Herbology

“We are happier in many ages when we are old, than when we are young.  The young sow wild oats, the old grow sage!”

Sir Winston Churchill

I’ve mentioned my garden several times now but at this time of year, there’s not much going on.  Even the bulbs are barely poking through.  However, although there’s no growing going on during the cold months, I do still have access to my hardier herbs; rosemary, thyme, bay leaf and sage.  The sage is looking rather pathetic as I gave it a drastic hair cut in the middle of October.  It was rampant and I got rather carried away.  However, there is enough to make a delicious sage and walnut pearl barley risotto with pear crisps  with a liberal sprinkle of Violife Prosociano™ (vegan Parmesan).

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Sage is a perennial, evergreen shrub with greyish green leaves, and small blue to purplish flowers and is native to the warmer climate of the Mediterranean. It has a long history of medicinal and culinary use.  The word ‘sage’ is derived from the Latin word ‘salveo’, meaning ‘to heal’ or ‘to save’.  According to my old herbal book Herbal Medicine (by Dian Dincin Buchman), it is the panacea of herbal medicine, aiding, and even curing, a great many ills such as depression, fever, leg ulcers, even a breath freshener and widely known as an antiseptic.

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Also native to the Mediterranean, rosemary has got to be my favourite herb.  The smell brings back fond memories of time spent in Italy with my (ex) mother-in-law and earlier days working at Guido’s, an Italian restaurant in Amersham Bucks.  I’ve learnt to my cost that rosemary does not like to be moved but it does like to be regularly trimmed.  The best way of doing this is to use it often and considering the quantities of vitamins and minerals it contains, this makes good nutritional sense too.

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It is said that rosemary is a good aid for memory (Herbal Medicine book).  I better start eating it by the bucket load because my memory is appalling, and I’ve read that it will help improve my already naturally youthful appearance (laughing is allowed).  As I’ve added it to my first ever attempt at making soap/shampoo bars, I hope it will be enough!

I used a Stephenson Melt & Pour soap base and added a touch of turmeric, a few drops of teatree oil and  freshly chopped rosemary.  I’ve yet to test it out. If you see a large oompa-loompa roaming the streets of Lincoln (UK), you know that I overdid the turmeric.

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Rosemary is another herb that supposedly cures many ailments.  My faithful herb book lists it as being an antiseptic and a scalp restorative, especially good for dark hair (the real reason for adding it my soap), a dispeller of headaches, a heart tonic, a breath freshener and a comfort for the brain.  I’m not entirely sure what this means but a possible hangover cure? Or maybe an aid to relieving anxiety?

Of course, for me, the best way to have rosemary, is in my food and you can’t beat the aroma of freshly baked bread with rosemary. I may no longer eat meat, but it’s still an integral part of my good old-fashioned British Sunday roast, sprinkled over some potatoes with a handful of garlic cloves and a little rock salt.  There are some great ideas here using rosemary.  There are 2 or 3 meat dishes but mostly they are adaptable vegetarian dishes.

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Desiree potatoes with skins on for roasting

According to Dian Duncin Buchman, thyme is more effective when used with other herbs when using medicinally.  Unfortunately for me, because I like to know these things, she doesn’t say why.  She does say however that it is good for bad breath and wind.  With all those beans I’ve been eating, maybe I need to up my intake of thyme too!

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Meet Maurice, Guardian of The Garden

Cold teas seem to be the most common form of use but hot poultices can help to “…relieve the pain of an abscess, boil, or swelling.” (p.62 of Herbal Medicine).

Don’t underestimate the tiny leaves of thyme.  They’re packed full of vitamin C making them a great accompaniment to iron-rich foods such as whole grains, nuts, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, seeds, pulses and dried fruits (link).  Vegan tagines are a great way of combining beans (chickpeas), dried fruits (dried apricots or dates) and thyme or why not try out my Mediterranean style Bean Stew.

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