Friday, April 30, 2010

Sea Zest Seasoning: Mountain Rose Herbs Blog Contest

Sea Zest seasoning combines three sources of nutritional powerhouses for a tasty herbal seasoning that adds zest to vegetables, meats, sandwiches, and salads.

The basic recipe includes sesame seeds, kelp and stinging nettle leaf.

Sesame seeds are an excellent source of the minerals copper and manganese. They also contain a good amount of magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.

Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) contains a vast amount of nutrients. According to the authors of Vegetables from the Sea:

“All the minerals required for human beings, including calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, iron and zinc are present in sufficient amounts. In addition there are many trace elements in seaweeds.”

Kelp also has significant amounts of vitamins A and C, as well as B1, B2, B6, Niacin, and B12. By adding this nutritious weed of the sea to our diets we can find that our hair grows faster and thicker and our bones, teeth, and nails are stronger. Seaweed also supports metabolic function. In this recipe we'll be using granulated kelp as shown below. You can also use whole kelp fronds and use a blender or food processor to mince them up.

Stinging nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) is one of our most nutritious plants. According to Mark Pederson who wrote the book Nutritional Herbology, nettle contains high amounts of calcium, magnesium, chromium, and zinc.

Making this herbal seasoning is easy.

The recipe is...

3 cups toasted and ground up sesame seeds

1 cup kelp

1 cup nettle

You can buy organic stinging nettle and sesame seeds from Mountain Rose Herbs:

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

Step 1 ~ Preparing the sesame seeds

You can buy sesame seeds in packages or in bulk at your natural foods store. Sesame seeds are high in oils and can go rancid easily, so be sure to buy from a fresh source (like Mountain Rose Herbs).

When making Sea Zest Seasoning in our home we start with three cups of sesame seeds. If this seems like too much for your family, you can reduce the amount of ingredients in ratio. (For example you could do 1 1⁄2 cups of sesame seeds and a half cup each of kelp and nettle.)

Toast the whole sesame seeds on low heat. We like to use a clean and dry cast iron pan for this, but whatever you have will work fine. Be sure to stir them often so they toast evenly and do not burn. Once they become darker in color and have a nice aromatic smell, remove them from heat.

Using a food processor or blender, grind the seeds into powder and then place in a large mixing bowl.

Step 2 ~ Mixing it together

Add one cup each of granulated kelp and cut and sifted nettle leaf to the sesame seeds.

If you are beginning with whole kelp fronds or whole nettle leaf then you can use the food processor to mince them up well.

One word of caution is that it’s better to have granulated kelp rather than powdered kelp. If it’s too powdery it doesn’t mix well.

Also, buying whole kelp fronds will ensure better quality than buying it granulated

Once it is all mixed together you can bottle it up, label it, and enjoy! That's my husband Xavier below.

Because sesame seeds are high in oils, you’ll want to consume this seasoning quickly so that it doesn’t have a chance to go rancid. If it has gone rancid you’ll notice the strong unpleasant smell.

You can store excess seasoning in the fridge for better storage.

This simple recipe can be a base for many other kinds of seasonings. You could add savory herbs like rosemary, thyme, or oregano. You could also add spicy seasonings like cayenne, ginger, or turmeric. You can buy a large variety of high quality herbs and spices at Mountain Rose Herbs.

We sprinkle this seasoning on practically everything!

This blog post if part of the Mountain Rose Herbs Blog Contest

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hawthorne for this little heart of mine

(Crataegus spp.)

Hawthorn is nourishing medicine for the heart. This article briefly discusses hawthorne then leaves you with two delicious recipes for hawthorne including honey and vinegar. 

Botanical name: Crataegus oxyacantha, Crataegus douglassii
Family: Rosaceae (Rose)
Parts used: leaves and flowers, berries
Properties: slightly cool/dry, cardiac trophorestorative, relaxing nervine, digestant, astringent, diuretic, antioxidant
Used for: heart related illness, cardiac weakness, stagnant digestion, regulation of blood pressure
Plant preparations: tea, tincture, vinegar, food

Hawthorn trees have a long history of medicinal use in many cultures. Traditional Chinese Medicine has documented use of hawthorns for thousands of years. Europeans used them not only for food and medicine, but also pruned them into shrubs to mark boundary lines. In North America, Natives in the Pacific Northwest used the berries as medicine and food and made a variety of different tools using the long thorns found on the tree.

The berries have been traditionally used in western herbalism, but the leaves and blossoms have a long history of use as well. The berries ripen in the late summer to fall and are anywhere from red to black depending on the species. The leaves and flowers are best when harvested in the spring, at the peak of the blossoms. I love using the leaves and blossoms as a strong infusion.

Here's a simple and delicious tea recipe that strongly supports heart health. 

Hawthorn is a cardiac trophorestorative, meaning it brings balance to the heart. It can be used for both high and low blood pressure and to regulate cholesterol levels. It is high in antioxidants, which can reduce oxidative damage on capillary walls. Its relaxing nervine properties are helpful when a person is stressed out, which puts further hardship on the heart.

Herbalists David Winston and Mathew Wood both use hawthorn for children and adults who are restless and irritable with a difficulty in focusing. In his book The Earthwise Herbal Matthew Wood shares his experience using hawthorn for an autistic child.

Paul Bergner speaks beautiful about hawthorne for the physical heart as well as the spiritual heart. Herbalist Deborah Francis uses small amounts of hawthorne in other tinctures to bring out the heart.

The Chinese have used the leaves and flowers for stagnant digestion associated with poor lipid metabolism. Indications for this include heartburn and indigestion.

Gathering the berries

When the berries are dripping from the trees in late summer I gather plenty for tincturing with brandy and infusing in vinegar. Both mixtures turn out a deep red that is reminiscent of the heart. Hawthorn berries are especially high in pectin and I’ve heard that when making hawthorn berry jam no extra pectin is needed.

Many wild berries can be infused in honey, and despite needing to pick out the seeds, I especially enjoy hawthorn honey on toast.

Hawthorne Honey
Gather enough ripe berries to fill a jar. Cover the berries with honey, stirring well to remove any air pockets.

Let the mixture sit for a couple of days to a week. I like to turn my jar over each day to further mix things up.

You can enjoy this by the spoonful and as a topping on toast. Keep in the fridge for long-term storage and be careful with the small seeds.

Hawthorne Vinegar
Extracting the benefits of hawthorne berries into vinegar gives us another way to enjoy the heart health benefits. 

  • Fill a glass jar with fresh berries. 
  • Cover the berries with apple cider vinegar. 
  • Cover with a plastic lid (or a metal lid with some type of barrier, the vinegar will corrode the metal). 
  • Let this sit for 6 weeks, giving it a shake every other day or so. You might notice it needs to be topped off with more vinegar after about a week or so. 
  • Once it is infused, strain off the berries and use the vinegar in salad dressings or as part of meat marinades. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dandelion Wine Video

Here's parts 1 and 2 of making dandelion wine. This batch was the best batch of dandelion wine I've ever made. If you've got dandelions popping up in your yard, you might give this wine a try! We like to drink a glass of dandelion wine on winter solstice to celebrate the returning sun.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dandelion as food: simmered, blended and marinated

In the next few weeks I'll be posting excerpts from my Healing Herbs ebook. The whole book is now available for free at - check it out!

(Taraxacum officinale)
Family: Asteraceae (Aster)
Parts used: root, leaves, flowers
Properties: cool/dry, bitter, alterative, nutritive, cholagogue, diuretic, laxative, tonic
Used for: poor digestion, water retention, nourishing food, skin eruptions
Plant preparations: decoction, tincture, food

Volumes could be written on the many uses of dandelion – indeed they have been! This common weed is often hated and poisoned by those preferring a “weed free” lawn, while those of us in love with dandelion and its many uses happily support it taking over our lawns.

This plant was purposefully brought to North America by Europeans not wanting to leave this valuable resource behind. Every part of the dandelion can be used as food or medicine, making back door herbalism simple and easy, as it should be.
When the first spring leaves pop up out of the ground they can be harvested heavily and eaten fresh with salads, made into a delicious pesto, or dried for tea.

The leaves are highly nutritious, containing large amounts of vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and many more vitamins and minerals. The French call this plant pissenlit, which alludes to its strong diuretic properties. A tea of dandelion leaves is a great way to flush excess water from the system. (Of course, before using this effective remedy we always want to make sure the water retention is caused by a non-serious condition like sitting on an airplane too long.) When eaten with meals, the bitter taste of the leaves helps to promote digestion by stimulating bile to relieve indigestion and other digestive disturbances.

The root is a great ally for the liver. It can be tinctured or eaten fresh in a variety of recipes. Dandelion root can help clear up acne and other skin disruptions with the root cause being a stagnant liver. Most herbalists agree that long-term use of dandelion is needed for best results.

The flower can be eaten in salads, or fried up as fritters. An oil made from dandelion flowers is warming and can be applied externally to relieve arthritis and other aches and pains.

Lastly the latex, or sap, from the dandelion stems can be used topically on warts. Apply several times daily for best results.

My favorite way to enjoy dandelion is by making dandelion “coffee” with the roots. This beverage doesn’t contain the caffeine found in coffee, but does have a rich, dark taste similar to coffee.

Like burdock, dandelion’s strong diuretic activity makes it an inappropriate choice for someone with low blood pressure or excessive urination.

Dandelion Coffee
Prior to decocting the dandelion root, roast the dried chopped root in a cast iron pan until it is fragrant and has changed color from being off- white to light and dark brown.
For each 8 oz of water you are making, use 1-2 teaspoons of the roasted root.
Add the root to simmering water and continue to simmer while covered for 7–15 minutes. The resulting brew will be darkly colored. I enjoy my dandelion coffee with cream, and many people enjoy adding honey as well.

Dandelion Pesto
We love this pesto as a dip, on bread, pasta, salmon or even a couple tablespoons on eggs.

2-4 crushed cloves of garlic
1/2 cup cold pressed olive oil
2-3 cups of young dandelion leaves
1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
dash of sea salt
squirt of lemon juice (optional)
1/4 cup of ground nuts (walnuts, pine nuts)

I prefer to make this type of mixture in a food processor. If you have one of these handy devices simply place all the ingredients in the processor and blend until well mixed together.

If you do not have a food processor you can make this in a blender and since I have burned out many a blender doing this here are my very precise instructions on how to make dandelion pesto and not break your blender in the process.

Place oil, garlic and salt in the blender along with half of the dandelion leaves.

Blend well and then add the other half of the leaves. When finished blending it should be of a good consistency although still a little runny.

Pour into a bowl and add desired amount of parmesan cheese, ground nuts and lemon juice.

Marinated Dandelion Flower Buds
One of my favorite ways to harvest dandelions are in fallow fields. The soil here is usually tilled well so the harvesting is easy. When I am able to find these areas I often harvest the entire plant. Returning home I separate the leaves from the roots, the flowers from the stems and reserve those tight light flower buds for the following recipe. Be sure to use the flower buds when they are still tightly closed and before they have ever opened.

1/2 cup onions
3 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
4-5 garlic cloves
1 cup dandelion flower buds
apple cider vinegar
tamari or soy sauce

Rinse the flower buds well and place into a pint jar with the onions, garlic and ginger.

Fill halfway with the apple cider vinegar and then hafway with the tamari or soy sauce.
Cover with a plastic lid or a metal lid with a plastic buffer. (Vinegar will corrode the metal lid.)

Let sit for three weeks in the fridge and then enjoy on salads, as a snack and on tuna fish sandwiches.

These will keep indefinitely in the fridge.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Comfrey and suppositories

In the next few weeks I'll be posting excerpts from my Healing Herbs ebook. The whole book is now available for free at - check it out!

Botanical name: Symphytum officinalis
Family: Boraginaceae (Borage)
Parts used: leaves, root
Properties: cell proliferant, nutritive, demulcent, expectorant, vulnerary
Used for: external use for healing of clean wounds, broken bones, pulled ligaments/sprains, varicose veins, burns, and hernias. Internal use with caution for coughs, ulcers
Plant preparations: infusion, decoction, oil, poultice, food

Comfrey is an incredibly important ally for herbalists. Its cell proliferating abilities can heal connective tissue surprisingly fast, resulting in a much quicker healing time for wounds, sprains, and broken bones. It heals so quickly that it is often cautioned against applying comfrey to deep or infected wounds because it will heal the outer skin before the deeper wound. This is why we only apply comfrey externally to clean and superficial wounds.

Herbalists John and Kimberly Gallagher of have created an informative free ebook illustrating how to make a comfrey poultice that can be used on sprains, strains, hernias, and broken bones. To download this free ebook, simply click here. .

Comfrey leaves can be harvested when the plant is in full flower. When I make an infused oil with comfrey, I like to let the leaves wilt overnight before chopping them finely and adding oil. I know the oil is ready when it is a rich green color.

You may have heard some bad press about comfrey lately. This highly medicinal plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that have been implicated in veno-occlusive liver disease. Because of this some herbalists recommend not using this plant internally. Other herbalists rely on the fact that comfrey has been used internally for hundreds of years, and do not see a problem with internal use. I tend to be middle of the road. Certainly, if you have liver disease, are a young child with a developing liver, or are pregnant or nursing, then comfrey should be avoided internally. If you are a healthy adult, research this topic and decide what you are comfortable with.

Historically comfrey has been used internally for soothing ulcers and strengthening the lungs.

The roots also have healing properties. Comfrey root, minced and mixed with a little water, can be stored in a container in the freezer for later use on burns. I’ve used this remedy before with fast results; it sucked the heat right out of my burned thumb.
Suppositories, or an herbal bolus, are a form of rectal or vaginal administration of herbs popularly used in the case of hemorrhoids or vaginal infections. The following is an example of an herbal suppository for hemorrhoids.

Comfrey suppository
Grind the following herbs into a fine powder:
one part comfrey root
two parts yarrow leaves/flowers
one part oak bark
one part calendula flowers

Slowly heat (over low heat or double boiler) a carrier oil such as cocoa butter (melts around 86o) or coconut oil (melts around 72o). Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the powdered herbs. You may have to play with the amounts to get the most herbs while still having enough oil to hold it together.

Pour this mixture into a mold. (To make a mold, fold several layers of aluminum foil around a pencil, secure one end by twisting it, and remove the pencil. Or you can simple wait for the oil to harden slightly and crudely form a suppository with your fingers.) Rectal suppositories look similar to a tampon (without the applicator) and are about one inch long. Keep them in the freezer until ready to use.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Stinging Nettle Eggplant Parmesan

Stinging Nettle Eggplant Parmesan
This is a relaxed recipe that can be varied in many ways. If you don't have nettle substitute kale or other leafy greens. 

Experiment and enjoy!

1 diced onion
4 cloves of garlic minced
Olive oil
2 16 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes or 2 lbs of fresh tomatoes (best to use your own preserved tomatoes or search out brands that do not contain harmful chemicals in the cans)
1 lb. of cooked ground meat or cooked sliced sausages
2 large eggplants
1 bunch of fresh basil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 lb. of fresh stinging nettle
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 325. 

Slice eggplants lengthwise and lightly cover both sides with olive oil. 

Place them on a cookie sheet. Do not overlap. 

Bake them in the oven for 12 minutes and then flip over. Bake for ten minutes more or until they are translucent in the middle. Set them aside.

Raise the oven temperature to 350.

Fill a large pot with water, Bring to a boil and add the fresh stinging nettle leaves. Boil for about ten minutes and then strain well. Reserve the nettle water for drinking or for a rich fertilizer.

Meanwhile in a large skillet or sauce pan, saute onion in the olive oil until translucent. add the garlic and saute for minute more (being careful not to overcook the garlic). Add the crushed tomatoes, the cooked meat, basil and boiled/strained stinging nettle. Let simmer for 15 minutes.

In a large casserole dish place a layer of the eggplant, followed by a thick layer of the tomato mixture and a sprinkling of the cheeses. Continue this until the ingredients are used up or there is no more room in the casserole dish. 

Bake in the oven at 350 for 45 minutes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Calendula and Varicose Veins

In the next few weeks I'll be posting excerpts from my Healing Herbs ebook. The whole book is now available for free at - check it out!

(Calendula officinalis)
Calendula produces a beautiful flower that exudes sunshine and joy. To harvest this highly resinous flower, pick it at its peak on a warm summer day. You’ll know you have good plant medicine by the stickiness covering your hands.
Calendula is commonly made into oils and salves and used for a variety of skin conditions including rashes, burns, scars, and scrapes. It has an affinity to encourage connective tissue to regenerate, creating soft and lustrous skin.
It can also be used externally on painful itchy chicken pox (as a tincture or salve) or even on fungal infections such as athlete’s foot and ringworm.

Internally it can be used to treat swollen lymph glands and soothe ulcers. You can also spread the fresh petals over your salads for added color and beauty.

When making medicine with calendula, it’s almost always dried first. Drying calendula for oils decreases the water content, making a more stable oil, and it also concentrates the resins in the plant. When making a tincture of calendula, a higher-proof alcohol will extract more of the resins.

Calendula will grow readily in your garden, often self-seeding after the first year of planting. By snipping the flowers regularly, you promote its growth. I can often harvest calendula flowers numerous times in a season.

This plant is often used for varicose veins. It helps to strengthen the capillary walls. The following is a modified recipe originally from herbalist Heather Nic an Fhleishdeir in Eugene, Oregon.

Calendula Varicose Vein Spray
•Fill a mason jar with 1⁄2 dried calendula flowers and 1⁄2 dried yarrow. •Cover with witch hazel and let sit for three weeks shaking daily.
•After three weeks, strain and add 10–30 drops of lavender essential oil per quart of spray.
•Pour the solution into a spray bottle and a label. This can be sprayed on varicose veins as often as desired.
How does it work?
•As already mentioned, the calendula helps to strengthen the capillary and vein walls (which, by definition, are weak in varicose veins.) Its anti- inflammatory properties are also useful here.
•The yarrow helps to promote the circulation of blood, dispersing any blood stagnation.
•The lavender essential oil adds healing and anti-inflammatory properties that can help with itching associated with varicose veins.
•The witch hazel is a standard remedy for varicose veins because of its astringent properties that help to shrink the enlarged tissues.