How to Stay Young: Advice from Wisconsin’s Healthiest Septuagenarian Couple

The mystical fountain of youth… could it exist? Maybe it’s not some magical elixir, high tech drug, or enchanted hot spring bath. What if your choices on a daily basis, the people you choose to surround yourself with, your environment, and the food on your plate could slow down the aging process?


The idea isn’t so far-fetched; we know there are many things that speed up the aging process such as stress, malnutrition, exposure to pollution and toxins. Just as we know there are things proven to slow down the aging process, such as regular exercise, a low-stress lifestyle, and daily consumption of key antioxidants. The fascinating book “Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People” highlights “longevity hotspots” around the world, where people not only live longer but look younger, feel younger, chronic disease is rare, obesity is nearly unheard of, and they are active into old age.

I happen to have two people in my life who seemingly have stumbled upon this “fountain of youth.” From a young age, my great aunt & uncle Rachel & Greg Kresse of Wausau, Wisconsin have been role models to me. I credit them with sparking an early interest in herbs and nutrition in first my mother, then myself. Growing up my mother always had Echinacea in the garden, fresh vegetables and herbs, and zinc tablets in the medicine cabinet to keep us from getting sick. Rachel has always been on top of cutting edge research in the fields of health and nutrition and has shared that information with the family. She blends that expertise with her knowledge of traditional farming and foraging gained from growing up on a mid-century northern Wisconsin farm. Her mother, Esther, brought over the ancient traditions of mushroom & berry foraging from Russia, a tradition my husband and I are passionate about reviving. Greg on the other hand, has a career specializing in psychiatry. I think this beautifully accentuates the other half of the “fountain of youth” equation- social well-being and support, emotional health, a good sense of humor, self-care, and the role of exercise and food on mental health.


A race in 2019

When you see them sharing pictures with their medals from cross-country ski races or of the biking adventures they’ve gone on, you’d think you’re looking at a 50-something couple blessed with the luck of good genes. But what you’re really looking at is a couple who are the products of their lifestyle… at 70 & 71 years old.

Not only are Greg & Rachel an inspiration to me, but they are a fascinating case indeed because their health simply cannot be attributed to purely “good luck,” as they are genetically unique. I set out to interview them to find out exactly what their secrets are, and what kind of advice they have for the rest of us who want to live long, healthy lives.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?

Rachel: “I’m a 71 year old retired educator. I currently manage the Wausau Night Gliders which is a middle school Nordic Ski Racing Team, I’m a gardener, and continuing athlete (bike, swim, walk/hike, Nordic Ski, and Yoga). I still compete in shorter Nordic races of 10K, but often pleasure ski for 2 hours at a time.”


Greg: “I’m 70, and work part-time as a Psychotherapist specializing in addiction. I’m head coach of the racing team that Rachel manages, do all the heavy gardening work, and am a continuing athlete (bike, swim, hike, Nordic Ski, and not enough yoga per Rachel J). I continue to win in my age division in Nordic races including the Kortelopet, which is a race of 29 K = 17.98 miles. I was excited to finish the Classic Korte in 1 hr 52 minutes in 2019, coming in overall in 48th place out of 1068 skiers of all age groups.”


What was your diet like growing up, and what is your diet like now?

Rachel: “I grew up with whole foods from my parent’s farm and pastured beef, pork, and chicken/eggs. Everything was naturally organic until the 1950s/60s, when pesticides including DDT began to be used. The danger was not known at the time. Growing up we foraged blackberries, blueberries, mushrooms (we think they were honey mushrooms), and asparagus. My parents grew things like cabbage, green beans, peas, corn, tomatoes, carrots, apples, pears, leaf lettuce, potatoes, sometimes okra, and they made traditionally lacto-fermented sauerkraut. Kale wasn’t popular back then but we grow lots of it in our garden now.


Picking wild blackberries near their house

Greg had a terrible diet growing up- lots of processed cereal and milk. They probably had a pretty typical diet for someone who didn’t live on a farm in the 50s and 60s; they ate a lot of their food out of cans.

Currently and for quite a few years previous we have followed a mostly organic diet high in vegetables and fiber, low in meat, and have been dairy-free for at least the last 3 years. Our diet has changed as we have aged. Generally we eat a vegetarian diet today with a little bit of fish and eggs. We do a lot of vegetarian soups with beans, peas, lentils, and full of every vegetable and mushroom I have. In summer we eat from the garden every day. A consistent lunch for us is a blend of beans and a whole grain (usually barley, freekeh, or kamut), rolled up in a healthy tortilla with lettuce, avocado, and tomato. Then we have a side of a cooked veggie like cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, green beans, or something else from the garden. Most of our protein comes from beans. We lacto-ferment things like cucumbers to make our own pickles and last year’s batch was the best.”


A colorful homemade meal I enjoyed at their house last summer

What are your favorite foods that you incorporate daily?

“All vegetables (especially the cruciferous ones), onions/garlic, beans and/or legumes every day, olive oil, and avocados. We grow much of our food organically in our gardens.

We follow Dr. Fuhrman, M.D.’s book “The End of Heart Disease” dietary recommendations, which is filling your plate mostly with veggies, then beans, whole grains, nuts, and fruits, and very small amounts of meat. We also follow many of the guidelines found in the book “Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life” by David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., PhD. This book recommends eating lots of fruits and vegetables, staying away from white sugar and bad fats such as trans-fat, exercising, fostering a positive mental outlook and practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation.”


Beautiful veggies from their garden

What foods do you avoid like the plague?

“Mostly saturated fats and foods high in omega-6 fatty acids – whether organic or not! That includes processed snacks, fast foods, baked goods, fatty meats, and cured meats. While saturated fats are important for kids, once you get past a certain age they are more detrimental and you don’t need as much in your diet.

We avoid white sugar as best as we can, but we follow a 80/20 rule for treats and special occasions. We use maple syrup that our friends make, raw organic honey, or organic agave for sweetening foods instead of white sugar.”

How are you involved in your local community, and do you feel that’s played a role in your health and wellness?

“We maintain a Little Free Library on our property, and of course engage with kids and their parents through summer and winter ski programs that we run. We actively try to encourage neighbors to garden, and have healthy pesticide-free lawns. Our neighbor read that article you shared about Minnesota compensating people for replacing their lawns with bee-friendly native plants, and he’s actually thinking about getting rid of his lawn chemicals!

Being active definitely made a difference in our lives as we made many friends from all over the state in our early years being runners and skiers, and have maintained many of those friendships for over 40 years.”

(Greg and Rachel’s Little Free Library even made it into USA Today magazine!)


Are there any health issues that run in your families? Have they become issues for you?

Rachel: “I inherited my mother’s bunions and osteoarthritis. I’ve managed my foot issues with orthotics, especially when I was a runner for 30 years. Movement helps osteoarthritis, so continued physical activities are important.”

Greg: “Much of my family history is overshadowed by lifestyle issues that caused my father’s death at 64 (2 pack a day Camel unfiltered cigarette smoker all his life and obesity). My mother lived to 95. She had far fewer issues, with heart disease being a primary problem. Our diet changed a number of years ago because of my atherosclerosis and an increase in my LDL which had not been a problem when I was younger. The physician wanted to prescribe statins and we chose to go the diet route instead. The goal was LDL of 70 and I achieved that, to my cardiologist’s surprise, in about 6 weeks. I’ve maintained an excellent level below 70 and extremely low triglycerides.”

July 2019 Rachel & Theo

Rachel and my son Theo

How much time do you spend outside?

“Greg spends much of his time outdoors in all seasons. If he is not doing a sport activity he is doing something with the garden or landscape/prairie or building another rock wall! In comparison to Greg, I spend less time outdoors because I do most of the garden harvesting, preserving and cooking, and I dislike summer heat and bugs.

A warning about childhood and early adult sunburns – Greg has had permanent DNA damage from major youth sunburns which has resulted in skin cancer. It’s important to get vitamin D from the sun, but burns are damaging and the damage won’t show for many years.”


Greg showing Theo around the gardens

You have a beautiful yard full of both prairie and food gardens. Is gardening something you recommend to others?

“It’s important to grow your own food because you have control over how it is grown and you know exactly what you’re getting. If you have the space, why not grow plants you can eat? You don’t even need a lot of space to grow some of these things as they are vertical- beans grow up, peas grow up. Why not plant a fruit bush instead of ornamental? Then you have free raspberries, currants, or blackberries. We preserve and store so much food from our yard that I estimate we save a couple thousand dollars per year on groceries.”


Did I mention a good sense of humor helps keep you young??

How do you avoid the temptation to eat at restaurants?

“We enjoy eating out at restaurants, but we don’t do it as often as most people. We always carry food with us when we travel, so the temptation isn’t really there. When we do, we try to pick healthier options like vegetarian dishes at Mexican restaurants. Before you called I was cutting up apples, oranges, & grapes for snacks, put our breakfast porridge in containers for the race tomorrow morning, and I made sandwiches with baby carrots for after the race.”


Do you take any regular supplements or teas?

“We drink green tea daily, with a small amount of kombucha as a daily lunch/supper cold drink. We take a number of supplements such as turmeric root for joints, and Greg takes niacin for cholesterol.”

Do you take any pharmaceutical drugs?

Greg: “I am on a blood thinner.”

Rachel is on no prescription meds.

How has your lifestyle affected your marriage, and vice versa?

“I tell the ski kids (teenagers) to pick boyfriends/girlfriends that are “sport compatible” and they always laugh at that. But if you don’t have common interests/activities, I believe it is harder to relate and enjoy each other as you move through the marriage and/or relationship.”


How does your health compare to others you know that are your age?

“We have had some medical issues whether from inheritance or past accidents similar to many others, but our activity level in most instances is much higher than most our age. For me, an example would be the four high school friends I get together with on a yearly basis. Three of them are incapacitated by obesity (have difficulty even walking), and the other one maintains some activity biking. So while slightly overweight, she still maintains mobility and energy to do things. Excess weight seems to be the determinate.”

2018 Anniversary Bike 2

What do you think are the biggest factors in your ability to stay well and active into your 70’s?

“Sleep 7-8 hours, eat as well as you can, move in many different ways (not just one activity), meditate or have some spiritual context in your life, and have some “young” friends. I still wear makeup and lip gloss at the starting line- I might not always be the fastest, but at least I’ll still look good.”

If you could give the rest of the world one piece of advice to stay happy and healthy at any age, what would it be?

“I don’t know that I have a grand piece of advice to give, but perseverance does help!”

Thanksgiving 2019 ABR 1

Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us!! Do you have any questions for Rachel and Greg? If so, post them in the comments!


Megan Normansell, CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Health Counselor/ Certified Herbalist/Holistic Nutritionist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Interested in healing your body naturally?
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally. We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. If you’re curious, schedule your complimentary consultation today!

Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here. – – 920-327-2221

Copyright Megan Normansell 2020. All rights reserved.

Flowering Miso Ramen Noodle Soup


This is my quick and easy version of miso soup, utilizing the seasonal flavors of Wisconsin.  You can easily customize it to make it your own! This recipe is vegetarian and gluten free.




  • 7 oz of organic tofu or tempeh, cut into small cubes
  • A handful of dried wild-harvested kelp, broken into small pieces. You can also buy flaked dulse or kelp, which is available in natural food stores or on Amazon here. The kelp in my recipe was wild harvested by my husband on the beautiful coast of Cornwall.17904022_10158699659570195_12146867265582433_n17951811_10158699660110195_900942998429416303_n
  • About 48 oz of miso broth. You can make your own with something as simple as miso paste and water, but I used Kettle & Fire brand miso chicken bone broth.
  • Handful of green onions or chives, chopped
  • Handful of your favorite mushrooms, sliced. I’d suggest using whatever is in season in nature, or if you’re not a forager any grocery store mushrooms will do. I used wild oyster mushrooms. 62483073_1312413752243479_8338620546384134144_n (2)
  • 1.5 cups of fresh bean sprouts
  • 5 oz of dried brown rice or black rice ramen noodles. I used BGreen brand. You can also use some cooked whole grain brown or black rice instead.
  • A handful of wildflowers to garnish. I used Damesrocket, as it’s a common tasty invasive in Wisconsin. Violets, creeping Charlie, dandelion flowers, or any edible flowers from your woods or garden would work. Any brassica flowers are edible, so if you grow kale, radishes, etc you can use the flowers from those too! 64436626_385574508969013_500426559715278848_n

Bring your miso broth up to a boil, then add the mushrooms and kelp. After 10 minutes bring the heat down a bit and add the noodles and bean sprouts. Once the noodles have been cooked for the length of time recommended on the package (mine were about 5 minutes) turn the heat off. Now add the tofu/tempeh.

Let sit for 10 minutes, then serve in a bowl. Finish by sprinkling with the chopped green onions or chives and your flowers of choice. Enjoy!!



Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Interested in healing your body naturally?
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally.  We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? 
Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here.     –    –    920-327-2221



Copyright Megan Normansell 2019 All rights reserved. 

Wild Food ID & Helpful Books


When it comes to wild food, proper ID is essential. The following are important guidelines that will be helpful for ensuring you can enjoy the best foods on the planet. This is an excerpt from our Wild Food Wisconsin Facebook group.

  • Use 3-5 reliable identification methods. The books below are some that I like and recommend.
  • Google is not an ID method. This many times results in misidentification- you’re at the mercy of incorrectly categorized photo tags and every random person on the internet with an opinion. Google can be helpful for getting a general feel for things, but still use 3-5 other ID methods on top of it. There are some good websites, however, including,, , and Just make sure it’s legit before trusting a site.
  • Know toxic/inedible lookalikes. For example chanterelles may look like jack o’ lantern mushrooms.
  • Use all of your senses (smell, texture, spore sprint, colors, etc). No book, picture, website, will ever teach you what mindfully handling a plant or mushroom can.
  • Learn habitats- you won’t find watercress in a desert, and you won’t chaga on a willow tree.
  • Learn when this plant/mushroom is edible, and what parts. Some plants have edible fruits but the rest of the plant is toxic, some edibles are toxic or inedible at certain points during growth, some are toxic raw but healthy cooked, etc.
  • Knowing the growing seasons can help narrow down ID. For example morels don’t fruit in fall, maitake doesn’t fruit in spring.
  • Use Wild Food Wisconsin to bounce ideas off of! When posting an ID request, please share detailed info including pics of caps/stem/undersides of mushrooms, any flowers or leaves, habitat (on a dead pine, growing in a swamp, etc), and any observations you have about it. Once you have some good ideas from members, I’d recommend referring to a couple other ID methods for confirmation.

Happy & safe foraging!

Megan & Matthew Normansell

Our ever-growing book recommendations, with links to purchase:

Native Plants of the Midwest by Alan Branhagan

Mushrooms of the Midwest by Michael Kuo

Month-by-Month Gardening in Wisconsin by Melinda Meyers

Incredible Wild Edibles by Samuel Thayer

Wildflowers of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes Region by Merel R. Black and Emmet J. Judziewicz

The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer

Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer

Wisconsin Medicinal Herbs by Phyllis Heitkamp

Spring Flora of Wisconsin by Norman Fassett

Trees of Wisconsin Field Guide by Stan Tekiela

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms by National Audubon Society

Mushrooms and Other Fungi of North America by Roger Phillips

American Household Botany by Judith Sumner

Medicinal Mushrooms – A Clinical Guide by Martin Powell

Mushrooms of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada by Timothy J. Baroni

The Master Book of Herbalism by Paul Beyerl

Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets

A Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages by Lesley Tierra

Mushrooms: More than 70 Inspiring Recipes by Jacque Malouf

Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat by Ellen Zachos

Native American Medicinal Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary by Daniel Moerman

Maple: 100 Sweet & Savory Recipes by Katie Webster

Native American Food Plants: An Ethnobotanical Dictionary by Daniel Moerman

Herbs to the Rescue- Herbal First Aid Handbook by Kurt King

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers by National Audubon Society

The Wildcrafting Brewer: Creating Unique Drinks and Boozy Concoctions from Nature’s Ingredients by Pascal Baudar

The New Wildcrafted Cuisine: Exploring the Exotic Gastronomy of Local Terroir by Pascal Baudar

Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Steven Foster and James A. Duke

Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants by Bradford Angier

Mushrooms for Health by Greg Marley

The Homebrewer’s Garden by Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher

The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

Peterson Field Guides: Edible Wild Plants by Lee Allen Peterson

Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar

Wild Garlic, Gooseberries, and Me: A Chef’s Stories and Recipes from the Land by Denis Cotter

National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America by David M. Brandenburg


Chanterelle Dreams and Amanita Nightmares by Greg Marley

Toxic and Hallucinogenic Mushroom Poisoning: A handbook for physicians and mushroom hunters by Gary Lincoff and D. H. Mitchel

Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants Second Edition (plants only) by Lewis S. Nelson, Richard D. Shih, Michael J. Balick

Mushrooms: Poisons and Panaceas: A Handbook for Naturalists, Mycologists, and Physicians by Denis R. Benjamin

AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants First Edition (mushrooms and plants) by Kenneth F. Lampe, Mary Ann McCann

Mushroom Playing Cards by Paul Stamets

The Famous Mushroom Playing Cards

The Famous Tree Playing Cards

The Famous Herb Playing Cards

Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan Wild Berries & Fruits Field Guide by Teresa Marrone

Food for Free by Richard Mabey

Others we’ve added to our collection:

Mushroom Cultivation: An Illustrated Guide to Growing Your Own Mushrooms at Home by Tavis Lynch

Mushroom Word Guide: Etymology, Pronunciation, and Meanings of over 1,500 Words by Robert Hallock PhD


Mushroom in the Rain by Mirra Ginsburg

Sweety by Andrea Zull

A Kids Herb Book by Lesley Tierra

The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel

The Herb Fairies Series by Kimberly Gallagher
Book 1: Stellaria’s Big Find (about chickweed)

Book 2: Secrets in the Scotch Broom (about violets)

Book 3: A Fairy Festival Surprise (about plantain)

Book 4: Treasure by Hopping Frog Pond (about lemon balm)

Book 5: The Secret Trail (about chamomile)

Book 6: Cally’s Summer Extravaganza (about calendula)

Book 7: Through the Mists (about elderberry)

Book 8: The Heart of Dwarf Mountain (about marshmallow root)

Book 9: A Magical Ride (about burdock)

Book 10: The Root of Kindness (about pine needles)

Book 11: Fireside Stories (about rose hips)

Book 12: Zeylani’s Tropical Oasis (about cinnamon)

Book 13: Healing the Heart of the Forest (about dandelion)

The 13 book set

Happy reading!!


Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Interested in healing your body naturally?
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally. We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here. – – 920-327-2221

Copyright Megan Normansell 2020. All rights reserved.

Roasted Holiday Chestnuts

Chestnuts are now available in stores, and are perfect for the winter season. Their sweet, buttery flavor goes well in many dishes, as well as on their own as a nutritious snack. I’ve found they are so tasty plain that you really don’t need any seasonings.  This easy recipe comes from my husband Matt at Eden Wild Food, who used to forage for wild chestnuts in his home country of England.

Chestnuts provide protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, selenium, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, vitamin C, folate, pantothenic acid, vitamin a, vitamin e, and heart healthy good fats, so it’s a snack you can feel good about!
As many raw, fresh chestnuts as you’d like to roast
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Very carefully, cut a slit from one end to the other on the flat side of the chestnut, as pictured in the third chestnut from the left.
  • Once you’ve cut all your shells, place them flat side up on a cookie sheet.
  • Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until you notice the shell along the cracks begins to peel up a bit. Pull them out of the oven and peek at the nut inside- initially they will be soft and floury and are ready to eat at this point. Some people prefer them more caramelized, and the outer surface of the nut will be a more golden brown color. Let them cook until you get the color/texture you’d prefer.
  • Take out of the oven and let cool. To remove the shell, you’ll want to squeeze it from both sides at the same time until the crack widens. Then you’ll be able to peel off the shell and skin to reveal your roasted nut. Enjoy!


Megan Normansell, CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!


Interested in healing your body naturally?
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally.  We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? 
Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here.     –    –    920-327-2221


Copyright Megan Normansell 2018 All rights reserved. 

Giant Puffball Mushroom Pizza


If you’re avoiding processed grains/flours or lowering your carbs, or none of the above and just love mindblowing unique food, you’re going to want to try this giant puffball mushroom pizza. Calvatia gigantea is a white, round mushroom commonly found in meadows, fields, and deciduous forests all over the world, and hence the name they can get rather large. The ones pictured here were found on September 10th, 2018 in Wisconsin. While there aren’t a lot of studies on the medicinal benefits, they do contain powerful polysaccharides and have been found to inhibit lung cancer cells. 



Mushrooms kind of excite me.

If you’re new to wild mushroom hunting be sure you properly identify and don’t confuse them with something like earthballs, which are toxic. These fungi have a soft, bread-like texture so you can use them to make anything you might normally make bread with. French toast is on the menu for tomorrow!

Now get this- the crust of this pizza is made from the thinly sliced puffball mushroom, then it’s topped with FIVE other wild gourmet mushrooms! Obviously most people won’t have access to a crazy amount of different mushroom species, but all you really need to make this pizza is the puffballs.  Throw on your favorite toppings and make it your own, such as onions, peppers, olives, button mushrooms from the store, or pepperoni.


Some of the other mushroom species included on the pizza, picked just the day before the puffballs

First, I carefully cut them into a round 1 inch thick slice. Then they were pan-fried in a cast iron pan on both sides for about 5 minutes and seasoned with olive oil and Himalayan salt.



Next, onto the pizza pan. I topped mine with Italian seasonings and pizza sauce, sautéed hedgehog mushrooms, porcini, chicken of the woods, and yellow legged chanterelles, then organic shredded cheese.


Bake your pizza at 425 for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is just starting to turn golden brown. These crusts will be soft, not crunchy. Enjoy!!


Thanks for visiting!


Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Get Even Healthier!
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally and holistically.  We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? 
Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here!     –    –    920-327-2221


Copyright Megan Normansell 2018. All rights reserved. 

My Experience with the Train Wrecker

31589824_10102096509660343_782335860698775552_nA fairly uncommon but interesting Pheasant Back mushroom (cerioporus squamosus) look-alike, Neolentinus lepidius, is commonly known as the Train Wrecker. From afar, the earth-toned feathered patterning on the cap may have you convinced you’ve spotted a Pheasant Back. It’s had me momentarily confused! Once you get closer you’ll notice the distinct differences, beginning with the observation that this mushroom has gills, where a pheasant back has pores. Where pheasant backs have a distinctive cucumber/watermelon scent, the train wrecker has a very pleasant, fresh anise aroma to it. Neolentinus lepidius also has a tough, ringed stem with scales that match that of the cap.

I tend to find that in Wisconsin the Train Wreckers fruit as Pheasant Backs are finishing up their spring season, but you still may find them side by side in the same habitat. The two specimens seen above were growing about 15 feet apart in Outagamie county the first week of June.

This fungi prefers pine, but gets its name from its fondness for old railroad ties and unbridled chaos. They are unlikely to cause train crashes today due to stronger chemicals being used on the wood to discourage fungal growth. Quite an impressive little mushroom, isn’t it?


Photo credit: Rachael Young. Sheboygan, WI

Now I see quite a bit of contradictory opinions on whether or not it’s suitable for your dinner plate. It is considered to be edible, but very tough and not too pleasant. I do not find this mushroom in books often, so I also don’t have many opinions to go off of. Despite the fact that there are no recorded poisonings, it could easily contain hazardous chemicals if growing on treated wood so be cautious where you obtain it from if you plan on ingesting.

When I took this picture last year I wasn’t quite brave enough to try it, but when my spot fruits again this spring I certainly will be updating this article with my culinary experience (good or bad). Maybe with it being a cousin to shiitake I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Stay tuned!



UPDATE: (June 3, 2018)

I was pleased to find a baby train wrecker fruiting today in this same spot, and we had the opportunity to taste it, fried up with butter and salt. We ate the caps only, as the stems are very tough.




Is that a baby bump or did I eat too many mushrooms?


My husband: “It tastes like every other mushroom I’ve ever had.”

Me: “It tastes like and has the texture of oysters!”

So, I must say, this fungi definitely is worth eating. Perhaps those who did not enjoy it had tasted specimens that were older and tougher. Either way, I enjoyed our experiment!


Megan Normansell, CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!


Interested in healing your body naturally?
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally. We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here. – – 920-327-2221


Copyright Megan Normansell 2018 All rights reserved. 

The Paleo Diet- It Isn’t What You Think It Is


The Paleolithic period, also known as a part of the Stone Age, lasted 2.6 million years ago to about 12,000 years ago and has inspired many an idea of what your plate should look like today. The modern dietary theory called the “Paleo Diet” or “Caveman Diet” professes that ancient hunters/gatherers shared a certain diet during that period, and that diet is still essential for reclaiming our health in contemporary times. While there is variability in the way it is interpreted, the diet typically includes specific vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, and meat and excludes certain other vegetables, dairy, grains, legumes, certain oils, artificial ingredients, salt, & alcohol.

Now, my profession consists of telling people to eat vegetables. I’m not here to put down any diet that aims to do the same. I’ve been professionally trained in the modern Paleo diet, along with dozens of other dietary theories that I use with my clients. Any diet that says “just eat real food” is always going to point you in the direction of better health. But alas, I am an eternal “vegetable truther.” Where there is misinformation in the nutrition industry, I will seek to set the record straight. Do you follow the modern day “Paleo Diet?” Cool. Keep eating it. Just know it’s not actually Paleo. Many foods that are today being touted as being “paleo” did not even exist during the Paleolithic era. Many foods on the modern paleo diet “no” list were actually staples in a true, historically accurate Paleo diet. Don’t believe me? Keep reading. Are you interested in learning more about the real Paleo diet? Cool. Also keep reading.

Now the wonderful thing about any ancient, traditional diet is that there were no orthorexic rules that our society seems so obsessed with today- it was eat what nature provided, when nature provided it. A true paleo diet can best be described as “opportunistic omnivores.” I like that. Unfortunately today, that same term would translate to going to whatever McDonalds is closest to your house.


Using today’s terminology we could describe a true paleo diet as organic (all food was organic until the 1940’s), non-GMO (genetically modified crops were not manufactured and introduced into our food supply until the 1980’s), whole, local, seasonal, and wild. There were no isolated synthetic vitamins and minerals to fortify with, no preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, MSG and synthetic flavor enhancers, pesticides, herbicides, etc.

Paleo people were more well-nourished and had less famine than the Neolithic and more agrarian cultures that followed them. They had a wider variety of natural foods and they were foragers, with no dependence on a small number of crops and cultivated foods like we do in modern times. I can personally harvest over 30 species of wild plants in the park in my suburban village- imagine how much more food a person would have had within arm’s reach back in that period of time.


Although not quite old enough to be Paleolithic, Otzi the ice man gives us unique insight into what a diet looked like before most of our food was cultivated. As he lived near regions that we’ll be discussing and used most of the same methods to obtain his food, his diet likely would not vary much from a typical version of a true Paleolithic diet.

Otzi, the incredibly well-preserved iceman discovered in 1991, lived in the region that is now northern Italy, some 5,300 years ago. And his last meal consisted of… wild goat (Ibex) and Einkorn wheat.

Now wheat is an interesting one, as it’s been demonized by many different dietary theories today.

As a holistic nutrition practitioner with Celiac disease, I understand better than most how damaging gluten-containing grains can be. However, I also understand that everybody’s bodies are dramatically different, one man’s poison may be another man’s food and vice versa. Unless I work with a client and find them to have a genuine wheat or gluten allergy or intolerance, I will not immediately rush to tell them to eliminate it. When we get into cutting out whole foods without any solid reason other than “I read about it in this book” or “this guy says it’s bad for everyone” or “this person punched this into a machine and the printout says I can’t eat it” then meal planning and eating becomes this stressful, confusing, frustrating, messy, overly-restricted and eventually despised regimen. Common sense gets thrown out the window too many times. Keep it simple.

But I digress.

In some people the culprit may not even be the wheat itself, but what’s been done to it. The modern wheat you get in stores today is not even remotely close to distant cousins like Einkorn. For my wheat-eating clients I recommend ancient, organic varieties of it such as Einkorn or spelt, in the unrefined, unmilled form.

The term Einkorn wheat refers to two different types- the wild form, triticum boeoticum, or the domesticated form, triticum monococcum. As records of domestication of wheat go back to just 8,650 to 7,950 BC, this clearly was not a part of the true Paleolithic diet. However, archaological evidence in Syria found that humans may have started harvesting this wild wheat around 30,000 years ago. That makes this wheat a very paleo treat. Triticum boeoticum has been traced back to pre-neolithic sites in Turkey and areas throughout northern Europe. It is a low-yielding grain, thus was eaten in small quantities. Wheat was eaten in the same way we’d eat it in its whole food form today- boiled in water whole or eaten as porridge, similar to how we make oatmeal today.

Compared to modern wheat, Einkorn has more protein, healthy fats, magnesium, b6, beta carotene, and potassium.


wheat! it’s coming for you!

Anthropologists have found that proportions of foods consumed varied quite a bit. You tend to find that chillier areas are more meat-heavy out of necessity. The extra calories, fat, and warmth were needed to thrive in cold climates. When you were hungry, you hunted.

Certain areas have also been found to be far more plant-based, with very small amounts of meat. Other areas were higher in carbs, with tubers being a main staple. So a paleo diet did not necessarily mean lots of meat or low carb, either. It is estimated the average true Paleolithic diet consisted of 3.6-4.2 pounds of fruits and vegetables daily.

So lets compare. How does the modern “Paleo diet” stack up against the true historically accurate Paleo diet?

  • Dairy? The modern Paleo Diet says no. Is it truly Paleo? Yes! There is evidence that late paleo cultures most likely domesticated reindeer for their meat and dairy as early as 14,000 BC.
  • Against the grain? Now we know that the true paleo diet did indeed include grains. One variety of quinoa (chenopodium quinoa var. melanospermum) was believed to be in the ancient paleo diet. But since they were not cultivated they were not available in large quantities. Your plate reflected what you picked. Small servings.
  • Soy free? My research says yes, the paleo diet was devoid of soy.
  • Gluten free? Nope!
  • Sugar free? No! The true paleo diet embraced all fruits that were available to them.

wild grapes would have been eaten during paleolithic times

  • Refined sugar free? Yes! Just say no to refined white sugar.
  • Vegan? No! At least not by choice. Opportunistic omnivores. However if the opportunity was not there or if you were a terrible hunter, you may be a temporary (and hangry) vegan.
  • Alcohol free? Probably. One archaeologist believes fermented wild grape wine traces back to 8,500 BC, which is not quite long enough ago to be considered Paleo. Unless they kept their magic spirits secret…
  • BACON! Maybe. There is evidence of wild pigs being hunted as far back as 11,000 BC so it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
  • Legumes? Legumes have been found in Paleolithic archaeobotanical findings in Kebara Cave, Israel and there are varieties that would have been consumed during the Paleo era including Fabaceaes like peas, vetch, and clover. Archaeological finds have found peas to be a part of the Paleolithic diet in Switzerland. Lentils have been traced back to the Greek diet as far as 11,000 BC, which puts it in that Paleo grey area. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that they could have been consumed around 12,000 BC, so we’ll label lentils as a “Paleo maybe-o.”
Vicia americana

vicia americana, American vetch

Foods you think are Paleo that really aren’t:

  • Bell peppers: these are a modern cultivar
  • Kale: came about around 300 BC
  • Broccoli: made from a kale predecessor in the 1500s
  • Cabbage (savoy): dates back to the 1500s
  • Kohlrabi: also from the 1500s
  • Brussels sprouts: first used in the 400’s, the modern cultivar you eat today came about in the 1200s
  • Cauliflower: bred in the 1300-1400s
  • Bananas: the bananas you eat today have been around for less than 200 years. If you lived in Papua New Guinea, you would have eaten banana cultivars beginning around 5000-8000 BC. But still not exactly paleo.
  • Apples: any that are not crabapples. This includes your honeycrisp, golden and red delicious, gala, braeburn, and so on.
  • Chicken: The chicken you’re eating today is a modernized hybrid of junglefowl and would not have been a component of a truly Paleo diet. The first records of the chicken you know and love today being eaten are from 600 BC.
  • Zucchini: this is a pretty new food- zucchini as you know it was developed in the second half of the 19th century in Italy. Summer squashes are native to Mexico and can be traced back to 7,000 to 5,500 BC, so would not have been part of the paleo diet in Europe.
  • Olive oil: Olives were not known to be picked until the Neolithic peoples, and archaeological evidence shows that they were first made into olive oil between 6000 BC and 4500 BC in Israel. Sorry, your olive oil isn’t Paleo.

So while of course there are large variances in the true Paleolithic diet based upon what was available at the time, here’s the rundown of what was really eaten during that time period:

  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Grains
  • Children were weaned much later than they typically are today, so children had the advantage of breastmilk for many years
  • Animals such as wooly mammoths, deer, seals, elands, shellfish, carrion, & birds
  • Eggs
  • Tubers & roots
  • Fruits
  • Insects
  • Raw dairy
watercress nettles motherwort catmint

ancient wild foods harvested near my home

On top of that there are many of today’s wild foods that we know were around during Neolithic times. I have no reason to believe these were not available 12,000 years ago or longer:

  • Stinging nettles
  • Beech nut
  • Garlic mustard
  • Lambs quarters
  • Acorns
  • Hazelnuts
  • Burdock root
  • Wild grapes
  • Elder flowers and berry
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Wild turnips
  • Crab apples
  • Bolete mushrooms: mushrooms are a difficult food to detect in ancient remains, but we do have evidence of bolete mushrooms being consumed in Spain 18,000-12,000 years ago

boletes like these that my husband harvested would have been eaten

Curious, intriguing, surprising, and inspiring isn’t it? While I’m not telling you to go make this your end-all diet, I do think our modern “diet culture” can take some lessons from the Paleolithic peoples. Eat real food, mostly plants, no whole natural food is inherently bad, and relax. Oh, and eat your nettles.


Megan Normansell, CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

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Copyright Megan Normansell 2018 All rights reserved. 

Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Trying to Boost your Immune System


Our immune system is comprised of many biological structures, and is quite a wondrous thing. Give it the tools it needs, and it detects and protects us from potentially fatal invaders including bacteria, parasites, and viruses. As with anything else if you don’t put the right fuel in it’s not going to be able to perform at its best, so here I’ll discuss how to do that in a way that isn’t counterproductive.

With flu season upon us, “immune boosters” are all the buzz. No one wants to get sick! Nature provides medicine for every ailment – if you have even a bit of influence over whether you get sick or not or how quickly you recover from illness, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage?

However, there is such a thing as doing it wrong.

Let’s look at it as three different categories- immune stimulators, immune modulators, and immune essentials.

Immune stimulators:

Many people refer to these as “immune boosters,” but I much prefer to use the term “stimulators.” These are the warriors you keep in your medicine cabinet to launch an attack when you get an invader. They rev up your immune system for war- they can be used prophylactically after exposure, used to kick out a pathogen at the first sign of illness, or used to reduce the duration of an illness. They are not required for immune function, but they can be extremely effective at helping and most have the research to back that. (See a sampling of available studies below- 111 of them!)

However, you don’t always want to stimulate, or “boost” your immune system. These should only be taken on an as-needed basis, not daily. Think of it as sending soldiers out to war- fighting off the enemy is a really tough job. Imagine if you were to send those soldiers off every day to fight, whether they were needed or not. They’d get tired and burnt out after awhile, wouldn’t they? Generally immune stimulators want to be used for 3-4 days, or as directed for your particular ailment by your naturopathic practitioner or herbalist. Immune stimulators are not ideal for those with autoimmune disease or those on immune – suppressing drugs. The following are some of my favorites.

Examples of immune stimulators:

  • Elderberry
  • Echinacea
  • Goldenseal
  • Boneset
  • Pokeweed
  • Tinder conk mushroom
  • Birch polypore mushroom
  • Oyster mushrooms
  • Star anise
  • Andrographis
  • Cats Claw
  • Astragalus

Wild echinacea purpurea near my house

Immune Modulators:

These are the immune regulators; it is their job to keep the immune system at a healthy baseline. Modulation means being strong enough for pathogens and foreign cells to be destroyed, but also not hyper-reacting to common foods, allergens, environmental organisms, or your own body cells. Take these daily as gentle therapeutics, use prophylactically after exposure, or to support your system in fighting off pathogens at the first sign of illness. Some modulators can also help to stimulate but due to regulating activities that are stronger than their stimulating activities, they are safe for autoimmune disorders. To determine whether a substance in question falls under the category of stimulator or modulator, I generally dissect the individual compounds and study their effect on the immune system. Even with a few modulating phytochemicals, if there is a strong presence of stimulators it will likely provoke the immune system. Alpha-amyrin and astragalin are examples of immune stimulants found in elderberry, for example, that contribute to its stimulating effects.

Examples of immune modulators:

When using medicinal mushrooms it’s very important to avoid the term ingredient “myceliated grain” or “myceliated rice,” as this means your product contains the root structure of the mushrooms grown on grain, instead of the actual mushrooms. It’s a cheaper and more easily mass-produced way of marketing mushrooms without having to go through the effort and expense of providing the actual fruiting bodies. They are not the same thing. If you’re ever in doubt with your mushroom product, buy from the hand that picks your mushrooms so that you know you’re getting the real thing.


Dried chaga chunks are used to make a delicious tea. Order my wild Wisconsin harvested chaga here and learn more about chaga at Eden Wild Food

Immune essentials:

Immune essentials are crucial nutrients that are required for functioning of the immune system. They are not optional. A balanced diet should provide most of what we need, however many times a supplement is helpful for filling nutritional gaps, especially if your diet is not ideal. In the presence of illness or as a prophylactic help, higher doses than the minimal amount to prevent deficiency can be helpful. For example, I like to take a gram of vitamin C every couple hours when I’m feeling under the weather. However, more is not always better for many vitamins and minerals- you want daily levels that allow the body and immune system to function at optimum levels, without overdosing. For example, overdosing on the vitamin D via supplementation can cause health issues such as a decrease in bone mass. Too much zinc (over 100 mg/day) can actually suppress your immune system. Consult your health practitioner for doses that are right for your body.

Examples of immune essentials:

  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Selenium

Rose hips have 946% more vitamin C than oranges! Read more here.

So to sum up, these natural medicines can be a wonderful, effective way to stay healthy, but be sure to choose the methods that are right for you- rev up and/or regulate your immune system, and of course supply the vitamins and minerals that are the basic foundation of our bodily functions.


Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Interested in healing your body naturally?
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107. Antimicrobial properties of star anise (Illicium verum Hook f).
108. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology Alena G. Guggenheim, ND; Kirsten M. Wright, BS; Heather L. Zwickey, PhD
109. Medicinal Mushrooms: A Clinical Guide by Martin Powell
110. Mushrooms for Health by Greg Marley
111. Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets

Copyright Megan Normansell 2018 All rights reserved.

Creamy Wild Mushroom & Brie Soup

It’s no secret the canned cream of mushroom soup is horrendous for your health. Is there even any real food in there?? Here we have a much more flavorful and healthy alternative- great eaten on its own with a salad, or used as a replacement for cream of mushroom soup in your favorite recipes.

mushroombrie soup


To add a wild twist to mine, I chose to use wild chanterelle mushrooms that I had frozen from last summer’s harvest. But you can use any mushroom you can get your hands on and it’ll still be wonderful! In place of the white wine I used my maple sap wine that we brewed with sap from the maples in our yard last winter. (wow that stuff is strong!)



  • 16-24 oz mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • 6-10 ounces brie, rind cut off and cut into smaller squares
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • sea salt and pepper to taste


  1. Finely chop 3/4 of the mushrooms, and then slice the rest into thin pieces.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the onions, thyme, and garlic to the mushrooms and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the flour and wine then cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the milk and brie, and stir as until the brie fully melts.
  6. Separate the bigger slices of mushrooms, then puree the rest of it in a blender or food processor. Then add in the mushroom pieces for some texture, and enjoy!


Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Get Even Healthier!
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally and holistically.  We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? 
Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here!     –    –    920-327-2221


Copyright Megan Normansell 2018 All rights reserved. 

Super Immune Chaga Gummies

As we are entering “chaga season,” I thought I’d share one of my family’s favorite things to do with it- super immune chaga gummies!

For those unfamiliar, chaga is a potent medicinal mushroom that grows in the northwoods of Wisconsin. With hundreds of clinical studies behind it, it’s used for strengthening the immune system, balancing autoimmune disorders, fighting cancer and tumors, cholesterol, blood pressure, eczema, inflammation, and many more.

We first make the chaga tea from the dried chunks, then add maple syrup until nice & sweet. Then follow this recipe, simply substituting the elderberry syrup for chaga. Sometimes we will do half & half. They are delicious and help to keep away the colds & flu that are circulating this time of year!

My hand-harvested Wisconsin chaga to make this recipe is available here!


Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Get Even Healthier!
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally and holistically. We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here! – – 920-327-2221

Copyright Megan Normansell 2018 All rights reserved.