Friday, June 19, 2009

I'll drink to that with... a cup full of summer!

We liked Truffula Mama so much the last time she dropped a few seeds over here to report on greening potlucks, that we've asked her to become a regular guest poster. She's back again today to share another tale from the green trenches.

First, a little background:

My childhood experience of herbs and spices was that these came in small glass jars or McCormick tins (remember those?). It was a revelation when, while visiting an aunt, she sent me out to her garden with a pair of scissors, and the request to snip a few chives to jazz up our dinner. Herbs from the garden? And they were ok to eat?!

Of course, the chives were not only ok, but very yummy. Since then, I've embraced fresh parsley (I confess: I can't walk past those plants without snagging a leaf to savor), basil (makes lovely tea; who knew?!) blue balsam mint (divine!), lemon balm, sage, and more. As I've gotten more adventurous, I've nibbled on nasturtium (lovely in toasted cheese sandwiches), and made cookies with lemon verbena (yes, there were little green bits in these treats, and... they were oh so perfect).

In short, I'm sold on the concept of edible landscaping. And, having experienced its culinary blessings, I've stuck a toes into the realm of the medicinal, which... leads us to...

Today's post:

My elderberry shrub is in bloom. Full bloom. Georgeous bloom. The tiny white flowers will give way to almost equally tiny berries. Said berries are supposed to be full of healthy goodness, including helping you fight the flu. That sounded good to me. So, last year, I gathered a batch, boiled them, and turned them into a syrup, just in case illness struck.

Unfortunately, handwashing was not enough to keep the winter beasties away, and I had to dip into my syrup stash. My immune system was boosted by more than my DIY concoction: with each dose I dispensed for myself, I thought back to that warm mid-summer day on which I had visited with my shrub, gathered its fruit while basking in the sun's warmth, picked out the gazillion stems (a labor of love!), and created the syrup. My heart smiled at the memory represented on my spoon.

This is relevant is because my garden has taught me to courageously expand my boundaries, stepping out a little further with each growing season. About those elder flowers... this year (this week, in fact) I'm drying some for tea. Sure, I could buy them, packaged up (probably in plastic!) and ready to go. It wouldn't be the same, though, as I'd be missing that healing element of knowing that my garden yielded this gift of health.



Really, this is all a sort of insurance. I'm hoping that my throat won't scratch, and fever and its aches will remain at bay. But, if the germs insist on invading, I've got ingredients for a homegrown tea -- a cup of summer -- waiting in the wings to help my body (and spirits!) recover.

9 comments:

Julie said...

Isn't funny how many people grow herbs but are actually afraid to use them? Herbs have so many uses and are so easy to grow it's almost horrible to buy the basic ones in a store. I'm anxious now to try growing elderberry. You've made me have visions of not only medicinal syrup, but also elderberry jam and wine. Lovely post!

greeen sheeep said...

I have yet to venture into the medicinal use of herbs - still learning to cook with them - but this post makes me want to. I am currently working on a kitchen garden outside my potting shed. There is so much I want to grow.

Green Fundraising said...

That is awesome! I really want to learn to grow herbs. It seems so intimating when you feel you don't have the time. I love gardening stories...

Green Bean said...

Love it!! We do grow some herbs which I'm just now being diligent about using for cooking. Now I need to stretch a bit more into teas and medicines. Thanks for the encouragement.

kathy said...

Could you drop the recipe for the syrup? I made elderberry wine last year. It came out like a port, almost syrupy and delicious. Unfurtunately, I didn't write down what I did and the wine I am brewing now from berries I froze last year looks more like wine and less like port. I know I should always write down what I do but I put it off and am always sorry later.

Truffula Mama said...

LOL - I think we have the Mutual Encouragement Society here! You all, in turn, encouraged me to head back out to the yard with my basket, to harvest more herbs! I now have little bundles hanging from one of our clothes drying racks... hope we don't have any laundry to dry for a few days. :-)

@kathy - I remember looking at a number of elderberry syrup recipes. I finally decided on this one: http://herbalmentor.live.subhub.com/articles/20071020. But, those who know me well know that I rarely (ever?) follow a recipe to a "T"... True to form, I adapted a little, of course, without taking the notes I should have kept! What I remember (translation: what I plan to do this year) is that I put my berries into the pot, barely covered them with water, cooked that combination for a half hour, strained out the seeds, and then mixed in honey at a 1:1 ratio. In fact, what I did was fill my jars halfway, squirt in honey to fill the remaining half, put on the lid carefully (ladies, this juice *stains* like nobody's business), and shook to mix the contents. I then labeled the jars, and lovingly stashed them in the refrigerator. In the happy event that no one needs the syrup for illnesses, the syrup is very tasty -- how could it be otherwise, with all that honey in it? -- for use in a dish of yogurt, etc.

Deb G said...

I've been thinking about adding elderberry to my garden. I think this convinces me. Herbs are wonderful in so many ways.

therese said...

i haven't tried making anything with the berries yet, but i just posted a recipe with instructions for making elderblossom syrup(lemonade) today. you probably know how to do it, but if not, you can read it here http://earthandliving.blogspot.com

Nick said...

Nice post. Thanks! Here is the info where I got my start on how to dry herbs . It's been a great adventure :-)

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