Blessing, desserts, Foraging, Health, Plants, Spirituality, Uncategorized, winter

Pies and Tea

If you scour the interwebs for recipes like I do, you may have come across recipes based on books, fancipes, if you will. I’m on a roll with Hobbit riffs at the moment. This is my take on Mince Pies; gluten free. The mince is green Walnut Chutney, which was made from the green Walnuts I gathered with friends on a sunny late summer day; chopped and soaked with spices in brandy to make Nocino. After the nuts were strained, the chutney was made for the occasion of our Solstice party with dear friends.It made a…lot…of… chutney. So, I’ve been looking for ways to use it up, and this is my favorite.

There is a beauty and satisfaction to eating something you have invested so much time and effort into. Months to get to these hand pies.Very earthy and in keeping with the feeling of Hobbits.

The tea is English Breakfast sweetened with Doug Fir syrup. I think I have become instantly addicted to the syrup. Yum!

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The book is John O’Donohue’s “To Bless the Space Between Us”. As you can see, I’ve bookmarked my favorites for future reference. Here is a passage I found intriguing:

“There is an implicit wholeness in the human heart; it is a huge treasure house that we draw on every day. Ultimately it is what anchors and guides us. A simple metaphor for this is a physical wound. When you have a wound in your hand, it always heals from the edges; the center is the last place to heal. Clearly it is not the wound that has finally relented and decided to heal itself. Rather it is the surrounding health and wholesomeness of your body that invades the stricken place with healing. The mind of blessing is wise , and it knows hat whatever torments or diminishes a person cannot be healed simply from within that diminishment; consequently it addresses the wholeness and draws that light and healing into the diminished area. When someone blesses you, the fruits of healing may surprise you and seem to come from afar. In fact, they are your own natural serenity and sureness awakening and arriving around you.

In my family, our parents always insisted before and after meals, at the rosary, and at the Angelus time that we bless ourselves and say the appropriate prayers. Lately that simple ritual has come back to me with new echoes: Bless yourself. If each of us has the ability to shape and form our lives through our thinking, do we not also have a huge ability to bless our lives

I would say that making food for ourselves and our loved ones that is drenched in our love and labors is a blessing indeed.

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Foraging, Hawthorne, Health, Plants, Uncategorized

The May Queen in October

The Hawthorne tree is associated with the May Queen¹, the branches loaded with blossoms in the Spring. It’s also associated with the fairies and it was considered bad luck to cut one down. Now in October we see what blossomed in the Spring has come to fruit in the Fall.

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Bees, flies and other pollinators love the pretty pink and white flowers, possibly because they smell a bit like fish or meat. I love watching the buzz and hum of them in and around the trees. A tea of the Spring flowers and leaves is a healthy drink, but don’t smell it too closely.

Crataegus monogyna is the Hawthorne we commonly see planted in the Northwest with it’s red berries; it was used widely in fields to soak up excess water. There is a native Hawthorne, Crataegus Douglassii, which is not as commonly found that has black berries. They, along with many other species of Hawthorne are in the Rosaceae family of plants; a family with many, many useful edible and medicinal plants.

Hawthorn grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils. It is drought-tolerant. In other words, it’s an easy tree to grow. It does like full sun, at least 6 hours per day. They have a rounded shape and grow from 15-25 feet tall. They respond well to pruning and will become bushier with more flowers and fruit!

In keeping with the connection of Hawthorne with the emotional heart in the Spring at Beltane; in western medicine, Hawthorne is used to restore physical heart health.² Hawthorn can help improve the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during contractions, widen the blood vessels, and increase the transmission of nerve signals.

Hawthorn also seems to have blood pressure-lowering activity, according to early research. It seems to cause relaxing of the blood vessels farther from the heart. It seems that this effect is due to a component in hawthorn called proanthocyanidin.

Research suggests that hawthorn can lower cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), and triglycerides (fats in the blood). It seems to lower accumulation of fats in the liver and the aorta (the largest artery in the body, located near the heart). Hawthorn fruit extract may lower cholesterol by increasing the excretion of bile, reducing the formation of cholesterol, and enhancing the receptors for LDLs. It also seems to have antioxidant activity.

In Chinese medicine, Hawthorne has historically been used for improving digestion. It’s reputed to relieve food stagnation, especially with meats and oily foods and relieve blood stagnation, although it’s not recommended for long term use by the Chinese as it can injure the flow of Qi in the Spleen over time if there is deficiency.³

Most commonly it’s used in decoction for medicinal uses, although I love to use it in elixirs and honey.

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As a food, the berries are traditionally made into tasty chutneys and ketchup in the UK. The trees are commonly planted in hedgerows, so the berries are plentifully available. Here in the Pacific NW, the trees are found in parks and fields, although sadly many of the parks are removing them as they are not a native species.

Every Spring I look forward to harvesting new leaves and flowers and every fall I look forward to harvesting the berries.

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Me enjoying the Hawthorne berries and trees

Part of the lore of Hawthorne is its’ protective quality, because of the thorns it has. (The size of these vary from species to species, and some have none) I have a pendant made from a Hawthorne thorn and berry, wire wrapped with silver that I like to wear when I feel I need a little protective energy to go out into the world with me.

¹http://www.whitedragon.org.uk/articles/hawthorn.htm

²http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-527-hawthorn.aspx?activeingredientid=527

³https://www.sacredlotus.com/go/chinese-herbs/substance/shan-zha-hawthorn-fruit

This post is meant to be used for educational purposes only and not to diagnose or treat any condition or illness. Consult your doctor if you have any questions about the information posted here.

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Dandelions, Foraging, Health, Plants, recipe, Uncategorized

Dandelions; the Sun and the Moon… and Jupiter

One of my favorite plants is Dandelion. If I could have only one plant in my garden, Dandelion would be the one. As I continue to study plants (a lifelong endeavor depending how far down the rabbit hole one wants to go……), I’m intrigued by the correlations earlier herbalists made between the plants and astrology and relating them to a person’s astrological chart as well as thinking about optimal times to use plants or harvest them.

There are herbalists today using astrology in relation to plants, such as Matthew Wood and Sajah Popham, whose course I covet taking some day. In the meantime, he has some interesting videos on You Tube, check them out .

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Looking at the Dandelion, out growing in the full sun, with it’s sunny yellow flowers, I would first say it’s ruled by the sun, but the other day it was talking to me about its relationship with the moon (white ball of seeds, almost glowing in the dark)…. It’s interesting that the plant embodies these opposite qualities, a reminder to look beyond the most obvious uses of an herb.

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It does have an affinity for the breasts¹…..if I think about its actions on the body, it’s bitter and stimulates the gall bladder and liver, and it’s alterative, more of a Jupiter action, but it also is diuretic and affects the kidneys, which is a Venus type action, and acts on damp, overly relaxed tissues…..however, it acts by stimulation, moving stagnation which is more Jupiterian, expansive….. overall, I’m feeling like it’s a Jupiter plant, which being the largest planet, is big enough to include some of the properties of all the other planets.

In general dandelion leaves are used as a tea for the diuretic action and contain potassium, offsetting the potassium loss that occurs when the body is stimulated to urinate more, the root is used in spring and summer as a nourishing building tonic and in the fall and winter for it’s alterative action. All parts of it contain minerals as it’s tap root pulls minerals up from deep in the ground. ( which is why it’s good to leave some in the garden, the roots pull the minerals up and the decomposing leaves make them available on the surface to other plants) It’s bitter taste stimulates the pathway of the Vagus nerve², stimulating the production of bile in the gall bladder and aiding digestion. I believe many of the food intolerances people have these days are due to poor digestive function because people don’t eat enough bitter and fermented foods, as our ancestors would have, which help to break down our food and make the nutrients bio-available.

It’s also a great culinary plant, whose nutrition hasn’t much been dumbed down by breeding as so many of our vegetables have been these days. The whole plant is edible. The flower buds can be pickled and used like capers. One of my favorites is flower fritters, but almost anything battered and fried is tasty! Oh, and dandelion wine from the flowers!

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Here’s a recipe:

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Dandy Veloute over Polenta

Ingredients:

Carrot Cloud:

6 large carrots, chopped into large bits

                 1 large russet potato, chopped into large bits

                  1 tbs. lemon juice

5 bay leaves

rest of can of coconut milk after dividing, see Dandy Veloute

3 tbsp. coconut oil

salt to taste

Broth:

shells from 1 lb of shrimp

1/2 cup white wine

6-7 cups of water, you want to end up with 6 cups after simmering.

or just use 6 cups of broth of choice

Dandy Veloute:

5 loosely chopped cups of dandelion leaves

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup broth

1 1/4 cup coconut milk

2 tbsp. coconut oil or olive oil

Polenta:

2 cups dry polenta

5 cups broth, 1 cup water

salt and pepper to taste

 

For the carrot puree cloud: in steamer pan add water and 5 bay leaves to bottom. Steam carrots and potatoes until tender. Add them and the rest of the cloud ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Put into a holding container, try not to devour it while making the other parts of the recipe.

For the broth: simmer the shrimp shells white wine and water for about 1/2 hour. Strain out the shells.

For the Veloute: Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sautee the onions until they soften but do not brown. Add the white wine, then 1 cup of the broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Put them in the blender along with the dandelions and coconut milk. Blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside or in a pot on the stove on low until polenta is ready.

For the polenta: Put the dry polenta into a large saucepan. Add the broth and water and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer until softened and thick. Stir occassionally to prevent burning on the bottom.

I sauteed a thinly sliced tomato and about a 1/4 onion in olive oil as a flavorful garnish to put on top. (optional)

Once all parts of recipe are ready: spoon polenta into a serving bowl; put a tablespoon of butter or butter sub on top. (optional, but yummy) Spoon carrot cloud over polenta. Spoon Dandy Veloute on top. Top with garnish if using.

 

I think Dandelions are my most photographed plants, lol, I love them so…..

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¹https://www.planetherbs.com/michaels-blog/dandelion-burdock-and-cancer.html

²http://www.md-health.com/Vagus-Nerve.html

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Elixirs, Foraging, Health, Plants, summer, Summer Bouquet Medicine, Summer Solstice, Uncategorized

Summer Bouquet Medicine

“Summertime….. and the living’s easy…..”

Ah, summer, although in the north end of the states we had a warmer Spring this year than summer is turning out so far. But, the plants are growing and flowers abound.

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I’m intrigued by the theory that the best medicines for us come from our local environment; those things that are growing in the same conditions with us…. the same dry, hot, cool, damp that we are being affected by. Plants have been around longer than us and learned to adapt to their local climate (except, well, climate change) They can help us adapt to seasonal changes. The plants around us have mastered the cold, the wet, the dry, the hot and thrive without hiding in a climate controlled box. ( Non-native plants that have to be kept in greenhouses notwithstanding)

I’ve been curious about putting together formulas that consist of plants growing in the same region at the same time.

In the Spring, I put together an elixir of:

Hawthorne flower, leaf and twig, Wild Nootka roses, Devil’s Club, Artemesia Suksdorfii, Toasted Almonds, Coriander, Star Anise, Bayleaf, Cinnamon, Brandy and Honey.

This was my Spring tonic blend this year: the Hawthorne improves venous health, the roses also, as well as being astringent and cooling, just as we come out of hibernation into a little warmer weather, Devil’s Club is good for everything, but I was looking for the diaphoretic quality, Artemesia is also tonic and aromatically stimulating, and all of these along with the other culinary carminative herbs promote good digestion, which is always a thing for me, personally.

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Now that it’s Summer, I have so many choices in the garden and fields that I decided to make a “bouquet” elixir; kind of a kitchen sink of plants and we’ll see how that works out; it’ll certainly be a portrait of the plants available locally:

St. John’s Wort, Devil’s Club, Lavender, Red Clover, Herb Robert flower, White Clover flower, Coriander flower, Thyme flower, Fennel flower, Oregano flower, Strawberries, Rosemary, Chamomile flowers, Calendula, Elecampane flower, Mullein flowers, Yarrow, Mugwort, Evening Primrose flower, Malva Silvestris flower, cinnamon, honey baked licorice, Brandy and Honey

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It was so pretty. (The flowers turn brownish after soaking in brandy and honey, which is why I took the photo at the beginning)

Normally, I wouldn’t gather Devil’s club this late in the year, but we came across a  stand that had been knocked down in the park; sad, but it was fresh, so we decided to not let it go to waste and to bring it into communion with our bodies. I’m interested to see how it feels at this time of year, it definitely has a much sharper perfume. A note on St. John’s Wort: it speeds up metabolism in the liver, which directs how quickly your body processes medications, so, most likely you should avoid it if you are taking any kind of meds, including, but not limited to birth control.¹

In case you’re not familiar with elixirs, they are made with a combination of Brandy and Honey. Everyone says mine are yummy; I think I add more Honey than most people.

*This post is intended as educational in nature and not intended to treat, diagnose or treat any condition or illness. Please consult a Dr. if you have any medically related questions.

¹http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-329-st%20john’s%20wort.aspx?activeingredientid=329&activeingredientname=st%20john%27s%20wort

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Foraging, Natural Dyes, Plants, Uncategorized

Dyeing with Scotch Broom

A couple of months ago, when the Scotch Broom was blooming, I gathered some to experiment with. It’s considered a noxious invasive here in the NW, so there is plenty around and no one minds if you harvest it. It’s on the quarantine plant list, but I think someone forgot to tell the plants! The seeds can remain dormant and viable for over 30 years making it hard to control.¹ I’m doing my part by harvesting before seed set.

Cytisus scoparius is the local variety. Historically, it has a long history of use as a dye, for fiber; textiles and paper, of course brooms, and medicinally for the liver and as a cardiac tonic; although I’ve read that the active constituents can vary widely from plant to plant and most herbalists now use more reliable plants. I haven’t met anyone who uses it medicinally, but you can read more about the history of uses here. Care must be taken to absolutely ID it as there are similar looking plants such as Spanish Broom that are toxic.

I decided to stay with craft uses. Through a bit of research, I found that the “broom” used for dyes was actually Genista tinctoria² But I decided to give it a try anyway. For this dye experiment I pre-mordanted my fabric with alum. I gathered a bunch of flowers and simmered them for a short time, then strained them off and soaked my cloth in the yellow liquid for about two months.

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I was pretty happy with the results. The only caveat seems to be light fastness. I set the pieces of fabric on the back patio to dry and of course forgot about them till the next afternoon…. after a rainstorm during the night and bright sun the next day, much of the color in the ones that didn’t blow up against the house in the shade had faded quickly. But for decorative projects that would stay indoors, it makes quite a nice yellow.

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In theory I also wanted to make fiber from the stalks, but the video I saw on the process was actually for genestra, although I imagine the process is similar; it’s not in English, but pretty easy to follow along visually. It seems to require dancing and singing and no small amount of polluting of streams, but imagine how wonderful items that took this much attention to produce would feel. It did look very labor intensive…. so they’re sitting in a pile out back and likely not too useful for anything at this point….

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although I have read that the stems have lots of tannins, so perhaps I will make a tea with them to try tanning some salmon skin again. (My first attempt was a fail, but that’s another story)

Has anyone else used Scotch Broom? Please comment below!

 

¹http://www.nwcb.wa.gov/detail.asp?weed=44

²http://blog.ellistextiles.com/2015/05/14/a-lesson-about-dye-plants-broom/

 

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Brigid, Foraging, Imbolc, Plants, Uncategorized

Imbolc or the Beginnings of Spring

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Brigid’s cross. Yes, I made this.

Imbolc marks the first stirrings of Spring in the Northern hemisphere, either February 1st or 2nd, depending on your source for dates. Some years, Winter hangs on and lingers; but this year, at least on the West coast, Spring has Sprung!

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Chives peeking up in my garden.

Imbolc is associated with the Goddess Brigid in Ireland, and the violet is one  of Her flowers.

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Sure enough they are just getting ready to bloom.

Brigid is considered the Goddess of Water and Fire. I’ve been exploring the Red Alder, Alnus Rubra, and gathering bark and catkins as the tree is flowering at this time in late winter/ early spring. It’s not traditionally associated with Brigid or Imbolc, but I still consider it fitting as a tree of Water and Fire. Alder has an affinity for wet climates and watery places. It’s a gateway plant, meaning it’s one of the first trees to come back where humans or fires have disrupted the land. Alder fixes nitrogen into the soil and remediates the ph. As a relatively short lived tree, it grooms the soil for longer lasting trees to take over and thrive again.¹ The fire part comes in the bark. When the bark is scratched or peeled it turns red. Considering the Doctrine of Signatures, we would guess that Alder is useful to the blood, which in fact it is. It aids the lymphatic system and is anti-microbial. For an amazing in-depth monograph on Alder, read this by Kiva Rose.² Dried alder bark helps with digestive issues. The tincture turns a lovely red just like the dried bark.

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Alder bark tincture as it looked just before I got lost in the viewfinder of the camera and kicked it over. Hmph.

What signs of Spring can you find in your own yard or neighborhood? What are your experiences with alder?

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Kitty checking out the Spring garden. My artichokes came back in Nov. and so did most of the ones around town and they’ve made it through the little bit of freezing weather we had the end of Dec.

¹http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1995-55-4-a-nitrogen-fixation-the-story-of-the-frankia-symbiosis.pdf

²http://bearmedicineherbals.com/rivermedicine.html

All information here is for educational purposes and not intended treat any medical conditions. If you have any questions please consult your doctor.

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Plants, recipe

Aronia Berry Wine

It’s berry season and I’m trying a new to me berry this year; Aronia.

The Aronia is native to the Americas, also known as Chokeberry, due to it’s astringency and slightly bitter taste.

It’s not a great berry to pick and eat, but great in wines, jams and syrups. Like most berries, it’s high in antioxidants and bioflavonoids which improve vascular health.

I found some growing locally and decided to try out making a wine; but I’ll have to let you know how it turns out in about a year. Beer is ready in about a week, but to get the fully developed flavor of a wine means waiting at least a year to see how it turns out! Totally different yeasts. And patience level…..

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Aronia Berry Wine

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. Aronia berries
  • 1/2 lb. raisins
  • 2 lbs. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. yeast nutrient
  • 1 tsp. pectic enzyme
  • wine yeast
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. loose black tea for tannins
  • Campden tablet (Optional)
  • water to one gallon

Directions

Bring one quart of water to a boil and pour over raisins and sugar in primary fermenter/ food grade bucket, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Mash berries with your favorite mashing device. Add to the bucket. Add loose tea and mix. If desired add Campden tablet. Let sit for 24 hours. Add pectic enzyme and yeast energizer. In a cup, pour orange juice (room temperature) and sprinkle yeast over it. Let it sit until the yeast is bubbly and softened and then add to the bucket. Stir with a sterilized spoon (I run the hottest water from the tap over it) once a day for 3-4 days. Strain marc (your wine ) into a carboy and attach airlock. Let ferment for about a week. Rack the wine by siphoning it into a clean carboy. Let ferment again for 3 months. Rack the wine again. Let ferment for another 3 months, and finally bottle the wine. It doesn’t hurt to test your wine to be sure it’s done fermenting. I had a mead pop corks last year and the floor got to drink it…. sad….. The Aronia wine is a beautiful dark blue purple color.

*To update this post, I opened a bottle recently and it turned out well! I’m going to make some more this year.

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