Posts Tagged ‘plants’

and the winner is…

July 27, 2011

Congratulations to Barbara McGouran for correctly guessing July’s green ally: Burdock (Arctium lappa)!

Burdock is a biennial plant and in the second year of growth, he/she grows very tall (sometimes up to 8 feet!) and develops flowers. These flowers or “burrs” of burdock are hermaphroditic and self-pollinating. Burdock is also an attractor of pollinating insects like bees. The burrs are nature’s velcro, sticking to anything or anyone who brushes by (another strategy to ensure the next generation of burdock).

Like its friend Mugwort, Burdock shows up in disturbed ground and poor soil. Burdock’s presence helps to improve the soil, breaking up the earth with his/her long taproot and drawing up minerals from deep in the soil. When the plant dies back after the second year, the organic material and nutrients he/she provides enriches the soil so that other plants demanding richer soil can grow. In this way, burdock is a pioneer species promoting ecological succession.

Burdock’s roots are well known as a nourishing food. The Japanese name for burdock is “gobo,” a key ingredient in kinpira, a delicious salad dressed with mirin, soy sauce, and sesame seeds. Burdock root is rich in inulin, a dietary fiber. Burdock is known as a “blood purifier” that supports the liver, bile production, and digestion. It also helps to clear chronic skin conditions such as eczema.




Medicinally, the root is taken as a decoction: simmer 1 teaspoon of dried root per cup of water for about 20 to 25 minutes. Strain out the root. Drink 1 cup, 3 times per day. {source: David Hoffman} The decoction can also be added to soups, as can the fresh root.

Today I made a syrup of burcock root by cooking the decoction down even more, reducing the liquid by about one-third, and then adding honey and maple syrup to sweeten and preserve.

I like to infuse the leaves of burdock in oil and use the oil in a skin soothing salve. Last month’s green ally winner, Roxanne, likes to add the dried leaves of burdock with lavender buds to apple cider vinegar to use as a hair rinse. I’m going to have to try that!

I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of burdock’s great attributes. It’s a good thing I’ve chosen to “walk with” this green ally for the herbalism course I’m currently taking at Third Root. I hope to provide you with more insights into this deeply rooted lovely in the near future.

july’s green ally contest

July 24, 2011

Last month I introduced a new feature – the Green Ally Contest. For June, the green ally was Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), and the prize was a set of To-Go Ware. This month…

Prize: Sunflower, Comfrey & Lavender Facial Scrub (value $18)


  • In her second year of growth, he/she likes to reach out & grab you!
  • He/she is nourishing and most notably supportive of the liver
  • He/she has hermaphroditic flowers (hence the use of “he/she”!)

I think this is another easy one!

If you think you know who this green ally is, email me at liz (at) raganella (dot) com by 11:59PM on Tuesday, July 26. Out of the correct guesses, the winner will be selected at random (using and announced by noon on Wednesday, July 27.

Happy Guessing!

contest: who is this green ally?

June 22, 2011

DEADLINE EXTENDED! See below for details…

I’m starting a new monthly feature where you’ll get to learn a little something about commonly found green allies (ie, medicinal plants) and have the chance to be rewarded for your ID skills.


This month’s prize is a To-Go Ware Utensil Set (retail value $12.95), perfect for taking to potlucks, summer picnics in the park, camping, or the office.


And here are the clues…

• Oh, she’s a real wild one – commonly seen hanging out in vacant lots, swaying over sidewalks, waving on the side of highways

• Though her skin is green, her leaves have a white underbelly

• She flowers in late summer with the most tiny little blossoms

• Her scent is uniquely earthy, woodsy & spicy, and could be described as camphoraceous

• She helps us with dreams & visioning work and has an association with the moon & a certain goddess

• Traditionally, she was picked on Midsummer’s Eve and worn to ward off evil & illness

• You’ll find her in one of my best-selling products

Okay, I think I’ve pretty much given it away. I figure I’ll make it easy on you for the first go-round. 😉

So here are the rules:

1. Once you’ve got the answer, email both the common and botanical name, plus your name & address to liz at raganella dot com

2. All responses must be received by 11:59PM on Tuesday, June 28, 2011.

3. Winners will be chosen at random and announced on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 by 12:00PM (noon).

PS – I extended the deadline a day because I’ll be out of town on an herb-gathering mission.

Good luck to you!

expounding on hot grease

December 5, 2010

In a shipping container in the backyard of Roberta’s restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn is the home of Heritage Radio Network – an internet radio station dedicated to spreading the good food gospel. My friend Nicole Taylor (aka Food Culturist) hosts a show on said station. It’s called Hot Grease (knowing she’s from Georgia, it’s apropos).

A few weeks ago, I was on her show, with an air date TBD. Well, while I was off on my digital detox, the program aired. I only found out after sifting through my emails last night. You can listen to the interview from the Heritage Radio Network site or via podcast on iTunes.

Expounding on Hot Grease

Since it’s only about a 15 minute interview, we didn’t dig too deeply into some of the subjects. So after you give it a listen, see below for more info on some of the stuff we discussed.

Natural Living Skills

For more on the Eco Libris Green Books Campaign, check out the review I wrote of Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.

No New Clothes

Read all about the Brooklyn Green Team’s No New Clothing Challenge here.


An entire radio station could be dedicated to all things permaculture, let alone an entire show. Here are a few places to start:

Permaculture Principles (the site is inspired by one of the founders of Permaculture, David Holmgren)

Permaculture Institute

Permaculture Activist Magazine (one of my very favorite publications)

The New York Permaculture Meetup Group. Anyone can go to one of their meetings, held the first Tuesday of every month. Meet some great people and learn about the cool ecological projects happening in and around NYC.

To see my design project for the Permaculture Design Certification, check out this post.

Healthy Home Consulting

This is what I do.

Make-it-yourself Parties

Okay, I don’t think we discussed these, but we should have. 😉 I’m now offering make-it-yourself beauty and cleaning product parties. You supply the people and place and I’ll supply the rest ($30 per person). Everyone walks away with 3 customized products and recipes to try at home. Email me for more info: liz (at) raganella (dot) com.

The Hot Five

Five simple things you can do to lead a healthier, more ecological lifestyle.

5. Take off your shoes as you enter your home. Easy enough.

4. Bring in plants. Learn more about the amazing filtering ability of plants.

3. Swap out your cleaning products. Check out the Berkeley Ecology Center’s simple cleaning recipes or try these botanically based formulas from the Herb Companion.

2. Swap out your beauty/hygiene products.Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair by master herbalist Dina Falconi is a book I constantly refer to for inspiration in making my own beauty products.

1. Compost. Check out the NYC Compost Project for tips on composting. Find all the places to compost in Manhattan on the Compost Green Map. This site isn’t quite populated with enough data yet, but FindAComposter has potential to offer people across the country with a go-to source for finding a place to compost.

UPDATE! ecological living workshop series

June 1, 2010

We’re offering this workshop again, mark your calendars! This time, the class includes 30 minutes of asana (yoga). See you there!

I’ll be leading a series of workshops starting in June that focus on ecological living skills, with the first one focused on creating a healthy home environment. Full details below, and on Facebook!


Thursday, June 10, 2010
7pm to 9pm
455 Grand Street #3, Brooklyn NY 11211

There is a connection between our choices, our health, and the well-being of everyone on the planet. You are an integral part of this interrelationship. This hands-on workshop series is designed to help you develop skills for living as a more active participant in a regenerative and abundant culture, and a little less as a consumer dependent on what are often destructive and exploitative means. There is also empowerment in making your own things, which has far-reaching psychological benefits, and a depletion that comes with consuming, which also has far-reaching effects. We’ll talk about that a little bit as well.

The series will be led by me and hosted by the most gracious and generous Julia Frodahl, of Deer Stop. Please follow the link below to read more about Julia. Also please note, it is not necessary to attend every workshop in the series. You can pick and choose from the ones that interest you and that work with your schedule.



Home is a sacred place, a place to feel at ease and secure, and a place to regenerate. Unfortunately, the air in our homes as well as our workplaces can be up to 10 times worse than the air outside (and our city has poor air to begin with – yikes!). But fret not! There are several simple solutions you can implement to improve the health of your home, as well as those who inhabit it.

In this interactive workshop, you will:
1. deepen your skills of observation and interact with “stuff” in a new way
2. recognize patterns in your routine that might contribute to an unhealthy home
3. learn about plants that filter out toxins in your home
4. make your own customized cleaning products
5. walk away with skills you can apply right away

We will provide you with all you need to create, but feel free to bring your favorite essential oils to enhance your cleaning products.

Light snacks will be served.


This workshop is $25 and requires registration. Please email to register. (An RSVP here of “attending” does not register you. Please RSVP here AND email Julia.) Also, please consider re-posting this event for your friends.


from one product, many

January 14, 2010

When I set out today to disassemble our holiday wreath, I was only thinking of the beautiful dried flowers and how I could put them in a jar or vase as decoration. But as I tackled the job to take apart this one product, I discovered a vast array of possibilities.

In order to take something apart, it helps to understand how it was put together. Turning the wreath around, I saw this one was constructed over a round metal frame with wire attaching the bows of pine. I grabbed a wire cutter and started unraveling the wire.

As I made my way around the circle, I could see the arrangement was a series of sprays or bouquets with a range of botanicals. Some kind of magenta thistle-like flower, eucalyptus, a white star-like flower, wheat, pine, and some other plants I can’t identify (Leda, if you’re reading, I hope you’ll enlighten me!).

I started imagining all of the uses of these goods. Here are the elements of the wreath and a few ideas I came up with:

This one was easy. Mulch. I’ll take the small pine branches down to the street trees for a nice covering. Or we can take them out to my bf’s sister & brother-in-law’s place to please the blueberries.

eucalyptus & other dried flowers & plants
I separated out all of the various plants into piles. Collating them this way, I thought of the person who gathered these plants and strung them together to make a lovely holiday wreath. I was undoing their work, but giving it new life. Now they’re in vases and various other vessels around the apartment.

One could always use a bundle of wire. Crafts, jewelry, impromptu home repairs, tying up sagging houseplants, or maybe making a wreath of my own. How about a mobile?

Alexander Calder's handiwork

metal ring
A lamp or chandelier. An art project. Part of a plant stand. A tie or belt rack. A giant halo for a Halloween costume. Any other ideas?

more great gifts

December 3, 2009

While I’m at it, I may as well tell you about some of the other gifts I appreciated getting for my birthday that I think would make great presents for your nearest and dearest this holiday season.

Treehouses of the World

by Pete Nelson, photos by Radek Kurzaj


The day before the package came from my mom, I was looking for some fun treehouse images to include on this here website. Imagine my surprise when I opened the box to discover this beauty. Over 35 treehouses from around the world are featured inside, plus instructions on how to create your very own getaway in the trees from reclaimed materials. (If only it were printed sustainably, and not in China. Oh well, guess you can’t have everything.)

Leavings: Poems

by Wendell Berry


My friend Anne sent me this one, another pleasant surprise. Prolific writer, farmer, nature lover – just a few words to describe the man who wrote this, his latest collection of poems. (Again, wish this one was printed in a more ecological manner.)

The Rose of Jericho

Anastatica hierochuntica

I opened the gift box to reveal what at first looked like a dirty Weetabix. Nope, that’s a plant. And it’s not dead. Apparently this little creature is hard to kill. Hence it’s nickname “The Resurrection Plant.” Put it in water, et voila!, it comes to life. Pretty wicked.