Dear readers, This article is too good to not pass along. Short and helpful it gives us practical items to use for cleaning home and office.
Many of us choose to use safe cleaning products. We want our homes to be toxic free not only for ourselves and children but for our pets too.
Dr. Mercola’s site: mercola.com has a great article today offering:
Some common household items, such as vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice can get the job done just as well — sometimes even better — than their toxic counterparts. Here’s a simple starter list of what you need to make your own natural cleaning products:
- Baking soda
- White vinegar
- Lemon juice
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Liquid castile soap
- Organic essential oils (optional)
- Mixing bowls
- Spray bottles
- Micro fiber cloths
For a great video on how to use these ingredients and other tips for cleaning your home without hazardous chemicals, please review the article: How to Keep Your Home Clean Naturally. For example, vinegar combined with hydrogen peroxide works exceptionally well as both a disinfectant and sanitizer.
Cleaning mirrors and windows is as easy as adding a quarter-cup of white vinegar per quart of water. Add a few drops of liquid dish soap to the mixture if windows or mirrors are really dirty, but be very careful not to use any that contain harmful antibacterial substances.
Most people know that baking soda is an ideal means to absorb odors in your refrigerator, but did you know it’s also a real powerhouse when it comes to cleaning?
Half-a-Dozen Uses for Baking Soda
Here are half a dozen examples of how plain and simple baking soda can replace dangerous commercial cleaning products in your home:
- Use as a safe non-scratch scrub — for metals and porcelain.
- To clean your oven — simply sprinkle a cup or more of baking soda over the bottom of the oven, then cover the baking soda with enough water to make a thick paste. Let the mixture set overnight. The next morning the grease will be easy to wipe up because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven.
- To unclog a drain — pour 1/2 – 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, then slowly pour 1/2 – 1 cup of vinegar in after it. Cover the drain and let it sit for 15 minutes. If it bubbles like a volcano, it means it’s working as planned. Flush with a gallon of boiling water.
- Deodorize dry carpets — by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes, then vacuum.
- To rid your garbage disposal of foul smells — add vinegar to water for ice cubes, then let a few of them get chopped by your disposal.
- To clean your silver — boil 2-3 inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and a sheet of aluminum foil. Totally submerge silver and boil for 2-3 minutes more. Remove silver from the pan and wipe away the tarnish with a clean cotton cloth.
Lemon juice or lemon essential oil are two of my favorite cleaning
products that I keep handy in the kitchen. A few drops on a sponge leaves a refreshing smell to any kitchen counter or sink. Lemon oil or juice also deodorizes a sponge. These products are safe to clean a pets cage or litter box.
Spring cleaning happens indoors and out. The above offers great advice. Dr. Mercola’s list of products to keep in our homes are easy to obtain and easy to use. So grab your your shopping list, add what you need and know you are protecting your family’s health. Here’s to spring cleaning….
Enjoy this beautiful day. Judith
My podcast guest this week, Joan Palmer, founder of The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition, or TIOSN, reminded me how important it is to use the food we grow in our kitchens. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But, we get busy with work, household chores, children’s schedules, all can claim our time. Plants too, have their own agendas, ones they follow regardless of our attention or inattention. They have a schedule of peak growth and then they wane. If our attention is elsewhere, we lose harvest time.
So I thought, let me share 2 easy recipes for using garden thyme in particular and other culinary herbs you may have dried or stored,
Food Alert: many herbs can be irradiated as they come into our country.
“The USA has the most advanced commercial food irradiation program in the
world and the volume of irradiated food consumed in the US is second only
to China. Information on the current status of irradiation in the USA can be
obtained at www.foodirradiation.org or from the Food Irradiation Update
Newsletter published by the author.
A significant amount of the international trade in irradiated food has been
driven by consumer acceptance of irradiated food in the US and access to
that large and lucrative market. More than ten countries currently export
produce to US retailers.
Food products irradiated or marketed in the US during 2015 included
approximately 68 000 tons of spices, 30 000 tons of fruits and vegetables, and
an estimated 12 500 tons of meat, poultry, and live oysters.” ( from foodiradiation.org)
Herbs de Provence is a traditional herb mix often used in European cooking. Drying culinary herbs gives us an opportunity to create flavorful mixtures as fall and winter approach. As Joan states in the podcast, “use real food.” Food from our gardens is not irradiated, hopefully organic. We know the source, we grow it locally, we eat what we grow by our own hands.
So here are 2 Easy Recipes you can easily make. If you don’t have the herbs mentioned I hope you will buy organic.
Recipe: Herbes de Provence:
- 3 Tablespoons dried marjoram
- 3 Tablespoons dried thyme
- 3 Tablespoons dried savory
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Combine marjoram, thyme, savory, basil, rosemary, sage, and fennel. Mix well and spoon into a tightly-lidded jar. Store in a cool, dark place up to 4 months. Add to soups, stews, roasts, fish etc all to your tastes.
Here’s a recipe using Herbs de Provence:
Chicken with Herbes de Provence Recipe
Recipe Type: Poultry, Chicken
Yields: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min
4 chicken boneless breast halves (with skin)*
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence**
* Do not remove skin until after baking, as the skin helps to retain moisture in the meat.
Place chicken breasts, single layer, into an ungreased 13×9-inch baking dish.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine olive oil and the herbes de Provence together. Pour marinade over chicken breasts. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate to marinate longer (turning meat over several times).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (juices will run clear when cut with the tip of a knife); basting several times during cooking. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Have fun trying a new recipe. Do you have any favorites using thyme? All comments are appreciated.
Bon Appetit! Judith
Holidays are upon us. We tend to eat more, party more, join family and friends and drink more. And depending on our unique immune system strength, we can open the door to colds and flu. Who among us likes to be sick? Not me and I am sure not you. And it seems that digestion is directly tied to our immune systems which makes building immune strength and resistance a priority.
Digestive issues are prevalent from IBS, heartburn/ GERD, and IBD. I am sure most of you have heard of one if not all of these ailments. But what can we do to aid our digestion during these “off our routine” kind of times?
My podcast guest this week, Dr. Scott Gerson, MD and Ayurvedic physician reminded me how powerful one herb is on its own. One single herb, such as ginger, contains many constituents creating a unique formula all on its own. Highly recommended in Ayurvedic medicine both traditionally and today, ginger is one plant to keep in our kitchen. Besides adding flavor and pungency to a variety of dishes, a simple single tea from ginger root soothes digestion. Ginger, popular in many countries for its culinary flavors, can be pickled, honeyed, as well as added to soups, stews, fish, meat and vegetarian dishes.
Ginger: Zingiber officinale
Where found: thought to originate in the Indian subcontinent to Asia. Brought to East Indies by Spanish explorers and brought to Spain and then Europe.
Parts Used: Rhizome: a Rhizome is an underground stem: a thick underground horizontal stem that produces roots and has shoots that develop into new plants; from Greek rhizoma “mass of tree roots,” Rhizomes are underground stems that grow horizontally that produce a number of plants and are known to spread rapidly.
Nutritional Value: Contains macronutrients and many micronutrients. And as Dr. Gerson explained, a single herb, known for a primary constituent has many more trace constituents that aid, and compliment, and help us utilize the very component we seek. In a sense, a single herb is a compound formula. This is a great reminder and illustrates the value of drinking herb teas. How about adding ginger to your routine?
3 tips for purchasing and using ginger today:
- When buying ginger root, snap off a small knob which should be crisp. Do not buy with any mold.
- Ginger can stay out of the refrigerator for about a week. Place in paper towels and they will keep much longer in the refrigerator.
- Unpeeled ginger root will last longer. Peel the skin off as mentioned above when you are ready to use it in tea or in a recipe. Keep what you need in the refrigerator. Freeze the rest for later use.
A little sharp, pungent flavor mixed with the oils in lemon goes well with the addition of maple syrup, honey to soothe irritated or dry throats as winter keeps us indoors. Here’s an example of a ginger tea recipe, easy to make.
Ginger Tea Recipe
- water, 4 cups
- 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root
- optional: honey and lemon slice
- Peel the ginger root and slice it into thin slices. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Once it is boiling, add the ginger. Cover it and reduce to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain the tea. Add honey and lemon to taste.
Pungent and spicy with a little kick in taste soothes stomachs. When our digestive organs are soothed we are soothed. It’s fascinating to me that an herb to calm the stomach actually soothes our mind. When we are calm so is our digestion. Everything is connected and single herb teas provide so many tasty solutions to what ails us. What’s your favorite? Be well this holiday season.
Can a plant give us a clue by its structure, its form? Can the color of a flower or root be an indication of some of its properties or the organ system it helps?
Apparently, that’s not new information. In herb classes, the Doctrine of Signatures is a well-known reference to these correlations. Stemming from the ancients and passed down through the ages, often referred to as folklore, gave herbalists, the village healers, doctors, a reference point for which ones to use in healing various conditions, disorders, organ systems.
“The doctrine of signatures, dating from the time of Dioscorides and Galen, states that herbs resembling various parts of the body can be used by herbalists to treat ailments of those body parts.” (Wikipedia)
“Paracelsus was a physician and alchemist (early 1500’s) who believed that medicine should be simple and straightforward. He was greatly inspired by the Doctrine of Signatures, which maintained that the outward appearance of a plant gave an indication of the problems it would cure. This theory is sometimes surprisingly accurate.” (USDA forest service)
Today we have advanced equipment, labs to test the validity of some of these claims and guess what? Science is proving what the oral traditions, the folklore traditions knew: clues from the plant, their structure, their form, colors that seem to help heal, can, in fact, help heal specific organ systems. Nature reflects back to us what we are and offers help. Many successful healers looked at the plant world in this way. They were connected to the sun and moon cycles, very aware of the weather, knew their landscapes well.
Centuries ago and not that long ago, we did not have the knowledge of bacteria, viruses that we can see with super microscopes. Evil spirits were the names of the stuff that gets you, brings in illness etc. That was the lingo of the times. There was a deeper more colloquial connection to the Creator, to God, by whatever religion you followed. There was a recognition that the Divine in nature provided clues, assistance. My Native elders said that we have all that we need for healing if we pay attention to what’s beneath our feet, what’s near us. Observe.
My guests this week, Andrea and Matthias Reisen, have over 25 years experience as growers deeply connected to the plants and their land. They are caretakers in the true sense of the word, offering prayers of thanks, gratitude, and acknowledgment for the gifts the land provides. In our discussion, we touched upon invasives, Japanese knotweed in particular. My curiosity piqued. I decided to look into this plant more carefully because the Reisen’s harvest it, for use in the medical community for Lyme’s disease.
Name: Japanese Knotweed: Polygonum cuspidatum var. Japonica or Japanese bamboo; bamboo-like stems with somewhat heart-shaped leaves, herbaceous perennial shrub-like.
Where Found: Originated in Eastern Asia, member of the buckwheat family. It was introduced in the US in late 1800’s. Thrives in disturbed areas, forms dense thickets; little grows with it so it crowds out vegetation. Unfortunately, the soil remains bare between the stems which can be susceptible to erosion. This plant decreases species diversity, alters ecosystems. Can grow to 3-15′ tall. Its stems are easy to identify, notched like bamboo and have purple-red speckles.
Properties: very high in resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes, peanuts, mulberries, red wine
Uses: Leaves, young shoots: spring vegetable in Asian cultures, Used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine with other herbs for gastrointestinal issues, cardiovascular issues as well as cognitive function. Resveratrol continues to be studied for its effect on decreasing cancer and helping combat Lyme’s Disease. In the plant, resveratrol acts to stop microbial infections. It’s this observation that links the way Japanese knotweed may work in Lyme’s disease.
I came across this article, from the forager chef, on how to cook and use it. I am not familiar with foraging this plant but the recipe I link you too looks delicious. It’s too early here but I know of a patch and will keep an eye on it. Young stems 12″ or less need to be cut in the early spring. Otherwise, as the season and growth progresses, the stems become too fibrous and not very palatable. You can make a refreshing tea from its roots.
Let’s look at the root, known as ‘tiger root’ in the orient..
Healing Spirits Herb Farm has been selling the root for many years. It’s been difficult for me to find a picture of its roots due to royalty rights. However, from the ones I found, I can see Matthias’ description very well. There’s a knot, then root, then knot, then root and the root can go down 10′! No wonder once you got it, it won’t go away. It’s the root that he harvests and because he does so, he contributes to managing the land space where this plant is located by his ‘neck of the woods’ in western NY. Will it go away? No. but by harvesting in large quantities he helps control its spread.
Now, tying in the Doctrine of Signatures, the root system seems to have notches, like steps, Maybe this pattern gives a clue as to how the plant works. Studies are showing that the root in tincture or capsule form helps kill the bacteria found in Lyme’s Disease. The resveratrol may work on the bacteria in steps. Can we prove this? Not yet. But observations from nature have validity and patient healing offers hope for healing Lyme’s disease.
Today, its too early to gather the young shoots and leaves but I want to try. I also want to make a tea this summer from its root. How about you? We have plants in our backyards we have forgotten how to use. How about looking into an invasive such as Japanese knotweed and use it. Get your neighbors involved. Make a recipe and bring to a block party, a family picnic. Remember it’s a cherished food in Asian cultures.
Send me your recipe, a short story on how you use Japanese knotweed. I look forward to hearing from you.
My podcast guest this week, Gail Reynolds, spoke about her love of bogs and marshland ecosystems. She gave us a variety of plants that live in these types of areas which I include here.
She also mentioned witch hazel, an unusual shrub, native to North America that puts out its blossoms in late fall.
Name: Hamamelis virginiana, Witch hazel, sometimes known as winterbloom; tall flowering shrub, blooms in late fall, yellow star-like blossoms are seen on bare twigs; blooms after leaves fall off. After flower blooms, a seed is formed which is explosively released giving the shrub the nickname of snapping hazelnut. It can grow tall about 10-12′. This shrub puts up several trunks that cluster together.
Where Found: dry or moist woods
Parts Used: bark, dried and leaves can be fresh or dried
Uses: astringent, tonic, used for centuries for treating hemorrhoids, bruises, inflammation, varicose veins, bags under the eyes, burns, and scalds earning a place in many a home medicine chest. Witch hazel contains tannins which give it its astringent qualities. Applying witch hazel water to acne, pores helps reduce inflammation, a very popular remedy. Witch hazel’s most popular use is to reduce the swelling from hemorrhoids.
Witch hazel, a native, shown to early settlers by Native Americans found its way into the settler’s home and into our pharmacopeia as an effective remedy. Some sites researched claim there is a low number of studies performed today on its effectiveness though some sources claim it is safe to use topically.
Iroquois Indians used a tea made from bark and twigs, made into a poultice to reduce swelling and inflammation from bruises, sprains. It worked. Euell Gibbons, one of my favorite authors on the use of edible plants in our local environments, supported by the University of Pennsylvania’s agricultural department, made teas, distilled leaves for a poultice. He acknowledges witch hazel as one of the most commonly used folk remedies.
Gail Reynolds, Master Gardener, plant scientist, and Middlesex County Coordinator for that program here in CT stresses proper ID before using any plant from the wild. I agree. However, we have folkloric traditional use of our plants. They were effective at a time when there were no antibiotics, no words for bacteria and viruses. They used these plants effectively and passed down that knowledge generationally. We have many uses both edible and topical from our native plants, many right in our backyards or visible on our local trails.
Before taking plant material, research the plant well, know the parts used. Also look into its habitat, pay attention to how many plants exist in one area and if sparse, leave alone. All contribute to sustainable wildcrafting practices.
What are your family’s plant stories? So many of our families stories and use of local remedies is lost. I recently appeared on a radio show and someone called in and spoke of a plant remedy for removing a splinter when he was a young boy. Today he remembers the story but doesn’t remember the plant. Many of my university students came from different countries and were quite familiar with successful local remedies. I encouraged to listen more carefully to the stories, be the one who passes the knowledge down.
Do you have any local plant stories? Please send me a note as I would value hearing them.
There’s nothing prettier than a glass jug filled with cool refreshing water where some of our garden beauties have center stage.
Sun tea is just that, a pitcher of water filled with summer flowers that are known to be edible.
Get a gallon glass jug, fill with pure water and place any of the following for their subtle and not so subtle flavors and colors: Experiment for the flavors you like best. Let sit in the sun 2-4 hours and serve over ice.
Remember to use only flowers you know are not treated, preferably ones you have grown without chemicals which makes flower shop flowers unacceptable. Please research any flower not on the list to make sure it is safe to eat. For ex. Daffodils are not safe to eat.
bouquet of bright wildflowers
Red clover blossoms
Ground ivy blossoms
Scented geranium leaves
Rose purple coneflower (Echinacea)
Flowers: make a beautiful garnish to many dishes. Also, flowers can be placed in ice cube trays and then placed in ice tea, lemonades, even cool refreshing water for a hot summer day treat. Violas, woodland violets which make their debut in spring, can be gathered in the spring time and frozen for summer’s use.
Salads: use as a garnish; remember that culinary herb blossoms can be added such as marjoram, or sage, even basil. I suggest that for salads that use wild greens and flowers start in small amounts in order to get used to and savor the different textures and flavors. Greens when cut up fine and mixed with traditional greens such as arugula, bib lettuces etc. blend in nicely. Place the flowers and/or the petals on top.
Recipe: Quiche: I often place flower petals on the top of quiches before cooking. Flower petals can be stripped and placed in a decorative pattern. My guests positively remark when served these wild food treats.
Book: Kitty Morse has a delightful book of flower recipes titled: “Edible Flowers, a Kitchen Companion With Kitchen Recipes”.
Many herb books also contain recipes e.g. Colonial and monastery type cookbooks, that demonstrate many ways to use edible parts of wild and cultivated plants.
Summer is well under way. As we ramble down highways and quieter roads we can see many plants in bloom. What are your favorites? Do you have any favorite edible flower recipes? I would love to hear from you.