Food as Medicine: Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis, Asparagaceae)

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

History and Traditional Use

Range and Habitat

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis, Asparagaceae) is a herbaceous perennial with stalks that can grow to several feet in height. Most asparagus is harvested once the stalk reaches 6-8 inches in height. The stalk is the edible portion of the plant, along with its pointed, budlike tip.1,2 If asparagus is not harvested, the stalks grow into finely textured, fern-like plants before going dormant in winter.3 In the United States, the primary asparagus producers are the states of California, Washington, and Michigan.4

Depending on the cultivation method, asparagus yields a crop in one of three colors: green, white, or purple. Green asparagus, the most common in the US, is allowed to grow exposed to sunlight until harvested. White asparagus contains no chlorophyll due to human intervention, which involves mounding dirt on the stalk as it grows to shield it from sunlight.

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The Basics: Quick Guide to Every Herb and Spice in the Cupboard

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs


Ever get coriander confused with cumin? Or wonder just what exactly curry powder is made out of? As much for our benefit as for yours, we’ve put together this quick reference guide to all the most common (and some uncommon) herbs and spices!


For any herb or spice listed below, click on the name to read the full description. We’ll continue adding to this list as we cover more of the seasonings we use in our cooking.

Dried Herbs & Spices

  • Asafoetida (Asafetida) – Used as a digestive aid in Indian cooking, asafoetida has a strong odor that mellows out into a garlic-onion flavor.
  • Achiote Paste and Powder – Reddish-brown paste or powder ground from annatto seeds with an earthy flavor. Used primarily in Mexican dishes like mole sauce, cochinita pibil, and tamales.
  • Allspice – Similar to cloves, but more pungent and deeply flavored…

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Cooking for Health

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Serving medicine for dinner may not seem terribly appetizing, but most cultures traditionally eat much of their medicine. It may not be a coincidence that nature has provided so many of our medicinal needs in herbs that taste good. When you want to take herbs over a long period of time – either to treat a chronic problem or to fend off disease – incorporating medicinal plants into your meals makes a lot of sense.

The next time you add a pinch of this or that, consider that you are doing far more than flavoring your meal. Throughout these posts and other websites, you have seen many familiar kitchen herbs and spices mentioned as medicines. For example, ginger relieves pain, garlic is “nature’s antibiotic” and ginger and turmeric, two of the main ingredients in curry powder, improve liver function.

Almost every cookbook is filled with recipes that rely on herbs…

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Plant Profile: Red Clover {Trifolium pratense}

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Family: Fabaceae

This all-around wellness herb and blood purifier is a key ingredient in herbal blends popularized during the early 1900’s and used in cancer treatment, including Essiac, Dr. Christopher’s Red Clover Combination, and the Hoxsey formula. Red clover has been an Old World symbol for luck and abundance since ancient times. And when it arrived in America with the colonists, its use quickly spread among American Indian tribes.


This stout clover has deep pink – not red – plump, round flower heads that contain numerous, small, pea-type flowers above a three-leaved bract. The leaves are marked with a single pale chevron. The lax stems trail up to 2 feet, creating a soft green mass.

Preparations Infusion:

red-clover-tea-760x428Make a strong infusion or tincture of red clover tops, and drink 1/2 to 1 cup two or three times daily. Commercially available red clover preparations include tinctures and concentrated and often…

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The Forager’s: Life Root Profile

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Senecio aureus

Also, Known As:

  • Cocashweed
  • Coughweed
  • False Valerian
  • Golden Ragwort
  • Golden Senecio
  • Liferoot

The herb known as the life root is a perennial wildflower species of the daisy family of plants – Asteraceae; it reaches about half to two m in height. A small rosette of basal leaves approximately six to eight inches across is found at the base of each plant. The basal leaves have blades that are normally two inches in length and two inches wide. The leaves are cordate orbicular in shape, possessing crenate, dentate edges without any hair on the surface. The length of the blades is matched by the length of the slender petioles of the basal leaves. Each rosette develops a flowering stalk from its center which grows up. Usually, two to three alternate leaves are borne along this flowering stalk. The size of the alternate leaves is smaller compared to the size…

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Plant Profile: Black Haw

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Viburnum prunifolium

Also, Known As:

  • American Sloe
  • Black Haw
  • King’s Crown
  • Sheepberry
  • Snowball Tree
  • Stagbush

The American plant known as the black haw is native to the American continent, and it is believed to have been in traditional use for the preparation of many types of herbal remedies as well as a source of food by the original Native Americans – though documentation is scarce. The black haw is a shrub or more correctly a small deciduous tree which can reach a height of five to fifteen feet when fully mature. The plant is characterized by its red-brown bark and the grooved branches. The black haw plant also bears a number of characteristic flat-topped white flowers and in the season many shiny and blue-black berries, the black haw berries are very juicy and used in many Native American food preparations.

The herbal literature does not have too many details on…

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Plant Profile: Wild Indigo {Baptisia tinctoria}

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Also, Known As:

  • Baptisia
  • Clover Broom
  • Horsefly Weed
  • Indigo Broom
  • Rattlebush
  • Shoofly
  • Wild Indigo
  • Yellow Indigo

The very term ‘indigo’ associated with a plant’s name brings to the mind that it must be yielding a rich blue pigment. But, unfortunately, wild indigo is a plant that is an inferior alternative to the original indigo dye that has provided people across the globe with a deep blue color for over 4000 years now. Indigenous to North America, the wild indigo is a shaggy plant that has bluish green leaves and yellow colored flowers that are akin to the ones found on the pea plant. According to history, the Mohegans of south New England precipitated the root of wild indigo to acquire a medicine with which they washed cuts and gaping wounds and this practice is followed even now. In fact, wild indigo has antiseptic properties and is immensely beneficial in treating…

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Plant Profile: Crampbark

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Viburnum opulus

Also, Known As:

  • Crampbark
  • Cranberry Bush
  • Cranberry Tree
  • Guelder Rose
  • Pembina
  • Pimbina
  • Whitten Tree

Crampbark (botanical name Viburnum opulus) is basically a shrub that is indigenous to Europe as well as North America and is also found growing in the northern regions of Africa and Asia. The US National Formulary documented crampbark as late as in the 1960’s in the form of a tranquilizer for conditions related to the nervous system as well as in the form of an antispasmodic in treating asthma. As the name ‘crampbark’ suggests, the therapeutic use of this herb is primarily related to easing cramps as well as other conditions, for instance, painful menstruation due to excessive tightening of the muscles as well as colic.

Crampbark is a shrub that sheds its leaves annually (deciduous) and usually grows up to a height of 4 meters to 5 meters. The leaves of this herb…

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Dandelion, A Common Garden Herb

I make a wilted dandelion greens dish that’s fantastic after a long winter. Get the leaves young for eating. The older leaves are bitter.

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Taraxacum officinale

Also, Known As:

  • Blow Ball
  • Cankerwort
  • Dandelion
  • Lion’s Tooth
  • Pissabed
  • Priest’s-crown
  • Puff Ball
  • Pu Gong Ying
  • Pu-kung-ying
  • Swine Snout
  • Telltime
  • White Endive
  • Wild Endive

The dandelion is a common garden herb, with easily recognized flowers. During the spring season, the leaves and the root of the dandelion begin to produce mannitol, which is a substance utilized in the treatment of conditions such as hypertension and a weakened heart in continental Europe – where it is often prescribed by herbalist for patients with these conditions. A herbal dandelion tea made using the roots and the leaves of the herb are good to take from about the mid of March to about mid-May in the treatment of such conditions. Prepare the herbal dandelion tea in this way, first, boil a quart of water in a pot, slowly reduce the heat and then add 2 tbsp. of cleaned and chopped fresh…

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The Forager’s: Skunkbush Profile

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Rhus trilobata

Also, Known As:

  • Aromatic Sumac
  • Basketbush
  • Fragrant Sumac
  • Ill-scented Sumac
  • Scented Sumac
  • Skunkbush
  • Skunkbush Sumac
  • Squawbush

Skunkbush (scientific name Rhus trilobata) is a low-growing, bushy shrub belonging to the sumac genus. Also known as sour berry or three-leaf sumac, it grows up to a height of anything between 2 feet and 6 feet. This shrub is found growing in clumps in rocky terrains all through a different section of the eastern United States. The leaves of this shrub are trifoliate (hence the common name three-leaf sumac), which appear on an inch-long stalk. The leaflets of skunkbush appear directly from the stems (sessile) and are covered with very fine, short hairs (pubescence) when they are young. Compared to the lateral leaflets, the terminal leaflet is significantly large, measuring about 1 inch to 2 inches long and roughly two-thirds of its length in width. The leaflets are complete and narrow…

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