Horseradish (Armoacia Rusticana): International Herb of 2011

February 18, 2011

Horseradish Horseradish? That seems to have been everyone’s response to the choice of International Herb of 2011, despite this herb’s long use as a medicinal herb. Not only is horseradish’s spicy, peppery taste a flavor booster, but it has the ability to clear the sinuses (you know what I am talking about!) and also has a range of antibacterial activity, which makes it additionally useful for infections. A powerful diuretic, horseradish has been used throughout the centuries to treat kidney stones and similar problems. Not surprisingly, horseradish is also great for indigestion and putrefaction in the digestive tract. As an expectorant, horseradish is helpful with lung problems, including asthma and coughs, and is additionally useful for arthritis. To add to the laundry list of uses, horseradish can be used as a skin treatment to remove blemishes and lighten discoloration; it is a successful vermifuge for expelling worms and parasites; it’s an immune stimulant that can strengthen a worn down system and as an anti-oxidant, helps counter the negative effects of pollution and stress; it’s also a detoxifier for the liver and spleen. It can even be held to the nose of a nursing baby who can’t nurse well because of a stuffy nose (the fumes will be strong for the baby, who may cry for a minute because of it, but it’s effective and safe).

For a sinus remedy, the famous herbalist, Dr. Christopher, recommends the following: “Start with 1/4 teaspoon of the freshly grated root and hold it in your mouth until all the taste is gone. It will immediately start cutting the mucus loose from the sinuses to drain down the throat. This will relieve the pressure in your sinuses and help clear infection.” Incidentally, the grated root is apparently sweeter and milder when fresh than when purchased from the store.

I think horseradish is perhaps best known as one of the five bitter herbs (along with coriander, horehound, lettuce, and nettle) eaten historically during the feast of the Passover Seder.

I’m chagrined to admit that despite the obvious strength of horseradish’s energy, I haven’t used this herb very much myself, and could also do to incorporate it into my diet more often. Herb Companion has posted a number of culinary recipes for the use of horseradish, including those listed here. Leek and Celery Root Gratin with Horseradish looks really intriguing, and just like I enjoy mashed potatoes with dijon or whole seed mustard, I’m sure I’d love the peppery addition of horseradish to a creamy potato dish.


Cauli Verdi: medieval pottage recipe fit for a lord

February 17, 2011
Medieval Pottage

Medieval Pottage

I was looking through an favorite herbal periodical today from a few years back, and I found this great little snippet about pot herbs, or herbs/vegetables for “pottage”. Some herbs that come to mind include parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, chervil, nettles, violets, dandelion, chickweed, purslane, lamb’s quarters, sheep sorrel, and chicory. When freshly sprouting, many of these herbs are also ideal early spring greens in salads, sautes, or soups. When we talk about “pottage”, the reference is usually to cooking herbs and veggies in a pot!  Just as you would imagine. The simplest version is to saute vegetables in a little butter or oil, add herbs and/or salt and finish with a splash of acid (lemon juice, herb infused vinegar, lime juice, etc) to brighten the taste. Pottage recipes often include sugar, though I’ve never cooked it this way, and the pottage is sometimes strained and turned into a soup. I like the Medieval reference below to topping with poached eggs. That would be fantastic!

herbs: photo from organicfoodexperience.com

Herbs and Spices (OrganicFoodExperience.com)

It’s mid-February, and no chickweed has yet made its sweet appearance in my garden pots. This time of year we rely on vegetables and fruits that store well through the winter (even if our storage needs are not so pressing as they were in the 15th century). Leeks, onions, shallots, carrots, cabbages, fennel, apples, potatoes all come to mind. The following is a medieval recipe for pottage translated from Libro Della Cocina, Santich, 117:

“Take the tips of fresh cabbage, and boil them: then remove them, and fry in oil with sliced onion, and the white part of the fennel, and sliced apple: and add a little stock: and then serve it in bowls, and sprinkle with spices. And you can also cook it with salted pork fat, with cheese and with poached eggs, and add spices; and offer it to your lord.”

Peasant Wedding by Pieter Breugel the Elder

"Peasant Wedding" (1567) by Pieter Breugel the Elder

I am not sure we’d be offering it to one’s lord (as in lord of the province or feudal fiefdom), but it’s a great little lunch or warming evening meal for anyone.

Cauli Verdi

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp olive oil
12 Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
1/4 head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup, optional
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup toasted pecans or walnuts

Directions: 1) in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; 2) Add Brussels sprouts, fennel, and cabbage. Pour 2 Tbsp lemon juice over the greens. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes; 3) Remove from heat and add apple, maple syrup (if using) and remaining lemon juice; 4) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with pecans or walnuts.

If you try this out, let me know what you think!

Here’s another variation: Medieval Pottage and a series of pottage recipes from Medieval-Recipes.com. Cookit also has a recipe and video! At the end of the day this is simple peasant food. Add a little meat if you want to feel like a lord or lady of the manor!


Favorite Tea Accessories: Moon Spoons

February 15, 2011

Tea Strainer in "Cathedral" design

"Cathedral" Tea Strainer

I love tea. And there are so many great accessories out there to make tea drinking into a ritual. Just look at the wonderful history of the Tea Ceremony in Japan if you want a reminder of just how sacred and special tea drinking can be. I thought it might be fun to bring some wonderful additions to the personal tea ritual to your attention.

Honey Stick

Honey Stick

For Valentine’s Day I came across these amazing tea strainers from Moon Spoon After looking at their gallery, I realized that I already own some of the wooden baby spoons, one of which I now use as a sugar spoon, and I’d love to add their Honey Stick to my collection as well. I love the delicate honeycomb pattern.


Real Food: Guest post from a Real Foodie

February 9, 2011
heirloom carrots red color

Heirloom carrots (seeds) from Bear Foot Shaman on Etsy

In a country where food marketing is big business and we are bombarded with processed food ads in our mail and on television, it can sometimes be overwhelming learning how to eat. Our children are being told by peers and media that colorful packaged food is cool, and the added vitamins are appealing to parents at the same time. We have been taught that butter is bad and that low fat is best, yet we are the most overweight country in the world. We and our children are paying a high price as we are continuously overfed but undernourished. Simplifying our food and going back to basic, traditional food is the only way we are going to be able to take back our health and gain an appreciation for real food.

Strawberry Jam from Hope's Pantry on Etsy

Jam from Hope's Pantry on Etsy

A definition for “real food” is food that is unprocessed and unaltered. Real food contains all of its own natural occurring vitamins and has not had anything taken out, nor has it been fortified with anything. Grass-fed beef, raw milk, and organic strawberries are examples of real food. Dinner in a box, ultra-pasteurized skim milk, and toaster pastries are not real food. The biggest difference between real food and “fake food” is that both will quench hunger but only one will nourish. Real food from organic, family farms is green and sustainable because animals that are raised grass-fed and organically are eating off the land and giving back to it. Cows and chicken are allowed to roam freely in green pastures with rotating shelters and have plenty of room. Crops are rotated properly so the use of dangerous chemical pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides are unnecessary.

Lavender buds

Lavender buds from Twig and Leaf Botanical on Etsy

Many people do not realize how simple eating real food can be. Initially it may take some extra time, preparation, and effort changing over from the quick and easy processed food mentality. It will take time to relearn and rethink everything you have been taught about food. Once a system is in place, it becomes second nature. The first step is to find local sources for food. Farmer’s Markets, CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), and food co-ops are wonderful for sourcing organic produce, grass-fed and free-range meat and eggs, and raw milk. Supporting local farmers is a great way to ensure that they can provide real food for years to come. Starting a backyard garden is also wonderful for becoming more sustainable and self-sufficient with food. Learning to eat in season and growing your own food can be so rewarding and anyone with a little sunny spot on a porch, balcony, or yard can do it. Even small spaces can benefit from a container garden full of herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, or cucumbers.

"grow your own food" tshirt on a young boy

T-shirt from Happy Family on Etsy

Preparing real food is really fun and exciting. Eating to live rather than living to eat opens the door to new culinary experiences. Once you get a taste of real food you will never want to go back! If there are children in the home, cooking with them and teaching them about where their food comes from will enrich their lives beyond the kitchen. It is time to think outside the box!

Resources:

** CSA, Farmer’s Markets, and Real Milk:
Local Harvest
Eat Wild
Real Milk

A few of my favorite Real Food Blogs:
Food Renegade
Nourishing Days
Cheese Slave
Healthy Home Economist
Kitchen Stewardship
Kelly the Kitchen Kop
Frugal Granola
The Nourishing Gourmet
Heavenly Homemaker
Health Home Happy
Living the Nourished Life

Books:
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert
Real Food – What to eat and Why by Nancy Planck
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Image Sources (photos in post)
The Bear Foot Shaman (Etsy.com)
Hope’s Pantry (Etsy.com)
Twig and Leaf Botanicals (Etsy.com)
Happy Family (Etsy.com)

 

Sarah Outlaw is a work-at-home wife and mother of 3 who is passionate about natural living, natural medicine, and real food. She is the owner of 90210 Organics, an Eco-boutique, and is a Certified Health Coach & Natural Living Consultant.


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