Tuesday, November 9, 2010

From my herb garden : Medicinal weeds - nature's pharmacy

Many herbs are nothing more than common weeds. Weeds that drive farmers and gardener's nuts are often excellent medicinal herbs. Examples would be couch grass and dandelion, not to mention my beloved stinging nettle. I'm only too happy that nettle and dandelion have made their home in my garden, and I have referred to nettle quite a few times in this blog.
Dandelion is an important herb for spring, when it can be employed to detoxify (how I hate that word) the body after the stodgy excesses of winter. All the warming foods like stews with starchy puddings to follow, are so comforting, but come spring it's a good idea to give the kidneys and the liver a little nudge with some herbs so that you can get the body in shape for summer as well as feel energised. A tea made from Dandelion leaf is perfect for this. Dandelion leaves are quite bitter and this bitter property is very important in stimulating bile flow. Traditionally dandelion leaves are eaten in salads in spring time, not just for the cleansing effect but also as they are a rich source of vitamin C

A herb that I like because of it's delicate appearance is shepherd's purse. This weed came into my garden by mysterious means, and has self seeded to add to the abundance and variety of spring foliage that is so delightful. It gets its name from the fruits which are shaped like a little purse. This picture shows the shadows of the fruits very nicely:


Shepherd's purse is best know for its astringent properties. Strangely enough it comes from the cabbage family. The leaves can also be eaten in spring salads and are rich in flavonoids which are good for your blood vessels. Medicinally it is used for bleeding in the kidneys, excessive menstrual bleeding and diarrhoea etc. It isn't used very much these days, but archeological records of its use date back to ancient times. One of my sources mentions that it has medicinal benefits for the heart. Looking at the heart shapes of the fruits that is hardly surprising. In the past, herbs were often used based on which body part they resembled. This was known as the Doctrine of Signatures. These days scientific research has confirmed many of these beliefs. Quite often herbs that are useful for the heart are also useful for the uterus which also could be said to have a heart shape.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Recipe for a healthy and scrumptious seed loaf


800g  Stone ground brown flour
200g  Stone ground rye flour
1 sachet dried yeast
75g sunflower seeds
75g flax seeds
75g pumpkin seeds
2 tspns salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg
500ml warm water


Put all the dry ingredients including the yeast into the mixing bowl. (I use a Kitchen aid mixer with the dough hook). Mix well. Add the warm water, olive oil and egg and knead until the liquid is well incorporated and the dough does not stick to the sides of the bowl. (Sometimes one needs a bit less or more water depending on the flour.) Knead for at least five minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with a large plastic bag and allow to rise for a couple of hours.
Once it is well risen, turn it out onto a floured surface and lightly knead it until smooth and shape into two loaves. Place into floured tins and allow to rise again in a warm place (this usually takes about 30 minutes).

Bake in a very hot oven 200 deg for 30 - 40 minutes. I turn the temperature down to 175 deg for the last 15 minutes to make sure the inside is well baked.

Turn the loaves out onto a wire tray to cool down. The texture of this bread was moist and spongy. Very nice for a seed loaf, not heavy at all. Good for sandwiches or toast.