Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring in Pocket Canyon

This is the time of year when I fall in love with my home and yard again. I begin to go outside and work in my garden, happy to see which plants have survived the winter. Yesterday I saw an iris ready to bloom that has not bloomed for 6 years!

The stinging nettle is returning as is the elecampane and the agrimony - herbs I planted years ago which come back every year. The artemisias and the mugwort are coming up. The evening primrose and the St. John's wort have expanded - yay! For the first time ever the rosemary is blooming! Thyme, oregano, savory and rue have survived. The peppermint and spearmint are flourishing. For many, these are not great accomplishments, but out here in the redwoods, cold, wet, dark winter conditions threaten Mediterranean herbs. There is not a lot of sun even in the middle of summer, because I live in a narrow canyon surrounded by hundred foot trees. But I am glad and hopeful to see each one that returns.

I notice that the bluebells are out in force, remembering that the daffodils did not do so well this year. I know they are still there, since gophers don't like them. The foliage came up, but no flowers.

There is still enough water flowing through the small creek that crosses beneath my driveway, for a mini waterfall from the huge pipe that got installed before my time. I am comforted by this sound of water...this is a safe amount. All is well. The reflection of the big creek it falls into shimmers on my porch roof. It is delightful to sit out there and eat my late breakfast, read, write and dream. Each spring I see that I am not ready to give it up - this life in the woods, despite the discomforts I endured this past winter.
In winter I swear this is it...I'm moving, I can't stand it anymore. Worrying about flooding, and suffering from the bitter damp cold for months at a time.
But then Spring finally comes and with it a whole new perspective. I managed to start some peas in my little greenhouse, then transplant them between rainstorms. Now they have found the mesh I installed for them to climb up on.
This year there are dozens of new redwood sprouts. In the 18 years I've been here, I have never seen so many. Part of me wants to pull them up as they will take over my garden if they survive, but part of me realizes this is Nature reclaiming the land. I remember that I will not always be here, but these trees could live for hundreds of years.
When I first got this place I made a commitment to protect the redwoods on my I have a crop of babies! I should take this as a good sign and nurture them. The earth abides and I am grateful.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Healing Power of Culinary Spices

Found this great book at the library the other day and highly recommend it. "Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Every Day and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease". The author is Dr. Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD. You can purchase it through  this blog by clicking the link in the sidebar.

Many of the spices you already have in your cupboard if you like to cook. Some have to be purchased at an herb store, some at ethnic grocery stores. I love it that spices and recipes from many world cuisines are included. The book describes the spice, where it comes from and how to identify it if there are others that are similar to it.

There is some history about the plants and how they have been used. It goes into research from around the world as to the healing properties both from the 'folk' point of view and through scientific research. On top of that there are recipes for using them in your everyday diet. Here are just a few examples:

Pomegranate Guacamole

1 lime
1 cup sliced scallions
4 garlic cloves, diced
2-3 serrano or jalapeno chiles, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbs. pomegranate juice
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1. Peel and pit the avocados and place them in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with lime juice. Mash until it forms a coarse pulp.
2. Add the scallions, garlic, chiles, cilantro, and pomegranate juice. Continue to mash until well blended but still a little chunky. Fold in the pomegranate seeds.

Makes about 2 cups

The author refers to pomegranate as "a pharmacy unto itself", with special value for blood vessels, lowering blood pressure, and numerous types of cancer.

Another gem - Lemongrass "the calming spice"
And who would not benefit from that these days? This is a good one for hot summer days (haven't seen many of those for a long time)...but you could drink it hot as well.

Lemongrass Tea

1 cup lemongrass pieces about 1/2 inch each
1/2 cup sugar
8 cups water

It says to boil 2 cups water with the lemongrass and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Steep til cool then put in blender or food processor until finely chopped. Then you strain out all the solids. Serve cold or iced

Lemongrass is helpful in reducing cholesterol and has anti-cancer properties as well.

Although the book does have illustrations, more would be better. It has a chart on what you can use to substitute for spices you don't have when cooking and recipes for popular blends such as: bouquet garni and mulling spice. I was pleased to see another recipe for Ras-el-hanout since I collect them. A whole section at the back is devoted to curry and masala blends. Finally there is a section on where to find spices that may not be available in your area...websites and phone numbers.

I appreciate the fact that the author includes research done outside the U.S. and Europe, because we don't always have access to that. He pulls it all together in a very user friendly way. This book is a 'must have' for anyone trying eat their medicine.

2 ripe avocados