Sunday, September 14, 2014

Midwest Wild Harvest Festival

Pat Armstrong, foraging instructor at the Resiliency Institute in Naperville

Evening potluck with wild foraged food featured.
I just got back from the Midwest Wild Harvest Festival that was held at the Badger Camp near Prairie du Chien. This annual event gathered nearly 130 people all interested in learning to live a more self sustainable lifestyle by incorporating wild foods into their diets. The weekend event takes place at the Wisconsin Badger Camp and features top rate foraging instructors from the area as well as a guest speaker from New York. This is a family friendly event where the kids go to day care while their parents go on classes to learn to identify, process and store wild foods.
With five outstanding instructors it was really hard to choose from the classes offered. I have a pretty solid grasp of identification of plants so this year I focused on learning new recipes and ways to store the food that I gather. My favorite class was a food preservation class given by our guest speaker, Leda Meredith. She discussed the main ways to preserve food and then went into specifics. I now feel comfortable and confident to begin using fermentation as a means to preserve the wild edibles I gather. She also introduced us to a wonderful new way to eat plantain. You take the plantain leaves and dip them in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Then put them in an oven at 250 degrees for up to 10 minutes. Delicious!
The weather was chilly for this time of year but we still got out and did quite a bit of walking and collecting wild edibles. Sumac was in its prime as well as wild grapes, apples, and ground nut. Soon it will be time for the roots such as Jerusalem artichoke and burdock. Another amazing event and I am already looking forward to next year!

Monday, August 25, 2014

May Apple Banana Ice Cream

I am an enthusiastic forager and this time of year features a truly fun fruit to forage, the may apple. I first read about may apples from the infamous Euell Gibbons who wrote about the wonderful flavors of may apples in his book Stalking the Wild Asparagus. He claimed they tasted like ambrosia which instantly peaked my interest. The forest across from me has a bounty of these fun and beautiful plants. It is a fun plant to forage for because the leaves themselves are easy to identify but the fruit is much more like a scavenger hunt. The fruit are ripe when they are yellow and they can still be attached the plant sprouting two leaves or laying on the ground recently dropped by the plant. But you will be will competing with the deer for this delicious treat so you have to keep an eye on them as they progress into ripeness.

Now at the end of August of 2014, there are in peak season and soon they will all be gone either from the deer or they will be turning brown and will be of no use. Collect them when they are yellow and slightly soft or when slightly green and just keep them on the counter until they ripen. It took only a couple days in a paper bag to turn from a slight green to yellow and be ready to go.

Euell Gibbons talked of making a marmalade out of the may apples but the 5 cups of sugar was a definite turn off for me. A friend and I had made some wild grape jam the previous fall without any sugar or sure-jell at all so I wanted to see what would happen with may apples under the same process. I quartered my may apples and tossed them into a pot under low heat. Within a half hour they became very mushy and I took a potato masher to them to speed up the process. After another half hour I put them in a steel colander and pushed the pulp and juice through and separated them from the seeds. You do not want to eat the seeds - they are toxic. These I tossed back into the woods to continue the cycle of bountiful may apple fun.  On the heat again for another half hour and the sauce thickened right up. About 2 dozen may apples produced about a cup of this thick may apple jam. And the taste was MARVELOUS. Like nothing in the grocery store which makes the whole process even more worth it.

Next I put this mixture in the freezer. In my house we have a special treat called Banana Surprise. It is simply a frozen banana in the vitamix along with about a half cup of coconut milk. Voila you have a healthy ice cream like treat. For a completely dreamy ice cream delight combine the frozen banana, coconut milk and two heaping tablespoons of frozen may apple puree and your taste buds will explode!!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wild Edible Foraging and Cooking Class

This past weekend under beautiful skies at Riverside High School, over 20 people joined me for a wild foraging event! The first part of the day, we walked the campus and identified a dozen different edibles including daylily, plantain, curly dock, burdock and milkweed. We sat and discussed the many reasons why someone would want to incorporate wild edibles into their diets and the specific nutrient content of each plant. We also discussed when to harvest and how to prepare each plant. It is always interesting for met to find out the various reasons people are embarking on this journey which seems to be growing in interest. I do it for many reasons. The nutrition and medicine are a big part of why I love to cook with wild edibles but it's also knowing exactly what is in my food. When you harvest your own food, you have a lot more control over the amount of chemicals you are consuming. I also do it for the exercise and just the sense of empowerment that such an activity brings.

But my favorite part of the day was the second half of the class where we actually created a meal in the classroom that featured wild edibles. We created Wild Spinach Pie, Wood Sorrel Hummus and Daylily Dessert.  The food was amazing and quickly consumed by the class.

This coming fall I'll be doing an in-depth series on specific wild edibles and teach everyone how to identify, collect and prepare acorns, burdock, sumac and dandelion. For more information, go to

Thursday, June 26, 2014

More From Euell Gibbons - Common Mallow

This plant is called Common Mallow or Malva neglecta. Malva has Greek origins and means soothing, softening, and generally pleasant to the skin. This is a plant that you may find growing abundantly in your garden but probably have been tossing it out with the weeds. I'm hoping to convince you that this is a plant that you need to allow to flourish and take advantage of because it has so many useful and fun attributes!

This plant produces small green fruit often referred to as "peas". They are delicious and very easy to gather. They can be eaten raw or cooked like any other vegetable. They also have another very useful function which is that is produces an extremely mucilaginous water that can be used to create a stiff foam much like whipped egg white produces. Euell Gibbons describes this process in his book Stalking the Healthful Herbs. In this book he goes into detail about creating a may apple chiffon pie but it can be done with any fruit, wild or domestic.

To get this liquid, gather a  cup of the mallow fruits. Boil them with 3 cups of water for 20 minutes. Strain out the fruit (but definitely eat the fruit - they are delicious!) and allow the water to cool. To speed up the process, you can put the water in the frig for 20 minutes.

While that cools, get your fruit ready. Put 4-6 cups of your fruit (I love blueberries, raspberries and apples) in a pot on the stove under a low simmer. Add one cup of water and the amount of sugar you would like to sweeten it with. Euell adds one cup which I think is way too much. I'd go with 1/3 cup. You can also add lemon zest, ginger  root, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove depending if you like those flavors. Add 1-2 tablespoons of corn starch or arrowroot powder as a thickener. Stir frequently until it is thick like pudding. Take off heat and let cool. It will continue to thicken.

Now let's get to the mallow part. To help whip up the mallow, take one egg white and put it in a mixer. It won't be long before it starts to whip up. When it does, slowly add your mallow liquid and it will continue to froth. When it is a thick, frothy mixer, fold it into the fruit mixer and dump all of it into a graham cracker crust. Put in the frig to set. When the whole thing has chilled, it is ready to eat!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Girl Scout Jr. Camper Badge

Resiliency Training has partnered with the Girl Scouts to give the Troops an opportunity to earn their Camper Badge through fun and interactive activities. The knowledge, skills, and fun the girls will have during this program will give them memories that can last a lifetime! During this program, the girls will talk about the importance of protecting themselves from the elements if they are outside overnight. They will create their own paracord bracelets that they will get to keep as a souvenir of the day. They will use their bracelets to learn how to lash together a tripod to create the framework for a debris hut which they will create as a team. The girls will learn cooperation and feel empowered with the knowledge they will gain from the class.

The program will also teach how to correctly build a fire and start a fire without a match. Fire safety will be emphasized at all times.

To find out more about the Girl Scout programs offered by Resiliency Training, visit the website at or call Shannon at 262-515-5331.

Hi Shannon! Thank you so much for the photos!  And even more importantly, thank you for the terrific camping adventure!  The girls had a blast learning and practicing their new skills!  You have a wonderful program and we are so happy we found you! Do you have a part 2 to your program?  If so, we’d be very interested in it for next year. Thanks again. Your program is awesome!  I will be recommending it to the other troops at the school. Enjoy the summer!”
M. G.
Girl Scout Cadette Troop #3003 Leader

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Girl Scout Flower Badge Program

Resiliency Training has partnered with the Girl Scouts of SE Wisconsin to create a great program for the Junior Flower Badge. This program can be done year round and it is a great way for the troop to learn about the wonderful healing abilities that certain plants have as well as the different parts of a flower and what they do. In this fun, interactive class, the girls will be assigned the different parts of a flower and act out what those parts do. They will then work in teams or pairs to label the parts of the flower on a handout. Next the girls will learn about the medicinal qualities in plants and make a healing salve with a popular garden flower called calendula.

This class can be done anywhere indoors or outdoors. It is sure to be a bit hit with all the girls! To see more about this class, go to or call Shannon at 262-515-5331.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Time to Collect Mullein!

When the cold season is upon you in the middle of winter, you will be grateful that you took the time to collect the leaves of this amazing plant called mullein.

Mullein is a biennal plant. The first year plant (shown above) produces a rosette of large velvety green leaves. These plants persist through the winter and the following spring, will produce a central spike that will grow a foot or more above the plant and end with a flower stalk with random five petal yellow flowers.

The 2nd year plants are just beginning to flower here in Portland, Oregon. Back home in Wisconsin it will probably flower in about another two weeks. There small yellow flowers will pop out randomly on a tall stalk that rises from the center of the plant. You can collect and dry the leaves from the first or second year plant for the decongestant medicine it produces. Before I came to know this plant, my colds if I got one, would go to my lungs and produce copious amounts of mucus. This wonderful plant prepared as a tea acted almost immediately to relieve any congestion I had and made short order of the cold itself.

To make the tea, collect and dry the leaves then put them in a sealed container. I refresh my supply yearly to make sure the medicine is as strong as possible. When you need the tea, crumble a tablespoon of leaf into a tea holder and pour 2 cups of hot water over the mullein and cover the cup. If you do not have a tea holder, you will have to strain the leaves out before drinking your tea. You do not want to get the leaves in your throat as they have tiny hairs that could irritate your throat. You should always cover your tea as the medicinal properties of the plant are volatile and your medicine will be less potent.

Friday, June 13, 2014

There's a Salve for That Class July 20, 2014

Perhaps after going through the Medicinal Tea Class you will now feel compelled to extend your medicinal plant knowledge to salves. On July 20, 2014, we will be hosting a class titled There's a Salve for That! Most of us are surrounded by medicinal plants that grow wild but we just don't know it. For just about any first aid situation you can think of, there literally is a plant for that. Once you identify that plant, all you have to do is learn how to harness the medicinal properties in a salve and you will have that power to your disposal for up to a year! You can replace all your store bought first aid creams with remedies that you can easily create in your own home. Since everything you put on your skin goes into your body, its a good practice to eliminate the chemicals that come in store bought creams that can do more harm than good in the long run. In the salves that we make not only are they extremely effective but they contain only all natural products.

In this class, we will start with plant identification in a near-by park as well as in an urban community. Then we will head back to the classroom to make an herbal salve made from ingredients we found in the field. Each participant will go home with a 1 oz tin of salve and handouts. This process is so easy and fun that it is a class for both adults and kids.

The goal of Resiliency Training is always to empower individuals to be self-reliant so you will gain the tools and knowledge you need to continue make salves on your own. And we will always be available for consultation after class if you have any questions. To sign up for this class, go to

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wisdom of Euell Gibbons -Cleavers

I have been reading the series of "Stalking the...." by Euell Gibbons as a way to expand my understanding of wild food and the bits of wisdom he includes I have not seen anywhere else. The books he wrote are true treasures of knowledge that I want to help pass on to future generations. So for those of you that may not have heard of this wonderful series, I urge you to go pick up the books but if you don't have the time, I will highlight some of the things that I found particularly interesting.

I am currently staying on the NE side of Portland though I live in Wisconsin and most of the plants in his books I am already familiar with but haven't encountered them in such vast  quantities that I am seeing in the woods near me in Oregon. I suppose that probably has to do with the high rainfall and fairly easy winters they see here. One plant in particular that I am seeing of in my wood ventures is cleavers. This is a plant that clings to you with such ferocity that it may stop you in your tracks and prevent you from moving forward without the use of a machete. In his book, "Stalking the Healthful Herbs", Euell Gibbons has a chapter dedicated to this plant and the uses for it rather took me by surprise. Apparently is was once common knowledge that a tea or meal made from this herb was used by English ladies for weight loss.

To prepare this herb as a vegetable pick it in early spring - pull the stem and leaves. Steam the plant for about 5 minutes and it is ready to eat! Euell describes it as tasting like spinach. Euell also mentions that the seed-like fruits make the best coffee substitute of any other plant he has tasted. This plant is apparently in the same family as coffee (Rubiaceae) which would explain the taste similarities. For this coffee substitute, gather the little hard fruits during the summer when they are full sized and roast them in an oven until they are golden brown. Use the fruits as you would coffee. There is no caffeine in cleavers. To  use this plant medicinally, collect the plant in May or June when it is in flower and dry it. Keep it in an air tight container and use as a tea for the weight loss properties.

I will be trying all of these ideas out shortly. Thanks Euell!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Girl Scout Cadette Tree Badge


Resiliency Training has partnered with the Girl Scouts to come up with a variety of Badge Programs that are fun, interactive and easily brought to any location.

The Cadette Tree Badge starts off with a team building activity to get the girls active and build group cooperation. Then we head into the park to take a look at different trees. We will point out the different type of trees that are in the park and discuss what the trees provide for us. We will talk about how to get water, food and nutrition from trees. The girls will take on the various part of the tree and act out how the tree converts sunlight, water and carbon dioxide into energy and oxygen. Then they will try some pine tea which is packed full of vitamin C not to mention a tasty drink! They will also shell some wild foraged nuts and create a quick healthy snack they will be able to eat right away!

By the end of the class they will have a new appreciation for trees, know the different parts of the tree and what job each performs as well as discuss the process of photosynthesis! This class can be done year round and in any location throughout the Milwaukee area.

The cost of the class is just $15 per girl (troop leaders and adult chaperones are free). To find out more about this class as well as other badge programs, go to or call 262-515-5331.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Medicinal Tea Class - Sunday, July 13

On Sunday, July 13, 2014, we will be hosting a Medicinal Tea Class held at 5858 S 43rd Street in Greenfield, WI. This class will be from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.

This class is by far one of the most enjoyable and inspiring classes that we teach. There is perhaps no easier way to start incorporating plant medicine into your life than by drinking tea. Most people are already familiar with the uses of tea to soothe the soul but in this class, we take it to the next level and introduce some familiar teas and not so familiar teas that have significant health benefits. We will talk about how to identify common medicinal plants, how to harvest and how to prepare them correctly for the maximum potential. Most of these plants you can grow in your own garden which is in fact where most of our teas will come from. We have a large chemical free garden full of medicinal plants that we will use for class purposes.

In this class, we will be preparing 2 root based teas, two leaf based teas and two flower based teas. The cost of the class is $20 and includes all your teas, a light snack and handouts. This is a great social event as well to meet and talk to other like minded people. Whether you are a novice or a true tea connoisseur, there will be something for you in this class!

To sign up for this class, go to or call 262-515-5331 for more information.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Resiliency Summer Classes

Summer has finally arrived in Wisconsin and Resiliency classes will be in full force. If you are looking to learn how to make your own soap/body care products, learn outdoor skills, or dive into identifying and cooking wild edibles, then you will want to check out all of our amazing classes. Even as technology is a huge part of most households, there is a significant movement to revert to skills and knowledge of the past. I am thrilled to be a part of this movement of getting back to the basics....growing my own foods and herbs, creating natural and chemical free household products and incorporating wild edibles into my diet for outdoor exercise and bountiful nutrients. I thoroughly enjoy the variety of people that come to my classes who also want to live more sustainably. I met a family who came together from different states to buy a farm in Wisconsin and wanted to learn about the wild edibles and medicinal plants that were on their property. They are already raising their own chickens and goats as well as planting a huge garden. I will be doing a wild edible class at their farm in the Fall (more information coming at

I will be continuing to offer classes to the Girl Scouts as a part of the Badge Program which includes:
Brownie Hiker, Cadette Trail Blazer, Jr. Camper, Jr. Flower and Cadette Tree. All programs include interactive curriculum from cooking with wild edibles to making a flower healing salve to making quick release paracord bracelets.

Over the next few days, I will be giving an in-depth look at each of the classes coming up in the summer of 2014. Of course you can always look ahead at

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Foraging Article in Natural Awakenings

Please check out the latest Natural Awakenings Magazine where I have written an article on foraging. One of the first herbs that will emerge after the thaw is garlic mustard. This is a must for every foraging enthusiast to identify. Learn about all of its health benefits in this great article on page 29!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Ache & Pain Cream Class

I introduced a new class yesterday co-taught with Susan Haas and held it at Henschel Haus Publishing. Susan and I have created a nice selection of body care products made with only all natural ingredients and put them up on Etsy under the name Green Goddess Gardens.
We are passionate about our products and love sharing how to create these simple recipes. Our latest product was designed to relieve aches and pains. It is a wonderful healthy substitute for Tiger Balm. Tiger Balm has a base of Petrolatum. If you are unfamiliar with petrolatum, I have added some information here:
“Petrolatum, which is used as a base for Tiger Balm, commonly known as petroleum jelly, is a byproduct of petroleum. Petrolatum is a soft paraffin or wax mixture sold as a topical skin ointment. It is acknowledged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an approved over-the-counter skin protectant and is used in the manufacturing of cosmetic skin care. However the side effects of petrolatum include finding the petroleum byproduct in breast tumors, suffocation of the skin, premature aging and aggravated acne.
Petrolatum or mineral oil jelly and mineral oils can cause skin photosensitivity or promote sun damage. Petrolatum may interfere with the body's moisturizing mechanism, leading to dry skin and chapping despite its cosmetic use as lip protection. According to the Environmental Working Group, petrolatum may be found in one of every 14 products as well as 15 percent of lipsticks and 40 percent of baby lotions and oils.”

Petrolatum will increase the shelf life of a product but in my opinion, it doesn't make up for the damage it does along the way. Our recipe uses only all natural essential oils and beeswax. The added vitamin e is an antioxidant and will help to extend the shelf life. It should last at least 6 months and if stored in a cool area out of the sun, at least a year. I've included the recipe here:
1 tsp. peppermint EO
1 tsp. wintergreen EO
1 ¼ tsp camphor EO
2 tsp. Cajaput EO
¼ tsp. Cassia (cinnamon)
¼ tsp. Clove bud EO
2 TB Beeswax
2 TB Grapeseed oil
¼ tsp. vitamin E
Combine all essential oils into a small glass container.
Heat beeswax and grapeseed oil in a double boiler. Take off heat when beeswax liquefies and add essential oils one teaspoon at a time. Stir continuously until the batch reaches a smooth consistency. Pour into a 2 oz. container.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Etsy Store

After teaching classes on how to make wonderful, organic and natural products using oils, beeswax and herbs, I have partnered with another person to create a line of products to sell under the name Green Goddess Gardens. We now have our products in a store in Milwaukee and available to buy over the internet on Etsy

The process of creating Green Goddess Gardens was so much fun! It started with a large garden inspired by permaculture design. We were so lucky to have the Victory Garden Initiative help us out in the design and the hard physical labor of digging out the area.  Through a friend, we connected with an herbalist near Madison who was moving to Vermont. So off I went to see this wonderful garden and see what she had. We were able to purchase some medicinal plants from her that could be transplanted.  I came home with a comfrey plant, st. john's wort, mint, calendula, and mullein.  Shortly after that, some plantain and burdock just showed up one day in another part of the garden. The medicinal herb garden had begun! And as the summer progressed, they flourished! The comfrey plant went from a tiny bug chewed plant to a vigorous giant that stretched itself out over three square feet of space. The thick leaves came up to my waist!

Then the infusions started! We had jars and jars of hot and cold processed herbs, each one allowing healing herbal constituents to merge into the oil preparing to become a variety of salves, body butters, lotions and soaps.

Each batch of product we made was created in small batches for the highest quality.  The soaps were allowed to cure for at least 3 months before packaging. The journey to self-reliance has been such a joy. It all starts with small steps and a shifting of priorities. I love using products that I was a part of creating and which incorporate plants that I cared for throughout the summer. If you have a chance, visit our Etsy shop to see some of the amazing products we've created!