The air was crisp and the leaves were a kaleidoscope of colors this weekend (October 19th, 2013). It created the perfect backdrop for an event that absolutely rocked my world, ‘Roots & Wings’ Fall Fest 2013. I enjoyed a fabulous day of herbal classes at Warwick Park in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
There were two outdoor pavilions that were both divided in half. One area was for some fun herbal shopping. There were several vendors, each selling different things such as tinctures, syrups, books, plants, etc… The other 3 areas were for hour long classes that were held throughout the day in four segments. Around noon, there was a delicious lunch served which consisted of a homemade spiced Lentil soup and fresh garden salad. The soup was out of this world (I believe I had 3 bowls of it!) and just perfect for such a nice brisk day. Lunchtime gave everyone a chance to meet and mingle with fellow students. I noticed that even the instructors were taking classes and enjoying the day fully.
This event was a wonderful way to reacquaint myself with local friends and businesses as well as make new friends. It was so nice to have a complete day ingesting information about a subject that I am passionate about… Herbs! These were my peeps! I could sense that I was not alone in my excitement for learning. It was reflected back to me in the faces of my fellow attendees all throughout the day.
Even though there was a definite schedule to keep, the day felt casual, comfortable and timeless. Each of us got to pick and choose which class we wanted to attend at any given time. In fact several of the instructors encouraged us to roam freely throughout the pavilions and visit other classes if we so desired. Personally I found each class to be so engaging that there was little chance of my leaving!
The first class that I attended was ‘Medicinal Teas’ with Barbara Steele of Alloway Creek Herb Farm in Littlestown, PA. This was the perfect way to ease into the subject of herbs as I am an avid herbal tea drinker. She spoke about the benefits of each herb as she held up live plants and then passed them to us to see and smell. It was really nice to learn from this wise woman and have the sensory experience of the herbs. At the end of the class she allowed us to make a warm cup of tea for ourselves using the water that had been brewing behind her and the beautiful teas and other condiments that she’d brought. I made some Korean Ginseng tea and added some bits of fresh Ginger, a splash of milk and a spoonful of honey. It tasted so good and felt so nice and warm as I carried it over to the next session to sip. Can you say… ‘Bliss’?
Next, I ventured over to the other side of the pavilion to join the ‘Winter Wellness’ class, taught by Maia Toll, of The Herbiary in Philadelphia, PA. Maia and I go back to our first meeting at my home, when I hosted a 2-day aromatherapy seminar featuring Jeanne Rose. If you ever have the opportunity to learn from Maia, make sure to do so. She is born to spread the word about living an herbal life. She spoke about everything from adaptagens to Bone Broth. She shared a novel way to give kids herbs so that they don’t mind, in somthing called an Herb Ball. I’d never heard of this way of putting herbs into nut butter and molasses and rolling them into balls. Maia also has another solution for kids that take herbs that don’t taste so good. She lets them do the ‘Icky Dance’ afterwards. Now that’s making Lemonade out of Lemons!
I really enjoyed Maia’s class. The students all had great questions, and Maia had great answers. I’d learn from Maia anytime! Make sure to check out all of her classes and seminars through her business website. I also highly recommend signing up for her weekly herban wisdom newsletter, it’s quite inspiring! She offers many gorgeous all-natural products at her business, Herbiary. There are two separate locations (that I hope to get to eventually!) and the good news is that you can buy items from her online store. http://www.herbiary.com/ Maia also has an amazing blog and newsletter. See her personal site here: http://www.maiatoll.com/
It was then time for our beautiful lunch where I serendipitously found myself sitting across from Erica Lavdanski of B & H Farms, an organic farm just a few miles south of my home (Morgantown, PA). [As a side note: I visited Erica’s farm and the health food store there (Hartz Natural Health Food) since meeting her and was so impressed. I will most definitely be returning next spring for some organic food shopping!] Erika was like a breath of fresh air! She lives and breathes organic farming, something that is rare around here unfortunately. Please make sure to check out the B & H Farm website to learn all about Erika, the farm and upcoming events. http://www.bhorganicproduce.com/
Now with a full belly and an even happier disposition (it just seemed to get better and better as the day went on!) I attended another inspirational class, ‘Herbal Cordials’, taught by Susanna Reppert-Brill, proprietor of ‘The Rosemary House’, in Mechanicsburg, PA. I had been to a Jeanne Rose seminar held there a few years back. So I was already familiar with Susanna and her wonderful all-encompassing herb shop. If you are ever in the Mechanicsburg area, you must stop by. It’s a quaint shop with surprises around every corner, located in a post civil war era building. You’ll feel as though you stepped back into an enchanting era. Susanna, a sixth generation herbalist, offers her customers a beautiful herb garden to stroll through, many herbs and herb-related gifts, as well as educational classes and other fun events. Make sure to visit their website to learn more: www.TheRosemaryHouse.com
The subject of ‘Cordials’ was quite new to me. I had heard about them in some of my basic herb books. But I’ve never considered making them myself (not sure why). The class began with Susanna passing out a flyer about making cordials and several small cups. Then she taught us the basics of cordial-making. Soon after she began bringing out bottles of homemade cordials, one after the other she’d bring them out, give a short description and would pass them out to us. I lost count after 6 or 7. We were encouraged to taste them, and pass them around. (Does this sound like a great class or what?)
Of course it was all done in the spirit of learning, and I certainly did! I learned that I couldn’t wait to make my own! There were cordials that were considered medicinal and there were cordials that were strictly for pleasure. Cordials are very easy to make and the rewards are huge. Basically there are 3 steps, 1) Steeping – where you allow the botanicals to merge with the alcohol base. 2) Sweeten – Using the sweetener of your choice (I prefer Honey) 3) Aging – Where you allow the flavor to come to its full strength (which takes anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months.) Check out a couple of great Cordial Recipes at the end of this article!
The last class of the day for me was one I was really looking forward to called ‘Roots’ taught by April Coburn. I’m happy to say that it completely lived up to my expectations! April, who I got to know in a funny way earlier in the day (we found out that we both enjoy the smell of Valerian root (which is quite rare actually). Where most people smell ‘old gym socks’ we smell ‘yummy earthy fragrance’. We felt a kindred spirit for the rest of the day. April began the class by speaking about the history and symbolism of ‘roots’. She then passed around actual roots with name tags attached. She encouraged us to smell them, and even taste some and pass them around. At the end of the class she actually allowed some of us to take them with us. I’m happy to say that I took the Valerian root and a small root cutting of Calamus (I’m also happy to say that they’re both doing well!) April has a wonderful blog called ‘Nettle Juice’ at http://www.nettlejuice.blogspot.com/. She also sells her herbal goodies at her own Etsy Store ‘Nettlejuice Herbals’ Handcrafted Herbal Products http://www.etsy.com/shop/NettlejuiceHerbals?ref=em I look forward to a future visit to Cochranville to see April’s garden. Hopefully that will happen next Spring. Look how fun her classes look.
In closing I just want to say that every class that I took gave me immediate satisfaction and incredible inspiration. In fact I came home and dug up my Elecampane plant and harvested the root for later consumption, bought more herbs online for my own ‘Winter Wellness’, planted my 3 herb plants that I purchased from Alloway Creek, made 3 different tinctures, 2 herbal syrups and 2 different cordials. I want to thank these beautiful teachers that crossed my path this weekend and shared their wisdom with all of us. I’d also like to give thanks and respect to the sponsors of this great event, Essential Herbal Magazine and Farm at Coventry. I seriously hope that this becomes an annual event. If it does one thing is for sure… I’ll be there!
All-Natural Cordial Recipes
‘Mulling Spice Elixir’ by Teresa Boardwine
1 Nutmeg Nut
2 T Allspice
2 Cinnamon sticks
1 T Ginger (dried)
½ Vanilla Bean (cut into pieces)
6 cups Apple Juice
½ cup Brandy
½ cup Raw Sugar (or Honey dissolved in equal part warm water)
Directions: Make a decoction of the spices by simmering them in the Apple juice for 1 hour. Then add the raw sugar to sweeten while it’s warm. Mix well. To every quart add ½ cup Brandy. Bottle, label, and age or serve right away.
‘Kahlua®-Type Cordial’ by Susanna Reppert-Brill
2 cups Water
2 cups Raw Sugar
½ cup dry instant coffee (regular coffee can be substituted but use good strainer later to remove the grounds)
1 Vanilla bean (chopped)
1½ cup Vodka
Directions: Grind the Vanilla bean and Sugar together in a food processor or chop fine by hand. (The more you chop the bean the more the flavor can dissolve)
Boil Water, Sugar and Vanilla bean at a rolling boil for 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Slowly add the dry instant coffee and continue stirring. Combine the cooled sugar syrup and coffee solution with the Vodka. Cover tightly and let it sit in a cool place (like on a counter or in a cupboard). You may use this cordial the next day if you want. But it improves with age (a month is good). Shake it every day.
Strain well to give as a gift.
Makes about 4 cups.