Recipe Experiment with new spices and herbs

Sometimes I experiment in the kitchen … the ones that turn out great, I share with you. This stew uses a lot of spices great for digestion, plus some unusual ingredients from the garden. (Yes, I include some dandelion that was growing by the mint and it turned out tasty.)



Calming Ways to Use Chamomile

Chamomile is widely known and used for mild insomnia. But did you know you don’t have to drink it? If you feel restless or anxious before bedtime, you can also use chamomile in a bath or footbath to enjoy the calming effect.

Chamomile likes to grow in full sun

Chamomile likes to grow in full sun

Chamomile is also an anti-inflammatory, due to its essential oil, azulene. This may also help to lower fever. To use a gargle for sore throat, make a double-strength tea.

A cup of chamomile tea is also a digestive aid, both through calming and the bitter compounds in it.

For some individuals, chamomile has an immediate calming effect. (That would not be me.) For others, chamomile needs to be used a few times a day over several days to help. (My hand is raised on that one.)

Fresh from the garden

Fresh from the garden

Chamomile is considered safe for children.

How much? 1 tsp dried herb to one cup water for tea.

Prepping chamomile to dry in the dehydrator

Prepping chamomile to dry in the dehydrator

My experience with chamomile out of our garden: Dried and fresh taste very different. Fresh has almost no taste. Dried chamomile has a mild sweet taste.

Resources: Medicinal Herbs - Rosemary Gladstar. The Simple Book of Herbs - Lisa Bedner, R.N., Herbs for Stress and Anxiety - Rosemary Gladstar.

3-in-1 Recipe for Cauliflower-Haters

I admit. I never thought I’d like immersion blenders (after a bad experience years ago). Now? It’s fun seeing what can be pureed.

This recipe has topped my list, because once it is made we eat it as soup, pasta sauce, or as a chicken sauce. Spicy - but not too spicy. Rich - but fresh and light. If you prefer chilled soups, this is probably not going to be a favorite. But who wants chilled soup in January, anyway?


9 Ways to Enjoy Rosemary

I trimmed back a rosemary bush and had to come up with several ways to use a ton of rosemary.

Of course, my favorite way is #9!

Critical question for gardening plus our garden updates

I get asked what we are planting in our garden, so I decided to show you here.

This year was different. As we continue to develop our medicinal herb garden, we had much less time this year for our vegetable garden, so we used what we have learned to decide what to plant.

We asked ourselves, which plants are most important to us, because every plant has its unique pests and challenges. This summer we decided to not grow some of our regulars.

Beans require a lot of harvest and processing time. Squash is quick and easy to harvest and process, but the squash bugs are beyond description. I won’t even go there. Melons and cucumbers are nice, but there is not a great way to save extras.

So, tomatoes (easy to grow, harvest, and freeze), peppers (the same), and sweet potatoes (the variety I like are only sold at a store an hour away) were it for us this summer. Spring and fall include a lot of beets and radishes, as their pests are easy to control.

Next year our medicinal herbs should be established and we plan to get back to our regular vegetables. As you garden, for that matter as you live, there is a continual re-setting of priorities.

Enjoy your harvest!

Six Easy Steps for Herbal Infusions

Making an infusion is similar to making tea.  Once you know which herbs you want and if you are using fresh, frozen, or dried, the rest is easy.

For this example, I am using fresh Holy Basil from my garden.  Holy Basil is an "adaptogen" - which helps the body adapt to stress.  

Step One:

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Harvest the stems and leaves before flowers form, in early morning, just after the dew is off. That's the ideal. However, these I harvested at 5:45 a.m. because that is when I needed to make my infusion.  Also, the tops had flowered, so I used them.  Amount?  Enough for 2+ tablespoons fresh per cup of water. (If using dried herbs, use 1+ tablespoon per cup of water.)

Step Two:

Rinse off any obvious dirt.  

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Step Three:

Strip the leaves and flowers to use.  (Some people also use the stems.)

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Step Four:

Chop Coarsely.

Step Five:

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Place the herbs in either a mason jar or a french press.  When I began making infusions I used a mason jar and then strained the herbs through a cheesecloth.  If you are going to make infusions several days a week, invest in a french press to save you time.

Steep for 4 hours minimum.  The longer the herb steeps (generally), the stronger the infusion.  I either make my infusion at night and let it steep overnight to drink in the first few hours of the day, or begin steeping in the morning and drink during the afternoon.

Step Six:

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Drink the infusion within a day or two, putting it in the refrigerator if over 12-24 hours.  Or freeze the infusion in ice cube trays.  This is especially useful for infusions you want to use as herbal remedies.  For example, if you want sweet basil, chamomile, and mint to steep together for 4 hours to help with digestion or headaches, you don't want to wait 4 hours for relief.  Having it made and frozen, you can pour boiling water over 2-3 cubes and have instant help.

If you have questions, or ways that you make infusions, I'd love to chat in the comments.

Patience Pays Off

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These simple pictures don't reflect the emotions they evoke in me. This is an "oh, my" step in a personal journey. We planted this chamomile and coneflower this weekend.

SO?

Have you ever had something that you worked (and worked) toward and no matter how hard and long you worked it seemed to get further away?

Two and a half years ago Doug Traxler and I decided to turn our side yard into a Medicinal Herb Garden. With the help of Nashville Foodscapes and Lisa Bedner, RN and certified herbalist, the soil was prepped, the plants selected, and the garden designed. But then ...

All of 2017 was spent re-weeding. (Ok, not all. We did go to a friend's wedding in CA.) We would weed a section, then by the time the next section was weeded, the bermuda grass would reappear in another area. Evenings. Weekends. Over and over.

This spring we started weeding again.

But you know what happened? Enough of the deep roots were out that there were fewer and fewer weeds and grass. As fewer weeds came up, there were fewer to go to seed.

(Is anyone seeing a life lesson here, too?)

So, this weekend, after making the final layout of one of the herb beds, I was able to plant my first herbs in this garden.

As I sat listening to the rain, I felt such a sense of wonder and hope. "Wow. Something I had begun to feel discouraged over, finally has a tangible proof that IT CAN BE DONE." (Yes, there is still much more to do, but I have hope.)

If you are struggling to make something happen, drink a cup of chamomile tea (not from my garden yet, though ... it's not grown enough) and remember IT CAN BE DONE.

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