Peppermint – Herb of the Month

By Maryann Readal

Most of us, gardeners or not, are familiar with mint. But how many of us know that there is a distinctive difference between spearmint and peppermint? The difference between these two mints may be important depending on how you want to use them.

Peppermint, Mentha × piperita, is The Herb Society’s Herb of the Month for July.  Peppermint is really a hybrid of two mints, water mint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). . Being a hybrid, peppermint does not produce seeds. If you want to propagate it, you must either take cuttings or divide the plant. Like other mints, peppermint is a vigorous grower, so must be contained if you don’t want it growing everywhere in your garden.  It favors growing in rich, moist soil. Peppermint has a narrow, coarse leaf and flowers that are pink-lavender.  Spearmint, on the other hand, is softer to the touch and has a darker green leaf with pink, lavender, or white flowers.

But the major difference in these two mints is in the taste. Spearmint has a sweeter, milder taste due to its lower menthol content (0.5%). Peppermint has a much higher menthol content at 40%, and therefore has a much stronger flavor, almost a peppery minty flavor.  Because of its high menthol content, peppermint is the mint preferred for medicinal applications. It is used in pain relief ointments because it produces a cooling sensation on sore muscles. It is a common ingredient in throat soothing teas and lozenges, and is often used to disguise the strong taste of some medicines. It has been found effective in the short-term  treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive problems (https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/peppermint-oil). Peppermint oil can be rubbed on the temples to alleviate tension headaches  (https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-peppermint). Spearmint, with its much milder flavor, is used to treat mild cases of nausea and even hiccups.

In cooking, it really makes a difference which mint is used. Because of peppermint’s strong flavor, it can overpower the flavors of savory dishes. However, it works well with candies, pastries and chocolate. It is a popular addition to holiday treats such as candy canes, peppermint bark, and peppermint patties. A touch of peppermint in your hot cocoa makes it special. Spearmint, on the other hand, does not overpower other herbs and spices and can be used with a much broader spectrum of foods.  Use it in mint julep and in tabbouleh, or in a minty sauce for lamb.

Peppermint oil is becoming more important in the aromatherapy industry, and  is thought to have a positive effect on memory. According to a study reported in the International Journal of Neuroscience, the aroma from peppermint oil enhances memory and increases alertness  (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207450601042094?journalCode=ines20&).

The United States is the major producer of peppermint oil in the world and accounts for half of the world’s trade, something that we don’t often hear when talking about the economics of herbs and spices  (https://www.agrifutures.com.au/farm-diversity/peppermint-oil/). Most of the peppermint in the U.S. is grown in the Pacific Northwest.  According to AgHires.com, an acre of mint produces about 70 pounds of oil. One pound of oil can flavor 1,500 tubes of toothpaste or 40,000 sticks of gum (https://aghires.com/u-s-produces-70-worlds-mint/). A drop of peppermint oil goes a long way. 

I would be remiss if I did not include here the story about the origin of peppermint according to Greek mythology. It is said that Hades (also known to the Greeks as Pluto) fell in love with a beautiful wood nymph.  Persephone, his wife, became jealous and turned the nymph into a lowly plant to be stepped on. Hades could not undo the damage done by Persephone’s spell, so he gave the plant a beautiful scent so that she would never be forgotten. He called her Minthe.

So there you have it─some interesting information about peppermint to help make you an enlightened user of mint —at least of spearmint and peppermint.

Please visit The Herb Society’s Herb of the Month webpage for more information about peppermint, a screensaver for your computer, and some minty recipes.

Medicinal Disclaimer: It is the policy of The Herb Society of America, Inc. not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any particular medical or health treatment. Please consult a health care provider before pursuing any herbal treatments.


Maryann is the Secretary of The Herb Society of America. She is a Master Gardener and a member of the Texas Thyme Unit in Huntsville, TX. She gardens among the pines in the Piney Woods of East Texas.

HSA Webinar: The Game of the Name: Taxonomy and Nomenclature Explained

By Jen Munson, Education Chair

Linneaus for BlogWhen I first joined The Herb Society of America (HSA), it was a struggle to distinguish between parsley, thyme, basil, dill, and pretty much all of the common culinary herbs outside of mint. On top of that, I couldn’t tell you what herbs paired best with what foods. Once I had reached some stable grounds on the basics, my HSA friends then started throwing botanical names at me and their importance. It was then that I wanted to run screaming into the streets in confusion. 

If you identify at all with my confusion–or even if you don’t–plan on attending the upcoming HSA Webinar titled, “The Game of the Name: Taxonomy and Nomenclature Explained” with  garden writer, speaker, and educator Debra Knapke. This webinar is being held on Thursday, June 18, 2020, at 1pm EST. During the webinar, Debra will delve into the complex world of nature and help navigate the troubled waters of plant relationships and plant names. In this session, she will help make sense of two systems that, at their hearts, are simple and logical. 

Our webinars are free to members and $5.00 for guests. Visit https://www.herbsociety.org/hsa-learn/hsa-webinars or click here to sign up. Become a member today and enjoy all of our webinars for free. You’ll also be entered into a raffle for a free educational conference registration to our 2021 conference being held in Baton Rouge, LA, from April 29th – May 1st, 2021.

About Debra Knapke

Debra KnapkeThere is nothing Debra Knapke loves more than inspiring people to get out and garden in an eco-conscious way. Known as “The Garden Sage,” Debra is a popular speaker at professional symposia, as well as gardening events throughout the Midwest. She is active with several professional organizations and served as the Honorary President of The Herb Society of America from 2014-2016. Debra has written five books, numerous articles and blogs on Heartland Gardening, has mentored the future of the landscape industry at Columbus State Community College for 24 years, provides garden design consulting in her spare time, and has crammed an amazing variety of perennials, trees, shrubs, and edibles into the 2/3-acre lot surrounding her home.


Jen Munson is The Herb Society of America’s Education Chair. She discovered herbs when she stumbled upon her local unit’s herb and plant sale and hasn’t looked back since. Just recently, she celebrated being a member of the NorthEast Seacoast Unit for 15 years!

Black Pepper – Herb of the Month

By Maryann Readal

Black pepper, Piper nigrum, is a ubiquitous spice that can be found on tables anywhere in the world where food is served. But what is the story behind this popular spice that is used in kitchens the world over? 

P. nigrum is native to the Malabar Coast of southern India. It is also grown in other parts of the tropical world, including Vietnam, which has taken the lead in production by exporting 287,000 tons of black pepper worth $722 million in 2019. This is about 35% of the world’s black pepper trade. 

pepppercorn drupe from Missouri Botantical Garden

Pepppercorn drupes. Photo credit: Missouri Botantical Garden

Black pepper is a perennial vine with heart shaped leaves and pendulous flowers. It is grown for its fruit, which is dried and then used as a seasoning. The black pepper vine grows in my Zone 8b garden; however, it has yet to produce any peppercorns, although it bloomed for the first time this year. Maybe one day I will have peppercorns.

“Pepper” comes from the Sanskrit word pippali, which means energy and spiritedness. When we say “peppy,” we are referring to the taste of black pepper that can “pep” us up.

Black, white, and green peppercorns come from the same plant. Black pepper is the dried, unripe fruit. White pepper is the seed of the dried, fully ripe fruit. Green pepper is the dried unripe fruit that is brined to preserve its flavor and color. Pink peppercorns are not a pepper at all, since they come from the Peruvian pepper tree, Schinus molle, which is in the cashew family.

Archaeological evidence shows that black pepper was used as a seasoning in India as early as 2000 BCE. Exportation brought it to Egypt, where it was used as a spice and as a medicine. Containers of peppercorns have been found in Egyptian tombs, and they were even found in the nostrils of Ramses II who was mummified in 1213 BCE. Egyptians were early users of toothpaste, which they made from rock salt, dried iris flowers, black pepper, and mint. Cleopatra is said to have had skin lotions made with black pepper.

peppercornsWith exploration came the spread of black pepper to the Roman Empire, where it was considered so valuable that large quantities were stored in the Roman treasury. The first century Roman cookbook, Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome by Apicius, featured recipes in which 80% of them called for black pepper. Pliny the Elder (25-79 CE) could not understand the reason for pepper’s popularity. He remarked, “Whereas pepper has nothing in it that can plead as a recommendation to either fruit or berry, its only desirable quality being a certain pungency; and yet it is for this that we import it all the way from India!” Romans used black pepper as a treatment for digestive problems and gas relief. They also used it as currency. When Alaric the Visigoth laid siege to Rome around 400 CE, he demanded a ransom of three thousand pounds of black pepper, along with gold and silver. 

After the fall of Rome, the Persians and then the Arabs were in control of the spice trade. They created fantastic, frightening stories about where pepper grew in order to scare other traders away from the source of black pepper. Their trade created a new empire – the city states of Venice and Genoa. The black pepper trade was responsible, in part, for the wealth of these two cities that sold the commodity to the rest of Europe. 

Due to the high cost of trading between Europe and India, black pepper and other spices became a luxury and a symbol of wealth, as the taste for flavored foods and a belief in the medicinal qualities of spices grew.  Again, it was also used as currency: a pound of black pepper could free a serf, and many a young maiden was married with a black pepper dowry.

With the explorations of Vasco Da Gama and others in the 15th century, trade in black pepper fell to the Portuguese, then to the Dutch, and then to the British East India Company. At one time, pepper accounted for 70% of the world spice trade. As it became more available, prices dropped, and more people were able to use black pepper. As a result, many world cuisines developed special spice/herb blends that included black pepper.

nothingtodoinbermuda.com

Annual Peppercorn Ceremony in Bermuda. Photo credit: nothingtodoinbermuda.com

An amusing story about black pepper plays out in Bermuda, where each year, the 200 year old Annual Peppercorn Ceremony occurs. During this event, Freemasons present the Governor of Bermuda with one peppercorn on a cushioned silver platter in exchange for their rent of the Old State house. The idea of “peppercorn rent” is still practiced today in England and in other countries, where a nominal fee is charged to rent a property. This refers back to the time when peppercorns were used as currency. 

Piperine, a key constituent in black pepper, is being explored for its antioxidant properties and as a treatment for vitiligo, which is the loss of skin pigmentation (Mihăilă et al, 2019). In addition, piperine is found to fight inflammation, improve digestion, and increase absorption of some herbal and conventional drugs (Streit, 2019). A relatively recent study showed that smelling hot pepper oil helps to reduce the craving to smoke (Cordell & Buckle, 2013).

Black pepper is used extensively in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat digestive tract problems. Traditionally, it was used to treat worms, coughs and colds, sinusitis, dental problems, diarrhea, etc. The oil was used to treat scalp infections and skin diseases. 

Who would have thought that this common culinary spice played such an important role in world history? It was used to pay taxes, ransoms, rent, and dowry. As a medium of exchange, it was called black gold. It was, and still is, an important medicinal ingredient. And, it was the reason sailors set sail on perilous journeys to find a passage to India. Although no longer considered a luxury spice, the world’s demand for black pepper has not abated through the years, and continues to be an important spice in most cuisines. It has a peppery hold in many of our kitchens and still reigns as the “king of spices.”

For more information and recipes using black pepper, go to The Herbs Society of America’s Herb of the Month webpage: https://www.herbsociety.org/hsa-learn/herb-of-the-month.html

Cordell, B. and Buckle, J. (2013). The effects of aromatherapy on nicotine cravings on a U.S. campus: A small comparison study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 19 (8). Accessed May 27, 2020. Available from https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2012.0537

Mihăilă,B., Dinică, R.M., Tatu, A.L., and Buzia, O. D. (2019). New insights in vitilago treatments using bioactive compounds from Piper nigrum. Exp Ther Med, 17 (2): 1039-1044. Accessed May 27, 2020. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6327422/

Streit, L. (2019). Is black pepper good for you, or bad? Nutrition, uses, and more. Healthline. Accessed May 27, 2020. Available from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-black-pepper-good-for-you

Medicinal Disclaimer: It is the policy of The Herb Society of America, Inc. not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any particular medical or health treatment. Please consult a health care provider before pursuing any herbal treatments.


Maryann Readal is the Secretary of The Herb Society of America. She is a member of the Texas Thyme Unit in Huntsville, TX and is a Master Gardener. She gardens among the pines in the Piney Woods of East Texas.

HSA Webinar: The Brambles: Sorting through the Thicket of Rubus Terminology

By Jen Munson, Education Chair

Brambles…hmmm…Rubus: The International Herb Association’s (IHA) Herb of the Year™ 2020…hmmm, not necessarily a tactile herb you want to scratch and sniff, or roll between your fingers to enjoy. Regardless, it is one that definitely evokes vivid memories. Growing up we had a red raspberry patch, and it was so exciting to collect raspberries for pies, pancakes, cakes, muffins, or just to enjoy fresh. Picking raspberries always came with an “owiee” as you undoubtedly hit one of the thorns. raspberry-2023404_1920

As an adult, I have memories of my dog running out of a briar patch with a smile on his face and blood all over as he nicked his ears on the thorns. If you are familiar with how much a dog’s ears can bleed, you’ll know what I am talking about. Despite the physical memories, Rubus in its many varieties can produce the most delicious tasting fruit second only to blueberries for me. Between the beautiful colors, natural sweetness, and culinary flexibility, there is no denying that Rubus is worthy of being IHA’s Herb of the Year™ 2020.

To learn what other HSA members are saying about Rubus, download our Essential Guide, or better yet, visit https://www.herbsociety.org/hsa-learn/hsa-webinars/ or click here to sign up for our upcoming May 21st webinar titled The Brambles: Sorting through the Thicket of Rubus Terminology with Honorary Herb Society of America President Susan Belsinger.  

Our webinars are free to members and $5.00 for guests. Become a member between May 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021, and not only will you be able to attend our webinars for free, you’ll be entered into a raffle for a free registration to our educational conference being held in Baton Rouge, LA from April 29, 2021 to May 1, 2021.

Susan Belsinger, HSA Honorary President

1-Susan BelsingerSusan Belsinger lives an herbal life, whether she is gardening, foraging, photographing, teaching, researching, writing or creating herbal recipes for the kitchen or apothecary—she is passionate about all things herbal. Recently referred to as a “flavor artist”, Susan delights in kitchen alchemy—the blending of harmonious foods, herbs, and spices—to create real, delicious food, as well as libations, that nourish our bodies and spirits and titillate our senses. Susan is a culinary herbalist, educator, food writer, and photographer whose articles and photographs have been published in numerous publications including The Herb Companion, The Herbarist, Herbs for Health, Mother Earth Living, Natural Home & Garden, and Fine Gardening, among many others.


Jen Munson is The Herb Society of America’s Education Chair. She discovered herbs when she stumbled upon her local unit’s herb and plant sale and hasn’t looked back since. Just recently she celebrated being a member of the NorthEast Seacoast Unit for 15 years!

HSA Webinar: Texas Tough Herbs

By Jen Munson, Education Chair

texas tough

Texas is so large that growing zones can vary from one part of the state to the other. Northern Texas is zone 6B, while much of the remainder of the state varies from zone 7a to 9a. Join us on Wednesday, January 22nd, at 1pm EDT when HSA Member, Gayle Southerland, returns to the HSA Webinar series on an exploration of “Texas Tough Herbs.” She will discuss plants that thrive in the extremes of hot Texas summers and droughts while surviving freezing winters, too. Even if you are not in Texas, you will expand your garden knowledge and will be inspired to experiment with some lesser- known plant varieties to trial in your own garden. Sign up for this webinar on the HSA website.

Gayle Southerland_Texas Tough WebinarGayle became interested in herbs when she and her husband, Rick, bought their first house and had room to garden. Gayle has been a member of the Herb Society of America for over 30 years. She has served in many capacities from being the chair of the North Texas Unit to participating on The Herbarist committee, HSA’s yearly publication. Gayle has given presentations for The Herb Society of America national, district, and local meetings, as well as to local master gardener groups, Dallas MakerSpace, and various other garden clubs.


Jen Munson is The Herb Society of America’s Education Chair. She discovered herbs when she stumbled upon her local unit’s herb and plant sale and hasn’t looked back since. Just recently she celebrated being a member of the NorthEast Seacoast Unit for 15 years!

Book Review: Foraging & Feasting – A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook

Book Review: Foraging & Feasting – A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

I love a good garage sale. So it only makes sense that I’d like foraging. It’s like garage sale meets farmers market. But it’s organic and free … if you know what you’re doing and stay away from chemically treated or publicly protected lands.

Foraging & Feasting CoverOver the past few years I’ve collected a few foraging books to teach myself what I can and cannot eat. I learn something new from each book. My latest addition/edition is Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook, by Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender (Botanical Arts Press, 2013)

The book starts with a philosophical celebration leads into practical harvesting tips and continues with lushly detailed illustrations and identification information for 50 plants. Charts in the middle summarize seasonality and culinary uses. And relevant recipes are an inspiring finale. Did I already say it’s delightful to the eye?

Dina with Angelica 6_1_13

Dina’s interest in herbs and, then foraging, was sparked at 11, when she received her first herb book.

“I became conscious of the healing properties of food, clearly grasping the concept that food is my medicine,” she writes. “From that point forward, my commitment to and exploration of finding, preparing and eating healthful foods began.”

In flipping through I recognized my favorite chickweed. And, for the first time I came upon the day flower, a plant that I’ve been fighting (and losing) all summer. In the future it’s going into the salad, not the compost pile.

Dayflower-Commelina erectaI must admit my favorite recipes are herbal spirits and ice creams. The spirit combinations include lemon balm-strawberry vodka and black currant-fennel vodka. Ice cream inspirations include rose petal, lavender, bee balm and lemon verbena.

Therapeutic recipes include digestive bitters which are a scotch-based herbal root infusion.

My biggest problem with this book is that I don’t know if I should keep my copy on my nightstand for studying, in my kitchen for cooking or on the porch for relaxing. It’s that useful.


Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook, by Dina Falconi; illustrated by Wendy Hollender is available from Botanical Arts Press.

HSA Educates with Four Member Newsletters

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Vol20_SpringNewsletter_CvrThe Herb Society of America keeps members informed with 14 to 16 newsletters each year. HSA members have the option of instant newsletter delivery via email, which they can read online or print. For those who prefer printed newsletters, a subscription is available for an annual price.

“Timely communication is essential for a group with members spread around the United States,” says Executive Director Katrinka Morgan “The newsletters address information that’s important to members. This includes organizational information, a calendar of events, what’s new and herb news from the natural world.”

“These publications support our mission to promote knowledge, use and delight of herbs through educational programs, research and sharing experience of its members with the community,” says Katrinka. Anyone with an interest in herbs can join HSA to receive this educational benefit.

  • The National Newsletter, published four times per year, includes a message from the HSA President, a calendar of events by district, special articles about herbs or herb-related topics and what’s new with HSA.
  • District Newsletter – three times per year – contains news from the District Membership delegate, local district as well as national news, and unit updates from around the district.
  • Herbal Bytes e-mail newsletter is sent to members four times per year. Herbal Bytes is a short, quick newsletter sharing the latest information on herbs and HAS. An HSA business member spotlight and the Executive Director message are always included.
  • The Leaf, a library newsletter — three times annually – tells what’s new in the library.
  • GreenBridges Newsletter – twice yearly — is newly created to support GreenBridges members by sharing information and working toward a more sustainable gardening style.

Vol19_FallNewsletter_Cvr (1)All newsletters can be accessed in the Members-Only section of HSA’s website.

New Signs Announce GreenBridges Garden Certification

Herb-garden-wSignBy Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Among the various things I am planting in my garden this year is a GreenBridges Garden Certification sign. It’s attention-getting and, I hope, will spark discussion of its meaning. That way I can educate others on the importance of bees and other pollinators. And, maybe even inspire them to choose pollinator-friendly plants in their gardens.

GreenBridges SignThe 8.5- by 11-inch signs — developed by HSA’s editor/designer Brent Dewitt — are durable all-weather PVC. Carrying the new logo, these colorful signs are included in membership to to GreenBridges Certification.

The GreenBridges Program encourages native, pollinator-friendly gardens that offer safe passage and help avoid habitat fragmentation. Each GreenBridges garden is a link in the chain across the nation, providing safe movement for the plants and pollinators that help maintain healthy ecosystems.

Call me a bee-vangelist and I’ll wear the label proudly. While honey is a sweet product of bees, these busy little guys are important to agriculture as a whole. That’s because more than two-thirds of the food we eat depends on their role as pollinators. Alas, many bees, butterflies and other pollinators are suffering from loss of wildflower habitat, pesticide poisoning, and more. Imagine what that could mean to our food supply?!

Can’t imagine? Just google it and you’ll find more than you can read over lunch.

To qualify for the GreenBridges Program (and receive the sign) I’m saying “good-bye” to the wisteria vine that’s hiding my yellow siding and amping up my coneflower collection. When that’s in place I’ll fill in the HSA application with a description of my gardens and garden practices, pay a fee, join the movement and feel good.

Foraging: Find Free Food in the Weeds

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

If you’re making a weekend of the Herb Society of America’s annual meeting on April 29 in Asheville, consider going on a wild food adventure with No Taste Like Home.  You’ll forage for wild herbs, “weeds,” and other edibles. Alan Muskat and his expert guides identify what’s edible and common, how to tread lightly, where it’s legal to forage and how much, proper preservation and preparation, and much more.

Foraging saladWhen I was about eight, I loved to lounge in the lawn behind my parents’ light green ranch home. The grass was mixed with clover (edible), dandelions (edible), plantain (edible), chickweed (edible), violets (edible), purslane (edible), ground ivy (edible), onion grass (edible). Who knew I was laying in the salad?

In the good old days, the lawn could be a first course. Not so much today with chemically cultivated homogenous grass.  For many reasons, the perfect lawn became a middle-class American standard and gone was any connection to some of the most sustainable, locavore foods.

Reclaim that culinary heritage with a foraging hike in Asheville, NC.  Alan Muskat’s wild food tour company,  No Taste Like Home, has 30 private hiking spots scoped out to collect edible “weeds.” He has negotiated permission for all of the sites.

Foraging brifeIn January, when we visited, our guide Abby Artemisia handed out little, brown paper bags, round basket with handles round baskets with handles and an affectionately labeled “brifes.” A “brife” is a combo knife and paint brush for picking and cleaning specimens. Ours is a duct-taped prototype that may be followed by the real thing.

20160130_140908We spent three hours stepping around the ten acres surrounding Alan’s home in the mountains a few miles east of downtown Asheville. There we found more than 20 herbs and edibles.  An amazing number for a dormant season.

Among these were white pine needles that are used for seasoning and tea and wild rosehips that are good by themselves, in preserves, or made into tea. Just when it seemed everything was edible, Abby pointed out a few poisonous leaves and berries to avoid as well.

When the hike was over, Abby distributed a sheet to record our “catch of the day.” It listed possibilities found in other seasons such as ramps, wood nettle, autumn berry, and so much more. The list noted which can be particularly hard to identify and which must be cooked.

If we scored 20-plus in mid-winter, imagine the menus you can build with a mid-summer’s collection of mushrooms, berries, flowers and so much more.

Speaking of menu, you can even take your harvest to one of four Asheville restaurants where a top-name chef will transform it into a free appetizer. Kind of like Iron Chef meets Survivor Man.


Creating No Taste Like Home is part of Alan Muskat’s journey to Foraging Alanself-actualization.

About 25 years ago, studying philosophy at Princeton, the Miami native of Cuban ancestry first went hiking, learned to cook, and discovered taoism. These three encounters led to an interest in natural foods. At that point, Alan’s next comment is no surprise: “I decided to drop out, become a hippie and live off the land.”

In the best sense of doublespeak, he continues: “Foraging means taking things as they come. It was grounding for me. It gave me a sense of abundance.”

No Taste Like Home began, quite simply, because Alan ran out of money.  “I fell into it,” he says. “It was an outgrowth what I was already doing for myself. No one else was doing it and I thought, ‘I can teach this.’ I must have gotten the jump on the trend, because in the past three years, my business has twice doubled.”

Pausing, he says that for many reasons, the growing interest in wild food is really inevitable. “We have to get back to what’s truly natural. Even organic agriculture is neither local nor sustainable unless you’re growing what would thrive there on its own.”

Alan is working with Asheville schools to dispel any stigma about “eating weeds.” His company is offering a seven-month training program, starting this April, for people who want to learn to be wild food instructors, whether with his company or elsewhere.

It’s hard for Alan to pick a top wild food. He compares one of his favorites ­– autumn olive juice – to lychee fruit.  He sings the praises of what he calls fairy potato (commonly known as cinnamon vine).  But mushrooms top his list.  Or, then again, maybe it’s amaranth…


What’s your favorite wild edible? Favorite wild herb?

Register for Annual Meeting ON OR AFTER Feb. 9

annual meeting - 2016

Four speakers highlight the agenda for the The Herb Society of America Annual Meeting  on April 29, 2016, in Asheville, North Carolina.

Members recently received a reminder postcard.  Registration begins FEBRUARY 9th.

Follow the above link AFTER that day to sign up.