September Herb of the Month; Annatto

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Annatto, Bixa Orellana

• An orange-red dye or colorant, flavoring for food and healing agent derived from the seeds of
the achiote tree, an evergreen native to tropic and subtropic zones of the Americas
• Spiny red fruits contain the seeds and the reddish pericarp that surround the seed contains
the annatto or color
• Foods colored with the annatto pigment range from yellow to deep orange and include
chorizo sausage, cheese (like cheddar and American), smoked fish, popcorn, oil, butter,
margarine, rice as well as processed products like snacks and breakfast cereals
• Historically used to create a face or body paint by rainforest tribes and natives of the
Caribbean; Applying the paint lips dubbed achiote tree the lipstick tree; annatto paint was
also used as a sunscreen, bug repellent, food, and medicine
• Aztecs enhanced the color of hot chocolate with annatto
• Commonly used in Mexican cooking…

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Food as Medicine: Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica, Urticaceae)

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Urtica dioica (Urticaceae) is commonly known as nettle, common nettle, or stinging nettle. The species is an herbaceous perennial with a spreading growth habit. Growing 4-6 feet tall, stinging nettle produces numerous erect and wiry stems that hold up its opposite, roughly textured, serrated leaves.1-4 It produces small, inconspicuous greenish-brownish flowers that emerge as axillary inflorescences.The stems and undersides of leaves are covered with hairs called trichomes. When touched, these stinging trichomes inject a chemical cocktail that typically causes localized skin irritation as well as a painful, tingling sting from which the species has derived its most common name, stinging nettle.1,5

The Urticaceae family contains about 500 known species, distributed mainly in tropical areas.1 The genus Urtica, whose name comes from the Latin uro (to burn) and urere (to sting), consists of both annual and perennial herbaceous plants known for the burning properties of the…

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Our Pantry Profile: Rosemary

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Rosemary {Rosmarinus officinalis}

The name Rosmarinus loosely translates to “dew of the sea,” given to rosemary because of its affinity for the wind-swept cliffs of the Mediterranean coast, where it originates. Beloved for centuries for its aroma and health benefits, this strongly aromatic member of the mint family is now cultivated worldwide.

Greek scholars wore garlands of rosemary to improve their memory and concentration, and many ancient herbalists recommended rosemary for failing mental acuity. During the Middle Ages, some would wear it around the neck to protect from the plague. Thirteenth-century Queen Elisabeth of Hungary claimed at 72 years of age, crippled with gout and rheumatism, that she had regained her beauty and strength by using “Hungary Water” {largely rosemary-infused}, compelling the King of Poland to propose marriage to her. Along with juniper, rosemary was frequently burned by the tub-full to disinfect the air from disease, from ancient times through…

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Our Pantry Profile: Thyme

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Thyme {Thymus vulgaris}

Common garden thyme has been used for protection, courage, food, and medicine since the beginning of recorded history. A low-growing, aromatic shrub native to the rocky hills of the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, it’s now a staple of herb gardens around the world.

Roman soldiers bathed in thyme to maintain their courage and strength before a battle, and in medieval times, departing knights received thyme-embroidered scarves from their lady loves to keep up spirits and inspire courage. A popular belief was that thyme tea prevented nightmares and even encouraged dreams of fairies. Carrying thyme warded off evil spells and witchcraft, while sewing thyme and fern into the hem of a dress kept the Devil from taking a woman as his bride. Placing a sprig of thyme in one shoe and a sprig of rosemary in the other on the Eve of St. Agnes {January 20} was said…

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Activity of Lemon Balm and Moldavian Dragonhead Essential Oils against Foodborne Microorganisms

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

It has been postulated that plant essential oils can be used as natural preservatives to delay food spoilage, inhibit pathogen growth, and improve food quality. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis, Lamiaceae) aerial parts and Moldavian dragonhead (Dracocephalum moldavica, Lamiaceae) aerial parts have antibacterial and antifungal activity. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the chemical composition, antimicrobial activity, and antioxidant capacity of lemon balm and Moldavian dragonhead essential oils with the goal of finding natural agents to protect against oxidation changes and pathogenic bacteria of food.

Lemon balm and Moldavian dragonhead aerial parts were collected at blossoming in the summer of 2013 in Urmia, Iran. The plants were confirmed by the Herbarium Department of Jahad Agriculture and Natural Resources Center of West Azerbaijan, Iran. Essential oils were extracted via hydro-distillation, and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) was used to analyze the compounds in the essential oil. Antibacterial…

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Pantry Profile: Basil {Ocimum basilicum}

By Crooked Bear Creek Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Bright green, tall, and aromatic, basil is a beauty. An ancient plant with a long history and strange folklore, its sweet, peppery flavor has been used for centuries in cuisine and medicine.

Basil is native to Africa and Southeast Asia and was eventually cultivated in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Roman scholar Pliny the Elder described basil’s {now well-known} benefits as a carminative and digestive, explaining its effectiveness in relieving flatulence, colic, and nausea. It also has a long history of use for coughs associated with colds, and the leaves were routinely used topically as an insect repellent and poultice to relieve bug bites and stings.

Much myth and legend surrounded this plant we now consider a simple culinary herb. The ancient Egyptians believed basil would entice the god Osiris to open the gates of the afterlife. In his book the English Physician Enlarged, 17th-century botanist Nicholas Culpeper…

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Pantry Profile: Chives {Allium schoenoprasum}

By Crooked Bear Creek Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

With its bright green stalks and vibrant, lavender-pink and spiky blossoms, chives are a lovely ornamental plant and herb garden staple. Found fresh in the yard in summer and dried in cupboards in the cooler months of fall and winter, chives hold surprising medicinal and nutritional benefits. A member of the Amaryllidaceae family {Amaryllis}, which includes familiar alliums garlic and onions, chives have a mild and pleasant onion-garlic flavor.

Chives have played a role in medicine and protection for more than 5,000 years. The ancient Romans used chives to relieve sore throats, lower blood pressure, and increase urination, while Traditional Chinese Medicine turned to it for coughs, colds, and congestion. In the Middle Ages, it was a popular remedy for melancholy.

A traditional Romani custom was to use chives in fortune telling and to hang them in the home to ward off disease and evil influences. Planting chives in the…

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Mahonia & Lavender Oat Bars: Berry Delicious! — Gather Victoria

Mahonia & Lavender Oat Bars …

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You may not have heard of Mahonia berries but I know you’d love them – and they’re likely growing near you. Mahonia japonica and Mahonia bealei are both extremely common ornamental shrubs found in a wide variety of urban spaces – and in early July both are laden with deep blue dusky berries hanging in fat grape-like clusters.…

via Mahonia & Lavender Oat Bars: Berry Delicious! — Gather Victoria

The Forager’s: Foraging for Summertime Herbs

The Forager’s: Foraging For Summertime Herbs …

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Go beyond the confines of the garden and into the wild to find some of nature’s most valuable medicine.

Summer is the perfect time to stock up on nature’s healing gifts. But all too often we walk right by these treasures, not recognizing them as valuable plants. Learning how to identify and then use a variety of edible and medicinal plants in your region can open up a world of botanicals, not only providing you with access to important medicine but also helping you familiarize yourself with the wilderness that abounds.

Five Rules for Sustainable Foraging

Before you head out into the fields and forests to harvest plants, you need to know a bit about foraging ethics, as well as the dangers that certain plants can pose. In an environmentally fragile world, you want to proceed without taking from nature in ways that are harmful.

  1. Properly identify the plant

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Wild Food Profile: Milkweed + Fried Milkweed Pod Recipe

Wild Food Profile …

The Druid's Garden

Monarch catepillar enjoying a milkweed feast--they know the good stuff when they see it! Monarch caterpillar enjoying a milkweed feast–they know the good stuff when they see it!

I love the summer months for foraging wild foods.  One of my very favorite wild foods is Common Milkweed (asclepias syriaca).  Around here, the pods are just beginning to form–and its a great time to explore this delightful wild food.  They have a light vegetable taste, maybe something like a sugar snap pea–very tasty and delicious.  In fact, this is one of the best wild foods, allowing you to have four different harvests from the plant at four different times during the spring, summer, and early fall.

Ethical Harvesting and Nurturing Practice

With the excitement of harvesting from common milkweed, however, comes a serious responsibility.  New farming techniques over the last 20 years have eliminated many of the hedges that used to be full of milkweed.  Because of this issue, the monarchs have been in serious…

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