Archive for natural health

Comfrey

This is the first year my comfrey has bloomed. I harvested a few roots last fall to use for medicinal purposes, but wanted to see how much I could grow for animal feed. I am pleased with how large it’s grown so far this spring.

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Our Little Orchard

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My goal is for our family to be capable of feeding ourselves – completely independent from grocery stores for anything other than toilet paper. (Well, maybe coffee, too). Some days that goal seems insurmountable.

Today however, we are surrounded by abundance. We have a super tiny orchard- just under a dozen dwarf apple, four pear and two cherry trees. We picked up *buckets* of windfall apples earlier this summer and made apple sauce and apple cider vinegar. Then the tree branches were so full they were bending to perilous angles and we picked *buckets* of unripe fruit to keep our trees from being damaged.

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As the real harvest approaches, I am overwhelmed with the blessing of the bounty! Apple pie filling for the freezer, cider, sauce and fruit leather for school lunch boxes, dehydrated apple pieces for oatmeal and granola… And to think I wanted to plant more trees!

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Magical Elixer: Elderberry

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After we gathered the elderberries, we popped them in the freezer right on the stalks inside plastic grocery bags. Once we had enough, we began by gently pulling the berries off the stems and picking out the tiny stems that occasionally fell in anyways. Then we covered the berries with water in a heavy bottomed pan and simmered them with healthy amounts of clove and cinnamon and stirred and mashed them for about 30 minutes. It’s important to cook elderberries as they contain a not nice ingredient. “Wicked Plants” by Amy Stewart, says the raw juice and seeds contain cyanide that can only be removed by heating. According to folklore, if you sleep under a blooming elderberry bush, you would have fantastical dreams filled with fairies and elves and all things magical. Since elderberries usually grow very near streams,bogs, fens and swampy areas, I will pass on camping under one.

Once your berries are well cooked and cooled enough to handle, stir in an equal amount of raw honey. It will not taste pleasant at all without the honey. A quality, raw honey will provide enzymes and added immune boost to your syrup. Now pour the whole mess into a tea towel lined strainer over top of a big bowl and squeeze every last bit of juice out.

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You now have a pile of mush to add to your compost.

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The syrup should be bottled in sterilized jars and stored in the refrigerator. Take at the first sign of a cold – 1/2-1 teaspoon for children, 1/2-1 tablespoon for adults every few hours. Great for soothing coughs and especially croup. You could also pour it over vanilla ice cream or add it to sparkling water for an impressive treat. Slainte!

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Making Elderberry Syrup

We began collecting elderberries over Labor Day weekend. We popped them into baskets, paper bags and grocery bags– anything I could get my hands on when I spotted an elderberry bush. We have two bushes in our back yard but they are young and only produced a few handfuls of berries. State land however, is teeming with elderberry bushes– if you know where to look. This was my first year wild crafting elderberries. I drove 2 miles an hour down every dirt road in a 20 mile radius around our house, scanning the vegetation for slender leaved bushes with dark umbrellas of luscious purple-black berries. When the birds have stripped all the berries off, the bushes are easier to spot because the stems range from black to bright pink. I think they look a little like Halloween trees.

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Every basketful was faithfully placed into plastic bags and stored in the freezer. My sweet friend Mickie, has guided me through this with some great advice! The frozen berries pop off the umbrels easier and with less mess. We confirmed this and learned to only take out a bag at a time as the defrosted berries quickly stained our fingers. She is a seasoned elderberry gatherer.

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This morning we made one last trip to a big bush that had some un-ripe berries over the weekend. The birds had decimated what remained. Elderberry collecting missions are officially terminated until next season.

Yarrow

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Everything is blooming at once, so I guess I am going with a “Flowering Herbs” theme this week! Yarrow is commonly found along roadsides. It’s flowers look vaguely similar to the elder flower in that they are creamy white and slightly umbrella shaped, but that is where the similarity ends. Elderflowers are soft and flow-y and tend to grow in ditches with damp ground. Yarrow grows in dry, rocky areas on a single, hard stem.

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It is easy to see from the delicate, feathery leaves how yarrow is also called Thousand Leaf. It has many other names and uses: Soldiers Woundwort & Bloodwort refer to its ability to stop nosebleeds and staunch the flow of blood in wounds when applied directly. Lady’s Mantle might refer to its uses for excessive bleeding during menses, headaches and to produce a “sense of peace” for women in menopause. A bath made with yarrow is said to ease itchiness during chicken pox. Yes, I have been wildcrafting yarrow this week! Would anyone care for a cup of tea?

Elderflower

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Elderflowers are so pretty! I collect handfuls of the drooping umbrellas of tiny, creamy white flowers. I lay them out on old window screens to dry. I will store them in sealed mason jars to use in tea this winter. Not only is elderflower tea delicious with honey, it has medicinal properties used for helping along a stuffy nose and sore throat. It’s perfect to offer at the first sign of a cold or flu. Don’t take all the flowers though- you will want to come back when they fully ripen into berries to make cough syrup!

Stinging Nettles in Pesto and Zombie Defense Barrier

If you have ever touched stinging nettle, you likely have a vivid memory of the event.  It hurts!  When I was about 12, I was riding a friends pony and he walked me through a dense patch of stinging nettle.  I thought I’d been stung by a swarm of bees, and my bare legs felt as if they were simultaneously enveloped in flames.  Poor old Copper, he didn’t know why I was screaming, he just kept plodding along.  Don’t you think stinging nettle would be an excellent boundary plant to keep zombies out?

I recently discovered from a local mushroom expert, that stinging nettles are delicious!  They can be sauteed in salt and butter and eaten, still slightly crunchy, like asparagus. The leaves can be dried and made into a tea that is said to help allergy sufferers, alleviate arthritis and regulate high blood pressure.  According to NaturalNews.com, “it promotes milk production in nursing mothers. Stinging nettles reduces PMS symptoms, processes estrogen to relieve menopausal symptoms and curbs excess menstrual flow. It’s often used in herbal tonics to remove fibroids and regulate the menstrual flow.”  Oh.  And it tastes good too.

After the morning dew dried, I cut the top 6″ off our patch of nettles- about 3 cups wilted.

Die!  Vile nemesis of bare legs everywhere!  Die!

Die! Vile nemesis of bare legs everywhere! Die!

That evening, I blanched it for about 90 seconds in boiling water and then strained it.

Isn't it pretty once all the stingers are gone?

Isn’t it pretty once all the stingers are gone?

 

I popped it in my mini Cuisinart with some Parmesan cheese, a heavy handful of slivered almonds, 1 T. of garlic and 2 t. of sea salt.  I drizzled olive oil in while it blended.  I’m not big on recipes…. pine nuts are traditional, but I had almonds on hand.  Walnuts are good too.  Basil is the traditional “green” part of this recipe but we usually use cilantro because it’s got a little more zip to it than basil and it’s super healthy- very good at detoxifying heavy metals.  I’m not sure  if I really liked the flavor of nettles better than cilantro, or if it was just the sweet, sweet taste of revenge that I was enjoying so much.

 

Voila!  It's pesto!

Voila! It’s pesto!

 

Top the pesto with a little pasta….er, top the pasta with a little pesto…I guess it’s all a matter of perspective which should be of higher volume.  Do you have a favorite “weed” that you use?  Do you use it medicinally?    What is your favorite pesto recipe?

 

I'm not sure if FlyingBoy has more noodles or pesto on this plate!

I’m not sure if FlyingBoy has more noodles or pesto on this plate!