Cooking with Borage Leaves — Borage Burritos and Green Smoothies

By , July 14, 2020

Borage Burrito Bowl

This year in my garden, borage is coming up everywhere!

It’s a prolific self-seeder and I could always use it as green manure in my compost pile — but the bees love its flowers, which is reason enough to leave it alone.

I’ve had some bad luck with cabbage and cauliflower this year, and other crops have been inexplicably stunted while others have been growing normally. There’s always an element of mystery to the garden from year to year…I’ve noticed for years that there’s always a crop that fails and it’s just a question of which one it’ll be.

Borage is certainly not one of my failing crops this year. So in the spirit of eating what’s being effortlessly provided to me, I’ve gotten brave, picked those prickly leaves, and done some experimentation.

Now borage flowers are also edible, and they’re nice to nibble on while out in the garden, but I have mountains of borage leaves and I wanted to see if they could be a real, true, edible crop for me. And my conclusion is Yes.

I’ve been using the leaves in two ways — raw, in green smoothies, and steamed, added to other dishes.

***

Raw leaves:

I start each day with a green smoothie, heavy on the greens. I have always used cilantro, parsley, or a combo of the two, but I’ve been loving the borage as my green. Cilantro and parsley are strong flavors, but the borage is wonderfully mild, and I love its fresh cucumber taste. And even better than cucumbers, there’s no hint of bitterness whatsoever. The prickles on the leaves get pulverized, and there is no hint of mouth or throat irritation, which I had wondered about.

The raw borage leaves also freeze well and can be added to the smoothie directly from the freezer.

I use a good handful of borage each morning, and sometimes also some cilantro:

***

Steamed leaves:

Borage leaves of any size can be steamed, but I like the small and medium size rather than the giant ones with larger prickles. The prickles do cook down into pretty much nothing (and they don’t irritate your mouth or throat when eaten), but even still I like the smaller leaves a little better.

I chop my borage leaves, and since I have Gastroparesis, I steam them for over an hour so they’re very, very tender.

If you don’t have a compromised stomach, feel free to steam them for a more normal length of time.

The color and taste of the steamed borage reminds me of steamed nettles. Dark color… mild taste… nothing exciting, but perfect for stirring into another dish that already has its own bold flavors, like minestrone soup, a vegetable stew, chili, maybe a lentil salad, or…Borage Burritos!

***

Borage Burritos (or Burrito Bowl)

Borage leaves, chopped and steamed

Brown rice or Millet, cooked

Your favorite jarred green chile sauce

Your favorite jarred salsa

Mexican-style seasoning, like Penzey’s Southwest, Fajita Seasoning, Arizona Dreaming, etc

Shredded cheese (or avocado bits)

Fresh cilantro

Corn or flour tortilla (optional)

***

Combine the steamed borage leaves with an equal amount of cooked brown rice or millet.

(I like brown rice cooked very soft, so I use 1 cup rice to 3 cups water, cooked for 2 hours. I cook millet with that same 1:3 ratio, cooked for 1 hour.)

Stir in the green chile sauce, salsa, and Mexican seasoning to taste.

Heat up until nice and hot.

Stir in shredded cheese, sprinkle on cilantro.

Serve in a bowl, or wrapped in a warm corn or flour tortilla (which you can smother with more green chile sauce and cheese if you like).

***

*****

How to Make Lavender Glycerite

By , June 7, 2020

***

In the evening time before bed, after I take all my nasty-tasting pills and potions, I squeeze a dropperfull or two of my homemade lavender glycerite onto my tongue and savor the delightful sweet floral lavender taste.

It’s a wonderful way to wash a bad taste out of your mouth and reward yourself for getting all that stuff down the hatch. It will often physically bring a smile to my face, it tastes so wonderful!

It’s very simple to make, and lavender season is upon us.

***

(This really is an easy project, but if you don’t have access to fresh lavender, may I suggest the absolutely heavenly Rose Petal Elixir made by Avena Botanicals with roses from their own biodynamic gardens. They also sell a Lavender Glycerite which I haven’t tried.)

***

***

Lavender Glycerite

Ingredients:

Fresh lavender flowers and flower buds

Pure food-grade vegetable glycerin (widely available online or at health food stores — vitacost.com is where I usually get stuff like this)

Supplies:

Glass jar with lid

Mesh sieve or funnel

Coffee filter

Clean dropper bottle (1, 2, or 4 oz size)

 

What to do:

1. Remove most of the stems from your lavender, and chop up the flowers and flower buds with a knife.

2. Place the chopped lavender into your glass jar. (In the pictures above, I’m using an 8-oz wide mouth Mason jar.)

3. Pour vegetable glycerin into the jar until it completely covers the lavender. Stir a few times to release any big air bubbles and top it up with glycerin if needed. Be sure all the lavender is submerged.

4. Screw the lid onto your jar, then label and date it with masking tape and a sharpie.

5. Place the jar into a dark cupboard where you will see it often…

6. Shake the jar once a day, or every couple days.

7. Let it sit in the cupboard at least 2 weeks (I leave mine 4-8 weeks).

8. When you’re ready to strain, place a coffee filter inside a mesh sieve (or funnel). Place the sieve over a bowl, a measuring cup, or another glass jar. Pour the lavender glycerite into the coffee filter and when it has all been filtered, wash your hands and gather the filter around the remaining lavender and gently squeeze to extract the rest of the glycerin. The finished lavender glycerite will look like honey — a light amber color.

9. Pour an ounce or two of your strained glycerite into a dropper bottle to keep in your bathroom. If needed, transfer the rest into another glass jar (or the same one that’s been rinsed and dried), cap it, label it, and date it.

10. Transfer the jar into the refrigerator to store it. It will keep at least a year, and probably significantly longer.

*****

The Story of My Two Grey Kitties

By , May 15, 2020

Lizzie (both photos)

***

Yesterday was the 2-year anniversary of the death of precious Lizzie.

It was not a work day for me so I took the opportunity to put all my other tasks on hold and set aside the whole day to immerse myself in the priceless photos and videos and memories of my precious guardian angel soul cat. Joy-bringer was a chief mission of hers during her lifetime, and it still is, through all her wonderful photos and videos.

Today is a good opportunity to post this story. Last year I entered a local story contest (“tell us your kitty story in 1200 words or less”), and while I didn’t win, the exercise of writing this story turned out to be a gift in itself. You will get to read about Lizzie, and also meet my kitten Dulcie.

I hope you enjoy it:

***

 

My grey kitty story begins with a joyous and magical moment 19 years ago, when as a young teenager I discovered a tiny grey kitten at our back doorstep one Friday morning in late August. Such excitement! Such surprise and delight! I stepped outside and scooped up that little kitten so fast, because finding a kitten was a fairytale dream, something unlikely ever to happen, but that morning I struck gold.

 

This was Liz. We didn’t know each other yet, but we would grow up together with a bond deeper than any other I have known, becoming practically one in the same over the almost 18 years she was with me.

 

The very next morning after Liz came to us, we had plans to leave for a mountain camping trip. Undeterred, though unsure whether one could camp with a kitten, we stopped to buy her a harness on the way out of town. Lizzie and I shared one tent while my mom and dad and our family dog squeezed into the other tent. It was a marvelous time. Liz stayed in her red harness, barely big enough for it, and I’d carry her in my arms for walks around the campsite or to watch my dad make Camper’s Stew on the propane stove. We all went for a long hike and I carried Liz in a cardboard cat carrier, where she fell fast asleep from the rhythmic swinging. We stopped in a moist, shaded area and I took her out of her carrier so she could experience the soft moss on her feet. Mom took her picture:

 

 

These were the blissful first days of a long, wonderful life together. Sometimes I think back and consider the near-miss of it all. What if she’d gone to our neighbor’s doorstep instead, where the house was vacant? And our other neighbor, an elderly couple, wouldn’t have wanted a kitten. What if I’d slept late that morning, missing her completely? Or if she had come just a day later, on Saturday instead of Friday, we would’ve been out of town for the weekend.

 

Unsettling possibilities since Liz turned out to be not only a beloved, steadfast friend but my vital lifeline as the years proceeded. She would fall into critical roles as she was needed, such as 24-hour Grief Support after my lifelong best friend and soul sister was killed suddenly at age 19. Then when my health unraveled and I got very sick, Liz went into Nurse mode, keeping very close tabs on me, hanging near me as if it were her job, and sleeping as close as she could possibly get, sometimes on my head, adjusting and readjusting herself to try to be even closer. There were long, scary pneumonia nights where I would open my eyes to find her sitting over me, fully awake and watching me.

When the illness turned into a chronic nightmare over subsequent years, she was not only Nurse, but my Anchor to the Earth when it seemed easier to let go and fade away.

 

Lizzie was the healthy, happy, precious center of the family and we have years and years of treasured moments and memories. When she got sick with a cancer under her tongue, I got to nurse her intensively and our spirits grew even closer during that cherished time together. She tried and tried and tried to live forever so we could be together, but nobody escapes the inevitable – even with the best medicine and the strongest love in the world. She lived as long as she possibly could, and died when she couldn’t help it anymore.

 

Because her health was otherwise good, her body supported her right to the end, so she maintained her weight (even after she got her feeding tube) and her spunky spirit, and she felt and acted like herself, doing the things she loved to do. She had a great quality of life until the last week.

 

She didn’t want to be put down, so we were together right to the very last moment, surrounded by all the comforting familiarity of Home. Even on her last day on Earth, we were outside enjoying the fragrant springtime air, sunshine, and lilac blossoms in the peaceful backyard. The last days were tough and rough to be sure, but even still, her tail continued to do its usual light tapping “all is well” sign. I found this interesting. I may have been more afraid than she was, since she also tried to reassure me as much as she could with her special noises, purring, nuzzling, and deep eye contact.

Liz was an extraordinary cat; a very special being – a guardian angel to me. She brought me such joy and she radiated love so constantly that I knew I could always count on it.

 

Words are flimsy and inadequate to describe how precious and dear she was – and how awful it was once she was gone. Brokenhearted and utterly hollow and bereft…I felt deadened and empty. Those first moments, days, and months, were excruciating. Part of my heart died with Liz. The very one I needed was now gone. I was lost and didn’t know how to express how much I missed her, so I just cried.

I cherished the pictures and videos I had of her – especially those videos – but Liz was a huge piece of my life and I was so, so sad.

 

Near the end of that year, someone at work put up a Cat Care Society Santa Paws Festival flyer. To see how my heart would react, I went to their website and looked at the adoptable kitties. I didn’t feel ready for another cat; I didn’t want another cat – I wanted Liz.

I thought maybe I’d get an older cat someday when I was ready. But one day I realized something. I’d probably never be ready for another cat. But also, I didn’t want to let my heart close forever. I thought maybe I could get a cat in honor of Lizzie, like a scholarship, since she had once been a homeless stray.

Then one night I went to Cat Care’s website and there was a 4-month-old kitten who looked exactly like a mirror image of Lizzie. I was so struck that I burnt what I was cooking on the stove. We were at Cat Care’s door the minute they opened the next morning. I was still very unsure, but something in my heart knew that kitten needed to come home with me.

I adopted this precious, fearful little Liz-kitten with a long-lingering respiratory infection, the last one of her litter left. She is a sensitive, dear, sweet, loving thing – exactly as Liz was. Very fearful at first, Dulcie has now blossomed into such a fun, confident kitten, and she reminds me so much of Liz in so many ways it’s the most incredible thing.

I miss Liz so much still, but Dulcie’s presence has made a big difference. She’s a living reminder of Liz, and delightful in her own ways, and it helps my heart feel better. Lizzie was a healing gift to me, and now Dulcie is carrying forward that baton – that healing gift.

 

Liz (top) and Dulcie (bottom)

***

Liz (top) and Dulcie (bottom)

*****

Morning Hoar Frost

By , February 29, 2020

It’s almost springtime already — how are you?!

Before winter is over, I must show you the frosty fairyland we woke up to one foggy morning in November, one of my favorite months. February is another one of my favorite months, and I’ll be sorry to see it go.

This morning I began thinking about my upcoming garden year, deciding about the steps I’ll take to wake up the garden this year, jotting down the order I’ll do them in so I don’t forget. I do things differently each year, hopefully evolving toward more efficiency and less input from me, meaning less of a drain on my energy, while maintaining a reasonable level of vegetable productivity.

Among my thoughts for this year… mowing the weeds in between the garden rows instead of pulling them; doubling the distance between tomato plants; interspersing my high-pest crops (cabbage, squash) throughout the garden instead of planting them in blocks as I have in the past; more flowers; planting a slew of dill everywhere since my observation has been that dill is a tip-top favorite of many(!!) types of beneficial insects; and no forking to loosen the soil in the rows as I have in the past — I’d like to eliminate this energy-intensive step, and instead just score a couple-inch-deep line in the soil for the rows of seeds.

It’s always an experiment!

Anyway, look at how beautiful this particular morning was! We don’t often get treated to this kind of thing; it was a special morning.

*****

Autumn Scenes

By , November 17, 2019

*****

Making a Lemonade Day from a Lemon

By , September 14, 2019

I had an irritating errand to do this week in order to get re-hired for my job (I job-share with someone else — they work part of the year, I work the other part, and because we’re temp employees we have to get re-hired each time and it’s always a hassle-y process). In the past I had to just go to the HR office nearby to get fingerprinted but this time I had to drive to the next town an hour away for this stupid, simple 10-minute task — a waste of my time, energy, and gas.

I decided that in order to have a good attitude about the errand, I needed to make it fun for myself. So after the appointment, I stopped in at an antique shop across the street and took my unhurried time looking at everything. I got three little things including a little kitty picture frame, and this great book The English Country Home and wooden jar. I walked to a nearby cafe and got a fun treat-drink, and then I drove to a little town I’ve always been curious about, and stopped at a public open space area, which I had all to myself, and absolutely basked in the feeling of being in the mountains. I had forgotten how good it felt and how much I had needed it. The smell!!!!!! Spicy, earthy, pine-needle-y, heavenly smell. I’d forgotten how good the mountains smell. I came upon a little creek and spent a lot of time poking around there and soaking in the sound and sight of the moving water.

It all felt so incredibly good. It seemed like terrible timing to be away for a day since I have so much going on especially with all the garden produce flooding in. I miss a day and I get behind. A vacation day was extra-needed, and I didn’t realize it until it was happening. I’d done something Fun that day (!) and I came home feeling uplifted and renewed. I spent the next day flattened and fatigued unfortunately, but I made that stupid errand ‘work for me’ and it was worth it!

*****

Beauty All Around

By , September 7, 2019

Look at that sky!

When I was a kindergartner, I had a wonderful ‘daycare mom’ who was an artist named Karen. Her soulful, cocoon-like home was as warm and welcoming as she was, and she especially loved filling giant canvases with luminous oil paintings of soaring, heavenly clouds. Just beautiful, beautiful works of art. To this day I think of her every time I see a sky like that one.

***

Well we have had some glorious flowers in the garden this year. Look at them! So beautiful. ♥

*****

Late-August Vegetable Garden Tour

By , August 26, 2019

Hello!

It’s a busy time of year in my garden; in late August the produce is really starting to flood in, meaning a LOT of kitchen time between now and October!

All the time and effort spent thus far in my garden is really starting to pay off though. We have our own private organic farmer’s market just outside the back gate! Here, I’ll show you…

Let’s start in the fruit “orchard” where we have one apple tree, two peach trees, and three or four grape vines. Believe it or not, these are two of the peach trees I started from seed, documented in this post from 9 years ago! I make the grape jam that I love from the grapes, and have been starting to use our cut-up Winesap apples as the fruit in my morning green shake. Later on, I’ll make big batches of applesauce with them.

Standing at the North end of the garden:

Standing at the South end of the garden:

Celery:

Honeydew melons:

Watermelons:

*****

Photo Tour of The Good Life Center: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Forest Farm in Harborside, Maine

By , July 19, 2019

Care and artistry are worth the trouble. They can be a satisfaction to the practitioner and a joy to all beholders.

-Helen Nearing

***

In early August of last year I visited Forest Farm with my family on a special trip to Maine, and it was one of the top highlights of the entire trip. What a special place; I didn’t want to leave. Forest Farm was the entirely hand-built homestead of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of many books including the classics Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World and its sequel Continuing the Good Life: Half a Century of Homesteading. (Still relevant! The value of old books… see previous post.) My copy of Living the Good Life came down to me via my dad, from his mother many years ago. Growing up, his family would take beloved summer vacations to isolated Harborside, Maine and they would hear about the “commie” Nearings who lived nearby. Helen and Scott’s door was always open to those interested in observing, helping, and learning, and Forest Farm still welcomes visitors as The Good Life Center, carrying on the Nearings’ tradition of sharing and showing.

I took many photos! Are you ready for a visit?

***

Driving to The Good Life Center through tiny Harborside:

Arriving at the Nearings’ driveway. It was a peaceful, hot, still, muggy afternoon here.

It was very quiet; bees buzzing, small waves lapping the shore in the cove across the street. A few other visitors sifted through while we were there. You just park and amble in. Very laid back, you’re welcome to wander and stay as long as you like, soaking it all in.

This is the caretakers’ cottage over the summer:

Helen and Scott’s beautiful hand-built stone house:

 

Here is a photo of Helen doing the stonework:

Let’s go in. Here’s their kitchen — an airy, light-filled, feel-good space:

Those were the beautiful bowls and spoons they used.

Here are their mugs:

Here’s their kitchen as it was:

Helen and Scott on the right:

Now we walk into the living room, with a cozy wood-burning stove, book shelves lining the walls, and a wonderful view of the surrounding forest and out to their cove:

Here’s more of the house; this area is used as the little bookshop now. Visitors aren’t allowed upstairs to the bedroom but you can peek up the stairwell:

Here’s their original sign:

Let’s go out to the garden and greenhouse now. There’s a little apple orchard in the protected area between the house and the walled garden:

Here’s that lovely walled vegetable garden:

Behind the greenhouse:

Overlooking the walled garden toward the house and greenhouse:

Compost piles on the left, outside the garden:

The rest of the land is forested. There are some walking trails you can take through tall trees, ferns, tall grasses, and dappled shade.

Here’s their cove across the street:

And here’s the mission statement of The Good Life Center:

That concludes our visit to Forest Farm. I hope you enjoyed it!

***

Just up the road is Four Season Farm, owned by Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch — names you might recognize if you’re a gardener. The land was once part of the Nearings’.

*****

The Herbangardener is powered by WordPress