3 Herb Mamas

Seasonal Living: RED RASPBERRY

Red Raspberry
(Rubus idaeus, R. spp.)

raspberries_1586035c

It may seem like an odd time of the year to be writing about Raspberries but since this is my very favorite fruit of the wonderful fruits of the Earth I find some reason to think about, use, and appreciate Red Raspberry in every season. If you grow Raspberry canes in your garden, and I certainly hope you do, then February is the time to begin fertilizing for the year. I am a little behind schedule this year because we keep having snow and ice cover on the ground. It may actually be the first week of March before I can begin side-dressing my canes but I am hoping for a window of opportunity this weekend. Here is a recipe from an old Amish “receipt book” for Fruit Cane Fertilizer:

1 gallon well-sifted wood ash
1 gallon white lime
1 handful sulphur powder
1 handful epsom salts
Mix well and put one large handful around each plant February, March, April, and again in fall.
Make sure to sift out any chunks of wood from your ashes or they will lock up nitrogen as they break down and prevent your plants from benefiting from the nutrient.

Another reason I am thinking of Red Raspberries right now is because this is the time of year when I take stock of what is in the freezer and pantry. I like to make plans to use up anything that has been overlooked and it helps me make plans for the coming gardening season by letting me know what I need to plant more of and what we had in excess. I was delighted to find that we still had about 20 quarts of Red Raspberries in our freezer. Probably half of that will be made into Raspberry Jam to use, along with other flavors, as favors at our oldest daughter’s upcoming wedding this summer. I also made Raspberry Vinegar by simply filling a half gallon canning jar halfway full with frozen berries, then filling it to the top with raw Apple Cider Vinegar. Labeled and capped, this will be ready in plenty of time for making Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing for our spring salads. I can hardly wait!

Red Raspberry Vinegar

I also made Red Raspberry Butter by combing 1/2 cup Raspberry puree with 1 cup softened butter and a generous tablespoon of local Honey. I whipped this well using a stick blender and stored it in the refrigerator to serve to top pancakes, waffles, toast, biscuits, or scone. Heavenly!

Raspberry Butter

I will also simply add thawed Raspberries to my morning homemade yogurt for a nutritious and delicious breakfast. Raspberries are rich in flavonoids, namely quercetin (along with others). Flavonoids are plant pigments with a plant metabolic function that benefits us, when we consume them, by signaling cell pathways and antioxidant activity. Quercetin is one of a group of flavonoids that reduces allergic responses and boosts immunity. Other good food sources of quercetin include red wine, onions, green tea, apples, buckwheat,and most berries. Other good herb sources include St. John’s Wort, Ginkgo, and Elder.

Raspberries and Yogurt Raspberry Yogurt

Several years ago I began eating 1 cup of berries, usually Red Raspberries or Blueberries, every day. A recent eye exam revealed that my vision had improved slightly and that the partially detached retina had healed and re-attached, although this only very rarely happens according to my eye doctor. This is only anecdotal information and hardly conclusive, but I think I will continue eating my daily cup of berries just the same. Red Raspberry is a “medicine” that does not need “a spoonful of sugar” to go down. Yummm…

Red Raspberry (or any of the other bramble species such as Black Raspberry, Wineberry, or Blackberry) leaves make a delicious tea that has an astringent toning effect on female reproductive organs and has a long tradition of use during late pregnancy and after giving birth. It is also effective for treating diarrhea and dysentery. Raspberry leaves are a rich source of minerals, especially calcium, iron, phosphorous, and potassium, as well as vitamins B, C, and E. I include this important herb in my own Herban Iron & Minerals syrup as well as in herbal vinegars that I use to boost nutrition in my salad dressings and marinades.

~Leenie

Leave a comment »

Seasonal Living: Facing Colds & Flu Season

Pantry Blessings

Be Prepared! is a good motto for herbal homemakers as well as  boy scouts.

My Feeling-Under-the-Weather First Aid Kit

Along with being Autumn, and Back-to-School, it is also the season for colds and flu “bugs” to start making their appearance. I like to be pro-active so my herbal medicine chest is well-stocked by now. I know that an ounce of prevention is absolutely worth at least a pound of cure so I do all I can to make sure we are eating nutritious whole foods in wide variety, staying well-hydrated with plenty of pure water, herbal teas, and warming soups and broths. Since we heat our home with wood stoves I like to make sure the air stays moist with humidifiers (water pots on the wood stoves) to which I add a variety of essential oils particularly supportive of the respiratory system, like Eucalyptus, Lemon, and especially Rosemary.

For the times when I do feel something coming on…like right now…I turn to these tried and true natural allies:

*Pots of Herbal Teas. Yes, as pictured, I often use a canning jar for my “teapot”. That clear glass jar catches my eye and reminds me I still have more tea and I find that I remember to drink more throughout the day. Today I am drinking a blend of Nettles, Red Clover, Comfrey, Horsetail, and Dandelion leaf but I custom blend for current needs on a daily basis. A quart a day is fairly normal for me but I will double or triple this if I feel a cold coming on. Brewing in a thermos is a good way to not only keep your tea warm but also carry it along if you have to be away from home.

*YEGG(-ish) capsules I make using freshly dried and powdered roots of Yellowdock (Rumex crispis), Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia see my note), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), and Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) based on a formula of the same name that I learned from my herb teacher, Jeanne Rose. I actually like to take Echinacea in the form of a fresh root tincture so I leave that out of the capsules now and take it alongside the dried herbs.

Encapsulating herbs Tinctures & Fire Cider

I like to have a variety of encapsulated freshly powdered herbs like YEGG, tinctured herbs like Echinacea, and vinegars like Fire Cider on hand at all times.

*Neti Pot. I use a neti pot to keep sinus passages clear and healthy. Once a day is fine but if I feel a cold coming on or am stuffed up I have used it as often as hourly to keep breathing easily.

*Hydrogen peroxide. My ears are often the first place I can feel a virus trying to gain a food hold. They may feel dry and itchy. I place a few drops of peroxide in each ear, doing one at a time, and allow it to bubble and foam, then tilt my head back up to let it drain out, and repeat on the other side.

*Garlic (Allium sativum)…and lots of it in whatever form. Our favorites are probably delicious Garlic Soup with a slice or two of toasted bread slathered with freshly whipped Garlic butter. Roasted Garlic, raw, or any way I can ingest it, I eat as much Garlic as possible for its immune strengthening, anti-microbial talents.

DSCF2837

Mugs of delicious Garlic Soup are warming and healing.

*Quercetin & Fresh Nettles Tincture. These two in combination are an invaluable resource for promoting clear nasal passages. They probably need a whole blog post to themselves so I will write that on the calendar for a Spring Allergy Tactics article. For now, I’ll include the Reader’s Digest version and say that Quercetin is a flavonoid extracted from fruits and vegetables and often combined with Bromelain (a Pineapple stem extract enzyme) to enhance absorption and effectiveness. It is available encapsulated at health food, vitamin, and some grocery or drug stores. Although research indicates uses as an antioxidant and in lowering cholesterol, the main purpose I have for using it is its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) is a traditional respiratory health and hay-fever remedy. In my experience, it must be used fresh or tinctured using fresh plant material for maximum effectiveness.

*Hot Ginger Baths (and tea). If I have chills or just can’t seem to stay warm, I chop up a nice sized fresh Ginger root and simmer it in at least a quart of water for 20 minutes or more. Then I strain and add the “tea” to a hot bath. I like to pour some of the Ginger tea into a mug along with some raw honey and a squeeze of lemon to sip while relaxing in the tub as well. Very warming! Keep the room warm and dry off quickly, dressing in warm pajamas and a robe. I like to cuddle up in bed under warm quilts and get a good night’s rest to assure a healthier tomorrow.

*”Flu Shots” as some call them. I like to use Fire Cider, which is a blend of Horseradish, Onion, Garlic, Ginger roots, and Cayenne in an apple cider vinegar base and sweetened with just a touch of local, raw Honey. As a prevention, I take a tablespoon in a couple of ounces of water once a day during fall and winter, but if I feel a “bug” coming on I take that much hourly until symptoms begin to subside. For those who don’t care for the kick-in-the-pants variety of hot shot remedies that Fire Cider provides, there is always the sweetly warming tonic, Elderberry Syrup. It can be taken in exactly the same ways and amounts as Fire Cider.

Elderberry Syrup

Happy, healthy Autumn to All! ~Leenie

Edited and updated 12/30/2014  This information is shared descriptively as opposed to prescriptively. Always research thoroughly anything you plan to ingest and consider its potential benefits vs. possible risks in light of your own unique health condition.

Leave a comment »