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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Southwest Gardening: Sacred Mesquite ~Recipes

By Crooked Bear Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Mesquite grows well in desert areas from the southwestern United States to the Andean regions of South America. Traditionally, native peoples of the Southwest depended on mesquite. It provided food, fuel, shelter, weapons, medicine, and cosmetics. As times changed, and as refined sugar and wheat flour became staples, the role of mesquite was diminished.

mesquite flour

Mesquite meal was once made by hand-grinding the plant’s seeds and pods on stones. Now modern milling techniques speed up the process, grinding the entire mesquite pod at once, including the protein-rich seed. This produces a meal that is highly nutritious as well as very flavorful. The meal ground from the pod contains 11 to 17 percent protein. High lysine content makes it the perfect addition to other grains that are low in this amino acid.

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http://www.mesquiteflour.com/

Although desert dwellers used mesquite pods as a source of food for centuries, when you order and use this product…

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The Spice Pantry: Queen of the Spices, Cardamon

By Crooked Bear Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Cardamom – The Queen of Spices

My favorite spice in the house!

Cardamom is the Queen of Spices and has grown lavishly under the tropical canopy on hillsides in the Ghat Mountains on the Malabar Coast of southern India to be harvested by hand and shipped around the world.  The cardamom familiar to India and the western world is called green cardamom and it, along with several other types such as giant cardamom, black cardamom, and bastard cardamom, have been used for cooking, perfumery, incense, and medicine since very early in history.

cardamon flowers

Ancient Egyptians used it frequently for perfume along with frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, and cassia, and had a recipe for an ointment called “Oil of Lilies” that included the scent from 1000 lilies. It is often mentioned as one of the ingredients of the ancient incense kyphi. Cardamom essential oil is one of the oldest essential oils known in perfumery…

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The Spice Pantry: Black Pepper

By Crooked Bear Creek Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Piper nigrum

Also, Known As:

  • Black Pepper

The common herbal product known as the black pepper is a well-known spice around the world and is used in almost every home, this herb is native to southern India, though it is now cultivated widely in many tropical countries of the world. The plant itself is a perennial woody climbing vine which can reach a height of about 15 ft or 5 meters climbing on trees and along man-made wooden trellises. The herb bears characteristic and large oval-shaped leaves, it also has spikes of many small and white colored flowers, the commercial pepper itself is made from the many clusters of small round fruits borne on the plant, these small fruits are the pepper of common use, and these fruits ripen from a green to red coloration as they mature on the vine.

The black pepper vine is not only economically interesting…

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The Spice Pantry: Clove

By Crooked Bear Creek Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Eugenia carpophyll Ata syn. Syzygium aromaticum

Also, Known As:

  • Clove

The association of the clove with human society is old indeed. The ancient Chinese Han dynasty – lasting from 207 B.C. to A.D. 220, gives us our first clue to the uses of the fragrant clove. Chinese physicians of that era wrote that the court visitors to the emperor were required to hold cloves in their mouths while they addressed the emperor, it would be reasonable to believe that this was to save the ruler from the bad breath of the visitors. The clove is a pungent and aromatic floral bud, and its use as a spice reached Europe around the 4th century A.D. when commercial trading really started with the Arabs who in turn acquired these dried and fragrant buds from the cultures to the east in Asia. The spice trade leading to great competition among European seafaring nations…

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Aromatic Culinary Herb Called the Savory

By Crooked Bear Creek Organics

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Savory

Satureja hortensis / Satureja montana

Also, Known As:

  • Mountain Savory
  • Savory
  • Summer Savory
  • Winter Savory

Ancient herbal texts frequently mention about two types of savories – summer savory comprising the dense parts of the herb Satureja hortensis L., and the winter savory, which is acquired from the herb Satureja Montana L. While the summer savory is an annual plant, the winter savory is perennial and is used to add essence to foods. Both these aromatic species belong to the mint (Lamiaceae) plant family. They are small plants that are cultivated extensively as garden plants. These plants produce slender leaves and flowers whose color varies from pale lavender to pink to white. Of the two Satureja species, the summer savory is valued highly and has been used widely in folk medicine in comparison to the winter savory. Both these herbs have been valued as sex medicines for several centuries. It…

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