Hollyhock/Marshmallow/Mallow for Leaky Gut, Benefits of Chickweed, Comfrey & Cleavers + Vanilla Extract & Stevia Glycerin Recipes
September 22, the first day of fall. How did you end up spending this day to mark the new season?
I spent yesterday and today gardening. I thought about going foraging for Red Clover and some Rose Hips, but gardening tasks awaited!
I don't know if you have a garden, but I spent hours today with just my little balcony garden! Seems like there is always something to do in the garden. I'm sure when I have my own garden, I'll easily spend the whole day fussing about in it :)
Here were just a few of my gardening tasks:
I bought two tall planters and repotted my Comfrey plants to bring them in during the colder months.
Comfrey has had a bad rap recently---banned in Canada in health food stores at the time of this writing, but you can still buy seeds and grow her yourself. And you want to, because her leaves and flowers have great medicine: she is a vulnerary par excellence, both internally and externally. That means sprains, strains, broken bones as well as inflamed intestinal bits benefit from her healing action.
Parts not to use: root. Since she does contain PAs (pyrroazaline alkaloids), you can use her leaves before she flowers and when she is in in flower. It's common to harvest comfrey, usually the top 1/3 of the plant, when she is in flower. You CAN use comfrey for EXTERNAL APPLICATION after she has flowered. I'll probably write more about her healing actions in another diary post.
I noticed several yellow bugs on Mallow, and hauled up leaf, stem, root and all! The mallow I have growing is malva sylvestris, but there is also Common Mallow, or malva neglecta. The flower, leaf, stem & root of either one can be used like Marshmallow root to make a tea which helps to heal inflamed mucous membranes.
Naturopaths encourage the use of Marshmallow tea to help heal leaky gut, but you can use Mallow as well. Hollyhock root can also be used similarly.
To make this tea, you have to decoct it. That means you use 1 ounce herb + 4 cups water. Place in a ceramic or glass pot, covered. Let come to a boil, then simmer on low for 20-30 minutes. Strain and drink tea!
I had several Sheep Sorrel plants growing in a pot and I first chopped off all the greens ---which I'll steam and eat tomorrow---then hauled up the roots. As I mentioned in a previous diary post, Sorrel roots are used in the famous Essiac Tea, but you can make a decoction and drink the tea like that, too.
I bought an Aloe Vera from the health food store yesterday and she was in sore need of a repotting! They were marketing her as a great food to use, and while that's true (and much, MUCH better to use her fresh than when bottled with citric acid, which is not a friendly ingredient to the kidneys), many people know Aloe Vera for her healing properties, especially for burns and sunburns. Of course, you can also use her to help with cuts, sores and other skin abrasions.
I had previously bought another Aloe Vera plant from Walmart. I know, I know, definitely not the best place to be buying plants. I haven't used any of her medicine, in fact, two of her leaves seem to be drying up and dying. I did repot both Aloe Veras, and we'll see how they fair growing inside now that cooler days loom ahead.
I pruned the leaves from Purslane and put the stalks in the compost. Yum! Omega 3-rich food for tomorrow's lunch! Purslane is frost tender, you bet. She's a succulent, definitely a desert plant. Even growing her inside during the cold months, she'll growing readily, then feel it's too cold, and die. I had to plant Purslane seeds 3X this year because the cold winter seemed to linger and linger. We even had snow in April, sniff sniff. What happened to April showers bring May flowers? Harrumph, snow showers = a very short gardening season, so appreciate what you can ;)
Out of all my plants that I had repotted this year, Oregano was the sole one that never got any attention. Until today. And boy, was she root-bound. Since I've been figuring out what plants I will be bringing inside to grow during the winter months, I thought I'd have Oregano, Thyme and Marjoram all growing in one big pot together. But, nuh-uh, Oregano needed all the space to herself in just one pot! I placed Thyme and Marjoram in another pot together, but I may just add them with Sage if I run out of room. Only so much space in my apartment, and while there is a lovely sunny patio door, only so many plants can crowd around to enjoy the light!
Yesterday saw Nettle growing in 3 pots getting a pruning. They are all growing so well since I moved them to the front balcony where they get the afternoon sun. I think they were frying in the heat being on the back balcony with the morning and mid-day sun. Nettles are in the mint family, and I have found in my experience that part-sun seems to suit the Mint family better than full sun.
Yesterday (and the weekend, too) saw me pruning Lemon Balm. Oh, Lemon Balm! I was supposed to make Lemon Balm candy with your fresh leaves but I forgot! I dried you in the dehydrator to enjoy your spicy, lemony goodness in tea and to add to my soups...Ah well, I have a bit of fresh Lemon Balm that I harvested just today, so I may try that candy recipe yet!
Yes, that was another one of "gardening tasks" today: taking out the dried herbs from the dehydrator and placing them in paper bags and jars to keep for future days. That's the other part of gardening and foraging: first you harvest, then you have to cut them into smaller bits, OR clean the roots, OR remove the leaves from the stems, then dry them onto racks in the dehydrator or on newspaper or parchment paper, OR you make medicine, like tinctures, oils and vinegars.
My friend noticed that I was drying some herbs on flyers I received in the mail and asked if I was worried about the ink from the flyers going into the herbs. Oops, I never thought about that! Time to make the switch to soy-based parchment paper!
I had plants on every single step coming up the front balcony.
Gone. All gone.
Instead, just before coming up the stairs are 3 plants to greet you: Chrysanthemum, that good old fall favorite, which I will use her flowers to make a perfume; Yarrow, first year still in leaf, and I'm pretty sure she acts like a biennial plant because of the Canadian climate; and Mallow, tons of flowers and so far seemingly aphid/bug free. I added in two friendly straw farmers to welcome the fall season: Farmer Wilson and Farmer Asoka! :))
Speaking of that Chrysanthemum plant, oh-my-goodness. Yes, I used dashes to separate the words for emphasis, but I could have used periods instead to muster in that frustration and work I experienced trying to get her out of the purse. Yes, I had a Chrysanthemum plant growing in a hot orange purse, a showy color to greet you as you came up the driveway. Well, mum certainly has big roots and she was root bound growing in that small space, I can tell ya. Not only root bound, it seemed her roots were stuck into the fabric lining and there was a hole in the bottom of the purse that she was trying to escape a leg, er, root, out of.
Trying not to hurt/damage her while getting this mass of soil and roots out of a purse was a daunting experience: dare I use shears to cut the purse open? Dare I use a purse as a planter again? Should I just leave mum in the purse or continue slowing using one hand to pull up on her roots while holding and pulling in the opposite direction on the bottom of the purse?
She finally gave, thank god, and I threw the purse out. Small plants would be OK growing in a purse, I suppose, but a plant with a shallow root system, perhaps like Chickweed. Mum was most certainly happy when I put her in a huge pot to let her continue growing her flowers, which are still in bud form and seem to just be waiting for that opportunity to flower. Can't wait, mum!
Chickweed, speaking of, I ordered more seeds. Tincture of Chickweed is supposed to be great to help with cysts of any kind, including ovarian cysts and fibroids. You can also add her to green smoothies and green juices, make pesto with her and even drink her tea. Oh yes, being high in saponins, her tea is great to help mop up fat and is a boon to weight loss! She's also high in minerals and is super easy to grow, plus she tastes like a mild salad green. I have 2 pots growing with Chickweed, but decided to order more seeds as she also loves the shade. Yes, great plant for those shady areas AND she makes great ground cover. Just win-win-win all around. Did I mention you can also cook her like spinach? Great to use in quiches and such! Yum!
I also ordered Cleavers because all the Cleavers (or Clivers) seeds I sowed never took. Not one. I blame the weather, of course, because not only was there snow in April still, June was an exceptionally wet month. Summer didn't finally show up until July. Plus, many of my other seeds that I sowed also didn't grow in. Cleaver tincture is great to work on the lymphatic system, helping to detox the body of toxins and also helpful for any lymphatic swelling, including edema and water retention. She can be quite aggressive in growing, just like the mint family, but no worries if you have her contained in a pot, as I will be.
I also ordered some Stevia seeds, which are pricey, but oh-so-worth it. I've been buying my Stevia plants from the non-organic flower market every year, but wanted to have some on hand when needed. Stevia is an annual, you see, although she does grow remarkably well indoors during the winter. She really likes sun, a lot of sun and full sun. I buy a Stevia plant in June and by the next year around the spring, even though she's been growing well all the time during the winter months and now the sunny spring weather has come, she starts to not look so good and dies off.
Even in a pot, she does really well. Because her leaves are not organic, here is what I do when I first get Stevia (and what you can do, too): first, I take off her larger leaves. She's like mint in that there will always be a set of 2 smaller leaves that grow where 2 larger leaves are growing. I take off the larger leaves, then, when these smaller leaves have grown into bigger leaves, I take these off too. I compost all of these leaves (I don't use them).
I place Stevia in a big pot, with organic soil, and fertilize her 1-2 X a week with an organic kelp/fish oil solution. Full sun of course, as I mentioned. When the 3rd set of leaves are large (with 2 baby leaves growing underneath), I now harvest and use those leaves and all future leaves then on. I dry the leaves and then use them to make infusions.
The standard to make an infusion is 1 oz + 4 cups boiled water in a 1-liter mason jar. Lid and screw cap on, then sit let 4 hours (or up to 8 hours), strain and use. Leftover refrigerated 2-3 days. Stevia can get bitter when left to infuse for so long, so I've used her after steeping for 30 minutes to 2 hours. I don't weigh my herbs when making infusions or decoctions, but I'm sure I've used more than 1 ounce to make a really strong infusion.
With this Stevia liquid, I then use her to sweeten tea, and in my cake, muffin, bread, jello, jelly and candy recipes.
Another way to use Stevia is to make a glycerite. If you've ever purchased vanilla, you'll notice that vanilla is often sold with alcohol as an ingredient. Why? Because this is just a vanilla tincture! You can actually make your own more cheaply than buying the store-bought version:
Easy-Peasy Vanilla Extract Recipe
Use fresh vanilla beans, slightly packed in a mason jar and pour 50% alcohol to cover. Lid and screw cap on, let it infuse for 6 weeks. Strain and keep the tincture/extract in a dark colored bottle.
The size of mason jar you use depends how much vanilla beans you have. I'm figuring you'll be using a tiny jar, because even fresh vanilla are rather pricey :)
If you don't care for the alcohol, you can make vanilla glycerite, which is sold as vanilla glycerin. Same process as above:
Easy-Peasy Vanilla Glycerite Recipe
Use fresh vanilla beans, slightly packed in a mason jar. Add in food grade glycerin to the top. Put on lid and screw cap and let sit for 6 weeks. Strain and store the glycerite in a dark, amber bottle.
OK, but what about Stevia glycerite? Same thing:
Stevia Glycerite Recipe
Place fresh Stevia leaves, slightly packed, in a mason jar. Choice of jar (250/500/1000ml) depends on how many leaves you have. Pour food grade glycerin over leaves to top of jar, put on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain (a nut milk bag works nicely for this, but you could use a sieve too) and store stevia glycerin in a dark amber bottle.
Now use the Stevia glycerin to sweeten tea and when making desserts. I find using glycerin this way to be better for making no-bake desserts because most muffin and cake recipes require a lot of sweetener (which is why using stevia infusion is a better choice!).
FYI: Some people don't like the taste of Stevia whatever way you use her, which is why she is often sold as an extraction (they extract the sweet principle in her, usually Reb. A), by herself and often with another sweetener. The other sweetener is also a low glycemic/low calorie sweetener, such as rice maltodextrin, erythritol, monk fruit, xylitol or a combination of these.
I'm thinking of a friend right now as I write this, because he always knows there is stevia in whatever goody he is eating and he always makes that I-can't-stand-it-taste! Doesn't matter the type of stevia or if she's paired with another sweetener. A stevia lover, he is not. To each their own!
I personally love Stevia: love seeing her growing, love being with her and pruning her leaves, love just seeing her. She has a sweet energy that is definitely imparted in her leaves, and I'm most happy to know her and benefit from her sweetness in my goodies :)
Weather looks bright and sunny, so I'm hoping to get in a bit of foraging tomorrow. Looking to get some Red Clover blossoms and whatever other herbs are interested in sharing with me their medicine or food.
Fall is upon us, and there will be ample time to collect roots, whenever the opportunity strikes. Which reminds me, since I am writing an article on Mugwort, that her ROOT is considered an excellent stomachic---that means if you have digestive issues, you might want to be taking a tincture of her before your meals OR drinking in a cup of her root tea (you'll need to decoct it and by the way, she is bitter).
Enjoy the many sunny days of fall ahead, sunshine :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: