Hot Debate Over ‘Fire Cider’

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Photo by Adobe Stock/zetat

Prominent herbalist Rosemary Gladstar sent out a triumphant announcement in the beginning of 2019, eager to share that a court date had finally been set for Shire City Herbals’ trademark infringement claims against three independent herbalists.

The case concerns a folk remedy often called “fire cider,” a pungent herbal drink made from apple cider vinegar, garlic, onion, and horseradish, along with variable amounts of such ingredients as lemon, honey, and cayenne (usually tailored to the maker’s needs and tastes). Unpleasant as it sounds, many herbalists swear by its ability to ward off the sniffles of the cold and flu season, and it’s found in many folk herbalists’ repertoires and recipe books. The name became fairly common in folk medicine circles after Gladstar shared her recipe by that name in early 1970s.

In 2012, not long after Shire City Herbals, a small Massachusetts-based company, began selling the tonic, it sought a trademark on “fire cider.” According to Dana St. Pierre, the founder of Shire City Herbals, he trademarked the brand name to protect his product from being poached by larger corporations.

However, the move sparked fierce backlash on social media, with herbalists around the country angered at the monetization of a folk name. Shire City Herbals refused to budge on their position, stating that they “have followed best business practices and the advice of the legal community,” and that they simply asked that “all those who want to sell commercially” change the name of their product. Then, in 2014, they sent Etsy makers of “fire cider” cease-and-desist letters. A grassroots resistance followed, taking the form of boycotts, negative reviews, and even a petition sent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark.

Things escalated further in 2015, when Shire City Herbals sued Nicole Telkes, Mary Blue, and Kathi Langelier — known as the Fire Cider Three — for $100,000 in damages for the boycotts they helped to spearhead, and for trademark infringement. A federal judge threw out the damages claim in 2016, but the trademark infringement claims still stand.

The trial date, as Gladstar so eagerly announced earlier this year, was March 25, 2019, and the case is ongoing. This case could have a lasting impact, since it will set a precedent for whether other generic folk terms can be “owned.” If the suit is decided in Shire City Herbals’ favor, the trademark will stand and all other uses of “fire cider” will have to be renamed, which not only affects producers of similar drinks, but also authors and bloggers who wish to share their variations on the traditional folk recipe.

California’s Super Bloom

Due to an unusually high amount of rain this winter, perfect temperatures, and a lack of high winds, Southern California is currently blanketed in wildflowers. Super blooms usually only occur once every decade, but this is the second one in three years.

Photo by Adobe Stock/Suzette Barnett

Currently, the most famous bloom is the display of California poppies around Lake Elsinore and at Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, but there are many more flowers to be on the lookout for. Lacy phacelia, cream cups, California goldfields, and blue dicks all bloom alongside the poppies in Lancaster, and the show continues in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. More phacelia and goldfields bloom near the valley floor, alongside tidy tips and other wildflowers, washing the Carrizo Plain with sunny hues. The blooms at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are dwindling, but brittlebush, chuparosa, desert dandelion, phacelia, and poppies all dot the hillsides during the peak season. Cactuses are beginning to bloom in the higher elevations of the park, which should reportedly last through the end of May.

If you plan to visit any of the super bloom sites, respect the ecosystem. Don’t go off-trail, hike to dangerous spots, or scale rock faces without the appropriate experience and gear. This season, particularly in Lake Elsinore’s Walker Canyon, tourists have wreaked havoc while trying to snap the perfect photo, destroying swaths of delicate poppies by walking or laying on them. The staff at Lake Elsinore urges visitors to stay on the trails and to leave drones, bikes, and dogs at home.

Do La Macarenia

The Colombian river Caño Cristales is home to one of the most beautiful natural phenomena in the Americas. In the brief period between dry and rainy seasons, the conditions allow aquatic plant Macarenia clavigera to bloom, and results are incredible. Variations in mineral content, water temperature, sun exposure, and even water depth cause Macarenia to bloom in beautifully varied colors, ranging from deep-purple and vibrant green to saturated fuchsia and blood-red.

Photo by Getty Images/Jose carlos Zapata flores

The area is seeing a resurgence in tourism due to an abatement in guerilla violence in the area; greater safety has reinvigorated tourist interest in the river’s “melted rainbow.” However, the Macarenia plants are “delicate as lace,” according to the BBC. To preserve the delicate ecosystem of the river, tourism is limited; tour groups of no more than seven people must use a local guide, swim only in approved areas, and not use sunscreen or insect repellent. No more than 200 people will be allowed to visit the area per year.

If you’re considering visiting the River of Five Colors, the best time of year to go is between May and November, though the peak season reportedly begins in July. However, getting there is no easy feat. To journey to this natural wonder, you’ll have to fly into Villavicencio, Colombia, then catch a connecting flight to La Macarena, and finally, hike several miles on foot to one of the designated entry points to the river.

Mother Earth Gardener
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