Friday, November 21, 2014

A Tisane For Cold & Cough

This is about as flash as I can be this week.
When I feel the hint of sickness lurking near my respiratory tract I take a dose of elderberry tincture straight away and knock it on the head. Now we are in spring and my supplies are all gone after sharing with lots of family in need this year and I am watching the flowers covetously planning a bigger bottle up for the still room.

I did find this calico bag of dried berries that I had stashed having never got around to tincturing them. The stem and seeds are emetic so it is important to remove them; adding vomiting and diarrhoea to your woes would be disastrous. Take the dried berries into your palm and clap your other palm over the top and move them gently together in circles. The stems will quickly and easily separate and if you do this action holding your palms vertically the stems will even fall away so you don't even have to winnow. 

I steep the elder berries in a tea pot with a stainless steel strainer (non reactive to food acids and alkaline) and give them a light press and stir after they have re-hydrated. The fine mesh holds back the seeds. I also add sage and thyme fresh picked from the garden but you can also use them from dried form. Both of these herbs are known to aid coughs, sore throats and irritated and inflamed linings. They also have anti-septic and anti-viral properties. 

It really is well worth planting beyond the basil and parsley and reading and extending your knowledge of herbs. I do stress the thorough reading and researching too, just because something is natural doesn't mean it can be treated casually. There is powerful medicine in plants and it is well to know their effects especially if you are on medication or have pre-existing disease.

I wish you good health.

Friday, November 14, 2014

4 Steps To Blissful Gliding Drawers

Do you have old wooden drawers that stick and you shove and pull and silently curse every other time?
Well this simple maintenance tip will rid you of one little stressor of every day life.

It will work for most drawers unless they are too far worn or just poorly made in the first place. This maintenance should ideally be done at least once a year but it's one of those bottom of the list type of jobs, once you have done it though you'll wonder why you procrastinated for so long.

Step 1
It's always good to have a yearly assessment of your garments or a junk drawer clean out.
Pull everything out and be ruthless with "stay" and "go" piles. The first major no-no for good drawer health is over stuffing causing it to not close properly and catch on drawers above. Weigh it up! A drawer carry too much weight is going to really grind as it slides back and forth. Don't be tempted to just keep stuffing, because that is precisely what you'll do - Stuff it!

Step 2
I do one drawer at a time as many drawers are custom worn to their own space and if you remove them all at once it can be a bit time consuming trying to work out which drawer fits back where.
Take the drawer out and give it a good wipe over, inside and out. A plain damp cloth is fine.
Now is the perfect time replace the lining if you use any. A sheet of shelf paper, old wrapping paper or contact works fine.

Step 3
Fit a nozzle/small brush head to your vacuum cleaner pipe and reach into the drawer carcass and suck all the time worn wood dust from the crevices and runners. All this accumulated wood dust is also compounding the gliding problems and wearing down your drawers.
You may also notice some cobwebs waaayyy back there and the vacuum makes these easy to reach too. A very light mist into the interior of clove bud oil and water will deter spiders and soft insects and kill any mould spores (see this post for more info and mixing ratio)

Step 4
Now here is the real biggie in this process.
Apply bees wax
Take a small piece and run it backwards and forwards on all the running parts. As you rub the friction heat will also help it to meld to the wood. This fine layer of wax is key to your drawers gliding like a swan on water!
I get my beeswax from a local honey supplier and use it in my salve making but you can get it from craft stores also.

And that's it. 
A drawer left to wear down over time develops gaps and hangs and causes frustration. You have enough to deal with without having to fight your drawers every day in every room. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

All Free...But We Couldn't Give It Away!

Last week I was very excited to be a part of the Colony 47 Spring Share Market.
Colony 47 works for the community and their mission is
"to create a fairer community, eliminate disadvantage and improve the lives of Tasmanians" 

A share market was organised to coincide with fair food week and timed for encouraging spring planting.

All the seedlings above
A picnic blanket to sit and read gardening magazines and maybe take one
The seed box with hundreds of seeds

A speaker about compost making
Just look at that great teaching tool created from half a bin and some Perspex. Learning about nitrogen and carbon layers and the additions like comfrey (bottom right).

The Tasmanian community food garden group were there with activities for kids

A demonstration showing fun with food and how to be creative with it.

I drove from Launceston and did a talk about beans, how to grow, how to harvest and how to use dried beans.

I talked about nutrition and feeding through the "hungry gap" and had made baked beans from scarlet runner beans, a bean salad in seconds and a white bean dip even faster! Note the Good and Cheap book- I was so excited, it turned up just the day before. It's a not for profit book that aims to teach people how to eat well on $4 a day. I love it!

Trestles under blossom trees and little marquis 

And the Colony 47 garden putting on a good show and even mushrooms coming up from the compost!
Being a typical spring day it was a bit breezy and cool and clouds were scudding across the sky. It was beautifully organised. About 60 people had rsvp-ed to this all free event...

But we were lucky to have a dozen people show up I reckon.
I'm starting to wonder,
if you make something free, is it then perceived as valueless?
Is something only worthy if it has a dollar value attached?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Spring Rice Paper Wraps - Breaking the Basil Bias

I once again came home with a basket full of greens from the market, many of them herbs.
Every year at this time people will come to the market and peruse the array of fresh seasonal vegetables of spring and ask...

"Do you have any basil?"

I aim to educate and explain, basil is a summer herb, it's not in season yet but there are all these herbs, fresh and ready now...

Today at market I had parsley, sage, thyme, mint, lovage, Vietnamese mint and salad burnet.
But you know what?
People just don't know what to do with them, let alone rejoice in them!

So here is what you could have made with those amazing fresh flavours...

Rice Paper Wraps
So fresh and easy, these really are "spring rolls". Some left over cold chicken shredded and carrot mixed with some of those greens above in the top picture all wrapped up in a rice paper round.
Tender spinach and beetroot tops were finely sliced and the leaves pulled from the Asian greens. Salad burnet adds a cucumber flavour and a welcome addition when cucumbers aren't in season. The lovage leaf brings the flavour of celery but in its soft leafy form it is ideal for including in the wrap. The flowers from the Asian greens taste of a mild nutty brassica-ish-ness.

Serve with a dipping sauce of soy, mirin and lemon juice.

No we don't have basil until summer comes but there is a lot of herbs to rejoice in in the spring season. Perhaps we need some of these chefs-superstars on commercial TV to put down the basil and start sharing some more ideas with home cooks about other herb delights.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wild Nettle Cordial

Stinging Nettles are perfect and tender, ready for picking right now (here is Tas anyway)
Use gloves and long sleeves so the irritating hairs don't sting you. If you do happen to get stung cast your eye around for dock, it usually always grows where nettles do. Crush the stem and leaf and apply the moist mash, it works almost instantly. If you can't find dock, go for plantain.

Young nettle tops can be made into pesto, ravioli filling, soup and many people enjoy it as a simple tea. Nettle tea in your kombucha brew is so yummy. Nettles are power packed with nutrition and health benefits and a much better choice for a "cleanse" than some of the more extreme methods. A cup of nettle tea every morning for a couple of weeks will move your winter body into a revitalised state. A word of warning though, it can lower blood sugar and blood pressure so if you are already on medication for those complaints then you should only use nettle medicinally under supervision.

You know me though, I can't resist a cordial experiment.

Most of the recipes I found suggested steeping/fermenting for a week. I thought that was not necessary for nettles. I simmered a huge bunch of tender leaves with 2 litres of water for at least half an hour. It was an amazing rich green colour. After straining I added 100g of sugar for every 100ml of liquid, stirring over a low heat to dissolve. Most cordial recipes also add citric acid (from lemons) for preserving and erring on the side of caution I added about 50g and I was horrified to see my gorgeous green liquid turn brackish brown. You live and learn. All you chemists out there are probably nodding your heads sagely. 

I have found some great cocktails that call for nettle syrup (here and here)but you can also just enjoy it in a punch or in a long glass of soda water. Great splashed in a Pimms too I should imagine.

Do google and read up on nettles, they are an amazing plant and perfect for a novice forager as it can be harvested in meaningful culinary quantities easily and is very versatile. You could even substitute for spinach in the pasta like I did last weekend.
Do share if you have a favourite way with nettles.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

When Life Gives You Leftovers...

This is what the other side of the market looks like.
We resumed our growers' market yesterday with a soft opening.

I returned home with a few bunches of spinach and a bunch of beetroot.

For those of you who looked at our seasonal offerings of greens, beets, herbs and eggs and scratched your heads, here's what you could have made....

Simply substitute a couple of eggs from your pasta recipe for some puree.
Simply steam your beet and puree or blanch the greens and drain and pat dry before pureeing. 
If you have a Thermomix, place the beets whole in the thermo steamer with 1500g of water and cook for 25mins, varoma temp speed 3. Then place the washed and chopped greens into the top tray and varoma for a further 8 mins speed 3.
I pureed the veg in the thermomix and added 3 eggs, a splash of olive oil and 500-600g of flour. Process at 2min on interval knead. It should look a bit breadcrumby. 

It's not an exact science when working with puree, be prepared to add a little flour to get your dough right. Let it sit. Then a couple of minutes later as the gluten works it wants to come together into a ball so gather it together and place in the fridge covered for anywhere up to an hour. I find this gives a lovely elastic and silky dough.

Next make lots of lovely shapes and styles. You can leave to thoroughly dry and it will store in an air tight jar for ages. 

My favourite is "bow ties" 
Cook in boiling water till soft but still firm then drain and toss in butter and herbs, maybe add some chorizo, broad beans, mushrooms...
make a sensational spring nettle pesto...
but that's another story....

Friday, October 3, 2014

Nesting Box Herbs

We have eight chooks and lately they have all taken to laying in just one of the nesting boxes. Not such a problem over the slower winter months when they slowed production but they were coming back into lay so it was time for a schoojsh up.

I cleaned out the old nesting material and re-filled with some shredded paper from the office and then a gorgeous downy layer of poodle hair (don't laugh, they love it; soft and insulating) and then I strewed the neglected nest with dried herbs.

They love it!
I use huon pine shavings for a natural insect repellent and also include dried calendula, mint, oregano, wormwood, lavender and rose petals. 
I'll also have the mix at market, enough for two boxes for $7

( Note; wormwood is thought to bring on uterine contractions and is recommended to be avoided by pregnant humans and animals. I find most animals will instinctively eat and poultry particularly will self medicate with wormwood for worm control as required. I've heard goats aren't so discerning so keep it away from gestating does.)

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