Black Locust Vermouth

Black Locust Tree History and Uses

Black 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.

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.

 

 

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!

 

 

Violet Gelatine!

Violet Gelatine!

VIOLET GELATINE

My favorite food to make for dear friends who are recovering from any major life transition is gello! I spell it with a “g” because it is different than our childhood treat. It is made with grass fed gelatin (available at HAALo) and because you can create your own amazing flavors as wild as your imagination can get. I am very into using seasonal medicinal plants in my food. In this blooming spring, the violets are out, in three colors, purple, fuschia(!) and white. They are everywhere around town on people’s lawns, roadside, wafting their sweet fragrance within a several feet distance from where they bloom. They impart their odor as flavor to all sorts of delicacies. I have two dear friends who are recovering, Megan from childbirth and Shea from major back surgery. They both need the same types of foods! Nutrient dense, easy to digest potent foods. So I have been feeding them gello.

Violets have been used traditionally to decrease inflammation and help one sleep. Perfect for these two dear lady friends! They are called “zi hua di ding”  translating to “purple flower ground spike.” They clear heat toxins, nourish blood, and regenerate flesh.

Here is my latest recipe: VIOLET GELATINE

 

 

 

2 Tbsp gelatin grass fed, I like Great Lakes beef or porcine

1 1/2 c water

1 c heavy whipping cream (raw, or pasteurized, but NOT ultrapasteurized if you can help it). Alternately you can use coconut cream, it is just not as subtle.

A handful of freshly harvested violets, destemmed

2-3 Tbsp raw honey, or choice of sweetener, add to taste, really

pinch sea salt

DIRECTIONS

Pour gelatin into your mold container

Add 1/2 c cold water and let it dissolve.

Heat 1 cup water.

Meanwhile pour cream into a saucepan on low, immerse your violets in the cream. Do not let it boil. When warm almost hot, add honey and stir til it dissolves. Again honey is to taste.

Add hot water to dissolved gelatin in a mold, stir to make sure it all does dissolve. Then add your violet cream to your mold. Stir. Make sure your violets are nicely arranged on top. Chill.

The cream will separate creating a two-toned gelatine. Slice and eat with your fingers, or serve in quaint little bowls. Eat as much as you want. It is lovely subtle, gentle, nourishing heart blooming healing food. Enjoy.

 

 

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!

Pokeberry Jelly

Below our home and out back behind the old barns, which are falling down plank by plank from the drilling of the wood bees, there is a pokeweed forest growing. An old cedar came down two winters ago, and it seems all these dormant poke seeds finally saw the light to germinate.

Poke, Phytolacca americana, or Shang lu, is a striking and irresistible plant. It is alluring as it matures and streaks purple into its stems, growing clusters of creamy blossoms and then the berries, deep purple with fuchsia stems, staining fingers vibrant pink.

How can anyone resist this toxic plant? Its beauty has probably been the reason people have persisted in discovering its uses as food and medicine.

This is the end of October, and I have just harvested the last of the berries, leaving many for the bears and the birds. Poke has been used as medicine, food and dye around the world for hundreds of years.

Traditional Uses of Pokeberry

Appalachia

In the Appalachia, they make poke greens “sallat,” (by picking shoots before purple/red streaks appear, at about 6″ tall), poke berry jelly, poke root oil, and pokeberry water.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

The root in TCM is called Shang lu, and it is bitter, cold to neutral, downward directing, toxic, and to be used with great caution. It enters the Bladder, Kidney, Large Intestine, Spleen, and Lung. It is traditionally used to treat edema in the upper, middle, and lower burners, with its action of strongly unblocking the water gates and promoting movement of catabolic wastes.

In large doses poke root may cause diarrhea, vomiting, and in larger doses it may cause respiratory failure and death.

Other Uses

Poke is also traditionally used as a lymph cleanser and mover for glandular inflammations, such as mononucleosis, mastitis, swollen glands in the armpit, throat and neck, and for dissolving cysts in the ovaries or fatty tumors elsewhere in the body. Internally taken as a tincture, its traditional use is 1–10 drops 1–3x/day. It is also made into an oil and used topically over affected areas.

The berries are traditionally used similarly in a tincture, a jelly or pokeberry water to stave off rheumatism, aid in recovery from the flu, and to support healthy immune functioning.

Pokeberry is traditionally used similarly to or in combination with red root and cleavers.  It is believed that now is a good time of year to make this medicine, for we are headed into winter, where the cold and our slightly more sedentary lifestyle and richer foods can cause things to move slower and accumulate in our lymph and glandular system. People will also use it in the spring when they may be ready to cleanse winter accumulations.

Recipes

This year I made a delicious jelly and a tincture of the berries. I am waiting a bit longer to harvest the root to make a root oil and tincture.

The seeds within the juicy pink berries are toxic, but the fruit is not. Here are a few recipes where can you avoid the seeds, and utilize fruit only.

Pokeberry Jelly

  • 3 cups ripe poke berries
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp grass fed gelatin
  • 1 cup sugar, or raw honey (if you use
    raw honey add at the end)
  1. Bring to boil and simmer 20 mins.
  2. Gently crush the berries in the pot
    with a potato masher.
  3. Strain the seeds out.
  4. Pour into jars.
  5. Eat a little per day as needed (see caution below).

Pokeberry Water

  1. Place 10 or so berries in a quart of water, and leave overnight.
  2. Strain the next morning, and drink 1/2 cup everyday for four days (see caution below). According to traditional use, this may help prevent rheumatisms and promote immune-recovery and strength.

Traditional Uses for Inflammation

Another traditional use of the berries medicinally for helping arthritis and other inflammations is to swallow one whole berry per day for seven days, adding one berry each day until you are up to seven berries in seven days. Then tapering down one berry per day from seven, six, five, etc., to one berry daily (see caution below).

Use With Caution

The word toxic can be a strong deterrent to medicine, but it is important to learn how to use this prolific plant safely. And truly, all plants are to be used with caution, for they can create a unique, possibly adverse dynamic within each person’s bio-region!

Always start with the smallest doses, check in with your care provider before starting any new health regimen, and observe your body. If rashes appear, or abdominal discomfort occurs, discontinue use and contact your care provider.

Thanks to the many before us who figured out the diverse poke uses. May this article promote aware, wise and cautious use of what we have available, outside our back doors.