3 Herb Mamas

Roasted Dandelion Mochas

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Roasted Dandelion Mocha

Winter time with all the holidays and  richer, heavier foods can take a toll on our livers, kidneys and general digestion. One way to enjoy a boost to these organs and systems  while we wait for those first delicious wild and cultivated greens that are so renewing is to brew  a pot of caffeine-free, nourishing Dandelion “coffee”, add some raw cacao chips that are rich in anti-oxidants, a little local raw honey, and a dollop of freshly whipped cream (dairy, almond, coconut or whatever you prefer).

Dandelion

Dandelion is a specific for liver and kidneys. It is rich in iron and potassium as well as many other minerals. It is stimulating to these organs while not overtaxing your nervous system. It improves digestion and fat metabolism and is naturally diuretic without depleting minerals the way pharmaceutical diuretics can. It is readily available three seasons of the year and free for the gathering. Naturally, you should make sure you are gathering from land that has not been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides but most folks would be happy to have you dig out this most misunderstood of all “weeds”. (A weed, by the way, is simply a plant whose value is underestimated. Or, if you prefer, a plant in the wrong place.) Begin digging roots in the spring. Scrub, split, chop and dry they all through the summer and into fall. You’ll have plenty on hand for next winter and your liver will thank you for the break from coffee and tea.

 

Roasting chopped, dried Dandelion roots in a skillet. Left: unroasted Right: roasted

I like to roast Dandelion roots in a skillet over medium heat stirring to keep them from turning into Dandelion Charcoal. Some people  prefer to roast them in a moderate oven, stirring occasionally. I tend to forget about them in the oven but it certainly works just as well if you keep an eye on them. Once they are roasted, I allow them to cool a little before grinding them fine in a standard coffee mill I reserve just for herbs.

 

Ground Roasted Dandelion roots can be brewed in place of or in combination with ground Coffee beans. On the right I combined mine with some Cacao nibs.

Brew your Dandelion just as you would regular coffee. We like to use a French press but you can use any type of coffee maker. Once it is brewed you can stir in the sweetener of your choice, and top with cream if you like. These taste wonderful chilled with soy or your other preferred milk. During these cold winter days, I like mine served warm along with a good garden book or seed catalog, a quilt to cuddle under and a nice fire roaring in the wood stove. Enjoy!

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Herbal Vinegars for Cleaning

Certainly plain white vinegar, along with a few other simple, inexpensive ingredients like baking soda, can fit the bill adequately for most home cleaning chores but adding some common herbs and plant parts can increase their beauty  as well as their effectiveness. Some people object to the sharp odor of vinegar. In truth, it dissipates quickly. The addition of herbs or essential oils allows your cleaning product to leave a lingering, pleasant fragrance once the vinegar smell is long gone. In some cases, depending upon the additions you make, there is little or no vinegar smell at all.

Making your own herbal vinegar could not be simpler. Place the herb of your choice in a jar, cover with inexpensive white vinegar, cap, label, and allow to steep for a week or two. Be generous in the amount of plant material you put in your jar but there is no need to measure exactly. A big handful, probably a heaping cup or more, of lavender leaves, stems and flowers in a quart jar is a good start. For citrus-scented vinegar I recently used the skins of 1 grapefruit, 3 oranges, and 2 lemons in a gallon of white vinegar and it came out with a strong strong citrus scent that overpowered the vinegar one within a few days.

 

When you are ready to use your herbal vinegar, strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer, compost the plant material, bottle your vinegar in whatever form you prefer such as a spray bottle, sprinkler top narrow opening bottle. Remember to label it. If the scent is not strong enough for you, feel free to add essential oils. Lavender is naturally disinfectant and anti-microbial. Citrus peels smell wonderful and add even more grease-cutting and crud-loosening power to your acidic vinegar. Pine needles add a forest freshness. Rosemary is woodsy as well and Mints are uplifting and have the added bonus of repelling ants and mice. Experiment freely to find the scent or combination of scents you like best.

Making your own herbal vinegar for cleaning will save you money, contribute to your health, reduce the amount of trash going into landfills from all the bottles and packaging not to mention the questionable chemicals, and enhance your appreciation for the wide variety of ways that herbs can bless your home and your life. How many other commercial household cleaners can double as an ingredient in a fabulous salad dressing or marinade? I’m will to bet ZERO!

When it is time to use your vinegar to clean here are some handy ways to apply them:

  • Use it in a spray bottle either full strength or half and half with water to clean counters, appliances, stove tops, etc.
  • Add about 1/2 cup to your fabric softener receptacle in your washing machine for fresh, soft laundry without chemicals.
  • Spray soiled clothing, bedding, or rugs and allow to soak in before laundering to remove pet odors.
  • Sprinkle tubs and sinks with baking soda and/or borax and then spray with herbal vinegar. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes or so and then scrub and rinse.
  • Clean windows and mirrors using herbal vinegar in a spray bottle and polishing using crumpled newspapers.
  • Spritz the inside of food jars that have had something oily in them like mayonnaise to cut the grease before washing. This works well to remove strong food odors like Horseradish or Garlic as well.

Lift your spirits and fragrantly bless yourself with these natural cleaners while caring for your home!

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“Fire Cider” by Any Other Name

With the recent uproar over an herbal business trademarking the name “Fire Cider” for their exclusive use there has been a surge of interest in this traditional home remedy. To be honest, I have no idea who originated the idea or the recipe for this wonderful formula but I am certainly glad they did. I know I have been making it for at least 20 years and I learned to make mine from a little self-published booklet by Rosemary Gladstar. There are probably nearly as many recipes, methods and names as there are herbalists making it. I’ve heard it called Master Tonic, Tonic Cider, Fire Tonic, Dragon Tonic and other names. The reason I call mine “Fire Cider” is because that is the name Rosemary gave to it and by now it is just habit. Although I am not a stickler for measurements, this is approximately how I make mine.

Basic ingredients for making your own 'Fire Cider' at home.

Basic ingredients for making your own ‘Fire Cider’ at home.

For each quart I plan to make I place:

1 bulb (NOT 1 clove) of Garlic, minced

1 Onion, chopped

1/4 cup grated Horseradish, chopped

a 1″-2″ piece of Ginger root, chopped or grated

several dried Cayenne peppers, crumbled up

I admit that I often take the easy shortcut and just toss everything in the food processor and chop it all at once. If you are in a hurry for your Fire Cider then mince it fine. If you are in less of a rush, roughly chopped will do. Place everything in a glass jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. I have a particular fondness for Bragg’s and I believe there are added nutritional benefits from using a raw (“with the mother”) vinegar over a pasteurized vinegar, although I have used the latter in a pinch. Cover, and if your lid is metal you might want to line the top of the jar with plastic to prevent corrosion from the vinegar. I like to allow mine to sit at room temperature for about 4 weeks. When it is ready I strain out the plant material by pouring it through a cheesecloth (I actually use old, clean pieces of jersey t-shirts.) lined strainer, pressing out as much liquid as possible. For every quart of herbal vinegar I add about 1/2 a cup of local, raw honey, stirring to dissolve. Now it is ready to bottle, cap and label.

"Fire Cider"...a wonderful folk remedy that works!

“Fire Cider”…a wonderful folk remedy that works!

Personally, I love Fire Cider as a daily tonic. It improves digestion and is warming. I love the “kick” it provides. It is also wonderful in place of regular vinegar or lemon juice as a spicy salad dressing or marinade. At the first sign of a cold or flu (that tickle in the back of your throat, or a warm, dry nose, or itchy, full ears) I take a tablespoon or two in a little water (Bottoms up!), along with some Echinacea tincture, vitamin C, a hot shower with Eucalyptus or a hot Ginger bath, and go to bed early for some extra rest. That is often enough to knock out the virus before it gets a toe-hold. For an active cold, I take a shot of Fire Cider hourly.

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Woo Hoo! 3 Herb Mamas!

I’m excited to be joining my sister family herbalists/plant enthusiasts, Leenie and Janet,  to share, learn, and explore the world of herbs together. The ground is blanketed with snow, protecting and nurturing the sleeping plants and seeds that will soon burst forth in spring.  I am grateful that this afternoon’s plans have been cancelled due to the weather, and that we can enjoy the beauty outside our windows safe and snug at home. Now on to my favorite activity at this time of year: looking through seed catalogs and dreaming of this year’s gardens while sitting near the woodstove  sipping tea.

BASHO-HAIKU-WINTER-SOLITUDE

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