WASHINGTON -- Linda Ours Rago lives in Harpers Ferry, W. Va., but is drawn frequently to a remote Appalachian cove. Blackberry Cove has been in the family for generations, and 27 years ago, Rago built her own cabin there.
Through the lore that has been passed down in the Appalachian wisewoman tradition and in her own lifelong observation of plants, Rago has stepped into that magical world of herbs. Herbs as food, herbs as medicinal remedies, herbs as a connection to ancestors and their lives.
The result is ''Blackberry Cove Herbal'' (Capital Books, $18.95, 800-758-3756). Among the hundreds of wild and cultivated herbal plants considered is the biennial called mullein, whose gray basal leaves hug the ground in spring before sending up a tall, yellow flower spike in June.
''Country people have attributed powerful magic to those tall wands in warding off evil,'' writes Rago. ''Dried and dipped in tallow, they were used as torches and lamps.
''And the velvety, white wool covering the entire plant glows silvery in moonlight. If you look at the mullein hairs with a magnifying glass, you will see each one is branched like a tiny tree, and they grow entangled in a frosty elven forest.''
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