Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cape May with the Herb Society of America

We've been catching up with things around here, but I wanted to write about our trip to Cape May last week, for the HSA regional meeting.  I'm an "at large" member because I am not cut out for regular meetings, etc., but when I got the notice for the Cape May gathering AND the opportunity to cover the expenses by vending, it took me all of 3 minutes to sign up.
Cape May was our mother's favorite shore point.
Our kids really didn't know about boardwalk foods and shops and arcades until they were old enough to go with their friends.  Instead, we'd get up at dawn and walk along the beach between the very end of town and the lighthouse at Sunset Beach.  Shops are in the center of town, in a 3 or 4 block area called "the mall" and there are great restaurants serving delicious seafood all around.
We got there Friday and set up our table.

 Then there was a reception and snacks while people came in and registered for the event.  Lots of yummy treats made and provided by our hosts, the Mid-Atlantic District.  I wish we had asked hotel management for some serving and eating utensils, though...
Afterwards, we went for a short, foggy walk on the beach

before heading out to the pier where our favorite restaurant - The Lobster House - was sporting a 45 minute wait (worth it).  Their dessert display is below.  We were too full and too tired to partake.  How's that for pathetic?
We went back to the room ready to pass out. 
The next day flew by.  I think 10 districts were represented, and we heard about all the work they do.  Pictured is Rae McKim

(current board president) seated at the front, speaking to the group about where we are, what we're doing, and where we're going.  We had brisk day of sales in between speakers, and before we knew it, the meeting was over and we were headed for the trolley into the mall.

We grabbed a bite to eat at Fins on the mall.

Seafood flatbread with a salad - not too shabby.
The mall was completely decorated for Halloween.
 It was really pretty, particularly since where we live, Halloween has become almost invisible.
So that was really fun to see.
Shopping, we picked up some fudge for the cat-sitter, looked at this gorgeous morel mushroom ornament, and then we were just done.
  It was freezing out.  We'd been sick the whole week leading up to this shindig, and although there was a ghost tour we were really looking forward to later on, we grabbed a cab and went back to our warm hotel room.
The next day we were on our own until noon.  We had breakfast at a diner where we used to take the kids as wee ones, shopped some more (got Drunken Botanist, by Amy Stewart), and found out that there would be an hour of trick or treating in the mall, followed by a parade that was heading to the same place we were headed for a tea - The Physick Mansion.  The proprietress at Good Scents let us know that we needed to be on the road well before 3, because we'd be in the middle of a huge event.  Good to know!
So off we went to the mansion.  The grounds were decorated for the occasion.
 Some of them were spectacular.  They were done by area businesses.
Some were pretty terrible, really.  That's all I'll say about that, but honestly we were shocked. 
In we went, through the gift shop, into the tent set up for our group.  I was disappointed that we didn't set foot in the actual mansion.  An actor playing Dr. Physick had spent 15 minutes with us on Friday during the reception, but he wasn't there during the tea.
  We are accustomed to our own near and dear friend's tea room (Sweet Remembrances in Mechanicsburg) so we're really spoiled by things like presentation and having the various courses explained as to what it is that we're eating.  This was much less personal.  But we ate, and then we hot-footed it out of town before the parade got there.
We were home before dark.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Warming Masala Chai for Winter Days

Warming Masala Chai for Winter Days 
 Mary Ellen Wilcox
      The word chai simply means tea in many parts of the world.  When we Americans speak of chai we actually mean Masala chai which is a beverage made using black tea, spices, milk and sweetener.
     Masala chai has existed for 1,000's of years, and lore says that it began in an ancient royal court in India 9000 years ago.  Others say it is of Thai origin.  Whether India or Thailand, it is believed that it was created as an Ayurvedic mixture and cleansing remedy for minor health problems.
   In its early history it was made with a diverse mixture of spices, was served hot or cold, and prepared by many different methods.  Blends varied from area to area, and even from home to home in a particular area.

   In the 1830's Britain established a tea plantation in Assam, India.  The black teas grown there eventually became part of the original spice recipes, and became masala chai as we know it today.
     In India, tea was not popular with the masses because most of it was exported, and was too expensive for use by the Indian people.  Then in the early 1900's the British owned India Tea Association began to promote the use of tea within India.  To keep costs down, vendors used the milk, spice and sugar to give the brews flavor and sweetness, and make it affordable to the Indian people.
    Masala  became even more popular when a mechanized method of production of the black tea made it affordable to the average person.  This method, called CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl), may have lacked the nuances  required of whole leaf tea connoisseurs, but its strong tannic flavor made it a perfect product for the sweet, spicy masala blends.        
     Masala chai is usually made with the Assam CTC black tea, but Assam full leaf, Ceylon black teas, Darjeeling black teas, and even green tea (usually gunpowder green).  Rooibos (red tea) can also be used.
     The milk is usually whole milk, but half & half, low fat milk or other dairy substitutes can be used.  The sweetening used in India is an unrefined cane sugar from crushed sugar cane stalks with a flavor similar to molasses.  Turbinado sugar is a good substitute for this, and honey makes an excellent sweetener.
     Spices vary by location and personal preference.  Typical combinations include cinnamon, cardamom, ginger,  cloves and peppercorns.  Allspice, fennel, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, mace and star anise can also be used.
     In India chai is served by street vendors and train vendors (called wallahs).  Chai is used to welcome guests into the home.  A popular time for chai is an afternoon snack around 4 P.M. and usually includes savory treats. 

 Basic Masala Chai
2 cups milk or milk substitute
2 cups water
4 whole cloves
2 crushed green cardamom pods
2 crushed peppercorn
1 cinnamon stick
1 small piece peeled chopped ginger root 
2 tbsp. turbinado sugar
2 tbsp. black tea leaves (preferably Assam)
   Combine milk, water and spices in a medium saucepan.  Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add sugar and tea leaves.  Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.  Strain into mugs.

Masala Chai
2 cups water
4 tsp. loose black tea
1 piece dry ginger
3 cardamom pods, crushed
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
Milk and sugar to taste
   Chop up ginger into fine pieces.  Break up cinnamon stick .  Bring 2 cups water to a boil.  Add tea leaves and all spices.  Let everything brew at the boil for 30 to 45 seconds.  Remove from heat and steep for 1-2 minutes.  Serve with only a bit of milk and sugar.

Masala Chai with Fennel
1 cup water
1 cup whole milk
3 tsp. tea leaves (Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling)
1" piece dry ginger
3 cardamom pods, split open
2 peppercorns
2 cloves
1" piece cinnamon
1 tsp. fennel seeds
Sugar to taste
   Grind all spices together coarsely and set aside.  Mix milk and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil on high.  As the milk/water mix rises to a boil, add the spice mix and reduce to a simmer.  When it rises to a boil again, add the tea leaves.  Allow to rise then turn off heat.  Cover and steep for 2 minutes.  Strain, add sugar and enjoy.

Green Tea Chai
2 tbsp. green tea leaves
6 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup milk
4 cups water
   Boil water, then simmer with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves for about 10 minutes.  Add tea and steep 5 minutes.  Add milk and heat to near boiling.  Turn off heat, strain out spices and tea leaves.  Serve with honey.

Cardamom Herbal Chai
4 cups water
12 slightly crushed green cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
4 black peppercorns, cracked
3 tsp. chopped ginger
Honey to taste
Milk to taste
   Bring water to a boil.  Reduce to simmer and add spices.  Keep at simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Stir in honey.  Add milk to taste.
Makes 3 cups

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Monday, October 10, 2016

November/December 2016 Essential Herbal

We couldn't be prouder of the issue that closes our 15th year!  Beautiful to look at, full of delicious, important information, and as always, welcoming and inclusive to all levels of herbalism.  See for yourself and then stop on over to SUBSCRIBE OR RENEW

Table of Contents:

Field Notes from the Editor,
Thinking about Intellectual Property in New Millennium

About the Cover, Carey Jung
A wintry love song to water in the midst of the struggles for clean water in North Dakota

Sending Herbal Help, Tina Sams
How exactly can we be of the most assistance with limited funds, when calls for help are becoming so frequent?

Herby Pasta Comfort, Rita Richardson
In the deep of winter, rich gooey old fashioned macaroni and cheese can sure hit the spot.

Cannabis, Rochelle Baca
Legal in several states, it is time for the discussion of this valued medicinal plant to begin in earnest, out in broad daylight.

A Newbie Herbie, Chelsea Nasatka
The tale of finding one's newly born inner herbie on a trip to a woman's herbal gathering...

Exploring Herbal Preparations (Pao Zhi) in TCM, Daniel Cashman
Each different means of preparing a medicine gives it a different name.  This article helps demystify these processes.

Nature Ornaments, Janet Gutierrez
Using the beauty of nature to decorate for the holidays.

Essential Oil Primer Crossword Puzzle, Marge Clark
A fun way to learn a LOT.  Puzzles provide a ton of information in a relatively small space.  I love this one.

Herbalist Gift Giving Guide, Jackie Johnson
You'll find over 15 fabulous ideas and recipes in this article.  Something for everyone!

Seasonal Benefits of Pine, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Pleasant uses for pine and various conifers we associate with the season.  Several great recipes/instructions.

White Pine, Dr JoAnn Quattrone
Ode to this medicine tree.

Three Kings Soap, Marci Tsohonis
Mmmmm... a deluxe soap scented with a blend of essential oils you'll love.  Bonus soap ball instruction.

Sensational Cinnamon, Kristine Brown
There's a lot more to cinnamon than a little sprinkle over your latte.  Recipes included for Cinnamon Cocoa and Cinnamon Rose Elixir!

The Role of the Carrier in Aromatherapy, Lisa Marie Layman
Carrier are the unsung work horses in aromatherapy.  Learn how 6 popular carrier oils work, and when they are best used.

Giving the Gift of Relaxation, Debra Sturdevant
Have you wanted to try making bath fizzies?  Debra gives complete instructions and a great recipe!

Please share this post with your herbie friends!