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Archive for the ‘The Lovely Weeds of BC’ Category

DSCN2107It was a rainy morning yesterday so I decided to stay inside and make a batch of lacto fermented vegie kraut. I’ve been wanting to make pickled purslane for a while now so I ventured down to the backyard and picked a few handfuls of this juicy, crunchy, fleshy, wild vegetable from the undergrowth of my vegetable garden. Inspired by my sister’s kimchi lesson, I decided to deviate from a traditional cabbage kraut and create something with a variety of textures and complimentary flavours.

First we chopped up cabbage, green onion, garlic scapes and salad turnips.

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Not all turnips made it.

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Then we set up an apparatus to separate some whey from our fresh batch of milk kefir in order to inoculate the kraut.

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Once the whey was dripping into our jar we wandered outside to the garden to pick purslane and have a play break in the rain.

Purslane in the undergrowth of the vegetable garden ecosystem.

Purslane in the undergrowth of the vegetable garden ecosystem.

A broccoli attack occurred…

DSCN2101DSCN2102But we still managed to pick enough purslane for the kraut.

DSCN2105We washed the soil off of our harvest and prepared to layer our kraut ingredients into our fermenting crock.

I picked up this crock at the local flea market for about $40. Way cheaper than buying a new fancy crock online.

I picked up this crock at the local flea market for about $40. Way cheaper than buying a new fancy crock online.

We layered the vegetables, sprinkling pickling salt between the layers.

DSCN2108It filled the crock at first…

DSCN2109But then we poured the whey on and began the pounding to create a brine.

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We pounded this kraut gently so as not to destroy the purslane.

And after the pounding there was not so much in the crock.

DSCN2112Then I placed a small plate on top of the kraut to ensure the vegetables stay under the brine and placed the lid on top to keep out unwanted intrusions.

DSCN2117And my lovely assistant got a starfish strawberry kefir popsicle.

DSCN2113The kraut is happily fermenting in its crock on the kitchen bench and will remain there for about 5 days until it is suitably pickled. Then I will transfer it into a jar and store it in the fridge.

Purslane is popping up now in the Okanagan in gardens and farmers fields. It is very tasty, quite mild in flavour with a pleasing texture and is a great intro to wild vegetables. Purslane boasts nourishing amounts of essential fatty acid omega 3, vitamin E, beta carotene, vitamin C, and riboflavin as well as vital magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

We look forward to enjoying our nutrient rich purslane in many meals from now until the end of it’s growing season and hope to make some jars of garlic dill pickled purslane to enjoy in the cooler months as well.

I hope you try your hand at traditional lacto fermentation, it really is easy, yummy, and so good for you.

And don’t forget to eat your weeds.

Danika.

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It’s Stinging Nettle season in the Okanagan.

I get pretty excited leading up to this part of the year and start to dream up stinging nettle recipes weeks before the nettles are ready to pick. I also have an irrational tendency to panic over not having enough nettles to last me a year even if I have jars and jars of dried nettle leaf and plenty steamed, chopped nettles in the freezer. And why wouldn’t I?

Nettles make you feel good…

Nettles, as a food, deeply nourishes and restores arguably better than any other. It’s absolutely delicious as a green vegetable, mineral dense and slightly salty, so rich in broths and green smoothies.  It dries easily and blends well with many other herbs for nourishing infusions, and a pinch added to tisane blends adds depth of flavour and colour.

I like to blend nettle tea with red clover and peppermint for an enjoyable, full flavoured tisane that not only tastes great it supports the adrenals, balances hormones, boosts fertility, settles the stomach, and helps prevent cancer; all while being rich in vitamins, minerals and life giving vibrancy.

I’m not going to go in depth as to why nettles are awesome, today. Instead I am going to share a recipe. I’ll probably make a nice monograph for nettles another time.

I’m in the mood to make, taste and experience good food made from nettles, so when I got home with the first of my harvest I made a batch of this delicious and nourishing soup. It is a creamy soup but not your traditional stodgy, thickened with flour, cream of chicken soup. It is light yet rich, made with fresh spring cream and scratch made chicken broth . A simple seasonal dish that is easy to make and very delicious, if not a little French rustic.

Creamy Nettle & Chicken Soup

nettle soup

Ingredients:

8 cups of freshly picked nettles

1 whole chicken, rinsed well (Pasture raised, organic, is best but work with what you’ve got.)

2T olive oil

1T butter

2 onions, fine diced

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

4 carrots, sliced

1T apple cider vinegar

Bay leaf

1 cup fresh cream (Again, the best is from pastured, organic cows, and watch out for funky additives.)

Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

Chopped spring chives and chive blossoms to garnish

In a stock pot that will accommodate a whole bird, sauté the onions and carrots in the olive oil and butter until they soften and become deeper in flavour, releasing their aromatics. This will be your flavour base for the soup. Don’t over colour your onions and carrots, this soup is on the delicate side of flavour profiles. You want to enjoy the subtle flavours of nettles, broth, cream and chives and a more fresh and purifying sense in the mouth, unlike the colder months rich, slow cooked, winter soups.

Throw in the chopped garlic and bay leaf and sauté until there is a release of aroma. Add the vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan. Drop your bird into the pot then cover with fresh, cold, filtered water. Add a good tablespoon of salt and some cracked pepper to the pot and turn up the heat. Bring the broth to a boil then immediately turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.

After about 10 minutes a little bit of scum will surface. Grab your ladle and skim it off. Now you can use the pot’s lid to partially cover the stock pot so that the steaming broth can baste the top of the bird, as it will tend to float a bit as it cooks.

Leave your broth to simmer for an hour. While the broth simmers you can very lightly steam the nettles in a pot, just until they turn a gorgeous, bright green. Strain them, reserving the green liquid to add to the broth. Once they cool enough to handle roughly chop them up and set aside for serving.

After the broth has simmered for about an hour, test the doneness of the chicken. The meat should slip easily off the bone. Remove the cooked bird, strain the juices that run off but pour them back into the pot. Keep the broth simmering uncovered to reduce and concentrate the flavour while you deal to the chicken meat.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle pull the meat off the bones and chop half of it for the nettle soup. Save the rest of the meat for another dish tomorrow, it will have a lovely flavour and should be anything but dry.

Once the broth has reduced enough to your liking, take your ladle once again and skim off any undesired fat. There will be a layer floating on top. You may wish to keep it all, it is good fats after all. Or, like me, you may prefer a less oily soup and leave only enough to make yummy looking pools of goodness around the edges of the bowl. Now add the chicken meat back to the pot, add the cream and check the seasoning….

Is it good? No? Try more salt. Scratch made broth needs a good amount of salt in it. Not too much though, the nettles are a bit salty as they are mineral dense, but you won’t notice so much as not need extra salt once served.

Let everything warm back up together.

When ready to serve, portion the nettles into each bowl then ladle the hot soup on top of the greens.

Garnish with chopped spring chives and chive blossoms. Season if desired.

Serve with a salad of wild spring greens and slices of baguette spread with fresh butter.

Enjoy your yummy, creamy, nettle goodness.

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I have some more nettle greens recipes to share and I might do some tutorials on preparing nettles for the freezer, in vinegars for nutrient dense vinaigrettes,  and drying them for teas and infusions.

Or I might not. I have a strange perspective on blogging right now, currently feeling it’s a bit vain and self promoting, because, well it kind of is, hah! But on the other hand there are some great benefits, like getting to nerd out and write a monograph that has to be good because it will be scrutinised.

And I like that I have decided to share recipes. I have a skill and a passion for food, and now that I am not working in the culinary arts I no longer have to treat food (crap quality, so-called food that is) as a profit margin.

I love that I am falling in love with my culture of food and dining all over again. It’s like re-immersing myself into my true beliefs towards preparing and sharing nourishment that also tastes amazing. It’s about home grown and hand gathered, about slowing down, taking time, sharing with the ones I love and hanging out in bliss over a dish with a good glass of wine. Remembering my own food culture actually helps me deal with my homesickness. Now that’s got to be healthy.

It’s just too good not to share. We shall see what happens next…

Until next time, eat your weeds!

Danika.

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Mullein. Sweet and caring, tall and strong, nomad of the wild garden. As all gypsies, you are misunderstood by many, and as all gypsies, you are always welcome in my home and garden!

Mullein Flower in my garden.

I think most folks have at least seen this weedy wonder in the wild, the roadsides, the field or as a youngling trying to get a foot hold in one’s garden. If you happen to live by my house then you would also have seen it in my front garden growing tall and proud, probably to my neighbours confusion.

Often misunderstood, I have heard one young man proclaim “Mullein. It’s SO ugly!”. No you’re not mullein, no you’re not. I find it amusing that the same young man accepted a herbal syrup made by me for his sick girlfriend made of rosehip, elderberries, honey, and MULLEIN! She recovered quickly and I hope they have made peace with the giving, loving, mullein.

If you are not familiar with Mullein lets start with the basics…

Mullein.

Botanical name: Verbascum spp.

Species living in BC: Verbascum thapsus.

Botanical family: Scrophulariaceae

Folk names: Mullein, Our Lady’s Flannel, Hag’s Taper, Hedge Taper, Torches, Wild Ice Leaf, Candelaria.

Ecology in BC: Widespread and common at low to mid elevations in disturbed, especially gravelly sites, fields and pastures. Mostly absent from wet Columbia Mountains.

Parts used:  Leaf, flower, roots, flower stalk resin.

Taste: Bland, salty, some say vanilla. I think the flowers smell/taste like a strange sweet spice….

First Nations use: According to my field guide the BC Interior native peoples smoked the leaves. Personally, I think they would have fully embraced this gently powerful medicinal herb and smoking it is just one way to utilize the healing powers of Mullein.

Mullein in my front yard growing tall.

Mullein is a Eurasian plant that followed the immigration of European Peoples to North America and indeed anywhere else they settled including my homeland, New Zealand. It is now widely established all over the world. I love my teachers thoughts on Mullein. She considers it a guiding light and calls it:

“An important guardian plant, emphasized in how it followed European immigrants to the Americas, and served as an herbal bridge between old world and new world healing traditions, to the point where very few herbalists or folk healers could imagine a practice without this beloved and widespread remedy.” – Kiva Rose Hardin.

Mullein is a biennial, the first year showing a lovely, soft basal rosette of leaves. The second year, growing skywards until it’s flower stalk reaches up to 2 metres high!

I have observed it to be habitat to many small insect creatures who live amongst the shelter of the soft leaves. In fact, during a visit with a wild Mullein plant my young son and I came across a pretty spider living in the leaves of a first year rosette. Now anytime Aries see’s a Mullein plant he squeals in delight saying “Hi! Bug!”. Oh, small children are so sweet.

The flower stalks. One main stalk and on this plant, a couple off shoots too.

Medicinally Mullein has a tradition of being used for respiratory ailments and is very effective used for dry hacking coughs when you need some help expelling the phlegm. Indeed it can be used in many lung remedies but Mullein doesn’t stop there.

It is famous for it’s use as an ear infection oil and perhaps your own mother treated you with Mullein oil in your childhood. Do use caution if you intend to use Mullein oil to treat an ear infection, it works wonderfully, however a ruptured ear drum needs immediate attention and should not be subjected to any oil or otherwise. So if there is any risk of rupture, do seek medical attention immediately.

Mullein leaves. Soft and prickly at the same time.

I am learning this wonderful plant is of great benefit to lymphatic stagnation and can be used internally as an infusion or externally as a poultice made from the fresh leaves dipped in hot water or pounded and then placed on the glands.

Much to my surprise and satisfaction I have learned of Mullein having great affinity to the musculoskeletal system and is a useful ally in cases of slipped discs, broken bones and pain in the neck and hips, reducing pain and inflammation in both humans and animals. I look forward to learning more of its musculoskeletal medicine.

Mullein also has powerful uses for the nervous system, the urinary system, and as a wound healing salve bringing relief and healing to the injured.

Most notably for me right now is the golden light Mullein shines for those feeling lost in the dark. I have recently felt a little uncertain, unsure of myself and found I had lost my own shining light amongst confusion and feelings of inadequacy and worries of  nonacceptance that stemmed only from within myself. No one likes feeling that way and one must go within to find the source. But sometimes you need a little help from loving friends to resurface with confidence. (Thank you, Gwendolyn <3)

Making Mullein tincture. It turns bright yellow when first made.

This is where Mullein offers her sweet yellow flowers to lend a helping hand in the form of a tincture. Even the act of harvesting the flowers and placing them in vodka to see it turn a sunshine yellow is uplifting and cheering. Mullein flower tincture, when taken, holds up that guiding light, showing a way out of the darkness and “providing an internal sense of safety and confidence” (Kiva Rose).

So while I am alone in the darkness of an internal night, perhaps a little scared I will wander deeper, I turn to Mullein. She offers me her golden torch to guide me through a darkness with no Moon. And at the darkest hour there she is, the Golden Dawn.

Mullein flowers in vodka.

Resources:

Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia and the Inland Northwest; Parish, Coupe, Lloyd; Lone Pine Publishing.

The New Holistic Herbal; David Hoffmann; Element Books Limited.

From the Ground Up course work in Traditional Western Herbalism; Kiva Rose Hardin; Anima Herbal and Lifeways School.

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