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342. Everything Elderberry | Healthy Green Savvy | Susannah Shmurak | Minnesota
31st August 2020 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:20:19

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Everything Elderberry: How to Forage, Cultivate, and Cook with this Amazing Natural Remedy 

by Susannah Shmurak

Listeners I have not had time to go through these shownotes and attach links that Susannah shared I will try to get it done ASAP, this is just the transcript direct from the computer:

Hey Green future growers. Thanks for joining us today. If you're new to the show, I hope you'll subscribe on iTunes or your favorite Android app and let's get growing. Hey, green future growers. Join me on the listen app. Invite code green, G R E E N. I would love if you left me a message, you can reach out to other green future growers and other green, organic gardener podcast listeners. There, we can have a conversation about what's growing in your garden. What are you eating?

Does it not feel good? Walk by the produce aisle? It does for me. And if you're not there yet, we'd be happy to help you get there over on the listen app, invite code green, G R E E N.

Hey everyone. So I just want to remind you, this is the most important time to be taking good notes on what's working well. What's not working well. What don't you want to forget? Come next, February and March, when it's time to order supplies or do your design, you know, what are your favorite seeds or what do you want to play more of?

Do you want more broccoli? Like you might think I'm never going to forget this, but you probably are going to forget it. And a great way to support the green organic gardener podcast would be to get our garden journal. That's got a beautiful butterfly that I took a picture of on our lilac. So it's like a little part of our home in your home has got blank pages and line pages, and it would really support us a lot. So, but most of all, we want you to have good records, just hold on. Okay.

1 (1m 45s):

Listeners, you know, this, that what I'm going to say. And see, I started to say this when I was on the free guy page is if you read Susannah's awesome book on, elderberries make sure that you go to Amazon and give her a five star review and a, and write the review night. Don't just leave the rating, but write their actual review because you know that she's out there trying to help shave your neighborhood. And that's what you want, not just for you learning, but show that your neighbors can learn this stuff.

And so we want to share her knowledge. So make sure you read the book and if you love it, I know you will give her a five star review. 


Everything Elderberry- How to Forage, Cultivate, and Cook with this Amazing Natural Remedy

Everything Elderberry: How to Forage, Cultivate, and Cook with this Amazing Natural Remedy 

Welcome to the Green Organic Garden.

It is Saturday, August eight, 2020. And I have an awesome guest on the wine who has a blog called Healthy Green Savvy. She's passionate about helping people find practical shortcuts to healthier green living. So we know we're going to hear tons of golden seeds. She boils this all down from years of research on eco-friendly choices, growing food in small spaces, with as little effort as possible and easy ways to support health.

1 (4m 23s):

Naturally, she even has a book. Everything Elderberry that covers what the latest research tells us about elderberries effect, unhealthy growing advice from elderberry farmers across the country, plus 62 delicious recipes for using elderberries and elder flowers. So I know we're just going to learn lots. So I'm going to be quiet. And if you're today is Susanna Schmurak. Oh, I totally, you sent me the thing.

1 (4m 53s):

How do you say that? Mark? <inaudible> Susannah. Oh my goodness. If you, hadn't sent that, I probably would have been fine. I probably should have practiced out loud though instead of just in my head. Okay. Welcome to the show, Susannah!

2 (5m 12s):

Thank you so much for that. Terrific. In-product introduction. I'm delighted to be here.

1 (5m 16s):

Well, we're just tickled pink. So tell us a little bit about yourself. I'm so glad you reached out to me and are here to share this today. So go ahead and tell listeners about this.


2 (5m 26s):

Thanks. So I have a peculiar backstory. I was an academic for many years. I taught literature and writing at the college level. I spent lots and lots of years thinking about not too much besides the literature during the day, and thinking about gardening and eco-conscious living all the rest of the time and my classes tended to go that way as well. And in 2015, I just to switch gears completely and I left academe and decided to start writing and researching full time.

2 (6m 7s):

And I launched a blog and started writing for a bunch of websites and magazines and have made that kind of my full focus now. And it's been absolutely fantastic. I've volunteered locally at the city's environmental quality commission and spent a lot of time researching permaculture and home scale, renewable energy and all sorts of topics related to health and environment.

2 (6m 39s):

So the focus of my blog, as you said, is really to try to help people make that connection between the personal and the environmental, with a focus on really, really practical and doable things anyone can do so that they can shift their lives towards sustainability and better health. And it's been amazing. My day job is to research things like allergy remedies and how to get better sleep, to write about energy audits and experiment with nontoxic pest control and put new things in my dehydrator and write about it.

2 (7m 12s):

And it's been really, really enjoyable. So I get to just be a full time energy nerd, garden geek. And I just keep learning about fascinating plants that either appear in my yard, or I read about online that turns out we can eat them, or they have medicinal value. I'd never even realized. So that's kind of my backstory. I have a larger backstory about where I started to garden. I don't know if you want me to go into that.

2 (7m 44s):

It's kind of long and complex.

1 (7m 48s):

So I always start my show out asking about like your very first gardening experience. Like, were you a kid or an adult? Is that where you're headed? Or I just have to like back up just super quickly. Where, where are you located again?

2 (8m 2s):

I am in Minnesota and it's zone four.

1 (8m 7s):

Okay, cool. All right. Yeah. Well, you're doing a fantastic job and so I'm just keep going, but yeah, we kind of want to hear a little bit about like, were you a kid, were you an adult? Who were you with? What'd you?

2 (8m 19s):

Okay. Well, so my first gardening experience was just helping my mother in our backyard garden. And so I have memories of pulling weeds and kicking things off the vine. They're not too carefully formed, but they probably laid a groundwork as it were. But I would say my gardening story really starts with our move to Minnesota. In 2002, it was the height of the housing bubble and we were graduate students and my husband had just taken his first job at a college in our town.

2 (8m 52s):

And there was literally nothing we could to buy to live in, in town. And there's no rental market either. So after looking at the only thing in our price range, which our real estate agent said should be condemned and refuse to take us into. He just, I don't, I really said, you know, there's this old house out on the highway. They're about to knock down. Maybe we should look at that.

2 (9m 23s):

And we went out and there was this beautiful 1910 craftsman style house. And it turns out that, that if you're, if they're about to knock a house down, you can take it away for free if you're willing to pay to move it. So we acquired this free house and then had to find a place to move it to which turned out not to be terribly easy, but we found this half lot, just a block away from where he was going to start working a few months later and spend the rest of the summer setting up this house move then.

2 (9m 55s):

So we had a basement dug the whole lot had to be cleared. So all plant life got completely erased and they brought this house in which we then started renovating. And that was kind of, our focus was renovating this house and making it, it was actually in great condition and it was just in the wrong place, but I learned a ton.

1 (10m 17s):

That's what I was wondering, like how easy was it to move a house built in 1910? I mean, that's a hundred years old.

2 (10m 24s):

You'd be shocked. It's actually really, really easy for the people who do it for a living every day. They just pop it off its foundation, stick it off, stick it on a truck and away they go. It's kind of amazing. We had no idea you could move a house before our real estate agent just kind of said that as maybe a joke. I dunno. So we just suddenly got embroiled in what was involved in bringing a house up to code. And I started doing it. This is early days of the green remodeling products.

2 (10m 57s):

So trying to figure out what was safe to bring into our house became a sort of longterm project and the yard and was this bare dirt. So we got permission to move in as fall set in. You have to have a kitchen sink and a functioning toilet. So we had, we had a reuse sink on a two by fours and got permission to move into this house that had been to some degree, completely gutted and started remodeling it.

2 (11m 28s):

And then there's just dirt outside and nothing else. So we threw down some grass seed to just kind of try to stabilize everything. And then winter here, I don't know what it's like out in Montana, but it's at about six months along that you can have snow on the ground, which in that particular case was something of a relief.

1 (11m 46s):

Well, I have to tell you, I had a lot of friends in college that came to Minnesota because they thought Montana was milder winters. But yeah, I don't know. We had, we have a good amount of snow. I didn't drive here from November to may my first, like 10 years, but probably very similar.

2 (12m 5s):

Yeah. It's intense living in a climate like that. Anyhow. So then, you know, I was spending all this time, remodeling the house and the yard was just kind of sitting there and we started dealing with weeds in this grass and started rethinking how we could do things the way the house sits on the lot. It means my backyard is probably about 10 feet wide and totally in shade. The side yard is eight feet wide and totally in shade. So I have this corner lot with a 10th of an acre garden where I can grow a limited amount in sun.

2 (12m 42s):

So I, at that point started reading Fritz Hague's edible estates and the eat, the lawn movement had kind of launched. So I started trying to smother the grass with cardboard and attempted to grow one of these beautiful front yard, vegetable gardens. And it turns out Minnesota is not a great place to do that. The soil doesn't warm up enough to plant a lot of things.

2 (13m 12s):

You would stick in one of these gardens until, you know, early may. So it's just a lot of bare soil and it wasn't

working. I tried sweet potatoes, which should have made this lovely, you know, ground cover had to give that up. Cause our growing season just isn't long enough. So I learned a lot just experimenting and failing over and over and over again. As I read more about permaculture, I realized that fruit trees could really be an answer to this problem. And I got seven fruit trees or fruit trees squeezed into that little space and planted as many Berry bushes as I could possibly fit in and then kind of let nature take over.

2 (13m 51s):

So one of the, one of the biggest things that I've gotten to do as this yard's developed is kind of learn how changing patterns over time force you to adapt and how to eat the things that will grow there. So my whole front yard now is mostly violence, which we use quite a lot. We make salads in the early spring with the flowers and the leaves I use the leaves and T all season long. So learning how to work with what you get has been part of this process.

2 (14m 26s):

I still desperately would love a big backyard garden, but that's not what I've got. And so the yard is this sort of edible landscape that isn't entirely keeping with the aesthetics of the neighborhood, but people kind of like it in spring when everything's in flower. And they kind of think it's wild and Bailey interesting, but also pretty weird a lot of the rest of the year. Cause we're in a sort of traditional neighborhood with grass and foundation plantings, which is where we had started as well.

1 (14m 59s):

And the reason you can't have a big backyard garden is because there's too much shade. Is that right?

2 (15m 4s):

There's also no backyard. It's a, half-life it's 10 feet wide and it's full shade. There is no backyard.

1 (15m 13s):

Talk about this. I'm like, this is, I just love this whole story. And then the other question, like, I, I kinda like watch track or maybe a like show your grad student. This is before you got your job at the, like, how old are you when this is, this is in 2005,

2 (15m 30s):

Two. We moved here. Yeah. I was not quite 30. So it's been awhile. Yeah. So I was, I was a graduate student who was supposed to be finishing her dissertation at that point and kept doing things like fixing plaster and refinishing floors and reading about permaculture. So my dissertation eventually got done, but it took awhile. So I was, I was teaching full time for a couple of years, for a few years there, there were kids in there.

2 (16m 1s):

There's a lot of other things I've done besides this, but the, the writing and the blog has kind of become my

full focus in the last few years.

1 (16m 11s):

Okay. And tell us more about the healthy green savvy blog.

2 (16m 16s):

So it started in part because I, as long as I can remember, I've been absolutely fascinated by kind of nutritional hacks. I was reading health magazines when I was in my teen years. Just there's something about, I don't know, kind of tricking your body into doing things. I just found utterly fascinating, whether it was, you know, certain kinds of nutritional deficiencies, that if you fix them, you have more energy or you sleep better.

2 (16m 48s):

And I talked about these things a lot to other people, as I would read about them, and somebody said, you should really start a blog. And I said, what's a blog, kind of went from there. So healthy green savvy is it's kind of a dumping ground for all the cool stuff that I've been reading about and researching and the new cool stuff that I keep finding out. But it's focusing lately a lot on things like foraging.

2 (17m 20s):

I'm utterly mesmerized by all the edible weeds that people don't realize they can eat. So it seems like I find anyone in each season when something

1 (17m 30s):

Tell us about some of them, because Matthew Zoeller asked me to bring somebody on to talk about edible weeds and I've never really found anybody besides him. He ended up knowing more than most people. And just, can you,

2 (17m 43s):

Can you tell us a few edible weeds? Oh, of course. So they're huge websites devoted to this and wonderful books on foraging, but pretty much every yard has something you can eat. So most people know about dandelions, right? That's an easy one to identify and it's wonderfully prolific, and also incredibly nutritious. The I'm a big fan of a Regal. So I use the leaves of dandelions in a very similar way, but you can eat the flowers. The roots are medicinal.

2 (18m 13s):

They're just great plants. And since I smothered my grass, they're actually in short supplies. I'm really happy when I find some of them in my yard, wood sorrel, Rose abundantly here personally is one of my absolute favorites. It's available pretty much everywhere. It's incredibly tough. It's considered one of the best sources of Omega threes out there in the plant world anyway. And I use it in smoothies and salads, people around

the world use it as a vegetable.

2 (18m 48s):

It's, it's a S a standard in stir fries. Let's see, I've already mentioned Violet's we use those quite a lot. I'm really, really trying to make friends with creeping. Charlie. I don't know if you've ever tasted it. It really would take some getting used to, I haven't figured out something that would make it valuable, but it's

1 (19m 9s):

Oh, I don't know what that is.

2 (19m 11s):

You don't have creeping Charlie out there. That's fascinating.

1 (19m 14s):

I don't know. Maybe we do. And I just don't know what it is.

2 (19m 17s):

It's also called ground diabe and it goes by some other names as well. Anyway, it's apparently very good for you. If you can, if you can stomach the flavor, it's in a, it's in the mint family and people with lawns everywhere, pretty much universally despise it, but it's this fantastic ground cover. And I would love, I would love to try to find a way to use it besides, you know, begrudgingly adding a little bit to my tea. Sometimes this year I've got slammed with Virginia water leaf.

2 (19m 53s):

It just went crazy in my yard. And of course, I looked it up and discovered, lucky can eat that too. And again, I really tried. It's it's edible, but that's about the best you can say for it. It's not wonderfully tasty, but in small amounts, it worked in things like frittatas. If it's cooked and you can sort of get away with it as an early spinach. It's nice. Cause it's so early when everything else is frozen here, it's something that's out there that you can put in a smoothie. If you wanted to that sort of thing.

2 (20m 26s):

What other edible weeds have we,

1 (20m 28s):

How about a soup? I'm not the biggest smoothie person. Like, especially at that time of year, like I'm so craving live fresh green food. I'm much more likely to put it in a soup or a salad. Like I have tried to put spinach in a blender and just practically cry, try and do it. I'm like part rabbit. I love that shovel.

2 (20m 50s):

I do too. Actually. That's that's a big reason I wanted to grow food so badly. Yeah, it could. I don't know if, if your listeners have this plant, it's not a well known plant, but it is very invasive once it gets started in a yard, but it's around here, it's a native. So it's invasive, but not a bad guy in some ways. Anyhow. Yeah, it could, it could work in a soup. It has a little feds to it. The early leaves you could probably get away with. I'm a huge fan of Minnesota chef who has a blog called foragers chef.

2 (21m 20s):

And he works with Virginia water leaf, a decent amount. So that's

1 (21m 26s):

Awesome. Well, these are all great. Just tons of edible things that grow nearby, that listeners...