Category Archives: foraging

Ramsons

Wild garlic is here! Gotta love those ramsons! The first big leafy green with taste perfect for great chefs! This year it seems to have especially wild ambitions when it comes to growing, so I was searching ways to use it. Not just toss it in pot with everything and in salads – that I’m doing anyway, folks like it or not – but really find a recipe to use it in.

And I found it!

Ramsons pesto

40 g of ramsons (good strong handful)
20 almonds
pinch of salt and black pepper
1 small clove of garlic
1-3 tsp of rapeseed oil

Put the almonds in a grinder and grind to wished consistency, add salt and pepper, then add roughly chopped garlic and ramsons and continue blending until chopped to wished consistency. Add one spoonful at a time the rapeseed oil and blend until wished consistency. Place in a small jar. Will keep for few days or you can freeze it in ice cube tray. Though it makes small enough amount that it will nicely disappear from the jar.

Be warned though! It tastes strongly like garlic!

Enjoy!

 

Wild Garlic

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Filed under foraging, Snacks

Medicine cabinet

 As cold winds are creeping in and the weather is turning for worse, I thought it would be good time to talk about what to hold in your medicine cabinet. Here I’m not talking about traditional cabinets full of pills in different sizes, but about herbs we keep at home for emergencies.

I think the medicine works at its best if combined with “traditional” medicine. Instead of traditional I would rather use Chemical, because there are plenty of arguments on which is the traditional and witch is not. The reality is, it gives better results if you know how to combine them without compromising one with the other. There are herbal remedies that don’t go well with pills, for example if you are taking blood thinning medicine, you should keep away from nettle and white clover just to be safe.

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Filed under foraging, Remedies, survival of the fittest, Year and a Day

Dandelion syrup

The fields were blooming in sun-bright yellow and fragrant for honey. Who wouldn’t, in such conditions think of fresh honey? I wanted a way to save this part of fresh honey sensation for little longer than just the few weeks, so I searched the net for recipes. When it comes to using flowers, I’ve noticed that you can’t save them up forever without the taste or smell to change, but for short spring time prep to get you out of the spring blues (which is kind of common around here), it would be perfect addition to your medical cabinet. Given, naturally, that you are not allergic to dandelions or pollen.

To make the syrup, or honey as it is also called, you will need:

250 dandelion blossoms
4 cups of water
1 lemon
900 grams of sugar

First you need to gather the blossoms. Should be done when they are fully open, on a sunny day. I’d say – go out and get yourself huge bouquet of dandelions. That’s the easiest way to collect them. You can toss the stems away later, but they will be easier to clean if you have them on stems.

Then comes the fun part – the separation. You need to separate the green from the yellow. Exactly like it says. Green is the one that adds bitterness to the taste, so you don’t want the green at all. I can’t explain you the process itself, but I can say that after few practicing rounds, you’ll get the hang of it and it will go smoothly. This is, however, the most laborious part of the job, so take some time for it. The number 250 here is give-or-take. I counted the blossoms, because I wanted to follow the recipe exactly. I liked these proportions. Little tip: count the blossoms before cleaning them in little piles. Then you don’t have to keep the count while cleaning process. Tip nr 2: clean the blossoms straight in the pot you will be using. This way you won’t lose the pollen so much and the syrup comes more honey-like.

The rest is easier. Take your yellow blossoms in a pot, add the 4 cusp of water and heat it to boil. Once it has started to boil, take it from heat and let it sit/cool in a separated place for at least 6 hours. In such concoctions I prefer if they sit overnight. Then strain the tea, get rid of the blossoms (perfect for compost) and put the tea back on heating. Bring to light boil and add sugar and the juice of one lemon. Stir until the sugar melts and keep boiling it on low heat until the syrup is thick to your liking. I prefer something similar to maple syrup, some like it as honey. According to that you will be boiling it, too. To get the the thickness I desired, I had to keep it boiling for about an hour.

In some parts of the world the dandelions are yet to start their blooming victory, so I encourage you to try this one out. It will consist all the rich chemical lab the dandelions are and it goes marvelous with pancakes.

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Filed under foraging, korilus, Preserves, Remedies, Sweets

How badly article can stir you up

I realized suddenly that I don’t want to move to town. That I do want to make our home livable, get rid of the dirt and make it as sustainable through harsh winter as I possibly can. Why? The darn news again that gives me gibbers! Article in Daily Mail talking of global cooling again.

I read this article and realized that if I think of history, the most frightening time thatI know there is the Small Ice Age that lasted 200 years, caused half of the population in north to die and the rest hardly survived it. I am scared of it. So, while still reading, I realized I was again making the list of things I should do this year to get as much food stored as possible. I know my fears have increased tremendously thanks to the fact that every tree that could provide any support in food sense has been removed from our property and this is making me very uneasy person to live with. I want them back. Now! They were my security – at least I could depend on them to prepare sweet compotes for the winter and different salads and all… Now I have nothing but rhubarb, currants and gooseberries that have been sick every single year and give barely what they could give. And then reading something like that from the news is seriously unnerving.

Stuff that popped in my head immediately:

1. Pay back any loan that I have. The worst thing I can imagine is to own anything to bank.

2. Get the upper floor empty from all the paper and trash. It is not needed there. It is dangerous. It is irritating.

3. Get the recipes vital to sustain life as I know it written in the notebook. Not in internet, but in a notebook. The basic stuff- house chemicals, bug repellents, marinates, syrups, remedies, fermenting…

4. Buy aloe and get it growing in the kitchen. Seriously. I am constantly missing it.

5. Learn to knit mittens and socks. I like doing lacey stuff and embroidery, time to get back to the basics that I have managed to skip so far. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to learn to make slippers.

6. Get proper overview of stocks we have. Hate finding out that we are out of rice or any other meal. This should also consider chemicals and essential oils.

7. Teach Madli and Pontsu-Ontsu to be silent on command. Now that’s a challenge.

8. Get mushrooms this year and other forest fancies. Last year I got 2 half a liters of presentable mushrooms and minced for 6 meals. That is hardly enough. This year I will try better. Same goes with other not-sweet products and stuff I can collect from the forest. The thing for example, that if you smoked, mosquitoes hated being near it.

9. Make enough hanks of birch (viht) to last for entire winter, at least one per month.

10. Make enough wood for winter. I’m guessing we need half a bit more than we bought this year to last until next season. But this year we had low temperature for considerably longer than the year before. That’s why we’re out faster. Still, this mistake can be fixed.

11. Use rhubarb as much as possible for juice. Last year I missed the season, but I think we can’t afford it this year.

12. Learn to use wine yeast. I think it would be better choice for mead and our wine than the usual yeast we’ve used so far.

13. Make the protective bags for my favorite tarots and get that part of my life organized, including small altar somewhere to get my peace with the spirit world.

What a year it is going to be and we’re already in May!

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Filed under foraging, survival of the fittest, Treasury

Things one ought to consider when choosing herb remedy

I have been trying to start working, but as usually the hardest thing is to start and I don’t think I’ll be doing it tonight as my brain isn’t co-operating on that level.

Which gives me good reason to finish an article on a very hot topic to me:

Things one ought to consider when choosing herb remedy

 There is disturbing trend with new users of herbal medicine, which I think is very wrong and can do more damage. The trend is that they like choosing the herb to clear them from whatnot problem like they choose the chemical medicine. This is so false I don’t even know where to start.

Lets start by thinking on what you can find in chemical medicine and what in a herb. Chemical medicine consists usually of 1 or more chemical compounds that do the actual work and fillers that will either help to ease the side effects or just give some shape to the pill as the actual medicine might not be big amount itself to make up a pill.

When you choose  a herb, you need to understand that it isn’t controlled science – it’s entire chemical lab in one plant and most of them are no fillers, but active compounds themselves. This means that for example if you decide to use dandelion, then the seeds, the blossom, the leaves, the root – all of them are filled with things that will react with your body one way or the other.

This “one way or the other” is the problem that makes me winch each time I’m presented with solution they want to try out. It wouldn’t be so bad if they would come to me in style “I will useSt. John’swort for depression” and then they show bag they have purchased from the seller. It then can consist entire plant hacked up and dried.

Alarm bells!

Why?

  1. There are plants that can be used entirely. With them you have no problem, however:
  2. Different parts of plants have different effects. If you buy your plant in whole, you must know in advance that this plant is usable entirely with no problems!
  3. Many herbs that have edible blossoms and leaves can have lethal berries and roots. If you purchase the entire plant you should be aware that you won’t find those parts in the bag.
  4. You need to know when the plant was harvested. Blossoms for example are best to harvest when they are very small, merely open. Leaves can have one effect when they are young and small, if they have been out for a week and a whole different effect if they are collected in their absolute prime as there are plants that change their chemical compounds in the leaves throughout the entire growing time. That’s why, for example, you can eat dandelion leaves without problem before blossoms are created, but they turn bitter afterwards. If you buy plant that you know can be harvested only before blossoms and you see nearly open buds, then you should think over taking this. Also, the best herbalists write down the weather. If collected on dry weather, the leaves hold much more essential oils in while before rain they open up the pores in expectation of rain thus less ability to keep the essential oils in and the effect won’t be maximum.
  5. Because the plant often has more than one thing it is used for, then you should know as much as possible about the plant before you get it. Common knotweed is by the way good for your bladder as it helps to clear them. However, did you know that if you take knotweed for more than two weeks, you can risk serious liver damage? Same thing if you make too strong tea from it.
  6. You need to be tuned with your own body or the body of the individual you decide to offer the herb to. Are you sure that they don’t have condition that this plant will make worse? How old is the sick person? If they are kids, then you better be very good knowing what you can use and what not. There are very few plants that you can help to aid toddlers. If they are elderly, you must know the risks too as with their weaker body type you can’t use everything, especially things that would have side effect on heart or can cause breathing problems.
  7. If the plant is collected in rain – it will spoil fast and the general rule is you don’t collect anything on a rainy day that you wish to dry. It’s ok if you will use it immediately, but in longer perspective, no.
  8. The amounts that you need to take the herb. The general rule is 1 teaspoon per cup. By cup, take notice, the typical measure is 200 ml. Danger arises if you make tea with small cup and without thinking twice, you put the advised amount of herbal mixture in the cup. Make the tea too strong and you risk with your health, too light and the effect won’t be as strong, because you might not get enough components in your body for it to have affect.
    The temperature of the water is generally 80 degrees of Celsius, so right on the edge of starting to boil heavily, as Chinese friend told me – the bubbles on the bottom of the kettle look like sea pearls.

How to avoid the mistakes?

  1. Research! Be sure you know the risks through and through. Exclude internet as liable information source! Go for library instead and search different authors and get your information from several sources. That you know what your plant helps you with, but you can be sure that if you give it to someone, you are prepared for surprises and if emergency rises, you know to instruct the doctors, too. It wouldn’t hurt to check if there is any information if the plant reacts with other elements or plants. For example Nettle is pretty universal, when it comes preparing it, but as it is high in Iron, it would be better not to infuse it in honey as those two don’t mix well.
  2. Never use plant that was recommended by a friend without researching it first. What works for your friend, doesn’t always work you and can be actually dangerous. I’m grateful if someone can recommend me something to my problem, but I do not ever take in anything I haven’t checked before. You can’t blame anyone else if it kills you.
  3. Buy your plants so you get different parts of the plants separately if possible. It may seem like waste, but you can always mix the plant back together if you need, but separating them from each other is a whole new experience. If you can buy your plant as intact herb, then it will ease your work – you might need to package it yourself, but you can do it so those parts are separated.
  4. Buy your plants separately. Same thing – you can always make mixes according to your needs, but there is no need to use highly prized tea mix for only one component. If you don’t need the other components, don’t consume them. The only mixes I keep at home are those that I know I use more and are mixed in small amounts.
  5. Buy herbs as complete as possible. Blossoms look like blossoms, leaves as hole as possible. Routs are often grinded and barks, but that’s natural. The more intact the plant is in the bag, the longer it will last.
  6. Don’t use the drug if it smells like hay (unless it is some sort of grass) and if you hold it in your hand, it turns into dust. When they dry herbs, it never means you drain it absolutely. It usually keeps some humidity and you should be able to feel it with your fingers. Though crumbly, the leafs and blossoms should have some velocity left. It is normal that dried herb has about 2 years of shelf life. So don’t get what you don’t need or if you plan to harvest them yourself, be regular about it.
    You can keep this rules in mind also if purchasing regular black or green tea and your taste buds will thank you.
  7. Follow instructions and use your head. Tint the recipe amounts accordingly and you will be fine. The usual time to take medicine is around 2 weeks. It is usual that after that one ought to pause and let the body rest or stop altogether. If it says in the book that you need to use it sparingly – do that! If it says – only before dinner then that’s how you will take it.
  8. Classical mistake: “doctor told me to take it 3 times per day”. This means the entire 24 hour cycle, not the time you are awake. So if they say you need to take 3 times, it means you need to take it in every 8 hours, so the best times would be for example7 inthe morning, 1 near lunch and9 inthe evening. If you are working regularly, this would be good time plan.
  9. If you see problematic side effects, stop taking it immediately. If the signs are problematic – contact doctor immediately. Keep the package from the seller. Weird recommendation? No, but will help you get help sooner. If you need to re-pack, the best would be paper bags. Always write the common name AND the Latin name on the bag! Latin names are universal, common names can be known only to you and your granny.
  10. Besides children and animals, if you make tinctures – keep them away from any alcoholic. I once nearly got heart attack when I discovered that while I was away, father had used my pot marigold tincture to help his sour throat. He isn’t alcoholic, but he used the tincture as he uses any other vodka and that made me realize that this should be on every tincture bottle – you do not use it like vodka! Had he mixed up the bottles, he would have ended up with White Clover tincture and with it’s function to relief cramps and make your blood flow easier, deducing blood clotting, I would have ended with murder charge. So keep your stash in place where all sorts of wonder minds can’t get to them without asking you first.
  11. If all else fails – ask the one selling you the herb or anyone wise enough. Ask from professional. They will probably tell you to go through tests before using any herb and they are right to say this. Still – put up with it and ask. Better their advice than your own stupidity.

I could go on few more pages, but in reality it’s quite simple: Reduce risks with research, get your plants separated by plants and plant parts and know exactly how to use it.

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Filed under foraging, House Chemistry, korilus, Remedies, Toidukultuur, Year and a Day

Wolfberries

Harlilik taralõng (Lycium barbarum or L. chinense), wolfberries.

 When I say Goji berries, most of us have heard of it, right? The usual list of goodies hidden in this small berries is impressive and can be found all over internet.

 I’m profound follower of the truth that no health or holistic food should be used in monster amounts though and with this particular berry, I know it isn’t really used the way it is over-advertized. It’s used in smaller amounts and to help boost your system when you are feeling sickly. It’s just one of those cute plants that have Asian alluring name and is marketed as super food.

 Still I took my courage together and got myself a bag of dried wolfberries, just to try the taste and texture. I liked them. The salty outside was surprise to me, but considering it has carotene in it instead of glucose, I’m more than happy for it.

Then imagine my surprise when I found out that this particular bush is the one that actually grows in our parks! It is natural to presume I won’t be going picking it from there, but still, it sparked my interest and I asked mom about it. She confirmed it.

So now there is one more berry I will definitely add in the bush line if I’m working out what sort of berrybushes to add. With the good number of uses, it will be nice adition to rich the diet.

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Filed under foraging, gardening

My chopped off green fingers

I realized I’ve got a huge part of my education missing – gardening. With this I’ve already said that I’ve taken deaper interest in wild plants, but knowing it isn’t making things easier. I don’t like that I’ve lost contact with it.

I started easy by knowingly watering the plants that I do have. I’m no green finger – even doing that has taken hard commitment, not forgetting to do that. I started by buying myself one of my favorite plants – common ivy (should be Hedera Helix by the looks of the leafage). I can’t imagine house without it, it being one of those plants that didn’t survive moving in our new place. But where I have it right now, it seems to like it. So now I’ve gone for nearly half a year developing the skill of not forgetting to water my plants.

Watering unfortunately isn’t the only aspect in gardening, so now I’m looking into growing some simple things from the seeds as next experiment. Having come from country, it wouldn’t be the first time and I’ve tried now and then, but never taken it that serious. This time I just might. I’ve got two candidates to start from – one is Iris Germanica florentina (the one that I rattled on not getting my hands on) and the other lavender. Naturally I’m not gonna try growing them from seed, that would be too over my head for first try, but I know where I can get the roots and there’s a shop that sells lavender plants and mom agreed that it would make nice pot plant. Though lavender would survive if covered on open land here, it wouldn’t be true for our garden. The temperature gets too low. Except this year, which is so annoying I could bite the Father Frost for this!

From seeds I was thinking of calendula, till, few salads, kale (the plant intrigues me) and perhaps few other things. Peppermint for sure. If the plant on sis’ window survives the winter, it will go in soil. I am too much in love of the mead-like lemonade. I’m not sure the wild peppermint will survive.

I think what got me more interested in this gardening business, is the fact that we are renewing our fruit trees and evergreens. They are getting too old and too dangerous. I’m glad that the linden trees are showing signs of surviving the horrific beheading. I’m not glad that they took down maple though – I miss the juice already. But renewing means we can pick the fruits going in the garden. Like apples that we can actually eat and make juice or jam from or marinate, pears, prunes, dolgo, … that are pretty much it. Some peaches, Chinese apricots, figs (wouldn’t that be a dream?), grapes (we need a good site and very stern plant), persimmon (I’m not keen on the fruit at all), too. Weird is I like peaches, yet I can’t eat more than one or two plums per season. I’m probably pushing through adding juniper in the punch, as well as black elderberry and without a doubt they’ll be joined by rowan. We’ve already got cherries and some plums, but that is not enough. If I get my own place, this will stand true, too. Except plums, which I really have no good use for. Perhaps just the best tasting one, a yellow type.

Were in gardening zone 5. Good to remember next time I seek internet information.

Yesterday, I got myself RHS New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques: The Essential Practical Guide (Estonian version). Not to go over the edge and make a jump start, but to have it at home. They were selling it close to 50 percent off price, so I didn’t even have bad feeling for putting the money out. It’s one of those things I rather have at home than miss it when I have one of those elaborated beginner moments and can’t decide the correct action and give up. The same place with the ABC of Estonian Wild Plants and The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual. The latter two have proved more useful than one would think on first glance. I might not take them out every day, but I have been more than glad that I decided to buy them.

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Filed under foraging, korilus, survival of the fittest