Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Common Ground: Wild and Native Plants as Food and Medicine
Earth Mother Herbal: Remedies, Lotions, and Potions from Mother Nature’s Healing Plants
Radiant Food Newsletter
Healthy Foods from Healthy Soils

Connon Ground book cover
Common Ground: Wild and Native Plants as Food and Medicine

Self-published by Leslie Wood and Fredda Paul
RR 1 Box 425, Perry ME 04667; 207-853-4578;
Copyright 2003; large paperback
$24 & $3 shipping

Common Ground is not an herbal but a fascinating read about several edible and medicinal plants with which Wood has first-hand experience. The first chapter covers many of the plants you see when you step out the door: dandelion, linden, lambsquarters, oak and more. You’ll learn that one cup of tea made from pine needles has five times as much vitamin C as a lemon; that tea from the bark of oak (especially white oak) has cleared up bladder and kidney infections; and that sassafras tea can treat poison ivy and other rashes.

Individual chapters cover black walnut, bloodroot, ginkgo, horsetail, mayapple, poke, violet and witch hazel. I found the chapter on bloodroot especially fascinating. I’ve read about the use of this plant to treat skin cancer before, but the anecdotes that Wood offers are convincing that this could be a remedy of choice for many. The effects are not minimized: this cure can be dramatic, painful and thorough. It can fail to work, too, in cases that have gone too far. Recipes for a bloodroot salve are given.

Other chapters discuss gathering plant material; pH, acidophilus and Candida; the harmful effects of mold in buildings; salt; and Latin names of plants mentioned in Common Ground. Recipes for insect repellents, soaps and even hair spray (a new use for vodka!) are included, as well.

I’m actually reviewing the first printing, written by Wood alone and now sold out; the second is due out in May, and Wood says that it will be longer and improved, and co-authored with Fredda Paul, Passamaquoddy Traditional Healer, with whom she is apprenticing and learning about traditional Indian medicine. It will include an in-depth description of how to use plants that are local to our area and have been used by Passamaquoddy medicine people for a long time.

– Jean English


Earth Mother Herbal: Remedies, Lotions, and Potions from Mother Nature’s Healing Plants
Shatoiya de la Tour
Fair Winds Press, Gloucester, Mass., Nov. 2002
$16.95 paperback, 221 pages
Earth Mother Herbal cover

Is there no end to the herb books one “needs?” Earth Mother Herbal is yet another herbal that is produced from the heart and is full of useful information that you just…need. The book is beautifully designed, from the colorful, homey cover to the neatly arranged, flowing text, to the inviting, often humorous writing style. This is an excellent book for beginning herbalists, because de la Tour focuses on 40 “herbs for health and happiness” and encourages readers to get to know about five herbs a year. Her table of “Four Medicinal Theme Gardens” tells which plants to grow in a first-aid garden; a garden for the nervous system; a respiratory garden; and an immunity-building garden. Recipes are included throughout the book, from “Mother Earth’s Pesticide” to “Peppermint Brownies” and “Nettle Pesto.” If you know someone who’s having a baby soon, you might want to make “The Best Baby Rash Salve.” How about using fried dulse as a substitute for bacon in BLTs?

Despite having read several herbals, I continued to learn from Earth Mother Herbal. The author tells, for example, of an acquaintance who suffered precancerous ulcers as a result of severe sunburn. Two years of treatment with pharmaceuticals had no effect, but a topical calendula-based salve combined with drinking calendula tea led to noticeable healing in three days, and the sores were gone in three weeks. She notes that one-half cup of dandelions contain 122% of the U.S. RDA of vitamin A and 15% of vitamin C; her recipe for Anemia Capsules, which contains dandelion as well as other herbs, works without the side effect of constipation that often comes with iron pills. How about milk thistle seeds as a cure for hangovers? Or a tincture of bee propolis to treat canker sores?

If you do have enough herbals yourself, this would make a lovely gift for a friend. It is a joy to hold, read and use.

– Jean English


Radiant Food – (from the garden, from the kitchen, from the heart – the art of cooking for balance)

Newsletter from Susan Hamill, 19 Winterberry Lane, Union, ME 04862
12 issues a year, $22

Susan Hamill lives in a quiet valley in Union, Maine, and has been gardening, cooking and raising a family for there for at least 20 years. She teaches macrobiotic cooking and feeds people from her warm and friendly kitchen, and now she is working up to writing the healing cookbook that her students have been wishing and asking for. Here, in her newsletter, are the beginnings of the book to come. It arrives every month: eight pages of inspired writing that celebrates the changing seasons, personal descriptions of the life around her, beautiful black and white photographs, and, of course, tantalizing vegan-vegetarian recipes for the time of year. She introduces the local vegetables that belong to the season and deftly explains the theory behind their uses and preparation, introducing also the exotic ingredients that belong to the macrobiotic tradition. However, the newsletter is not austere or esoteric, but varies its offerings with the needs of the season, the light, the temperature, and mostly, what’s out in the garden, or down in the root cellar, and what is hungered for inside. Susan brings sensory joy to the long, white winter, the opening spring, the slow heat of summer and the harvest of fall, and her words of food are truly radiant.

– Beedy Parker


Healthy Foods cover
Healthy Foods from Healthy Soils

Elizabeth Patten and Kathy Lyons
Tilbury House, Gardiner, Maine, 2003
Large paperback; $19.95

Elizabeth Patten and Kathy Lyons, with illustrator Helen Stevens, have created a superb book that every K-6 teacher should see and use. Sections include: Where Does Food Come From? Choosing Food for Body & Soul; Putting “Garbage” to Work; and Let’s Grow Our Own. Together, the sections clearly present 45 hands-on “lessons” and activities about the importance of agriculture, nutrition and recycling in our lives. Children learn about the power that their food choices have on their health, on local farmers, on the environment and the community by making puppets, keeping food diaries, growing food in their schools, creating model digestive tracts, vermicomposting, and more.

Patten is a Maine dietitian and health educator who lives with her family and several thousand red wigglers. Lyons, also from Maine, is an environmental educator and puppeteer who has created ‘Annelida,’ the worm puppet for a recycling program and the “spokesworm” for the lessons in this book. The lessons that they have created in Healthy Foods from Healthy Soils are keyed to the Benchmarks for Science Literacy and come with links to children’s literature and Internet resources. The excellent illustrations throughout the book are designed to entertain children and to help teachers visualize projects.

One lesson asks young children to pretend to be a vegetable or fruit seed. As the teacher reads a story about the life of a seed, from its time in the garden to its germination, growth, fruiting and right through to seed saving in the fall, students act out these stages. The writing brings this lesson to life. “…you aren’t the only one down here in this healthy soil!” the teacher will read. “Earthworms are squirming around on their way to find food…”
Annelida is the personable earthworm who appears throughout Healthy Foods from Healthy Soils.

Another lesson has third to sixth graders map the sources of the food they eat, demonstrating how far food travels to reach them; suggesting a trip to a local market to learn about the origins of foods; and making a regional food guide to the students’ area. The authors suggest organizing a “local foods” party in the classroom; inviting a local farmer to talk about his or her job and products; finding out whether the cafeteria serves local food; and encouraging students to check clothing as well as food labels, since fiber is an important agricultural commodity. A table lists eight reasons for supporting a local food system.

A lesson on whole foods helps third through sixth graders differentiate between processed and unprocessed foods and includes language arts, health, math and life skills. One activity suggests that students survey the foods in their home kitchens and count the number of products that contain the top two food additives, sugar and sodium. A “Dollars and $ense” lesson has fifth and sixth graders calculate and compare prices of foods based on the nutrients in them.

This book could be the basis of a core class for children about one of the most important aspects of their lives: eating. The authors note that two or three generations ago, people were connected to the origin of their food and understood the connection between healthy soils and nourishing foods. “Now that so many of us are living with the health consequences of being a ‘fast-food nation’ a program that addresses these issues in a lively and enjoyable manner is vital,” say the authors. Readers of The MOF&G could ensure this vitality by purchasing this book for their local schools and libraries.

– Jean English


MOF&G Cover Summer 2003