Monday, June 24, 2019

Gather some Yarrow!

from The Essential Herbal Magazine May/June 2012
Yarrow Sunburn Suite
Alicia Grosso
Yarrow - Achiellea millefolium 

Now that I’ve left the land of constant sunburn, I find I’m looking forward to a little sun.  I spent many years trying to hide from the sun under long sleeves and sunscreen.  The sun is beginning to peek through on a regular basis, and it is gloriously below sixty.  Judging from last summer, my first back in the great pacific northwest, there will be many hot and sunny days between bouts of lovely fog and rain.  I imagine that I’ll be out without sunscreen at some point, getting a little over-done, and my mind turns to Yarrow for relief.
Yarrow contains a large measure of azulene, prized for many properties including being an anti-inflammatory.  I’ve used yarrow successfully for sunburn over many years.  It has an added soap and toiletries benefit in that it contributes a beautiful yellow color. 
About ten years ago I was a wild-crafting heroine, concocting yarrow-based lotion and compresses while staying at a cabin on lake Couer d’Alene in Idaho.  We’d all left off sunscreen during a boat ride on the river, and I found a stand of wild yarrow near an abandoned farm.  I dragged home a pile of it to make infusions. One caution about Yarrow – it is not good for people who are allergic to ragweed.  Even being in the cabin long enough to make the infusions had my poor mother sneezing her head off, so I moved the harvest outside away from the cabin. 

Let’s branch out a bit from soap to create a suite of products to soothe a summer’s worth of sunburn.  Yarrow is carried into these recipes by infused oil and tea. 
I like to use the sun to create my infused oil and teas.  You can, of course, also make them by heating them in the kitchen.  You can make up a big batch of yarrow-infused olive oil and keep it on hand as needed to create your sunburn products.  I’ve found that it is best to make teas as needed.

Yarrow cold process Soap
                Yarrow-infused olive oil – 6 oz
                Coconut oil – 5 oz
                Shea butter – 3 oz
                Cocoa butter – 2 oz
                Castor oil - .5 oz

                Yarrow tea – 4.5 oz.
                Lye – 2.2 oz

To prepare for this soap, make a strong yarrow tea with 2 tablespoons of dried yarrow and 4.5 ounces of water.  Cool and strain to remove herb pieces.  Re-weigh the water and add plain water to make up the full 4.5 ounces.  Be sure the infusion is completely cold before making the lye solution.  
If you need instruction on basic soapmaking procedures, look on the home page of the Essential Herbal web site.

Weigh out the oils and butters into a heat-proof mixing container.  Break up the solid oils into small pieces for ease of melting.

Put on hand and eye protection.

Weigh the cold yarrow tea into a heat-proof mixing container.  Weigh the lye and sprinkle it into the tea while stirring carefully and constantly until solution is clear. 

Pour the hot lye solution into the oils.  The heat from the lye solution will melt the solid oils.  Stir well until solids are melted, breaking up stubborn pieces as needed.  Stir the soap batter until it is at a good medium-thick trace.  Pour into mold and insulate.  Let soap sit for two days then remove from mold and cut into bars.  Let bars sit for two weeks to dry and cure.  Store in a dry area with plenty of air circulation.

Yarrow M&P Soap
                16 ounces of natural melt and pour glycerin soap base
                Dry yarrow
                Light muslin or heat-seal tea bags.

If you shop around you can find natural, even organic melt and pour glycerin soap base.  The most common non-botanical ingredient in melt and pour soap is polypropylene glycol.  I like to use a square of light muslin to make a tea bag, but I also use reusable muslin bags and large heat-seal tea-bags for this kind of project.  Put three tablespoons of dry yarrow in whichever bag you decide to use.  Wet it in hot water and put aside.

Cut the melt and pour soap into small cubes.  Using a heat proof mixing container, melt the soap in the microwave.  Start with 30-second bursts until you get a feel for how long it takes your microwave to melt it.  Don’t let the soap get above 150 degrees.  You may also melt the soap using a double boiler.  Just be extra-sure not to let it boil dry.  

While the soap is very hot and thin, submerge the yarrow bag and poke it around in the hot soap until the bag is saturated.  Dunk it a number of times to create a kind of infusion.  When it looks like the yarrow has given all it will give, remove the bag and either clean it out or discard it.  It is most likely not suitable for compost. 

Pour the infused soap into mold.  You can eliminate bubbles by spritzing the top with rubbing alcohol.  Let the soap sit until it is cold and firm.  Remove it from the mold and cut into bars.  Wrap in plastic or put into plastic bags.  Unlike cold process soap, this kind of soap does best in air-proof packaging.

Yarrow Infusion Light Lotion 
                Yarrow tea – 7.5 oz
                Yarrow-infused olive oil – 2 oz
                Borax – 1/2 teaspoon
                Beeswax - .5 oz
                Gluconolactone and Sodium Benzoate preservative (sold as Microguard and Neodefend) – 1 teaspoon
I believe that unless you’re going to use lotion right away it is a good idea to use a good preservative to prevent mold and spoilage.  There have been a lot of advances in preservation technology available to the at-home lotion maker, and I like this one. 
Beeswax and borax is not an ideal emulsifier, but it will work well.  If you like you can order some vegetable-based emulsifying wax from your soapmaking supplier.  Substitute it for the beeswax and omit the borax.)

Heat the water, borax and preservative.  Warm the oil and beeswax until the beeswax is melted.  Pour the warm oil and melted beeswax into the hot water, stirring with a whisk.  Whisk to emulsify.  As the mixture cools, whisk periodically as it thickens to maintain the emulsion.  Pour into bottles and label with recipe name and date made.  Keep the lotion in the refrigerator to extend its life, especially if you omit the preservative.  

Yarrow Salve

                Yarrow-infused olive oil – 8 ounces
                Beeswax, grated, beads or prills - .5 ounces

Warm the infused oil and beeswax until the beeswax is melted.  You may need more or less beeswax depending on how loose or firm you want the salve.  You can test the consistency with the cold spoon method.  When you start to make the salve, place a few spoons in the freezer.  Test the consistency of the salve by dipping the frozen spoon into the mixture.  Add more beeswax if desired.  Pour into jars.  Store extra in the refrigerator.

Yarrow Bath Tea and compress –
                Dry yarrow
                Dry lavender flowers
                Dry rose petals
                Dry milk powder
                Light muslin square, reusable muslin bag or heat-seal tea bag

Make a mixture of dried botanicals. Three parts yarrow, one part lavender, one part rose petals, one part dry milk.  Store a bulk amount in a dry jar with an airtight lid.  Fill bags as needed and drop one into a warm bath.  Alternatively, use the saturated bag as a small compress for sunburn.  Gently swab tender areas.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Another Adventure - Black Currants

Some of you might remember last year I decided to make seedless black raspberry jelly, and it dirtied every piece of equipment in my kitchen.  It was left to strain overnight, and the next morning it lifted from the bowl in one jelled mass.  No sugar, no pectin, it jelled all alone. 
Well guess what!  Black currants are pretty similar in that respect.  I just wanted to juice them.  That's all...My juicer doesn't like little seeds.
Why do I bother, you ask?
Black currants, (Ribes nigrum) have a ton of health benefits!  The tart berries aren't well known in the US, due to most Ribes being banned for about 50 years due to a pine rust problem that has now been pretty much bred out of commercially available plants.  They need a little sweetening for most tastes.
They contain very high amounts of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant found in elderberries, red grapes, blueberries, and other berries/fruit with that deep purple color.
FYI - smashing the heated berries will send hot berry bits and juice flying as they pop.
Grape-based drinks like wine and juice are known to help decrease plaque buildup in the arteries, but blackcurrant juice is far more potent.
The seed oil is very good for joint pain and stiffness. Glaucoma responds well.
The berries are very high vitamin C.  Both red and black currants have four times more vitamin C than oranges and twice the antioxidants of blueberries.
As little as 1 T of the berries can help with screen fatique for a couple of hours.
Slows blood clotting, so use caution if on blood thinning medication.
The leaves and berries also have diaphoretic, demulcent, and diuretic properties
Leaves can be made into tea - good for gout, painful joints, and sore throats..

The berries can be made into juice - jelly - syrup - tincture - dried - added to foods - etc.
I make a gallon of green tea every other day, and add lemon juice ice cubes to jazz it up.  Now I will use some black currant cubes!  It's perfect.  Delicious.

I also made a pint or so of tincture.  Because it was so wet, I used grain alcohol for the high proof.

It was another BIG mess, but I think it was worth it.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

July August 2019 Essential Herbal

Field Notes from the Editor, Tina Sams
All kinds of changes going on, and appreciating all plants.

About the Artist – Carolina Gonzolez                                                                     
All in the Family, Pt 2, Jackie Johnson
In this issue, we learn about Lamiaceae and Solanaceae.                                       
Plant Parenthood, Miranda Hoodenpyl
How is the new generation communing with herbs?                                               
Garlic Mustard, Friend or Destroyer of Trees, Lorie Middendorf                         
You can view it either way, but here are lots of ways to make use of

 this wildly prolific weed.
Herbs for the Perinatal Period Pt 2 - Doulaing with Herbs, 
Danielle Bergum 
Terrific information and helpful recipes for those approaching birth. 
The relaxing remedies are good for everyone.                 
When is a Perennial Not a Perennial, Kathy Musser
Just when you had the annual/perennial thing figured out…                                  
Summer Herbs for Winter, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
Creative ways to preserve herbs, beyond drying!                                                    
Blue Oat Smoothie, Book Excerpt, Tina Sams
From the Oat chapter of my book The Healing Power of Herbs.                            
A Garden Journey - The Fruit Tree Guild, Rebekah Bailey
Like most humans, fruit trees do better in a community.                                       
Catnip, Not Just for Cats, S. Marie Carlson
Keep some of that catnip for your family.  Find out how and why!                         
Guarding Goldenseal, Kristine Brown
In this installment of Kristine’s series on at-risk plants, 

goldenseal is the star.      
Herbal Hempster Soap, Marci Tsohonis
Luxurious healing soap using hemp oil, along with castor and 

some infused oils.  We make soap here on a daily basis, but 
Marci never fails to inspire me to follow her recipe.                                                         
Herbal Ice Cubes, Lalanya Bodenbender
Stock that freezer with delicious frozen medicine!                                                  
Three Easy Pieces, Rita Richardson
Yummy herbal recipes for summer dining, indoor or out!

GET YOURS NOW - SUBSCRIBE TODAY!                                      

Note:  We rather hurriedly switched printers during a period of time when there was much traveling, a wedding, a new book (Living with Lavender) and a bunch of other things, including this issue.  We misunderstood a question from the printer and wound up with no table of contents, but Miranda's article is on both pages 3 and 8.  Because of that, we're sending a PDF to subscribers, whose copies are on the way.  We'll be printing an insert for the copies going to shops, writers, and any new subscribers over the next 6 to 8 weeks. 
This was a VERY unusual event.  Not trying to say we don't make mistakes every single issue, but we've never had one of this magnitude. 
We are certain that the communications will be ironed out by the next issue.  Thank you for your patience.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Mulberry Clafoutis

When I mentioned a clafoutis, Bob headed up the hill and brought back a bucket of berries.
Over the years we've added so many fruit-bearing plants that we've needed to find new ways to use the cherries, figs, gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries, saskatoon berries, persimmons, peaches, pears, and currants, among others.  There have always been mulberries here, and if the birds have anything to do with it, we always will.  The mulberries are also my brother-in-law's favorite, and he always lets me know when they're ripe.
We've enjoyed things like cobblers, crisps, and persimmon pudding.  There's not much I like better than spending a morning searching through recipes and then adding my own spin.
A few years ago, we added clafoutis (pronounced clafuti) to the mix.
Fruit and custard - not too sweet, just enough.
They are simple and custardy, with fruit suspended in the mix.  They are extremely versatile.  In our part of the country, pie is a common sight on the dinner table.  Amish and other plain sects who do lots of home cooking always include deserts.  Custard Fruit pies are very common, and this French country version has no crust.

Easy?  I threw this together in less than 10 minutes this afternoon. 
Here's the recipe:
Measuring out the berries is almost as messy as picking them.
Mulberry Clafoutis
Preheat oven to 325 F and butter shallow pie pan.  Set aside.

Mix the following
1 C milk or half and half
3 eggs
1/2 C sugar
2 t vanilla
2 T melted butter
1/2 C flour

Chopped kumquats were the perfect addition.
-Pour mixture into buttered pan.
-Chop up 2 kumquats, leaving behind the center.
-Measure out 2 C mulberries
-Drop the fruit evenly onto the batter.
-Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
-Dust with 10X confectioner's sugar.
Ready to go into the oven.
Cooling before sifting sugar over the top and serving.

It's good warm plain or with whipped cream. 
It's good cold for breakfast.  It's just plain good! 
This really brought out the flavor of the mulberries, and if I'd had lemon I probably would have used some zest, BUT I'm really glad there were only kumquats on hand.  They were perfect.
Looking good...

You can substitute just about any fruit, and instead of vanilla, use a splash of flavored liqueur like raspberry, cassis, or even peach brandy.  The possibilities are endless.