I really enjoy cooking, especially if my ingredients include exotic spices, fresh herbs or vegetables grown in my garden. There is a long tradition of using food to support health. An obvious example would be dandelion leaves included as part of a spring salad. They would help to support digestion and detoxify the liver in a body that has overindulged over the winter. It makes such sense to use something free and easy to find when food stores would have been running low. Modern life provides little incentive to harvest greens out of the lawn or from a patch of weeds
Anyone who likes to make Italian food has dried oregano in their spice cabinet. It is an essential addition to any spaghetti sauce. They probably are not aware that besides great flavor they are also getting a small dose of chemicals. Some serve as an antibiotic (to any bacteria in the food), a tonic (to support healthy stomach function), and an anti-inflammatory (in case they have an unknown food sensitivity or arthritis). There was a time when every home cook understood how to use herbs and spices for more that taste . Serving a family meal was also preventative care.
One of my favorite ways to get healing qualities into food is in the form of herbal vinegars and oils. They take only a few minutes to make. The inexpensive ingredients are already found in most kitchens. The bottles can be used and stored for a very long time without going bad. Either can be poured over vegetables and roasted in the oven to create something worthy of a fancy restaurant. My friends are always so surprised that my potluck offering was so quick and easy to make. The oils and vinegars can be combined with other ingredients to create dressings, sauces and marinades.
I start with high quality apple cider or rice wine vinegar and add fresh chives, rosemary, basil, thyme, parsley, or sage with a bit of honey. The acidity in vinegar is really good at extracting out any vitamins or minerals in fresh plants.
For an oil I would choose organic olive oil grown in the US. I add dried powdered herbs like coriander, fennel, tumeric, ginger and cardamom. All of which help in the digestion of food while preventing gas, heart burn and bloating.
These are very simple to make as well. I keep them stored in a lazy susan (you saw it in the picture from the last post) on the table. It then becomes ever so easy to add the mixture to grain, yogurt, hot cereal, pasta, or vegetables that are on your plate. The base of the savory mixes is seseame seeds and kelp mixed with dried herbs like nettles or horsetail. All high in minerals. The “sweet” usually contains ground sunflower seeds or nuts and dried spices that are anti-inflammatory.
Here are two recipes inspired by Kami McBride’s amazing book The Herbal Kitchen.
Liver Support Condiment
8 TBSP of sesame seeds
8 TBSP of powdered dandelion leaf
4 TBSP of powdered parsley
4 TBSP of powdered nettle leaves
4 TBSP of powdered dandelion root
2 TBSP of kelp powder
Mix well and store in the refrigerator, It is ok to store smaller amounts on the table.
For Your Bones Vinegar
1/4 cup of shaved fresh burdock root
1/2 cup of fresh dandelion leaves
1 TBSP of chopped fresh spearmint leaves
1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup of fresh nettle leaves (see below)
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro leaves
2 TBSP of chopped fresh chamomile
2 TBSP of dried oatstraw
1/4 cup of raisins
Place all of the ingredients into a wide mouth canning jar. I always use tongs to handle fresh nettles to avoid getting “stung”. Add 3-4 cups of apple cider vinegar (until jar is full and herbs are covered). Let sit for one month. Strain out herbs and pour into a user friendly bottle that does not have a metal lid. If your canning jar has a metal lid place a piece of plastic wrap or similar material between the lid and the lip of the jar.
These are only a few of the ways to use food to support your health. Leafy green nutritive herbs can replace spinach in recipes. Pesto can be made of many fresh herbs other than basil. There are herbal butters and honey. I personally like multi-ingredient spice mixtures. There will be many more posts to come where I use herbs in cooking. Plus gorgeous photographs with the recipes.