Saturday, December 19, 2015

Homemade "Bisquick" Mix- No Shortening!

My oldest daughter (the aspiring baker) wanted to make a bundt cake this week, and the recipe she chose called for Bisquick Mix... I considered looking for another recipe.  Bisquick, although versatile and convenient, is not the ideal mix to bake with.  The worst part of Bisquick:  vegetable shortening. Vegetable shortening is hydrogenated oil- probably some over-processed, rancid oil, like soybean or canola; and hydrogenated oils are known to contribute to heart disease, obesity, and premature aging.  Do your matter how the fake food companies try to pass shortening off to the consumer, it is a killer.  Fake food, including shortening, has no place in my kitchen...

So, we looked for a homemade substitute for Bisquick Mix.  The results:  a healthier baking mix that I can give to my family without feeling that twinge of guilt that comes with eating junk!  I looked over three different recipes online to come up with one recipe that suits our needs...

3 c all-purpose, organic flour
4 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t fine sea salt
1/2 c coconut oil (chilled/solid)

Ingredients, ready to mix

  • Put all ingredients into food processor.
  • Mix on low until coconut oil is combined.
  • Mix on high until mixture looks crumbly.
  • Store in a sealed container in your refrigerator or freezer until needed.
Crumbly, mixed Ingredients

Enjoy your homemade, better-than-store-bought baking mix in pancakes, dumplings, muffins, or anything else you make with Bisquick Mix!  It is versatile and convenient for the cook-on-the-go.

Store your baking mix in a sealed container!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Homemade, Naturally-fermented Black Zapote Drink

On some of the websites I've looked at regarding the black sapote (chocolate pudding fruit), it mentions that people in Central American countries have made a traditional fermented drink from the fruit...  but, as with many "traditional" recipes, this one seems to have not been recorded or is no longer in practice.  What else can I do but make my own recipe?  :)  I have experimented with fermented drinks before, so here I go again:

For the fermenting culture, I am using water kefir.  Many people use the grains to ferment, but the water kefir itself is a good culture!  And, you don't have to filter out the grains when you are done... this drink has a lot of pulp, so it would be practically impossible to recover kefir grains anyway.

The final product tastes a lot like the black sapote bread that a friend of ours gave to us... a nice citrus flavor with a delicate chocolate, fruity aftertaste.  I would even make this with lemon peel!  The choice is yours.

Meat of 1 medium-sized black zapote (chocolate pudding fruit)
1/4 c natural sweetener (I used unrefined cane sugar)
3-4 strips of orange (or lemon) peel, sliced with vegetable peeler
1/4 cup water kefir (NOT the grains)
Filtered, non-chlorinated water- to top off jar

All ingredients are mixed and ready to ferment!

  • Put all ingredients into a quart-sized jar, leaving a bit of head space.  Cap tightly.
  • Shake jar to incorporate sweetener and fruit.
  • Leave on counter for 2-3 days, "burping" container daily to remove excess gas.
  • Filter and bottle. (You can do a second ferment here, if taste is too sweet) Chill before consuming. 
  • Enjoy!
Look at all that carbonation... after only 24 hours.
(I ended up bottling after 36 hours, but it was still too sweet for me.  So, I let it sit on the counter, overnight before chilling...)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Chocolate Pudding Fruit

For my 100th post, I thought I'd do something a little different! Since moving back to Florida (in September), I have really come to appreciate all that south Florida has to offer. That being said, I feel like I should focus on what I am most thankful for here, in my own neighborhood.  It is important to know about your surroundings, whether it is knowledge of local foraging information, local, traditional herbal remedies, or just knowing where to buy the freshest local produce.  Your family will thank you for putting in the extra research to keep them healthy!

I've decided to introduce my readers to a rare tropical fruit- it may or may not be in your local grocery store/farmers' market.  But, if you ever come across this fruit, you will know exactly what to do with it and maybe even propagate your own chocolate pudding fruit tree!  Chocolate pudding fruit (black persimmon or black sapote) is grown in semi-tropical/tropical climates, and is really quite average-looking as far as fruits go:

Chocolate Pudding Fruit

The lifted calyxes of a ripe chocolate pudding fruit

The mature fruit will have lifted calyxes (the flower-looking part on top).  If you happen to find a fruit with calyxes that lay flat to the skin of the fruit, do not buy them as they will never fully ripen! You can see from the picture above that the calyxes are curled back from the skin.  

Mature, unripened fruit is picked when the calyxes are lifted off the skin, although they are usually hard as gourds.  But, as they ripen on your counter, you will notice that the skin turns a darker shade of green and the calyxes will turn black.  When the ripened fruit is handled, you will feel the hard skin give way to the softening meat.  Usually, if you let the fruit sit about 1-2 days after it starts to soften, it will then be ready for eating...

A ripened fruit- notice how soft the meat has gotten by the dent in its skin

Cut the ripened fruit down the middle and pull the sides apart- you will see that the meat is dark brown, like chocolate!  There are also large, almond-like seeds that you might want to save.  Just scoop out the meat with a spoon- Be careful not to rip the skin, which will make the meat harder to remove.  This meat can be eaten fresh and has a custard-like consistency.  It can also be used in many recipes, one of which I will share with you now...

The meat of a ripened fruit and seeds, ready to propagate

Unfortunately, the chocolate pudding fruit does not taste like chocolate... but, before you leave, I have a recipe that will make it creamy and chocolaty!  Here is my version of Chocolate Pudding Fruit Chocolate Pudding:

1 chocolate pudding fruit- meat scooped out in bowl
1-2 T cocoa powder
about 1/8 c cream
drizzle of honey

Mix all ingredients together with a spoon, making sure to smooch all lumps of fruit, until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Eat alone or with a dollop of whipped cream on top!

Now to get that chocolate pudding fruit tree growing!  If you have saved the seeds for propagating, click this link to see the germinating directions.  According to these directions, the seeds have a very high viability rate!  I am planning on having at least two of these trees in my yard in the near future :)

Enjoy your healthy, homemade chocolate pudding!  And, if you can't finish it all, chocolate pudding fruit meat freezes very well for future use :)

More chocolate pudding fruit recipes:
ice cream

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Homemade Chicken Curry

I have been feeling a little uninspired lately and thought I'd turn to my vintage cookbooks for a little spark.  The cookbook that spoke to me was The Virginia Housewife, published in 1836.  I found tons of recipes that looked delicious (more to come), but today I want to try the ".... Curry After The East Indian Manner."  I have always loved curry and would love to introduce it to my family- from scratch and from real ingredients.

The original Virginia Housewife cookbook, cir. 1836

I realize that the instructions leave a bit to be desired- but remember, women were cooking over fires, not modernized, temperature-regulating appliances.  Therefore, specific cook times over different sized fires would cook differently.  I will do my best to "translate" this vintage recipe's instructions into more modern, precise ones.  Here goes!

What I used to make my Curry Chicken dish:

1, 4-5lb hen, cut into pieces (as you would to fry)- I halved the original recipe
3/4 T Celtic sea salt
1/2 c butter (one stick)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
2 T curry powder

Adding Celtic sea salt to the chicken pot

  • Put the chicken into a medium stock pot and add water enough to just cover the chicken pieces.
  • Add the salt to the water and heat to boil (make sure you skim the foam that rises to the top of the broth)
  • Turn down the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the chicken is tender but not falling off the bone- 30-40 minutes.

Curry Chicken, seasoned and ready to stew
  • Take chicken pieces out of the pot, reserving the broth.  Put the butter into pot and heat until bubbly.
  • Over medium to medium-high heat, cook the onion and garlic until browned- be careful not to burn- stir often.
  • When onion/garlic is browned, put the chicken back into the pot.  Season chicken with curry powder and brown.
  • Pour the broth that was reserved from boiling the chicken into the pot and cook, covered, over med/low heat until everything is tender, about 10 minutes.
  • If you prefer a thicker curry sauce, just add a couple T of arrowroot powder, mixed with just enough water to dissolve.  Bring sauce to a boil and hold for 1 minute.
I just love the simplicity of this recipe!  And the curry sauce is fantastic.  I will serve my Curry Chicken with jasmine rice and a side of veggies.  

Try making this from-scratch, real food recipe with your family!  Enjoy this modernized version of this tried-and-true 1836 recipe... and maybe "translate" a few recipes for your own family from the archived vintage cookbooks on

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Homemade (Easy) Crème Brulée

I love French desserts!  They are usually full of rich ingredients like eggs, butter and cream, with just enough sugar to make them delicious without being sickeningly sweet.  Crème brulée is no exception. It is easy enough to make last-minute (an hour and forty-five minutes from start to finish), with minimal ingredients... not to mention the big impact it will have on your dining companions.

Beautifully creamy  crème brulée

I have modified a recipe from, using all-natural ingredients.  We have made this recipe a handful of times and it always delivers!  Here is my version of this gourmet French dessert, best served with a side of fruit, such as mangoes or berries :)

6 egg yolks, preferably from pastured eggs
1/4 c unprocessed, organic sugar (I like Florida Crystals)
1/2 t vanilla extract
2 1/2 c organic cream

1/8 c unprocessed, organic sugar
1/8 c organic brown sugar

  • Pre-heat oven to 300 F
  • Heat cream in a small saucepan until very hot but not boiling.  
  • While cream is heating,  whip egg yolks with sugar and vanilla extract until thick.
  • Pour hot cream into egg yolk mixture slowly, while stirring, until fully combined.
  • Pour mixture into ramekins (4) or into a larger, shallow baking dish.
  • Bake for 30 minutes (more for large dish) or until custard center has a slight jiggle when shaken.
  • Store in refrigerator for about an hour to cool to room temperature.
Custard, ready to bake!

Cooked custard, cooling before adding topping

Carmelized sugar topping on finished  crème brulée

  • Pre-heat the broiler
  • Mix the two sugars and spread evenly over the top of each ramekin.
  • Place the custard under the broiler until sugars melt and start to brown.  Keep an eye on the sugars so they don't burn.-OR- using a torch, melt and toast the sugars, making sure not to burn them.  I have tried both techniques and although the torch is more fun, the broiler toasts more evenly :)
Enjoy this rich, creamy dessert!  Great for the gluten-intolerant, too :)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Homemade Herbal Infusion

I'm sure all of you have tried an herbal infusion from dried herbs (also known as herbal "tea").  But, did you know that you can make an infusion from fresh herbs, found right in your own yard?  I will demonstrate how to do this, and believe me, it is so easy you'll want to harvest a different herb every day to try it out!

Today, I harvested a few stalks of Wild Bee Balm.  I found a patch of it out near the aspen grove on the side of our house just the other day... it is an edible/ medicinal herb and has been used by Native American tribes to treat colds and the flu- it is also related to Thyme, so it is a spicy herb.  I ate a leaf raw and it was quite spicy on my tongue!  If you eat it raw, make sure you mix it with other greens in a salad.  This is definitely not an herb you want to eat a lot of by itself.  But, in an infusion, it is much more mild; very fragrant and delicious!

Wild Bee Balm, freshly harvested

To check out other pictures of Wild Bee Balm (or other edibles), check out this website!  Edible Wild Foods is a great place to start when choosing herbs to use in teas or recipes...  Lots of great information!!

Wild Bee Balm, ready to infuse

Since I am using only the leaves and flowers of Wild Bee Balm to make my infusion, I have stripped the stems of all infusible parts and washed them of any debris or creepy crawlies :)  Since I am only using the soft parts of the plant, I will do a quick 10-15 minute steep in boiling water.  Just heat your filtered water to boiling (less is better, so you can always dilute the finished infusion to your taste). Then, take the infusion pot off heat and add your herb.  Cover with a lid and let it sit, steeping, for 10-15 minutes.  (If I were using a "harder" part of the plant, like the root or bark, I would make a decoction by simmering the plant material for the allotted time- anywhere from 10-30 minutes, depending on the herb).

Wild Bee Balm

When your infusion is done steeping, just filter off the herb with a mesh strainer or cheesecloth and enjoy!  I sweetened my infusion with a bit of honey, since Wild Bee Balm is a bit spicy and it was delish!  If your infusion is a bit too strong for your taste, just dilute with hot water until it is to your liking.  

A cuppa homemade herbal infusion

Enjoy your homemade concoction and know that your body thanks you!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Drying Herbs Without a Dehydrator

Now that I have shown you the edibles/medicinal herbs I have found in our yard, I will demonstrate how to preserve them for future use!  Dried herbs are very handy when it comes to making an extract/tincture/salve for the winter months, when you know the fresh herbs won't be available.
Just follow a few easy steps and you'll have a good supply of medicinal herbs, just when you need them!

Broadleaf Plantain, drying after a thorough wash

The first of two methods for drying herbs is bag drying:

1.  Pick the herb that you will be preserving.  Be sure to harvest the correct part of the plant- for some plants, this may be the leaf and for others, the root!  For some plants, it is your research before harvesting any medicinal herb.

2.  Wash your herbs.  You picked these plants from the great outdoors- be sure there is nothing in your medicine that you don't want in there!  I gently wash my herbs in a colander, making sure each individual picking is washed of any debris, dirt or other organic matter.

3.  Dry off your herbs.  Just place the washed herbs on a paper towel and let the water evaporate.  This will prevent wet spots from getting trapped between your herbs- moisture breeds mold, and you don't want that!

Catmint and Common Yarrow, freshly harvested

4.  When the herbs are dried off, place them loosely in a paper bag.  Do not stuff too many in there or the air won't circulate- once again, you want the herbs to dry, not ferment.  Label your bag before putting it up!

Make sure to label and date your bags of herbs!

5.  Shake your bagged herbs every day to circulate the air and help the plant material dry.  It may take a week or so to completely dry out the plants, so check the herbs until they are crispy dry and ready to put into storage. (I use recycled glass jars, tightly sealed, and store them in a dark cabinet.)

Red Clover, ready to store for future use

The second method for drying herbs is hanging.  This is ideal for herbs with long stems :)

(Follow #1-3 in the directions for bag drying)

4.  When the herbs are dried off, divide the herbs into small bunches.  Secure the stems of the bunches with rubber bands or string, to make sure none of the plant material will fall when hung upside down.
A small bunch of Catmint, ready to hang!

5.  Find a dry place and string up your herbs!  You could hang them from nails in your pantry or a string across your laundry room- wherever they will be out of the way and in no danger of being disturbed.  The first time I tried this, I hung them in my pantry, but quite low.  The ending result was more dried leaves on the floor than left for storage!  Hang the plants well out of reach of little fingers :)

6.  Check the herbs often and store in air-tight jars when crispy dry.

Take advantage of Natures bounty!  Stock up on your local medicinal herbs before the frosts come this fall.  And enjoy your good health all winter long!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Eat Your Yard! (Continued)

Since posting about edibles in our yard, I have found even more of them!  Here are a few more things you are bound to find in and around your yard, even in the city...  don't use Round-up to poison these edibles- harvest them!  Foraging is not only fun, but it's FREE :)

Red Clover

You are probably familiar with Red Clover already, but did you know that this lovely plant (from the legume family, none the less) is edible and medicinal?  Red Clover is found all over the United States, and is commonly used as cattle feed!  As you can see in the pictures, this species of clover has pretty pink blossoms and "stripes" on the leaves.  It usually grows in large patches in open, sunny fields (or in the middle of your yard!).

The leaves and flowers can be eaten raw or tossed into a salad- they also make a nice tea!  Some people experience bloat when eating large quantities of red clover, so pace yourself.

Traditional Chinese medicine believed that it was a good tonic for colds, to purify the blood, and at one time they burned it as incense. Native Americans used it as a salve for burns, as well as for bronchial problems. Many cultures have traditionally used red clover to treat whooping cough, respiratory problems, psoriasis, eczema and even cancer. Red clover is one of the herbs in Essiac, which is a herbal blend for cancer patients, and grows in many areas around the world. 

Sweet Red Clover blossoms

Broadleaf Plantain

The next edible/medicinal herb is Broadleaf Plantain- a great herb to have around in case of an insect sting, burn, open wound, or intestinal upset!  Plantain is not only edible, but packed with nutrients.  It grows alongside roads or your driveway, in our case :)  It is easily recognizable by the long, stringy veins in the leaves, as seen in the picture below:

The stringy veins of the Braodleaf Plantain leaf

When using plantain as a wild green, it is prefered to blanch the leaves first to make them more tender.  This plant tends to be a little tough and slightly bitter when eaten fresh.  After blanching, the leaves can be frozen for future use in soups, casseroles or sauteed!  Dried leaves make a great tea for digestive problems.

Braodleaf Plantain along the driveway

As you can see, Broadleaf Plantain grows all along our driveway... I showed my youngest son how to chew the leaves and apply them to insect bites, since he tends to swell when stung.  The medicinal qualities of plantain draw out the poison from stings and hasten healing from burns or open wounds.

Oriental Poppy

I was amazed at the beauty of this Oriental Poppy!  But, poppies aren't just ornamental... their seeds are delicious to harvest after the blooms have faded away!  Just harvest the seed pods when they start to brown and let them dry in your kitchen.  When the pod is fully dried, open them to reveal the nutritious seeds inside!  

Poppy seeds are known to decrease levels of bad cholesterol in the blood and are high is dietary fiber.  The seeds are excellent source B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid. Many of these vitamins functions as co-factors in substrate metabolism especially fat and carbohydrates.  Poppy seeds contain good levels of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium.

Small amounts of opium alkaloids in poppy seeds have been found to have some beneficial effects on the human body; soothe nervous irritability, act as painkillers. Its seed extractions found useful in pharmacy and in many traditional medicines in the preparations of cough mixtures, expectorants, etc.

Milk Thistle

The last edible I will show you is Milk Thistle.  Although this plant is very spiky and unfriendly-looking, I assure you it is quite edible!  It is a tall (it can reach 3 ft in height), spiny plant that grows in full sun just about everywhere... I have seen them as far south as Florida and well into the Rocky Mountains.

The flowers of this plant (although they aren't blooming at this altitude yet) are light purple and bloom on the terminus of the plant stalk.  All parts of the plant are edible, even the roots.  Thistle leaves can be eaten raw, sometimes as a spinach substitute, after the spines are removed.  Flower buds can be cooked, as can the stem after peeling and soaking to reduce bitterness. Thistle can be used as an asparagus or rhubarb substitute or added to salads.  Milk Thistle seeds can even be roasted and ground as a coffee substitute!

As a medicinal herb, it is a great tonic, increases appetite and aids in digestion. It is used by many people, including those who were addicted to alcohol to cleanse the liver. Milk thistle is used internally in the treatment of liver and gall bladder diseases, jaundice, cirrhosis, hepatitis, acne and poisoning (including mushroom poisoning). 

Explore your surroundings!  You'll be surprised at all the edibles you find in your area :)
Enjoy nature and its bounty!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Eat Your Yard!

I am constantly looking for edibles in our yard... my kids yell at me when we are outside and I bend down to pick a snack :)  I am trying to teach my kids about wild edibles, and they are slowly accepting that you don't have to go to the grocery store to get your greens!  

There are many varieties of wild edibles in this country, but since I am in the mountains I am going to show you what we have found here.  I am sure some of these are widely available, so keep your eyes peeled next time you wander through your neighborhood...

Common Mallow

The first wild edible I found is Common Mallow.  This a wonderful green herb- it reminds me a little bit of spinach when eaten raw
The plants are usually about 1 foot high. The mid-Spring flowers can be white, pink or light purple, and all have five petals. Shortly after the flowers drop off, the plant produces a small, disc-shaped fruit that resembles a wheel of cheese about 1/4 inch across.
Common Mallow in bloom
All parts of mallow are edible, and nutritious!  Although the leaves and stems are yummy when raw in salads, all parts, including the roots, can be boiled with soups to make them thicker.  The roots can be eaten after being boiled until translucent.
If you can find enough of the roots, you might be able to use them as people have traditionally used marshmallow roots-- to make candy. To do this, peel the root, slice it and boil in just enough simple syrup  to cover. The root will first turn translucent and then seem to melt away. The liquid should be reasonably thick at this point and, after straining any remaining solids, can be dropped by the spoonful onto waxed paper to dry or whipped into a chiffon-like confection. 
Common mallow leaves are rich in vitamins A and C as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium.  Dried leaves can be made into a nutritious tea.

Pineapple Weed
Pineapple weed, is a beautiful, feathery edible!  The plant can reach up to 18 inches in height and has fern-like leaves.  It resembles its relative chamomile, although the flowers seem to have no petals!  

Pineapple weed got its name from the pineapple-y scent it emits when you crush it.  You have to have a pretty keen nose to get the full pineapple effect, so don't fret if you can't smell it!
Pineapple weed makes a very nice, relaxing tea when you steep the arial parts of the plant in hot water for about 5 minutes.

Close up of Pineapple Weed flowers

Since it is a cousin to chamomile, you can expect the same medicial properties- very calming, good for menstrual crams, improves digestion, alleviates gas and treats colds.  It has been noted as having mild antiseptic properties, as well!

It's also great to munch on when you find some on a hike!  Feel free to toss some flowers and leaves into your spring salad mix :)

One of the best known wild foods is dandelion.  Although the leaves are best harvested in early spring, before the plant blooms, the flowers can be harvested throughout the summer and made into a delicious "wine".  Once the plant blooms, the leaves become very bitter, although still edible.
The flowers and long taproot can also be eaten. The flowers are best stripped of the green sepals at their base and stir fried or used as a colorful garnish for soups or salads. The taproot needs a long simmering before eating or can also be roasted and ground to make a coffee substitute.
As I stated in my previous post on dandelion wine, the dandelion has been used traditionally as a liver detoxifier and has many vitamins and minerals, including calcium and iron.

Daisy Fleabane
I have always been a big fan of daisies, but I never knew they were edible.  This variety of daisy grows  anywhere between 1 ft to 4.5 ft in height.  The leaves of this plant tend to be hairy.
Only the leaves are edible. Since they are hairy, the leaves have a somewhat ‘furry’ texture making eating them raw not too nice. They can be used wherever you cook with greens. 
Daisy fleabane leaf extracts contain caffeic acid which is an active compound that has antioxidative and neuroprotective effects on neuronal cells.
Every plant in the mint family is edible- just look for squared-off stems, opposite leaves and a minty scent!

Catmint tastes minty,  although more delicate and more floral than other mints. It can be used in the same ways you might use any more common mint such as peppermint or spearmint. In other words, in just about anything. 

You can also drive your cats crazy with catmint!  It is said to be just as stimulating as catnip for some cats...
Catmint is really great for menstrual cramps, and is also a calmative and muscle relaxant. It is said to relieve the symptoms of colic in children, and can be used as a digestive aid for adults.  Just eat the leaves right off the plant or make into a fragrant tea.
Common Yarrow

On the subject of medicinal plants, Common Yarrow is a legendary powerhouse.   It sprouts in early to mid-Spring with leaves that resemble green pipe cleaners. Its flowers are white to pink and grow in large umbrella-like bunches. 

Common Yarrow in bloom

Common Yarrow's leaves, stems and flowers, dried or fresh, make an herbal tea that is particularly popular in Europe and contains more than 120 active, medicinal compounds. Some of those compounds stop bleeding from open wounds, suppress menstruation and help heal bruises and burns. Those compounds are balanced by other compounds that promote the free flow of blood. Tea brewed from the leaves has been used as a heart, circulatory, arterial wall, and kidney tonic. It also lowers blood pressure and helps sweat out colds, flu, fevers and other infectious illnesses. As if that weren't enough, it has anti-inflamatory and antiseptic qualities. A fresh leaf can be crushed and applied directly to an aching tooth to soothe the pain.

Leaves can be consumed raw or cooked. They have a somewhat bitter flavor yet they make a great addition to mixed salads. They are best used when young. Common yarrow leaves are also used as a hop-substitute for flavoring and as a preservative for beer. Although in general yarrow is a very nutritious and beneficial plant to add to the diet, it is recommended that this not be consumed in large quantities. Tea is made from the flowers and leaves.

Wild Rhubarb
I had never seen rhubarb growing wild before we moved to Colorado!  But, along the seasonal creek that flows past our home, I found a large bunch of this purple-stalked edible.  

Fresh raw stalks are crisp (similar to celery) with a strong, tart taste. The stalks are primarily used in the U.S. in desserts (think strawberry/rhubarb pie!).  Do not eat the leaf, as it contains toxic components.
Rhubarb has cathartic and laxative properties and is used in the case of constipation.

Wild Strawberry
The next two edibles are very similar, even in name- the wild strawberry and the wood strawberry. But, the two fruits are very different, so keep in mind the differences between the two plants.

Anybody who has tried a wild strawberry knows that they taste the same as strawberries sold for cultivation- just much smaller :)  As you can see in the photo, wild strawberries have three, toothed leaves and white flowers (unlike the "fake" wood strawberry- below- that has yellow flowers).
The fruits of the wild strawberry grow downward and hang from the plant, the wood strawberries point upward and are easier to spot.  Both fruits are edible, but wood strawberries are known to be disappointing- they have zero flavor.

So, if you like strawberries, don't be fooled by the beautiful red fruit of the wood strawberry!  Here is a list of things to look for when searching for real wild strawberries:

  • Red fruit, pointing down
  • Three, toothed leaves, plants close to ground
  • white flowers
The roots and leaves of the wild strawberry can be made into tea.  It has been used to treat cases of diarrhea, ailments of the lungs and stomach and can be used raw or dried for skin infections.  Like the dandelion, all parts of the plant are edible!  Like the wild strawberry, the leaves and roots of the wood strawberry can be used for much of the same purposes...just not as tasty.

Wood Strawberry

Common Mullein
This is the most exciting find yet!  Known more for its healing properties than its edibleness, mullein is a very useful herb. As with many of the most useful plants, mullein has many names, including Jacob's staff, flannelleaf and feltwort. I have even heard Coloradans call it "Indian toilet paper"! 
Mullein leaves can be more than 2 feet long. The leaves feel exactly like felt. In its second year, mullein sends up a thick flower stalk that can reach 10 feet in height. Yellow flowers, then seed pods develop on the terminus of the stalk.  When we moved here in December, I remember seeing all these stalks, still persisting in the cold weather...

Mullein, shooting up a flower stalk
Mullein thrives in places where few other plants can grow, like sandy or overly alkaline soils.  It has antihistimine, antiseptic, pain inhibiting, antispasmodic, tranquilizing and sedative qualities. In addition, it can help heal wounds, soothe burns, reduce swelling, stimulate growth and soften skin.
A tea made from the leaves and carefully strained to remove the hairs contains loads of B vitamins as well as vitamin D, choline, hesperidin, PABA, sulfur, magnesium, mucilage, saponins and other active substances. It's one of the most effective remedies around for a sore throat or bad cough. Smoking the leaves can alleviate asthma, bronchitis and other lung ailments. 
A tea with many of the same properties can also be made from the root; this is especially helpful during the winter after the leaves have vanished. Tea made from the flowers has been used to treat migraine headaches, and oil extracted from the flowers has cured ear infections. The yellow flowers contain a color-fast dye that can be used on cloth or, as many Roman women did, to dye hair blonde.
The leaves can be used to treat arthritis because they increase blood flow wherever they are applied. They are also one of the best things around to use as an impromptu bandage.  After having been bruised, just wrap the leaf around the wound!
Mullein leaves and flowers are edible, but tea is probably the preferred method of ingestion :)
This is one herb/edible with many uses!  One of my favorites :)

I found juniper bushes all around our property and in the forest behind us.  The berries are a beautiful shade of blue and have many uses as well!

Bruised juniper berries have traditionally been used as a spice in meat dishes in Europe.  It has also been used to flavor gin (the name "gin" is derived from either the French "genievre" or the Dutch "jenever", both meaning "juniper") and other traditional beverages.
Juniper has diuretic effects, is believed to be an appetite stimulant, and is used to treat rheumatism and arthritis.  It is also being studied as a possible treatment for diabetes, as it releases insulin from the pancreas.  Some Native American tribes used juniper as a female contraceptive.
Juniper essential oil is readily available for use in skincare and aromatherapy.

Be sure to identify the species of juniper you find in your area, as the  Juniperus sabina is toxic and should not be eaten.

Go out and explore your local area!  Find out which edibles are available and show your own family that greens don't always come from the produce section of the grocery store!  Enjoy!

For part 2 of my edibles post, click here!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Homemade Herbal Allergy Glycerite

My son suffered from seasonal allergies when we lived in Louisiana.  With all the oaks and flowers blooming in spring, even our cars were sometimes colored yellow from all the pollen in the air!  It was also hard for him because the humidity was always high, even in the spring, making it harder to breathe and pretty much unbearable to spend a lot of time outside...  That was the situation that spurred my interest in herbal remedies :)

10 years later... I am still concocting herbal remedies for my family!  As David Christopher, Master Herbalist and director of the School of Natural Healing, put it so simply:

 "There are no commercially sold herbs as dangerous as the safest drug. "

I want the best health for my family and refuse to give them synthetic drugs, unless necessary.  That includes over-the-counter allergy meds.  So, I'm going to share with you my very effective "Allergy formula".  It has no lengthy list of side-effects (none, actually), and works like a charm!

The Herbs:

I am using three herbs in this formula... first, the superstar herb, fenugreek.  It is used in many herbal formulas for lung healing.  It expels mucus and phlegm from the bronchial tubes and soothes sore throats. 

Next up, the side-kick herbs nettle and peppermint.  Nettle is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, silicon, potassium, and protein.  One of its uses has been in formulas for illnesses concerning the lungs. Peppermint I added for flavor, since herbs are not known for tasting good :)  Peppermint also promotes relaxation and aids in digestion and headache relief.

What you need for your homemade allergy glycerite:

canning jar
crock pot (big enough to hold the canning jar)
wash rag
food grade glycerine
herbs:  1 part Fenugreek, 1/2 part nettle, 1/2 part peppermint 


(If you are making a quart jar's-worth of this extract, use 1 cup as your "part" measurement.)

  • Mix herbs and place them in a clean canning jar. (fill jar about to about 1/2 full)
  • Pour a small amount of hot water over the herbs to wet them.  Let it sit 5 minutes.
  • Fill the canning jar to within 1" of top with glycerine.  Cap tightly.
  • Put the canning jar into your crock pot on a folded rag (to prevent jar from breaking) and fill crock pot with water, up to just below the lid on the canning jar.
  • Set your crock pot on the low or warm setting.  We are not cooking the herbs, just heating them to quicken the extraction process.
  • Let the jar sit in your crock pot for three full days.  Shake the jar at least once a day to circulate the herbs and refill the crock pot with water if it gets too low (the jar should be covered up to just below the lid).  If the herbs settle when the glycerine is fully heated, just top off the extract with glycerine.
  • After the 3 day extraction period, filter your glycerite through a cloth and bottle the liquid. Make sure you label and date the bottles.  This extract is good for 1 year.
Dosage: 1 dropper-full, 3 times a day on an empty stomach.  You can use up to 1 t, three times a day for adults.  If you find the taste isn't pleasant, you can mix this with juice.

Treat your seasonal allergies with herbs this year and see how much better you feel! And, Enjoy a symptom-free allergy season :) 

You can also use this formula to make an alcohol tincture.  Just follow these directions.
Using alcohol will lengthen the shelf life to 2 years, but it is not recommended as a children's allergy remedy.