Guide to Medicinal Herbs

Aloe: Apply the fresh gel from the leaves to minor burns and sunburn, blisters, scrapes, and minor wounds. Helps to promote healing and prevents infection. Do not take internally.

Arnica: Make an tincture of the flower heads and apply as a poultice or compress. Witch Hazel and apple cider vinegar make the best tinctures. Add a handful of the flower heads to a few ounces of the vinegar or hazel, let steep overnight, and use this liquid for sprains and sore muscles. Do not take internally.

Barberry: Prepare a tea from the dried roots and drink 1 cup daily for antibacterial and laxative effects.

Calendula: Great for stings, bruises, scrapes and burns. Add 2 tablespoons of dried calendula to a 1cup of witch hazel. Let it steep overnight, strain out the calendula, and use this herb infused liquid as an antiseptic spray or lotion.

Catnip: Make an infusion of dried or fresh leaves and 8 ounces of boiling water. Drink this infusion when needed for a calming effect or to aid in digestion.

Comfrey: Make a compress or poultice from the leaves and apply to bruises or sprains. Or add dried comfrey leaves to olive oil or grape seed oil and use as an ointment to treat minor burns or abrasions. Do not take internally.

Eucalyptus leaves: Make an infusion from the leaves and inhale the vapors as a decongestant and to relieve flu and cold symptoms.

Fennel: Make a tea from the seeds or leaves and a drink cup daily to relieve gas and upset stomach.

Garlic: Add peeled cloves to olive oil and let it infuse for 7 days. Use this oil to treat skin infections, and minor burns.

Parsley: Use fresh or dried parsley for making a soothing tea that will relieve constipation and help heal minor infections.

Peppermint: Chew fresh leaves for bad breath, or add fresh or dried leaves to one cup of boiling water for a refreshing tea that will help with stuffy nose or sinus.

Rosemary: Use the dried or fresh needles for tea, or as astringent for oily skin or acne. Crushed leaves can also be used in a poultice for cramps and sore muscles.

Sage: Brew the leaves for tea, or use the sage water for disinfecting minor skin infections. Add 1/2 cup of fresh or dried leaves to a quart of water. Cover and let stand for 10 days. Pour off the leaves and use this antibacterial liquid for scrapes and little nicks on your finger tips.

Thyme: Used dried leaves for a soothing tea, or as a gargle for sore throat. Use thyme in steam inhalation to relieve a stuffy nose.

This article is not intended to replace advice from the medical profession. As with all herbs, consult a health care professional before using.

Blessed Be- Sweet Ones

~ Meadow Walker

When real food and herbal medicine is outlawed- only outlaws will have them.

 

The Back Porch

sliver queen corn

A generous friend stopped by this morning and brought me 4 dozen ears of Silver Queen corn. For those who have never tasted sweet, organically grown corn, you’ve missed out on something special. Perfect, pearly rows of delicious goodness, so fresh when you press down on the kernels, you can see the corn milk. Not only did my friend bring me the corn, she helped to shuck it. It was cool enough to sit outside, and so we sipped coffee on the back porch and chatted while we worked.

Unfortunately, summer is so short and demanding that most of us do not have time to make complicated dishes to freeze for winter. The first dozen ears will go into boiling, salted water. I’ll blanch these for about ten minutes, place the ears in an ice bath, pat them dry and place them in a freezer bag. On a cold and snowy night, I’ll thaw them, cook them briefly and enjoy a taste of summer once again.

For the remaining ears, I’ll blanch them as well. Once they’ve cooled from the ice bath, I’ll cut the kernels off the cobs and place the corn in freezer bags. In a few of the bags, I’ll add a little finely chopped thyme. Be sure to label the contents.

For those of us who live in the south, fresh corn fritters are a treat anytime. Some of this Silver Queen corn is destined for fritters. Here’s the recipe:

2 cups of whole kernel corn, 1/2 cup of yellow corn meal, 1/2 cup plain flour, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1/4 cup of milk, 1/8 teaspoon each, salt and pepper. In a large mixing bowl, add the corn, corn meal, flour, sugar, butter, milk, and the seasonings. Stir well, and cover the bowl. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. In a large skillet, heat a cup of vegetable oil. Slowly drop teaspoons of the batter into the hot oil. Fry on one side, and turn the fritters over to cook on the other side. About 3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels and serve hot. Some cooks sprinkle confectioners sugar on the fritters or add a dollop of maple syrup.

Nothing was wasted from the Silver Queen gift- her husks, silk and cobs went into the compost bin. And so, she served a dual purpose- food for me, and later on food for my soil. Thank you, Silver Girls.

Blessed be ~ sweet ones.

~ Meadow Walker

Vacations and Gardens

Nothing is sadder than coming home from vacation to a yard full of dead flowers, vegetables and herbs. Unless you’re lucky enough to have family, neighbors or friends look after the plants, then you’ll have to make some preps before you leave.

The day before you leave, water everything deeply. Hopefully, you have a 3 inch layer of mulch throughout the garden, beds and borders. If not, then water all the plants slowly, so that the water sinks in the soil near the root system. Slow watering will deliver gallons of water deep into the soil where the plants need it most.  Do the watering early in the day, so it does not evaporate in the sun and extreme temperatures.

Take down all hanging baskets, water them well, and place them under a tree, shrubs, or a shady carport. Somewhere shady and cooler will help them survive longer than hanging up in the sun. You can place trays filled with water under the baskets/planters and this will water them slowly. It may rain while you’re away, and it may not.

All potted herbs, flowers and vegetables should be moved into a shady area. Even sun-loving plants will survive in the shade for 10 days or more. Better shade and cooler temperatures than a blazing hot sun beating down on them all day. Water everything slowly, and if you have time, mulch the soil on top of the pots. Just a thin layer of mulch will help hold in vital moisture in the soil.

Now would be a good time to do some pruning and harvesting of the herb plants. Cut some branches and snip some leaves and lay them on paper towels on the kitchen counter. The house will be cool and dark, and they’ll dry while you’re away.

Houseplants will need some attention as well. If the pots are small, fill the bathtub with an inch of water and place the pots in the tub. The water will be absorbed through the bottom of the planters. Wipe the pots off when you return and place them in a brightly lit area. They may look a little pale, but they’ll recover quickly. Big planters should be watered completely until the soil is soaked. They’ll be fine while you’re away.

Pick all the vegetables that are ripe, and water tomato and pepper plants deeply. Same for cucumbers and squash. Some gardeners pick off the small squash and cucumbers before they leave. This way the vines will keep producing instead of going to seed.

Trees, shrubs, perennials and ornamentals could use a deep watering as well. It’s a lot to take care of before you leave, but if you don’t water, you may not have anything alive when you get back.

Have a safe vacation, enjoy yourself and your loved ones. Perhaps the Fey will turn on the sprinkler while you’re away.

Blessed be ~ sweet ones.

~ Meadow Walker

It’s About Thyme

Thyme

There are some 350 species of thyme. They share much in common, sun-loving perennial shrubs, or tiny, creeping plants that grow between rocks and stones.

Garden or common thyme [ T. vulgaris ] is the principal culinary thyme. The leaves are tiny, gray-green and highly aromatic. Thyme requires good drainage and full sun for the development of essential oils. Thyme can be started from seed, although some varieties do much better when propagated by cuttings. Thyme likes a lime-rich soil, kept on the dry side, so don’t overwater. Mulch around thyme plants that you’ll use in cooking so the dirt doesn’t splash up when it rains- it’s hard to clean thyme’s tiny leaves.

Space the plants close together when setting them out in the garden. The plants will quickly fill in empty spaces and produce a “carpet” of dense plants that crowd out weeds. The ancient gardens of Greece had entire hills of thyme, wonderful and fragrant carpets to walk upon. The highest praise was given to men and women who strolled about the hillsides where the thyme grew. The smell of thyme clung to their garments long after they came down to the cities.

Dry thyme by cutting branches just before they bloom. When the leaves feel crisp, strip them off the stems just as you would do fresh thyme: hold the stem in one hand and run your finger and thumb against it from the top down. You can also freeze fresh leaves or add them to butter, oil, or vinegar.

Some different varieties: Caraway thyme, Lemon thyme, Spanish thyme, Azores thyme, Mother of thyme, Wooly thyme.

Here’s a recipe for Onion Jam with fresh thyme:

2 large white onions, finely diced

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and a non-stick pan

1/4 cup hot and spicy ketchup

2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar

Saute’ onions in the vegetable oil, but don’t allow the onions to brown. You want them soft and clear looking. Add a little water if the pan becomes dry. Stir in the sugar and ketchup, simmer for a few minutes and remove from heat. Once the jam has cooled, stir in about 1/4 teaspoon of finely minced fresh thyme. Store the jam in the fridge in a glass container. Serve the jam on grilled burgers, baked beans, steak, pork chops, or rolls.

Blessed be ~ sweet ones.

~ Meadow Walker

How to Air Dry Herbs

drying-herbs

Harvesting and drying: Herb leaves should be cut when the plant’s essential oils are at their highest levels. Leafy herbs like basil, chervil, marjoram, lemon balm, parsley, rosemary and sage should be pruned just before blossoming time. Pruning or cutting should be done around noon, after the dew has dried. Try to choose a day that is hot and dry, with little humidity.

It’s best to gather small bunches of herbs, and process them quickly. It’s easier to prepare the herb bunches or swags by working with only one or two different herbs at a time. Bunch or swag drying is an easy way to dry long-stemmed herbs.

If the leaves are clean, it’s not necessary to rinse them off. Some of the herbs essential oils will be lost during the rinsing. If the leaves are dusty, coated with pollen or mulching materials, then rinse the herbs under cold water. A quick rinse at the sink with a sprayer works best. Tie the herbs in small bunches with twine, rubber bands or string and hang to dry. Careful that the swags or bunches do not touch. Air must flow over and around the drying herbs.

Herbs dry best when left to hang leafy ends down so that the concentrated essential oils in the stems will flow into the leaves. Don’t hang the herbs in the kitchen to dry. It’s too hot and humid, and with strong cooking odors and steam, it could affect the flavor and aroma of the herbs.

M4034S-4211To prevent dust from collecting on the leaves, place each swag or bunch in paper bags to continue the drying process. Insert the herbs carefully inside the bags and close the tops with clothespins or paper clips. The leaves hang freely inside the bags, and because it’s paper, some air will enter the bags to allow for complete drying. This method of air drying takes 10-14 days depending on the type of herb, how thick the stems are, and the air temperature in the room. For example: I have lemon basil swags hanging from the drying racks, and even after ten days, they’re still moist in some areas, especially the stems. So be patient and don’t hurry the drying process.

A small fan blowing away from the drying herbs will increase air circulation in the room. Aim for warmth, darkness and low humidity when choosing an area to air dry herbs.

Happy 4th of July to our friends and visitors. Be safe and have a wonderful holiday.

Blessed be ~ sweet ones.

~ Meadow Walker

From the Herb Basket

lemon-basil

Lemon basil

Did you know? lemon basil leaves are not only aromatic and flavorful, they can also be diabetic friendly and possibly aid in weight reduction. Here’s a recipe for lemon basil tea: 3 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of dried lemon basil, 2 lemon slices, and 2 teaspoons of loose leaf green or black tea. In a sauce pan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat. Add the basil, tea leaves and lemon. Cover the pan with a lid for about 3 minutes and let the tea steep. Strain and discard, tea leaves, herb and lemon peel. Drink immediately. For fat burning- drink a cup first thing in the morning and go for a brisk ten minute walk. The combination of walking and drinking the tea will raise your fat burning metabolism for hours.

Infusing fresh basil leaves in olive oil: Roughly chop about 2 cups of fresh basil leaves, place them in a pint jar and cover with a good quality olive oil. Cap the jar tightly, and place it in a cool, dark area. Gently shake the jar every other day. Allow the basil and oil to infuse for ten days. Strain out the herbs through a fine mesh strainer and discard the leaves. The oil will have taken on a delicious flavor. Combine the oil with vinegar for salads or brushing on a grill when cooking out.

The wonders of peppermint: Peppermint tea is excellent for a bloated stomach. It relieves gas and indigestion. Excellent tea for a stomach virus, diarrhea, or as stimulant to increase mental alertness. A compress of dried peppermint leaves mixed with milk will help heal cold sores and pimples. Make a paste, pat it on and allow it dry for a few minutes. Rinse with warm water and pat dry with a paper towel. Peppermint tea promotes “well being” and acts as a mild stimulator for increased circulation in the groin area. A cup of fresh peppermint tea a few times a week, will aid in a feeling of well being and vitality. The tea when consumed first thing in the morning acts as an energy booster for hours. Add a little organic honey to sweeten the tea and your life.

Sage advice: Sage helps to quicken the senses and keep you alert, just by inhaling the wonderful fragrance. Drink a cup of sage tea 2 or 3 times weekly to ward off bladder infections in men and women. Sage strengthens the heart and makes an “cold compress” for headache. A gargle of warm water and crushed sage leaves will relieve bad breath and help prevent bleeding gums. In Medieval days, the wealthy brushed their teeth and gums with the branches of garden sage. A foot soak of 2 tablespoons of sea salt, 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried sage, and a gallon of warm water will relieve foot cramps; help heal skin infections and increase blood flow to the toes.

Bugs biting? Crush a few mint leaves between your fingers and rub the mint on the bites. It will soothe the bites and chase the bugs away.

Did you know? Orange marigolds and lemon scented thyme are favorites of the blue fairies [ the Fey ]. Make room in the herb garden for marigolds and thyme. Plant them in full Sun, and watch the fairies come at dusk.

June’s blooms have come and gone. July’s hot and hazy days are just ahead. Water well now, so the herbs and flowers won’t be stressed when the temperatures soar !

Blessed be, sweet ones.

~ Meadow Walker

All About Parsley

parsley

Parsley is a biennial herb, forming a dense rosette of leaves in the first year and flowering in its second year.

There are three distinct types of parsley. Probably the most familiar is curly parsley, followed by the Italian flat-leaf and the Hamburg or turnip rooted parsley. Curley parsley is used mostly as a garnish or in salads, the Italian flat-leaf is used in cooking, and the Hamburg is grown more for its delicious tap root than its leaves.

Parsley plants prefer full morning Sun to partial shade. The herb is grown from seed and may take up to 3 weeks to germinate, so be patient. Use a high quality seed starter mix, moisten it well, and sprinkle the seeds on top. Don’t cover the seeds. Mist the surface of the soil daily, and keep the pots or flats in a warm area. Parsley seed will rot in cold, damp soil. Plan on allowing the little plants to grow in the same containers they were started in. All parsley plants have a long tap root and dislike being transplanted. I start my seeds in 6 inch pots. Three or four seeds per pot. I don’t thin them out, and they do well in crowded containers.

Water the plants several times each week during summer. If the soil is allowed to dry out, the plants will flower and the leaves will become bitter. Place watering trays under the bottoms of the planters. During extreme temperatures of 90+ or more, fill the trays with water at least three times a week. The plants will absorb the water from the bottom of the trays. Water also on top if the surface soil feels dry. Parsley loves fertile soil, and will reward you with dark green and delicious leaves.

Parsley is rich in vitamin C and A, and 1/2 cup of parsley has five calories ! Toss chopped parsley in salads, soups, stews, pasta sauces and baked potatoes. For best flavor, use it fresh.

Rise and shine with the Summer Solstice on June 21, at 6: 51 A. M. – ET. On this day, dark and light are equal, 12 hours of each. Time to plant vegetables, beans, herbs, flowers, set out small pepper and tomato plants for a fall harvest. Remember to give the birds water and seed. Keep the birdbath full of fresh water.

~ Meadow Walker