Black Locust Vermouth

Black Locust Tree History and Uses

A black locust tree in full bloomBlack locust trees, Robinia pseudoacacia or false Acacia, are abundant in our Sierra Foothills. The trees were probably brought here by the Europeans in the mining days. On my recent trip to Southern California, I discovered them in my old stomping grounds in Topanga!

They are a fast growing hardwood. They were traditionally used for bow making. They have a short showy bloom phase in late spring for about two weeks.

Their legume-like vanilla-scented blossoms are edible! They taste like sweet pea flowers, nutty with a sweet hint of the nectar inside.

You can snack on them like popcorn, or sprinkle them as a garnish on top of a light bowl of cattail soup (see Living Wild book for recipe).

See this guide for tips on identifying black locust trees.

Black Locust Blossom Vermouth Recipe

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. It is a warm spring or summer sipping, low-alcohol beverage.

All the supplies you'll need to make black locust vermouth: bottle, alcohol and blossoms

It is super easy to make this vermouth. You will need the following:

  • Bottles, 12-16 oz
  • Dry vermouth, or even sake
  • Lots of locust blossoms

It is nice to use clear bottles so you can see the blossoms soaking. I like to use old GT Kombucha bottles, labels removed.

Directions

  1. Simply gather your blossoms and pluck them off of their stems.
  2. Stuff a bottle until it is nearly full of blossoms. Then pour vermouth to the top.
  3. Label your bottle and let sit for 3-6 weeks.
  4. Strain, saving some of the blossoms to garnish.

The drink is lovely over a bit of ice. Locust Blossom vermouth is a delightful way to preserve the tastes of spring to share with friends.

Here are black locust blossoms soaking in alcohol in a clear bottle.

 

 

Spring Sorrel Soup, “Potage Germiny”

sorrelsoup

Early Memories of Sorrel Soup

My first job beyond babysitting was at 12 years old at a print shop in San Francisco, HJ Carl & Sons, on Capp Street. We constructed,  deconstructed, and hung metal print plates, flyers, and posters of recipes for local restaurants 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.

What is Sorrel?

Sorrel, also known as sheep sorrel, is a weed. It grows abundantly in spring, in perfect harmony with the Chinese elemental correspondence of Spring-Liver-Sour flavor.  sheep-sorrel1

You can find patches where it is big leaved—the Broad Street 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 and antioxidants. Its sour flavor astringes fluids. The fluids are 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.

Western Versus Chinese Health Benefits

In western herbalism, bitter is the flavor associated with the Liver. On the other hand, Bitter in Chinese medicine corresponds to the heart.

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.

Oxalic Acid

There is a buzz of concern about oxalic acids being a health hazard, for these acids can leach calcium from the bones.

Oxalic acid is neutralized by lemon juice or a little apple cider vinegar, so it is always important to combine your sorrel, spinach, or chard (and other greens containing oxalic acids) with 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 Recipe

  1. Sauté 1/2 yellow onion in 2 Tbsp butter
  2. Add in 2–3 cups washed, chopped sorrel
  3. Sauté sorrel in 3-5 Tbsp butter.
  4. When the leaves are wilted, add 5 cups stock. The best stock is chicken, though I have made it with beef.
  5. Remove from heat and add a small amount of the soup to 1/2 cup cream and 3 beaten egg yolks.
  6. Combine all ingredients and heat until the soup thickens slightly, but do not boil. I puree my soup, for that was how I had it at Mr. Carl’s.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Variations With Meatballs

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 sometimes added meatballs.

Support for Health and Vitality

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!