Into the woods with MV Horticultural Society

Madawaska Valley Horticultural Society takes its members into the woods this spring with talks about trees and bears. Guest speakers at the March and April meetings focus less on cultivation of gardens and more on the bounty in the wilderness that surrounds our properties. On Mar. 15 Robbie Anderman spoke about his recently-published book The Healing Trees: The Edible & Herbal Qualities of Northern Woodland Trees. On April 19 Richard Stronks will focus on How to Camp or Live in Black Bear Country.


Robbie Anderman explains natural remedies and edibles derived from trees

Robbie Anderman’s talk on Mar. 15 was a truly sensory experience. An accomplished panpipes musician, he began his presentation by performing an ethereal composition called “Song of the Earth Mother”. Society Members had to use all their senses during Anderman’s presentation listening to his music and his reading of selected passages from The Healing Trees.  We watched as he showed us a variety of materials harvested from trees. We were invited to touch, taste and smell these exhibits as he passed them around the audience.

Anderman told of arriving in the Valley in 1969 – a former city dweller with allergies. He looked to his new surroundings in the Wilno Hills for natural remedies. During his first long winter here he realized although herbs were in short supply, trees were not. Thus began a lifetime of careful observation, study and experimentation. As he nibbled and sampled, he thought about the ancient wisdom of First Nations people. Anderman also conducted research in the Madonna House Herbal Library to learn about the European herbalist teachings.

Horticultural Society members were treated to a light and aromatic tea brewed from White Pine. The Healing Trees includes tips on the harvest, preparation and use of leaves, bark, sap and more parts of northeastern woodland trees. Anderman’s audience chewed, sniffed and tasted as the ingredients of various remedies circulated through the crowd. The scent of balsam poplar (Balm of Gilead) was particularly memorable. Anderman’s book contains tips on best practice harvesting.


Audience members listen intently to Robbie Anderman

Trees are not only for edible and medicinal uses. Anderman explained the fibres of basswood were traditionally used for ropes when early settlers did not have access to fibres such as hemp. He showed us some fibres that had been braided. The Healing Trees is divided into easy-to-use sections focusing on the main tree trunk (describing the main uses of each woodland tree), a few side-shoots (like personal experiences, forestry first aid, harvesting tips) and useful quotes, guides and bibliography. The book is sensitively illustrated throughout with detailed drawings by local artist Hilkka. Anderman says,

May it foster a co-operative and respectful dialogue with Trees.

The Healing Trees: The Edible & Herbal Qualities of Northern Woodland Trees is available at local booksellers. Click HERE for more information about The Healing Trees on Facebook.

Or click HERE for the publisher’s website Burnstown Publishing House.

The wilderness theme continues with Richard Stronks on April 19 at 7:30 p.m. when the Madawaska Valley Horticultural Society meets at the Opeongo Senior Centre in Barry’s Bay. Stronks will discuss how bears live and survive in central Ontario. He will speak about ways to camp or live in bear country to minimize our impact on bears and advise what to do if we encounter a bear.

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