, picking Dandelion flowers is very easy. They are simple to identify, and so easy to source (and no worries about picking too many either!) Dandelion Muffins are a tasty way to enjoy them, and to get others to try flowers for the first time.

Dandelion Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1½ cups granulated sugar (or coconut sugar)
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups fruit or veggies, used diced rhubarb; zucchini/apple/blackberry are also great
1 cup dandelion petals*

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two 8×4 inch pans or line muffin tins (makes about 19 muffins).

Mix dry ingredients, flours through cinnamon.

Blend wet ingredients, egg replacer through vanilla.

Add dry to wet, and beat well.

Mix in fruit/veggies/petals gently.

Bake muffins 20-25 minutes or until toothpick is clean. 8×4 inch pans take about 40-60 minutes.

Cool in pans on wire rack for 20 minutes.

*Pick dandelions in the morning, pluck petals removing the greens, and soak in a light salt water to clean, drain. Only use flowers from safe lawns or fields, where no pesticides, herbicides or cars nearby.