Today we thought we’d introduce you to a common wild edible known as Purple Deadnettle (or, more dramatically, the Purple Archangel). Watch the video and let us know if it grows in your area, and if you’ve tasted it!
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I wrote on Monday that today (Thursday), we would be discussing mint here – specifically, harvesting some late-remaining mint from our mint bed (shown above in all its glory) and making something with it. I failed, however, to take into account that it’s been getting darker earlier and earlier these days. By the time I was able to get outside and talk about mint, it was just too dark.
So, I thought I’d forego the video, and just write up some minty facts to freshen up your Thursday. To begin, I would highly encourage anyone who is new to gardening, and wants some early success, to experiment with mint (including spearmint, peppermint, and the various varietals available here and there). I can almost guarantee that you’ll have some wild (and I do mean wild!) success, and will soon enjoy more mint than the law allows. It’s so easily grown, and spreads around so easily (via its root system), that it would almost be considered invasive if it weren’t so darned desirable and fragrant. (It’s tough to walk past a mint bed without snatching up a leaf, rolling it between your fingers, and inhaling the scent deeply.)
As a bonus, mint is a perennial, which means that you won’t have to plant it each year. Like many other perennial herbs (e.g., oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, etc.), they’re truly gifts that keep on giving. I’ve read reports of the stems becoming more and more woody over the years, supposedly necessitating a replanting. Maybe we’ve just been fortunate here in Pennsylvania, but we’ve never had to replant our mint; the bed returns just as full each year. I think it does get taller and thicker, but it still produces wonderful mint.
While many people associate minty things with sweetness (because of its traditional use in candies and so forth), you may only think of mint for use in sweet dishes (in which it does go very well). But you might also try mint in other dishes, for example Wendi’s Cauliflower Mint Salad (an original Makin’ It Monday creation from more than a year ago), or Leela Mata’s Marigold Mint Chutney (a Makin’ It Monday video from this past summer).
Of course, if you do like sweet minty raw desserts, I would highly recommend my own infamous brownies. Just omit the cinnamon and use an edible peppermint oil instead of orange oil (about 10-15 drops will flavor it nicely). Wow, that post is a few years old. I really need to make those again sometime because they’re so delicious. For anyone new to raw foods, these brownies are a super great “transition food.” (While some raw foodies kind of come down on raw desserts, Wendi and I both lost significant weight while eating such things. So, ditch the guilt; these are healthy!)
Everyone likes mint, of course. This is likely related to its renown for being a soothing herb. Quite often, when we think of the soothing property, we’re usually thinking of soothing a stomach issue, such as digestion (although mint is also fairly soothing just in general). Many chefs will therefore include mint in as a digestive component of a recipe. So, when you’re crafting something that may sit a bit heavy, you might consider adding some mint to the recipe. It’s all about experimentation, of course. And, again, mint usually produces so much, you’ll almost always have far more on hand than you’ll know what to do with.
One idea for using up some of the harvest is to dry your mint for later use as a tasty and very relaxing tea. To do this, simply harvest a bunch and hang it to dry for a week or two. Then use a tablespoon or so of leaves per tea cup. I’ve read, btw, that herbal teas should be steeped, not boiled as you might do with a black tea.
While you can enjoy mint leaves at pretty much any time in the yearly cycle of growth, it’s generally considered a best practice to harvest your mint just before it goes to flower. Doing this, and also remembering to harvest in the morning, will ensure that your cut herbs have the best concentration of their esssntial oils.
That leads me to a final note. I think many people might be interested to learn how to make their own essential oils from things like mint. I won’t cover that here today, but will promise to return to this when the time is right. Again, this would be an excellent project for mint, as you’ll often have access to enough raw herb at home to pull off a decent essential oil. (Of course, there are various ways to make an essential oil, and some take more herbal material than others.)
Oh… We may have a guest post tomorrow! I suppose the only way to find out if that’s true is to tune in again tomorrow. If we do, I bet it’ll be 85% mintier than this post today!
Well, we’ve always found the herb SAGE to be delightful in so many ways. That’s why we’ve grown it here and elsewhere for years. Such a lovely, fragrant, sturdy, resilient herb, it’s truly one of the easiest plants to communicate with — and YES!, it truly IS a meaningful dialogue when you step out into the garden and sit among a patch of sage. All you need to do is listen carefully, and sage will speak its sage herbal wisdom to you.
I was wondering how sage came to be known as “sage” — when all of the sources I had handy simply listed its technical name, salvia, along with its common name. Enter the great Wiki for an answer:
The name [Salvia] is derived from the Latin salvere(“to save”), referring to the long-believed healing properties of salvia. The Latin was corrupted to ‘sauja’, to the French ‘sauge’, and to the old English ‘sawge’, and eventually became the modern day ‘sage’.
I did not know that. Thank you, great Wiki! However, before we buy into that 100%, let’s head over to reference.com where I think there’s yet another interesting possibility. There, if you look at the origin of the word “sage,” you’ll see that it reportedly arrived in our tongue around the year 1250, ultimately via the Latin word sapidus, which means to be wise or to have “taste.” This word was equivalent to sapere, which means to know or be wise and, quite interestingly, to taste — as in literally to taste something.
Aside from whether or not Salvia morphed into “sage,” I do find the connection between wisdom and taste absolutely fascinating. Don’t you agree? I feel that it kind of speaks to our ancient, more primal methodologies for knowledge gathering. In ages past, we didn’t seem to have that all-encompassing fear drilled into us from day one (regarding germs, etc.).
I believe there are actually few plants in the natural world that will actually kill a human being if ingested. (I think I heard Victoria Boutenko say once that there are really only 30 or so poisonous ones lurking about in our part of the world.) Many others will make you sick, of course. But, it’s easily imaginable that, back before the time of printed books, certainly prior to the digital information age, information gathering activities likely included tasting things.
I don’t think I have it in me to approach a plant I’m unfamiliar with and actually taste it, just out of curiosity. But, I imagine that we humans did, at some point — and we in fact gained wisdom via our trials, passing that wisdom down through the ages via shamans and of course the oral tradition among healers. Here’s a great quote on this, in which Stephen Buhner writes of the fear we now have of being in touch with plants:
If we eat the wild, it begins to work inside us, altering us, changing us. Soon, if we eat too much, we will no longer fit the suit that has been made for us. Our hair will begin to grow long and ragged. Our gait and how we hold our body will change. A wild light begins to gleam in our eyes. Our words start to sound strange, nonlinear, emotional. Unpractical. Poetic. ~Stephen Bunher, The Secret Teachings of Plants
Anyway, since we’re so deep into history, let’s fast-forward a little bit now, perhaps into the 1600s with the aforementioned (yesterday) Nicholas Culpeper. Here’s a lovely little passage from the 17th century herbologist on the subject of sage:
Sage taken with wormwood is good for the bloody-flux. Pliny saith, it procures women’s courses, and stays them coming down too fast; helps the stinging and biting of serpents, and kills the worms that breed in the ear, and in sores. ~The Complete Herbal
The 17th Century was so … gross! Wasn’t it?!
As I said in yesterday’s post, you can’t *always* follow the advice of an herbalist from the 1600s. However, in this case (as in many, many others), it seems Culpeper’s description is spot-on. Pretty much all modern sources cite sage’s healing properties as well. (I checked a ton of them for this post!)
Sage is not only great for “sores,” but is reputed to help with infections, inflammation issues (arthritis / rheumatism), sprains, respiratory issues, digestion, and much more. It’s really one of those things that, no matter what’s wrong with you, you can probably Google “sage” along with [fill in your health concern], and see what comes up.
If you’re into the metaphysical side of herbs, you’ll no-doubt be familiar with sage’s many uses there. It’s often used, for example, in cleansing and purification ceremonies — a.k.a. smudging.To do this, just gather a bundle of sage, dry it, and then light one end briefly until it begins to smoke. From there, you would “smudge” your subject, be it a room, a person, or whatever you want to purify. (You may want to use a bit of discretion if smudging in a public place as the smoke tends to smell somewhat suspect, if you catch my drift.) Sage is also used metaphysically for longevity, for protection, to make wishes come true, for gaining wisdom, and even for gaining wealth.
Finally, in honor of today’s post, I whipped up our own awesome raw soup recipe for dinner last night (see pic below!). The recipe is entitled, appropriately enough, “The Herbalist’s Cauldron of Flavor,” (see p. 26 in our free eBook, Raw Food Recipes).The recipe serves four and features a quarter cup of fresh sage leaves. There’s still time to harvest a bit, so get out there and make this soup before it’s too late! (If you don’t have our free eBooks, just sign up here!)
As promised, here’s today’s herbal installment, a video on Oregano Oil! Verdict: It’s strong, for sure, but it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be!
There are a number of things I should have mentioned in that video. To begin, I want to stress that not all essential oils can be ingested safely. Some are only meant for topical application, and some are only really recommended for aromatherapy purposes. While oregano is safe to ingest, you should definitely dilute the oil if you’re going to try taking it orally as I did. And, definitely start out with a single drop, as I showed. When in doubt, consult an expert or a book — and of course make sure you have the correct oil!
For those herbal essential oils that are intended primarily for topical applications (i.e., massaging into the skin), you should still be very careful. Many oils can irritate or burn the skin (especially for individuals with sensitive skin). Generally, it’s advisable to either dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil prior to application, or at least keep a carrier oil nearby while applying to the skin so that you can ease the pain if any irritation develops. But, again, be sure to consult books and experts prior to putting anything in or on your body.
I also wanted to mention that we advocate the use of organic herbs and oils here at Pure Jeevan, even if your oils are only meant for topical applications. Your skin is a highly absorbent system. You want to receive the benefits of the true essence of the plant itself, not the true essence of a pesticide! Also, on a purely metaphysical level, an organic oils are also clearly superior to those from a “conventionally” grown source.
Okay, so let’s review some of the properties of oregano, all of which are intensified in the essential oil. Oregano really has all of the “anti” properties covered! It’s antiseptic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antifungal. Because of all of these properties, it’s truly “good for what ails ya,” having been historically brought to bear in the treatments of colds, flu, gas, upset stomach, cuts and scrapes (topically), and many other conditions.
Okay, so who’s got a great recipe using oregano? If so, feel free to share in the comments, or consider doing a Makin’ It Monday video for us to feature here. (See here for details on that.) Actually, I just remembered that our Italian Zuppa recipe contains a good amount of oregano (as in real oregano, not oregano oil!). Definitely check that out!
I thought I’d put another fun week together here at Pure Jeevan while Wendi is away (although, actually, ALL of our weeks are fun-filled here!). This week, I thought I’d discuss herbs, spices, and essential oils. Of course, I can’t cover those enormously important (and huge) subjects in-depth over the course of just one week, so I created that little banner (above) so that we can re-use it from time to time.
Herbs are fascinating, aren’t they? Sometimes, you don’t even consciously know why you use the ones you do but, invariably, there’s a reason. Sure, sometimes recipes call for a specific flavor. But, often, there are other reasons as well – such as to support digestion, or to provide a warming or cooling sensaiton. This type of thing is critical in ayurvedic principles, as we touched on recently on this blog, where the spices could be present for digestive or medicinal purposes, or of course as a preservative.
Wendi’s history of intense study in this area is actually quite interesting. It’s been a true passion for her almost as long as I’ve known her. In fact, it’s probably good that she’s not around this week, as she may not toot her own horn, so to speak, as much as she probably should. Succinctly: The woman knows her herbs, spices, and oils!
Some two decades ago, she began this rigorous study primarily focusing on herbalism. (The story of what got her interested is, alone, interesting enough to merit an entire blog post here — so that’s something she can cover when she returns.) Back then, she began her pursuits mostly covering herbal healing properties, edible herbs, dyring herbs, etc. I’d estimate that this “phase” lasted nearly a decade! I can remember buying her Christmas and birthday gifts during that time — things like reprints of Nicholas Culpepper’s works from the mid-1600s. (She notes, btw, that, if you take the study of herbalism back this far, you need to approach much of the quite fascinating information with care, and be sure to temper any knowledge you gain from these more archaic sources with modern research. We may not have understood in the 1600s, for example, that certain plants, minerals, elements, oils, etc. were toxic.)
As it’s nearly Halloween (a time of the year in which we’re routinely exposed to iconography and symbolism bearing the witch stereotype), I’m compelled to note that, back in Culpepper’s time (Europe in the 1600s), such healing knowledge might have been considered by some as dangerous or threatening; being in tune with the energy and healing properties of herbs may have been viewed, strangely, as unnatural. Wikipedia’s article on the Witch Trials in Early Modern Europe notes:
Although most citizens of the time did believe that witchcraft was real, equally they were not ignorant of how personal interests could be involved in accusations.
So, just imagine what people migh have thought of (especially) a woman who had amassed the knowledge of someone like Nicholas Culpepper. If she could heal people with her “potions,” what harm might she cause? (Thankfully, we’re now largely over that type of societal neurosis!)
* * *
Over the next decade, Wendi’s focus migrated to essential oils. After studying the herbs for so long, she became interested in isolating the key essences of the herb, in accessing the potent medicines, noting how strong they are. Again, I recall birthday and Christmas holidays filled with essential oils, books on aromatherapy, etc. One holiday I got her an old-fashioned lacquered box from Pier One and filled it with about 30 different essential oils — kind of a portable herbal apothecary. It was the coolest thing! (She still has it and uses it!)
And then, oddly, after a decade-long focus on that, Wendi returned (full-circle) back to the herbs again. Since this is a raw foods blog, I’m happy to note here that this renewed interest is directly related because she’s now drawn more to interacting with the living herbs themselves more than the oils or the dried versions. The healing and life-force, she has said, seems more powerful this way.
In fact, we were discussing essential oils recently and I think I could fairly sum up her opinion as: They’re great if you’re facing some kind of crisis and/or have a medical need (which could range from, say, a headache to something quite a bit more serious, such as a special blend of oils we purchased recently to help with the Lyme disease).
Aside from those circumstances, she does own them, but rarely uses them in day-to-day settings. Same for herbs… We generally use fresh when available. But, when not in season, we do use dried. She’s always, though, interested in furthering her studies! It should be fun when we settle out West soon and begin more of a self-sufficient lifestyle, which will certainly include a significant herbal presence.
Our daughter KDcat is a lucky teen! She doesn’t know it yet (because she takes it all for granted), but she’s been fortunate in her upbringing to have absorbed an incredible amount of herbal information over her life thus far. As for me, I suppose I know a thing or two about it all. Mostly, I know the facts I’ve picked up through osmosis (just being around as we’ve chatted about herbs, spices, and oils over the years). But, I know enough to know that (1) a lot of people know almost nothing about herbs, oils, and spices, and (2) it’s high time we devote some blog space to this topic!
Well, I have a great amount more to say. So, here’s what I have planned for this week:
- Monday: Intro (as in, everything I said so far);
- Tuesday: Oregano Oil. Watch as I ingest this ghastly substance (shot the video on Sunday — should be an interesting post!);
- Wednesday: Sage — harvesting from our back yard and using it;
- Thursday: Mint — harvesting and using from our mint bed;
- Friday: Garlic — glorious garlic!!
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