Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day '18 walk around

Just pictures - no need to talk. It's a gorgeous day and everything is busting out.





















         I hope you had some time outside to enjoy the natural world and our beautiful planet today.

Monday, April 16, 2018

May June 2018 and a new deadline coming up!!!

Before telling you about the new issue, I want to mention that #100 is breathing down our necks.  We are asking suppliers or herb businesses (no MLM's please) who might be willing to offer our readers a discount (or free gift with order, or free shipping, etc...) during July and/or August to contact us for details.  Deadline is May 1.  No cost to participate.  Tina@EssentialHerbal.com
Same deadline for regular content!

Now.  The latest issue is in the mail.  We know you'll love it - and we suspect we might sell out of this one.  Don't wait too long. Get it HERE
TOC:
Cover photography by Signe Sundberg-Hall
Field Notes from the Editor,
Tina Sams
    Staying in touch with the natural world in the winter.
Blue Vervain - The Wizards’ Herb, Jackie Johnson    
   
There is much to be learned of this magnificent plant.
Harvesting Herbs in the Wild, Sandy Michelsen          
   
Foraging safely and ethically, and what to do once you have it.
Damiana, Marita Orr
    The legendary herb well known as an aphrodisiac, helps us with many other issues.         
California Poppy,
Kristine Brown
    The lush and generous nervine is so versatile.  You’ll want to grow some.
Hello, Summer! Tina Sams
    It’s finally here.  Summer!  What do you need?  Quick and dirty instructions for many
    herbal concoctions.
Molly in the West, Full House Herbalism, Molly Sams
    When space is severely limited, the herb people abide.
Making Herbal Notecards, Mary Ellen Wilcox
    Mary Ellen made these for a swap, and agreed to write the instructions – they’re great!
Get Organized Outside, Kathy Musser
    The growing season, by the most organized person I know, bar none.
Lassi, Come Home, Rebekah Bailey
    Make this delicious, refreshing drink at home.  Make your own buttermilk, too.
Pickled Mushrooms, Rita Richardson
    A delicious appetizer for summer entertaining.
“Lemons” for your Summer Enjoyment, Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh
    Lemon balm and verbena – with a slew of recipes and ways to use them.
Another Recycling Project, Sue Ryn Burns
    You know that old charcoal grill out in the garage?  Well…
Stress Less Tea, Tina Sams
    This is the tea we made to send to Standing Rock a while back. We’ve had some requests for the recipe, so here it is.
Twisted Sisters’ Clay Facial Bar, Maryanne Schwartz
    25 years of soap biz makes it necessary to try new things sometimes, just to stay sane.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

How About Hops?


From Sept/Oct '16 issue of The Essential Herbal Magazine
Rebekah Bailey www.soapdish.com

I planted my first hops more than 20 years ago.  At the time, I was a young, budding herb enthusiast, not entirely aware of the plant’s place in the herb garden. I planted it for the ignominious reason of covering an old rusty fuel tank sitting right in the middle of the farmyard.  The only thing I knew about it was that it was used in beer.  That was the beginning of a long relationship with the bitter herb.
 
I’ve since come to know hops in great variety.  A number of years ago, before the craft beer revolution became the craze it is today, I was introduced to the then small world of craft beer. It was there that my hops education began. I’ve traveled the country in search of beer, tasting 77 different styles of beer from a total of 648 different breweries, from all 50 states, and 56 different countries.  I’ve obsessively taken notes and recorded more than 3600 reviews of the beer I’ve tasted.  In that time I’ve learned that all hops are not created equal. The number of hop varieties used in brewing is more than 170, with several new varieties being developed every year.
 
Hops (Humulus Lupulus), a hardy climbing perennial, produces annual bines (yes – bines not vines) reaching up to 25 feet a season.  Each fall the plant dies back to a crown of rhizomes, from which the plant can be propagated.  Hops are dioecious, male and female, the female plant producing the flowers, also referred to as cones. Hops are native to the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, and were first noted in history by Pliny the Elder during the first century.  Despite this early mention in history, hops didn’t make any notable appearances until the eighth century in France, and again in the twelfth century in Germany when hops began to be used in the making of beer.  Prior to its use in beer, hops was a wild plant used as a vegetable and for its medicinal properties.1
 
Hops is a relative newcomer to the world of traditional medicine, Historic references to its medicinal use aren’t found until around the fifteenth century. After that time, we begin to see it referenced for use as a digestive aid, diuretic, cleansing the blood, liver, and spleen.  As history progresses into the nineteenth century, we also see it used as an antibacterial, a tonic for digestion, for inflammation, restlessness, as a sleep aid, and for a whole host of other minor complaints.   There have been a few modern studies conducted on the medical efficacy of hops as a sedative, and quite a bit of anecdotal evidence of hops being effective as a digestive bitter, and for possible estrogenic activity. 2

From a personal standpoint, I’ve had good results using hops as a mild sleep aid, along with passionflower.  I prefer to use it in tincture form, but many herbalists make dream pillows, stuffing small pillows with hops.
 
If you were to do a quick internet search for hops’ use in beer, you’d end up with information overload.  Looking up its use as a folk remedy would yield some quick results also.  However, you would find very little on its use as food. To the best of my knowledge, there are no hops cookbooks on the market, and I’ve only run across one mentioning hops as a vegetable.

With interest in craft beer gaining momentum, driving the growth of new breweries and hops farms at a staggering pace, home brewers, breweries, gastro pubs and chefs alike have begun looking to hops for new uses.   As a local chapter leader of a national women’s craft beer organization, Girls Pint Out, I’ve had the opportunity to become acquainted with many of the hop growers, brewers, and bar and restaurant owners in my local community.  It was at a recent Purdue University hops growing workshop, that a group of us discussed the potential of using hops in food.  Having experimented with hops in my own kitchen, I was able to share some of my own experience, and also walked away with quite a bit of new information and plenty of ideas for further experimentation.
 
Three parts of the plant can be used in food: tender young shoots in the spring, tender young leaves, and the cones, which ripen in late summer or early fall, depending on the variety.  To date, I’ve not run across any use of the rhizomes in cooking.

In the spring, the first few bines to develop are bull shoots.  Bull shoots do not produce high yields of cones, so are trimmed out within the first couple of weeks.  The shoots that develop after the bull shoots are trained upwards, and produce flowers more heavily.  However, it takes a lot of shoots to have enough for a recipe.  The home grower, with only a few plants, is going to be hard pressed to gather enough for more than one meal, and would most likely need to harvest more than just the bull shoots.  Hops shoots have been pronounced the “the world’s most expensive vegetable”, coming in at over $1000€ per kilo – that’s about $500 per pound!  Some sources cite hops shoots here in the States at $128 per pound, but I’ve never seen them in my grocery store or farmer’s market.
 
Tender young hops shoots are much like asparagus, and can simply be sautéed with a little olive oil or butter, garlic, salt and pepper.  Hops shoots can also be pickled, included in egg dishes such as quiche or frittata, or rice dishes like risotto or pilaf.

So far, my only experiment with hop leaves has been using tender young leaves for stuffed hop leaves, as opposed to stuffed grape leaves.  I did find one recipe online for hop leaf pasta dough. I’ve made green pasta from chlorophyll extracted from spinach leaves, so I find hops leaf an intriguing possibility.

The bulk of my experimenting has centered on using hops cones as a flavoring.  Without getting bogged down in the science, hops flowers are divided into two categories:  bittering (high alpha acid) and aroma (low alpha acid). For the sake of cooking, I suggest the use of aroma hops (ie. Amarillo, Saaz, Willamette), which will impart a bit less bitterness, and more aroma and flavor than bittering hops. The flowers can be used in several forms: fresh or dried cones, tincture or infusion, or hop pellets from your local home brew store. Because the season for hops flowers is short, I preserve them by making tincture, and drying. The oils in the flowers are volatile, so store the dried flowers in a zip bag in the freezer to extend shelf life.  I do have some hop pellets, and am experimenting, but not yet entirely comfortable making recommendations for their use.

Use a light hand when cooking with hops flowers.  The flavor can be incredibly strong and bitter, so think of it as a spice or a seasoning.  The point is to enhance, but not overpower. Also, the alpha acids in hops flowers are hydrophobic and bond with fat molecules, so the flavor is easier to manage in fats.

Try infusing honey and honey mustard with hops, or using hops tincture as a bitter in cocktails.  I love homemade lemonade with hops. I add a little more hops than in the following recipe, and drinking a glass usually makes me feel sleepy.
 
 Lemonade

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup simple syrup
2 teaspoons hops tincture

 
Hops Ice Cream

3 cups half and half (or 1 ½ cup cream and 1 ½ cup milk)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Handful of fresh hop cones

Combine half and half, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a heavy bottomed pan.  Gently heat the mixture over medium, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Heat until mixture thickens slightly, but don’t bring to a full boil. 
Place hops into the hot mixture to infuse.  This next step is important.  At about 15 or 20 seconds, taste the mixture.  Continue tasting until it reaches the desired flavor, and then immediately remove the hops.  The cream mixture pictured took about 30 seconds to \ attain an herbal hoppy flavor without any significant bitterness. The exact time is going to depend on personal preference and the variety of hops being used.

Cool mixture in refrigerator until 40°F or below.  Churn according to ice cream machine directions.  Ripen ice cream in freezer overnight for best texture.


1. The Short and Bitter History of Hops, David Martorana, Philly Beer Scene, April/May 2010 Edition.
2. Hops (Humulus lupulus): A Review of its Historic and Medicinal Uses, Uwe Koetter, Martin Biendl, HerbalGram. 2010; American Botanical Council

 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Another Nettles/Greens Supper

There are so many delicious wild greens coming up right now.  The best way to learn to use them is to just start throwing them into dishes.  They are usually tender, so just the last few minutes of cooking is generally best.  Tonight I was in the mood for an omelet.
Here's how it went down...
Went outside and picked a few cups of garlic mustard leaves and stinging nettles leaves. 
Pulled out a skillet, and threw in a pat of butter.
Dumped a pint of baby bella mushrooms (use what you have) and about an ounce of water on medium heat, covered. 
Allowed them to cook til about done, added greens and another ounce of water, covered, then turned to low.

In the meantime, I pulled out another skillet and started 2 eggs.
Once they were set, I layered on top...
Single layer of super thin slices of smoked ham.
Handful of shredded cheddar.
 - cover for a couple minutes to melt cheese.
Add about 1/2 the mushrooms and greens
Slide onto plate and flip the one side over on top.
Top with salsa.



And there's enough filling to have it again for lunch.
Yum!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Red Clover – Herb of Good Fortune

July/August 2010 Essential Herbal Magazine

Have you ever taken a sip of nectar from a red clover blossom? As a child I would sit in our neighbor’s field, pull the flowering tops off red clover plants and sip the nectar from the base of the flower. I loved the sweet flavor of this summer treat, unaware that this tasty herbaceous plant had healing properties!

Red clover, Trifolium pratense, (Trifolium means ‘three-leaved’ and pratense means ‘pasture land’) is also known as purple clover, trefoil, cow grass, beebread, sweet clover, and cow clover. Red clover is a perennial herb, used for cattle grazing and is said to be one of the first agricultural crops. It has a Celtic origin and grows wild in meadowlands throughout Europe and Asia. The herb was introduced into North America during the eighteenth century where it is now commonly found in sunny grasslands and along roadsides. The purple-pink, globe-shaped flowers at the end of branched stems can be dried for therapeutic use.

Red clover is associated with good fortune. The phrase “living in clover” refers to living a carefree life of ease, comfort, and prosperity. The familiar three-lobed leaves of the herb were associated by medieval Christians with the Trinity. Fairy lore states that unicorns particularly like to lie in fields of red clover. Washing the eyelids with red clover water was believed to promote seeing the fairies and unicorns
 

Red clover has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including whooping cough, bronchitis and skin inflammations. Traditionally, red clover ointments and lotions have been applied to the skin to treat psoriasis, eczema, abscesses, rashes, cysts, tumors and wounds. It can be used in many forms: capsule, tea, tincture, salve, ointment, wash, poultice, infused oil and lotion.

Red clover is considered a "blood purifier" by acting as a diuretic and expectorant, improving circulation, and helping cleanse the liver. It is a source of many nutrients including calcium, chromium, magnesium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, vitamin C, potassium, and thiamine. Nutritionally, red clover is most well known as a very rich source of isoflavones; compounds that act like estrogens and are found in many plants. These phyto-chemicals, also found in soy, look similar to the hormone, estrogen. Many case studies are currently ongoing regarding the effects of red clover as a supplement for women’s health issues.  

Gather red clover in summer when in it is in full, open bloom. Take time to rinse the flowers and check them for insects. Be sure the place you harvested your blooms was not sprayed with chemicals. Pull the petals from the fresh flower head and add them to salads or prepare a refreshing red clover iced tea. To use at a later date, rinse the flowers and lay the blooms in the shade on a screen or paper towels to dry. Store the flowers in air tight containers, in a cool dark place.
Red Clover Iced Tea
For one large glass of iced tea you will need:
One to two teaspoons dried red clover flowers or ½ cup fresh red clover blossoms and eight ounces of good water

Bring water to a rolling boil, pour the boiling water over the red clover flowers and steep for 7 – 12 minutes. Strain and add local honey (red clover honey would be a good choice) to sweeten if desired. Allow to cool before pouring your brew into a large glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish with lemon balm or lemon verbena leaves. Enjoy!!! (You can certainly make a ‘pitcher’ of iced tea – just increase the ingredients to proportions).
Interactions and Precautions:Research shows red clover may interfere with the body's ability to process some drugs that are broken down by liver enzymes. For that reason, you should check with your health provider before using red clover. Red clover may enhance the effect of anti-coagulant drugs, increasing the risk of bleeding, so do not take red clover before having surgery. Studies have shown that red clover may increase the effect of estrogens if you are taking hormone replacement therapy, or birth control pills. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use red clover. 

The information provided in this article is intended solely to inform the reader. Please be certain to ‘know your herb’ before consuming it.
“Walk Gently on this Earth!”

Submitted by:
Mary Hammond – Herbal Practitioner
www.smilingsage.com

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Some New Gifties for Spring in the Shop

We've been busy lately!
With Spring here (it really is, I swear), we look forward to a few gift giving occasions, and not so happily, to allergies, and bugs, and poison ivy, oak, and sumac (for starters). 
We put together some nice sets.  Have a look.  They're available on our site.
CLICK HERE

Aromatic, pure essential oils blended to make it easier to deal with allergy season.  Our Sinus Comfort Set is great!
When you're hitting the woods or meadow, be sure you're ready with our Outdoor Trio. 
This essential oil blend started with our renaissance festival days and is still one of our best sellers.
The wise woman in your home will appreciate your wisdom in gifting her with this set.

Perennial favorite, lavender.  Relaxing and refreshing at the same time. 

Hey hippies!  Come and get your patchouli.  We've got you covered.

For the guys.  This fragrance is very popular.  Masculine and clean. 
I usually don't like "foodie" scents in soap or body care, but the Blackberry Sage is different.  Just about everyone likes it.  They hold a bar, take a big whiff, and say, "Ahhhhh..." with a smile.
You'll find lots of other things, and of course OUR favorite gift is a subscription to the magazine.  That one you should just go ahead and give to yourself, right this minute.  Check out the May Day baskets while you're there.  Those are sweet!  Oh and the t-shirts!  And books! 

Sunday, April 01, 2018

April 1, 2018 yard tour

Today was the kind of spring day that drags you outside, no matter what your plans might have been.  It was a good chance to visit the plants and see who is peeking out of the ground or popping out the tip of a stem.  There's a lot going on out there!
The elders are just beginning to push tiny leaves.  In another couple of weeks, there will be regular sized leaves.

Carnelian cherry blossoms!  They bloom early, and sometimes a cold snap cuts back on the fruit harvest.  They are a variety of dogwood.  The cherries are smallish and oval shaped, and delicious.

Catnip is very common here.  Look how lush this is!

Last year the cleavers were INSANE.  They climbed over the fence and up the trees.  From the looks of things, they have similar plans for this year.  They did make weeding easy, though.


Heal-all is just starting to poke tiny leaves out.  I'm anxious to see if it's spreading.  That's the plan, but for some reason it acts a little timid here, even though we really encourage most weeds.

Douglas fir cones blow off the trees in the spring storms and they have lots of resin on them.  On chilly days, it's pleasant to gather.  When it's warm, it's much stickier.

Lemon balm is finally spreading around the garden.  Don't laugh!  I've probably planted it 4 times with no success.  Molly planted it once, and now it's got a nice 2 foot patch going.

This maple tree... I love her.  She shades the deck in summer, and shines yellows and greens into the kitchen in the morning.  Today, I patted her as I walked by, and before I knew it, she had me hugging her.  If you've never hugged a tree, you should try it.  Choose one that is comfortable to hug.  See if it doesn't feel good.  Bet it will.

Nettles and chickweed along the side of the house.  The nettles are going to need to be controlled, or just constantly kept after, even though I love them as a vegetable and tea ingredient.  The chickweed is just the carpet here.

There's a small orchard beside the house, and I think this is the plum tree.  Last year was the first year we got peaches, and it looks like there might be some plums this year.  There are blooms on some of the apple trees, too.


This guy was hanging out beside the fence post while I was pruning a cherry tree this morning.  He looks a little cantankerous to me, so I didn't touch.



The witch hazel had a tough time getting started.  A groundhog ate it to the ground every fall, but finally the roots were big enough to outgrow the whistle pig.  Now it puts on a show for months on end.

Tiny black currant leaves.  This is one prolific fruit plant.  It surprises me every year.
Finally, the sun sets over the hill.  Another beautiful day showing us a glimpse of what is to come.
Of course it does appear that we'll have snow in the morning...

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