It is the first day of Spring and I am looking forward to the appearance of flowers and herbs. The snowdrops are up, and the robins have returned. The hyacinths are beginning to poke through the thawing soil.
Before long the violets will be blooming. I plan to gather these delicate flowers from an area of the yard that has not been sprayed with any chemicals to make candied violets. See a recipe here.
Every year I add another herb to my gardens. Herbs are a source of vitamins and minerals that support health. Rosemary, thyme and sage all grow easily. Here is a recipe for potatoes with rosemary and thyme.
I have planted some stinging nettle seeds in a container. I hope to plant them in a corner of the yard that has little traffic. The leaves of this plant sting—similar to stinging ants. The young leaves must be harvested carefully (gloves). When the leaves are boiled they lose their sting. The benefit of this herb is the rich mineral content. Nettle tea is sold in health food stores. I first noticed a recipe for nettle soup in a Swedish cook book. Here is an on-line recipe for nettle soup.
In a time period when many worry about infectious disease, it is a good idea to think about ways to improve the nutritional support of our immune system. Herbs are a source of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. At one time I thought the purpose of herbs was flavor, but now I know they enrich our food.
My mother picked strawberries and wild blueberries with her mother, and so did I. My Finnish heritage has given me a an appreciation for berries, wild and cultivated.
Berries are abundant in Finland (37 types of edible wild berries) and an important addition to the diet. Enjoyment of berries is a family tradition.
According to a website about Finland: Nordic growing conditions are harsh yet productive. The berries and mushrooms that grow in Finnish forests are part of the traditional Finnish diet, and gathering them is a pastime for many families that has been passed down through generations. The fruits of the northern forests are coveted by gourmet chefs, and are increasingly exported.
When my children were little, thimbleberry jam had become popular in Upper Michigan. The wild thimbleberries grow along ditches and creek beds, sometimes not far from the rugged glory of Lake Superior.
When we visited Grandpa and Grandma in Upper Michigan, we joined them on excursions to find and pick the berries. We cleaned the berries as a family project. Grandma made jam and I learned how to make it too.
Thimbleberry jam is lovely treat during winter. It brings back memories of the summer, hiking in Upper Michigan.
I have gradually added to the berries growing in my back yard, discovering which ones flourish. Blueberries and thimbleberries don’t do well. I have strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, elderberries and currants. The grandchildren delight in picking them, especially the raspberries and currants.
Moms make many health decisions for their children. When someone in the family gets a cold there is a wide array of over the counter treatments to choose from. The pills and elixirs treat the symptoms but don’t help the immune system overcome the virus.
Over the years I have discovered foods, herbs and vitamins that support the immune system. These include: elderberries, ginger, garlic, bone broth, vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc.
I have elderberry bushes in my back yard and I make elderberry juice to have on hand in the winter months. (If you don’t have access to fresh elderberries you can purchase dried elderberries from the Bulk Herb Store.) When colds are going around my husband and I have 2 tablespoons of elderberry juice with raw honey daily. (NOTE: Honey should not be given to a child under one year old.)
Most people are deficient in vitamin D, which helps in fighting infection. It is good to have a vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin C and zinc also help in fighting infection.
If I cook an organic chicken or turkey I save all the bones and make a broth (adding vegetables and herbs while it simmers for 24 hours). The broth is a rich source of minerals that our bodies need. The broth can be canned or frozen.
When I develop a cold, ginger, lemon and garlic are helpful. Ginger tea helps to clear the sinuses. To make ginger tea: grate 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger and simmer in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Add raw honey to sweeten.
Garlic helps fight viruses and bacteria. I make garlic toast. I cut up 1 or 2 cloves of garlic into fine pieces. I butter the toast and top with the garlic. If this doesn’t appeal the garlic can be added to a spoon of raw honey or applesauce. (This works with children.)
At the same time there are foods that we should limit or avoid when we are ill. Foods with refined flour and sugar reduce vitamin availability; the vitamins are used up metabolizing the refined flour and sugar. Avoid sugar rich sodas, cookies and candies.
When a cold produces a lot of congestion it is wise to avoid dairy products. Dairy products increase the amount of mucous and phlegm.
Finally, our bodies need rest when we are ill. We live is a busy world. I know that when I was working I sometimes went back to work too soon. We are in a hurry to get better and keep up with our responsibilities. Our bodies need rest to recover.
The quick fix is appealing, but taking time to give the immune system support is good for improving health and well being.
A week ago my husband and I were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We had six days mostly off the grid, reading and doing small projects. The day that we arrived it was raining. It rained a couple more days. One night we had thunder, lightening and a heavy down pour.
The benefit was all the bright green foliage, the wild flowers and the apple trees heavy with apples. When I took time to see the flowers, to pick apples and watch the birds flitting from tree to tree, I was refreshed.
For I know the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does in heaven and on earth, In the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
Psalm 135: 5-7
The prompt for Five Minute Friday is: RAIN Visit this community of writers by clicking here.
From spring to fall the garden is a place of wonder, amusement and challenge. Here are thirteen examples.
The tulips are one of the first blooms in my yard.
The scent of the lily of the valley is pleasing. I love how the little bells peek out from the green fronds. This is the flower for the month of May—the month that my first baby was born.
The elderberry bushes had abundant flowers this year so I picked the flower heads (umbels) and made elderflower syrup. You can find the recipe here.
When the elderberries are ripe—they are also abundant—I will make elderberry juice. You can find the recipe here.
This year I picked 6 quarts of cherries from the cherry tree, but this tree requires a lot of tending. You can read about it here.
The grandchildren enjoy picking the raspberries, mulberries and currants.
It was a delight to see a hummingbird flit among the branches of the cherry tree. I placed a hummingbird feeder close to the tree. The little bird has been back.
The pickling cucumbers are growing well. I have been making lacto-fermented pickles. You can find a recipe here.
This year I am growing tomato plants in containers. I was so pleased to see the developing tomatoes. And then I noticed a half eaten tomato. The next day I realized that there was a huge tomato worm on the plant. (Where do they come from?) He had devoured the leaves from two stems and was devouring another tomato. I had to call my husband to pick him off. (Didn’t even think about taking a picture this voracious green worm!)
I have become quite good at finding the Japanese beetles on my plants and can readily pick them off. If you find them in your yard, pick them off and drop them in a container of soapy water.
The calendula flowers in glowing colors are blooming. I pick the blooms and dry them for tea. The flowers are also good for making a salve. Read more here.
As I watched from my kitchen window I noticed a squirrel that was busy trying to untangle a burlap strip that I had wound around the base of the plum tree and a steel rod. The plum tree was growing at an angle, and I was trying to help it grow upright. The squirrel ducked in and out of the burlap, gnawing at it. When I went outside he scampered away. He had it shredded the burlap in places, hoping to carry it off.
The zinnias are beginning to bloom. At first they have a single layer of petals. And then additional layers appear and the color becomes richer. It is a nice metaphor for the way we grow as Christians. As we follow the Lord obediently, spending time in the Word, our life becomes fuller and richer.
Today’s prompt for Five Minute Friday is: THIRTEEN Visit Kate Motaung’s blog to see the various ways writers were inspired by this word. Thanks for visiting!
If you plant a cherry tree the birds will come. The robins love my cherry tree. One year a group of cedar waxwings came and perched on a branch passing cherries to each other. And little birds that I haven’t identified come.
If you place a pretty owl covered in real feathers in the tree, it might be attacked. I was dismayed to see feathers torn off and a big bite taken out of the styrofoam core of the owl. A squirrel?
If you pick the good cherries quickly you may have enough for a pie, and then extra to put in the freezer.
If the springtime is very wet it may affect the cherries. The cherries may develop brown rot and then you must strip all the moldy cherries from the tree.
If the black aphids come and begin to munch on the new leaves of the tree, spray the tree with soapy water.
If the Japanese beetles come you might have to work hard to save the tree.
In the last couple years they have eaten half the leaves on my tree. I started picking them off and dropping them in soapy water, but it wasn’t enough. I placed a lure with pheromes that bagged 100s of these pests. Finally I resorted to treating the ground to get rid of the grubs that emerge from the soil in July as beetles.
My daughter is amused by the effort I put in to harvesting cherries from the tree that I planted many years ago.
If you like cherries as much as I do the effort may be worth it.
Spring seems to be on hold as cold temperatures persist in Illinois. But I am beginning to think about my herb garden.
I recently read that Tansy is a deterrent for Japanese beetles. I have seeds to plant, hoping that it will help get rid of the throng of beetles I have seen the past couple years. I have also read that tansy is invasive–so I will have to plan carefully where I plant it.
My rosemary plant seems to have survived the winter in a sunny window, but it is looking somewhat listless. It needs more sunshine! I am hoping it will revive.
When we were in New Mexico in March the rosemary bushes were in full bloom. New Mexico has the perfect climate for this herb.
I have become particularly fond of rosemary and enjoy the legends about it. A story in Spain claims that the Virgin Mary was fleeing from soldiers on her way to Egypt. She spread her cloak on a rosemary bush and hid behind it. When she lifted her cloak the flowers had turned blue.
Fresh rosemary has many uses. I like to make Rosemary & Thyme potatoes. When ever I am adding fresh herbs to a recipe I mince them into little pieces. Here is my recipe:
Potatoes with Rosemary and Thyme
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3 Tablespoons olive oil
5 medium size potatoes
Combine the thyme, rosemary, salt, lemon juice and olive oil.
Peel potatoes and steam them until fork tender. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and cut each potato into several pieces. Pour the herb & oil mixture over the potatoes and cover. Allow the potatoes to marinade like this for 2 hours or even overnight.
Spread the potatoes on a jelly roll pan or a rimmed baking sheet. Bake uncovered at 425° for 30 minutes.
When I visited my grandmother as a child she had viili, homemade sour milk, in her kitchen. My mother had been raised with the clabbered milk as a part of her diet. The slippery consistency of this sour milk did not appeal to me. Now I recognize the health benefit of naturally fermented foods.
So, I have a goal to include lacto-fermented foods in our diet. I grew pickling cucumbers in my garden and they have flourished! The pickling cucumbers are a little lighter in color than the salad cucumbers.
The farmers market nearby has plenty of cucumbers also—but it is important to make sure you are getting pickling cucumbers. ( Salad cucumbers will get mushy when fermented.)
The recipe calls for whey. I strained an organic plain yogurt by putting cheesecloth in a strainer and adding the 6 ounces of yogurt. I let it stand until the whey had drained. (At first I had it on a counter in the kitchen and then placed it in the refrigerator. It took about 4 hours to get ¼ cup whey. Different brands of yogurt may have less whey. I purchased two containers just in case I needed to drain more.) The remaining yogurt can be used in other recipes. I added mine to a quiche I was making.
I let the pickles sit on my kitchen counter for three days and now they are in the refrigerator. Notice that lacto-fermented cucumbers will have a cloudy appearance.
We will try them in a couple weeks. I expect them to have a nice, crunchy flavor. According to the recipe I followed, I will know if they are good or not!