A Chat with Susun Weed
The following is a written transcript from John Gallagher’s interview with Susun Weed on November 30, 2006. The interview was part of The Herbal Teleconference Series, which was an event celebrating the release of Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game
Susun: So, what I teach my students is NEVER take an herb in a capsule, right? Now of course, as we all know, never and forever are words that beg to be disagreed with.
A woman wrote me and told me that the only way she could get ginger down to quell her morning sickness was in capsules and so that's what she did. And I certainly understand that.
But what we're saying in general, both you and I, is if you want to really spend the maximum amount of money for the least amount of effect and the most amount of risk. Herbs and capsules is the way to go. Right.
If what you want is to get the most effect for your money, then stay away from herbs and capsules. If what you want is to be safe, then stay away from herbs and capsules.
John: Right, right.
Susun: Thus sayeth Susun Weed.
John: That's exactly how I was trained too because I was trained by people who trained with you.
Susun: And I just know that my ancestors were not gulping down double o caps.
John: No they weren't. They weren't at all. They were slow cooking.
John: They were slow cooking and they were eating foods in season from where they live and they had those deep connections with the plants of where they lived. And since we're on that, and since I just said that, being that it's wintertime, coming into winter now.
When we talk about slow food cooking and eating from your ecosystem and all that, what do you like to do? What's your favorite way of? Because I know you speak a lot about those things as well. Which I know to a lot of people it won't seem like herbal medicine, but to me it is.
People ask me, "What tincture do you take for this and this?" I've got a tincture, one or two that we use throughout the year at some point if we need it for this or that. But I'm mostly drinking infusions and cooking with my herbs.
Susun: Really bringing them into our lives you know,
Susun: in a real direct, nourishing way. That's definitely the Wise Woman Tradition.
John: The wintertime, what do you recommend for people?
Susun: So well I know that there are people from all over, right. And somebody once said to me, "Well if you're going to eat seasonally, then you can't eat anything in the winter." And I said, "Now excuse me. First of all our ancestors knew how to store food."
Susun: Right. It's not like as soon as it came on they just starved for the rest of the year. They actually fermented things. So I live in the Catskill Mountains in New York State.
One of the things that I do as the cold weather comes on is I get in touch with my friends who live about an hours drive south of me in the apple growing area of the Hudson River Valley. And I go down and I buy a ton of apples, which is 2000 pounds of apples.
Susun: And I bring those apples back up to my place and over the next several months I make apple cider, which we have a press for, and we make applesauce. And we make apple butter. And we give apples to the goats and we give apples to the rabbits. And sometimes we, like this year because it's so warm, the apples are really spoiling. They just don't keep well at 60 degrees.
Susun: The temperature out there should be in the 30s now, which is great for the apples. Right, they don't even mind it being a little cool. But if we have a lot of cider, and we're going to have a lot of cider this year, we'll boil some of that cider down and make cider jelly and apple syrup.
John: What about drying them? Drying them too? Do you dry them too?
Susun: We generally find that I don't use dried apples. I have dried them. I have some very nice dried apples that I dried about 15 years ago.
John: And they're still on the shelf?
Susun: And they're still on the shelf, yep.
John: That'll tell you something.
Susun: Right. Right there with my backpack, which I have not had on in many, many, many, many, many years. Or basically haven't had on since I started keeping goats, which means I can't go away overnight unless somebody's taking care of the goats.
John: Yeah that's true. The goats are a lot of, at Ravencroft I remember there's always somebody having to be there if one ran away.
Susun: Exactly. Somebody has to do that. And we belong to a CSA, which is Community Supported Agriculture. And so throughout the summer as we've gotten our CSA shares and what we've brought in from the garden, many of the meals that we've had, we might cook a double share of greens and then freeze those for the wintertime.
Susun: So tonight for dinner I had winter squash, which we baked, and we'll make a casserole and a pie from leftovers because we baked a lot of squash. It's very hot so it's hard to keep the squash in this heat too. So we're just cooking it up.
We had barbecued goat. Our buck did his job and we didn't want him to get the young goats this year pregnant, so we converted him into food. And I barbecued the bonier parts of him to get all of the minerals of the bones, of course. Because I'm a Texan, so when I say barbecue I mean meat that's been slow cooked and we usually cook our barbecue for 12 to 14 hours in a very acidic tomato‑based sauce.
John: And you said you added the dregs from your homemade wine into your sauce.
Susun: That's exactly right. When we were talking the other day we were talking how I made homemade wine...
Susun: and I said oh I just put it right in the bottle. I don't do a secondary ferment in a carboy. I do it right in the bottle and airlock with a balloon and then I just pour carefully. And the last little bit, which is the dregs, which is real cloudy, has a yeasty taste. I just hold back and put that in my barbecue.
As a matter of fact, since I know I'll be making barbecue at least once or twice a year, I keep all manner of weird things like the last little bit out of the jam jar. I save back for the barbecue, or oh somebody bought a thing of juice and it fermented.
Oh don't throw it out. Here, I'll just put it in the back of the refrigerator loosely lidded. Right? Fermented fruit juice is great in barbecue sauce.
John: You collect all these things in a container or leave them all in separate containers.
Susun: I keep them all in separate containers. Goodness only knows what kind of science fair project I could put together. Oh dear, kitchen bombs. Oh my gosh.
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An Herbalists Notebook part 2
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