Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I've Moved!

Please visit my new location at The Nourished Herbwife and thanks for dropping by!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wildharvest!

I thought I'd share some photos from recent wildharvesting trips we've made around the community. There's nothing I'd rather do! Later, when the harvest slows a bit, I'll post more information on the many wonderful benefits these lovely plants offer, and how to utilize them.

Weed Heaven! :)
~

Mullein - without a doubt, one of my all time favorite herbs.
Leaves to dry and to tincture!

Mullein flowers, close up. Aren't they beautiful? They're a bit labor intensive to harvest, but it's a true labor of love. It's very calming and good for the soul. I'm going to tincture some, and make a healing infused oil with the rest.
~

Beautiful Sumac berries, jam packed with Vitamin C and makes a delicious lemonade!
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Elderflower, a gorgeous cold and flu remedy, if there ever was one. I wouldn't be without this reliable remedy in my cupboard! The berries are ripening now, as well, and I'll be harvesting some this weekend for yummy elderberry syrup.

Elderflower, close up. Lovely.
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Canada Goldenrod, so bright and cheerful! So very underappreciated, and one of my favorite remedies for upper respiratory congestion, among other things ... I look forward to seeing this wild beauty bloom every year in late Summer.
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My husband and 4 year old daughter, harvesting Red Clover.

Bountiful Harvest! Some to dry, some to tincture ... another gem for the herbal medicine cupboard.
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Stay tuned, and happy harvesting! :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lacto Fermented Sauerkraut

My lovely friend Melissa, and I had the pleasure of spending a weekend last October in beautiful Black Mountain, North Carolina, at the Southeast Women's Herbal Conference. During our stay we were introduced to a delightfully delicious treat known as lacto fermented sauerkraut. I believe it was our favorite food for the weekend!

Now, don't get me wrong ... I've made sauerkraut before. But *this* kraut, well, you'll just have to try it yourself to understand. Besides the immense health benefits it provides, lacto fermented kraut is fresh, crunchy, tangy, and I dare say more addictive (and better for you!) than potato chips. Cold or cooked, YUM. I am seriously sitting here eating a bowl of it right now, as I type this.

I'm not going to try and expound on lacto fermentation when you can read all about it from the master herself, Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats (with Mary G. Enig, PhD), a well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods. I couldn't possibly do a better job of explaining the process, so read for yourself and then feel free to enjoy the photos of my very own adventures in lacto fermented sauerkraut making!

The process I used is just the one that works best for me. I find it incredibly simple and satisfying and I hope you give it a try. I started with a wide-mouthed gallon-sized glass jar with lid, a gallon-sized zip-lock bag, large wooden spoon, and a potato masher. I used one large head of cabbage, 2 carrots & 1 medium onion (these are optional), 2 T. sea or kosher salt, and 1/2 cup whey. So here goes ...

I picked a large head of green cabbage from my garden, feeding the sad looking outer leaves to the cows and chickens.


I quartered the head to make it easier to handle, then sliced each quarter into 1/4 -1/2 inch strips. You end up with what looks to be a ton of cabbage. The first time I made this I thought there was no way all that was going to fit into my gallon jar! But wait ...


I then cut the strips into thirds.


I took two large carrots, scraped & halved, then processed them in my snazzy 1970's model food processesor.

Processed carrots.

Coarsely chopped one yellow onion.

Mixed everything together and added 2 tablespoons kosher salt (sea salt is best but I was out),

and 1/2 cup whey. Our milk cow is dry, so I hung 16 oz of plain organic yogurt in cheesecloth over a bowl in my fridge overnight and got a cup of whey from it. (The leftover yogurt cheese is delicious on crackers with red onion.)

Mixed everything well to coat all the veggies with whey & salt.

Then pounded the crap out of it with a potato masher, every 10 minutes or so for about an hour. This allows some of the natural liquids to release from the cabbage, wilting it down a bit and reducing the volume considerably.

Spooned it into my gallon jar. The canning funnel made this much easier.

It looked like I was going to have to add water to cover the vegetables, but a good smash with the potato masher crammed everything down into the jar, covering all with the natural liquids.

Put the ziplock bag into the jar, leaving the zip-top hanging out the top. Then poured water into the bag to within about an inch of the top, making sure the bag completely filled the space above the kraut. The weight of the water helps hold the veg down below the liquid. Lacto fermentation only occurs in an oxygenless environment, so remember .. no air in the veggies!

Sealed the lid, leaving the top of the bag hanging over the sides of the jar.

Let it sit on the counter in my kitchen for three days (needs to be kept around 72 degrees fahrenheit) then, ta da! Lacto fermented sauerkraut! You can eat it now, like me, but it only gets better with time. Kept in a cool dark place (Sally suggests 40 degrees ... I just keep mine in the fridge), it should keep for many months. I just can't seem to keep it for that long.

Come on. You know you want it ;)

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Herbal Teas for Better Health


From a previous article I wrote on herbal teas:

Herbal teas, as well as being pleasurable to drink, can be used as a preventative measure. If drunk regularly, they can help to tone and balance the body. The transition to herbal tea (from your regular caffeinated tea or coffee) can be gradual. Lemon balm, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, apple mint, and peppermint all make incredibly delicious teas and also add lovely flavor to otherwise less than pleasant herbal preparations. Try to drink 3 cups of herbal tea every day, after meals (to prevent interference with gastric juices and hinder proper digestion). Sweeten your herbal tea with honey or sugar if you like. A slice of lemon or orange is another tasty addition. Here are a few common herbs for tea preparations, with associated indications.

Basil Leaves: Soothing, cleansing, diarrhea, poor digestion.

Calendula: Indigestion, skin troubles.

Catnip Leaves: Headaches, restlessness, menstrual pains, hyperactive children.

Chamomile Flowers*: Headaches, nervousness, & indigestion.

Chickweed*: Coughs, colds, weight problems.

Dandelion Leaves & Root*: Liver & kidney troubles, fluid retention, constipation.

Elder Flower: Chills, fever.

Fenugreek Seeds*: Cleansing, soothing, excess catarrh, increase breast milk supply.

Lavender Flowers*: Headache, nervousness.

Lemon Balm Leaves: Headache, insomnia, melancholy.

Lemon Grass: Skin troubles, high in vitamin A.

Mullein Flowers*: Coughs, inflammation.

Nettle Leaf*: Kidney trouble, fluid retention.

Oatstraw*: Dry, brittle hair & nails, excessive mucus.

Peppermint*: Flatulence, nausea, stomach cramps.

Plantain*: Colds, diarrhea.

Red Clover Flowers: Nervousness, cleanser, whooping cough.

Red Raspberry Leaves*: Profuse menstruation, great for pregnant and/or lactating mothers.

Rosehips*: Coughs, colds.

Rosemary: Circulation, nervousness, depression, headache.

Sage: Fevers, tonic, sore throat.

Thyme: Colds, indigestion.

Valerian*: Tension, headache, insomnia.

Yarrow: Colds, indigestion, fevers.


Basic herbal tea preparation instructions:
1 T. dried herbs
½ pint water
Place herb(s) into a non-reactive metal or enamel pot with a lid. Bring water to a boil; turn off the heat and pour the water over the herb(s). Cover the pot and let steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain through a non-aluminum strainer. Herbal tea may be enjoyed fresh and warm or chilled. Honey, lemon, or milk can be added, although milk tends to mask the delicate flavors. Refrigerated unused tea to prevent spoilage.

There are no definite rules for combining herbs in a tea mixture. Taste is a major priority! Aromatic herbs such as peppermint, fennel, mint, ginger, lemon balm and lemon verbena will all enhance the flavor of a bland tea such as oatstraw, or a bitter tea such as valerian (valerian has a VERY strong odor which is unpleasant to some).

*Considered safe in moderation for pregnancy and lactation. Always consult your professional herbalist or naturopath before consuming any herbs while pregnant.

This information is for educational purposes only and not meant to prescribe, diagnose, treat or prevent any disease. It should not substitute the advice or recommendations of your physician or health professional, nor should it replace prescription medications without proper supervision. You are encouraged to seek professional medical advice from a qualified medical practitioner, naturopath or local professional herbalist, especially if you are pregnant, lactating, have a medical condition, or are taking prescription medication.

:D

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

May & June Gardening Calendar, Zone 7

Late again! Please accept my apologies, although this time I have a very good excuse, being that I gave birth (by c-section) three weeks ago ;) I'll post about all that later (baby Ella is wonderful .. healthy and happy). Right now I have a very long list of chores to complete before suppertime!

So here is May, even though more than half the month is gone, and June. I hope your gardens are thriving!

May:

•Vegetable Seed - Plant heat-loving and tender vegetables. Start cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and celery in cold frame for fall garden.
•Vegetable Plants - Plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and sweet potatoes.
•Control grass and weeds; they compete for moisture and fertilizer.
•Locate mulching materials for such crops as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, Irish potatoes, okra and lima beans. Apply before dry spells occur but after plants are well established (usually by blooming time).
•Pole beans cling to the trellis or sticks more readily if attached by the time they start running.
•Try a few tomato plants on stakes or trellises this year. Now is the time to start removing suckers and tying the plants up.
•Watch out for the "10 most wanted culprits": Mexican bean beetle, Colorado potato beetle, bean leaf beetle, Harlequin cabbage bug, blister beetle, cabbage worm, tomato hornworm, tomato fruit worm (and corn earworm), cucumber beetle and squash bug. Early discovery makes possible early control. Follow the schedule given in Extension Circular 594, Control Vegetable Garden Insects, for control of corn earworm and pickleworm.
•Begin disease control measures as needed. Check with your county extension office for more information.
•Water as needed.
•Mulch as needed.
•Keep a log book of problems and failures that occur so you can avoid or prevent them in the next planting season. Note successful techniques and varieties for consideration next season.
•Make plans now for putting up some of your garden produce. Check with your county extension office for more information.

Note: This is a great time to lacto-ferment dandelion green kimchi.

June:

•Vegetable Seed - Plant beans, field peas, pumpkins, squash, corn, cantaloupes and watermelons.
•Vegetable Plants - Plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and sweet potato vine cuttings.
•Harvest vegetables such as beans, peas, squash, cucumbers and okra regularly to prolong production and enjoy peak freshness.
•Eat "high on the hog" this month and in July and preserve enough to last during the winter months ahead.
•For best results, harvest onions and Irish potatoes when two-thirds of the tops have died down. Store potatoes in a cool, dark place and onions in a dry, airy place.
•Clean off rows of early crops as soon as they are through bearing and use rows for replanting or keep them fallow for fall crops.
•Water as needed.
•Plant sweet potatoes and a second planting of Southern peas.

This is when we can/preserve from our first planting of beans, peas, and squash. We also pickle cucumbers, peppers, and okra. Dehydrate strawberries and preserve strawberry jam. Pickle early baby beets, if possible. Freeze snap peas, dehydrate sweet shelling peas. Dehydrate greens (this is great for greens on the verge of bolting late in the month - they are wonderful crumbled up and added to soups). Dry onions.

Happy gardening! :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

March & April Gardening Calendar, Zone 7

It's time to really get moving! The garden is truly coming to life now and the chore lists are getting longer and more urgent. Spring is here ... let's get to work! :D

March:

• Vegetable Seeds - Continue to plant hardy crops recommended for January and February.
• Vegetable Plants - Plant cabbage, onions, lettuce, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts in North Alabama.
• Thin plants when they are 2 to 3 inches tall to give the plants room to grow.
• Carry out any February jobs not completed.
• Treat seed before planting or buy treated seed for protection against seed-borne diseases, seed decay, seedling "damping off" and soil insects such as seed-corn maggots
• Early-planted crops may need a nitrogen side-dressing, particularly if the soil is cool. Place the fertilizer several inches to the side of the plants and water it in. A little fertilizer throughout the growing period is better than too much at one time.
• Before settling them in the garden, harden-off transplants - place them in their containers outdoors in a sheltered place a few days ahead of planting them
• Get rows ready for "warm-season" vegetables to be planted during the last week of March or first week or two of April as weather permits.
• You might want to risk planting out a few of the more tender crops and keeping them covered during bad weather.
• Watch out for insects, especially cutworms, plant lice (aphids) and red spider mites.
• Put down mulch between rows to control weeds.
• Move inside herbs out into the garden after danger of frost has passed. Make the transition gradually, allowing the plants time to harden off.

April:

• Plant your choices of the following "warm-season" or "frost-tender" crops: beans (snap, pole and lima), cantaloupe, corn (sweet), cucumbers, eggplant, okra, field peas, peppers, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, parsley, and watermelon.
• Plant tall-growing crops such as okra, pole beans and corn on the north side of other vegetables to avoid shading. Plant two or more rows of corn for better pollination.
• After danger of frost is past (sometime by the end of this month), plant tender vegetables.
• Make a second planting within two to three weeks of the first planting of snap beans, corn and squash.
• Within three to four weeks of the first planting, plant more lima beans and corn. Remember: for better pollination, plant at least two or more rows.
• Be sure to plant enough vegetables for canning and freezing.
• Cultivate to control weeds and grass, to break crusty soil and to provide aeration.
• Maintain mulch between rows.
• Side dress earlier planted crops.
• Plant tender herbs.
• Remember: Do not work in your garden when the foliage is wet to avoid spreading diseases from one plant to another.

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