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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
only healthy-looking plants and harvest no more than 20% of
the plants in one area to ensure they will reproduce.
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.
do not harvest endangered species. (United
wash plants at home. Dry them well and store in the refrigerator.
Morning Power Shake
Hot Ginger Lemonade
Zesty Herb Tofu Meatballs
Procedure for Lacto-Fermentation
Traditional Bone Broth
Bone 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
GREEN GLORY JUICE
Yields 2 cups
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
4 ounces of romaine (about 1/2 a medium head), red oak or bibb
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
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
**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
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
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1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
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
• 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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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
(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
oz dried sarsaparilla rx
dried burdock root (or fresh gobo rx)
fresh dandelion rx
tbs of dried orange peel or 3 tbs fresh
of ground cinnamon
inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
1 ½ c.
of fresh lemon juice (6-8 lemons)
of organic honey
fresh ground pepper
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
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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