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…..

dandelion collecting             dandelions 10-14

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

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

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Foraging, Health, recipe, winter

Winter Foraging and Nourishment

Now, we are in the midst of winter…. don’t tell my garden, though, in spite of several days of freezing weather, the plants are starting to grow!…. dead nettle and kale and the neighbor’s flowering quince are starting to bloom… last year the seasons started early and it looks like this year will be even earlier…. But beyond that, it is supposed to be Winter …

winter greens tart (18)

“swiss chard and malva neglecta sprouting”

In Chinese medicine winter is the time of nourishing and protecting the kidneys; the taste for the kidneys is salty. Good quality salt is one way to help direct the nutrition you take in to nourishing the kidneys throughout the season. 

Although salt has been vilified in recent years, it’s an important component in good health, everyone needs some and some people actually need more than others. Your doctor can do a blood test to see where your potassium – salt balance is and advise accordingly; a few conditions that may benefit from more salt are conditions such as adrenal fatigue (kidneys) and cystic fibrosis. Most people who are getting too much salt, are getting it through processed and prepared foods, where salt is heavily added for taste and preservation. Not only is it a lot of salt, but it’s processed salt, or as I call it “processed salt food product”. This “salt” has been heated to crystallize, iodine added then bleached to make it white again, and often had dextrose (hello, diabetics) or anti-caking agents added in.¹  These added ingredients can be included up to 2%. The FDA considers them non-toxic, so it’s up to you how important that is to you, I prefer to avoid additives. Be aware that many sea-salts are also fairly processed. I use celtic sea salt that’s minimally processed, it’s kind of chunky and damp, so I dry it in the dehydrator (an oven on the lowest setting for a few hours would also work) and then grind it up in the blender or coffee grinder. If you’re adventurous you can add some herbs into the mix for a custom flavored finishing salt. Cutting the salt with up to 50% herbs or spices will also cut the amount of sodium, if you need eat less salt; without losing flavor.

If you’re adventurous and live near a coastline with a clean stretch, you can make your own salt! As many coastal communities put their waste water outflows at public beaches or other pollution sources such as offshore drilling may contaminate the quality of the water, it’s important to do a little research on the quality of your local beaches. I live on Puget Sound and it seems the water doesn’t get clean around my region until up around Camano Island. I’m judging this by the website for Washington State Dept. of Health Shellfish Safety Information, which shows areas closed for pollution…. looking at it today is a bit discouraging. This information changes often, as, well, water moves and weather changes, so check your local area just before you hope to gather some water. I would advise doing the same before foraging for seaweed or other sea life.

So, if it’s a good day, pollution-wise, and you want to give it a try, I’ll show how I’ve harvested salt from the wild.

First gather some sea water in a container. I would avoid busy beaches when there are lots of people and maybe dogs in the water for obvious reasons.

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Next I strained the water to remove any extra materials that might have come home with the water.

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After that, I simmered the seawater to evaporate the majority of the water, leaving just a little water to evaporate from a pan that I set aside in the kitchen for a few days.

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When that had evaporated, I used a spatula to scrape up the salt residue that was left.

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I transferred it to a spice bottle, and have my very own wild foraged salt! I only gathered a little bottle of water so I ended up with only a little bit of salt. Salt is only 3.5% ² of the composition of seawater, so it takes quite a bit of seawater to  get a quantity of salt from it.

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I really enjoyed going through the process of making it myself. I find I appreciate things more when I’ve made an effort to make it myself and see the process…. and I always find it rewarding to reconnect to the natural world where everything we use ultimately comes from. I don’t think I’ll be making all my own salt anytime soon, so making my own salt made me aware that I’d like to know about the companies that produce salt. In the spirit of the locavore movement there is a small artisanal salt producer locally, the San Juan Island Sea Salt company.

¹http://www.saltinstitute.org/news-articles/iodized-salt/

²http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/whysalty.html

*Nothing in this post is meant to be construed as medical advice or to be used for treatment. This article is intended to solely educational. If you have concerns or questions please visit your doctor for advise.

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recipe, Spirituality, winter

Crones of Winter

Winter is upon us. We’ve passed the Solstice; the longest night of the season, but we still have the bulk of winter ahead of us. Winter is a time to go within and reflect, to rest and nourish the body and soul.

I wrote these thoughts about the Crone a couple of years ago:

As we enter Winter, I’m enjoying researching some of the traditional crones of Winter. Winter in colder climates is seen as the dying part of the year; the void from which the Spring will flow. It was associated with the crone phase of a woman’s life and there were some interesting archetypes and myths. One of these is Baba Yaga, the old woman of Eastern Europe who lived in the woods, outside of regular village life. These old hags lived out in the woods, and were fearsome as a winter’s storm. They wielded thunder and ice and generally had bones lying  around their abodes. Baba Yaga lived in a hut on chicken legs. This is thought to refer to the food huts that country folk would construct on one or several stumps that would keep the food high enough to be out of the path of most animals. The fact that they are chicken legs, a domesticated animal shows that she was part civilized, part wild, a hedge-witch or a person who could straddle both worlds. She rode around in a pestle and abducted small children, presumably to eat. She is probably where some of our popular fairy tales, such as Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, originate from. She had a lot of knowledge but was likely to extract a high price for it, or set difficult tasks, or some say put one through an initiation. Old women have no time to harbor your illusions, aren’t afraid to speak their minds and can be quite cranky. They also understand there is no teacher like experience.

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The western Europeans had Caillech Bheur, the big blue giantess who reminds me an awful lot of Kali. She ran around with a tree stump as a club, and when she struck the ground, it caused the winter storms and thunder. In fact, there are other Celtic female archetypes who remind me of Kali, such as Sheela na-Gig, another crone. I’ve traced the Sheela na-Gig image back as far as Gobekli Tepe, 12,000 years ago in Turkey.

Cailleach Bheur'

As we moved forward in time, we started taming the wildness of woman in her wisdom, and requiring her to be more polished and youthful, so we end up with the Snow Queen, who nonetheless is cold and inaccessible; sharing her wisdom with only those she deems worthy or who have fulfilled her tasks.

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Winter tests our mettle, can be unpredictable and harsh, showing no mercy to the unprepared. It’s also a time to go within and reflect, to sweep away all that doesn’t serve us, transmute the leftover energies of the previous year, so that energy becomes the fertilizer of the growth that will burst forth with the new Spring.

For the adventurous and wise who would like to journey with the Crone this Winter, get out your cauldron, er, pots and pans and make your own bone broth! Bone broth is nourishing, providing minerals that our body needs to build itself up. Adding a dash of vinegar helps to extract the minerals from the bones. Simmer your bones, vinegar and whatever herbs you would like for a few hours for maximum nutrition. I like to add astragalus, which supports the wei qi of the lungs, where we directly interact with the world while breathing, and perhaps encountering viruses and such. I also like to simmer mushrooms in the broth as most mushrooms have immune supporting constituents. You can drink this broth as is after straining, or use as a base for a soup to add even more nutrients to the mix.

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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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desserts, recipe

Welcome to the new version of my blog

This is the new home of my blog which will be focusing more on herbalism and art than my old blog.

I wanted to make something  a little more cohesive.

Some of the posts from my old blog will migrate over, such as some recipes and herb posts, but mostly it will be new material focusing on wellness, herbal knowledge, and recipes.

To start things out, I’m finally posting a recipe several people have requested.

Blueberry Lavender Popsicles

I can’t do dairy, so these are made with coconut milk with a little vanilla….. I suppose milk would work the same way. Next I add preserved blueberries. I use this recipe for preserved blueberries with lavender that I found on Pinterest. I put a few spoonfuls of the berries into the coconut milk poured into the popsicle forms along with a little of the syrup. You can add more sweetener if you wish. I used bpa-free popsicle forms, but I’ve read that they still have endocrine disruptors, so use whatever forms you feel most comfortable with. I like these cause they look like rocket ships, heh.

Then freeze.

You may need to run a little water over the forms when you want to eat them to get them to slide out.

Fresh or frozen blueberries should work as well, then you will likely want to add a little more sweetener. You can steep a little lavender in the coconut milk in that case and then strain out.

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Blueberry Lavender Popsicles

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup preserved blueberries and syrup
  • 1/4 cup sweetener of choice
  • additional sweetener if desired

Directions:

In a medium size bowl mix together the coconut milk and sweetener. Pour equally into popsicle forms. Spoon Blueberries and syrup into form. Insert tops into popsicle forms and freeze for a couple hours.

Enjoy, yum!

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