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© Kat Morgenstern
September 2002
VOL.1 no.6


OOOPs! How did that happen? Just a minute or two ago it was September and the newsletter seemed to be on schedule - and whoosh, September is gone, October is here and I realize, I am going to be late again. Sorry folks, I hope you have been as busy as I have and did not really get a chance to realize something was missing. With all the picking and pickling, and jarring and canning and freezing and tidying up the yard its easy to let time slip by. Now October is here. The frantic action around the house and garden has slowed down and I hope you'll have time to pull up a chair and enjoy taking your time reading the newsletter, while sipping a cordial or cup of tea. Thanks for being so patient!

Happy autumn
Kat Morgenstern, October 2002

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As always, the summer seems to be coming to an end far too quickly. Already the turning point of the year is upon us. Though we might welcome the cooling down of the summer's heat and while still being blessed with warm pleasant days, that cool whiff of autumn is unquestionably in the air. With it comes just a twinge of melancholy, after the rupture of vital summer energy, the flowers are setting seeds, the fruits are ripening and the leaves are beginning to turn colors. I love this time of the year. It always seems to me as though the leaves and fruit had soaked up all that sun power and now the light and warmth has turned to sweetness and color, painted on all the colorful leaves and stored in the sweet delicious juices of the ripening fruits.

From the foraging point of view it is another season of lavish pickings before the harvesting year is coming pretty much to an end. A couple more months and we'll be at those jars of canned and pickled goodies or forage around in the ice-box for frozen goodies preserved from the summers gifts. But for now there is still more picking to do.

Right now the greatest foraging treasure are mushrooms. And, for those who hunt, the game season has started, too. I prefer the mushrooms. It is difficult to generalize about these incredibly varied creatures though, as they are very ecosystem specific. Also, positive identification is absolutely crucial when it comes to fungi, as many species are inedible or worse, deadly poisonous. If you don't know them well yourself, it is best to get acquainted with them under the guidance of a knowledgeable mushroom connoisseur.

The other mainstays of the season are nuts and seeds. Seeds come in many different shades and sizes and offer a surprising variety of culinary experiences. The seeds of the mustard family herbs for example, such as shepherds purse, garlic mustard, horseradish etc. can be collected and used as a kind of home-grown pepper. They add a nice little twang to any dish without being too overpowering.

Fennel and Dill seeds can be collected and dried for a sweet aromatic flavoring that goes well with fish. The seeds of the umbellifer family tend to be rich in essential oils and often make very tasty spices that can be added to flavored vinegars and oils or pickles.

Acorns and sweet chestnuts are also getting ready. Acorns are an acquired taste though. Most people find them too bitter. There are techniques for leeching out the bitter component by boiling them with a couple of changes of water. Acorn flour is quite nutritious and can be good when mixed with other flours to add a peculiar nutty flavor to muffins or pancake mixes. There are tons of different species of oak though, and some are definitely more palatable than others. Before loading your bags, you might want to experiment with just a few to see if you like the taste.

As for the sweet chestnuts - don't mistake them with the horse chestnuts, which are not edible. The sweet chestnuts have a very prickly coat that protects them quite effectively. Though they look tempting on the forest floor it is best to wait for another month before actually picking them. The first nuts tend to be small and unripe. Their prickly skins don't come off easily and they can be painful to pick. For sweet chestnuts and walnuts I always wait until their outer skins come off by themselves and I just have to pick the nuts. This avoids getting black hands and finger nails from picking off the green walnut skins.

You might be lucky enough to have edible pine nuts in your area. They are delightful when gathered fresh - and more so when considering their price at the store! However, picking and shelling them makes one realize why they tend to be so expensive. Often the birds and squirrels get the booty quicker and all that is left are the rotten ones - which however is not obvious before one goes through the trouble of cracking them, and cracking them is tedious! (If anybody has come up with a simple method, please let me know)

Elderberries and Blackberries are definitely ripe and ready now and these late berries tend to be sweeter than the early ones. Their high sugar content makes them ideal for making home made wine. Also, if you haven't done so already, stock up with Elderberry cordial - you will be glad you did when the season for colds comes round and this vitamin boost is there to help you through those sniffly times.

Autumn is also the time for harvesting roots. Make sure you only pick those whose supply is plentiful and whose survival will not be threatened by your pickings. Dandelion is a pretty safe pick. It usually grows abundantly and can regenerate even from small pieces of roots left in the ground. Horseradish is also often rather abundant, though digging up the root can be hard work. Other species that might be locally abundant are Parsnip, Inula, Burdock, Evening Primrose and Chichory. Roasted Dandelion roots make a good coffee. The autumn roots tend to be a little sweeter than the spring ones due to their higher inulin content. These can be used in stews and stir fries. The more experimentally minded forager might also try their hand at making Dandelion and Burdock cordial, or brew a beer or wine with them. These types of beverages cannot be compared to what we normally associate with these terms, but they certainly make interesting and unusual nips that, in moderation, can even be regarded as healthy tonics.

Gathering Tips

The best way to get started is to get to know the plants that grow around you, familiarize yourself with the weeds, bushes and trees. Learn to identify them correctly and investigate their uses. It is especially important that you learn to identify the poisonous plants you are likely to encounter, so as to be sure you will avoid picking them when you gather your meal. Only pick as much as you need and never take ALL the plants of any one kind in a given patch. After harvesting an area give the plants plenty of time to recover before returning to the same patch, especially when harvesting roots. However tempting it may look, never pick in places that are subjected to pollution from roads, industry or heavy spraying of farm chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.).Be aware that not all flowers are edible. Only include those in your diet that you are absolutely sure about. Don't eat the flowers of plants purchased at the garden center or nursery as they are often treated with pesticides unsafe for consumption. Never be wasteful with what you pick - remember there are many mouths to feed out there and overpicking endangers wild stands. Give thanks to the plants and to Mother Earth who has provided them.

Click here for a directory of wildfood experts.


In Association with


Quo vadis, homo sapiens?
Or, - where do we go from here?

About one month ago an event of global proportions took place in Johannesburg. Millions of dollars were spent on the preparations alone to ready the city for the scores of world leaders, NGO representatives and policy makers that were to descend on it. It could have been one of the greatest events in history, a hallmark for the protection of planetary resources, a turning point that marked the beginning of a new era, the end of rape and pillage of planetary resources, both human and material as 'sustainable development' became the new world standard.

Unfortunmately the actual achievements fell far short of the original aspirations of the organizers. Despite the pressing urgency of the topics and the truly staggering dimension of this world summit, the repercussions of the discussions have resulted only in a deafening silence. It is almost as though nothing ever took place. A monumental waste of resources as well as a wasted opportunity, which has passed us by without developing into much more than a ripple.

No visions. A lot of talk but no real resolutions. No wind of change blowing through the assembly that met under the shadow of several glaring environmental disasters, which are directly related to the topics at hand: Flooding throughout Central Europe as well as in China, American Forests going up in flames and drought conditions tormenting much of the East coast of the U.S. Nothing to do with global warming? Yea, right! Yet, politicians seemed to be distracted by another issue that is also directly related though nobody dared to spell it out: the so called war on terror, which just seems to be a bubblegum pretext for gaining control over the energy resources throughout the world, the very resources responsible for to fuel global warming.

We need to radically re-think the ethics and values that shape our personal lives and the world we live in. At present, money is our God and we sacrifice just about anything for it in the false hope that it will bestow divine bliss upon us - but the only bliss that it affords comes in the shape of things that can be bought. Consuming has become the central point of the life philosophy of this money religion, the 'raison d'être', which can be distilled to the poignant phrase 'consumo, ergo sum'. The religion that serves this god is called economy and its dogmas determine the rules for living. The God of this religion is greedy and ravenous for all the world's resources - his promise is heaven on earth, but the reality is a wasteland stripped of its natural riches. A false God with empty promises.

It seems as though the leaders at the Johannesburg summit do not fully grasp the concept of sustainable development. To them 'sustainable' means continued economic growth, not wise resource management. Wise resource management does not place economic interests at its focal point, but the integrity of the natural web of life of which humans are a part. For it is this web that supports and sustains us, its integrity safeguards our future.

What the Johannesburg summit has shown is that the world leaders are not prepared to look at the real issues at stake, that they still believe throwing money at problems will dissolve them. But in this case money does not solve a thing, while its continued worship (and spread of the religion) only adds to the problems we are already facing.

So, where do we go from here? The environmental problems we are facing are of global importance, yet they lie on everybody's doorstep and directly concern all our lives. Thus there is hope. The hope is that people, the grassroots of the societal tapestry, recognize the problems as personal issues and start to change their habits and behaviors. We must start the ripple of change in our own lives, through our consumer choices and through the way we choose to live our lives. Conscious awareness is the key to change, and mass consciousness is a powerful force that even politicians and industrialists cannot ignore. For the sake of life, place the earth first instead of money. She is our mother, and as we take care of her - she will take care of us.


Part II


Women who have prepared themselves mentally, emotionally and physically throughout the 9 months term of pregnancy will usually have few problems when the time for delivery comes. At this time the midwife's role is to offer help and support whenever and wherever necessary. Traditionally only the midwife, a helper and the mother would have been present at birth. These days birthing parties are gaining in popularity and often loving friends are invited to share in the experience. However, from the mother's point of view and from that of the Baby as well it is best to keep the party small, and only allow close friends and relatives to be present. People who are there only to watch can get in the way and the mother might subconsciously feel stressed by the attendants.

To welcome the new soul to the planet the birthing room can be prepared by evaporating essential oils such as Lavender, Rose, Jasmine, Neroli and Clary Sage (not ordinary Sage!) in an oil-burner and lights should be softened or turned down. Traditionally, seeds of the Ash tree (Ashen-keys) and Juniper twigs and berries were burned on the hearth to purify the room. Sometimes the mattress would be stuffed with Lady's Bedstraw, (Galium ssp), not just to sweeten the air, but also to ease the birthing process. This is the crucial time for mother, child and midwife alike. In the old days, when there was no chance of getting a woman to a doctor or hospital, the midwife had to be prepared for all eventualities.

If the uterus had not been toned properly contractions may be too weak and prolong the duration of labour. This makes the process unnecessarily exhausting and difficult and can also endanger the baby's life due to the lack of oxygen. To induce stronger contractions herbs such as Squaw Vine (Mitchella repens), Beth Root (Trillium erectum), Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis) and Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) may be given under such circumstances. The midwife should determine which herb is the most appropriate to use. Golden Seal for example is only recommended as a last resort as the effects can be very powerful and often quite painful as well, whilst Beth Root can be taken safely even a week prior to birth without ill-effects. Breathing techniques are a much gentler way to stimulate contractions. Ancient Chinese and Egyptian sources mention Cannabis sativa as a useful plant for childbirth, inducing contractions whilst simultaneously reducing their painful effects. Unfortunately this most beneficial ancient healing herb in most countries is no longer available for medicinal purposes and its use in conjunction with childbirth would frowned upon.

The first thing the midwife would do after the birth is to wash the baby in fresh spring-water. But before presenting the child to the mother, the midwife first had to welcome the baby to the planet. Thus, she would wrap it up in its swaddling clothes and take it outside to greet Mother Earth and Father Sky and all the plants and animals around. Only then was the newborn given to the mother.

Immediately following the birth there is a great sense of euphoria in the air - soon to be followed by exhaustion, especially on the part of the mother. What she needs most now is rest. Provided that there have not been any complications, the best thing the mother can do now is to take a bath herself and to get some sleep. However, sometimes things don't go so smoothly. Excessive bleeding after delivery can be a problem. An internal astringent, such as a tea made from of Shepherds Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) and Ladies Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) can soon check the loss of blood. Beth Root (Trillium erectum), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Oak bark (Quercus robur), taken as a tea help to astringe the dilated womb and return it to its normal size and shape. An infusion of these herbs can also be added to the bath or sitz-bath after birth. For a relaxing bath right after birth certain essential oils such as Bergamot, Rose, Neroli, Clary Sage and Jasmine can be blended into a wonderfully soothing bath-mix.

Giving birth is probably the most exhausting and depleting process anyone could ever go through. It is important to give the body the strength to deal not just with the birth itself but also with what follows on its heels. Tonic herbs and vitalizing foods are indicated to recover one's strength after the birth. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Blessed Thistle (Cnicus Benedictus), St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforata), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), Cleavers (Galium aperine), and Rosehips (Rosa canina) not only have a strengthening effect on the whole body, but also act as anti-depressants should the mother be overwhelmed by the experience - a phenomena more common than is generally assumed. One should remember that pregnancy sends a woman through the most profound hormonal changes, which have their repercussions on the physical as well as mental and emotional states of the mother. Hormonal imbalances can produce feelings of depression. Herbs that act on the liver and thereby re-establish the hormonal equilibrium can alleviated the symptoms of such hormonally based depressions. However, make sure there are no dangerous drug interactions between these herbs and other medicines you might be taking, as can sometimes be the case.

As far as the baby's health is concerned it is still largely dependent on the mother's nutrition since it still gets its share of everything the mother consumes via the milk. Sometimes the mother does not produce enough milk to feed her baby. Thankfully nature has made provisions for just about every human condition, including lack of milk-flow. A tea of Goats Rue (Galega officinales), with it's stimulating effect on lactation can come to the mother's aid. Certain seeds rich in essential oils, such as Caraway (Carum carvi), Dill (Anethum graveolens) and Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) are also indicated. It is easy to add these seeds to the normal diet. They also have carminative properties, which gives them the added advantage of helping to keep colic and flatulence under control. If the flow of milk needs to be decreased however, either because of over-production or because the mother wishes to wean the child, an infusion of Sage (Salvia officinalis) is indicated.

Most nursing mums will sooner or later complain about sore nipples especially once the infant starts teething. A soothing application of Marigold oil or ointment may be all that is needed to remedy the situation. Some tribes have used internal and external applications of Beth root to deal with inflammations of the mammary glands and nipples. A tea is given internally whilst a paste made from the fresh root is applied externally. This soothes any inflammation without stopping the milk flow. Inflammations and rashes can also be treated with a decoction of Oak bark (Quercus rubor), which may be applied as a bath or liniment. Anti-inflammatory and immune-system stimulating herbs such as Cleavers (Galium aperine) and Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) may also be useful. Babies' bottoms also sometimes get sore. Nappy rash can best be treated by adding an infusion of Oak bark (Quercus rubor) and Marigold (Calendula officinalis) to the bath-water and exposing the affected skin to the air as much as possible, minimizing the skin contact with wet dipers.

Herbs are wonderful healers. With regard to childbirth and general 'female reproductive system complaints' nature excels in providing an abundance of soothing, toning and strengthening remedies. In no other area of natural health care does it make more sense to use herbs than in midwifery. Herbs are the midwife's natural helpers and if she knows how to use and administer them wisely, they will be more than 'helpful' in ensuring a worry-free pregnancy, easy birth and a healthy child.

(Please refer to a trained midwife, who does know and use herbs in her practice for further information concerning specific doses etc. This article is not intended as a self-help guide, but simply as an attempt to stimulate interest in herbal alternatives to chemical remedies.)

Some Notes About Individual Herbs

(only the less well known herbs are getting a mention here as it is assumed that most readers will know about the medical benefits of such common herbs as Chamomile, Peppermint, Lemon Balm and Raspberry leaves)

Beth Root
(Trillium erectum)
Also known as Birth Root because of its traditional use as an herb that prepares the womb for pregnancy and aids the process of labor. Native Americans, who first taught the white settlers how to use this herb, employed it immediately before, during and after birth, thus easing labor and reducing pain and loss of blood. It is also used for menopausal complaints, such as palpitations or excessive blood flow. It contains a precursor for the female sex-hormones, which the body will either absorb and utilize or allow to pass straight through the system depending on whether or not it is needed to help balance the hormonal system - a good example of how herbs can have a self regulating effect on the body. Simultaneous internal (as a tea) and external applications (as a poultice of the fresh root) of this herb can be used to treat inflammations of the nipples and mammary glands without reducing the flow of milk.

Black Cohosh
(Cimicifuga racemosa)
Native Americans first taught the white settlers the uses of this herb as well. Black Cohosh has a balancing effect on the sex hormones and tones the female reproductive system. The root can be used to ease cramping and menstrual pains as well as easing labor pains and speeding up the birth process. Other uses of this herb include an infusion for arthritis, rheumatism and neuralgic pains as well as applications for insect bites and stings. For uterine problems it combines well with Blue Cohosh. Do not take during the early stages of pregnancy. In cases of difficult labor the midwife will know when and how to make use of this herb if necessary - do not attempt self-treatment.

Black Haw
(Viburnum prunifolium)
Closely related to Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus), this herb can be used as an antispasmodic for painful menstruation or false labor pains and as an astringent for excessive bleeding after birth. In the event of a threatened miscarriage it can be combined with Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus) and False Unicorn Root (Chamaelirium luteum). Some tribes used it to relax and tone the musculature of the womb if the fetus was badly positioned so they could adjust its position manually.

Blessed Thistle
(Cnicus Benedictus)
Generally speaking, thistles tend to be useful for liver complaints. Blessed Thistle is no exception though it is less powerful than Milk Thistle as a cleansing herb, it has great anti-depressant effects and generally tones the system. It is also helpful as a stomach tonic and can be used to reduce colic and wind. Its astringent property helps to stop internal bleeding after birth or in case of excessive menstruation.

Blue Cohosh
(Caulophyllum thalictroides)
This is another favorite uterine tonic of Native American medicine. It can be used prior to conception to prepare the womb and tone up the system. Its antispasmodic properties help to alleviate cramping in false labor pains and menstrual cramps and it may also be used in cases of uterine weakness when a miscarriage is threatened. In such cases it is best combined with False Unicorn Root. Do not use it as a general tonic during pregnancy, though. Native American midwives administer regular small doses of this herb for about a week before the child is due. This seems to make labor easy and almost painless.

Cramp Bark
(Viburnum opulus)
The bark of this shrub is very useful as an antispasmodic for treating menstrual pains and cramps. It can also be used in combination with False Unicorn Root in cases of threatened miscarriage. Its astringent properties will help stop excessive bleeding after birth, or due to heavy menstruation or menopausal problems.

False Unicorn Root
(Chamaelirium luteum)
This herb has a long standing reputation as a uterine tonic. It regulates hormonal imbalances (especially when coming off the pill), brings on suppressed or delayed menstruation yet is also extremely useful in cases of threatened miscarriage. It can be used for morning sickness and ovarian pain. Generally, small amounts are used as large doses can cause nausea and vomiting.

Lady's Mantle
(Alchemilla vulgaris)
One of the 'Old World' favorites for toning the female reproductive system. It has been used to reduce pain associated with menstruation and excessive bleeding as well as for delayed or suppressed periods. Menopausal problems can also be treated with this herb.

(Vitex agnus castus)
This herb also balances the female hormone system. The seeds of this tree are excellent for toning the uterus and normalizing hormonal imbalance especially when coming off the pill or during menopause.



Discover the natural paradise of Manu Reserve and visit the Yine Indians

A camping trip to Manu Reserve, in the southern rain forest regions of the Peruvian Amazon counts as one of the most spectacular wildlife adventures on the planet. Access to the reserve is restricted so as to protect this prisitine habitat. Only camping is allowed within the reserve area. All tours that have a license to operate here must be certified and follow a strict ecological code of ethics. As a result wildlife and plant life are teaming and nowhere else in the Amazon can such a great variety of animals be observed at close range.

Sacred Earth works with a highly ethical organisation, run by biologists who, like Sacred Earth, believe that a direct, yet consciously guided contact with such a habitat is one of the best ways to inspire and teach people about the fragile ecological balance of our planet and hopefully create an impression that will foster a caring attitude towards mother earth and all her creatures that will stay with visitors long beyond their visit to this little corner of paradise on earth.

Our partners have long worked towards not just helping to protect this precious habitat but also sought ways in which to help and protect the people who have lived here for thousands of years in harmony with their environment. As civilization ecroaches economic pressures are threatening even these remote villages as they often see themselves forced to either leave their beloved rainforest home or sell and plunder their resources for profit - just to make ends meet.

Over the years our partners have worked with these villages to establish an ecotrourism lodge that eventually will be run entirely by the indigenous people themselves so as to provide a form of income for them that profits from protecting the rainforest instead of raping it. After years of work the lodge has finally opened its doors and is waiting to welcome you.

Nobody knows the rainforest better than the indigenous people who have lived here forever. A guided tour that focuses on the medicinal and useful plants of the forest and conveys the vision of te forest from the indigenous perspective is part of the two day extension to the Manu rainforest camping trip. The proceeds of this part of the journey directly benefits the indigenous community of the Yine.


Plant of the Month:


Vitis vinifera



Grapes, Grapevine, Vigne, Weintrauben, Rebstock


Cultivated vines are grown in vineyards, preferably a south facing hill with poor, stony soil as vine likes a well draining location - the poorer the soil, the better it seems to thrive though it is rather picky about its climatic requirements. Vine dislikes cold and damp weather, and will die in temperatures below 18°C,. It is not terribly keen on humidity either and doesn't appreciate too much rain. It is perfectly suited to a dry Mediterranean climate.

Left untended vines grow up to 15 meters high, though they are a scrambling lot that cling to anything that will give them support. In cultivation they are usually kept low. The shoots are being pruned back every year. Sometimes the vines are trained on wires. The stems are very gnarly and twisty with a somewhat flaky brown bark and densely grained wood. The leaves are palmate, sometimes deeply indented or with very jaggy serrated margins, depending on the species. The flowers appear in May/June. They form bunches of tiny white 5 petaled inflorescences that exude a very delicate, sweet aroma. They do not last long however and soon the drupes of juicy berries start developing. Their size and colour depends on the species, but tends to vary from yellowish green to reddish, deep purple black. The berries are smooth skinned and each usually contains 2 seeds (except seedless varieties). Vines can be propagated by seed or cutting. Most European stocks are grafted onto American rootstocks due to the consequences of a devastating blight that once nearly devastated all European vines.

There are also many wild grape species, which tend to be a rather meandering lot. They can grow and sprawl over an extensive area when they are left undisturbed. The berries grow in the familiar bunch configuration, though they are much sparser and boast much smaller berries, which are usually quite sour. Like their cultivated counterparts, the flowers are small and rather inconspicuous.


The geographical origins of vines are still a matter of debate. There are numerous wild varieties that are at home in many different parts of the world. In fact, when the Vikings first happened upon that continent across the sea, now known as America, they called it 'Vinland' in reference to the many wild vines they found there. The cultivated European variety seems to have originated in Mesopotamia from where it steadily spread west and north, especially under the influence of Greek and Roman imperialism, which dominated the region for hundreds of years. Today it is grown in all warm, temperate regions of the world with good success and can be found in Central and Southern Europe, Northern Africa, Asia Minor, Greece, Asia, California, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand.

Vine cultivation is so widespread in some areas that it occupies 1000s of acres at the expense of almost all other crops.

While wine lovers may appreciate the variety of tastes and textures to tickle their tongues, environmentally it is dangerous to put all ones eggs in one basket and deplete the soil's nutrients by growing the same crop year after year in the same fields. Many commercial vineyards are subject to heavy spraying and fertilization, which only further depletes the soil. An agricultural practice that depends so heavily on chemicals is not sustainable in the long run.

Vine does have a number of natural enemies: e.g. mildew attacks anything green, powdery mildew rots the stalks, shrivels the leaves, splits the grapes and finally kills the vine, red spider mite sucks the sap from the leaf veins, phylloxera vastatrix, the blight that was responsible for destroying crops across Europe in 18th century, attacks the roots, while the cochylis moth grub attacks the flowers.


The history of grape cultivation seems to be quite ancient, though its precise origin is impossible to trace. The Bible mentions that Noah had planted a vineyard, and he was probably not the first to do so. It seems that people knew and loved their vines as far as at least 6000 years ago. Classical texts abound with praise for vine and are full of suggestions on how to grow them and transform their juice into their beloved elixir of life. The ancient Greeks were the first to popularize the sacred liquid and the Romans soon followed in their steps, spreading vine cultivation all around the Mediterranean basin. By 600 BC cultivated vine arrived in what is now known as France where it was enthusiastically received. Though at first rivaled by Italy, France soon became the most significant region of vine cultivation in the world. However, tragedy struck in the latter half of the 18th century, when an American grower sent some specimen of his stocks back to the old world for study. The specimen turned out to be infested with a devastating blight that caused havoc in the vineyards, threatening to wipe out practically all of the European vine stocks. It was a catastrophe for the vine growers and merchants, not to mention the deprived general public. The cure eventually came from the same place as the blight, when a resistant species was found in the US. Europeans started to graft their stocks onto American rootstocks and thus succeeded avert total devastation. It took some time but eventually the industry recovered and European wine producers are again at the top of the charts.

Historical records suggest that the original wines of the Greeks were quite a different kind of brew than what wine connoisseurs appreciate today. Much thicker and heavier in texture it had to be diluted for consumption at a ratio of 1:3. There is also much evidence to suggest that wines were originally mixed with other substances, such as resins, aromatic herbs and certain psychotropic plants to create quite a different class of powerful intoxicants. In Greece, wine was associated with Dionysus, a wild, shamanic God of ecstasy, whose totem animal was a panther and his emblem a phallic pine-cone tipped wand, as a symbol of fertility and immortality. His rites were wild and orgiastic, culminating in the ritual death of the deity (or a representative) as the frenzied mob of Maenads, (his priestesses), chased him down and tore him apart. Later the sacrifice was substituted with that of an animal (a fawn or fox) until eventually Dionysus became tamed as a deity of grain and wine. The sacrifice was substituted with ritual bread and wine as the sacred substance used to commune with the deity, which is how he was celebrated at the Eleusian mysteries.

The Romans knew this God as Bacchus, a God of wine and intoxication who was worshipped in much the same manner. In Egypt, vine was regarded as a tree of life. Isis was said to have become pregnant after eating some grapes, and subsequently gave birth to Horus. Thus, her brother and consort Osiris became Lord of Wine.

Lucian, in his 'True History' tells a fabulous, though somewhat moralistic tale about a strange vineyard that used to grow on the far banks of a river that ran wine instead of water. The vines had solid trunks, but their upper parts gave rise to beautiful and perfectly formed maidens. Their hair was a tangle of leaves and grapes sprouted from their fingertips, yet if anyone were to pick them the girls shrieked with pain. They sang and lured passers by with kisses, but those who succumbed to their embraces found themselves instantly drunk, and unable to escape they instead took root and grew shoots and vine leaves.

Aphrodisiac associations:

Vine is truly a gift of the gods. In moderate doses it has the power to raise the spirit to states of exhilaration and inspiration, to unlock the tight controls of the mind over the spirit and emotions and open the heart and soul. Countless works of arts have been inspired by it, and countless adventures started from a spark of its enthusiastic fire. Those who abuse its power by indulging in greater quantities than serves them well, will be stupefied and suffer delusion. The ecstasy can turn to frenzy, yet the imbibed person is totally oblivious to his actions. In appropriate quantities however, wine is wholly beneficial to health and spirit and has often been praised for its civilizing effects.


Several parts of the grapevine can be used medicinally. Both red and white wine was formerly much employed as a medium for other medicines for tonic wines and cordials.



The fresh young leaves


Dried or fresh flowers


Fresh or dried fruit


An oil is expressed from the seeds


The flowers appear in May/June. The leaves should be picked in spring when they are tender, the bunches of grapes ripen from September onwards.



Picked in the summer, the leaves contain a mixture of cane sugar and glucose, tartaric acid, potassium bi-tartrate, quercetine, quercitrin, tannin, amidon, malic acid, gum, inosite, an uncrystallizable fermentable sugar and oxalate of calcium; gathered in the autumn they contain much more quercetine and less trace of quercitrin.


anti-inflammatory, astringent, stops bleeding


An infusion of 1 tsp of fresh finely cut leaves per cup of water is taken for rheumatism, gout, nausea and spitting of blood. In Homeopathy a preparation known as 'Papinorum Extract is made from the leaves and vines. It is used to treat inflammation of the hip joints and for cases of epilepsy. Dried powdered leaves were given to cattle to treat dysentery. A decoction is said to be useful to avert threatened abortion. The astringent property helps to arrest internal and external bleeding, cholera, dropsy, diarrhea and nausea. The decoction can also be used to treat mouth ulcers and as douche for treating vaginal discharge. Red grape leaves are said to be helpful in the treatment of varicose veins, and fragile capillaries. For this purpose leaves are harvested as soon as they turn red and are used either fresh or dried.



nerve tonic


An infusion of 1tsp of dried flowers to a cup of boiling water is made to strengthen the nerve dendrons and to support the action of the bone marrow of the spine. As such it can be used internally as a tea or externally as a rub to aid neuralgic function (even recommended for paralysis of the lower limbs)



malic, tartaric, ascetic ascorbic and racemic acids, alanine, alpha linolenic acid, alpha tocopherol, arginine. Oxalic acid in unripe fruits, Ca, P, Fe, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and ascorbic


fortifying blood tonic, nourishing, stimulates kidney and liver function and thus aids elimination and cleansing, gentle laxative


A popular method of cleansing the body of accumulated toxins is to do a grape fast, an old household remedy to cleanse and gently tonify the body. 2kg of grapes should be eaten during the course of the day, every day for two weeks with little or no other food. (Best to fast one day before embarking on this cure), this is very good for slimmers as it will release water from the tissues, reduce fat, regulate bowel function by stimulating and tonifying the kidneys, purify the blood and cleanse the skin, reduce rheumatic pains, heart burn and stomach burn. It is especially good for people with disturbed metabolism, water retention, dropsy and circulatory complaints. Grapes are a restorative, nourishing food good for anemia and debilitating conditions. The dried grapes are demulcent, nutritive and slightly laxative.

Contra-indications: not recommended for dyspeptics or for excitable, hot-blooded individuals as it may cause palpitations.

Grape sugar is very easily absorbed and thus acts as a speedy restorative in cases of exhaustion and debility as it does not interact with saliva before entering the bloodstream. Acts very immediately.


A lotion was made with the sap (tear/lacryma) to treat weak eyes and specs on the cornea. It has also been used as a skin lotion. Internally it is diuretic.



The vine twigs are very bendy and have been used to make brooms and baskets


A lotion made from the flowers is said to be useful for freckles, the oil is used in soap making


A purplish dye can be obtained from the berries, though it does not last. The fresh or dried leaves yield a yellow dye.


The old wine stocks make useful firewood that impart a special aromatic note to foods grilled or cooked on it, the young twigs make good fire lighters.

Grapeseed Oil:

An oil is obtained from the pressed seeds which can be used for culinary and cosmetic purposes. It is slightly sticky, thus not very good if used on its own for massage oil. For internal use the oil must be refined before consumption.

Culinary uses:

Grapes are a wonderful refreshing, nourishing and cleansing fruit that can be enjoyed straight from the vine.

They yield a sweet and tasty juice, which not only makes a refreshing drink but can also be made into jelly, or reduced to a juice concentrate which makes a good sweetener. Most commonly grape juice is used to make wine. The business is enormous and the variation on the theme takes on staggering dimensions, the diversity of flavors and textures is nothing short of phenomenal.

Commonly wines come as reds, rose or white wines, champagne or sparkling wine, each of which can be made from hundreds of different grape species. A special sweet wine is produced by stopping the fermentation process prematurely by adding alcohol to the brew. The grape residues are also utilized: they can be distilled to make a strong 'Weingeist' or 'Eau de Vie'.

There are at least 8000 cultivated varieties of grapes, most of which are grown in the northern hemisphere.

The young tendrils can be eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable. The flowers are also edible and can be prepared as fritters.

The sap has a sweet taste and can be used as a drink, though harvesting large quantities weakens the vines. The seeds can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The leaves have long been used to wrap foods in to make a finger-food or appetizer, especially popular in greek cooking.

A crystalline salt, Cream of tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate, is derived from the residue of pressed grapes and the sediment of wine barrels is used in making baking powder.

recipes.GIF (1K)

Recipes for grapes, wine and vine leaves could easily fill a whole book of their own. Here just a few little suggestions:

Meat in wine and raisin sauce

Certain meats, especially game are particularly tasty when marinated in red wine. A very hearty and flavorful stews can be made by cooking the meat directly in the marinade. This is especially suitable for heavy meats such as wild boar:
Cut the meat in chunks, roll in flour and quickly pan fry it to seal. Put the meat into a big, deep dish and pour sufficient quantities of red wine over it to cover it. Add Pimento berries, Juniper berries, Bay leaves, lots of garlic and sprigs of Rosemary and Thyme. To give the sauce a fuity note you can soak raisins in it too. Marinate the meat for several days.

Just before cooking add large chunks of onions and carrots and simmer the whole lot for several hours. Serve with potatoes and red cabbage made with apples and raisins.

Stuffed Vine Leaves

1 x 8oz pack vine leaves
4oz long grain rice
2tbsp olive oil
1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
1tsp fennel, chopped
1tsp fresh mint, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Making Wine:

No two people make wine exactly the same way. Everybody has their own personal tricks and recipes and only practice will prove what works best for you. The guidelines below are very general, just to give an idea of the process.

Place the fruit into a bucket. Mash thoroughly and cover with boiled, but cooled down water. Cover the bucket and leave for 24 hours. Boil three more pints of water and dissolve some sugar in it (how much depends on the natural sweetness of the fruit and how dry you want your wine). Allow to cool down and add to the bucket. At this stage one might also want to add other herbs or spices, or some organic orange or lemon, peel along with its juice. Add one teaspoon of yeast and one teaspoon of yeast nutrient. Cover bucket once again and leave for a further 6 days, stirring once a day. On the 7th day check to see if a foam is forming on top of the mix. This is the sign that fermentation has begun. If no foam has formed, leave for another day and check again.

Strain the liquid and fill into a demi-john (glass fermentaion jar) using a muslin cloth and funnel. Seal with the bubble bung, half filled with water and leave in a warm place, but protected from direct sunlight. The fermentation process will take several months. During the fermentation process a gas is formed, which needs to be allowed to escape without allowing more oxygen to enter the jar. That is the role of the water-filled bubble bung. After 3 months the fermentation process will slow down. Eventually no more bubbles will rise to the surface. At this point you must taste the wine to see if it is too dry.

If so, add more dissolved sugar and continue the fermentation process. Once the fermentation process has stopped completely and the wine has the right sweetness you can bottle and cork the wine. Store the bottles in a cool place, (about 12 degrees celsius) preferably on their sides. Allow to settle for a few weeks.

Wine Making Resource

Grape/Jalapeno Jelly

Jelly made with yellow grapes and vinegar makes a good medium for home-made jalapeno jelly. Express and filter the grapejuice, add some vinegar and preserving sugar and minced jalapenos. Simmer until the mixture thickens. Add pectin if it doesn't. Fill into sterilized jars and allow to set. The jelly can be seasoned to taste, e.g. with ginger or garlic or star anise.



Spice Crops

Spice CropsE.A.Weiss, CABI Publishing, Hardcover, 411 pages, published 2002 Spice Crops is essential reading for anybody seriously interested in commercial spice production. Although written for professional spice growers and traders, anybody with an interest in pharmacognosy will find heaps of interesting information in this book. The research is very thorough and clearly presented. It covers just about all aspects of the various spices discussed, from their basic botany to phytopharmacology, to details on cultivation, processing and preservation.

The introductory chapter offers a general overview on world spice trade with a rather brief sketch of that enormous chapter of plant/human history. A whole book could be written just on this subject alone, but this particular book focuses more on the specifics, rather than the general. A brief overview of the major spice crops covered within the main body of the book outlines details of trade statistics for the various spices.

The main part of the book presents various families of spice plants and a selection of their important members. Families covered include Cruciferae, Lauraceae, Leguminosae, Myristicaae, Ochidaceae, Piperaceae, Solanaceae, Umbelliferae, Zingiberaceae, and some minor species. The most important spice crops in each of these families are treated in detail, covering history, botany, ecology, growing conditions, soil and fertilizers, cultivation, weed and bug control, harvesting, processing and storage, aspects of essential oil distillation where applicable, products & specifications, medicinal uses, other related species as well as similar, but unrelated species.

The back-matter of the book comprises of a very extensive bibliography/ reference section, a glossary to explain technical terms as well as a couple of Appendices, a table of specifications of Europeans standards for quality minima and world spice harvest calendar.

Though I am neither a spice grower nor trader I found 'Spice Crops' incredibly rich and informative. Intended as a reference work, it is very practical, yet its use is by no means limited to professionals. Anybody interested in spices will find here a comprehensive source of solidly researched reference materials.



Politicians always find novel ways to disguise their true intentions and make them sound as though they actually cared. The latest scheme of the Bush administration is to pass a bill which will allow unrestricted logging under the guise of protecting forests against the threat of wildfires. Please voice your concern and sign the petition before it is to late:

Call for action from the care2 website:

An upcoming vote on unrestricted logging is a major threat to our forests! Click Here to help!

The Bush administration recently proposed to Congress an amendment which will remove environmental protections from our forests and increase logging.

The amendment is masquerading as a "solution" to wildfire control on our national forests, but in reality will allow timber companies to log in some of our most pristine national forest areas, fragmenting habitat and destroying wild places.

Wildfire and its threat to homes and communities is a very real problem; but scientists and policy makers agree it can be addressed without sacrificing our wild forests and the wildlife that depend on them. Science tells us that the quickest and best way to protect communities from wildfire is to clear flammable brush and small trees away from the areas right around homes. The legislation Congress is considering would suspend environmental protections, allow logging deep in the forest far from communities, and restrict the public's right to appeal any of these decisions about our public lands.

Please sign this petition and send a strong message to the President and his administration that we can protect homes and communities without suspending environmental protections. Logging without laws must not be allowed!

Please send a letter today and ask your friends and family to send one too!



A critique of the FAO-CGIAR trusteeship system

October 2002

Nearly ten years ago, back in 1994, the world's most important genebank collections for plant breeding of our major food crops were placed under the auspices of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The idea was to protect this germplasm from misappropriation - or biopiracy - by establishing legal and political protection called "trusteeship". While few people are aware of the arrangement, it is a very important one. The trusteeship agreement is about to undergo a major revision, to bring the system in line with the new FAO Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources. This presents an opportunity to critically examine the trusteeship system and asks ourselves if we're on the right boat.

For the full text click here



Calls on Developed Nations, WTO and WIPO to Improve "IP" Policies and Practices Affecting the Lives of the Poor and Developing Countries

Urges Strategies for Developing Countries to Minimise Their Costs

LONDON (12 September 2002) -- In presenting its final report today to the British government, the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights declared the internationally-mandated expansion of intellectual property (IP) rights unlikely to generate significant benefits for most developing countries and likely to impose costs, such as higher priced medicines or seeds. This makes poverty reduction more difficult.

For the full text click here



UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
Johannesburg, 30 August 2002

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Johannesburg, 30 Aug 2002 (IRIN) -- Africa stands to lose huge benefits from its biodiversity for lack of legal protection against biopiracy, concluded the Second South-South Biopiracy Summit held last week in Johannesburg during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

"Legislation is required and it is required yesterday," said Nolwazi Gcaba, a South African patent and copyright attorney, referring to her country's legislative vacuum on this matter.

Biodiversity -- the fifth thematic area of WSSD -- is Africa's richest asset. The knowledge its people have developed over centuries on the properties of plants, seeds, algae and other biological resources is now coveted by scientists for medicinal, agricultural and other purposes.

Biopiracy is the theft of biological matter, like plants, seeds and genes. In the absence of laws regulating access to these resources, pharmaceutical, agrochemical and seed multinationals exploit Africa's biological wealth and obtain rights of intellectual ownership to the resources and knowledge of communities.

Multinationals make huge profits from African biodiversity but do not share these with the communities who discovered, kept and transmitted the knowledge, activists argue.

"They are stealing the loaf and sharing the crumbs," said Dr Tewolde Berhan Egziabher, a leading expert on the topic at the Institute for Sustainable Development in Ethiopia.

Thousands of patents on African plants have been filed. To name just a few: brazzeine, a protein 500 times sweeter than sugar from a plant in Gabon; teff, the grain used in Ethiopia's flat "injera" bread; thaumatin, a natural sweetener from a plant in West Africa; the African soap berry and the Kunde Zulu cowpea; genetic material from the west African cocoa plant.

Increasingly, developing countries are going to court over patents on their indigenous plants. India overturned American patents for basmati rice and wound-healing turmeric. Thailand is appealing a patent on jasmine rice.

The latest patent to make headlines involves the Hoodia cactus from the Kalahari desert. For centuries, the San people of Southern Africa ate pieces of the cactus to stave off hunger and thirst.

Analysing the cactus, the parastatal Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa found the molecule that curbs appetite and sold the rights to develop an anti-obesity drug to pharmaceutical company Pfizer. It could be worth billions of US dollars.

Click here for the full text



(aka Special Forest Products) in the western region states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming and Montana.

Date: Thursday, October 17, 2002
Time: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Location: USDA Forest Service Region 2 Headquarters
740 Simms, Lakewood, CO
(Located west of Denver, one block north of Hwy 6 on Simms.)

Who Should Attend:
Anyone interested in the sustainable management of nontimber forest products, including Federal, tribal, state, and private land managers, policy makers, scientists, buyers, and harvesters from the states listed above.

Purpose of the Workshop:
To explore how harvesters might participate in a comprehensive biological monitoring program of nontimber forest product resources (including medicinal plants, wild edibles, floral greens, etc.)

This workshop is part of a national study funded by the National Commission on Science for Sustainable Forestry (NCSSF) The aim of the project is to assess the relationships between forest management practices, nontimber forest products (NTFPs), and biodiversity in the U.S. For more information, visit our website:

This workshop is free and open to the public. ** However, pre-registration is requested. For more information and to pre-register, please contact Katie Lynch no later than October 11 (503-320-1323,

Organized by the Institute for Culture and Ecology
PO Box 6688
OR 97228