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KITCHEN MEDICINALS - My first herb garden was a large wooden planter on the deck outside my kitchen overflowing with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme – a fond memory of the popular Simon and Garfunkel song, Scarborough Fair. I loved to run my hands through the herbs and to nibble the parsley while working in the garden. Traditional cultures have favorite spices they use liberally in native cuisine - tumeric in India, ginger in China, garlic in Italy – each has strong taste appeal and contain powerful medicinal properties. Using zesty herbs in cooking fell out of favor here in the US as our “fast paced” pallets increasingly craved the sugar and salt so abundant in processed foods. As a consequence, we are missing out on both the sensory delight herbs add to food and the benefits to our health. Most culinary herbs are high in antioxidants, improve our digestibility of food and protect against harmful bacteria including e-coli. Also, many provide “kitchen cures” for sore throat, fever, stomachache, and cough since they are anti-bacterial and anti-microbial. Recent flavor trends indicate Americans are beginning to embrace new flavors and spices. Also, leading chefs agree that bold flavors are beginning to please the American palate.

Culinary herbs are easy to grow and can be used fresh or dried. The flowers and leaves of all culinary herbs are edible. Experiment with blending some of your favorites and use them liberally in cooking. I suggest you throw out those herb containers that have been hanging out in your pantry for over a year and plant some culinary herbs in your garden or window boxes this spring. The herbs of Scarborough Fair are a great combination and a great introduction to the many benefits of cooking with herbs.

Parsley – petroselinum crispum – is a powerhouse of nutrition. Rich in vitamins B and C, beta carotene and zinc. It also contains absorbable forms of iron and calcium. Parsley is high in boron and fluorine – both bone strengtheners. It aids digestion and is a great source of chlorophyll, a detoxifier. New research shows that flavonoids and essential oil compounds from parsley act as powerful antioxidants, perhaps slowing the aging process and protecting cells. Parsley is a diuretic that purifies the blood and accelerates the excretion of toxins. Medieval German herbalist, Saint Hildegard of Bingen, prescribed a tonic made with parsley steeped in white wine to aid circulation and relieve heart problems. All that in what is usually left behind as a plate decoration! The flat leaf variety is considered to have a better flavor and is higher in nutrients.

Sage – salvia officinalis – is traditionally associated with longevity and wisdom and has a reputation for restoring failing memory in the elderly. The plant has lovely purple-gray leaves that can be used to make a strong tea for a mouth rinse to help prevent gingivitis, as a gargle for a sore throat, or as a remedy to help relieve hot flashes and night sweats in menopause – all this and it is great in stuffing mixes as well!. Sage is also effective against E-coli bacteria. (As are garlic, clove cinnamon and oregano) It is easy to grow in the garden. The root of a related species, salvia miltiorrhiza, is used in China to “move blood.”

Rosemary – (rosmarinus off.) Rosemary is traditionally known as the herb of remembrance. Its high antioxidant content helps prevent aging of cells and the aging process is associated with memory loss. Rosemary essential oil is a favorite for treating depression. It contains the compound cineole, that stimulates the central nervous system. Compounds in Rosemary strengthen fragile blood vessels and at least four of its antioxidants are known as cataract preventors. Rosemary “tea” is a wonderful hair rinse adding shine and bounce. It stimulates hair growth by improving blood flow to the scalp. Rosemary leaves are used to make an infusion (strong tea) from fresh or dried leaves. The young growing leaves have the highest concentration of antioxidants and their concentrations peak during summer. Rosemary grows well in a sunny area with good drainage and pots can be over-wintered indoors.

Thyme – thymus spp. Is a member of the mint family and like other plants in this family it is high in antioxidant compounds. Thyme may be used as a decongestant, antiseptic, cough remedy and digestive aid. Thyme tea is effective for bronchial problems and laryngitis because it relaxes lung tissue and promotes the flow of mucus. Place 1 teaspoon of dried herb in a cup of hot water, cover and steep for 15 minutes. Take 3-4 x a day as needed. Thyme is highly antiseptic and is a useful mouthwash and cleansing wash for the skin. Traditionally, thyme was used in the bath to help relieve rheumatic pains and aids the healing of bruises and sprains. Another historic use was as a worm expellant. Avoid large amounts if pregnant or nursing.

Harvesting and Drying Herbs

Harvesting herbs from your garden for cooking or preparing them for home medicine use is very satisfying and an easy way to begin to understand their health benefits. I believe herbs must be organic to impart their full flavor and healthy compounds so be sure the herbs you gather for medicine or food haven’t been treated with chemicals. Herbs are best gathered in mid-morning after the dew has evaporated and then dried in hanging bunches or on screen trays placed in a warm area with good circulation. I use a food dehydrator for drying because of the high humidity in the North East. I also like how quickly they dry and how vibrant the color and aromas remain. Once dried they can be stored in airtight containers in a cool dry place for about a year. Refer to a medicinal herb book for medicinal plant parts and peak harvest times.

 

A Place To Begin…. Three Easy Herbs to Grow

Planning and planting an herb garden may seem overwhelming, so why not begin with a few medicinal herbs that you can grow among your annuals and perennials.

The following basic herbs are easy-to-grow and easy-to-harvest for simple teas that you can use to treat insomnia, stomachaches, fevers and other minor illnesses.

For the beginner, I recommend purchasing small plants rather than sowing seeds. I grow this selection in a large deck planter along with other herbs. This way I can sheer them if needed and they are easily harvested for my daily tonic tea! It is very satisfying to run your hands through the leaves and flowers of an herb garden. The air becomes filled with uplifting healing scents. Most herbs do not require rich soil, but enjoy an occasional supplement of organic compost and good drainage

Chamomile (antehmis nobilis and matricaria recutita) has been used for centuries as a gentle sleep aid for adults and children. It is also used to ease digestion, relieve colic and teething pain, and to treat muscle spasms and tension. This small daisy like flower makes a delicious tea from the dried or fresh flowers. The only caution is for people who are allergic to ragweed. They may also be allergic to the pollen of chamomile. There are both annual and perennial chamomile plants, all with similar properties, and all requiring full sun and good drainage.

Lemon Balm (melissa off.) this is one of my favorite herbs for its calming effect on the nervous system. It relaxes the surface tension of the body and is effective for treating nervous tension and depression. A favorite with both children and adults, the leaves have a mild lemon flavor and make a delicious tea. I often suggest that over-active children be offered a cup of lemon balm tea when they come home from school and/or before going to bed. Children can pick the leaves themselves and this activity engages them completely. Plants are great teachers as well as healers. Lemon balm is a fast growing, low-medium height perennial requiring 1/2 day or more of sun for healthy plants.

Peppermint - (mentha piperita) One of the oldest medicinal herbs, it is useful for colds, flu with symptoms of heat and, of course, fevers. It also helps relieve indigestion, gas and colic and counteracts nausea and vomiting. Children love to pick the leaves and chew on them, but too many might cause a rash. Peppermint leaves are very cooling and refreshing and can be combined with less tasty herbs when brewing tea. A rampant grower so even the novice gardener will enjoy a good crop.

Brewing Herbal Tea

Making tea with flowers and leaves is simple.

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 heaping teaspoons of fresh or 1 heaping teaspoon of dried flowers and leaves.

Cover and allow to steep for 15 minutes.

This is also known as a simple herbal infusion.

 


GOURMET GREENS
Edible and Medicinal Plants from Mother Nature’s Garden

By most definitions, a weed is a plant that is growing where it isn't wanted. All we have to do is want it, and it's no longer a weed. They become welcome friends for our health"
Jim Duke, Ph.D.

Each year many of us spend countless hours digging out weeds in and around our gardens. Dandelions, plantain, clover, purslane, chickweed, lambs quarters, and nettles are some of my favorite enthusiastic growers. Wild plants are a superior source of nutrition and have strong healing properties to help prevent disease. The phyto-chemicals in plants are recognized by our bodies and easily assimilated, unlike the synthetic vitamins and pharmaceuticals we regularly use. We spray with pesticides to destroy these plants and then buy vitamins at the drugstore! Chefs at 4 star restaurants are using gourmet wild greens in their soups and sauces and getting rave reviews for the unique flavors. Perhaps I can help you look at them with new eyes and begin to appreciate the healing potential and culinary flavors of a few.


Chickweed - stellaria media - Perhaps the most common weed and it grows all over the world. Often you can clear a patch of snow and find chickweed growing. It is rich in calcium, iron, potassium, protein, silica, vitamins and minerals. Chickweed has a mild flavor and can be used raw in salads or cooked and blended into soups. Chickweed is a popular ingredient in salves and creams to help draw toxins from the skin.


Dandelion - Taraxacum off. Before flowering in spring, the leaves are tender and have a nutty bitter flavor. Gather and mix with other greens in your salad. Late in the season the leaves are tough and not as tasty. The leaves are loaded with nutrients, and richer in Vitamin A than carrots. Dandelion leaves are a natural diuretic that do not deplete the body of potassium like pharmaceutical diuretics. You can make a tea from the fresh or dried leaves as a helpful remedy for PMS water retention. Dandelion root can be dug all year, but is best harvested in the fall. The root is a liver tonic and aids digestion by stimulating bile flow and enhances the body's ability to metabolize fat. It also helps regulate blood sugar. You can make a decoction of the root by simmering 2-3 tablespoons of the cut-up root in 1 cup of water in a covered pot for 15 minutes. Drink before meals to help prevent bloating and sluggish digestion.

Nettles Urtica dioica/Stinging Nettles - you may not recognize it, but most of us have experienced the sting. They grow easily along river beds, and woodlands. I don't expect you to plant them in your garden, but they are worth identifying in the wild and nurturing a wild patch if you have the space. The plant is covered with tiny hairs that cause intense stinging upon contact. Long valued as both food and medicine, nettle is a gourmet green and is enjoyed a hundred different ways by wild food enthusiasts. Nettle is dense with nutrients including calcium, magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and amino acids. It has the highest protein of any green vegetable and is one of the best sources of digestible plant iron..A plant with many uses - gourmet green, medicine and tonic, hair rinse, plant fertilizer, even nettle cloth was made from the fibrous stalks. Gather the tender tops in early spring before it blooms. Wear gloves and a long sleeved shirt when harvesting. Drying and cooking neutralize the sting. Do not eat raw nettles. Dry nettle leaves to use as a nutrient tonic tea year round.

Crush dried nettles into soups and stir fry dishes. Steam fresh nettle greens and flavor with garlic and olive oil - or lemon juice and a bit of feta cheese. Delicious and healthy!

Plantain - plantago major and plantago lanceolata - Both species grow in a circular cluster and can thrive between the cracks in pavement and among the greens in empty lots. American Indians called plantain " white man's foot print" because wherever European populations settled, plantain seemed to pop up in their footsteps. Plantain leaves have anti-microbial and ant-inflammatory properties and contain natural chemicals that stimulate wound healing. The crushed leaves made into a poultice are excellent for treating bug bites, stings and minor cuts. It will draw out foreign objects such as a splinter. The leaves are edible in early spring but get tough later in the season. They are rich in beta carotene, calcium, chlorophyll and the seed stalks contain psylium - a familiar bulking agent for sluggish or irritable bowel. To keep plantain readily available for poultices, puree fresh leaves with a small amount of water in a blender, freeze in ice cube trays and thaw as needed. A tea can be used to treat mouth sores and throat infections.

Purslane - portulaca oleracea - For 2,000 years this was a well-known cultivated garden vegetable in Europe. Purslane is a smooth, reclining annual plant that can cover yards with its doily like mat of thick, succulent, creeping green stems. Grows in sunny, sandy soil and appears in late spring and dies in the fall. The leaves have a wonderful sweet-sour flavor and are great raw in salads. Years ago, I grew it as a ground cover around my tomato plants and harvested for salads as needed. Purslane is a super nutritious wild food containing high antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and is the best food source of Vitamin A, C and E. All this plus high levels of magnesium make it a beneficial food for the heart. A recent Gallup poll showed that 72% of people surveyed reported inadequate magnesium intake. Magnesium is needed for calcium absorption. Also low levels of magnesium contribute to high blood pressure. You can cook purslane like spinach or eat it raw in salads. It’s delicious and free!

Some other gourmet wild greens include - lambs quarters; wild chicory; sheep sorrel; amaranth; violet leaves; wild mustard; burdock root (aka gobo Rx); yellow dock greens, wild leeks and so much more.

There is a wealth of nutritious and delicious wild greens in nature – and they are free! Please show respect for the plant kingdom, and protect your health, by follow the guidelines for foraging listed below

Hint: Have your children help identify and pick the wild greens
then they are more likely to eat them.

Guidelines for Foraging

A good plant identification guide is essential, so you can be certain you have the correct plant. If in doubt, consult with someone who can confirm your choices.

Make sure plants have not been sprayed with chemicals. Also, do not harvest plants from heavily traveled road side since they might be contaminated by auto exhaust.

Gather only healthy-looking plants and harvest no more than 20% of the plants in one area to ensure they will reproduce.

Take only the part of the plant you can use. Do not pull up a plant by the roots if you intend to eat only the leaves.

Please do not harvest endangered species. (United Plant Savers)

Carefully wash plants at home. Dry them well and store in the refrigerator.

 


 

RECIPES

Bone Broth
Green Glory Juice
Morning Power Shake
Nettle Soup
Hot Ginger Lemonade
Zesty Herb Tofu Meatballs

Procedure for Lacto-Fermentation
Sarsaparilla Spring Tonic

Traditional Bone Broth

Bone BrothBone broth is made from the bones of animals, and is a traditional remedy across cultures for the sick and weak. It is a folk treatment for colds and flu, it has also been used historically for ailments that affect connective tissue, the joints, the skin, the lungs, the muscles and the blood. Today it is a staple in professional and gourmet cuisine, and serves as the base for many recipes including soup, sauces and gravy.

It is health giving and delicious!

Ingredients: Organic Bones from an animal, with or without
meat and skin (fish, poultry, beef, lamb or pork)
Enough water to just cover the bones. A splash of vinegar to help extract nutrients from the bones (2 tablespoons per quart of water. You may also use lemon juice.) Assorted vegetables or their scraps (optional).

Use a stainless steel or porcelain pot with a lid. Allow the vinegar, bones and water to sit for about 30 minutes to let the acid work.

Making broth requires almost no work; just put the bones in a pot, add water and vinegar, rest for 30 minutes, cover pot and bring it to a simmer. Then walk away. No chopping or tending is needed.

Stock needs to be prepared in advance of mealtime and needs to boil for hours. The longer it simmers, the richer it gets. Broth can simmer on low heat for a day or two, or made in a crock pot. (It will take longer in a crock pot)

When finished, allow to cook, and strain. Season if you wish – salt, pepper, etc. Put in containers. Broth will keep in refrigerator for 5 days or frozen for several months. You can small freezer bags for the cooled broth. Then simply rip open the bag and reheat the broth as needed.

With this broth you can prepare a delicious soup in less than 30 minutes.

The Stock will contain the ingredients that are in bone, cartilage, and bone marrow.

For more Information :
Ref: Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients
http://www.townsendletter.com/FebMarch2005/broth0205.htm

 

SPRING TONIC
GREEN GLORY JUICE
Yields 2 cups

This light, fresh tasting juice is a mild diuretic and stimulates the liver’s detoxification function.

1/2 bunch leaf parsley (leaves and stems) washed well and with the roots if possible *

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, well washed

1/2 bunch of alfalfa sprouts (optional) **

1 medium carrot, trimmed and scrubbed

4 celery stalks with leafy green tops

1 apple

4 ounces of romaine (about 1/2 a medium head), red oak or bibb lettuce

1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice

Cut the parsley if necessary to fit the juicer, and juice with the mint and alfalfa.

Cut the carrot and celery if necessary and juice.

Core and juice the apple. Juice the lettuce.
Stir juices together, add lemon juice to taste and drink immediately.

Modified from Tonics, Robert Barnett
_______
*PARSLEY- Fresh parsley is incredibly nutritious. High in Vitamins A, B and C, beta carotene, iron copper, folic acid, calcium, and magnesium. The leaves of parsley contain up to 25% protein. Parsley has a folk reputation for treating tumors. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health are currently examining parsley to see whether it possesses cancer fighting properties. Easily grown in home gardens, I enjoy snipping and chewing some parsley as I work in my garden. I always feel I’m doing something good for my body when I eat something dark green.

**ALFALFA SPROUTS - Alfalfa is a winner as a spring tonic and cellular detoxifier. Sprouts are a traditional food associated with Spring. The tiny alfalfa seed produces a root than can reach 100 feet into the earth where it has access to minerals and trace elements unreachable by other plant roots. Sprouts contain eight enzymes which help assimilate protein, fats and carbohydrates and are a rich source of protein, carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, silicon and zinc. They also contain abundant chlorophyll.
Note for Nursing Moms: Parsley dries up milk and Alfalfa stimulates milk production. So leave out one of the ingredients.

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Breakfast Power Shake
With Modifications

8 oz oz soy or rice milk
or 4 oz soy or rice milk + 3-4 oz natural yogurt
1 scoop ProGreens ™ or spirulina powder
1 scoop protein powder
1 scoop Pure Whey protein powder
½ cup fresh or frozen fruit – preferably organic

Blend on low or pulse until blended

Add any of the following you wish:
1 – 2 tbs flax oil
1 tbsp fresh ground flax seed
Powdered minerals

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NETTLE SOUP

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 potatoes
olive oil
1 large handful of young nettle leaves (about 1/4 - 1/2 pound)
1 1/2 pints of vegetable stock or 1 vegetable bouillon cube
zesty herb seasoning (or your favorite combination )
1/4 pint goat's milk (optional)

• Peel and chop the onion, garlic and potatoes. In a large saucepan, add a little olive oil and sauté the vegetables for 3 - 4 minutes.
• With gloved hands, trim the nettle leaves from their stems and discard the stems. Thoroughly wash the leaves and add them to the saucepan.
• Meanwhile, make the chicken or vegetable stock with the bouillon cube and 1 1/2 pints of boiling water. Add the stock to the saucepan and bring to a boil.
• Boil rapidly, uncovered for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender enough to break with a fork.
• Add the contents of the saucepan to a blender. Blend until the mixture turns into a thick soup. Return to the saucepan to keep it hot. Season with herbs and stir in the goat's milk.

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HOT GINGER LEMONADE

A Winter Warmer!

3-4 oz fresh ginger root
juice of 1-2 organic lemons + peel
small amount of organic honey
small amount of cayenne pepper

Grate fresh ginger. Add to water and Simmer 10-20 minutes. Take off the heat and add fresh squeezed lemons and honey. Grate Lemon peel as well. Sprinkle with a few grains of cayenne. This drink will ward off the chills of an oncoming cold by creating heat and warmth in the body. Tastes good too.

A Rosemary Gladstar recipe

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Tofu Meatballs with
Zesty Herb Blend


1 cup cooked brown rice
1 lb firm tofu, drained and mashed
1/3 cup tamari or light soy sauce
¼ - ½ c. of bread crumbs
¼ c. of parmesan cheese
¼ c. of ground nuts or seeds (flax,
walnut, sesame seeds, etc.)
¼ c. of diced sauteed onions (optional)
¼ c. of diced fresh parsley
1&½ tsps zesty herb blend or a combination
of dried thyme, sage, rosemary, garlic,
sea vegetables, nettles, oregano, basil, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix everything together. Roll into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with foil.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly – the bottoms will stick a bit. Serve with dipping sauces, tomato sauce, or in a pita. These meatballs freeze well. A delicious and healthy addition to your menu!

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PROCEDURE FOR LACTO-FERMENTATION

Equipment: Mason jar(s), non-iodized salt (sea salt works),
filtered or distilled water, healthy vegetables, vegetable shredder, mallet. When you become proficient you can use old fashioned crocks to ferment.

(1) Slice, Shred or Chop vegetables.
(2) Weigh on a kitchen scale.
(3) Place in mixing bowl with any herbs or spices you wish to incorporate.
(4) Do not scrub vegetables before preparing and do not rinse in chlorinated water. The chlorine kills lactobacilli.
(5) Mix in non-iodized salt – 1 ½ tsp per pound of vegetables. 1 tablespoon per quart.
(6) Wash jars and lids with hot water. Boiling is unnecessary. A 1 pint jar will hold 1 pound of vegetables.
(7) If you are using shredded cabbage, carrots or a similar vegetable, pound with a mallet to begin excreting juices from the vegetables.
(8) Pack jars tightly, leaving ¾’’ head space. Tighten lids medium-tight.
(9) Leave at proper temperature (on a tray) for at least 3 days. Burp the jars if necessary and transfer to cold storage

.
Some ingredients you might consider using (alone or in combination): cabbage, pickling cukes, carrots, garlic, dill, onions, shallots, peppers, Chinese cabbage, daikon, turnips, parsnips, ginger, cilantro, beet greens, green beans, green tomatoes.

Lactobacillis population is highest after initial fermentation and then their continued reproduction causes die off and reduces population. Moving them to cold storage slows this die-off.


SARSAPARILLA SPRING TONIC 

2 oz dried sarsaparilla rx
½ oz dried burdock root (or fresh gobo rx)
½ oz fresh dandelion rx
2 tbs of dried orange peel or 3 tbs fresh
½ tsp of ground cinnamon
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
1 ½ c. of fresh lemon juice (6-8 lemons)
¼ cup of organic honey
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
4 c. quality apple cider

Put sarsaparilla, burdock, dandelion and orange peel in a pot and cover with 4-5 cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and decoct (simmer)  for 20 minutes. Add cinnamon.
Combine the ginger, ½ c of lemon juice and honey in a blender and process until smooth.  Add remaining lemon juice and the pepper and blend.
When rx decoction is ready, strain through a fine sieve, pressing firmly to extract all the liquid.
Add 1 cup of the rx “tea” to blender with lemon juice combination and blend. 
Combine contents of blender with apple cider and remaining tea decoction according to taste. Chill before serving.
P.S.  Sarsaparilla is especially good for the skin! 

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