My Strange, Varied Path to Herbalism

You might want to make a cup of tea. This is a long post!

I first discovered that herbs could be used as medicine when I was in college. I was an undergraduate history major studying Medieval Europe. One day, while roaming the seemingly never-ending stacks of my university’s library, I came across a book on the pagan religion Wicca. After thumbing through it, it sparked an interest in me and I checked it out of the library. While I was reading that book, I learned that herbs were used in Wiccan rituals for magical purposes. The book also taught me that herbs could be used as medicine. While I can’t remember the title, had some simple herbal tea recipes and recipes on making salves and lip balms.

Eventually, my interest in using medicinal herbs led to its own research. One day, I stumbled upon Mountain Rose Herbs. MRH is a company from the West Coast that sells bulk herbs, prepared herbal products, herbal medicine supplies, and more. At the time, their site had a page dedicated to herbal education programs.

First, I looked for programs that were located in my home state. But sadly, there weren’t any. The closest one was in Vermont and it only offered on-site learning. At the time, I couldn’t do that. So I just started looking for schools and teachers that offered distance learning. Yes, this was being done long before the pandemic! It was at this time that I learned that the United States offers no formal certificate or licensure for herbalists. But that was okay with me (it still is!), I only had a passing interest in herbalism. I wasn’t about to go and change my career or anything.

Luckily, the summer months were coming. Which meant that I would be working all summer long. So, I found a school that offered a decently-sized program for the money and I decided that if the interest still remained come the fall semester, I would register for a course.

So I worked a lot and saved some money. When it came time to go back to school that September, I gave myself a couple weeks to settle into the semester and then I did it! I enrolled in my first herbal studies program. Sadly, the school or program no longer exists, even though I wish I could recommend it. A few years ago, the people running the school decided to take a different direction. They closed the herbalism school and opened a different type of natural health program. Much more collegiate, a lot more money.

But for me, at that time, the program I was doing was stellar! I learned a lot and completed the course fully. But, I wanted more!

Photo taken from Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine,

The company that I’d just finished studying under offered a more advanced level course. I decided to take it as well. And it was during this course that things started to change a little bit. My college courses became more difficult and time-consuming. I made more friends and went off-campus more frequently. Spending less time in my dorm room meant I had less time to study herbs. One of the issues with all of these distance learning programs is they are “at your own pace.” This, does have its benefits. But, for a young college student, things can easily be overlooked and before you know it, your course completion time is nearing and you still haven’t done 80% of the program!

So sadly, the more advanced level course was lost..though I still kept the course texts until recently. After that my interest in herbs kind of ebbed and flowed. I didn’t enroll in any programs but I still looked at videos on YouTube every once in a while. I kept getting emails to some of the schools I looked into in the early days of my interest, so I considered myself to “staying up to date” on things.

After a few years, I chose to enroll in a very long, in-depth, and expensive program. It was a very reputable program and was certified by the AHG, the American Herbalist Guild. In fact, this program was being run by one of the founding members of the AHG. I liked this course because it covered a lot and it seemed like would provide me with a great education. And it did. One of the other benefits was that I was able to pay in installments. Sadly, I never completed it past the first 12 lessons. In fact, I stopped after lesson four. Life got in the way. And even though I also kept most of those materials, I decided to move on from it. Maybe I’ll do it at another time.

Fast forward three years and we enter the spring of 2020. One of the schools I had looked into a few years prior and took a quick course from them was offering a great deal due to the pandemic. So, I took them up on the offer. The Herbal Academy (HA) out of Massachusetts, was offering their Introductory Herbal Course and their Intermediate Herbal Course for a fraction of the cost and at a payment plan. So last spring and into the summer I paid it off. I am now about halfway through the first course and still have time before I “need” to begin the Intermediate one.

I am really enjoying the HA courses. The program is filled with text, videos, handouts, projects and more! I do intend to complete both the Introductory Herbal Course and the Intermediate Herbal Course. But, most recently I decided to enroll in another course. And to be honest, it’s what I am calling my “dream program.”

I’ll have more on that in another post soon. Stay tuned!

Wow! That was a long one. If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with it. I hope you learned a little bit more about me.

Until next time, readers…

Photo by on

Review of “Barefoot in Paris”

This is part of a 12-part series where I review each of Ina’s cookbooks. A new review drops every Thursday at 1:30 PM. This is the fourth review out of the twelve.

This week I get to talk about my favorite Barefoot Contessa cookbook to date — Barefoot in Paris. This book is different from the others in a few ways. First, this is the only book (so far!) that focusing solely on one type of cuisine: French.

Continue reading “Review of “Barefoot in Paris””

Recipe #12: Straw & Hay with Gorgonzola

This recipe comes from “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof,” pg. 156.

The third and final recipe I made last Friday was a pasta dish! This served as the main course meal and was paired with recipe #11 (read the post here).

This recipe comes from Foolproof which, prior to the start of this project, was the cookbook I cooked out of most. I’m not really sure why, it just kind of happened that way.

Anyway, Straw & Hay with Gorgonzola is a dish that I’ve been wanted to make for a while. And let me tell you: it did not disappoint. This recipe is essentially a cream sauce-based pasta dish. But, I found it to be lighter and more flavorful than a traditional Alfredo style sauce.

The layers of flavor built into the sauce are what really make it stand out, in my opinion. In earlier recipes, I was using pancetta to add flavor but this one called for prosciutto. I have to say, I like pancetta better. It’s easier to work it and has more body to the taste than prosciutto. Another layer of flavor was basil that is added at the end, just before serving.

Unfortunately, I forgot to buy basil at the store. And now that we’re in October, all the herbs I had growing are dead. To compensate, I mixed in some dried basil. It, of course, didn’t do it justice. But it’s all I had to work with.

One of the highlights of this dish is gorgonzola used. Up until me making this recipe, I didn’t even know there were two types of gorgonzola! Did you? Apparently, there’s a creamy kind known as dolce. This is what is used in this recipe. The other kind, mountain is more peppery and crumbly. The dolce gorgonzola melted quickly and when mixed with the parmesan resulted in a flavorful sauce that could easily be used for other dishes.

Overall, this was one of the easier recipes that I made so far doing this project. I made the sauce while the pasta cooked, married the two and then served it with the salad.

Once again, I do not have pictures of the finished product. I’m still getting used to taking photos while I’m cooking and before I eat. Sometimes I forget that I’m doing all of this for the blog.

Until next time, readers. . . . . .

Time for a New Category!

After some thinking, I’ve decided to expand the blog a bit.

This blog will always be about Ina and cooking my way through her cookbooks and recipes, but I’ve decided that there may be a time when I want to share something more personal.

So, I’ve added a new category!

It’s called “Life” and it’s where all the posts pertaining to my life will go. Now, this doesn’t mean “lifestyle.” So, no lame, overused photos of PSLs and winter fires during a snow storm. But it will be the more personal posts, not necessarily Ina related.