In a cozy mystery filled with natural cures and edible plants that you will love, an organic winery becomes the backdrop for murder! Fortunately, solving crimes comes naturally to charmingly unconventional amateur sleuth and holistic doctor, Willow McQuade, as she looks for clues that will reveal a killer’s true vintage.


Business is blooming at Nature’s Way Market & Café, and shop owner, holistic doctor, and amateur sleuth, Willow McQuade has never been happier. Her new medicinal herb garden is a hit, so is her new book, she’s in love with ex-cop and animal rescuer Jackson Spade, and enjoying teaching seminars about edible plants and natural remedies.

But everything changes when Willow’s old boyfriend and TV producer, Simon Lewis, winemaker David Farmer, and his wife Ivy, ask her to cater a party at Pure, their new organic vineyard, to kick off North Fork’s Uncorked! week and the competition for Wine Lovers magazine’s $200,000 prize. Pure’s entry, Falling Leaves, is the favorite to win, and the wine flows freely until after Simon’s toast when smiles give way to looks of horror. Ivy’s twin sister, Amy has been murdered! Turns out, the poison that killed her was actually meant for David. But who wants him dead? A rival vintner? Or someone closer to home? This time the truth may be a bitter vintage to swallow.


Yes, You Can Eat & Enjoy Edible Plants!


Edible plants are full of good for you nutrients that impart strength and vitality. Not only are they gluten-free and sugar-free, edible plants go from your yard, or a forest, field, or garden to your table with no loss of freshness. Imagine savoring a salad, or a fresh green drink, from plants that have been foraged and collected only five minutes before consuming!


Remember: Safety First!

However, before you forage, it’s absolutely essential to learn how to identify the most poisonous plants. Not only do some plants have poisonous look-alikes, but certain parts of some plants are poisonous. For example, blue elderberries are yummy, but the leaves are toxic. To avoid any problems, choose and use a good guidebook. You’ll find recommendations at the end of this post, or even better, take a tour with an experienced herbalist of edible plants you can grow, forage for, enjoy, and use in natural remedies.

Here are a few of my favorite edible plants: 


Dandelion (Taraxacum spp.): Although most everyone recognizes dandelion, not everyone realizes that nearly every part of the plant is edible. The leaves, which are most palatable in spring before the plant flowers, are high in iron, beta-carotene, and potassium. Dandelions are also mildly diuretic. Try sautéing well-scrubbed dandelion roots in a little toasted sesame oil and tamari. Yum! Herbalists have long prescribed dandelion-root tea to relieve acne and eczema as well as to enhance liver function.

Chickweed (Stellaria media): Delicate and delicious, chickweed is high in vitamin C. Its leaves, flowers, and stems are a terrific addition to salads, soups, and stir-fries. Store up to two weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Herbalists make the tops into a tea to soothe bladder and bronchial irritation and ulcers; they also put them in salves to relieve skin disorders ranging from diaper rash to psoriasis. You can find pre-made tea and salves in your local health food store.

Lamb’s-quarters (Chenopodium album): The leaves of lamb’s-quarters can be eaten raw or cooked and are rich in iron, calcium, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. To make a tea from the leaves, pour one cup of boiling water over two heaping teaspoons of fresh leaves (or one heaping teaspoon dried). Steep, covered, for ten minutes. When cool, the tea may also be used to moisten a compress to relieve headache or sunburn.

Malva (Malva neglecta) is a member of the Malvaceae (mallow) family. The word malva is Latin meaning “soft,” and neglecta means “neglected.” Malva leaves are soothing and anti-inflammatory and can be eaten raw along with the seeds. Malva leaves have served as a traditional medicine in a tea for sore throats and ulcers. Malva can also be used in a simple poultice for treating skin rashes, burns, and insect bites. The leaves are rich in beta-carotene and have been included in teas and syrups for coughs and irritated lungs.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea, P. sativa) is a member of the Portulacaceae (purslane) family. The genus name Portulaca is from the Latinporto and laca meaning “milk carrier” in reference to the plant’s juicy liquid. High in the essential fatty acid omega-3, purslane is also rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C. Not only does it make a good salad herb, but is wonderful in raw soups such as gazpacho or used in place of okra in recipes. As a poultice, it is used to treat bee stings, boils, burns, and hemorrhoids.

Violet: Found in shady areas, with heart-shaped leaves, brilliant purple flowers, and a lovely aroma, the violet (Viola odorata) is a member of the Violaceae (violet) family. While violet leaves are edible year-round, the flowers are in their prime in the spring. Try using raw violet blossoms on the dishes you serve to add an element of whimsy. The leaves and flowers are both high in vitamin C and are a valuable remedy for coughs, fevers, and lung complaints such as bronchitis.


How You Can Use Edible Plants:


1.Salads. All of the greens mentioned here, when young (before flowering), may be included in a salad.

2. Blend clean chopped greens into some soaked nuts to make a pâté. Season with lemon, garlic, salt, and chopped onion to make a dip.

3. Use greens as you would spinach in making raw lasagna.

4. Puree young greens to make a raw pesto or soup.

5. Enjoy fresh wild-greens drinks like this smoothie!


Green Smoothie


1 cup of apple juice

1 ripe banana, peeled

1 cup of wild greens such as malva, violet, lamb’s-quarters

Blend for 2 to 3 minutes, strain, and pour into large glass. Enjoy this nutrient-packed drink.


NOTE: When trying a new food for the first time, it’s good to have only a moderate amount, just to test how it affects you.


Before foraging for any edible plants, you’ll need a guidebook like one of these: 

 ·       The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. Katrina Blair. Chelsea Green Publishing: 2014.

·       Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health. Jo Robinson. Reprint edition. Little, Brown: May 2014.

·       Wild Edibles: A Practical Guide to Foraging, with Easy Identification of 60 Edible Plants and 67 Recipes. Sergei Boutenko. North Atlantic Books: 2013.

·       Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat. Ellen Zachos. Storey Books: 2013.


About the author:

I love natural remedies and I’ve been using them for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, my mother practiced natural cures such as tea bag baths for sunburn, homeopathic remedies for colds and allergies, arnica oil for sprains and bruises and, of course, chicken soup with garlic was always a staple.

My specialty is writing about natural remedies, alternative medicine and holistic health and healing. As a freelance journalist, I’ve written about natural cures for USA Today’s Green Living, Natural Health, Remedy, Better Homes & Gardens, Prevention, Vegetarian Times, and Sprituality & Health. You can see my work here:

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