Front Door Medicine Chest

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Wild Violets and Plantain growing on a path by the front door; handy place to have them! Plantain makes the best “spit poultice” for bug bites and stings; stops the pain immediately. Simply chew a leaf, apply to the area and secure with a band-aid or gauze strip. Violets are a pretty and nutritious addition to green salads. You can also make a lovely syrup that can be used for all kinds of tasty treats and refreshing drinks. In addition, both herbs can help with a cough. Violets are a demulcent for dry coughs and Plantain is a relaxing expectorant. Worthy weeds, indeed!
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Feathered Friends

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Red  Road Herbs Retreat & Learning Center is not only an herbal haven, but is also a bird-lovers paradise. Here are a few of our colorful, feathered friends:

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak

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Yellow-headed Blackbird

 

 

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Purple Finch

 

 

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Redwing Blackbird

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Male Cardinal

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Female Cardinal

Herbs for Bones

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Herbs can provide a rich source of calcium, minerals, and plant-based protein, which is the foundation of good bone health. Comfrey (Symphytum offcinale) leaves, Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) leaves, Nettle (Urtica Dioica) leaves and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) flowers are all rich in calcium and protein. One cup of Dandelion leaves has about 100 mg of calcium. Nettle and Dandelion, common weeds to most folks, are two of the best nutritional sources of many vitamins and minerals.

Calcium from plants is best in bulk, as a tea or fresh plant, instead of tincture or supplement. There’s also more available calcium in cooked foods rather than fresh. Calcium and the other minerals needed by our bodies to make strong, flexible bones are hard. Heat breaks them down to a usable form that our bodies can absorb better.

Here’s a simple recipe for stir-fried Nettle greens with Shiitake mushrooms for your bone health:

Nettle Shiitake Stir-Fry – Susun Weed

Sauté ½ medium-size onion in olive oil until soft. Add thinly sliced shitakes and sauté several minutes. Add nettle greens, along with several dashes of tamari and a few tablespoons of water (just enough to keep it from scorching). Simmer about 10 minutes.

Nettle - spring greens

Nettle – spring greens

Another yummy Nettle recipe:

Nettle/Potato Casserole – Kay Young, author of  Wild Seasons

3 large potatoes

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup cooked, drained and chopped nettle leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon thinly sliced green onion (optional)

350 degree oven – Peel potatoes, slice them about ¼ inch think and arrange the slices in a well-greased casserole. Combine the other ingredients, stir to mix and pour this over the potatoes. Place the uncovered casserole in the oven. Several times during baking, spoon some of the cream up over the top layer of potato slices. Bake until the potatoes are tender and the cream has cooked down into a thick sauce – about 1 hour. Makes 4-6 servings.

NOTE: This one got rave reviews from a 30-year chef!

Dandelion delights

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Dandelions are a joy to see in spring. One of the first flowers to bloom, they brighten the dreary landscape with a burst of sunny color. They are a miraculously adapted plant and can produce flowers without pollination. They also can grow as short or as tall as necessary, depending on the surrounding vegetation.

Herbalist know them as a liver tonic. The roots can be dug in the spring, unlike most root herbs that are harvested in the fall. A tea or tincture of the roots will stimulate the liver as well as cleanse toxins from the blood. It is an excellent digestive remedy, considered good for the gall bladder, intestines, stomach, pancreas and kidneys.

Dandelion roots - spring 2014

Dandelion roots – spring 2014

The leaves are delicious as a fresh green. The young leaves have less bitterness. Bitter herbs stimulate digestion and help with assimilation of nutrients.

The leaves are also have a diuretic effect that helps clear toxins and eliminate water build-up. They are considered at least as effective, if not more so, as OTC diuretics and you don’t need to take a potassium supplement. Nature has already given Dandelions the potassium needed by our bodies. Their high levels of potassium also make them a good remedy for leg cramps and muscle aches.

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Fried Dandelion Flowers are easy to make and yummy to eat. They are a nice addition to a salad of wild greens and lettuce or just as a snack. Use only the flower head – remove the stem and green parts underneath or they might be a little bitter. Also, pick the flowers moments before you’re going to cook them or they will fold up like they do at night. To get rid of creepy crawlies that might be in them, you can wash them in a little salt water, rinse them in clear water and pat dry prior to cooking.

Heat about 1/4 cup of butter in an iron skillet. Combine a cup of flour or meal and salt/pepper to taste in a shallow dish. Beat 2 eggs in another bowl and add 40 or so large flower heads. Scoop out about half the flowers (20) and allow the egg to drain a bit, then add them to the flour mixture to coat completely. Carefully place, individually, each flower into the frying pan and cook for 3 – 5 minutes, each side, until golden brown. Let them drain on paper towel before serving. Repeat with second half of flowers.

You can get creative with the flour/meal mixture by adding oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic, cayenne or other herbs to it for different flavors.

Why would anyone NOT want to have these growing in their yard? Free medicine and healthy food!

Happy Earth Day!

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Earth Day

 

Cottonwood Catkins – once-a-year treat!

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Cottonwood catkins are at a prime stage for eating.  We are surrounded by Cottonwood trees and have one in our front yard that is over 140 years old and stands at least 120 feet tall. There’s a 40′ rope swing from one of the branches. Luckily, it has one big branch that, quite handily, hangs low enough to harvest catkins (and buds earlier in the year.)

The catkins of a Cottonwood tree are easily identified. For eating, the best ones are plump, squishy and look like a bunch of tiny purple grapes. Once they start to flower, they’re flimsy and have hardly any substance. You can nibble on them raw for a foraging treat or harvest a few and make Cottonwood Catkin Tempura (just like any other vege – tempura battered and fried to golden brown.

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These catkins are ready to harvest.

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These catkins are starting to flower and past prime for eating.

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These have had the sticky hulls removed and are ready to eat.

April already!

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March just “blew” by! Here it is April and the look and smell of spring is everywhere. Hopefully, the burst of energy in Nature will also give me a burst of energy to get these blogs out more consistently.

April is gardening month, poetry month, pet month and stress awareness month, all of which we’ll be featuring with highlights on how herbs relate to each of them. Our herb of the month is Oregano and our featured Artemisia (2014 Herb[s] of the Year) is Sweet Annie.

Sir Gump Alot, Gump-a-Lump-a-Ding-Dong, Thump-a-Gump, The Gumpinator

In celebration of Pet Month, here’s an introduction to our blue-point Siamese cat, Gump. He was born 4/4/04 and came to us as a foster cat. My daughter brought him home and said “It’s just for a little while, Mom.”

He’s completely deaf and has no volume control, so the first few months were tough. He would “yell” at everything, especially if left alone. We communicate with him by stomping on the floor or hand signs. He may even read lips, but he’s a cat with an attitude, so it’s difficult to tell.

After almost dying when he got lost in the soybean field next to us for 12 days, he’s now an inside-only cat, except on special occasions and under a very watchful eye. Being sprayed by a skunk saved his life. When he was finally found, thanks to our neighbors seeing him on the road and letting us know, his spine was showing through his skin and his voice was hoarse from yelling. When does get to go outside, he heads to the Sweetgrass patch first, then over to the Weeping Willow to hang out watching the birds.

Animals are much more in tune with their bodies than most humans and will eat plants they need to stay healthy. Native Americans were known to watch animals to discover the uses of healing herbs, especially bears. Bears come out of hibernation and look for specific plants to get their systems functioning again. Many of the herbs they eat are the herbs we know as spring tonics. These are herbs known to get toxins out of the body, as well as invigorate the digestive system, which has become sluggish over the winter months. We can learn a great deal from paying attention to animals. Some are so bonded to their human they can even “sense” the human’s illness.

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