Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blog Roll Spotlight: Mustard Plaster at Farm at Coventry

This month's Blog Roll Spotlight focuses on a beautifully photographed and informative essay on making a mustard plaster. A mustard plaster is often recommend for lung congestion and respiratory illness, but I have never before seen such a detailed DIY explanation. 

What I loved about this blog post is that in incorporates so many wonderful aspects of herbalism. Hands on experience, learning from an elder, practical, cheap and most of all, effective. 

You can visit her beautiful blog and see the entire original article here. 

Farm at Coventry blog is written by Susan Hess, who is a therapeutic herbalist, herbal teacher and herbal medicine maker. 

Susan has many wonderful articles on her blog - brew up a cup of tea and stay awhile. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Travel Log: Campeche

I am visiting my dad in Campeche, Mexico. I arrived two days ago and have already been shown quite the "bienvenidos". My dad has lived here for 6 years and has been adopted by a couple of families who have extended their arms to welcome me into their family as well. 

Yesterday we spent the afternoon with a family who has strong Mayan roots. We had botanas (appetizers), cerveza, and then an incredible regional dish called pibi pollo. This meal is traditionally made for dia de los muertos in November and takes two days to prepare! It is cooked underground and is made of corn, chicken and sausage. They had some frozen so I got to have this treat in February. I was also given a wonderful juice made from Chinese bitter orange (naranja agria). 

My host also made some nance with honey and alcohol. This is a very aromatic fruit the size of a cherry with a pit. I'd never had such a thing before but it was really delicious. After dinner they showed me their stash of chocolate. My dad's "brother" buys the raw cacao and then roasts it himself. He takes it to someone who grinds it up with some cinnamon, honey, peanuts and almonds. He and his wife then pound it into a metal circle and it is then used to make hot cocoa.

Cacao with peanuts, almonds, cinnamon, and honey. This circle makes three cups of hot chocolate.
My dad teaches english down here and my first day one of his past students stopped by to meet me. He is learning Reiki and talked a lot about Eckhart Tolle. Very rare! He gave me a reiki session and I felt wonderful afterwards. 

Today we spent the afternoon with the Chilangos. (Chilangos means they come from the capital, D.F.). They made a special meal (as requested by my dad) from huitlacoche. Otherwise known as corn smut, this is a type of fungus that infects corn. It is considered a pest by some and a delicacy by others. It was wrapped in a chicken breast and covered with a creamy sauce made from squash flowers. We started off with tequila (muy suave!) and a really tasty bean dip and then finished with a cappuccino and then various herbal teas. 

This family had a small herb garden where they grew epazote, oregano, tomatoes, lemon verbena, basil, parsley and some fruit trees. Whenever they go back to D.F. they visit an herbalist who gives them kilos and kilos of different herbal teas for common ailments. They are beautiful with barks, flowers and leaves. They showed me dosages by demonstrating if you pick it out of the bag with your fingers pointing towards the ground (fingertips only) or with the entire hand with the fingers facing the ceiling (handful).

One of the herbal teas given to me from the chilangos.
I studied Spanish in college and lived in the Dominican Republic at one time, but although I used to speak bastante bien, I have definitely forgotten a lot! Also because I speak French at home (and I learned these two languages at the same time) I easily get the two languages confused. However I am quickly remembering a lot of vocabulary and everyone has a lot of patience with me! Luckily I can understand almost everything even if I can't speak correctly all the time. 

I've learned a few phrases Campechano. One, which as come in handy a few times already is  "perro milpero". This means dog of the cornfield and refers to the dogs which come home from the cornfields with a few more inches around the waste, after weeks of gluttony.  

I am overwhelmed with how kind everyone has been so far! Right now my dad and I are resting a little bit before heading out to an ice cream store that serves rose petal ice cream. We'll spend a couple more nights here at my dad's house before heading out to travel around the Peninsula. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Photo Friday - Lilies!

 Lilies are often gorgeous plants that range from edible to medicinal to poisonous. Here's a collection of some of my favorite lilies to gaze upon. 

Sego Lily, Calochortus nuttallii. 
The state flower of my home state, Utah. It is a beautiful site to see this gorgeous flower growing in an otherwise desolate landscape! 

Lilium martagon, taken in Geneva Switzerland at the 
botanical gardens. 

Lillium columbianum, taken just outside my cabin. The bulbs are edible and taste somewhat peppery, although I seldom eat them. Too pretty! 

Mariposa Lily, Calachortus lyallii. This flower is a frequent site during the spring. It likes dry hillsides and the edges of where the forest meets the sage brush steppe. It also has edible bulbs, which taste pleasant, but are quite small. 
This was photographed at Mt. Hood on a trip with Paul Bergner, I've never been able to find out exactly what type of lily it is. Do you know? 
This beauty is a potentially toxic plant that was once used historically, but can easily cause death. False Hellebore, Veratrum viride
Leaves of False Hellebore

Death Camas, Zigadenus venenosus, is aptly named. Even a small taste of this plant has been known to cause death. After spending time with this plant in all seasons, I've learned to recognize it just be the early lily-like leaves that pop up in the spring. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Indulge! Chocolate syrup with elderberries and rose hips

I am going to be 100% honest with you all and admit we've been quite indulgent lately. Between my longings for spring and the fact that February is my husband's birthday month, not to mention Valentine's day... well, in reality we never need that much of an excuse to indulge anyway. 

Our challenge is finding decadent treats that truly feel like an extravagance, yet are still overtly healthy. Neither my husband nor I like to eat a lot of sugar and I eat a pretty low carb diet. That rules out a lot of conventional treats! 

But, honestly, it bores me to focus on what I choose not to eat. Instead, I like to look at each meal, wondering how much delicious "food as medicine" I can pack in there. 

The following syrup is antioxidant-rich, combining the known health benefits of cocoa with the beneficial medicine of elderberries and the nutrient-rich rosehips. Many of the ingredients are also aphrodisiacs and have been used for hundreds of years to spice up one's love life. 

Drizzled over coconut pancakes and served with Astragalus and Reishi Chai, this can satisfy many of our indulgent cravings. 

What's in the syrup

Cocoa powder
Chocolate lovers seldom need encouragement to indulge in a few dark squares but chocolate is not just a guilty pleasure. Pure cocoa is rich in antioxidants, helps to support heart health and increases libido. For the most health benefits get at least 70% cocoa products or use 100% cocoa powder.

 Learn more about the history and benefits of cocoa here plus see my dark chocolate rose truffle recipe. 

We often hear that elderberries are anti-viral and scientists say that it is the high flavonoid content that can disrupt viral activities. A diet rich in flavonoids promotes health in a myriad of ways such as supporting eye and heart health, reducing inflammation in the body and preventing cancer.

Rose hips
Another flavonoid-rich herb that also has high amounts of vitamin C. Roses have long been associated with the heart, passion and love. 

Who doesn't love cinnamon? What a wonderfully sweet and deliciously spicy treat! It's amazing to me that such a taste comes from tree bark. Cinnamon is known for many health benefits, including its ability to regulate blood sugar. A wonderful addition to any sweet treat. Cinnamon can also help to regulate body temperature (great for those with cold hands and feet) and can relieve digestive complaints and even arthritic pain and menstrual cramping. 

The nutmeg spice is the seed of the nutmeg tree. Nutmeg has long been used as a culinary spice as well as for its medicinal qualities. Nutmeg can promote digestion, be used as a sedative and to promote sexual health. Here is a very interesting blog post from Mountain Rose Herbs about nutmeg.

Bulk organic herbs, spices and essential oils. Sin

Here's how to make this luxurious treat! 

Chocolate Syrup with Elderberries and Rose hips

1/2 cup of elderberries
1/2 cup of rose hips
2 cups of water
2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder (look for organic, fair trade and 100% cocoa)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Honey to taste

Simmer the elderberries and rosehips in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes. Strain well. 

Whisk in the cocoa powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Add honey to taste while the mixture is still warm. Mix well. 

This syrup can be drizzled on ice cream, bananas, or enjoyed on coconut flour pancakes...

Here's a recipe card you can download and print off! 

Coconut Flour Pancakes 
(a variation from Bruce Fife's book, Cooking with Coconut Flour)

4 eggs
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup crushed walnuts if desired

Whisk together the eggs, milk, honey and salt. 

Add the baking powder and coconut flour. Mix well. 

Add the melted coconut oil and the walnuts if desired. 

Once your batter is mixed well, pour it onto a hot griddle in desired pancake sizes. 

Enjoy these pancakes with freshly whipped cream (we shake cream in a mason jar until it is thoroughly "whipped") and a garnish of orange zest! 

When you take your first bite of this delicacy please don't pay any attention to the fact that this meal can support your heart health, boost your immune system and prevent sickness or give a zing to your zoom. Just enjoy that incredibly flavor. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Photo Friday ~ Herbal Panoramas

Evening primrose growing alongside a
waterfall near Escalante, Utah
A few months ago I had this great idea to share my favorite photos every Friday. And it really was a great idea. The only problem is that I took it a little overboard (welcome to the story of my life). Originally I had thought I would post one or two photos of plants. Maybe a couple of sentences to go along with it. Super simple, but elegant and it would only take 15 minutes or so each week. 

But no, I couldn't stop there. I had to add more photos and more descriptions until my simple photo Friday turned into a couple hours of editing work for me. And in case you didn't already know, I have enough on my plate! 

So, there has been an absence of photo Fridays. But I still think it's a good idea as long as I can tame  my over achiever qualities. We'll see. 

To shake things up a bit I am not choosing a particular plant this week, but instead some herbal panoramas. Beautiful scenes I've been privileged to witness over the past couple of years. 

I'll be honest, my main motivation is that I have spring fever. I was editing video yesterday for my Plants in France series on and seeing the abundance of green growing things with birds chirping in the background just about did me in. Does summer really exist? Will it one day be summer again? I had to surround myself with more greenery. So here you have it. 

Wild rose growing outside of Escalante, Utah. My paternal family settled here over 100 years ago. 

Elder flowers near Escalante, Utah

Dandelion meadow in the French Alps. The cheese from the cows grazing these fields was amazing. 

Bistort in the French Alps

Yarrow meadow on Canyon Ridge in the Methow Valley

Nettle growing on Lake Geneva in Evian (think water) France

Spice market in Bonneville, France. The birth city of my handsome French husband. 

I was amazed that nettle grew everywhere in France. 

Linden growing outside of a medieval village in southern France. 

Outside of Jardin du centaure, a beautiful medicinal herb garden in central France. 

This is the entrance to their small shop. 

My husband and his uncle walking along a trail on a volcano in central France. The white flowered shrubs are elders. 

Douglas sunflower with the snowy north cascades in the background. 

Elephant's head in an alpine meadow. One of the most beautiful places I've seen, except for the fact I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I guess there are plusses to winter, no biting bugs. 

Lycium growing at the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. 

Well, I still did more than I intended, but small steps right? I hope you enjoyed the scenery!