Posts tagged: herbs

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.

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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:

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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!

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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)

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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).

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How to Make Lavender Glycerite

By , June 7, 2020

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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.

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(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.)

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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.

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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:

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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

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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?

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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!

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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’.

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Dawn Chorus Herbal Tea Recipe for Spring

By , April 7, 2019

It is Spring. Brown and barren, with the greenery of hyacinth bulbs barely beginning to nose up through the dry soil. Now and then, a wet snowstorm, slush, and mud. This is Early Spring in Colorado, giving way to a period of ephemeral, rarefied beauty that makes it difficult to keep eyes on the road as one drives around a city. Millions of fragrant light pink, dark pink, and white crabapple blossoms filling tree after tree, petals fluttering in every direction on the breeze. Fuchsia redbud trees in protected corners with an iridescent glow on gray days. Cheerful tulips and hyacinth and green grass in front yards. Bushes bowing heavily with lilacs. Fresh spring rain showers. Robins, finches, sparrows, blue jays, flickers — nearly constant birdsong from dawn until dusk. What a feast for our senses.

It is around this time that this winter-lover’s eyes begin to really crave green. It is so nice to see the green!!

I have also rediscovered an old favorite herbal tea blend called Dawn Chorus — it’s a nice one for Spring. Mountain Rose Herbs gets the credit for this one, but it’s such a simple blend that I reverse-engineered a recipe for it quite a while ago. Mountain Rose is so often out of stock on stuff and their shipping is so expensive, that I stopped using them — but I still love this tea blend. My own recipe might have more rose petals in it, which is even nicer than the original.

Dawn Chorus tea blend:

1 part green rooibos (or red rooibos, for a taste that’s different but every bit as good in this blend)

1 part stinging nettles leaf, dried

1 part rose petals, dried

Mix together.

Put a heaping teaspoon into an infuser* in your mug. Add boiling water, steep for 5-10 minutes, squeeze out, add milk!

Then sit down and enjoy it. I am a big tea drinker. A chain tea drinker. I used to have a rule where I had to sit down while I drank my cup of tea. Over time, the rule faded and I’d be up chopping vegetables between sips of tea, starting a load of laundry with a cup of tea in my hand, going out to get the mail with my cup of tea, cleaning up and taking things from room to room with my cup of tea, writing emails with my cup of tea. I’ve recently decided to follow this rule again, most of the time. Taking that quiet moment feels good.

*Infusers! There are so many crappy ones. My favorite is the People’s Brew Basket in stainless steel (made by Republic of Tea — I get this locally at the health food store for about $3.50) and this one which is good for wide mugs. Fill-able tea bags are also sold, but you can make your own with coffee filters like this:

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The Magical Bee Sting Cure

By , July 16, 2012

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Lavender essential oil!

It’s a shame this isn’t more common knowledge. Maybe you already know about it but if not, I want to tell you that lavender essential oil is the most magical treatment for a bee sting (or wasp, etc.). I’ve been treating stings this way for many years and it’s truly incredible. The pain disappears! As do the redness and swelling. Very soon your sting is a distant memory. Every single time I use this remedy I am completely blown away by its efficacy.

Just apply some lavender essential oil, neat (undiluted), to the bee sting. Lavender oil is gentle enough to be used neat for most folks, unlike some other essential oils.

Lavender oil is a great thing to keep in your first aid kit, if only for this reason alone.

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Do you know of other magical uses for lavender oil? Do share!

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Nettles!!

By , May 1, 2012

As I mentioned in this post, I found nettles! This was really very exciting because now I can collect my own instead of continuing to purchase my usual dried nettles for tea. And for the very first time, I had freshly cooked nettles and they’re amazing! A mild and pleasing taste. I cooked them in some salted water, and ended up drinking every last drop of the broth too — it was thick and delicious — almost meaty. They’re so good for you, too. High in protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Cooked nettles

Nettles & white beans

And I love nettles tea because it works better than an antihistamine pill for me. This was an accidental discovery; I’m allergic to bee stings, and I get honeybee and ‘mixed vespids’ venom immunotherapy shots every 6 weeks so that my body gets desensitized to the venom. Normally I get a big, itchy 3″ wide welt on each arm where I get the shot, and I take a Claritin pill the morning of the shots to help counteract that. However one day I had some strong nettles tea before my shots, along with the pill. No welt! No redness! No itchy! At first I didn’t realize it was the nettles, until another time when I’d forgotten to take the antihistamine pill and only had nettles tea, and same thing! No welt. Finally I realized it was the nettles tea, and the pill wasn’t even really necessary. So now I make sure to have nettles tea before my shot, and every day for at least about a week afterward. It’s quite magical. If you have seasonal allergies (mercifully, I don’t), you might try nettles tea!

My favorite nettles tea:

2-3 Tbsp dried nettles

~1/2 Tbsp dried mint

~1/2 Tbsp dried lemongrass

In a mug, pour 8-12 ounces boiling water over herbs, cover, and steep about 15 minutes.

So anyway, back to the fresh nettles. I couldn’t believe my luck with finding patch after patch of them, and while I often travel with an empty plastic bag (you never know what you’ll need it for!), I didn’t have one with me on the walk. However my mom had packed snacks in a bag, and thank goodness she had! Precious, precious bag. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to collect any. Disappointing!

I had an empty little sandwich baggie which I used as a glove to pick them, though still got plenty of stings on my wrists. (The stinging compounds are easily neutralized once the nettles are either boiled or dried to a crisp.) I stuffed the bag full, and also took some plants with roots and have planted those in pots outside, hoping they’ll decide it’s a satisfactory location to grow. I’ve read that nettles are particular about where they grow; you might think you have the ideal location for them — but they have the last word.

Do you cultivate your own nettles? Have any growing tips?

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As you can see, the living room was full of nettles for a while. I ended up getting about 3 gallons, dried.

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Philosophy Friday: Doing Our Best In a Complex Situation

By , September 17, 2011

Hope you’ve all had a good week… I can’t believe how quickly it went! For me this week has been full of emotion, some very low points, and a fair bit of hand-wringing. I haven’t been feeling well…I’ve been definitely-not-right for a year and a half, but especially sick for the past 5 months with fevers almost every day, painful lymph nodes in every corner of my body, and running at only 25% (or sometimes 5%) of my usual energy — plus so much other stuff too. Sometimes I’m so incredibly sick I can hardly open my eyes, and ‘whatever it is’ has slowly been progressing, affecting new parts of my body in creative & alarming ways. Watching my previously excellent health pretty much fall apart has been (and is) a scary, unsettling experience. And even after lots of tests done on (so far) 26 vials of blood, it’s still a mystery because it’s unclear whether there are two separate things going on, or if it’s all part of the same issue.

My head has been over and under and around ‘this thing’ so many times…churning on it, studying it, considering what to do about it, weighing western approach against eastern approach…and ultimately feeling paralyzed and unable to see how best to address it. We each have our values, don’t we… the values we create during times of wellness & happiness. I value alternative medicine…and prefer & feel most comfortable in that arena. Though, I pick and choose carefully in that area…having observed that there are indeed diamonds out there, but there’s also a lot of rubbish.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and I’ve had to compromise my preference for natural-only. Or…is it a compromise? Maybe it’s just a value adjustment, based upon the new information I’m gathering as I’m navigating this new territory — because I’ve never been this sick before. And I find myself glad to have the technology of western medicine to (hopefully) find out what’s up (or at least rule out what’s not up) — and at the same time, repeatedly hoping that I’m doing the right thing by following this particular route at this particular time.

It’s a complex situation. And I’ve finally decided that in this case, what I feel best with is a combination of western & eastern. Western, because I feel like that’s what’s called for in this extenuating circumstance. And eastern as a supplement — to support my body in the best way I can while it’s trying its hardest under these less-than-ideal conditions. (Excellent nutrition is a big part of this!)

And so today I had a full-body CT scan — from mid-head to pelvis. It’s the next step in trying to suss out what’s causing all this. I’ve been having trouble settling it in my mind…knowing it’s a lot of radiation on my sensitive body. But also knowing full well that it’s a risk-benefit thing — and the benefit outweighs the risk right now. Part of the CT experience was drinking 32 ounces of barium, as well as receiving two separate doses of contrast dye through an IV during the scan. And a week prior, I had an MRI with gadolinium contrast through an IV. Gadolinium is on the Periodic Table… and is not something I want in my body for any longer than necessary!

Readi-Cat, drinkable barium. Cute name & I actually liked the taste! But it made me nauseous.

The assortment of heavy metals and dyes also make me feel quite ill for the rest of the day after receiving them, so the best thing I can do for my body is help it get that stuff flushed right out. So today, I came home and started chugging water with fresh lemon juice…and 8 hours later now I’m finally starting to feel less yucky. I also juiced a ton of cilantro (and have been eating heaps of cilantro lately anyway) along with parsley and garden celery, since it’s been found that fresh cilantro binds really well to heavy metals in your body and carries them safely out. I’ve also been drinking my beet kvass tonight, since that’s a great blood purifier…in addition to eating my everyday fare of lots of fresh, organic fruits & veggies, which is pretty much all my body wants & can tolerate right now. (Oh and some chocolate too, ya know…for medicinal purposes only, of course!)

Cilantro, parsley, & celery juice

And for the radiation, I’m thankful to have my kit of Australian Bush Flower Essences because I mixed up the Electro essence blend right when I got home. Interestingly, this blend was used in a clinical trial of bodily radiation levels in children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Radiation levels were measured before and after 2 weeks in a control group, plus a group that received spirulina, and in a group that received the Electro flower essence blend. After 2 weeks, the radiation level in the control group decreased 3.5% and the spirulina group decreased 25.3%, while the radiation level in the Electro group decreased 43%!

Anyway, I guess it’s all a big learning experience (like everything else!), resulting in a constant stream of adjustments being made to our inner selves along the way…forcing us to re-evaluate ourselves and our values and the things we previously thought we had “all figured out.”  And ultimately we gain compassion and perspective and first-hand experience, along with plenty of opportunities to practice surrender and acceptance. And we find out, again, that things are never really black-and-white once you’ve actually experienced them and put your previously-perceived values to the test.

This is an intense one…and I have to wonder what the ultimate purpose of it will be. My fear is that I’ll feel like this forevermore. I probably won’t, but at least I hope there’s a higher purpose to it all!

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Mint Water: The Simplest + Most Refreshing Drink of Summer

By , July 30, 2011

I’m in love with mint water. It’s the very easiest thing to whip up, with the most cooling and refreshing taste I can think of.

All you need is fresh mint — out your back door, down at the far corner of the yard where you planted it once and now there’s enough to make mint water for everyone in your state. Pick a long sprig or two of it.

Whack ’em against your hand to dislodge any little crawlies. Rinse them off too, if you like.

Pour a glass of water, add ice, crush the mint sprigs in your fist, and submerge them into the water.

When the water gets low, top it up. If you have nice strong mint, it’ll last you through many glasses.

I love this stuff!

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