Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Using fresh stinging nettles in the kitchen .. and elsewhere

Allow me, please, to open with a small rant -

You'd think I would be pleased to hear that stinging nettles are now commercially available at farmers' markets and even some 'foodie' outlets and yeah, it is 'great', in a way.

But deep down, I'm kinda saddened to hear it.

Here's why: The true nourishment of nettles, their Medicine, their meaning in the grander scheme of things, is to be found in the gathering

It's in the hunt.

It's in the way the heartbeat quickens just a little when we discern just the right shade of green (with a blush of red or purple when they're really young) nestled amongst the golds and browns of the old grasses of last year. It's in the pink cheeks from the biting wind and spitting rain of a spring day, and the squelch of the still wet ground we likely have to cross to get to where nettles are wont to be the most plentiful. The best nettles, in my neck of the woods at least, always seem to be the least accessible ones.

It's in the first stings that bring cold benumbed fingers back to fiery life.

It's in their wildness, their downright orneriness. That orneriness is matched by our own as we're so willing, eager even, to set comfort aside just for a taste of something so genuinely fresh after a winter of imported food.

That's nettles.

But nettles aren't (alas) that for everyone, for some they're just a novel - and very, very nutritious -vegetable that can be a little daunting to deal with in the kitchen. It's not yet nettle season where I live - it's a good month away yet - but I've already heard from folks in warmer climes that they've got themselves a bag or two from the market and they don't quite know how to deal with them. Can I help? Sure, I'll be glad to.

Now that my little rant is (mostly, but I'm not guaranteeing completely) out of the way, read on for how I've learned to prep and cook nettles.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Hands on, how to - alder infused oil; the good, the bad and the ugly

click to embiggen
We'll start with the bad and the ugly, since that's where the story begins.

I went to refill my trusty little bottle of alder oil and discovered this ----------------------------------->>>>>

My backup jar of alder oil was moldy, throughout!

See now, this is the kind of lesson one learns over and over and over when one is lazy or forgetful. You can leave herbs (almost) indefinitely in vodka, but not in oil. No sir. Normally I would have strained this - heaven knows why I didn't - and I would have put some coarse salt in the bottom of the jar of strained oil, too. Salt pulls any excess water to itself and keeps the oil from going off. Like that. Yuck.

Bad girl, wildcucumber, bad, bad!!

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Thrifty apothecary experimentations

I guess you could say we're snowed in ..

At least it's clean snow. For now.

That snowbank on the front lawn is taller than I am. It's several blizzards' worth, mind you. I'm starting to suspect the village has run out of money for snow clearing, because up til recently they were taking those monsters away every few days. Or maybe there's just no place to put it any more?


Friday, 8 February 2019

Tools of the trade

We were driving over to the town of Renfrew, (a small town, but bigger than ours) to do some shopping.

It was a snowy, blowy, blustery day. Paul was driving (Paul always drives) and I was looking out the window (I always look out the window) at the treetops against the sullen grey sky. At the shapes of shrubs and outlines of the old, golden stalks of last year's perennials against the perfect snow. At the snow itself, sculpted by the wind, so white and so deep.

The snow is very deep this year.

As I look, I name what I'm seeing. I can't help myself, it just happens. Birch, oak, golden rod, thistle, mullein spike, alder, alder and more alder (their branches burgundy, their catkins and cones dangling like earrings). Cattails. Queen Anne's Lace, wild parsnip, corn stubble.

Some of the names fit better in winter than in summer; without their leaves, the branches of staghorn sumacs (for example) really do look like antlers. It's in winter that their thick velvet covering - just like the velvet on deer antlers - is most prominent. It begs the question - could one use staghorn sumac velvet in the same way that those ultra-macho types use deer antler velvet? I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Plants 101(a) - annuals vs biennials vs perennials

High school was a long time ago, I know. And unless you're a gardener, you've probably let everything you might have learned about plant reproduction slip out of your head.

But if you plan on growing or foraging for your own medicine (or food), you need to know this.

Today I'll cover the basics, including examples, and in the next post I'll cover the practical applications for growing or foraging; i.e. why any of this matters.

Hopefully, this won't be too boring .. it certainly isn't complicated.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Hands-on how-to: making your own tinctures

Although I've made reference here and there on this blog to throwing together tinctures, it seems I've never done a dedicated post on the subject before.

What was I thinking??

Actually, what I was thinking was that anyone could find the information pretty easily out there on the interwebz. Thing is, turns out the instructions 'out there' are often needlessly complicated, incomplete or downright wrong .. sigh ..

So today's post, like so many before it, is in answer to some of that nonsense. Hopefully I'll be able to clarify some details, clear up some confusion, dispel some myths and help you to see that you, too, can make far better quality tinctures at home than you can buy anywhere - and do it on the cheap, too.

Like cooking or baking, making your own herbal remedies is about following a basic recipe, learning the ratios, then, as you gain experience, winging it according to your best judgement. There are - of course - exceptions to some of the rules, and I'll cover those too.

What follows is my own experience, based on about 2 decades of tincture making.

The TL;DR version of this post? Plants + booze x time = tincture. But there's a little more to it than that, so read on ..

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Learning to ID plants: the tried and true vs apps & the internet

'Apps' for everything, even meditation .. follow the link if you dare. I don't think I've ever seen a a sillier insult to the ancient wisdom of meditation - or to the intelligence of the 'consumer' (there's that word again!) - than that one.

And people who should know better, like the ever-annoying "functional medicine" guru Chris Kesser, actually promote such nonsense with a straight face.

When he links to that (particularly hateful) meditation app even as he recommends that his readers reduce their usage of technology, should we take it as irony? Or lip-service? I can't tell the difference any more.