Archive for ‘Food’

February 24, 2015

Chemotypes 



This is a picture I took in Mexico of an Oregano plant, also known as Wild Marjoram, but should not be confused with Origanum majorana, which is Marjoram. There are many common names of one plant that are confusing, so it’s best to use the universal Latin name to identify a plant. Latin names are usually in italics, to differentiate in print. The first Latin name is called the Genus, and the second name is the species of the plant. While marjoram and oregano are from the same Genus Origanum,  they are very different species: Origanum vulgare is Oregano, and Origanum majorana is Marjoram. 

The leaves on the Mexican Oregano are scalloped, unlike the smoother edged varieties in my garden. 

What other differences are there between Mexico Oregano and Greek Oregano? 

For starters the Mexican Oregano is grown in Mexico, and the Greek Oregano is grown in Greece. 

Plants that have the same Latin name can have different chemical constituents depending on where they are growing. Habitat influences plants, and alters chemistry because of factors like altitude, soil, climate, rainfall, and a host of other conditions. 

These types of plants are referred to as Chemotypes. They are the same plant in Latin name, but due to habitat may have different plant chemistry. 

Different breeding and natural selection of a Genus like Thymus, Thyme, creates many varieties of species and subspecies. 

The Mexican Oregano may have the same name as the Greek Oregano growing in my garden, but it looks different and tastes different. They may have mainly the same chemical constituents that make up Oregano, but there is enough variation in plant chemical constituents to change flavours and aroma. They may be used interchangeably, but expect different results. 


February 18, 2015

Herbal Catalysts

When using more than one herb to mix a herbal tincture formulation, adding a catalyst herb is sometimes beneficial.

Catalyst herbs are strong, hot or warming herbs, that require only minimal amounts in a herbal tincture formulation. These herbs act as a circulatory stimulant to boost the effectiveness of other herbs, by increasing circulation due to heat generation. Adding a warming herb is helpful for people with poor circulation or who feel cold.

Caution is advised, because of the strength and Heat of the Herbs.

The stronger and hotter the herb, the lower the dose. Cayenne pepper and other hot pepper varieties are the hottest, so only use 1% in a formula. That’s 1ml in a 100ml formula.

If taking these herbs on their own, make sure it is a low dose for use in tincture and tea.

Consult a qualified Herbal practitioner before taking any herbal treatment.

Follow these general guidelines when preparing herbal tincture formulations with warming catalyst herbs.

Herbal Catalyst Percentages in Formulations:

Capsicum spp.- Cayenne fruit 1%
Cinnamomum spp.- Cinnamon bark 3-10%
Allium sativum– Garlic bulb 3-10%
Rosmarinus officinalis- Rosemary herb 5-15%
Zingiber officinale– Ginger rhizome 3-10%
Zanthoxylem spp.- Prickly ash bark/berries 10-20%

These are general guidelines, and many factors vary.

Consult a qualified Herbal practitioner before taking any herbal treatment.

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February 9, 2015

Using Your Polytunnel to Grow Vegetables

Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a novice, looking to be self-sufficient or supplement your salad bowl, we all want a bumper vegetable crop – but it can be tricky to achieve. A polytunnel is a great way to up your game and help you grow the veggies you’ve always dreamt of, so here’s a guide to putting up a polytunnel, and growing your own veggies.

Putting It Up

Putting up a polytunnel is a lot easier than you might think! You can choose to have it erected by a professional, or you can do it yourself – either way this definitely isn’t a job for a bad-weather day! In particular, you want to choose a day that isn’t too windy. It’s also important to put it up in warm weather, as the polythene will hand more tightly on the frame and make the job easier. A standard polytunnel has a framework constructed from hoops of aluminimum (or other metal) tubing, covered in a large polythene sheet. Assembly is pretty simple; first you’ll lay out the footprint and put up the frame, then you’ll dig a trench around the outside of the frame and use it to secure the sheet, before fixing the cover to the frame, and adding the doors.

What to Sow, When

One of the most important things to think about when trying to achieve the best possible vegetable crop when using a polytunnel is knowing what to sow and when. In spring you can sow early crops of lettuces, carrots and herbs. In summer all the half-hardy plants – the aubergines, cucumbers, peppers, chilies and tomatoes plus the more tender herbs such as basil and coriander can fill the beds. In autumn, winter salads, overwintering brassicas and oriental greens are ideal, while in winter you can enjoy cut-and-come leaves, spinach and chard and sow your onions. Peaches and nectarines can also be brought inside to avoid peach leaf curl.

Irrigation

For a bumper crop of veggies proper irrigation is vital. Overhead watering systems might sound attractive, but the environment tends to be humid anyway and as you are growing a wide range of crops means some are too wet and some too dry. For something a little lower tech but potentially more effective, irrigation tubing at bed level is a great option. You can also use this method to adjust the height of the water spray so plants that need to stay dry (say to avoid rotting) will, and those that need more water will be equally catered for.

http://www.premierpolytunnels.co.uk/top-links/useful-downloads/growing-guide/

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February 7, 2015

DIY Rose Tincture and Perfume for Nutritive Medicine and Skincare 🌹

Roses are such divine food, medicine and perfume, but watch out for those pointy, sharp thorns on the stem. It’s easy to see why it is such a universal symbol of love. 🌹

I collected some wild rose petals from my garden, for a rose petal tincture and essence. Wear gloves and protective clothing to harvest. Wild roses are better than the commercial varieties for medicinal use.

You can make your own perfume out of Rose petal flowers, as well as medicine.image

See my blog on how to make your own natural perfume from flowers. http://earthelixir.ca/2012/06/05/making-natural-perfume-from-flower-petals/

Rose petal tincture is used medicinally as a nutritive for debility. Rose has a euphoric, aphrodisiac action that soothes and relaxes the nervous system. It tones digestion, reduces inflammation, and is great to use in skincare products. It is good for all skin types, especially mature skin. It’s easy to add rose water and essential oil to make your own skincare products.

See my blog on using Rose essential oil. http://earthelixir.ca/2012/06/04/rose-essential-oil/

Rose water is what is separated from the essential oil part, and is used in cooking, baking, and for beverages.

Rose hips, collected after the flowers bloom, are delicious, nutritious medicinal food. Rose hip tea beverages and culinary soups have a pink red colour, and pack some good Vitamin C content and phytonutrients.

Here are some beautiful roses for you friends. The roses in these pictures are from my garden, so take some time to smell the roses.🌹

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Common Name  Rose hips/ flowers
Latin Name  Rosa spp.
Family Rosaceae
Parts Used Perennial- Collect flower petals during growing season. Roses lay dormant in colder climates. Collect rosehips in the Fall. Essential oil made from flowers. 
Target Organs Digestion, Central Nervous System, Nerves, Skin
Common Uses Aphrodisiac, perfume, debility, exhaustion, nutritive, inflammation, skincare, Rosehips, rosewater, are used in cooking and beverages
Properties Aphrodisiac, antidepressant, antiseptic, euphoric, antispasmodic, nutritive, astringent, mild laxative, vulnerary, diuretic, anti-inflammatory,
Constituents Essential oil : Esters: geranyl acetate, citronellyl acetate, neryl acetate, 

Sesquiterpene alcohol: farnesol, 

Aldehydes: benzaldehyde

Monoterpene alcohols: Citronellol 15-20%, geraniol 10%, linalool, nerol 15%, cedrol, linlool  

Monoterpenes: a+b pinene, limonene, camphene, b-caryophyllene, citronellal, p-cymene  

Damask rose: a-damascenone, B-damascenone, B-damscone, B-ionone, rose oxide  

Other: vitamin C, tannin, pectin, carotene, fruit acids

Cautions Do not use during pregnancy. Thorny plant, caution while harvesting.
Dosage Tincture: 1-4ml Tea rose hips, flowers

 

February 3, 2015

Wild Bergamot and Bee Balm Wildflowers Make Delicious Medicine

Bee-balm or Monarda which is the Latin name, is a beautiful wildflower native to North east North America. It is known for the popular beverage Natives call Oswego tea, and is also cooked in stews, and used to flavour salads. Being aromatic the essential oil makes great perfume and keeps insects and flies away.

Monarda fistulosa has beautiful tubular lavender-purple pinkish flowers.  The common name is known as Wild Bergamot, not to be confused with the citrus bergamot orange – Citrus bergamia L. used in EARL GREY tea, but it smells similar and is now sometimes combined. English Settlers that came to North America named it that, because they thought it smelled just like earl grey tea, and introduced it to England in 1744. Having a high geraniol content, it smells like geranium flowers mixed with citrus and mint.

Monarda didyma has showy red flowers that smell like citrus and mint. The leaves make a wonderful tea dried or fresh. The common name is Bee-balm because it attracts bees, along with hummingbirds and butterflies. It is also called Scarlet bee-balm because of the colour of the flowers. The M. didyma species has a higher thymol content that makes it smell more like citrus thyme.

The stems are square like some mints, with paired grey green leaves that is rough on both sides. It prefers moist, light soil. Being a mint family member it likes some shade from the hot afternoon sun.  Use all Monarda species the same way. The essential oil has a very pleasant fragrance and is used for coughs and colds. Enjoy in a tea, tincture or in a culinary masterpiece!

Common Name  Bee balm/  Wild Bergamot
Latin Name  Monarda didyma (Bee balm) Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot)
Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family)
Parts Used Perennial- pick herb from spring until it flowers in July-August
Target Organs circulatory, digestion, respiratory, nerves, lymphatic, skin, urinary, reproductive
Common Uses Respiratory: infections, colds, flu, nasal congestion, coughs, fever, swollen lymph

Digestion: digestive catarrh, indigestion,  constipation, gas, bloating,

Urinary: UTI,  incontinence, infection

Female reproductive: spasms, cramps, PMS, balancing

Nervous system: relaxant, stress, depression

External: wounds, inflammation,

Properties antimicrobial, antibacterial, anticatarrhal, antidepressant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic (digestive, general, respiratory, uterine,) antiviral, anxiolytic, appetite stimulant, astringent, warming carminative, cholagogue, circulatory stimulant, decongestant, diaphoretic, diuretic, digestive stimulant, stimulating emmenagogue, relaxing, secretolytic, stimulating expectorant, febrifuge,  nervine, rubefacient, relaxant, stomachic, tranquilizer, uterine relaxant, (neural, peripheral vasodilator), vulnerary
Constituents Essential Oil Yield: 0.4%-0.6%

Monoterpenes

Monoterpene  alcohols: geraniol 90% 

Phenol: thymol(found in M. didyma)50%

Cautions Mild remedy. Do not use during pregnancy or consult with a professional.
Dosage Tincture: 2-4ml                Tea: 2 tsp. infuse

 

October 17, 2013

Sunroot or Sunchoke is a Nutritious Medicinal Root Vegetable

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Sunchokes Helianthus tuberosus L.are also called Jerusalem artichokes, but it has no relationship to Jerusalem and it is not an artichoke. The better known common names for this yellow flower are sunroot, sunchoke and earth apple.
Sunchoke is the modern common name used to avoid confusion with artichokes for cooking purposes, but it does have a mild artichoke flavour.

Sunchoke is a very tall prolific perennial plant that is native to North America, and has a long history of being used by Native Americans as a root vegetable. The sunchoke flowers belong to the same family as sunflowers, and the flowers follow the sun like sunflowers do. They like to grow wild and they need lots of space, because it likes to multiply. The stalks and leaves are rough and hairy. The roots are starchy tubers that look a little like ginger rhizomes, and are edible like a potato.

It was a popular plant to use to hide the outhouse or to put in front of other unsightly eyesores, as it creates a thick, tall hedge that requires no maintenance, unless overpopulation is an issue. Perhaps there is a warning in there somewhere among the yellow flowers.

Sunchoke is becoming popular food for thought again, but when consuming lots of sun chokes it may cause digestion disturbance in the form of …um… gaseous upset. It has earned the nickname “fartichokes.” Eat a little and see how well your digestion system tolerates it.

The edible tuber roots have a high inulin content, which is a type of soluble fibre. Inulin is a carbohydrate with sweet polysaccharides that is safe for diabetics, and it is pre-biotic. Containing the Pre-biotic (FOS) Fructo-Oligio-Saccharide means that it promotes healthy bacteria, which is beneficial for feeding healthy flora in the digestion system. It balances yeast and has a positive impact on overall health. It breaks down into fructose in the gut, but might be hard to digest for some people, and may cause cramping, bloating and excessive wind, especially when consumed in a large quantities. It relieves constipation.

It is best to wait until the first or second frost to harvest, and they are dug up until springtime, weather permitting of course, or buy them where you get fresh produce. Some people prefer the springtime to dig them up. They are available year round, but peak season is October-March.
It is also best to dead head the flowers if the roots are going to get dug up and eaten, they will grow bigger.
Store up to one to three weeks raw, but once cooked eat right away. Some people say they are better stored in the fridge for a week before eating.
They are a good source of iron, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin C, FOS and of course fibre, Inulin. It improves calcium absorption, lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Sunchokes are good medicinal food, but eat sparingly at first.

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WAYS TO PREPARE SUNCHOKES

Sunchokes will oxidize like a potato so dip them in water with lemon juice or keep them in water until ready to use, because they will turn brown. Do not cook in aluminum or iron pans.
The skins are edible like ginger skin is, and when cooking it is best to leave the skins on and remove peels later if desired. Wash, scrub and remove rootlets or strings if any are present before cooking. Goes well with mint, onion, garlic, chives, thyme, cumin, black cumin, pepper, turmeric, rosemary, lemon citrus, lemon verbena, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.

RAW
Eat Sunchokes raw topped on a salad or mixed in salsa, grated or thinly sliced and tastes like jicama. Try small amounts at first to see if your digestion can handle it this way. They can also be added to juicing recipes.
I wonder what it would be like thinly sliced and pickled like ginger.

STEAMED
Sun chokes are better steamed and not boiled, which will make them mushy. It does make good puréed soup mixed with nut or coconut milk.

SAUTÉ or STIR-FRY
They make a great water chestnut stir-fry substitute, they have a similar texture and taste.

BAKED
Oven bake them brushed with oil and herbal seasonings and bake for 20-40 minutes at 375 degrees.
Bake with sweet potatoes and other root vegetables to make root chips.
I wonder what they would taste like flavoured and then put in the dehydrator and dehydrated overnight.

Food and Cooking (2004 edition), page 307, Harold McGee indicates that the flatulent effects of Sunchoke roots are due to complex fructose-based carbohydrates that are not digestible by humans.

Long, slow cooking allows enzymes present in the fresh tuber to convert these to fructose over time.

McGee recommends 12-24 hours at 200 F / 93 C.
The result will be soft and sweet, akin to a vegetable aspic.

Note that the ogliosacharrides in beans are a different class than the inulin in Sunchokes, and the digestive supplement Beano is not effective with sunchoke.

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http://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/34060/what-cooking-methods-prevent-the-gaseous-side-effect-of-sunchokes

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