The Story of Blotto Botany and a Giveaway!
Blotto Botany: A Lesson in Healing Cordials & Plant Magic

“Blotto Botany started out as a self published zine, something I made while living in a tiny farmhouse attic in Maine. It serves as a constant reminder to do what I love and listen to both my gut and plant allies. Here within the pages of this book, I invite you to make of these recipes what you will. Expand on them, love them, swap plants, swap spirits. This book is meant to be a look into an herbalists log; a variety of experiments and delicious concoctions intended to sprout new idea and connect you with tradition.
Drink to your health, your ancestors, and your friends. Make zines, write daily, make plants and stay true to your own tastes and well-being.”
- An excerpt from Blotto Botany

***

Creating something is never easy. It’s a daunting, exhausting and consuming experience, while at the same time, rewarding and exhilarating - all the “ings” really. Over the course of 18 months, I poured my heart into the making of this little book. I cried, I giggled, I worried, I judged myself, I acted like a diva brat at times. There were days where I drank too much and days where I didn’t do anything but press the “yes I’m still watching” button on Netflix. From what I understand, this is a very typical process when working on a project so near, dear and long winded. 

The story of Blotto Botany goes like this: 

Back in early 2016, I created a zine called Blotto Botany: a Lesson in Cordial Making. It was 4 inches tall and consisted of pages, that I folded and bound together with string. I created it in a small attic bedroom in an old Maine farmhouse, while navigating heartache and questioning my career path as an herbalist. I wanted to share my love of cordials in book form and a zine seemed like the natural (and cheapest) path for me. I sold it on Etsy then in my own online shop as well as shops around the country. 

6 months later, a lovely editor from HarperCollins found my zine in a shop called, Hauswitch. She took it home and over the course of a few months, recreated some of its recipes. That following January, she got in touch with me to see if I would be interested in turning Blotto Botany into a full length book with HarperCollins. Thinking it was a joke or somehow a mistake on this editors part, my mom, aunt and I scoured the internet to make sure that this was a legitimate human. Much to our delight, she was indeed a real human with a very real and historic publishing company. So we scheduled a time to chat on the phone and from there, we proceeded. 

From there it was a few months of negotiations before I could get started on the manuscript. I spent the summer writing, testing, merrily enjoying my situation while at the same time, feeling inadequate - though the joy and gratitude was more apparent for me. Once the manuscript was turned in, my words were passed around to multiple editors to make sure everything was accurate and well said. When I finally got the go ahead in September, I was able to fully start working on the illustrations, which I mostly completed in about 3 weeks. I also took all the photos for the book, but that is a story for another day…

The process was long and full of unique emotions for me. When you hold Blotto Botany (or any book!!) in your hands, know that is the the result of incredible love and devotion. This little book taught me so much and I’m insanely grateful that I got to bring it out into the world with the help of a really badass editor and a publishing company. And all the friends that listened to me whine and cry more than a few times..


Giveaway

Leave a comment below with your email for an extra chance to win a copy of Blotto Botany for you and a friend! US entries only, please.

***

Here are some commonly asked questions:

Are you self published?

No. Blotto Botany is published by Morrow Gift, which is an imprint of HarperCollins publisher.

Will you be selling Blotto Botany in the Gingertooth & Twine shop?

No, but there is plenty of info on where you can get it HERE

Can I order copies of Blotto Botany for my shop?

Yes!! It means so much to me to help you get the book into your shop. While I personally cannot sell the book to you, you can contact SPsales@harpercollins.com to get the book wholesale.

Blotto Botany by Spencre L.R. McGowan
Blotto Botany by Spencre L.R. McGowan

What was the process of getting your publisher to believe in your book?

I had the unique experience of being approached by a publisher. The fact that I had made a zine version of B.B. to present and had been selling it for over a year was extremely helpful. So my advice (which could be helpful or not at all), is to start making zines.

The process of editing and scanning the book was different. Since the book has remained so true to its original zine format, it was a unique process and required a bit of explaining from both my editor and I. But we stuck with the vision and successfully saw it through!

Does it matter where I purchase the book? Will you still get the same amount of money?

Unless you are purchasing the book from me directly, either at a signing or somewhere else in person, I get the same amount of money. I’m always supportive of purchasing the book from a local bookshop, but Amazon sales do help the book rank on best seller lists. It’s really up to you where you’d like to purchase the book.

How did you come up with all your recipes?

I’m going to sound like a real asshole right now, but creating recipes is what keeps me up at night. I get most of my ideas as I’m trying to sleep. Coming up with new recipes and figuring out how to relate them back to herbalism is so exciting for me and it’s definitely something that feels so natural for me to do. I also read a lot of cookbooks and watch many food related shows, so I often bounce around what I’ve learned in those moments before bed. With a lot of the recipes in Blotto Botany, I created the cordial name before actually deciding what would be in that cordial.

***

Giveaway

Leave a comment below with your email and Instagram handle for an extra chance to win a copy of Blotto Botany for you and a friend! US entries only, please. Giveaway closes on Tuesday 10-23.

 The original Blotto Botany zine

The original Blotto Botany zine

Lion’s Mane Mushroom and an Autumnal Charcuterie Board
Lions Mane Mushroom and an Autumnal Charcuterie Board

There is nothing quite like fall in New England. It’s so cliche to say it, but I can’t help myself. October is my favorite time of year and I look forward to it the way most people look forward to summer. Autumn makes me feel refreshed and brings about a whole new slew of ideas and thoughts that I tend to carry with me throughout the next 12 months; till October rolls around again. Perhaps it has to do with October being my birth month, or maybe it’s just my time of year. Either way, it makes me feel good and I relish the crisp days and the smell of the earth as it settles in for a long sleep.

This trip back east has admittedly not been the easiest. Money has been tight, transportation sparse and my health not so good. After a few weeks with a wretched cough, I decided to take the time and visit a doctor. While in the room, I was informed that I have bronchitis and was immediately put on a nebulizer and a hefty round of antibiotics. It’s never easy being sick, especially while traveling, but this diagnosis was a wake up call. It forced me to realize that it’s time to focus on my health and not just the book or my business. It had been nearly ten months since I allowed myself the time to see a practitioner and I was frustrated that I let it get to this point.

So I decided to let go. I cancelled my remaining book events and decided to settle into my existence as a person and not just an author or a business owner. I removed my shop from the site (don’t worry, it will be back), spent time with friends and booked a train ticket back to Montana. I’m fully taking this sweet month of October to better myself and in turn, be better for the people I love. The pressure I have put on myself in the last 8 months has turned unhealthy and I’m excited to make a change.

A week or so ago, my friend Laura texted and asked if I’d like to go on a walk with her. One of my favorite places in southern Maine is a riverside trail called the Bridal Path and without speaking, I knew that Laura would want to go there too. So off we ventured, armed with coffee and a years worth of catching up to do. On one particular side path, we discovered quite a few clusters of secret mushrooms and sacred ghost pipe, which we left behind. But the discovery of the Lion’s Mane caused Laura to squeal and run to the periphery of the path.

Lion’s mane is a funny, Seussical looking mushroom with a slew of health benefits. It’s quite delicious too which is extremely helpful. Lion’s mane is said to benefit brain function, enhance the immune system and alleviate depression. It’s a stark white little creature with a furry looking skin (those hairs are called the spines) and can be found growing on different varieties of dead or dying hardwood trees.

We walked around with the mushroom for a few more minutes before deciding to head back to Laura’s seaside home to cook it up for lunch along with some Maine chaga tea. While Laura did most of the cooking, the following method of cooking is similar to what I observed her do and what I would most likely do myself.

Lion's Mane Mushroom


How to cook a lion’s mane mushroom:

Ingredients

1 lion mane mushroom head
1-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to season


Method

Submerge the full mushroom into clean, room temp water and let soak for 3-5 minutes to clean off any excess debris. Once mushroom is clean, gently start removing the spines from the base of the mushroom in small or medium size chunks (compare size to the top half of your thumb) with a knife or your fingers. Set on a plate and pat dry with a towel to remove water.

Heat a small pan over medium low heat and melt 1 tbs of butter and add the shrooms. With a mixing spoon, gently coat the mushrooms in the hot butter (add more if needed) and continue to cook on medium/low heat until golden brown.

Place cooked mushrooms on serving tray or plate and serve right away. These would also taste great in a salad or a creamy pasta dish.

If desired: tincture remaining raw mushroom stem in alcohol or apple cider vinegar. Or place to rest outside to return to the earth.

Charcuterie Board

Gather an assortment of meats, cheeses, crackers/bread, spreads, nuts and jellies. Arrange them on a large serving tray or cutting board. Get creative with how to arrange your spread and make sure to have a decent variety of goodies.

Here’s a list of what Laura and I added to this particular tray so you can have an idea of what to do:

Raw goats cheese
Green olives
Homemade sun dried tomatoes from Laura’s garden
Crackers
Cabbage tempura from the Six Seasons cookbook
Peach compote
Bacon, broken up into small pieces for bite size consumption
Fresh plums, sliced
Lion’s mane mushroom (but you already knew that)

***

Charcuterie boards are quite possibly my favorite ways to consume my favorite foods. Add whatever makes you happy and feel good.


Lions Mane Mushroom and an Autumnal Charcuterie Board
 My favorite view at the Bridal Path in Maine

My favorite view at the Bridal Path in Maine

 Laura’s kitchen table

Laura’s kitchen table