Featured, Plant Medicine

On a plant-powered mission, Watford

October 16, 2014
Sarra Moore

Sarra Moore is a health heating coach and creator of insanely tasty and healthy plant-based drinks and treats. Based in Watford, England, she uses food to help clients find their mojo, to feel more energised and lose weight naturally. She was also our nutrition guru on Urban Witch Escapes, and introduced us to the world of spiralising vegetables and green smoothies. Her enthusiasm for healthy eating is infectious and I’m sure her tips and recipes below will inspire some experimenting in your kitchen!

Sarra’s passion has always been food. She opened and ran a cafe in Watford for several years, and has been serving up nurturing food to families for twenty years working as a nanny. She studied naturopathic nutrition, qualifying from the Nutritional Healing Foundation in Brighton in 2011 and uses EFT, NLP, visualisations and good old-fashioned listening and healthy eating advice in sessions with clients. Her company Damage Limitation delivers smoothies to the busy people of Watford and on weekends you can find her at markets around North London selling fresh juices, smoothies and vegan treats.

What’s your philosophy on food and eating?
I don’t believe in denying yourself the things you love. Yes we want to eat cake. We want to drink wine and stay up all night dancing, eat out with friends and family at the weekend. We also want loads of energy and oomph to go to that spin class/gym session/party/big walk in the woods. We want to feel happy, really really happy. We want to feel connected with our friends and loved ones.

My philosophy is that by eating a predominately plant-based diet we can do and feel all of this. Healthy eating should be delicious and exciting. I advocate eating more natural food which provides all the nutrients we need to live in vibrant health and seriously limits that damage caused by eating too much meat, dairy, sugar, boozing, and stress caused by burning the candle at both ends. The body is capable of healing itself if we only give it the ingredients it needs and environment to flourish in.

Sarra Moore

What’s cooking in your kitchen right now?
I’m very lucky to have a sis-in-law with an allotment, so last night we feasted on freshly picked kale, cavalo nero, spinach and rainbow chard lightly fried with lots of garlic to ward off coughs, colds and sniffles, plus a big squeeze of zesty lemon which helps our body absorb all that wonderful iron from the leaves. I also cooked up some top comfort food in the form of a vegan potato dauphinoise. I layered potatoes, onion and garlic then covered in a homemade dairy free white sauce. I used a mix of white and sweet potato which has lower sugar levels and is loaded with beta carotene, a feisty antioxidant immune booster. All topped off with tahini (great for calcium) and nutritional yeast flakes that are packed with B vits and give it a cheesy taste. In these colder months my spicy hot chocolate is very popular in our house!

This time of year is about making sure we’re nourishing ourselves with nutritionally dense food to keep our immune system boosted. Think ginger, turmeric, chilli to keep circulation going and inflammation at bay. These ingredients can easily be added to soups and stews along with some tasty, seasonal root veg and super greens such as kale and chard. Here’s a recipe for an easy roasted butternut squash and carrot soup. Add some lentils and beans for extra taste, protein and fibre – crucial for a healthy digestive system. 70% of your immune system is located in your digestive system so keeping your bowels moving and healthy will help you stay on top form.

 

KALE. Image courtesty of Bobbi Bowers

KALE. Image courtesty of Bobbi Bowers

Probiotics are another great way to keep your bowels and immunity in good shape. I don’t mean the little sugary dairy drinks you can buy in the supermarket, these are not a good source of probiotics and the sugar and dairy are acidic to the pH balance of the body. Think acidic bad, alkaline good. It’s always best to buy probiotics from a reputable supplement company such as Solgar, Viridian or Cytoplan. You could try making your own sauerkraut, kefir or kombucha to keep your “good” bacteria flourishing.  Far yummier! Movement is vital to keep lymph flowing as it tends to slow down in the colder, darker months. Getting outside for a walk in the daylight will get lymph moving and top up on your vit D levels vital for a healthy immune system.

Any tips for eating fresh, organic and affordable?
Keep your eyes peeled when you are out shopping for bargains on fruit and veg. You can buy lots and freeze them. Go at the end of the day to pick up cut price items. Check out your local farmers markets for some bargains but also have a chat with the farmers/traders as their produce may not be labelled organic but it may have been grown without the use of pesticides. It can be very expensive to get all the legal paperwork to be able to use the organic label so often they cannot afford it – worth checking. Check out my blog for my top 15 tips for healthy eating on a budget.

Image courtesy of Cleber Mori

Image courtesy of Cleber Mori

Green smoothies.  Talk us through them and why we need them in our life.
Ah the green smoothie! The basics of a green smoothie: 1-2 types of fruit such as berries, banana, peach, mango – add a big handful of greens like spinach, kale, chard, lettuce and avocado. Then add water/dairy free milk/coconut water or milk, and whizz! This is just a basic recipe and can be played around with, I always add cucumber to mine and often soaked nuts for extra protein and creaminess. Check out this video for how to whizz one up. Not only is it delicious in its own right but it’s a great way to get in your extra vitamins, super greens, protein powders etc. Just add them to your smoothie! They’re the ultimate fast food, a great meal replacement, packed with nutrition, antioxidants and fibre for a healthy digestive system. They keep you full for ages and you can make a big batch in the morning and pop the rest in a flask to take with you to beat those 4pm hunger pangs. Waaaay better than a luke warm pasty from the garage!

Watford in three words.
Grey. Green. Home.

Where can we find you over the coming months?
The British Yoga Festival, London
5th to 7th of December 2014

Vegfest, Bristol
23rd to 25th May 2015

If you’re on the UK festival circuit in 2015 watch out for Sarra’s new partner in crime… her juice van Lou! You can also find Sarra on Facebook and twitter sharing recipes and healthy eating tips. For consultations or more information contact her at sarra@damagelimitation.org or visit her website damagelimitation.org

Plant Medicine

Ginger love

October 9, 2014
Ginger root

I love ginger. And I’m not just referring to my flame-haired best friend. I’m talking about the spicy root, the rhizome of Zingiber official, the nutritious food, medicine and exotic plant indigenous to Southern China that made its way to Asia, Africa, India and Europe via the spice trade in the first century AD.

At this time of year, a mug of warming ginger tea in the morning gets my blood moving and brings energy to my cold hands and feet. I simmer an inch or two of fresh chopped root in water for 15 -20 minutes for a nice fiery taste. A spoonful of honey goes well. I love throwing it in stir fries, use it to flavour meat, and juice it with apples for a punchy morning drink.

While it may be better known for its culinary versitility, ginger has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It is mentioned in ancient texts of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and in Ayurvedic practice it’s famed as the virtual medicine chest. It’s good for just about any ailment you can think of.

Ginger

Ginger is anti-viral, making it a must-have for cough and cold remedies. It’s antispasmodic, so helpful for stomach cramps, indigestion, flatulence and period pains, and relieving all types of nausea. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory, and medical researchers have been looking into how it can relieve conditions such as arthritis and tendonitis.

It boosts circulation, which helps cleanse lymph and eliminate toxins from the body. This action makes it a great companion for other herbs, as it aids absorption into the bloodstream. Latest research is also looking at its role in supressing growth of cancer cells.

Adding a few drops of ginger essential oil to base oils (like grapeseed and sweet almond) makes an effective massage blend for tired muscles, and I’m currently trying out a homemade hot infused ginger oil to treat an achy wrist. Will let you know how it goes.

A great way to get to know and understand a plant and its medicinal uses, is by either growing it yourself or meeting it in the wild. Watch how it grows, its shape, colour, structure, smell, texture, taste (if you know what it is), its likes and dislikes, and plant friends. This way we can have a better understanding of their character and how they can help us. Living on Canada’s West coast, I’ll be attempting to grow ginger indoors.

If you’re a gingé lover too please share your comments, recipes and ideas below!

* Pregnant women and those taking blood thinning medication should be aware that Ginger is stimulating and in high doses can thin the blood.
Images courtesy of Emma Cooper.

Featured, Permaculture

Upcycled fashion, Vancouver Island

October 2, 2014
uw_fused_singe

Fast fashion is a problem. On average, UK consumers send 30kg of clothing and textiles per capita to landfill each year, and in North America around 85% of textile waste goes directly to landfill. Many synthetic products do not decompose, while woollen garments produce methane as they decompose and contribute to global warming. Then there’s water pollution from textile dying, emissions as goods are transported from factories in Asia to high streets in the UK and malls across the States.  You get the picture…

One principle of permaculture is “waste is a resource”, and I was lucky enough to bump in to charismatic Canadian designer and founder of the League of Extraordinary Designers (quite appropriately at a landfill site in Victoria, B.C.) — Tracy Yerrell —who is embracing this principle and transforming consumer waste into clothing and jewelry, with her fashion line Fused.

tube bella earrings

How did you start making upcycled fashion?
I’ve always been an artist and I’ve worked as a graphic and interior designer for 30 years. When my granddaughter Ambria was born three years ago, I started making her clothes with organic fabrics and designs inspired by my travels in Europe. My daughter didn’t want to dress Ambria in run-of-the-mill Winnie the Pooh gear, so I made babywear with an edgier, skater, grungy look – and before I knew it, I was taking orders from my daughter’s friends! My line of clothing for children, Baby Boss Rules, was created soon after, which I sold at Bastion Square Market in downtown Victoria.

I found the majority of my customers were young, environmentally conscious parents who loved the kid’s clothing but were asking if there was an adult range too. These were creative, ‘outside-the-box’ individuals who weren’t shopping for generic, mass-produced clothes. So I started an upcycled clothing line for adults in response to market demand. This is how Fused was born.

What materials do you use?
A few years ago I came across a necklace made from re-worked bicycle inner tube. I was immediately drawn to this medium and was inspired to make my range of earrings tube.bella.

It got me thinking what other mediums can be used? What else can be done?

The idea to use fabric from upholsterer’s sample books to make fascinators came to me like a lightning bolt. They can be worn in the hair, pinned to hats or clothing. I love exploring the possibilities of green design. I took silk screening courses with Smoking Lily and Andy MacDougall, and apply my designs to upcycled fabrics. I make jewelry and clothing that’s unusual, innovative and one of kind. I’ve never felt more creative!

I source materials from anywhere and everywhere. The criterion is the quality, as it has to be good for many more years. I use fabrics by reputable labels that are well made to begin with. I go to second hand shops when they have sales, and friends will also offer me unwanted clothes before they take them to the charity shop.

fused dress

Why is upcycling so important?
The problem with fashion today is it’s so disposable. We live in a society where we can buy products cheaply and throw them away when we fall out of love with them or the newer, trendier version is on the shelves. It was only a few generations ago when women made their own clothes and owned a few quality dresses that they would care for and repair. The culture of fast fashion is wasteful and extremely damaging to the planet.

We’re experiencing the reality of the effects of climate change now, and if we don’t change our behaviour as a global community soon we are in very serious danger. As a parent and grandparent, I want to make a difference, and as a designer it’s my responsibility to create solutions to the problem of consumer waste; to educate and explore what can be done.

What are your tips for giving old clothes new life?
With my family, I’ll take cuttings of beautiful fabrics from clothes they can no longer wear, or from baby clothes, and use them to make new skirts, kid’s clothes, t-shirts or even quilts. This way our memories are an on-going thread woven into the fabric we wear. If we have a personal relationship with something we’re more inclined to take care of it. It becomes less disposable.

When you create something that is wearable art it becomes more valuable, at an emotional level. It means more than something that just covers your body. Innovative design has the power to change the current status quo of disposable fashion.

What upcycling examples inspire you?
I’m inspired by what I see happening around the world every day and have faith in our human capacity to innovate with waste materials. From street people in Brazil smelting old aluminium cans and moulding them with palm leaves and bamboo into beautiful stools, to incubators for babies made with old car parts. Cuba is a shining example of creativity and innovation, born out of necessity. They’ve kept cars from the 1950s working and are leaders in the environmentally friendly pesticide movement. This is producing generations who share the mind set of sustainability and working with Nature. I know people who collect waste from commercial dumpsters for materials; there is no limit to creativity!

Fused_Tracy Yerrell

What is the League of Extraordinary Designers?
I believe that to accelerate the shift to sustainable fashion, we as designers need to work together, to springboard off each other’s ideas and think bigger than working in competition with each other. I started the League of Extraordinary Designers as a way to bring designers producing work from upcycled materials together. It’s a platform for us to share and talk about ideas, as well as mentorship program for young designers to learn more about working with the medium of consumer waste.

We are launching with a fashion show in Victoria, B.C. on 14th – 16th November. As designers we love a challenge, and the mandate for the League of Extraordinary Designers is “show me what you can do with garbage.’ Just because clothing has been something else before doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful or meaningful. Upcycling is about creating gorgeous, funky, fresh and lovable pieces that people want to keep forever.

Victoria in three(ish) words
Exquisite natural beauty, culturally rich and creatively diverse.

See Tracy’s upcycled collection at thefusedline.com or email her at tracyyerrell@gmail.com for more information.

*Statistics taken from Ethical Fashion Forum, Eartheasy.com and Flowliving.com

Featured, Plant Medicine

Autumn foraging with Rasheeqa, London

September 22, 2014
HAWTHORN BERRIES

Rasheeqa Ahmad is a Community Herbalist based in Walthamstow in North East London. She studied at the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine in Glasgow and completed her studies at Middlesex University. Since qualifying in 2012 she’s been seeing patients in her local area, organising community herb walks, and running plant medicine and health-themed workshops with groups such as the Hornbeam Cafe/Organic Lea, the Alzheimer’s Society, Walworth Garden Farm and Baldwins Apothecary.

After a busy summer WOOFing with the Organic Herb Trading Company, helping to organise the annual Radical Herbalism Gathering and most recently hosting a workshop on herbs for women’s health at Amsterdam’s The F Word festival with fellow herbalist Kate Hawarth, I was excited to catch up with Rasheeqa to find out what wild herbs are ready to harvest now and how we can use them to stay healthy over the coming months.

What does this time of year mean to you?
This year in particular, it feels very rich and fruitful having spent the whole summer outside! The berries all seem quite early. Elderberries have already gone! Autumn is a gorgeous time for me — the freshening air, the colours of the skies, the calm that comes with the changing light – it all feels steadfast and a bit romantic. Even in London you can feel it. Having had such a glorious summer makes me more appreciative of and ready for the change.

What medicinal plants can you find growing around Walthamstow right now?
The Meadowsweet has now finished on the marshes. I’ll go foraging for Hawthorn berries and sloes soon. I’m seeing a lot of apples and pears about, which can be seen as medicinal. I keep snacking on sun-dusted Blackberries wherever I go.

I harvested Elderberries to make an immune-supporting syrup for the winter months. The Rosehips are looking marvellously red and shiny already. I particularly love Rosa rugosa as the hips are huge and juicy! Rosehip syrup is good for the immune system and for connective tissue, so a great remedy for those cold or stiff winter joints. A friend once made a gorgeous Hawthorn berry chutney so I will give that a go this year. Hawthorn berries in any form are a gentle heart tonic and cardiovascular support, and will get the blood flowing more effectively.

To make syrups I usually simmer the berries in water to make a concentrated decoction, which I then strain and add sugar or honey to preserve plus a varying mix of spices that make good additions – cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cloves, cardamom, fennel – the warming, digestion-supporting and immune-boosting health-givers. You can add a splash of brandy or Elderberry tincture also to preserve.

Yarrow is a favourite herb of mine and I’ve been gathering the flowers in the last few weeks to dry for teas. It’s a great one for warming and boosting circulation, and for the start of colds as it’s anti-infective. I’ve also just made a balm with Nettle seeds and Rosemary (the Nettle seeds are just over now) infused in olive oil then beeswax added. This is apparently an ancient Roman recipe and I’ve had positive reports from my mum who has been using it for her hands, which had been painful with rheumatoid arthritis swelling. She said just a little bit really helped and the inflammation went down!

YARROW. Image courtesy of Klondike Gold Rush NHP Alaska

YARROW. Image courtesy of Klondike Gold Rush NHP Alaska

What are your top harvesting tips?
Go to wild places. Be respectful of the land and the plant. Check with people that the area is fine to harvest from and do not ingest anything unless you are certain you know what it is. Avoid roads as traffic fumes and pollutants can be absorbed by plants. Don’t pick too much of any plant and make sure there is plenty left of what you’re harvesting. Pick good healthful plants. Go with your feelings. Thank the plants your bounty!

How will you celebrate the Autumn Equinox?
It changes from year to year. Sometimes I sit at the fire with friends, visioning what is to come. This year a group of us herby women will be getting together for a herb study.

What do you most love about your work?
I’ve been doing a lot of knowledge-sharing with groups and in the process meeting plenty of people who use herbs and have marvellous stories to tell about them. Every workshop leads to heartfelt, empowering discussion around healthcare, what health means and where it comes from, and the sources of imbalance in personal and collective health. It feels like we’re doing a lot more by getting together in this way than just talking about what herbs do. And we always include herb tastings in each session for the personal experience with the plants!

Where can we find you over the coming months?
> Sunday 5th October, 11am – 4pm
London Wildlife Trust Open Day, Peckham
We’ll be gathering goodness from their herb garden and making preparations. This is a free event.

> Saturday 11th October
Apple Day at the Vestry House Museum, Walthamstow
You can find me selling seasonal preparations on my market stall there.

> Saturday 25th October
Permaculture within Diverse Communities, The Mill, Walthamstow
This is a really exciting collaborative workshop with permaculture facilitators Muzammal Hussain and Shumaisa Khan. We are offering a permaculture taster day that focuses specifically on learning and using permaculture tools in the context of culturally rich communities; exploring working together in our differences and common grounds, and enriching our groups and our connection to our land. It’s a brilliant event to happen in Walthamstow at this moment, with such a groundswell of community work and positive projects going on.

Walthamstow in three words? 
Mad. World. Mix.

Rasheeqa

For more details of her upcoming events you can contact Rasheeqa at rasheeqa@hedgeherbs.org.uk or visit her website.

Featured

New beginnings

September 21, 2014
Image courtesy of Azul Thome, Food From the Sky, London

Hello and welcome to our new website!

If you’re looking for details of Urban Witch retreats and workshops in the UK, a recent move overseas has meant we’ve temporarily paused planning for future events, however we are very excited to unveil our newest creation; this shiny new website!

Here we’ll be sharing knowledge of medicinal plants, foraging, herbal recipes, growing organic food and ideas for sustainable living in our urban jungles.

We’ll be talking to plant medicine teachers and listing workshops, so you can connect with your local herb-loving crew, as well as be inspired by groups and green projects from around the world.

We are only as healthy as our environment, and we believe plant medicine and permaculture hold the keys to healing our human selves and the damage done to the world around us. Permaculture, if you’re not familiar with the word, is a design system for sustainable living based on patterns and relationships found in the natural world. There’ll be more on that soon but in the meantime this website gives a great explanation.

Tune later this week, when I’ll be speaking to community herbalist Rasheeqa Ahmad from Walthamstow, London on what to harvest now to stay healthy for winter.

By the way, if you are looking for a retreat, I can point you in the direction of the marvellous Hayley Yoga who continues to host yoga holidays in the UK and abroad, and you can find Sarra, our naturopathic nutritionist and culinary wizardress, coaching and serving up vegan delights at market stalls around North West London. Check out her website fresh-nutrition.co.uk for details.

* Image above courtesy of Azul Thome, taken at Food from the Sky — a pioneering food growing initiative on the roof of a North London supermarket.