Black Locust Vermouth

Black Locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia, also called the false Acacia) are abundant in our Sierra Foothills, probably brought by the Europeans in the mining days. On my recent trip to Southern Cali I discovered them in my old stomping grounds, Topanga CA!!

They are a fast growing hardwood, used for bow making, and their legume-y vanilla scented blossoms are EDIBLE!! They taste like sweet pea flowers, nutty with a sweet hint from the nectar inside. They have a short showy bloom phase about now, late spring for about two weeks. You can just snack on them like popcorn, or sprinkle them as garnish on top of a light bowl of cattail soup (see Living Wild book for recipe). See here for identification: http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/black_locust.htm

I love to make beverages of all sorts. (Come to my QUENCH class in June for more sipping zippy delights!) My latest concoction is a Black Locust Blossom Vermouth. It lends a sweet floral pea flavor to the mild lemony taste of dry vermouth as a warm spring or summer sipping low alcohol beverage.

And it is super easy to make.

  • You will need:
  • bottles, 12-16 oz
  • Dry vermouth, (or even sake!)
  • Lots of Locust blossoms

Simply gather your blossoms and pluck them off of their stems. Stuff to nearly full a bottle of your choice, with the blossoms, clear is nice to see the blossoms soaking. I like to use old GT Kombucha bottles, labels removed. Then pour vermouth to the top.

Label your bottle and let sit for 3-6 weeks. Strain, saving some of the blossoms to garnish. It is lovely over a bit of ice. Locust Blossom vermouth is a delightful way to preserve the tastes of spring to share with friends.

 

 

Spring Sorrel Soup, “Potage Germiny”

My first job beyond babysitting was at 12 years old at a print shop in San Francisco, HJ Carl & Sons, on Capp St. We constructed and deconstructed hug metal print plates of recipes for local restaurants, flyers, and posters every Saturday. Lunch was delivered warm from Jack’s restaurant, and every week we had creamy rich yet light lemony sorrel soup. I have tried to recreate it many a time, and I finally came close to duplicating it.

Sorrel is a weed, as sheep sorrel, growing abundant right now and in perfect harmony with Chinese elemental correspondences, of Spring-Liver-sour flavor.  You can find patches where it is big leaved…the Broad St Cemetery is a great place. You may have it growing in your yard! I harvested sorrel from my dear friend Liz’s garden.

Sorrel is high in vitamin C, antioxidants. Its sour flavor astringes fluids, the fluids, yin, water that we store up from the wet moist winters. We store our yin, so that we have enough to keep us from overheating through the spring and summer. Too much sour can dry out the ligaments and tendons, so check your sour cravings.

In western herbalism, bitter is the flavor associated with the Liver. Bitter in Chinese medicine corresponds to the heart. And it is important to keep the heart cool and drained for liver health, but some people cannot tolerate bitter, for it cools and drains too much, when they are in need of nourishing to their Liver.

There is a buzz of concern about oxalic acids being a health hazard, for they leach calcium from the bones. Oxalic acid is neutralized by lemon juice or a little apple cider vinegar, and it is important to always combine your sorrel, spinach, or chard (other greens containing oxalics) with a fat and protein. This soup is the perfect whole meal, yet light enough to give your digestive system a rest after the richer winter diet.

SORREL SOUP

1/2 yellow onion sauteed in 2 Tbsp butter

Add in 2-3 cups washed chopped sorrel

Sauteed in 3-5Tbsp butter. When they are wilted, add:

5 cups stock, best is chicken I made it with beef. Remove from heat and add a small amount of the soup to:

1/2 c cream and 3 beaten egg yolks. Then combine all ingredients and heat until the soup thickens slightly, but do not boil. I pureed my soup, for that was how I had it at Mr. Carl’s.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

My Lithuanian friend Aruna grew up growing rows and rows of sorrel, and eating sorrel soup all the time in the spring. Her family did not blend it, and they added meatballs sometimes.

I encourage you to explore the wonders of easy to grow and abundant wild foods to support your health and vitality. Our wild greens have a greater mineral value and life force for they thrive and adapt without our care.  Bon appetite!

 

 

RIPE NOW!! WILD CALIFORNIAN ROSE HIPS, A.K.A. JIN YING ZI

WILD CALIFORNIAN ROSE HIPS, A.K.A. JIN YING ZI:  A Native Local and Traditional Chinese Plant Food Medicine!

Written by Anna Wederitsch LAc

Ah, the rose. Though most cherished for its intoxicating heart nourishing and heart opening (and heart qi moving) essential oil, few realize the potent healing properties contained in its fruit, hips, or haws as some call them. Many of you are familiar with rose hips for tea, but have you had them as FOOD? Yes, food! There are accounts of it being eaten with salt and butter!

Native American people have used this fruit in stews, soups, teas, and raw as snacks, to support their health through local available foods. When I see rose hips while hiking and foraging, my kids and I enjoy snacking on the softer hips for they are sweeter.

“…Native American people have used this fruit in stews, soups, teas, and raw as snacks, to support their health through local available foods…”

The rosacea family has fed and healed us with over 3400 plants: apples, apricots, peaches, cherries, pears, plums, blackberry, raspberry, hawthorn, agrimony, cinquefoil, and mountain ash, to name a few. Many of these plants were brought in by settlers as they came to new lands, because the plants were so valued for food and medicine.

Just when all plants have withered and dropped their energy deep down into the earth into their roots, out pops the rose hip, containing 5x the vitamin C contained in oranges. Up here in the Sierras where citrus is rare, may Rose Hips be our C of choice! During World War II, the whole of England turned to rosehips for their vitamin C during a crippling citrus shortage. All rose hips are edible, but most abundant right now is the Wild California Rose Hip.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE ROSE HIP

Most recent research and use has been in effectively alleviating pain and stiffness in the knees, hips, and other joints, associated with osteoarthritis. Its anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to its ability to reduce the C-Reactin protein (CRP) and creatinine, inflammation markers. Lower CRP levels are also associated with heart health and decreased triglycerides. It is rich in vitamin C, tocotrienols, beta carotene, pectin and many other health enhancing ingredients that protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

JIN YING ZI, A CHINESE MEDICINE

Rosehips are considered one of the most important Chinese health tonics. They are highly valued by the Chinese, both as a food and as medicine. Rose hips are sour, astringent, and neutral; they go to the Bladder, Kidney, and Large Intestine. It stabilizes the Kidneys and retains Jing, which is our primordial essence, or battery juice if you will. If the Kidneys are weak, our lower gates will not be strong enough to contain our essence. We can lose Jing through excessive vaginal discharge, seminal emissions, and night time urination. Jin Ying Zi also functions on the Intestines, part of the lower gates. It binds the Intestines to stop chronic diarrhea from spleen deficiency. For most of these functions Jin Ying Zi will be combined with other herbs.

“…Rosehips are considered one of the most important Chinese health tonics…”

This herb is contraindicated in cases with excessive fire or fever, or excessive pathogenic factors (cold/flu/virus) and is better as an immune tonic. Long-term use may result in constipation.

RECIPE FOR ROSE HIP SYRUP

Pick after the first frost, as the hips are softer and come off easier. Before I begin picking, I check in with the plant, asking if I may use its fruit to make medicine for my family and community. Then I talk and sing to the plant, whatever song comes out, whatever else I wish to share in that moment with the plant. It is also a common courtesy to return to the plant just for a visit, to share with it how your concoction came out, who you shared it with, how its medicine worked.

Mince 1lb of rosehips in a blender, and empty straight into 3 cups of boiling water. It is important to put the hips in the boiling water immediately after mincing to minimize the loss of vitamin C. Stop heating and let stand for 15 minutes. Filter the mixture through a jelly bag. Put the mixture remaining in the bag back in the saucepan, add 3/4 pint of boiling water. Allow to stand for 10 minutes and then filter through the jelly bag again.

It is important to remove all the hairs that cover the seeds as these will be an irritant if swallowed. The recipe suggested re-filtering the first cupful of juice to make sure all the hairs are removed.

I add equal parts raw honey to the syrup and a bit of alcohol, about a 1/4cup, as a preservative. Even with these ingredients, it may ferment slightly, but it will definitely have a longer life. The fermentation can contribute to the medicine! Refrigerate. It may gel up, due to the high pectin content. Use it as a jelly! In Europe, traditionally a tablespoon a day was given in the winter months to the whole family. You will be able to find a Sierra Berry Elixir with locally harvested rose hips at HAALo!