Horseradish Blossoms

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Horseradish is blooming. Despite the pungent odor of the roots, the flowers are sweetly scented, though they have a hint of the spiciness that is in the roots. There’s a saying about Horseradish that recommends harvesting the root only in a month that has an “R” in it. While that’s true if you want the most potent root, you can use a bit of them any time of year to clear up sinus congestion. The famous herbalist and author, Dr. Christopher, recommends chewing a piece of the root until the flavor is gone to drain sinus cavities. Horseradish root is also a digestive aid, hence the culinary use of it with fatty meats.
Horseradish Blossoms
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Edible Evergreens

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New growth from Spruce, Pine and Fir trees are popping out in glowing green. These soft tips are edible and medicinal. Having learned about them within the last few years and since they’re only available for a short time in the spring, I’m curious (one might call it obsessed) to learn more. We’ve been trying new recipes and making new medicines with them and plan to freeze a  few for extended use. We have an Spruce Tip Oil infusing and a Spruce Tip Vinegar to use for salads and cooking.

Spruce Tips - spring 2014

Brilliant green new growth on Spruce trees in the spring.

One of the recipes we like is Spruce Tip Mayonnaise. It can be used as a spread on BLTs or a dip for fresh vegetables or a glaze for grilled vegetables.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh tips
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Chop tips finely or put in a food processor to mince. Add to mayonnaise, along with lemon juice, and stir. Let mixture sit for a couple hours to blend the flavors. Makes a great BLT spread or flavorful addition to potato salad. They have a mild flavor of spruce; a little sweetness and nuttiness too.

Harvested Spruce tips

Harvested Spruce tips

 

Medicinally Spruce can be used externally to soothe sore muscles. Internally, Spruce has antiseptic properties that treat respiratory infections and mucus. It is also used to treat bronchitis, coughs and asthma. A simple syrup is made by boiling the tips in water and adding honey.

 

 

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

 

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