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Shamanic herbalist, wild food chef team up on cookbook

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Photo courtesy of Kristen Dorsey. Tina Gross, left, and Kristen Dorsey are working on a field guide/cookbook featuring helpful information about where to find wild edibles, how to harvest them and how to cook them. Photo courtesy of Kristen Dorsey. Tina Gross, left, and Kristen Dorsey are working on a field guide/cookbook featuring helpful information about where to find wild edibles, how to harvest them and how to cook them.

By MISSY SHEEHAN

For The State Journal

Honeysuckle, milkweed, lamb’s quarter and chickweed — these aren’t the ingredients most people think of when planning dinner.

Shamanic herbalist Kristen Dorsey and wild food chef Tina Gross are trying to change that, though.

Dorsey and Gross together are writing a field guide/cookbook featuring helpful information about where to find wild edibles, how to harvest them and how to cook them.

“This is our spin on wild edibles,” Dorsey said. “Most of the wild edible cookbooks out there are all about taking big bunches of wild plants and sautéing them or steaming them and eating them on their own with few other ingredients; and while that’s interesting and fun, it’s not really something that most Americans have the palate for.”

Dorsey, who teaches classes and workshops on wild edibles through her Martinsburg-based business, Divine Journeys, has worked with Gross to develop recipes they say are more family- and user-friendly.

The working title for their book is “Wild Weeds to Family Feeds,” according to Gross, who does catering from her home in Arlington, Virginia, on the side of her full-time job as a comptroller for a political media firm.

“She gives me the plants, tells me what they are, what they taste like, and then I develop recipes and fine-tune them,” Gross said. “I try to balance the flavors of the wild foods while using as much of them as I can.”

Dorsey said wild plants have “big, bold flavors.”

“So we’ve found out that it was helpful to use the wild plants as an ingredient in recipes that were already familiar,” she said.

The pair was inspired to write the book after seeing positive responses to their recipes at last year’s Wild Food Weekend series held at the North American Bushcraft School in Hedgesville.

“Everybody at the events wanted the recipes so we started giving out packets of them, and finally Kristen said, ‘Why don’t we just do a cookbook?’” Gross said.

The book, which the pair is currently working on, will include seasonal recipes such as milkweed macaroni and cheese, buttery biscuits made with dandelion greens and lemon balm as well as black-walnut, triple-chocolate cookies.

“They’re foods that people recognize and already like,” Gross said.

Dorsey, who also teaches workshops on making meads, cordials and basic medicines using plants and herbs, will be contributing recipes for beverages like pine-needle tea and sassafras iced tea.

As part of her business, Dorsey prepares wild-harvested and organic herbs and makes skin-care products as well as tinctures, teas and syrups to treat symptoms of different health issues.

“I’m both an herbalist — using the physical properties of plants to make my teas and tinctures — and also a shamanic practitioner,” Dorsey said. “So I also use the vibrational or energetic properties of the plants to help bring healing to the body.

“I sit down with people and spend time talking about their health concerns and then build a custom treatment plan that helps them regain homeostasis, a healthy balance in the body.”

There are numerous health benefits to eating wild plants, according to Dorsey.

“They’re fresher, high in enzymes and loaded with nutrients,” she said. “Many of the plants out there have more nutrition in them than anything you can buy on the grocery store shelf.

“Most of that stuff has been dead for a long time and has been hybridized for mild flavor and a longer shelf life.”

Another benefit: wild plants are typically organic as long as they’re harvested in an area that’s pesticide-and herbicide-free.

“They’re the original organic food,” Dorsey said. “And they’re free.”

Eating wild edibles also helps you gain a new respect for the earth, Dorsey said.

“If you understand that chickweed and dandelion are delicious to eat, suddenly these things that were pesky weeds have a new identity and get some respect,” she added. “And respect for the plants becomes respect for the earth, which leads to a more healthy environment for everybody.”

Dorsey and Gross are currently seeking a literary agent and publisher for their book. Gross and Dorsey can be reached via email at biscups4u@yahoo.com and kristen@divine-journeys.com.

To learn about Divine Journeys, visit divine-journeys.com.