DIY Kitchen Herbs

Fresh or dried herbs are relatively inexpensive to buy, so why cultivate your own?  Only you can answer that for yourself.  I like to grow as many of the herbs I use in the kitchen, myself!  Why?  Because they are fresh, I know they are not sprayed with pesticides etc. and they are just there right outside the back door.  I only ‘pick fresh’, dry or freeze whatever I will use, so no waste of produce or of money.   For me, there is also the basic satisfaction of seeing something grow, from seed in some cases, into something that adds, at its least, nutritional value and at its best may provide medicinal benefits with no inherent side-effects.  Bonus – they look so good in the garden!

I am not a qualified herbalist so any of the herbs I talk about in this post are in general circulation and use.  The benefits are easily researched and I will try to provide links for a deeper dive should you be interested in knowing more.  Apologies in advance for the links provided.  Many websites have an annoying number of ads and ‘request to subscribe’ pop-ups.  So, it is just extra information if you want and, of course, you can always do your own research.

You don’t need a big garden or even a garden at all, to grow herbs.  Most herbs can be grown in pots/planters.  My advice would be to grow the herbs you know you will use.  I have parsley, rosemary, sage, chives, lemon balm, thyme and lemon verbena.  I have recently started some coriander from seed as I read that even this late in the year it will grow.  I can verify that this is true as within a week the seeds have peeped above the soil.  I will soon need to transfer them into a bigger tray.  Another herb I will add next year is oregano.  I have grown mint in the past and it grows like crazy so you would need lots of growing space for it.  This would be a good example of weighing up whether to grow a herb or not.  Q) What would I use mint for?  A) Tea, flavouring drinks like Kombucha.  Q2) Would it be easier to buy some mint tea?  A2) Yes!   Conclusion – the inconvenience outweighs the benefit of growing it myself.

How to use your DIY Herbs

In the past I have used herbs fresh or frozen.  It is only this year that I have ventured into drying herbs for ‘future’ use.  Why?  It is somewhat prompted by rumours of possible disruption to food and energy supplies.  My personal philosophy being “better safe than sorry” and “sure why not”!   Once a herb is completely dried it can be stored long term and used in many ways.

So far I have not found it necessary to have a dehydrator to dry herbs.  These can be quite expensive machines but if you can afford one – good for you.  I hear dehydrators don’t use so much electricity so it would be ideal to have one if you are dehydrating lots of produce.  Some air fryers, as well a regular oven, can also be used to dehydrate food.

You can air dry your herbs, especially this time of year when it is warm and dry.  We are experiencing some lovely weather here in Ireland.   This is what I am doing at the moment (as seen in the picture on the left).  Here are the steps I follow – first pick a small amount of fresh herbs and then wash them thoroughly but gently.  Dry them off with a paper towel or clean tea towel.  The herbs are then ready to be ‘air dried’.  I just use some net bags and hang them from a pole in the utility room which gets plenty of light.  I have found that Rosemary and Lemon Balm dry quickly.  Parsley and Sage seem to take a little longer.  So, if you want to do your ‘storing’ all in the one day, you can finish off the drying in the oven.  The leaves should feel crunchy, not pliable in any way.  Spread the herbs onto a baking sheet in the oven.  Heat the oven to 50°C and leave the oven door ajar.   Check after 1/2 hr. to see if the herbs are crisp and dry, keep going until they are.  [Any moisture left in the leaves may cause the herb to grow mouldy in time and render them useless].  You can also do the whole drying process in the oven but you may as well benefit from this nice weather we are having.  Won’t cost you a thing!!

Once dried completely,  just add the Sage leaves and Lemon balm leaves to storage jars, just as they are.  I use the lemon balm for tea and cold drink flavouring.  Fresh lemon balm leaves can be used when baking fish in the oven.  Dried it can be added to any recipe to provide a lemony flavour.    Lemon balm is recommended for anxiety and insomnia.  It can be taken as a herbal tea at night.  More about the benefits of Lemon balm here.

Sage, I would use it mostly in savoury foods like soup, meat dishes and savoury breads.  It is quite delicious cooked in butter on the pan with sliced mushrooms.  It can also be used to make Sage tea and its benefits are many.  More about the benefits of Sage tea here.

Parsley – my favourite!!  The smell always bring me back to secondary school days – cookery class – you always had to have that sprig of parsley to garnish your dish!!  Shame if it is cast to one side.  Parsley is full of great nutrition.  It grows best in spring and summer so if you want to enjoy the taste and benefits all year round, drying is a good way to preserve it.  I got flat leaf  parsley seeds and started planting from seed this year for the first time.  Turned out great!!  It is flourishing in the garden planter.  I use it liberally in salads.  I’ve added it to lentil bread instead of dill and little by little I’m drying and storing it to use in the winter.  Parsley is rich in vitamins and minerals, and its high cholorophyll content makes is an excellent blood purifier.  After I dried a recent batch of parsley I ran it through the high speed blender to produce a powder.  This would be an excellent nutritious addition to a smoothie, soup or sauce.

Rosemary usually survives the winter and flourishes again in the spring, summer and autumn.  I add fresh cleaned rosemary sprigs to the bottle of any new purchase of olive oil.  Though it is not ‘obvious’ to the naked eye, oils go rancid over time and rancid oils are not healthy to consume.  Adding some fresh sprigs of Rosemary to the bottle slows down the ‘ageing’ process.   The electrons in the oil and those in the rosemary connect harmoniously making the oil more stable, not to mention more nutritious.  Place fresh clean springs of Rosemary on any meat you are going to cook.  Cooking meat produces ‘carcinogens’ in the process and Rosemary mitigates some of that damage.  I chopped up my last batch of dried Rosemary into really small pieces.  This would be perfect for including in meat dishes, for making Rosemary potato wedges etc.  The benefits of Rosemary are many and you can read more about it here.

All of the above herbs are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and rich in phyto-nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Growing and using your own herbs costs you one thing you may need to consider – TIME!  If you have a little time to spare, it is well worth the effort.  I would like to think that our food and fuel supply will always be assured, but ‘just in case’ this is one way to boost your nutrition using fresh and dried herbs from your own back yard.

Once you start you won’t be able to stop.

Anne ♥

 

Gobble Gobble

Gobble, gobble says the turkey, as if it knows its fate this time of year!  I have to admit I love to gobble turkey.  My Grandfather and uncle had a small farm and reared turkeys for the Christmas market.  Every Christmas my uncle would arrive with a massive turkey that could barely fit in our oven.  But even before it got that far, it hung upside down from the roof of our lean-to conservatory for a day or two.  Its broken neck and blood-filled head with the odd un-plucked feather, was a curious and slightly scary sight for an urban dweller.  A scene that could have been a turning point to veganism, as the head came off and the gizzards were yanked from its belly, did not a vegan make!  Year in and year out my mother spent half the night preparing and stuffing a giant bird for Christmas dinner.  On waking Christmas day, the house was always filled with the aroma of stuffed turkey cooking in the oven.  Such a massive bird needed a head start on the rest of the day.

It seems apt that the spirit animal of the turkey symbolizes connection with Mother Earth and the abundance the earth provides.  It represents nourishment in our life, harvesting the fruits of our efforts, community, generosity and sharing.  This totem animal encourages us to honour our sources of nourishment, whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual. The turkey reminds us to develop a harmonious relationship with the land and our environment and consider them as foundations to our well-being and sustenance.  Turkey totem is a powerful guide to unlocking the fullness of life and feeling content with what we have instead of accumulating material belongings to seek happiness.

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DIM Vegetables

Diindolylmethane, or DIM, is a compound that is formed in your body during the digestion of foods that contain the nutrient indole-3-carbinol.  Indole-3-carbinol is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.  Eating these foods, therefore, provides your body with DIM.  DIM supports the liver in detoxifying and removing harmful molecules including carcinogens, from the body.

Source: Google Images

The vegetables in this photo look very inviting but if you are anything like me you will need some convincing and to be a little more creative in their use.  I’m definitely not a fan of overcooked broccoli, cabbage or Brussels sprouts. YUCK!!  What’s that smell?  But apparently, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Since finding out how beneficial these vegetables are for hormone balance and cancer prevention, I’m finding new and tasty ways to get them in.

How does cauliflower curry soup sound?  There are lots of recipes out there for cauliflower rice as a substitute for rice.  White cabbage can make up a healthy coleslaw.  Not forgetting that a couple of spoonfuls of Sauerkraut on your salad or dinner also ticks this box.

Chopping or chewing cruciferous vegetables results in the formation of these bio-active products. Eating them either raw, lightly sautéed, quickly stir-fried, or steamed is best to retain the full array of nutrients.  If you wish to experiment with them raw, try juicing, fresh salads, marinated salads, and adding sprouts or greens to your sandwiches. But the most important thing is to eat more of them!  Individuals with thyroid function concerns should consume these vegetables mostly cooked (vs. raw).

There are lots of different cruciferous vegetables to choose from, so if you’re including these wonderful vegetables as a regular part of your diet, be sure to keep up the variety.

Apart from the well known and often quoted varieties like broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, there are also the less published members of this family, namely:

Rocket;  bok choy;  garden cress;  kale (all colours);  horseradish;  mustard seeds (all colours);  turnip root and greens;  watercress;  real wasabi and  radish, greens and sprouts.

These recipes look amazing  – Dr Oz Cruciferous Veggie Recipes

Spice Aid Cabinet

Mankind has sought out plants with medicinal properties since time immemorial.  Even today when there have been great developments in the field of chemistry, pharmaceuticals and medicine, these medicinal plants have lost none of their importance.  Botanical drugs are at the birth place of the current pharmaceutical industry, for example, the ancient Egyptians used the bark of the Willow tree for the relief of aches and pains.  The willow tree yields ‘salicylic acid’ which is the active pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory component that is used to make the aspirin of today.  Probably because big pharma don’t really want you to know that some of your inexpensive household herbs and spices could be the answer to your aches, pains and other health conditions, this information has become generally suppressed and instead we are encouraged by media advertising to believe that pharmaceutical drugs are the only solution.  The general public has consequently lost trust in natural remedies while big pharma secretly know their benefits.  Plant based medical practices like traditional Chinese herbal medicine, Ayurvedic and Naturopathic medicine, for example, are often viewed as a last resort when conventional medicine offers us no solution.  Ideally the reverse would be the case, where natural remedies are used first and pharmaceutical drugs, with their known side-effects, are a last resort.  In this blog I am sharing my knowledge of some of the spices that are ‘hot’ in the world of nutrition.  You may already have them in your spice cabinet.  They offer a relatively inexpensive way of stacking some health benefits in your favour with little effort!   Mother Nature’s flavour favours. Many spices have health benefits, too many to cover here, so I have narrowed them down to some of the most popular and widely used today in the prevention and treatment of the chronic diseases.  I have checked each spice for known interactions {A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions}. There are none for those mentioned and so they are completely safe to use.  So, what are these little pots of magic dust??  Read on to find out!

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