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Orange Clove Pomanders

In November I like to make orange pomander balls to scent my home. Lemons, limes, grapefruit, and even apples can be used to make pomander balls.

What is a pomander?

Pomanders are a mixture of fragrant, dried herbs in cloth bags. Medieval herbalists used them to ward off illness and bring good fortune.

A pomander ball is an orange or other firm piece of citrus that is studded with cloves and coated with a blend of spices and orris root.  The orris root serves as a preservative.

Orange pomanders are easy to make.  Play some of your favorite holiday music and enjoy the aromatic flavor the orange and spices.

*Stud a firm orange with cloves.   A yarn needle or other sharp instrument can be used to poke a hole for the clove to enter.
*Arrange the cloves in a pattern.  Martha Stewart places a rubber band on the fruit to create a line to follow.   For a stronger aroma, cover the entire orange with cloves.
*Then roll the orange in a mixture of spices:   1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tbsp allspice,  1/4 c. powdered orris root. Leave the orange in the spice mix for 1 week,  turning it once a day.

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Cloves- One of the World’s Most Aromatic Spices

dscn1357-2Did you know that the name clove is derived from the Latin word claus,  meaning nail?  At one time I was a bit intimidated by the strong scent of this spice. Today I love to use cloves but sparingly so that they do not overwhelm the other spices and herbs.  Cloves are the still-closed buds from a pyramid-shaped evergreen tree that flowers twice a year.  Growing and harvesting them is an art because they have to be picked by hand at precisely the right time.The clove tree is widely cultivated in Madagascar and Tanzania. When the pink buds begin to appear, they must be harvested at once. Though the unopened buds are pink when  picked, they dry to a deep, rich brown under the sun.

In traditional and folk medicine, cloves and clove oil have been used to treat infections, to aid memory, and even as an aphrodisiac. Not until the middle ages were cloves valued in cooking.  In the United States cloves are used in both sweet and savory dishes with over 1,000 tons imported each year.

I enjoy tucking cloves in simmering spice bags alongside cinnamon, all spice and orange peel.  I also put  them in potpourri blends and holiday baking.  Using them to make an orange pomander is my very favorite clove craft.  Every year during the holidays I stud oranges and sometimes lemons and limes.  The house smells so warm and inviting.   Friends and family always comment on the wonderful fragrance when they first come for a visit.

 

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Scents of the Season with Holidays Herbs and Spices

As I look back over the many years I have been doing these holidays gatherings, there are certain herbs and spices that always make their way into the limelight.  I find these herbs in the garden or stored in my dried herb closet. They partner so easily with many of the kitchen cupboard spices.  So, here they are, the herbs and spices I must have year after year during the holidays –img_1739

The Herbs     (Bay leaf, Peppermint, Spearmint, Rosemary)

The Spices     (All spice, Star anise, Cloves, Cinnamon)
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What are some of the projects we do? Simmering spice bags, seasonal potpourri, orange pomanders, miniature herb wreaths, tree ornaments, scented candles, greeting cards, herb scented pillows, herbal tea blends, and small herb scented pillows.  It’s all about enjoying the scents of the season.

In the days to come, be watching for more about our  favorite recipes and activities.

By the way, what are some of your ideas for herb/spice crafting ideas?

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Cinnamon for the Holidays and throughout the year

 

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Cinnamon is the spice of home and hearth.  It is derived from the bark of an evergreen tree in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia.  The best quality cinnamon is harvested from the truck and graded according to its length, breadth, and thickness.  The quills are then cut from the bark.

Cinnamon’s sweet and spicy bite has been heralded since the beginning of human history.  God commanded Moses to include cinnamon in a recipe for sacred anointing oil.  The Greeks and Romans offered it to their Gods.

Today cinnamon is used in popular sweet dishes like apple pie, coffee cake, buns, muffins, cakes and cookies.  Cinnamon sticks are stirred into hot beverages, including mulled cider and wine.  Ironically, the spices that cooks use to give sugary confections more flavor, may also help to balance blood sugar levels.

In addition to cinnamon’s reported ability to control blood sugar levels, there have been studies done which indicate that just smelling cinnamon may boost your ability to think and remember.  A study conducted by Phillip Zoladz, PhD, a professor of psychology at Ohio Northern University, found that students scored better on several mental performance tests after smelling or tasting cinnamon.  As I write this blog, I have a few cinnamon sticks sitting by the computer to keep me going.  Sniffing a little cinnamon also seems to keep me looking on the bright side of life.

With this in mind, why not sprinkle cinnamon on apples, bananas, melons and oranges?  Add cinnamon to hot cocoa and sprinkle a little into beef stew, lentil soup, or meatloaf.  I love to pepper my bowl of hot oatmeal with a generous dusting of cinnamon.  As a child I often asked my grandmother to make cinnamon sugar toast as a treat.  Such a happy memory.

What ideas do you have for using this amazing spice in your life?  Does anyone else keep a few cinnamon sticks by your computer?

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A Visit to My Family’s Tree Farm

 

Retirement home

Retirement home

In September I visited my mother in Washington state. She lives on a 60 acre tree farm. Mom was born on this land. Both she and my father were raised in this small logging community. In their twenties they moved to California to become teachers. They continued to live in California throughout their teaching career. However, every June they returned to the tree farm to spend the summer. At first their summer home was a trailer. Later they downed some of the trees to build a log cabin, complete with an upstairs loft and a library/sitting room.                                       IMG_2489

After retirement, my parents built their dream home up the road a ways. Their log cabin became a bed and breakfast. Folks came from all around the world to enjoy a night or two in this log cottage. Sadly my father passed away several years ago but my mother continues to live on the land, land that has been in her family for four generations. She enjoys quilting, gardening, volunteering in the local museum, church activities, and visiting with the locals. many of whom she has known all her life.

log cabin

log cabin

Every summer I look forward to this visit with my mother and the trees. There are wonderful hiking trails that take me deep into the forest. In the afternoon I walk one of them, sometimes meeting a friendly deer. Though most of the trees are Douglas Fir, there are a few cedar trees. This year I harvested some of their greenery to use when I make holiday dream pillows. November is the month when I make a generous mixture of this blend for family, friends, and myself of course. Lavender, rose petals, pine needles, rosemary, orange peel, and cinnamon are among the ingredients in this blend. I love sleeping with these sweet smelling fragrances throughout the holidays.

comfrey

comfrey

One day I was walking along a dry creek bed. What a surprise to see large healthy comfrey leaves growing everywhere. I slid down the bank and began collecting them. There is a potting shed not far from the main house where I dry herbs during my visits. I wanted to dry both the cedar and the comfrey leaves. The comfrey would be a gift for my sister who lives nearby. She loves to soak in a tub of warm, comfrey infused water. The healing water alleviates back pain and leaves her skin feeling soft and silky.

apple tree

apple tree

Another highlight of my visit, the apple trees growing near the log cabin. At least one of these trees has been in the family for 4 generations. Last summer my mother and I made crab apple jelly and it was delish! This summer we enjoyed eating them and making apple sauce. Today I called my mom to say hi. She had been picking more apples to use in her applesauce raisin cookies. When she first approached the tree, a woodpecker did his best to frighten her. He and the robins had been feasting on these apples for weeks and they did not want to share.

So now I am back in California. I miss hiking the forest and breathing the cool, clean air but California is my home. Fortunately I will be visiting the tree farm again in March.

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My New Favorite Breakfast Drink Celery and Apple Juice with Parsley

 

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Recently I read Anthony William’s special report on the Top Ten Super Foods. Celery was the first food listed. The very next day I used my Bullet to make celery apple juice with four sprigs of parsley. It was delicious and the best possible way to start my morning. I felt clean and energized. My body gave me a strong thumbs up.

Celery is an alkaline food. The more alkaline your body, the better your chance of being disease free. Celery removes acid and poisons from the body. It is rich in vitamin A, magnesium, and iron, which all help to nourish the blood.

Like celery, parsley is a blood builder and a natural anti-inflammatory.  As mentioned in a previous post, it is filled with vitamins and is a natural antihistamine.  I live in California’s central valley which is known for not having the cleanest air.  I often find my sinuses congested and the parsley does help.  On particularly difficult days, I will nibble a little parsley throughout the day. However, you need to be aware that parsley is also a diuretic.

 

  My recipe for celery apple juice

2 stalks celery, cut

1/2 apple, chopped

4-5 sprigs of parsley

Toss all ingredients into your Bullet or blender.  Add 1-2 cups water.  Blend and enjoy.

 

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Macaroni Garden Salad, A wonderful Summer Salad

IMG_0518One year I made this delicious salad with the herb garden club. The basil and parsley were harvested from our garden. Over the years I have tweaked the ingredients until my students, my family, and I were completely satisfied. You may find yourself changing a few things to better suits your taste buds. I always make at least a double recipe because students are sure to want seconds.

Basil is most often thought of as an ingredient in tomato sauce or pasta.  I am not sure how many folk realize that basil tea does wonders for almost any digestive complaint.  When basil is added to a pasta dish, the bright green spicy leaves makes it easier to enjoy a second helping.Crestwood Gardening Students

Using a knife to cut basil can bruise and darken the leaves.  For salads and pasta sauces, shred the leaves with your fingers.  Young leaves have the best flavor.

So without further adieu, here is our version of a warm weather pasta salad flavored by two of our favorite herbs.

Ingredients:

16 oz macaroni
1 cups cubed mozzarella
5 tbsp diced fresh basil
3 tbsp parsley
1 c. roma tomatoes
1/2  c. black olives
4oz salami cut into pieces
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Dressing:

3 tbsp balsami vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
1  tbsp Lemon juice plus a few drops Tabasco
Garlic to taste

Directions:  Cook the macaroni according to the package directions.  Then mix all the ingredients and toss with dressing.   This is Very Important!  The salad should marinate for 1 and 1/2 days before it is served. This allows the herbs, cheeses, tomatoes, olives and salami to fully infuse the pasta with their wonderful flavors.  Sometimes I find myself having a little taste before the day and a half goes by.  That first bite reminds me to leave the salad alone until the time is right!

 

“A man taking basil from a woman

will love her always”

Sir Thomas More

Tudor statesman and philosopher.  1478-1535

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I Forgot the Parsley

This morning I went into the kitchen to make a green smoothie for breakfast.  I tossed the following ingredients into the blender:

1 cup kale or spinach

1/2 cup banana

1/2 chopped apple

1/2 cup blueberries ( frozen or fresh)

3 tbsps frozen orange juice

5  walnut halves

about 2 cups water

While sipping this wonder of nature, my tastebuds told me something was missing.  The parsley! Out to the garden I went with my orange tabby George right alongside me.  The parsley patch was waiting for our arrival.  In no time 3 healthy stems of parsley were pulsing along with the rest of my morning smoothie.  As I enjoyed the delicious blend of fruit and vegetables I knew my energy would be strong as well as calm and focused throughout the morning.

Parsley is one of my favorite herbs.  It is nutrient dense, full of vitamins A and C along with calcium, magnesium, and iron.  Parsley is also a natural anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine.  Munching on parsley every day may provide relief from allergies, asthma, and hives.  It is also a healthy herb for vision and digestion.

Most of all I appreciate parsley for its role as a cleanser.  This herb is high in chlorophyll and helps to detoxify waste from our bodies.  I have read that the avg American is walking around with up to 200 chemicals and 21 pesticides that weren’t in our bodies 100 years ago.  Eating parsley is a simple but powerful way to keep our bodies clean.  If you do not have parsley growing in your garden or in a pot, plant some!

What’s your favorite smoothie herb?

 

 

 

 

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The Crestwood Herb Garden Club- Another great year

12745_1158014909628_8340526_nIn a few weeks Crestwood’s herb garden club will come to a close.  This year we have learned to grow and use sage, basil, lemon verbena, marjoram, oregano, scented geraniums, and the leaves from our garden bay tree.  We have also enjoyed collecting and using the acorns from the mighty oak tree that grows in the nearby Crestwood Park.  During our last meeting we will learn simple first aid practices using the herbs in our garden.

Our journals are stuffed with mini herb lecture notes and recipes.  I think students most of all enjoyed the acorn bread we sampled last October.   However,  they also came back for seconds when I served them  the pasta salad featuring basil and parsley.  Favorite herbcrafts included the lemon verbena sweet jar made with lavender, calendula, dried roses, cinnamon, and cloves, and the rose geranium spritzers that lifted everyone spirits after a busy school day.

Soon graduation day will come.  Students will receive a Jr. Herbalist certificate honoring them for their skill in growing and using the herbs we have become acquainted with this year.  What a wonderful time we all had with each other and the herb garden.  Students are beginning to ask which herbs we will learn about next year.  This summer I will be gathering new recipes and ideas for our meetings.

Tomorrow I will begin sharing some our favorite herbal recipes.  I hope you have parsley growing in your garden because I have discovered a wonderful way to enjoy this pristine herb.

 

Kathy Stevens

 

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