Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Cheers For Stinging Nettles

Urtica dioica

Stinging nettles can be very painful and memories as a child from touching them are quite vivid. We learn from experience and most who have encountered stinging nettles for the first time I am sure were left with a lasting impression of pain. But nettles have many other uses, including the sting elements.

The Romans rubbed nettles on their body to reduce arthritic pain and is commonly prescribed in the treatment of arthritis today in the form of tea or tincture.

The nettle herb is rich in minerals including iron, calcium and silica and also vitamin C and chlorophyll. something that many don't know is that the nettle has lots of protein and excellent nutritional value and used as a good tonic for blood, iron deficiency, gout, chronic skin diseases and rheumatism.

Food wise, nettle can bee used in the same way as spinach and tastes simliar, try mixing it and cooking with spinach. Nettle beer is an old favourite of mine, the recipe is given here - Well worth the effort and don't forget, it is very cheap to make.


  • 1 kg Young Nettles (Tops only)
  • 5 ltrs Water
  • 500g Sugar
  • Juice of 2 Lemons
  • 25g Cream of Tartar
  • 15g Brewers or Wine Yeast
7 Step Method
  1. Wash the nettles and shake dry in a tea towel.
  2. Put the nettles into the water into large saucepan and 20 minutes.
  3. Strain into a large container. Peel off the yellow rind of the lemons and squeeze out the juice then add the these and the cream of tartar to the bulk liquid stirring well.
  4. After the mixture has cooled down to room temperature mix the yeast with a little of the liquid and then stir it back into the liquid.
  5. Cover the container with a clean towel to form a lid, you may have to tie it on with some string to prevent the middle of the towel dipping into the mixture.
  6. Leave in a warm place for around 3-4 days then strain the liquid into plastic lemonade bottles leaving around 4 cm of air for pressure that will build up.
  7. Store the bottles in a cool dark place and you can drink it after about a week.
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Sunday, 22 March 2009

Nasturtium - Many Reasons To Grow It

Tropaeolum majusImage via Wikipedia

Nasturtium has always been in every garden I have the pleasure to have in the UK. I have know for a long time that the this herb can be used in salads are great as a caretaker for other crops. Added to this, they are very pretty. So this herb gives many benefits to the garden and the cooking world.

Nasturtium literally means 'nose-twister'. There eighty different species of both annual and perennial herbaceous flowering plants. They always have a show of bright flowers with rounded almost shield-shaped leaves. The flowers have five or more petals with a funnel-shaped tube in the back where the nectar is stored.

Nasturtiums like direct or indirect sunlight for most varieties although there are a few that preferer partial shade. Once established they don't need much maintainance and make good ground coverage so not much weeding.

The Nasturtium produce an oil that is very similar to watercress. All parts of the plant are edible, with flower great for ornamental salads. The taste is slightly peppery, again quite like watercress. It can also be used in stir fry dishes. Even the unripened seed pods can be picked and pickled in vinegar producing a good condiment element and garnish with again a strongly peppery taste.

Nasturtiums are also used to repel a great many pests, such as the squash bug, cucumber beetles and several variaties of caterpillars. If planted next to broccoli or cauliflower they will attract black fly aphids away from them saving the crops. As well the will also attract beneficial insects that pollenate.

I have yet to grow nasturtuim in Bulgaria, but I've seen them around and is on the list of wants for my farm here.

Finally, there are a great recipes for using nasturtium, here is one for Nasturtium Vinegar taken from:

Nasturtium Vinegar

This vinegar is always one of my most popular gifts.everyone loves how attractive the vinegar is with a wide range of different colored nasturtium blossoms included. The finished vinegar has a nice peppery bite and makes an excellent ingredient to use in salad dressings, sauces, and other dishes.

1 cup nasturtium leaves, flowers, and buds

1 pint champagne, white wine, or apple cider vinegar

Place the ingredients in a clean clear glass jar or bottle. Tightly seal. Let sit for at least 3 weeks before using. The nasturtium can remain in for decoration, but you should make sure the vinegar always covers the flowers or they will mold. Makes 1 pint vinegar.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

If you want more great nasturium recipes just go into this site: http://www.oldfashionedliving.com/nasturtiums2.html

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Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Herbs and Witch Doctors

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Herbal history shows evidence that medicine men, also know as witch doctors were responsible for health of their tribes. They gathered herbs and even went about performing minor surgical treatment to patients. their job was to provide medical advice and give treatments that was tied up with supernatural elements. They used charms, spells to ward off evil spirits.

The most well-known medicine men and witch doctors are from the American Native Indian societies, mainly because of the American film industry and westerns, therefore research would have been made for this. Medicine men perform ceremonies over the patient with family and friends in attendance. Herbal and other components that are called magic formulas are used along with prayers and a constant rhythm through drumming.

There was an overriding belief that these medicine men were able to contact the gods and with the aid of herbs and supernatural powers the patient would be cured, effectively ridding them of the evil spirits. They had an escape clause though. It the ceremony didn't work it was explained that the evil powers were too strong. A medicine man would have great respect, just like doctor of today in the community. However medicine men would not have had any formal training in medicine and procedures that were learnt were passed down by word of mouth.

Although many herbs would have been used and many would have worked in their own circles, the procedures were more of a psychological practice. We used many of these herbs in the same way today with our scientific knowledge base behind it and leave the psychology to the psychologists. The science has taken away the respect for the medicine men many years ago. The pillar of their society and glamour of their practices has faded, but they have left a legacy of herbal practices that do go on.
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Thursday, 12 March 2009

Elder Flowers, Berries and Wood

Elder Flowers, Berries and WoodWhen in the UK, elder flowers and elderberries were collected and mixed with other fruits to make wine. The berries given the body and the flowers the aroma. The results were good , but know I grow grapes to make wine I don't do it anymore. It does make a great contribution to many a good bottle of wine, but the elder is not confined to just a wine making ingredient. There is more to the elder than meets the eye.

Elder Flowers, Berries and WoodThe elder has around 30 species usually in the form of a shrub or small tree. Two of the species are a herbaceous plant and therefore it can be classified as a herb. It is native in mainly northern hemisphere temperate or subtropical regions.

The leaves range from 5 cm to 30 cm long with long serrated edges. They come in large clusters with small white or cream coloured flowers in late spring. Small black, blue or red berries take their place soon after. The flowers are used to produce elderflower wine as mentioned, even on a commercial scale in some countries. The herbs are also popular as ornamental features that are grown in many gardens.

Elderberry twigs can be hollowed and in places where maple tree grow traditionally been used as spiles to tap the trees for syrup. Rich in vitamin C, the berries are a very valuable food resource for many birds and humans alike. Many a time I have found dead elder wood a favourite place where the 'Jew's ear' edible mushroom grows.

Perhaps only watchmakers and repairers know this, but the wood is used from the Elder tree by watchmakers to clean their tools before they start working on the small parts of watches.

Elder Flowers, Berries and WoodSteeped in history the elder tree warded off evil influences and gave protection from the evil witches. It is also traditional thinking that if an elder tree was chopped down the spirit of the 'Elder Mother' would come and take revenge. to avoid this revenge, the tree could be cut while singing or chanting a rhyme to the Elder Mother.

The elder and it's produce continue to give health benefits and would be a great addition to any garden. Not just for the the point of a pleasant sight of the flowers and subsequent berries both being used in the kitchen but it has very low maintenance and looks after itself.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Clematis Beautiful with Major Health Benefits

Clematis Beautiful with Major Health BenefitsI am a great fan of the Clematis. In England it was commonplace in my garden often climbing up fruit trees as it is a vigorous climber with the most of attractive flowers. There are many varieties from the shrubby to the herbaceous perennial. Some Clematis vines can grow as long as 100 feet. However there is more than meets the eye to this beautiful climber.

They grow happily in temperate regions and also in mountains in the tropics. They do well on limestone and other basic soils and in the warmer climates some species are actually evergreen. Although known as Clematis in English it is also known as Traveller's Joy, Old Man's Beard, Leather Flower, Vase Vine or Virgin's Bower.

In America the Clematis was called the Pepper Vine by early pioneers travelling west and used it as a pepper substitute to spice up food. Black pepper was expensive and rare during that time. From the Clematis the essential oils irritate the skin and can cause internal bleeding of the digestive tract if ingested in large amounts. From this the plants could be described as toxic. But the Native Americans used small amounts of clematis as treatment for migraine headaches, other nervous disorders and for the treatment of skin infections.

Clematis Beautiful with Major Health BenefitsThe root of the Clematis is used China to treat the pains and stiffness from rheumatism. The treatment is also used for arthritic aches, spasms, swelling, numbness, lower back spasms and joint pains caused from damp conditions. It also gives relief to many suffering from restricted mobility

Summing up the benefits of Clematis are wide ranging. It acts a pain reliever, including headaches, varicose veins, syphilis, gout, rheumatism, bone disorders and chronic skin condition and also works as a diuretic. Added to this it is an anti-rheumatic, analgesic, anti-diuretic and antibacterial, with the root of the Clematis also known to reduce blood sugar.

With all these medical benefits attributed to this amazingly pretty herb found in many domestic gardens it is perhaps underrated as a herb.

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