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Herbal Wisdom - July 2015 - Santa Fe

Wild Things

By Tomas Enos and Erin Galiger


Local is the buzzword these days so why not use the local plants for food and wellness that have been here for thousands of years? Adaptation and synchronization to the local environment happens at many levels of being which includes ingesting plants that have adapted to the high desert as a way of rooting to “place”.  The cool, moist spring this year has again blessed us with an ongoing array of traditionally used leaves, fruits, seeds, and roots.


Look around your backyard and other open places for our native quinoa plant called Quelites.  Also known as Lamb’s Quarters because of its’ leaf shape, this common food plant is loaded with calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and niacin in the whole form.  It has high levels of beta carotene, vitamin B-complex, vitamin C, and fiber.  What’s more it is really delicious! Quelites are very abundant in our area and have been used in numerous traditional recipes as a reliable and nutritious food source.  The flavor is mild, a little like spinach, and therefore combines well with any other ingredients that beg for a wild vegetable flavor. If you can’t find it yet, ask for it at the Farmers Market.  It is great eaten raw in salads but is added to stew, casseroles, and soups. 


Also coming out soon all over town is Verdolagas or Purslane.  This very common low-growing plant is a succulent with red, fleshy stems and leaves with small yellow flowers.  It grows close to the ground along walkways and garden edges.  Verdolagas are high in omega 3 fatty acids which benefit brain and blood health while miraculously assisting in moisturizing our skin from the inside out.  The water in the stems and leaves is mildly sour which makes it a refreshing food both raw and cooked with freshly harvested garden veggies like corn and chile. Many local people swear by its use with onion and eggs in omelets. High in vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium, and phosphorus Verdolagas is a storehouse of basic minerals that are difficult to get from vegetables that are industrially grown.  I bet you have Verdolagas growing in your neighborhood, maybe right under your feet!


We all need a good local tea for summer that replenishes our electrolytes while giving us that satisfying sense of refreshment on a hot day.  Look no further for one of the best teas I have ever tasted and that grows natively in our desert Southwest.  Cota or Indian Tea is a long, tall plant with a small yellow sunflower top.  Mostly green stem (also called Green Thread), Cota likes to grow in sandy soil in clump-like fashion.  This plant is easy to overlook because it is so slender and modest in appearance.  But gather the stems and flowers anytime before they go to seed in late summer; then chop up a few tablespoons and boil them for 20 minutes or make a simple sun tea in a clear jar for at least 4 hours.  Store the remaining Cota in bundles for later in the fall and winter.  Try it warm or cool anytime you want a tonic “stick” tea, much like the Oriental teas. Cota replenishes minerals, assists the kidneys, and detoxifies our bodies. This is the tea-plant I recommend to people for a grounding experience, to embody and live in the desert while connecting to all of our sacred landscape. Cota is also available at the Santa Fe Farmers Market in loose form. 


These plants share our common home while giving us all of the nutritional benefits only sourced in the native soil.  The sense of wellbeing that comes from conscious adaptation to our environment is embodied in them as in the local air, water, and soil. I hope you are blessed with good health and that you give blessings to our native plants for taking such good care of us year after year. 

Tomas Enos studied with Michael Moore in 1990 and then created Milagro Herbs. Erin Galiger has worked with herbs for 10 years.  Their philosophy of health and healing is holistic and rooted in the ancient tradition of “Solar Living,” synchronizing our bodies according to the biological time clock, circadian rhythms, and seasonal patterns found on Earth. 419 Orchard Drive (off Paseo de Peralta next to Kakawa    Chocolate House)

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