"What I really like to do is dip these little hummers in batter and fry them. They taste just like mushrooms!" Lynn snapped off a dandelion bloom at the stem and twilled it against her nose before handing it to the group. Our eager gaggle of women looked at each other with a mixture of confusion and intrigue, passing the stem around the group, brushing the soft bloom against our noses, early June sleet glistening on our cheeks.
This was just one of the many magical moments I experienced at Witch & Bitch, a daylong workshop on foraging, herbalism and tea blending hosted by the ladies of R.L. Linden & Co. and Dram Apothecary - two Colorado-bred small businesses run by smart, savvy and fiercely witty women.
I’ve been Insta-stalking Dram Apothecary for over a year now, fawning over their impeccably hip style and effortless mix of urban witchery and well-executed creative genius. Dram runs its business out of a cattywompus old bakery building in the historic mining community of Silver Plume, a funky dive town perched precariously on either side of I-70 in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. When the opportunity to take the daylong workshop fell into my lap, I scrambled weeks in advance to secure my seat.
Dram is the brainchild of Colorado native and self-proclaimed plant nerd Shae Whitney. Growing up among the rolling sage and musty pines of Colorado’s prairieland, Shae developed a curious admiration for species of the plant kingdom. With a collegiate focus in food science, ecological agriculture and botany, Shae paired her book smarts with her bartendress background to create the recipes that put Dram at the forefront of the herbal counterculture movement. According to Shae, "Dram was inspired by the idea that the inclusion of bitter herbs in our everyday diet is essential for vibrant health, mental clarity and agreeable digestion."
For the Witch & Bitch workshop series, Shae joined forces with fellow plant nerds and formulators Robin King and Lynn Till of R.L. Linden & Co., a Denver-based purveyor of all-natural, small batch beauty products and herbal teas. Their mission for Witch & Bitch? To create seasonal classes for a new generation of women interested in healing with plants.
The class was packed tightly into Dram’s close quarters, wooden folding chairs butting up against the radiators and old world bar fixtures. We were each given a notebook, a pen and a foraging knife as our tools for the day, as well as a Mason jar for imbibing in Dram’s signature herbal tea blends.
Over the course of an afternoon, we toured the town of Silver Plume on foot, learning about the different wild plants and herbs that grow at its dizzying 9,200 feet. Fun fact: did you know lilac blooms are edible? Shea harvests them, candies them and uses them for muddling into some of her more fragrant cocktails. Back inside, we learned about herbs and plants that are commonly used in teas, infusions and tinctures. Second fun fact: Did you know dried rosehips contain 40 times the vitamin C of your average orange? Some A-list celebs are known to use nothing but rosehip oil on their face, claiming it has the same effect as retinol, minus the burn victim results (sign me up!).
Our herbal run-through complete, we were each given a bucket in which we blended our own signature tea. I called mine "Super Chill," as it contained just about every calming herb in the lineup and then some, plus rose petals for flavor and rosehips to invoke my inner A-lister (a long shot, I know).
After snacks around an impromptu campfire, we ended the day with a plant blessing from Lynn and Robin. Each of us received a personalized reading from the bundle of herbs we chose (a quick rundown of my reading: marjoram for emotions residing in muscles, lemon balm for happiness and joy, mugwort for entering a new, wiser phase in life), then the bundle was shaken, fluffed and wiped all over us as we stood there, eyes closed, sheepishly smiling, knowing that whatever was going on, we were soaking in some majorly good mojo.
The advance of the herbal counterculture movement is quickly gaining momentum; old world apothecaries and niche health and skincare companies are popping up around the globe. Maybe with this resurgence of interest in Mother Earth as healer, a refreshingly mindful and compassionate perspective on humanity’s holistic health will follow. Or who knows? Maybe we’ll all just have great skin, thanks to Madame Rosehip.