Musings, Reflections, Spirituality, Reflections, Spirituality

On Transitions & Accountability – An Equinox Recipe

It’s impossibly early. Its dark, and cold. There’s a storm blowing outside and I’ve been woken by the sound of sheet rain pummeling relentless onto the tin roof, while overhanging branches slap against the shed in rhythm with the wild dance. After an apparently unseasonable run of hot, humid weather, these are the winds of change that herald the final birth pangs of summer giving way to autumn. It is a welcome relief.

The equinox looms. If you are in the northern hemisphere, the first appearance of snowdrops signals the beginning of new life, new hope with Spring and there may be a welling up in you, an urge to clear away the cobwebs of winter and do a Spring clean. Sure you could hire someone to do it for you, but there is no personal catharsis in this, and with the coming lighter energies of Spring this is something that we all seem to need to do. Here in the southern hemisphere just now, the Hawthorn berries are in full swing, pomegranates are ripe with their precious ruby jewels, and  the leaves of deciduous trees are beginning to turn on their show of gold and crimson hue. And as many plants do, Autumn also invites us to begin gathering our resources for the cooler months, to turn inward on preparing ourselves and our homes. Both experiences of the Equinox draw us to focus on the hearth – both of our homes and our souls. The Equinox elicits a stir to change, to reflect, to set new goals, to learn and to grow.

In less than five weeks, the Passover season will be upon us. I’ll be de-leavening my home and clearing out the physical remnants of bread that I don’t actually eat, and generally decluttering the accumulated flotsam of the previous year. As I do this, I also reflect on the lessons that I have learnt over the past year. What have I learnt? Have I grown, in my character and my spirit? Is there anything that I should have done differently? Is there anything lurking in the shadows that I still need to overcome? How is my relationship with my Creator? This is a time of deep soul-searching and accountability.

An important component of the Passover meal is the bitter herbs. The inclusion of the bitter herbs represents the bitterness of being in the bondage of slavery while we were in Egypt. After the sacrifice of the Messiah (the Passover Lamb), this bondage of slavery in Egypt came to be synonymous with being in bondage to the slavery of this world, to the system that is run by greed and narcissistic lawlessness. The bitter herbs however, are not the focus of the meal, if they were we’d be stuck in victim mentality, and we wouldn’t be able to move forward. This would then become a root of bitterness in our being that keeps us stuck in slavery, often not to the system but to our own negativity.

You see this is the funny thing about bitters, the bitter principle whether it be in a plant, or in life, invites us to change. It stirs us up and ignites a fire deep in our belly, our own personal hearth. Physically, this helps us to digest our food properly, so that we can absorb it and utilise it’s nutrients for our growth and repair. Spiritually, if we allow it, it spurs us to draw closer to the Creator, whose Light helps us to reflect on what we’ve been through, learn it’s lessons and then grow or begin to heal from it.
Many of the bitter herbs are also blood-cleaners and anti-inflammatories.

My last post eluded to the ability of Rosemary (Rosmarinus off.) to stir up change. I wanted to make use of the beautiful stately bush growing where I currently live, while it was at it’s peak, so I developed the following bitters recipe based around that. It can be used before meals or whenever you’re feeling a bit stagnant. Take between 1/2 tsp to 1 Tbs depending on taste, and the heaviness of the meal.

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Last of the Summer Bitters

Raw, unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother.

2 parts fresh rosemary, flowering tops
2 parts dandelion root (raw – dried or fresh)
2 parts burdock root (raw, dried or fresh)
1 part fennel seeds
1 part dried orange peel.

(optional: add a 1-2 Tbs raw honey or sustainably-sourced vegetable glycerin to add a touch of sweetness.)

Mason jar large enough to hold all of your herbs. (I used a 475ml jar).

Fill the mason jar with the herbs and pour over the ACV. You will need to stir as you pour to loosen the herb so it becomes completely saturated. When you think you’ve filled the jar with ACV, let it sit for an hour and you’ll see that much of the herb has absorbed the ACV and there’s exposed herb left on top. Pour on more ACV, stirring as you go, until you absolutely can’t get any more in the jar. Cap tightly, and let sit for up to 6 weeks. Give it a shake every so often. After 6 weeks or so, strain the mixture through a nut milk bag, and rebottle. I like to use 50ml bottles so I can take some with me wherever I go. It also makes a great gift.

Bitter is a taste that is often missing from the Standard Western Diet, much to our detriment. I encourage you to explore the world of bitters and Be the Change.

Many Blessings,
Michelle x

 

 

Plant Medicine, Whole Food Soul Nourishment

Engaging the Elder Mother

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The Elder is one of those plants deeply rooted in the lore and tradition of Western (European) Herbal Medicine. It gives something of itself to span the medicinal needs of all seasons, whether it be it’s clusters of delicate cream flowers in the late Spring/Summer, to it’s deep purple, almost black berries hanging from blood red stems that appear in the autumn and winter. It’s evergreen leaves also offer various virtues to us fragile humans, although more as a soothing topical application.

The species of Elder (Sambucus spp.) most commonly used in our tradition is Sambucus nigra. For those who like the odd tipple now and then, the genus name will be reminiscent of the drink Sambuca – which the flowers are an ingredient of. And it is reputed that the original Pan flutes were crafted from the pithy stems. The Elder also has a rich folklore attached to it, with varied tales of a wizened Elder mother (The Elder Mor) that guards the tree and grants only those who are worthy to make use of it’s medicine. There is a certain presence to this plant that I find to be quite welcoming, and one of the joys of the warmer season is the sight of an Elder in all her blooming glory enticing me to make sweet medicine, and even more delicious sparkling elixirs. So perhaps, I am one of the chosen ones 😀

image credit: wikipedia commons.
image credit: wikipedia commons.

Either way I am filled with joy and thanksgiving at the bounty this tree provides.

I use the elderberries to make an anti-oxidant, vitamin C rich Winter Immune Elixir. The berries also possess potent anti-viral properties that make it useful not only in prevention of, but also treatment of the dreaded ‘flu. However, here on the East coast of Australia, we are currently beginning the season for the flowers so this article will focus on what I like to do with these.

The flowers, being carefully dried, are traditionally used along with peppermint (Mentha piperita) and yarrow (Achilles millefolium) in the famous tea blend that is taken at the onset of colds and flu. This combination increases the circulation, tones the mucous membranes, is anti-viral and induces sweating, allowing the fever associated with the body’s attempt to fight the influenza virus to break, and release the toxins through the skin. The actions of the Elder flowers themselves are anti-catarrhal (drying up mucous, yet also soothing the mucous membranes) in the upper respiratory tract (nose and sinuses), and so are specific for sinusitis, cold and flu, blocked nose, and blocked ears/deafness associated with sinus problems. They would therefore also be useful in combination with other specific herbs for treating hayfever.

The flowers are also well known for their delicate fragrance, which lends itself to a pleasantly refreshing cordial, sparkling wine, or probiotic elixir. Nothing says summer like an Elderflower Sparkle (Well, many things say Summer, but this is a highlight at picnics on a balmy mid-summer eve). The following recipe can be made two ways, depending on convenience and resources available. It imparts the anti-viral and immune supporting properties of the flowers as well as the synergistic virtues of the accompanying ingredients to provide an all round life-enhancing elixir.

I first made this on a base of water kefir. In short, Kefir is a symbiotic organism that feeds on sugar and in turn cultures or ferments the medium it is fed in, be it water (with sugar added), coconut water, or animal milk (lactose). (Note: the water kefir and the milk kefir are actually two distinct organisms, yet both offer incredible probiotic benefits)*

As my kefir is currently in hibernation (yes, you can do that), due to me being in transit at the moment, I have gone on for convenience sake, to make this on a base of coconut water first cultured with the contents of one potent probiotic capsule.**

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Elderflower Sparkle ( a.k.a Galactic Wayfarer’s Famous Ginger Sling)

1 litre of water kefir (cultured and strained of the kefir organism), or 1 litre of cultured coconut water

1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced.

½ lemon, sliced thinly.

3-4 dried figs, chopped

1 large handful (about 1.5 cups) of fresh Elder flowers, (picked of blemished flowers and hidden tiny spiders).

Place all ingredients in a 1 litre / 1 quart mason jar, loosely cap or place a tea towel over it, and leave to further culture overnight (again depending on ambient room temperature, this may take longer. I have been known to seemingly forget about it for up to a week and it still turned out well.)

When you see the mix go a bit cloudy, and a bit bubbly (more so if you are using the kefir), it is ready to strain. Add 1-2 drops of liquid stevia if desired. You can drink as is – in shot-size portions, about 100ml, or add as a base to juices or smoothies, or maybe even in place of tonic water with your favourite gin – FYI: mine is The Botanist)

Either way, it’s healing, it’s nourishing, it’s convivial, it’s all good!

Many Blessings,

Michelle x

*To learn the differences as well as how to nurture and make kefir for yourself, I would direct the reader to the most fabulous fountain of kefir knowledge on the web: http://www.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirpage.html

** After trying out a number of various probiotics for culturing purposes, I now favour the Ojio brand of probiotics. It contains 16 strains of implantable vegetarian-based microflora at a count of with 100 billion or 50 billion. Unlike my second favourite Healthforce Nutritionals Friendly Force, the Ojio brand must be refrigerated for optimum potency. To culture coconut water, I typically use a ratio of 1 litre fresh coconut water: 1 capsule. Leave at room temperature overnight (depending on ambient room temperature, you may need to leave it a little longer at room temp. and then refrigerate.)

***If you would like to learn how to make Elderflower champagne, I throughly recommend this recipe, which can be found here: https://theherbarium.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/‘champagne’/

Resources:

For dried herbs –

mountainroseherbs.com

australherbs.com.au (bulk)

highlandherbs.com.au

southernlightherbs.com.au

Musings, Reflections, Spirituality

Mulberry Maven

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At the time of writing, I am fortunate to share my current home with one small, but earnestly prolific, black mulberry tree (Morus nigra), and one large, equally productive, white mulberry (M. alba). The harvest this year, as it does every year that we have been here, has brought much gustatory joy. Seemingly, nothing more than the gentle caress of a lower branch seems to bring an untold delight to the tree itself, and in response it drops it’s fat, deep purple jewels as easily as rain drops bursting from an overburdened sky. Our hands and fingers stained in this royal hue eagerly scramble to gather as many of the juicy morsels as we can. Accompanied by the heady scent of a nearby Jasmine in full bloom, this frenzy of foraged delight is one of the highlights of our Spring.

While the white mulberry is best known as a food for silk worms, and perhaps more recently as a superfood, the Mulberry tree (species interchangeable) also nourishes and heals humans with both it’s leaves and it’s succulent fruit, it’s root bark ad twigs. From a medicinal perspective we find the following*;

The leaf – anti-bacterial (against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria including diphtheria and ‘Golden Staph’ infections), anti-microbial, astringent/styptic (stops bleeding and weeping in wounds and mucosa). It appears to have an affinity for conditions that are hot, dry, and painful in nature, such as with coughs, colds, and sore dry eyes. The leaf has also been shown to possess blood-sugar lowering, as well as blood pressure lowering, anti-thrombotic, and general anti-inflammatory actions – perhaps due to it’s astringency as well as high anti-oxidant properties.

The root bark – also has expectorant (lubricates the lungs and stimulates elimination of excess mucous) properties, as well as lowering blood pressure, and having some general sedative properties. The twig is also pain-relieving and anti-spasmodic in action.

The fruit – it’s crowning jewel, is rich in anti-oxidant polyphenols such as resveratrol (anti-aging!), as well as vitamins C, E, and K, beta-carotene and the B complex. It is also a highly mineralised fruit. It is a useful low glycaemic fruit, so won’t spike blood sugar levels in diabetics, and helps to reverse atherosclerosis. It also assists in bowel regularity.

I often add the fresh leaves to a foraged green smoothie, but they, along with the young twigs and root bark can be made into infusion or tincture to take advantage of the medicinal properties.

My focus for this article however, is what we can do with those delicious fruits.

This year I decided to make Mulberry Pie, raw vegan style.

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Mulberry Pie

Crust: 

1 cup raw walnuts 

1 cup dates – pitted

2 heaped tsp cacao or carob powder

1tbs coconut flour

1 vanilla bean, or ½ tsp vanilla bean powder.

Filling:

1 cup of fresh black mulberries (I also threw in some white mulberries simply because I had a glut, and it adds sweetness)

1 cup fresh dates – pitted

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 cup prepared Irish moss paste or 2 cups prepared agar agar**

In a food processor with the S blade fitted, process the crust ingredients until crumbly, then press into a lined and oiled 9″ flan, or springform cake tin (line with baking paper and oil the sides with coconut oil- it makes it easier to remove when done), place in the fridge to set a bit while preparing the filling.

To prepare the filling, gently wash and de-stem the mulberries. Add the de-stemmed mulberries, the lemon juice and the maple syrup to a high-speed blender and blend until pureed. Start the blender on a  slower setting and work up as you scrape the sides down and then blend until a puree is formed. This also prevents overheating. Once pureed, add the pitted, and chopped fresh dates and blend until incorporated into the smooth mulberry puree. Now add the prepared Irish moss paste or still-liquid agar agar, and blend again. Pour into your pre-made crust and place into the fridge to set. This usually only takes an hour or so. 

Once set, remove from tin, plate up and decorate however you wish. I find that this mulberry pie pairs extremely well with coconut yoghurt (both taste-wise and synergistic health giving properties). To learn how to make that super simple recipe, check out my Instagram account  instagram.com/radiclemichelle

If you have a mulberry near you, consider yourself blessed. Or consider buying a tree. Dwarf mulberries that are suitable for pots are now available for people who live in small or temporary spaces.

** Irish moss (Chondus crispus) is a raw, fresh dried seaweed that can be bought from online suppliers. It has been used since ancient times for it’s soothing properties, of particular use in respiratory conditions. It is also used a vegetarian gelling agent, as when gently cleaned, soaked overnight, rinsed, and then blended with good water to form a smooth paste it forms a gel that can be used in various food preparations. Like many botanicals from land and sea, commercial food and pharmaceutical industry has isolated and extracted the active chemical compound known as carrageenan responsible for this thickening property. And like constituents from other other plant foods and medicines used in isolation, it has been known to cause problems. We know that empirical evidence often shows more logic than reductionist science, and that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, so we use the whole plant as a safe form of food and medicine. Agar agar is also a sea vegetable used for it’s gelling properties in food, and can be found online or in healthful stores. It can be bought in powdered or flaked form. I find the powdered form easier to work with. And whereas Irish Moss can be used raw, agar agar must be mixed with boiling water, simmered briefly and then gently cooled to allow it’s gelling properties to fully work. For a good consistency that isn’t too soft or too firm, I use 2-3g of powder to 2 cups of water. Irish moss can be added to recipes in it’s paste form, whereas I find that agar agar must still be added in a slightly cooled (but still warm) liquid form, or else the end result with agar agar becomes a bit clumpy.

Enjoy!!

Resources:

Herbal Roots eZine written & illustrated by Kristine Brown- a great resource for kids and beginning enthusiasts of herbal medicine. available as an online subscription from herbalrootszine.com

Irish Moss (includes instructions) can be bought from;

markusproducts.com

therawfoodworld.com

purejoyplanet.com