Saturday, November 02, 2019

Dried Persimmon Slices

Native persimmons are easy.  The pulp gets frozen in 1 cup portions and added into various recipes like this persimmon cake or added into any recipe instead of banana or applesauce.  But I have a good sized fuyu persimmon tree out back, and had no clue what to do with them, other than eat them like apples.
The tree is planted beside the deck so that I can pick the fruit right out the back door.  It is a fast grower, and within just a few years that's exactly what happened. 
They're a whole different fruit from the native persimmons, and now that I have close to 50 of them it was a stroke of luck when Bartosh, over on the TEH facebook page, mentioned that he loved dried persimmon slices.  We're deep in apple schnitz country and I grew up eating dried apple slices, so it sounded like a good idea.
Off to the google I went, finding several (very) slightly different instructions.  They all included washing, thin-slicing, wire racks on a cookie sheet, and 200 - 250 degrees in the oven for 2 hours.
I tried a few things.  One was a dehydrator.  It might have worked, but the heating element wasn't working, so... ALL of the instructions talk about oven-drying, so maybe there's a reason for that. The first batch was sliced at about 1/4" as instructed.  They were good, but by the time my oven dried them, they were a little too brown and still too pliable.  The taste though!  These are really a very mild flavored fruit, so it's a surprise how the fruit sugar concentrates and deepens.  They are delicious.  Do use the rack though.  I tried one without, and they burned and stuck to the pan, surrounded by tiny pools of exquisite syrup.
I like them much better sliced very thin and dried to more of a chip-like texture.  So good!

Here's what I've found to work for me.
  • Oven at 200 degrees F
  • 1/8" thickness
  • Arranged closely on wire rack on top of cookie sheets
  • Bake for 3 hours
  • When they are curly and almost completely dry, they're done.
  • Those that you don't cram into your mouth while taking them off the rack should go into an airtight container, and be refrigerated.
I was going to send some to the kids, but there probably won't be any here long enough to get them packed up to ship. If you've got these and wondered what to do with all of those fruits (currently $2.99 each at the store), give this a try.  If you don't love them, someone you know will.

These prolific fruits also bring health benefits along with them.  They're loaded with fiber and all kinds of vitamins and nutrients.  That orange color tells us that it's got carotene and lots of vitamin A and C.  There's a good bit of lutein and lycopene bringing antioxident action and supporting eye health.  That's just scratching the surface, so you can feel good about eating them.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Proper Credit for Cannabis Article

I was informed last night that the Cannabis article in the current issue was copied and pasted from a PubMed posted research paper.  It just didn't cross our minds that we needed to research submissions to be sure they were original, and I am deeply sorry for that oversight.

Proper credit and the complete article can be found HERE

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Nov/Dec '19 issue is out and hitting mailboxes!Look over the table of contents below, and you'll see that there are some amazing and fascinating articles inside.  We're pretty excited about it, and hope you'll love it too. Send us a picture of your copy in your home, at work, on the beach... and we'll put it on our Facebook/IG pages.

Also, stay tuned for a subscriber-only benefit coming up next month.

Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams
  I’ll miss the plants outside, but then again…

About the Cover
  Photo by Signe Sundberg-Hall

Cannabis Root MedicineRyz NR, Remillard DJ, Russo EB (2017) Cannabis roots: a traditional therapy with future potential for treating inflammation and pain, Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 2:1, 210–216, DOI: 10.1089/can.2017.0028.
  There’s so much talk about the cannabis leaves and flowers,
  but there’s a lot to say about a deeper medicine. 

DIY Natural Spa Days, Jackie Johnson
  Easy to follow general instructions for lots of treatments.   

The Art of Entertaining with Tea, JB Schaffer
  Do you put on a pot of tea when guests are expected?  Get
  some tips for making people at home with various herbal teas.

Elderberry Toxicity, Rebekah Bailey
  A peek into to some soon-to-be published new research! 

Holiday DIY - Gifts, Marci Lautanen-Raleigh
  Wow!  Recipes and instructions for gifts, décor, and special
  culinary touches to use in entertaining or gift giving.

Move over Turkey - It’s Stuffed Pumpkin, Theresa Koch                                   
Mmmm… a delicious vegetarian main course.

Nutmeg Gets Noticed, Kristine Brown
  Do you ever think, “I wonder who was the first person to
  try this thing?”  How about nutmeg?  How did that happen? 

Cranberry Nut Bread, Nancy Reppert
  Festive and seasonal bread perfect with tea or as a gift. 

Book Excerpt: Evolutionary Herbalism, Sajah Popham
  The Vital Force Within Plants

Home Weeds Home, Lalanya Bodenbender
  Sometimes it takes a while to settle into a new plantscape.  

Keeping Herbs, Rita Richardson
  You don’t have to miss herbs during the winter.   

Conifer Forest Soap, Marci Tsohonis
  This one is on our list of things to make!
CO2 Extracts: What are They & How Do I Use Them? Liz Fulcher
  Sometimes I hear terms but don’t really recognize that I don’t
  know exactly what they mean.  CO2 extracts fall into that category,
  so I figured I wasn’t alone. Liz graciously agreed to tell us. 

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream & Double Berry Wine Cooler, Nancy Reppert
  Two delicious and elegant - yet fairly simple – recipes. 
Herbal Oddities, Kathy Musser
  Less common, but interesting plants at the herb farm.

Moving, Sandy Michelsen
  Checking in after a long absence, a new place to learn and get
  to know.      

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Friday, October 04, 2019

Autumn Projects for the Still Room

Sept/Oct 2015 issue, Essential Herbal
Catherine Love

I love autumn.  It is my favorite of all the seasons.  Though it is harvest season for many, it is also planting season for me (Texas).  Autumn is the best time of year for planting perennial herbs here, and many of the cool weather loving herbs thrive in our typically mild winters, so they are planted in the fall as well. 

Once the brunt of the hot weather is over, I begin harvesting and cutting back the heat-loving herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, and mugwort, in order to make room for other less heat hardy varieties like cilantro, parsley, dill, nasturtium, and calendula.  These are less aggressive in growth as well, and they do nicely tucked in between perennial herbs that will grow more slowly in the fall and winter. 

Once the garden is planted, it is time to have fun stirring and stitching up some things with the herbs that have been recently harvested and dried.  This fall I will be making:

·         Sweet Lavender Rose sachets- Just a simple blend of dried lavender, rose petals, and corresponding essential oils tucked into pretty patterned sachets that I sew from fabric scraps.  Sometimes I forgo stitching altogether and simply cut small squares of fabric with pinking shears, gather the herbs into those and finish with a ribbon tie. To make things even simpler, I buy premade muslin bags from my local Natural Grocer. With those all I have to do is fill, pull the drawstring and tie.  If I want to dress them up a little, I stamp them with an herb leaf or design before I fill them.

·         Sweet Dreams pillows- These are great for putting the abundant mugwort harvest to good use by blending it with other relaxing or dream inspiring herbs such as: rose petals, lavender, and lemon verbena; along with a few drops of lavender and rose geranium essential oil.  I make these as flat muslin pillows to tuck into a pillow case.  When I make them for gift giving I use a pretty floral fabric or something that will correspond with the recipient’s décor. 

·         Rosemary needle pillows- These make a simple but useful gift for the seamstress. Sew a small rectangle bag, fill it tightly with dried rosemary and stitch closed.  The rosemary is said to help keep your sewing needles sharp when they are poked into these bags.  At the very least, they make a fragrant spot to store extra pins and needles.

·         Moth repellant bags- Sew small bags with a hanging loop (those premade muslin bags work well here) for draping over a clothes hanger in the closet or to tuck between sweaters and other clothing that moths tend to ruin.  A mixture of cedar chips, lavender, rosemary, southernwood, and wormwood are mixed together with a few drops of lavender essential oil for these. 

·         Mediterranean Medley potpourri- This is a refreshing blend of my most hardy herbs- rosemary, sweet marjoram, thyme, lemon verbena, bay leaves, and lavender; with dried pot marigold and blue bachelor’s button flowers thrown in for color.  A few drops of lemon and marjoram essential oil will enhance the fragrance.  No real recipe here, I tend to just mix as I go adding more of this or that until it pleases my eye and nose.  Use what you have on hand and experiment! 

These are just a few ideas I have for fall herb crafting.  I hope they inspire you to create something new to you with the herbs from your harvest. 
My motto is: Have fun and see what happens … with herb crafts, it’s hard to go wrong.  I have had some funny flops, like the lavender cookies that tasted awful. I posted the recipe on my blog before I taste tested them because I was sure they were going to be delicious.  When I realized the mistake I quickly named those Bathwater Cookies, posted an update on my blog, threw that recipe out and started over, posting a new recipe later.  It is ok to admit when we mess up, we’re all human and laughter (even at our own expense) is good for the soul.
I encourage you to continue exploring new ideas and trying new things with herbs.   Share the successes and laugh off the not so successful projects.  There’s always tomorrow and another herbal adventure to enjoy!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Everyday Elixirs

The Essential Herbal Sept/Oct '11
Stephany Hoffelt
It is harvest time and we are all busy storing away this year’s bounty.  While I am in drying, infusing, and tincturing as well, one of my favorite ways to store my herb harvest is to make elixirs.   The idea of making a concoction with minimal amounts of sugar that still tasted good was very appealing to me.   I’d seen many recipes for elderberry syrup but they called for so much sugar and high heat; two things I am never comfortable applying to herbs.   I am also a large fan of reducing the amount of time I spend standing over a sweltering stove during harvest time.
The basic idea is to infuse dried herbs in a mixture of  80 proof or higher brandy (or some other tasty alcohol) and raw honey.   I’d like to give you exact proportions but a lot of it depends on your sweet tooth and which herbs you decide to use.   I generally end up using around 4 oz dried herbs: 15 oz liquid ingredients in a pint jar.   How much honey, you use is completely up to you.  I’ve seen people use as much as 50% honey,   but that is way too sweet for my liking.   I use very little honey and more brandy.    You will have to experiment to see what combination you like best.   I have found it that it works better to dissolve the honey in the brandy before adding it to the dried herbs.   

 Sometimes, I warm the brandy ever so slightly before I mix in the honey to help dissolve the honey.  That step probably isn’t necessary, or even desirable, if your honey dissolves without heating.   The raw honey I get locally is thick and it really helps.  After you have the honey mixed into the brandy,   you place dried herbs of your choice in a clean pint jar and pour the mixture over the herbs until the herbs are covered and the jar is full.   Cover with a tight lid and let the mixture “brew” for at least four weeks before straining and bottling.   You may need to top off the jars a bit the next morning and shake them around a bit from time to time.
Tonic herbs are particularly suitable for elixirs.  I’ve never understood why so many herb books recommend bland tonic blends when it is so easy to spice things up a bit.    If you are going to sip on something daily, it might as well taste good.     Because my taste buds seem to be easily bored, I need variety in my tonics so I play around to come up with different flavors, all the time.  I’ve come up with some fun combinations of dried herbs that I like to turn into elixirs and I thought I would share some as a jumping off point.
Remember how an apple a day keeps the doctor away? 
Well, think how much better that works when you add elderberry, rosehips and anti-microbial herbs to the mix.  Remember that it is best to use organic apples dried with the skins on.   The good stuff in apples hides in the skin.  If you really want to be frugal, you could dry the apple skins you peel for pies and use only dry apple skins.

Apple Spice Elixir
½ cup dried apples
¼ cup true cinnamon
¼ cup dried elderberries
¼ cups dried rose hips
1 tsp dried cloves

This is an elixir geared toward the specific goal of helping to balance blood sugar levels.    Burdock root is a fantastic tonic herb for so many reasons, one of which is being that it contains inulin which reportedly helps balance blood sugar.    Recent studies have also found that cinnamon and fenugreek are useful for reducing serum glucose and improving glucose tolerance.    I tend to take it really easy on the honey in this elixir, so I am sure to use true cinnamon which is sweeter than others.

Burdock Root Elixir
¼ cup dried true cinnamon
¼ cup Fenugreek Seeds
¼ cup dried orange peels
½ cup dried Burdock Root

Hawthorne is a particularly nice heart tonic herb that is rather uninspiring, as far as flavor goes.   I know there are a good many herbalists out there who like to mix it up with wild cherry bark and that is a fine elixir.  I’ve a bit of that put by in my herb closet, for evening because it is so relaxing.    During the day, I might be more inclined to use one of the following blends.    

 Spicy Chocolate Elixir
1 dried cayenne pepper
½ cup dried hawthorn berries
¼ cup coarsely ground cacao nibs

In this mixture the cayenne acts to stimulate the circulation, and the cacao nibs will contribute a lot of the wonderful benefits of dark chocolate to the mix.

Chocolate Orange Elixir
¼   cup dried orange peel
½ cup coarsely ground cacao nibs
½ cup dried hawthorn berries

Even though the orange is mostly for flavor in this blend, it still contributes Vitamin C and antioxidants.
Now the only question left is how to use your elixirs?   I tend to find that they work best when you take them in small amounts throughout the day, so I add a dropperful of elixir to mugs of my daily nourishing infusions.   My favorite thing to do with an elixir is to use it to jazz up oat straw infusions  or red raspberry infusion, which really can be pretty boring when it gets right down to it.   I suppose,  I might surprise readers  by suggesting sipping on booze first thing in the morning, but remember that you getting alcohol in a such small amounts.   In the evening you can sample a bit more heavily, if you are so inclined. 
  I’ve used elixirs to make a weak white Russian with fresh cream or in a glass of wine as an evening night cap.   However you chose to use your elixirs, I hope this article has inspired you to give them a try.   I would love to hear what you come up with. 

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Botanical Nomenclature- It's Not as Bad as You Think!

by Kathy Musser, Cloverleaf Herb Farm
previously published in The Essential Herbal Magazine (Nov/Dec '18)

If you deal with plants long enough, either as a serious hobbyist, or a professional,  eventually you run up against botanical nomenclature.  I know people who have studied plants extensively, but stopped in their tracks when it came to learning scientific names. My introduction came during courses I took at Longwood Gardens. We had to learn the botanical name, and correct spelling, for each plant we studied! And although, after more than twenty years, I don't remember them all, I learned enough about the system to make it easy to categorize many plants and also to understand the basis for many scientific names. This article will be a primer for understanding the system of botanical nomenclature,  how to navigate it in researching plants and some tips for recognizing recurring words and descriptions.

Botanical nomenclature is a uniform system for naming and classifying plants. It begins with large groups of plants with certain similar characteristics and gradually refines the classification down to a specific plant. Why was this done? If you visit several greenhouses, you might see the same plant listed under different common names. I have this experience nearly every year. A customer comes in and asks for a plant by a certain common name. If we don't have it, I ask for a description. Often, we have the plant although we list it by an alternate common name. Sometimes, plants have different common names in various locations or have an 'old-fashioned' name that has been modernized. It can be confusing when the same plant has multiple names. 

Across the spectrum of groups of plants, the importance of using botanical names varies greatly. With many annuals, herbs and more familiar perennials, common names often suffice. Using botanical names might be more important in choosing trees or shrubs, particularly if you're looking for a specific variety, identical plants for a hedge or windbreak or a plant with definite characteristics. 

The system of botanical nomenclature was developed by a Swedish botanist  - Carl von Linne, although his name is often written in the Latin form as Carolus Linnaeus. Latin names for plants may denote geographical distribution,  cultivation, chemistry or even uses of a specific plant. The system is uniform throughout the world, and a botanical name will identify the same plant here, or in France, Brazil or Latvia. The system is ever evolving, so there are periodic name changes to correct past errors or based on new information.

Each plant is given a two part name. The first word refers to its genus - a group that has common characteristics. The genus name is capitalized. Following it is the species, or specific epithet, which begins with a lower case letter. This part of the name is more specific to distinguish plants within a genus from one another. Sometimes there is a variation within a species, like a different color, a better flower or variegation. This name would be written Genus species var.(for variation.) There are also cultivars or cultivated varieties. These plants do not occur in nature, but have been developed by man, and are maintained by gardeners. They can be designated by cv., or more commonly by putting the cultivar name in single quotes. Hybrids are a cross between two species and are designated by an X. For example, Lavandula x intermedia 'Grosso' is a hybrid variety of lavender, commonly called lavandins, with the cultivar name 'Grosso' describing a large plant with long-stemmed purple flowers.

Even a limited knowledge of botanical nomenclature can be helpful. Many gardeners are anxious to provide host plants on which butterflies lay their eggs. Milkweeds are hosts for monarch caterpillars. If you recognize that the genus Asclepias denotes varieties of milkweed, you'll know that Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed), Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) or Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) will all serve as host plants for monarchs.

When I was in high school, (a very long time ago) Latin had fallen out of favor as a language to be studied. If I had known I'd wind up in a horticultural career, I would have studied Latin. But even without that background, there are recurring words used to describe many plants in the system of botanical nomenclature. If you become familiar with them, it helps to identify many common herbs.

officinalis/officinale-meaning the plant had commercial value, generally as an apothecary plant
     Rosmarinus officinalis=rosemary
     Salvia officinalis=sage

vulgaris/vulgare-common or ordinary variety
     Thymus vulgare=thyme

annua/annuum-an annual plant
     Artemisia annua=sweet Annie

procumbens/prostratus-creeping type of plant
     Rosmarinus officianalis 'Prostratus'=creeping rosemary

tinctorius-refers to plants used in dyeing 
     Carthamus tinctorius=safflower

graveolens-heavily scented
     Anethum graveolens=dill

odorata-sweetly scented
     Galium odorata=sweet woodruff

phylla-means leaves and other words or prefixes are added to further describe foliage
     microphylla=small leaves

Several words are used to describe foliage or flower color and are repeated throughout the system
     ruber=red                          aureus=golden
     virens=green                      niger=black
     alba or albus=white     


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