Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lion in a Teacup

Since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book ‘Animal Vegetable, Miracle’ last year, I have become increasingly aware of the ‘food miles’ that are logged up on some of the items I regularly stock in my pantry. The book is the story of her family’s first year of committing to eating only what they can grow themselves or source locally. They allowed themselves one luxury item each, to be sourced through Fair Trade organizations. Barbara chose spices, her husband coffee. I can relate to both those choices. I hoard my Dutch cinnamon like a miser and often take its lid off so I can inhale the warm spiciness. My naturopath, a confessed coffee addict herself, advised me recently that I should give up coffee as part of a detox diet. The first few days were not pretty but I rediscovered a blend of dandelion and chicory root at the local health food store that mimicked the flavour enough for me to pretend it was the real thing. It is a good product but expensive and imported from Europe.

English dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has been encouraged to grow where ever it likes in my garden as a salad green and chicken feed. It is a valuable addition to any diet, containing more nutrients than any other herb, including more Vitamin A than carrots. It is a tonic useful for the liver and gall bladder. Its sappy white juice can be used to remove warts. I had dug a large patch out to make room for more vegetable beds and was busy chucking it to the chickens when I realised it had roots on that the chickens wouldn’t eat.

Trimming and washing the roots, I chopped them into even sized slices and laid them on the racks in my electric food dryer. When dry, they went onto a baking tray which I placed in the oven of my cooling slow combustion stove as I shut it down for the night. By morning the pieces were uniformly dark brown in colour and looked like the stuff in the jar.

The taste test was next. You need to simmer the root for 5 minutes before straining. It can be used a couple of times before loosing its flavour. While similar to the commercial product, mine was a little earthier and lacked the ‘roundness’ of flavour that the chicory root provides. Mixed half/half it was good. If I can beg some chicory root, I will try that next time.

If I chose to, I could drink lemongrass or mint tea all year round as they both grow well. Instead, I chose an interesting experiment to provide one jar of produce, with very little cost to the environment or myself. I will never be able to grow coffee, tea or enough dandelion root to supply my own needs but I feel I am a little more informed about the effect of my shopping choices in terms of the environment.

For more information on eating dandelion, see Cooking with Herbs e book by Nerys Purchon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cooking with Herbs e-book

We have again been cooking, feeding people and madly photographing to bring our latest book to the light --- we are pleased to tell you a bit about it and share one of the recipes with you (in the sidebar).

Making your food a herbal event doesn't take any more preparation time than to create an ordinary meal and changes 'dull' to 'delicious'. Herb leaves, seeds and flowers can be used in salads, seasonings, cakes, desserts and main meals, and by adding herbs to these foods we can help to ensure that our meals are attractive, tasty and digestible.

Herbs add distinction and more: oregano and thyme are also digestives, peppermint and spearmint help to dispel wind, the seeds and feathery fronds of fennel help to digest fat. By adding herbs to your cooking you are using them in a preventive way. For instance, caraway added to cabbage, or coriander to beans during cooking helps to prevent flatulence, as well as giving the dish a delicious flavour. This seems to make more sense than drinking a cup of caraway tea after the meal to cure the discomfort. They can also add vitamins and minerals to the diet.

In addition to recipes for meals there are sections for food for pets and a section on making herbal wines and liqueurs and this section even includes an aphrodisiac liqueur!

Tips on the medicinal properties of herbs are scattered throughout the book. here is a typical entry:

Rosemary can soothe a sore and upset digestive system where there is flatulence and liver inadequacy. It stimulates the production of bile and improves poor liver function.
Rosemary contains about 14 mg of easily absorbed calcium (known to calm the nerves) in each teaspoon of chopped leaf so it acts a tonic and restorative to the nervous system

The book may be purchased from our website or from my Etsy shop