Monday, September 26, 2022

Wild Food Adventures

My sister and I have been taking Susanna Reppert's class (she's teaching Rosemary Gladstar's course, and we get the "in person" aspect - and yes, we both highly recommend it), and next month will be our last class.  We will be sad to see it end!
Part of the last day involves a Wild Food Pot-Luck.  Maryanne and I have a lot going on in the next couple of weeks and were worried we'd miss our planned "weeds" so we started today.  We have a couple other surprises up our sleeves, so I don't feel bad about showing this.
I wanted to do pasta.  Here's what I gathered:

The nettles, violet leaves, and dandelion leaves went into a pan with about 3/4 cup of water and steamed for several minutes.  In the meantime, I stripped the seeds off the lambsquarters (a cousin of quinoa), snipped the yellow petals from the dandelions, and chopped the basil and thyme.
Note:  we mow the nettles so there are always fresh young leaves.

When the greens were steamed, I threw them and the water into my Ninja and liquefied them. 
Into 1 1/3 cups of flour, I added 2 egg yolks, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and the liquid.  After mixing with my hands to pull the dough together, I added the seeds, petals, and herbs, continuing to kneed for about 10 minutes.  I forgot salt, but it will be added to the water when cooked.  Then I formed a ball with the dough and let it rest while I did some other things ...

Which included Maryanne's project. 
Our neighbor came over and asked if we'd like the berries/balls off the Kousa dogwoods in their yard.  Ding! Ding! Ding!  That would be Maryanne's dish! We went over and gathered about a gallon of them. 

Next we had to squeeze out the soft fruit out.  

We then ran the 5 or so cups of pulp through a food mill, resulting in JUST the 2 cups required for a "pudding" type cake.

The Kousa tastes very much like American persimmons.  More work, but delicious.  I've made persimmon cake before.  Here's a recipe that I think would work for either fruit:

We won't have her cake to photograph for a while, and we don't have a pasta dish, but this is how the pasta noodles look on the dryer.

I cooked a few just to be sure they were edible, and they are delicious! A tiny bit of butter and Parm - YUM!  The addition of the lambsquarters seeds is way better than I expected.  They add a tiny bit of texture and taste great, along with all the other flavors. 

This was really fun.  We'll both put our projects in the freezer until the day before class.  I sometimes forget how much I enjoy working with the foods in the yard (or the neighbor's).

Friday, September 09, 2022

Foot Soaks for All Sorts of Sore Feet

Excerpted from Sept/Oct 2020 Essential Herbal Magazine
by Rebekah Bailey

An often overlooked part of the home remedy and self care toolkit is the foot soak.  Foot soaks can serve a host of purposes, from simply getting feet clean, to helping with a medical condition. They are easily tailored to meet a specific need, and well suited to the use of herbs and common kitchen ingredients.


Foot soaks can be used for several reasons: to clean, to ease pain and inflammation, to refresh and relax, to hydrate and exfoliate, to cool off or warm up, or to treat a specific condition.

 After a day of weeding in the garden, my feet are typically filthy. Scrubbing my feet with a soapy brush or washcloth in the shower gets my feet mostly clean, but still leaves a lot to be desired.  A 15 minute soak does a much better job.

I have psoriasis on the bottoms of my feet, which, when not properly managed, leads to painful cracked and peeling skin.  In the past, I've tried salicylic foot ointments and doctor recommended treatments with poor results.  After a few years of experimentation, I finally found some simple treatments that help keep the condition under control. One of those treatments is a daily foot soak. Each evening I soak my feet in warm water for about 10 minutes, followed by a generous slathering of a cream that I make, and topped off with a comfortable pair of cotton socks.  Most evenings it's simply plain warm water scented with a small amount of rosewater and a lemon slice, as aromatherapy can be a helpful component of a foot soak. Two or three times a week, I try to change it up with different ingredients, depending on the type of day I've had.

 A few simple guidelines for soaking feet are as follows:

1. Use warm water, not hot water.  Hot water can dry and irritate skin.  I only use hot water when dealing with extremely sore painful feet.  I have found that a combination of Epsom salt and heat can sooth my feet like nothing else.

2. Limit soaking time to 10-15 minutes if you soak frequently, as long soaking times can cause dryness.  If you only soak occasionally, then longer soaking times are fine.

3. Dry feet thoroughly with a towel, and apply lotion, cream, or balm to seal in moisture.

4. When dealing with dry, cracked skin on the feet, put on a pair of cotton socks after applying a nice thick layer of lotion, and sleep on it.

 I'd like to add a little side note on the subject of exfoliating feet.  I've seen a lot of recommendations to use a foot file or pumice stone in conjunction with soaking feet.  It's something I used to do, but I don't any more.  I used to do it regularly, and began to notice that instead of less calloused feet, it seemed like they were worse than ever.  Then a light bulb went off in my head.  Calluses are the result of friction on the skin. In what universe would applying regular friction (pumice stone or foot file) to skin result in less calloused feet?  What I've discovered is that regular soaking, followed by application of lotion keeps my feet in pretty good shape, and callus removal isn't necessary.

The following common kitchen ingredients and herbs are among my favorites for soaking feet, but the list is by no means comprehensive.

 Epsom salt is anti-inflammatory, good for pain and swelling, and can help sooth tired sore feet. Epsom salt is also great for reducing stress due to magnesium's activity on GABA receptors. Epsom salt can be drying, so it’s best to reserve its use for treating a specific condition if you soak frequently like I do.  Recommended usage rate is 1/2 to 1 cup per basin of soaking water.

Milk contains an alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, which helps loosen dead skin cells and promote new skin cell growth.  Cultured milk products like buttermilk and yogurt contain even more lactic acid than plain milk.  Whole, full fat milk is good for moisturizing and soothing dry, itchy skin.  Usage rate is variable. I find 2 cups to every 1 1/2 gallon of water effective.

Raw apple cider vinegar contains alpha hydroxy acid also, so can be used for loosening dead skin cells.  Additionally, it is antibacterial and antifungal, so a good choice when dealing with foot odor and fungal infections like athlete's foot or toenail fungus. Recommended usage rate is 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water.

Honey is extremely moisturizing, due to its hygroscopic property, the ability to draw water to itself from the air. Honey is also antibacterial and can aid in wound healing.

I’ve categorized the following herbs and kitchen ingredients for easy reference:

Anti-inflammatory:  Aloe, Calendula, Chamomile, Epsom salt, Fennel, Ginger, Green Tea, Lavender, Lemon, Rose, Rosemary, White Willow Bark.

Moisturizing: Aloe, Buttermilk, Coconut Milk, Cucumber, Honey, Milk, Rose, Yogurt

Exfoliating:  Buttermilk, Lemon, Oats, Pineapple, Milk, Yogurt

Alpha hydroxy acids cause skin to be photosensitive, so be conscientious of sun exposure after using exfoliants.

Deodorizing: Eucalyptus, Lovage, Rosemary, Sage

Antifungal:  Apple cider vinegar, Calendula, Cedar leaf, Cilantro, Juniper berry, Lavender, Lemon, Oregano, Sage, Thyme, Rosemary


Antibacterial:  Apple cider vinegar, Calendula, Cilantro, Eucalyptus, Honey, Lavender, Lemon, Oregano, Sage, Thyme, Rosemary

Stress relieving: Catnip, Chamomile, Epsom salt, Lavender, Lemon Balm

Cooling: Cilantro, Eucalyptus, Lemon, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Rose

Warming:  Cedar leaf, Ginger, Horseradish, Lemon Balm, Mustard Seed, Peppermint

My foot soaking basin is an antique enamel pan that takes 1 1/2 gallons of water to fill to ankle level, so all of my recipes are sized for that amount of water.  If you don't like the feel of bits and pieces floating in the water, try placing your herbs in a muslin drawstring bag or large heat sealable teabags.  Another option is tying the herbs up in a washcloth using a piece of string or a rubber band.

 Oatmeal Milk & Honey Foot Soak

1/2 cup oats, ground to a fine powder (a coffee grinder does the trick)

2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup honey

Place ingredients in basin, and then top up with warm water.  The milk will most likely be cold from the refrigerator, so you'll want to test the water temp as the basin fills, so it's comfortable, but not too hot.


Fresh Herbal Foot Soak

Stuff a quart jar full of fresh Herbs of your choice. A couple of great combinations are peppermint and calendula or rosemary, or chamomile and lavender, Cover herbs with boiling water and allow to steep for at least 10 minutes.  I like to do it in the morning and allow it to sit all day for a strong infusion.  Place the strained infusion in your foot basin, and add enough warm water to bring the water level up to your ankles.

To use dried herbs, fill your quart jar only 1/4 to 1/3 of the way with dried plant material.


Rosehip and Shea Cream

For those of you who like to make your own creams and lotions, I'll share my personal recipe with you. I formulated this one early in my career as a soap/lotion making supplier, and over the years, it has remained my personal favorite. Because this isn't an article about lotion making, I'm not going to get into a detailed explanation of the process, and assume that anyone attempting it has a working knowledge of the basic process.  I will note that I currently use Jeecide CAP-5 as my preservative, and have used Phenonip in this formula in the past.  The instructions on heating are based on the use of Jeecide.  If working with Phenonip, heat water phase to approximately 150°F, and add the preservative to the water phase instead adding it during the cool down phase.

8.55 oz            Distilled Water

4 oz                 Rose Hydrosol

2 oz                 Shea Butter

2.4 oz              Rosehip Oil

1 oz                 Glycerin

1 oz                 Emulsifying Wax

0.6 oz              Stearic Acid

0.05 oz             Citric Acid

0.2 oz              Preservative

0.2 oz              T-50 Tocopherol

Combine distilled water and glycerin, heat to approximately 140°F.

Combine shea butter, rosehip oil, emulsifying wax, and stearic acid.  Heat until oils and waxes are melted together.  Add T-50 tocopherol with mixing.

Add oil phase to water phase, blending thoroughly.

As mixture cools, add preservative with blending.  Pour into jars, and allow to cool. Makes 20 ounces of lotion, or five 4oz jars.



Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Just the Essentials - Sept. Specials


Just dropping by to announce a discount for US readers.
If you know other small business owners, you may have heard about the difficulties everyone is having in finding packaging, ingredients, and pretty much all of the things that we took for granted before the pandemic. It's getting slightly better - or maybe we're just getting more savvy - but it's been quite challenging.

This explains how I've come to be the owner of enough 2 ounce dropper bottles to last me the rest of my natural life. The only quantity available was 5X what I wanted, but that's how it's been going. 1 ounce? No problem. 2 ounce is a big problem right now.  It could switch next week. So...

 We're having a 2 week sale on 2 ounce bottles of tinctures and blended tinctures, ending on September 20. No code needed, the discount is automatic.

Also, we vended at a show over the weekend, and quickly sold out of the Blue Butterfly Pea flower tea we took along. People told us they'd been looking for it and couldn't find it! This is the ingredient that is showing up in all the blue lattes and brews at the $$$ coffee shops.  What they aren't doing (that we've noticed) is add a tiny squeeze of lemon that magically transforms the blue liquid to vibrant purple.  If you've been looking for it -  We have it!