Saturday, March 27, 2010


A post or two ago I cited wintercress (barbarea vulgaris) as "creasy greens." Turns out that's not so, as I found by reading Wildman Steve Brill's entry on it in his Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and not so wild) Places. The form of wintercress grown in the South and called creasy greens as actually barbarea verna. I didn't see this bit earlier in reading his book. My apologies for any confusion!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Purpose of Cats

If you hang with cats, you've seen this pix a kzillion times. Cats snooze up to 18 hours a day, whether they need it or not. Especially in a warm patch of sunlight. A cat can't walk through that patch without a fatal attack of the sneeps.

Ok, so cats sleep a lot. What does that have to do with the purpose of cats, you ask. It's easy. If you're sensitive to the catzone, you can easily see the little balloon over this cat's head, can't you. Right. And in that little balloon are lots and lots of zzzzzzzzzzs. You've got it! Cats produce zzzzzzzzs. Billions, trillions, quadrattaillions of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzss. They good-naturedly, selflessly produce scads of excess zzzzzzzzzzzzzssssssssss just so I can catch the extra wink or two when I need it. Or for that matter, when you or anyone else needs it.

For example, I woke up too early today. About 4 am. I got up as I always do since I hate "trying" to sleep. I went back to be later, and thanks to my cats' production of excess zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs, I was able to drop back off in Morpheus' arms and catch another 40 winks.

From now on, whenever you see cats snoozing, napping, lazing about with their eyes closed, smile at them and thank them. With maybe a dose of melatonin, a cat's excess zzzzzzzzs are all you need for a good night's sleep. Hell, my two cats even make enough to let the Gruff Lord snooze in naps daily!

Spring Greens and God's Green Tonic: Medicine for Body and Soul

A day or so ago I wandered around our hillside below our balcony and gathered many new and flourishing spring greens. There were three or four great growths of wintercress (barbaria vulgaris), also known in the south as creasy greens. I found numerous dandelions, not yet flowered (and thus not as bitter as they get later in the season), mats and mats of chickweed, wild chives and wild onions. There's also a whole slew of plants I haven't yet identified, so I don't know if they are edible or not. I gathered up about 3 of my plastic grocery bags worth and started grinning. I remember a post just like this one about a year ago. . . yup. Here it is. This hillside of ours is very fertile for foraging. I have to remember to ask that it NOT get weed-wacked. My neighbor is an industrious type and half the time I'm about to go harvest a ton of red clover flowers and BAM, he's out there weed-wacking them. Ah well. Have to do better this year.

Our elderly neighbor Fred broke his leg back in January and has been in and out of hospitals and nursing homes since. We brought him home last Saturday, where he gets around in his wheelchair, waiting for his leg to heal enough for him to walk again. He's one of those tough, wiry guys who is basically healthy as a horse but for his fragile bones and the rheumatoid arthritis. He's never taken pharmaceuticals, or rarely. It's funny when docs or other medics first talk to him. They always ask him what medications he's on and he always says "none." He does take nutritional supplements, but no drugs. Compare this to many elderly folks who take umpteen meds every day from killer statin drugs to blood pressure meds to this and that and then this one to combat the side effects of the others.... Anyway, Fred.

I put all the dandelion greens, some of the creasy greens, a bunch of the chickweed and a lot of wild onions and chives into a big pot of cold water with a couple of onions, some heads of garlic that were going soft and time to toss 'em, some cayenne pepper, a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar and set it to boil. Once it got a hard boil going, I turned it to simmer for an hour or so. The cider vinegar will help extract all the rich vitamins and minerals from the veggies into the broth. To finish it before straining, I added a tablespoon of some powdered garlic and onion and herbs that I'd made a while back from veggies and herbs I dried. Not bad, if I say so myself. This is a powerful spring tonic, this broth.

Vitamins and minerals in dandelions: beta carotene (more than is in carrots), calcium, iron, vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, E, P, D and biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. And lots of all of those. Plus, in this broth, it's tasty and easily absorbed in the body. It'll do wonders for Fred. Wintercress is also highly nutritious and at this early stage in spring, quite tasty. Later it gets bitter as hell, and to some, it'll be too bitter even now, but not for me or Fred. We know that bitter is medicine for soul and body. You can see a good picture of wintercress here. Once you find this plant and ID it, you'll notice it every spring from now on. My eyes simply know now to look for it in early spring. The bright green lobes of the leaves will catch your peripheral vision easily.

I got three quarts of the broth--good for a start! Tonight I'll cook up the mess of creasy greens with some onion and bacon, and the chickweed, bless its soul, is going to be salad with some red onion and hard boiled eggs. This is fine eating, and free!

Do make some vitamin rich broth for your family. This is easy, simple to do, and your body will much appreciate its cleansing and healing properties.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why I Don't Coupon

I've been reading some articles lately about women who use grocery/drug store coupons and how much money they save when they shop. I admit, I kinda envy them. They put in the time and effort, and they get the reward of having to pay less money. Good for them.

However, I can't do it. Well, yes, I could do it, but I don't and won't. You see, I'm a cook-from-scratch kind of handmaiden. I always have been. It's only recently that I've even used many canned veggies. If I can afford it, I'd rather buy either fresh or frozen, and wait til the produce is in season. There are some things I use that I don't make from scratch, pasta for instance. I know you can make pasta at home, and it doesn't have to be fancy or require a pasta machine. There's ways of doing all of it by hand, because that's how it was always done in the past. And I will use of cream of whatever soup instead of making the soup from scratch. But mostly, I cook using basic foodstuffs that don't come with a long line of chemicals in the What the Hell IS This Stuff ingredient list.

For the past few years, I've been trying to de-chemicalize our household. Instead of multiple cleaning products, I've switched to using white vinegar for the most part. Occasional use of a pine-sol kind of cleaner is OK, too, but most cleansers are just too strong and chemically-smelling for me. They make me feel ill, so I don't like 'em. Vinegar suits me just fine and does a decent job of cleaning. I tolerate the vinegar smell far more than I can Super-Douper Floor Cleaner that costs six times as much.

I've been trying to de-chemicalize us because I think most of that stuff is why we have so many degenerative diseases. That and all the chemicals in our diet. Going to basics means turning your back on all the synthetic chemical products made by the Beast and sold at high cost.

In the past, I'd sit down with a grocery store circular and look at the coupons. I'd think about couponing and saving money that way, but the truth is, I don't buy fancy processed foods. Oh, a few years ago I might buy a package of frozen Salisbury steaks or something like that. But we'd gotten so used to eating real food that the last time I served it some time ago, my husband said "Oh that wonderful chemical taste!" jokingly, but not really. We could both actually taste the chemically flavor of it. And that was that for processed foods.

On the other hand, I'm not a purist about this. If I find a coupon for real butter I'll clip it and use it. Ditto for flour and other goods used for baking or cooking. As I said, I'll use store-bought pasta rather than make my own and there may be coupons for it. If there's a coupon for meat or fruit or some other REAL food, I'll go for it.

But that's the line in the sand: I don't want to eat chemical-laden not-really-food type food. And that's a huge market in this country where people have forgotten what real food is. High fructose corn syrup isn't food, it's a chemical. (I could be wrong here, I'm not exactly sure what the hell it is, except something I avoid.) Food is the stuff around the edges of the grocery store: veggies and fruit, bread, fish, meat, dairy. Almost everything in the middle aisles of a typical grocery store probably isn't good for you, and shouldn't even be called food. Most of it has been so processed and gobbed up with chemicals that I'd bet my body wouldn't recognize it as food.

We do use canned fruits, vegetables, and meats. And we'll can it or freeze it here at home as well. That's about as far as I want to get with processing. I don't like, respect or trust our food-processing industry. They lie. They make their products look good and even taste good through their use of chemicals. They take actual real ingredients and twist them and fiddle them and turn them into something that cannot provide nutritional value to a human being. But it'll taste good. How weird is that?

I'm not expressing myself very well here. I should probably erase this post because it seems I haven't really gotten to what I want to say. But I'll leave it. The point is, if it ain't real food, made by God, then don't eat it. It doesn't matter if you can get it for free through using coupons, what you've obtained is still crap. Free crap is still crap.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Some Great Recipes for Everyday Stuff

You gotta love it! I've been reading around the blogs and found Ready Nutrition. It's a very interesting place to visit. While there, I found a blog entry for making your own condiments with recipes for Pickle Relish, Mayonaise, Mustard, Ketchup, etc. And there's also some recipes for making deodorant, shampoo, furniture polish and other everday items.

What I do when I find nifty and useful recipes for stuff like this, I copy it over to a document I started in the past year called "Survival Recipes." I suggest you might want to do that yourself as well. Then I print out my document and save a hard copy in the big notebook I have for recipes for all kinds of foods, herbal salves and tinctures, how to make Garlic Syrup, etc.

Sooner or later, the entire net might go down or be so tightly controlled by government that it is purely useless or just a simple time-waster. That's why I print and keep hard copy of certain items. Highly recommended!

It's a lovely day and I'm about to head out for a hike and see what all I can find wild. I'm still hungry for that chickweed salad! I'm beginning to feel that frisson of excitement that means spring is here, nettles will be up soon, garlic mustard will start appearing, and wild alliums are ready for harvest. Dandelions too, this time of year, are a wonderful treat and a real ass-kicker to break your body out of the winter blahs. Go out and look for some dandelions and get those greens before it flowers--they're not bitter until it flowers. It's a great spring tonic. Last year I gathered lots of wild onions and garlic and dandelion greens and brewed them up as a green spring tonic. Wonderful stuff.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Forager's Hunger

Man, am I ever hungry for a wild salad. Chickweed and dandelion and woods sorrel, with some wild onions and garlic. Maybe add to that some of my marinated dried tomatoes and garlic. I've got my eyes peeled for new, fresh, wild foods every time I go outside, but I'm afraid it is still too early. My foraging journal from last year says that March 5th was too early. Only some wild alliums were around. The next date is March 20th, and now we're getting somewhere, for that's when wintercress showed up.

There are a few mats of chickweed around, but they're not looking all that spunky. The plants look tired and crushed by winter's cold. Yes, they'll spring back and start growing, getting lush and ready for a hungry harvester, but not today. Probably not for a few weeks yet.

If you start foraging wild foods, I highly recommend keeping a foraging journal from year to year. Last year I kept one faithfully, right up until July 24th and then I quit. I imagine I was awfully busy with harvesting, drying, canning and whatnot, but I KNOW I kept foraging until November. I'll just have to do better and make journal notes all year. There's nothing in last year's journal about all the jerusalem artichokes, black walnuts, evening primrose roots, etc. Sigh.

Anyway, in your journal, keep track of the dates when you first notice wild plants. Write about where you found them, for there's a good chance they'll be there next year as well. Describe the scents, the colors, the greeness, the redness of the berries, etc. Describe all you can. Also mention what you do with the plants you harvest. Do you dry them, freeze them, can them? Take notes on how you process the food, how you cook it, the flavor etc. You'll certainly be glad you did. These notes--even scanty, discontinued ones like mine, are invaluable in coming years foraging. If you are teaching the skill, your journal can help your students learn about the plants and their habitations.

Right now, I'm wishing there was a nice, big, fat journal entry about a wonderful meadow where I found a huge patch of lucious chickweed and wild alliums, with the first tender dandelion leaves growing nearby. I'd be off like a rocket to that meadow! Daydreams, my dear, just daydreams.

I guess what I'll do is get some lambquarters out of the freezer for dinner. I'll have a taste of some wild greens at any rate. And I'll be watching for lady chickweed, you betcha!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Germ vs. Terrain, Free Radicals, Tumeric!

My what a mish-mash of topics, eh? But don't worry, they do tie together. My friend Fred got this advert for a free-radical busting proprietary blend of herbs and spices from the Journal of Health and Longevity, concerning the above. I'm going to share some excerpts from it with you.

Germ vs. Terrain

Mainstream infectious disease medicine practiced today is based on the "germ theory" as put forward by Louis Pasteur (1822-1985). His theory viewed the body as a sterile machine that will operate properly unless a foreign substance is introduced. Therefore, it is thought that when specific microbes enter the body, they produce a specific disease. In an attempt to correct the imbalance, antibiotics and other medicines are used to destroy these organisms. No microbes, no disease. It was believed that health is restored only if there are no germs present that might cause disease.

In contrast, the famous French physiologist, Claude Bernard (1813-1878) focused on the importance of the body's internal environment. In contradiction to the then current doctrine of Pasteur, he taught that microbes (e.g. bacteria, viruses) could not produce disease unless the body's internal environment was unbalanced and susceptible for the development of disease. Bernard's theory was that the whole must be sick before any germ can make us ill.

[As an example, I was reading about this big debate these two disparate sides in France, between proponents of Pasteur and Bernard. The propronent of Bernard, to prove his point, that if his body's environment was clean and healthy, he would not get ill, actually drank a glass of water containing cholera germs in front of the audience! Cholera can kill quite quickly--but the man did NOT get ill. Must have truly believed his theory to put it to the test like that! I was amazed then, and remain amazed. However, I can't remember where I read this anecdote, so consider this mere anecdote until I can find the source. Thanks, HM]

Renowned microbiologist, Rene Debous agreed with this basic principle, saying, "Most microbial diseases are caused by organisms present in the body of a normal individual. They become the cause of disease when a disturbance arises which upsets the equilibrium of the body." Debous, like Bernard, thought it is not the presence of bacteria or viruses that cause disease, it is the imbalance of the body's normal functions that fails to hold the microbes in check. Even today, more and more doctors and researchers know that microbes are always present. Some of these are harmless and others have harmful potential. Some of these are absolutely necessary to allow the body to function properly; they are only able to cause disease if the body is in a weakened or upset state. Although some microbes with harmful potential can cause disease in even the healthiest persons if a significant dose of the microbe is contacted, those with strong immune function may completely resist infections manifestations or develop only mild infectious symptoms.

Furthermore, an improperly balanced bodily environment may lead to a compromised immune system and more serious disease. Degenerative diseases that lead to chronic failure of body tissues or organ systems result largely from an unstable condition of the internal environment. One the body is in a weakened state, the tissues can be secondarily affected by disease-causing microbes. Interestingly enough, even Pasteur himself condemed his own theory on his death bed, saying, "Bernard is right. The microbe is nothing. The environment is all important."

[Another editorial comment: As a student of medical history and the battles between various schools, it makes sense to me that allopathic medicine (typical American medical system) would latch onto Pasteur's theory rather than Bernard's. With Pasteur's, they can "heroically" use invasive drugs and surgery to "cure" the patient and the drugs/surgery can cost big bucks. With Bernard's, they would have been stuck with the boring preventative stuff like fasting and good nutrition. Where's the glory for the doctor in that, not to mention the money? HM]

The Free Radical Theory

"We know that most degenerative diseases are linked to free radical damage." James F. Balch, M.D.

Even more importantly, in 1954, Dr. Denham Harman described his free radical theory of aging and disease. He said, "A single common process, modifiable by genetic and environmental factors was responsible for aging and death of all living things." He also went on to say, "Aging is caused by free radical reactions which may be caused by the environment, from disease and intrinsic reactions within the aging process." At that time, Dr. Harman's work was, for the most part, ignored by the entrenched medical establishment. They were still convinced that disease must come from outside of man as represented by Louis Pasteur's germ theory.

The Dangerous World of Free Radicals

Think of them as internal terrorists roaming your body, looking for cells to destroy, depriving tissues of blood flow, preventing the removal of plaque and fats from your system. They're unstable oxygen molecules that come with every breath you take and, like terrorists, they can be hard to find and even harder to destroy.

Free radicals damage the body's DNA (the body's genetic code) by injuring or breaking the chemical bonds between the DNA molecules. As more damage builds up in the DNA strands, the DNA coded messages begin to be improperly translated and cellular function goes awry. It doesn't help that oxidation is caused by everything from the air you breathe to the foods you eat to environmental chemicals that can't be controlled. A body in the grip of free radical damage is susceptible to a host of life-threatening diseases and premature aging.

Free Radicals and Aging

"As antibiotics in the last fifty years of the twentieth century helped cure many infectious diseases, so antioxidants will affect a cure of many supposedly incurable diseases in the twenty first century and slow the aging process dramatically." James F. Balch, M.D.

Research by biogerontologists indicates that aging takes place because of destructive cellular changes brought on by free radicals. Professor Rajinjdar Sohal of the Department of Sciences at Southern Methodist University in Dallas concluded, followint the examination of recent free radical studies, "There is enough evidence to give good credence to the free radical theory of aging."

Meet the Free Radical Killers...the Curcuminoids!

To fight a strong enemy, you need an even stronger weapon, and one has been at hand for over a thousand years. In ancient times, it was used as a dye and spice as well as a medicine. Its use in Chinese medicine dates back to the 7th century. It is listed as a medicinal plant in an Assyrian herbal codex dating 600 BC and was one of the herbs mentioned by the first century Greek herbalist physician, Discorides. You probably have a bottle or tin of it on your spice rack. In fact you may have used some to add a little zing to your food lately without realizing you were helping to protect your cells in the process!

You know it as tumeric (or, as we will refer to it in this article, curcumin) far beyond its piquant flavor and brilliant yellow color. The real force in curcumin is in the beneficial phenolic compounds known as curcuminoids. There are three curcumonids that scientists have identified, curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin.

Besides these highly valuable phenolic compounds, tumeric also contains a very potent antioxidant peptide identified as tumerin. In at least one experiment, this incredible little peptide has been shown to exhibit more antioxidant fire power than the curcuminoids.

Antioxidant Functions of Curcuminoids

"Tumeric and its active constituents, the curcuminoids, have antioxidant properties that effectively inhibit free radical damage in both in vitro and in vivo conditions." Vladimir Badmaev, M.D., Ph.D.

Curcuminoids have been scientifically proven to perform the following several antioxidative functions:
  • Anti-inflammatory action
  • Antimutagenic
  • Antithrombotic action
  • Hepatoprotective action
  • Antimicrobial action
  • Antiviral action
  • Antiparasitic action

Anticancer Benefits of Curcumin

"The anticarcinogenic activity of tumeric extract and curcuminoids may be in part explained by their well-researched ability to prevent genetic mutation, or mutagenesis." Vladimir Badmaev

Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that effectively prevents precancerous changes within DNA and may prove to interfere with enzymes needed during cancer promotion. Since curcumin reduces inflammation by increasing production of natural cortisone produced by the adrenal glands, it may also inhibit cancer formation in the colon. Recent animal studies showed a significant decrease in tumor growth with the long-term administration of curcumin. Moreover, clinical studies have shown that curcumin-based ointments were very effective in helping to treat the effects of skin cancer.

[The pamphlet goes on to say that curcumin can help in oral cancers, useful in preventing and treating colorectal cancers, and in precancerous leukoplakia.]

Curcuminoids can also lower cholesterol, especially the "bad LDL" cholesterol. It can aid in cutting Alzheimer's Disease risk--the pamphlet discuses the very low incidence of Alzheimer's in India, perhaps because the Indian diet includes lots of tumeric in curry spices. And, of course, tumeric and its curcuminoids are anti-inflammatory, which can certainly help in arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

To sum up: "All of the research and clinical trials seemed to provde what ancient medicine has known for centuries: curcumin may be a major defense and treatment for everything from small wounds to life-threatening chronic degenerative disease."


That's more than enough excerpting, though only small sections out of an 8 page booklet. If you are interested in the proprietary blend of herbs and spices marketed by the Journal of Health & Longevity, the number to call is 1-800-218-1379 or write to Institute for Vibrant Living, PO Box 3840, Camp Verde AZ 86322. The product, called Pain and Brain, is a blend of curcumin 95%, 1350 mg daily dose, Boswellia Serratta 65%, 600 mg, Ashwagandha Extract, 450 mg, Guggul Extract, 150 mg, Bioperine, 15mg daily dose. If I had the money, I would consider purchasing this product. However, I don't, so I'll merely continue taking my tsp of tumeric daily in a glass of water. This is probably NOT a clinically therapeutic dose, but I'm thinking that some is better than none and every little bit helps.

I've written about tumeric before, which you may want to check out. The thing is, these spices were (and are!) considered highly valuable, not only for their marvelous effects in the kitchen, but also for their medicinal uses. No wonder they were worth their weight in gold. They're still mighty expensive, but oh so worth it. Let's see, a double latte at Starbucks, or a fresh tin of good organic tumeric? Decisions, Decisions....