A closer look at Chickweed

A closer look at Chickweed

Mama Nature is giving you someof her best right NOW, chickweed.
Spring is HAPPENING!!!! The proof is in the chickweed. Chickweed is yes, my least favorite word, a weed that Mama sends our way in the beginning of spring. It is a fabulous treat for us. It’s such a great plant and grows around the worls in all temperate regions. Somesay that it follows mankind and grows where man grows. It usually starts blooming in March and grows until the hottest of the Summer months.
Chickweed is unfortunately, one of the great herbs that have lost favor in some of the herbal world, simply because it grows everywhere. It’s hard to make money on a plant the literally grows all over your yard or sidewalk. Personally, I love a freebie and a freebie that is so incrediably good for you makes it all so much better. Chickweed can be harvested from a poison free yard and eaten raw in salads or tossed into stirfry or a big pot of greens. Think of it as a pot herb. Anything that can take spinach will taste great with chickweed.
Why do I eat it? Well it’s extrememely high in Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Silicon and Zinc. It’s above average in Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Vitamin A. Oh and did I mention that it’s free??? As a country, we will pay high prices for food and let it rot in the fridge. This is equivalant in good for you healthy vitamins as spinach or Swiss Chard. I love both of those greens as well, but like I mentioned in another post, there is something about gathering and eating a food that nature has grown for you from her seed as part of her plan. I think it brings us all closer to the planet and closer together.
Medicinally, chickweed has a history as a poultice to pull out infections and abcesses. It’s great applied externally to help in inflammations, also. A tea made from the fresh or dried plant is often used to wash away the mucus of Pink Eye or to ease the pain of a sty. This is probably because of the saponins of the plant. Saponins are emulsifying parts of the plant that cause foaming up. They’re the soaps that help wash the bad away. Chickweed also has a mild diuretic and expectorant quality that make it a great addition to a cold and flu formula.
I gather my plants until about mid June. It seems East Tennessee starts to get crazy hot about then and the plants just don’t grow as much as they do in the Spring. I eat all that I can fresh and dry a pound or so for use over the year. It’s such a mild grassy flavored plant that it really blends with almost any flavor. I think the kids really like to pick this one. It comes up so easily and they can wash it quickly. I use the flower and the stems but not the root, because they have almost no root.
Enjoy your Spring and all the gifts Mama Nature is sending your way!

Red Raspberry Leaf, in Honor of International Women’s Day

Yay! We finally have a holiday to celebrate all women. Sadly, I don’t know if anyone knows about it but my Mama always taught me to appreciate what I’m given. So, in honor of all women I thought I’d write a little something about the herb that in my opinion is most associated with womankind, red raspberry leaf.

Red Raspberry Leaf is just what it’s called the leaf of the red raspberry bush. Scientfically known as Rubus ideaus this plant has been used by people from all around the world as a tonic for women once they begin menstruation and especially during childbearing years. It has a pleasant herby taste and it’s high tannic acid count makes it mildly astringent. It is a perfect herbal tea or tisane.

The epiricic uses of this herb are to promote proper work of the uterus. It strengthens the uterine muscles, thus helping in menstrual problems such as cramping and heavy bleeding. Due to it’s affinity for the uterus, it has been used for centuries during pregnancy to help promote heavy and effective contractions during birth. Some studies reccommend only using it in the last few weeks of pregnancy so as not to cause early labor. Always seek the counsel of a trained herbalist or midwife before taking an herb medicinally while pregnant. After birth, it has been used to aid in the afterbirthing process.Teas with RRL are also drank to increase lactation in nursing moms.  And lastly it has been used to ease the symptoms of menopause.

The astringent properties of this plant also make it a great aid in cases of diarhea or vomiting.

RRL is high in Iron, Manganese,Niacin, Calcium, Magnesium, Selenium, Vitamin A and C.

I think it tastes great on it’s own but I like to up the nutritional value by blending it with other herbs. Depending on my health wish those herbs would change considerably. I do have my favs though.

All time favorite herbal tea blend- Equal parts Red Raspberry Leaf, Dandelion Leaf, Nettle Leaf. This is a fabulous all over tonic that tones the body and delivers high doses of Iron, Potassium, fiber and a whole slew of vitamins. I drink it for just about any woe or just as a good tasting cuppa.

Equal parts RRL and Lemon Balm make a great tummy soothing drink. It also calms the little ones at night.

1 part RRL, 1 part dried Orange or Lemon peel and a pinch of cinnamon is a great warming tea on cold winter nights.

Really as with most herbal teas, you are only limited by what you want to try. Brew a cup and toast the important women in your life, today or any day. Image   

Dandelion, the most undervalued herb in your kitchen?

Did you think I just mistyped my most recent blog title? Nope! After reading about my favorite herb, asked me how I use it. I thought that maybe more people might like to know that as well, so……

As I mentioned before, the whole plant is edible. Traditionally, it is harvested whole in the early spring because the tender young plants are less bitter tasting. I harvest the greens and flowers all year, ( I let the roots grow all through Spring, Summer and Fall, before I dig them up)  because a lot of the mojo comes from it’s bitterness.

Studying health and the body, I learned about how bitter serves many purposes in our body. The most important one to me is how it increases saliva and thus our food gets digested better and faster. If our bodies are unable to digest our food quickly and effectively, it literally  gets stuck and impacted in our intestines only to rot not digested. So I’m good with bitter. Plus Dandelion has a good amount of fiber and it helps push that which is already stuck in there.

I only harvest from my yard or the land around my parent’s home. I know that I have never sprayed anything potentially toxic in either place. If you recently moved to your house, wait a full year before picking any wild plant for consumption. Herbs survive partly becasue they are great at sucking all the nutrients out of very little. They’re kinda like a parasite,so if they come in contact with herbicides they will take in all the bad just to get a little good. Poisons can be in higher concentrations in herbs because of this feast or famine attitude of theirs. Better safe than sorry.

You can simply dig the whole plant up with a small garden spade. Be sure to wash the dirt off the roots really well before you use the plant. The fresh yellow flower buds are great in salads. You may balk at the texture difference, so try breaking up the flower heads into petals and sprinkling them on your salad or really anything. The petal sprinkles are so delicate they blend with most anything. I like adding them to rice after it’s cooked or putting them in any baked bread or muffin.

The greens are probably the most eaten part. You can add them raw to salads. They add a kick so make sure you mix them with mild greens like spinach, romaine or red lettuce. Pretty much any gourmet restaurant in larger cities ALWAYS add this weed to their salad mix. Dandelion greens are often eaten as a pot herb. In the South, we cook mustard and beet greens with some bacon grease and a little water or broth. Dandelions make a dandy addition or sustitute for the traditional greens.

I love soups and stews. You can add the leaves or the roots to any pot od veggie soup, beef stew, or even chicken noodle soup. Probably my go to food when I don’t feel like cooking is a veggie stir fry. I keep loads of veg on hand and always have rice so it’s a staple in the rotation. The leaves work here but the root really goes well. I add it to the garlic and ginger at the beginning of the fry. It blends so well with the other flavors.

I also dry some dandelion to get me through the winter. You can dry the root and the leaves. Slice the root thinly  and dry it on a pan in a dark cool place. The leaves can be hung upside down in a dark place to dry then break them into little pieces. Add any of this to soups or rice. I throw a handful of dried leaves to eggs, spaghetti sauce, mac and cheese.

Tea is probably the easiest way to cook dandelion. I mix 1/2 tablespoon root and 1/2 tablespoon leaf to 1 cup of boiled water. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Covering keeps the essential oils in the cup. Strain well, being sure to press all the liquid goodness out of the dried plant. Most people like to sweeten it. I like it neat. Whatever gets you to drink it!

Please post any suggestions on how you use or plan to use dandelion!Image

Dandelions, the most undervalued weed in your yard?

Hope and health

Hope and health

I HATE the word weed! It just sounds whiny when you say it. “Weeeed.” Webster’s defines a weed as any plant that is growing unplanted. That bothers me, just because you didn’t plant IT doesn’t mean it wasn’t planted. Old school herbalist and medicine people believe(d) that the plants grow where they are needed. I personally love this idea. It requires FAITH in something or someone bigger. Out there in the often craziness of Mama Nature, there is an order, an idea so much bigger than our lives.
Dandelions are probably the most maligned plant in this country. It’s image is on every herbicide at your big box garden center. Entire commercials are about how effective certain pesticides are in their quest to destroy this flower. People fork out sizeable chunks of their income in order to have lush solid green lawns. But dandelions are tenanious. Their roots are long and their seed is the perfect seed for travel. If the wind fails to blow it along then a small child will soon be making a wish. The seeds are so delicate that a well placed flash of breath can send them across the park or neighborhood, but so strong that they will bury themselves successfully in any amount of soil. We’ve all seen them sprouting up in the smallest driveway crack or in the composted leaves in gutters. If the plant is picked and even the smallest piece of root is left, it will come back. This can do attitude was once appreciated.
Traditional cultures cheered the dandelions popping up in the spring. After often long and lean winter’s months, the dandelion offered fresh nutrition and medicine for them. The entire plant is edible and taken advantage in all sorts of stews, teas, and just as fresh greens. Dandelions are loaded with Iron, Potassium, Vitamins A, B, C, D, protein, fiber and calcium. It’s also a great cleanser of the body, acting as a diuretic and mild laxative. Most winters were full of dried meat and very little vegetation. They are great spring cleaners for the whole body.
It’s also the first sprig of hope after long months of cold and dreary. Entire famlies and clans used to have to stay indoors most of the day and night during winter for protection from the elements, so the little golden petals of this flower marked the beginning of the end of being sequestered. People would once again be free to be out in nature, free to eat fresh food, free to feel the sun on their skin, and free to be alone.
It has been a long Winter for not only me but for so many loved ones. We’ve lost friends and family members, suffered through crisis one after another and in some cases brushed up against our own mortality. Today, the ground is covered in snow. Our forecast for this weekend is 65 as we set our clocks ahead to the future. There were times during our freezing, blustery cold that it looked like Winter was here to stay. But the dandelion shows us differently. It’s poking through the snow, working in any soil available, often unseen but spreading deep roots so it can come forward when you may be ready to sink into the cold or bleak of life. It offers us hope, health and color!

Too Early to Play with Your Herb Garden??

Tolerant Herbs

cilantro-de

parsley

The other day a friend stopped by and was talking about her nagging desire to get out and plant her garden and play with Mama Nature. She said that her sister had planted her whole front yard. Flowers and plants everywhere.   Allow me to set the stage. It was a freak day with a balmy 55 degree high and we were standing in my front yard right next to my incredibly overgrown and unglamorous butterfly/hummingbird garden with our backs to the herb garden that was also oozing neglect. Now usually my gardens are pretty spiffy in season but the end of last season saw me with a health crisis and for lack of a better term, a hot mess in my yard!

To say the thought of a gorgeous front yard stung would be an understatement. In my head her sister’s front yard rivaled the Tuileries Gardens. I really have never seen her yard but let’s just say my imagiantion run away with me. Imagination and jumping to conclusions only added to the fact that everytime I walk by or look outside I feel a tug to dig, pull, plant, and get dirty. Honestly it looks awful, just plain awful. The urgency of the health issue is hopefully behind me but the dismal front yard is, well you guessed it, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! Luckily, my right brain kicks in and reminds me that it’s still Winter. I’m not thrilled it’s still spitting snow and even icy pellets today, but while I can fake it with food and turn up the heat, why sacrifice helpless plants.

I live in East Tennessee, the weather here is absolutely NOTORIUS for change, inconsistency and never doing what it’s supposed to do. Not unlike the residents here. So just because we had a sunny blip the other day we had snow flurries for three consecutive days afterward. The weatherman swears we have a springlike forcast tomorrow followed by 2 days of Biblical rains. So you see why I hate to throw good seeds to the wind or worst plant wee baby plants outside.
But just when I was about to give it all up, I remembered that there are a few herbs that I can put out that not only tolerate this bipolar weather but actually prefer it to our muggy hot as Hades Summers. Drum roll please…….
Cilantro, Dill and Fennel!!!!
The first two will actually bolt at the first few days of tank top wearing weather so it’s perfect to get them in this weekend. It always seemed weird to me that Cilantro and Dill both picked really hot weather BFF’s in tomatoes and cucumbers but hate the heat themselves. At least they hate our heat. I’ll probably try putting out a flat leave Parsley or two while I’m at it. Nothing adds a punch of clean taste and vitamin C like a handful of Parsley.
So I have a Saturday of playing that I can look forward to all week. I get to plant a few babies and get down in the dirt to ready the garden for the Spring and Summer that should be here in a few months. It’s the little things that make me so happy!

Another Transitional Food, Curried Fried Chicken

Crispy Curried Fried Chicken Tenders

Crispy Curried Fried Chicken Tenders

Still in my quest to ignore the snow flurries outside my kitchen window, I tried a new take on Fried Chicken. Being from the South, I LOVE anything fried but really chicken is the absolute perfect food to turn into crispy, crunchy heaven.  So maybe this incarnation will tickle your tastebuds as much as it did mine!

Curried Fried Chicken Tenders

2 Cups Buttermilk

4 crushed Bay leaves

3 Tbs Curry Powder

3 lbs chicken tenders- you can use whatever parts you like. My kiddos enjoy the tenders.

3/4 Cups all purpose flour

2 Tbsp Cornstarch- adds an extra crunch

2 Tbsp Curry powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp granulated garlic

Coconut Oil for frying*

1. Marinate the chicken in the buttermilk, bay leaves, 3 Tbsp of Curry powder for at least 8 hours.

2. Mix the dry ingredients in a large pan or a ziploc bag

3. Drain the chicken  and either dredge it through the flour mixture or shake it like a polaroid picture in the ziploc bag.

4. Fry it in the tenders in the coconut oil. 

You can either eat these as is or serve them over a batch of salad greens with a mango basil dressing or honey mustard dressing. * I love coconut oil. It’s great for fighting obesity and inflammation. It helps digestion and it really just tastes great. Always buy organic extra virgin. You want it to have a slight coconut smell and taste. I use the Trader Joe’s brand and it’s both fantastic and pretty inexpensive.
I did try making these with olive oil and safflower oil, but the whole family agreed that the coconut oil ones were the crunchiest and tastiest.