Spring! The perfect weather for sauerkraut!

dav

This years long awaited Spring has properly arrived at last! My cherry tree is covering the garden in drifts of pink blossom,  every inch of the green house is packed with little seedlings  bursting from their pots and I did yoga in the sunshine for the first time this year with bumble bees buzzing and hens pecking my toes!

Everyone needs all the energy they can get when the days suddenly stretch out and we find ourselves moving so much more than even a few weeks ago.

Keeping our digestion happy and efficient is a way of helping stamina. And fermented foods are a great (and fun) way of doing this. Sauerkraut is an amazing food, naturally fermented, live and zingy and packed with easily available vitamins and minerals made accessible by the fermentation process.

Today I had the first try of a sauerkraut I made with cabbage and fennel. It was a couple of weeks old and was just perfect; refreshing and tasty.

I adapted a recipe from the wonderfully named Sandor Katz‘s book ‘Basic Fermentation

So here’s what I did;

I used one dense, white cabbage which weighed about 750 g

I grated the whole cabbage including the heart (you could finely chop it instead, and next time I’ll mix red and white cabbage to make a pink sauerkraut!).

As I grated it I mixed in a heaped desert spoon of sea salt and a handful of fennel seeds.

The salt makes the cabbage start sweating straight away and creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. Apparently, Sandor says it’s possible to use ground kelp instead of salt and I’ll try this next time).

I packed the kraut down really firmly into a basin, (the pressing down packs the kraut into the basin and starts forcing water out of the cabbage), then pushed down on top of it another similar basin filled with water to give it weight.

I covered the whole lot with a tea towel to keep dust out and left it like that for a couple of weeks in the kitchen. The warmer weather (or warm kitchen) helps get the fermenting going as microbes love a bit of warmth!

I found that my cabbage had enough moisture in it not to need to add any water, but you could add a little to keep the cabbage below the surface or the brine if you liked.

The fennel is a digestive aid and also made the sauerkraut particularly tasty!

Have a go! Shop bought sauerkraut is expensive, salty and usually  killed off too, which gets rid of its main benefit!

 

 

Fresh Turmeric as a powerful, natural anti-inflammatory

So April has arrived in the Lake District, a seasonal mix of snow flurries, arctic winds and rain.  And then, suddenly, just in time, an achingly beautiful day of yellow sunshine, bird song and daffodils.

I’ve washed my greenhouse until it sparkles, hauled wheelbarrows of delicious, wriggly compost across to my vegetable beds, pleaded with my roses and upped my wild bird feeding to daily top ups.

Today it was rain again, and all around me my patients are coughing and aching as another bad cold blows in.

Fresh turmeric shots to the rescue!

I spent the morning putting together a recipe for fresh turmeric shots to take into work with me, and hand round to anyone who would like one. Delicious, anti-inflammatoryvirus busting in tiny, daily glass-fulls

Turmeric has been used as a Chinese herb for thousands of years. It has a deep, penetrating, cooling and detoxifying quality and has strong anti viral and anti bacterial properties. It is particularly good for damping down chronic inflammation and soothing away aches and pains. In Chinese Medicine it is too cold to be used on it’s own, and is almost always combined with something that has naturally warming properties to protect the stomach. I’m using fresh ginger here to do the job, but if I were making a fresh turmeric tea then I might also use star anise (which would also help clear phlegm from the chest) or cinnamon. The carrot, apple and orange add in loads of anti oxidant vitamin C. If you’re worried about the rush of sugar from juicing in this way, then you could have something containing protein or  healthy oils at the same time as your juice shot. I had poached eggs with avocado. The oils and protein in the avocado and eggs slow down the absorption of sugar, and also help even more of the turmeric to be absorbed from the juice.

So here it is. You’ll need a juicer of some sort. You could try making it in smoothy form, but I think you’d be better off doing a sort of therapeutic soup if you did it in that way. I’ll  post a recipe for that later.

since this is a juice and lots of the best bits of fruit and veg are close to the skin or peel, try to use organic and keep the skin on. Just wash and scrub with a mild detergent, then rinse. If you can’t find organic, then you’d be better off peeling everything before juicing.

take

an apple (cored)

an orange (peeled)

a carrot

two large, whole pieces of fresh turmeric root

twice as much fresh ginger as turmeric eg a large thumb sized amount

put it all through a juicer (I used a masticating, slow juicer) introducing the softer pieces like the orange first, and the hard carrot chunks last to squeeze everything through.

It’s always best to have juice as fresh as possible, but juiced in this way, with such a high concentration of ant oxidants, and kept in the fridge in a sealed glass container, this juice will still be alive and kicking for the next three days!

 

 

A remedial spring recipe!

Using the nettles from my garden, I have been making huge saucepans of bright green, iron and vitamin rich soup to build everyone up after winter.

Spring Tonic Soup – serves 6

  • 2 chopped onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 small red chilli, chopped small (remove the seeds for a milder taste)
  • ½ carrier bag of fresh greens (some combination of spinach, chard, nettle tips, dandelion leaves, and sorrel)
  • fromage frais
  • 1 desert spoon of chopped chives
  • 1 teaspoon of marigold boullion
  • salt and pepper

Gently fry the onions in a pan until they begin to brown and become caramelised (giving a wonderfully sweet aroma).
Then, still whilst heating, add the garlic and chilli, before adding a litre of boiling water, with salt, pepper, and the boullion.
Allow this to begin simmering, then add the greens, and continue simmering for a further 30 minutes.

This soup is then, after being liquidised, ready to serve hot or pour into containers for freezing.
Serve with formage frais and chives.

Anti Viral Potions in February

A photograph of a viola flower

It’s coming towards the end of February and here in the Lake District we’ve been having some breathtakingly beautiful days of cold, clear sunshine with just a hint of Spring in the air.

Today I had a pile of paperwork to do but the day was just too lovely to spend indoors!

Instead I had a ride on a friends horse along an open, grassy stretch of estuary. Toby (the horse) had just recovered from a long spell of mud fever which had left one of his legs swollen and tender with a lot of bare, sore looking skin showing.

I was checking his leg over before riding and a Chinese herb sprang to mind. The herb is a type of Viola flower which is used to help fight infections. In Chinese medicine it’s used a lot, both as a tea and also as a compress of the whole plant, for conditions like boils and skin infections. It’s also used as a component in mixtures of other herbs to help fight bacterial and viral infections, especially those in which there’s a degree of swelling or inflammation, for example tonsillitis.

I found a couple of Viola plants in my vegetable patch this weekend, so I’m planning to pick them, roots and all, and make an oil based lotion for Toby’s leg. Hopefully it’ll protect his skin while the hair grows back, and prevent infection if his skin is broken.

It’s really easy to grow Viola’s. The type used in Chinese medicine is the beautiful little violet and yellow hearts-ease Viola that grows wild in the UK. Here in Cumbria I’ve seen them thriving in sand dunes. They’re robust plants and would grow well in a pot, or out in the garden, as long as some sunshine could get to them and they weren’t overwhelmed by other plants.

Other useful plants to get planting for your home herbal medicine kit would be Marigolds (preferably open flowered rather than the pom-pom type bedding plant), and Dandelions (you might not need to buy seed for these!)

Calendula flowers are fantastic in creams and balms for their anti-inflammatory effect, and Dandelions are used in Chinese Medicine to ward off viral epidemics. My Chinese Herbal Medicine tutor, Professor Shulan Tang, used to reminisce about her childhood in the country side of China, living on community farms. She told us that if there were an outbreak of meningitis in the area, then huge vats of whole Dandelion plants cooked in water would be prepared, for every one to drink, as a preventative.

I like the idea of being able to make some remedies with ingredients that you can grow yourself. I’ll add to my medical chest list as I think of things over my next few posts.

Now I’m off to the kitchen myself to cook up my ointment for Toby.

Seasonal colds, aches and pains.

I’ve been seeing a lot of people with bad colds in my clinic this winter.

The one that seems to be around mostly starts with a sore throat and headache and can turn into a chesty cough that lasts for weeks.

In Chinese medicine this would be thought to be due to a few different things. The first would be how windy the weather has been this winter. The wind was historically considered to be the ‘spearhead of disease’ , not only making people vulnerable to catching colds, but also to starting up or worsening existing aches and pains. Old injuries can also be seen to flare up again, with discomfort varying from tooth-achey dull pain, to fixed acute pain. Backs, knees, necks shoulders and hands are particularly vulnerable.

Supporting this, modern research has shown that peoples’ immune systems function poorly in windy conditions.

The mild, wet weather that we’ve had for most of the Winter encourages phlegmy, chesty, achey, tired conditions and there are certainly a lot of these around at the moment!

In Asia Chinese herbs are often used in a way to supplement a persons diet, and many Chinese herbs are also commonly used foods in Asia. We use a lot of Chinese herbs as spices and seasonings in this country and so I thought I’d post a cold cure remedy based on Chinese herbs  which uses things that can easily be bought from local shops.

In your biggest mug place the following;

  • 1 desert spoon of spiced berry cordial (its the elderberry juice that you want, so check the cordial contains this otherwise it’ll just taste nice and not give you the therapeutic benefit we’re after).
  • 4 thumb nail sized slices of raw ginger – no need to peel it but wash well.
  • Quarter of a cinnamon stick.
  • An eighth of a whole orange, including peel (wash well before cutting).
  • 2 brown cardamon pods (or 4 green ones if you can’t find the brown nb. brown are sometimes called black!)
  • A quarter of a liquorice stick (bash it well with a rolling pin).
  • 2 stars of star anise.

Now just top up with boiling water and leave the mug for a couple of minutes, before you drink it. You can reuse all of the spices once more if you like-just add more cordial and hot water.

Aim to drink 2 mugs daily as soon as you feel the cold symptoms starting.