Brassicaceae – the cabbage family

Here is the last article in the series looking at the different plant families.  The last family which I am going to cover is the cabbage family.  This family is also known as the mustard family as well as Cruciferae (which was the old plant family name).  This older name related to a key identification feature – cruciferae means cross bearing and all of the flowers in this family have four petals which are arranged in the shape of a cross.  The family contains over 330 genera and about 3,700 species and is a medium sized family of economic importance as a lot of our food sources are from this family.  They are mainly herbaceous plants and a mixture of annuals, biennials, and perennials.  Can you think of any plants from this family that you would eat?

Love your food

Love your food

Some examples of food crops from the brassicaceae family include: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, rapeseed, mustard, radish, horseradish, cress, wasabi, and watercress.  Did you get any right?

cabbage family examples

Interestingly, six of our common vegetables–cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale–were all bred from a single species of mustard, Brassica oleracea. Plant breeders developed the starch-storage abilities of different parts of the plant to come up with each unique vegetable. Commercial mustard is usually made from the seeds of the black mustard (B. nigra) mixed with vinegar.

brassicaceae breeding

In addition to their long culinary history, these vegetables are revered because they are filled with vitamins, nutrients, and minerals essential for good health. Many of these vegetables can be eaten when very young and most are relatively easy to grow. It’s not surprising that all of these qualities have led this to be one of the most popular families in vegetable gardens.  Around 40% of all vegetables consumed in Northwest Europe are members of the Brassica family.

Plant Identification

Brassicaceae

They are a highly uniform group and so Brassicaceae are easily identified by the four petals when in flower.

  • They are usually herbaceous in habit, occasionally becoming shrubby.
  • Leaves are alternate and either simple or pinnate.
  • The distinctive flowers are yellow, white or pinkish/purplish and are usually carried in a spike.They have 2 fused carpels and 6 stamens: usually 4 long, 2 short. They are odourless.
  • The fruit is a capsule.
  • As you become more familiar with this family, you will begin to notice patterns in the taste and smell of the plants. While each species has its own unique taste and smell, you will soon discover an underlying pattern of mustardness. You will be able to recognize likely members of the family simply by crushing the leaves and smelling them.

All species of Mustard are edible, although some taste better than others. In other words, it doesn’t matter which species of mustard you find. As long as you have correctly identified it as a member of the Mustard family, then you can safely try it and see if you want it in your salad or not.  Which is a good thing as members of this family can be difficult to tell apart.  Most members of the Mustard family are weedy species with short lifecycles like the radish. Look for them in disturbed soils such as a garden or construction site, where the ground is exposed to rapid drying by the sun and wind. The Mustards sprout quickly and grow fast, flowering and setting seed early in the season before all moisture is lost from the ground.

In the Grimsby area you can see Rape escaped, Shepard’s Purse, Charlock, Garlic Mustard, Horseradish, Watercress and Hedge Mustard to name just a few.  Unfortunately in this area the council spray Glycophytes/RoundUp everywhere so please only harvest in your garden (if you don’t use chemicals) or from a designated organic area.

Key medicinal theme: Pungency and stimulation

The chemicals produced by this family are mustard-oil glycosides (glucosinolates) which defend the plants against microorganisms and animals. They can poison livestock if eaten in sufficient quantities and therefore charlock is seen as a troublesome weed on arable land and not an early source of a cabbage like vegetable (cabbages are slow growing whilst charlock is quick).

Brassica plants are particularly rich in glucosinolates (Mustard oil glycosides) and therefore a spicy mustard like taste is characteristic of the family.  The glucosinolates are probably responsible for most of the medicinal actions of the herbs of this family. They are digestive stimulants and respiratory decongestants with antibacterial and antifungal actions.

Externally, they have a rubefacient effect exploited in the use of the mustards and cabbage in poultices for anti-inflammatory effects.  If you have ever breastfed or strained your knee you may have used a cabbage leaf to ease the pain as a poultice.

Members of this family contain factors that may prevent cancers, leave are used for rheumatism and toothaches and seeds can be used for headaches and as a tonic. Mustard oils can cause skin irritation and ulcers from both external application and consumption.  Brassicas are also usually a good source of vitamin C.

shepherds purse

Capsella bursa-pastoris is one of the most useful of all herbal styptics / haemostatics. However, this is not an action often seen in other members of the family.  Brassicaceae were only rarely used in folk medicine in the UK. The most frequent uses are for scurvy and as purifying tonics (Nasturtium officinale, Scurvy-grass and Charlock); and for stopping bleeding (Capsella bursa-pastoris only)

broccoli

Here are some recipes which include broccoli a member of the brassicaceae family:

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

• 10 tablespoons of butter
• 1/2 cup tapioca flour
• 3 cups homemade chicken stock, that is hot, or 2 cups stock and 1 cup dry white wine
• 1 cup of cream, or whole milk
• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
• 2 teaspoons sea salt
• 1 1/2 teaspoons tarragon
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• 1 large onion cut in half
• 3 cloves garlic, cut in half
• 6-8 cups of broccoli, florets and stalks chopped into small pieces(3-4 stalks)
• 4 cups extra sharp cheddar, plus extra to use as a garnish (or a mixture of mild and sharp cheddar)

Directions

  1. Add the butter to a large chef’s pan over medium high heat until melted.
  2. Add the flour and stir with a whisk for a few minutes. Once it’s well incorporated slowly whisk in 1 cup of hot broth at a time, adding the wine last if you are using it. Whisk until smooth and all the liquid has been added.
  3. Turn up the heat, bring to a boil. Add the onion halves and garlic pieces and cook 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream, Dijon, tarragon, salt and nutmeg.
  4. Meanwhile in another pot steam the broccoli until tender. While the broccoli is steaming, shred the cheese. Remove onion and garlic pieces from the soup base and add the broccoli. Take about 1/3 of the mixture and blend it in a food processor or blender. Return to the pot and add 4 cups of cheese. Stir to melt the cheese. Add extra cheese to individual bowls.

Broccoli Casserole

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

• 1 – 1 1/2 pounds fresh organic broccoli, lightly steamed and chopped
• Butter
• 2 cups cultured sour cream
• 2 cups grated New Zealand Cheddar
• 2-3 pastured eggs
• 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon dried basil
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• Sea salt and black pepper to taste
• 1/2 -1 cup sautéed sliced mushrooms (optional)
• Juice of half a lemon (optional)
• Several splashes of fish sauce (optional)

Directions

  1. Butter a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix together the broccoli, sour cream, cheddar, eggs, garlic, paprika, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and if using the mushrooms, fish sauce and lemon juice.
  3. Place the mixture in the casserole dish. Bake 30 minutes.

Nourishing Broccoli Salad

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

• 2 heads of broccoli, stem peeled and cut into small pieces, as well as florets cut into small pieces, blanched in boiling water for 3 minutes, drained and rinsed under cold water until steam has dissipated.
• 1/2 a red onion, sliced thin
• 2-4 scallions, thinly sliced
• 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, cut into small slivers
• 8 pieces of bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled

Dressing

Ingredients

• 1 cup sour cream
• 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
• 3 Tbsp. olive oil
• 2 Tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar
• 2 garlic cloves minced
• 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Mix all salad ingredients together and toss with the dressing. Let sit for 30 minutes for flavors to meld together.
  3. Enjoy at room temperature or chilled. This salad can be prepared up to a day in advance.
  4. Don’t forget to take this to the next picnic you are headed to this summer!!

Crocodile Nuggets

Serves 4

Ingredients

• 3 cups finely shredded, raw or cooked vegetables (I used a mixture of
• broccoli, carrot, cabbage and cauliflower)
• 4 cups finely ground, cooked chicken or turkey
• 4 cups breadcrumbs or cooked rice, or ½ cup coconut flour
• 3 Tbs nutritional yeast or 2 cups shredded cheese, if not dairy-free
• 6 eggs, beaten, egg replacer or 1½ cups leftover mashed potatoes
• 1 tsp garlic granules or powder
• 1 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
• 1/2 tsp onion powder

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat and set aside.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well combined. Add some extra breadcrumbs if the mixture is too wet, or add an extra egg if the mixture is too dry to stick together.
  3. Shape the mixture into patties. I used a 2-ounce cookie scoop to make it quick and uniform. Place on the cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Serve with ranch dressing, carrot sticks & celery sticks.

To freeze, place the patties in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze until solid, then transfer to a zip-top bag or container. They freeze well for up to a month.

Broccoli and Potato Frittata

Serve 2-4

Frittatas are a wonderfully quick way to prepare a hot and nutritious dish out of minimal ingredients. When I found myself with a bit of leftover broccoli and leftover fried potatoes, frittata seemed the perfect dish.

Ingredients

• Leftover fried potatoes
• Leftover steamed broccoli
• 3 or 4 eggs
• 1 cup milk, water or ½ milk, ½ water
• Optional addition: Up to 2 cups shredded cheese
• Healthy oil for cooking

Directions

  1. Turn your broiler on. In a skillet, over medium heat, warm the potatoes and broccoli in a bit of oil. Meanwhile combine the eggs and milk until the eggs are well beaten.
  2. When the potatoes and broccoli are warm add a little additional fat and then position them so they cover the bottom.
  3. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Use a knife to wiggle the eggs in to allow the eggs to spread evenly.
  4. Allow to cook undisturbed for a few minutes so the bottom will begin to set up. Then using your spatula go around the edges of the egg and lift it slightly allowing the uncooked parts to run under the lifted part. Continue to do this until the egg is mostly set.
  5. Then carefully move the egg dish under the broiler. This will allow the top of the eggs to finish cooking. It only takes a few minutes so keep a close eye on it. The eggs will puff up and be a gorgeous tan when done. Remove from oven.
  6. Cut in wedges and serve. This is delicious topped with fresh sour cream.

Gluten-Free Broccoli Cheese Soup

Ingredients

• 8 TBL butter (from grassfed cows)
• 1 organic onion, diced
• 2 organic carrots, diced
• 2 ribs organic celery, diced
• 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed, diced
• 8 cups of organic broccoli florets and stalks chopped into small pieces(4-5 stalks)
• Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• ¼ tsp white pepper
• 2 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock/broth
• 1 cup dry white wine (or additional cup stock)
• 1 cup of raw cream or crème fraiche (from grass-fed cows)
• 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• 3 cups extra sharp grass fed cheddar

Directions

  1. Add the butter to a large stock pot over medium high heat until melted. Add onions, carrots and celery and sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add broccoli and stir to coat well with butter. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add broth and optional wine. Turn up the heat, bring to a low boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook covered (with lid on) until broccoli pieces are soft (roughly about 15 minutes).
  4. Remove from heat. With an immersion/stick blender, puree soup to desired consistency, or process in a regular blender, in batches, taking care not to burn yourself . Return to pot, off heat, stir in cream, dijon, nutmeg and cheese. Stir to combine and melt cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  5. If soup needs to be reheated, reheat slowly and do not allow it to come to a boil. Serve immediately.

On GAPS? If you use creme fraiche and cheddar cheese, this soup is GAPS friendly, as long as you tolerate dairy. Double check the ingredients on your dijon mustard to make sure it’s GAPS legal, or simply omit.
Vegetarian? Just sub veggie broth for the chicken broth.
Basic Stir Fry

Serves 2 and then some depending on how many vegetables you use (leftovers!!)

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup quality stir fry beef
• A truck load of chopped up veg Including things like:
• bok choy
• mushrooms
• peppers
• onions
• broccoli
• eggplant
• zucchini
• green beans
• baby corn
• 1 – 2 tsp gluten free tamari
• Optional: sesame seeds, unrefined sesame oil, and green onions
• Brown rice

Directions

  1. Chop up your veggies and meat
  2. Saute the meat and veggies on medium heat with a bit of virgin coconut oil.
  3. Put your serving on plate and add the tamari after cooking rather than during (because it seems like the taste gets lost in cooking and you have to add more and more and more).
  4. Serve with 1/2 cup of brown rice if you wish.
  5. Top with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and green onions if desired!
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Malvaceae family – the mallows :)

The mallow family may not have as many medicinal species as other plant families which I have discussed in my blog but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a relevant plant family.  The word ‘Mallow’ comes from the Greek ‘Malakos’ and means ‘soft or soothing’.  I am lucky enough to have common mallow appearing wild in my garden and I cultivate marshmallow.  The Malvaceae, or the mallows, are a family of flowering plants containing over 200 genera with close to 2,300 species, the largest concentration being found in South America.

Many of these species are found in rather dry habitats, often near the sea – I live close to the seaside and the common mallow which grows wild in my garden has taken up residence in between the paving slabs which make up the paths in my garden, as well as next to my alley way door and the wall in my front garden – all areas where the rain doesn’t get too as much!. The mallow family generally have a high mucilage content which may be a way in which they can conserve their fluids.

You may be thinking about marshmallows – which grow in marsh land.  That isn’t a dry habitat!! But when you think about it marshes tend to have high concentrations of salt which can have a dehydrating effect.

mallow family

  • Mallows usually have soft, velvety hairs covering stems and leaves.
  • They tend to be greyish, rather than bright green.
  • Leaves are petiolate, alternate, simple, and usually palmately veined.
  • The flowers are almost always bisexual and actinomorphic (radially symmetrical). In the UK species, there are 5 petals, usually in pink or purple (occasionally white). There are many stamens and at least 2 fused carpels.

marshmallow

Did you know that marshmallows were originally formulated as a form of medicine?  Mucilage is edible. It is used in medicine for its demulcent properties. Traditionally marshmallows were made from the extract of the mucilaginous root of the marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis); due to the demulcent nature of the extract, it served as a cough suppressant.  Also did you know that the vegetable okra is part of this family?  If you are on facebook or go online you may have seen the numerous posts and articles about the health benefits of this green vegetable 🙂

hibiscus

Hibiscus is another member of this family and is another herb which I use medicinally – it makes a delicious tea which can support the reduction of high blood pressure.  Gossypium spp. also comes from this delightful plant family whose long silky hairs (characteristic of Malvaceae) are harvested commercially  to produce cotton.

cotton

The key medicinal theme of this plant family is their demulcent (internal) and vulnerary (external) effects on the body.  Demulcent herbs are rich in mucilage and can soothe and protect irritated or inflamed tissue within the body and vulnerary herbs are applied externally and support the body in the healing of wounds and cuts.  Mucilage can be used in gastrointestinal inflammatory processes; associated to topical irritation agents. The mechanism of action is that mucilages cover the mucous membranes and prevent irritation of the nerve endings.

The UK species are all demulcents, used for their soothing effects on the digestion, respiratory and urinary systems.  The family as a whole rarely contains toxic constituents. However cotton have been found to reduce male fertility. This is due to the presence of the sesquiterpene gossypol, which prevents spermatogenesis. However, this effect may be irreversible if high doses are taken over a long period of time.

real marshmallows

How to make Rose & Marshmallow Root Marshmallows

If you do not have rose hydrosol or rose water then you can substitute them for water (or experiment with different herbal teas such as chamomile, chamomile honey and vanilla or even cacao.

Ingredients

120 ml rose hydrosol/rose water
120 ml water
1 tablespoon marshmallow root powder
1-2 tablespoons of hibiscus flowers (these make the marshmallows pink!)
235 ml honey
1 packet of unflavored gelatin
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Bring the water and rose hydrosol to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the marshmallow root and hibiscus flower and stir with a whisk. Simmer for five minutes and then place in the fridge until cool.
  2. Strain the marshmallow and hibiscus decoction through a fine mesh sieve. Add enough water to equal a full cup.
  3. Take half of the marshmallow mixture and place in a medium sized bowl and add gelatin to it. Set aside.
  4. Take the other half of the mixture in a small saucepan along with the honey, vanilla extract and the salt.
  5. Bring to a simmer. Place the candy thermometer in the mixture until it reaches 2400 (soft ball) then remove from heat.
  6. Using a hand mixer begin to mix the marshmallow and gelatin mixture on low. Slowly add the hot marshmallow and honey mixture while continuing to mix.
  7. Once the two mixtures have been combined continue to whip on high for another 5-10 minutes.
  8. Pour the mixture onto an 8×8 pan lined with natural parchment paper that has been oiled.
  9. Let these sit for a few hours until they are set up and firm.
  10. Slice with a knife. These were a little sticky.
  11. You could roll them in rose petal powder or powdered sugar if you wanted them less sticky.
  12. Enjoy these marshmallows any way you would enjoy the store-bought variety – they make a great treat for children, especially if they are prone to respiratory tract infections.

If you would like to purchase the marshmallow root and hibiscus please check out my website as I am planning to set up an online shop for dried herbs over the next few weeks: http://www.herbsforhealthandwellbeing.co.uk

 

Lamiaceae family – the mint family

I am continuing my series on the medicinal benefits of the different plant families.  This is something I explored whilst studying herbal medicine.  It helps to give you the general characteristics of the plant families.  Not everything will be applicable to each and every plant, but will relate in general to the medicinal species found in the group.

The mint family is a favourite of mine, my garden contains: peppermint, spearmint, applemint, pineapple sage, garden sage, purple sage red deadnettle, lavenders, rosemanry and lemon balm.  all of which belong to this delightful plant family.  The Lamiaceae is a family of flowering plants (mostly herbs and shrubs) that comprises over 240 genera and 6,500 species worldwide.

The original family name is Labiateae, so given because the flowers typically have petals fused into an upper lip and a lower lip. Although this is still considered an acceptable alternative name, most botanists now use the name “Lamiaceae” in referring to this family.

The plants are frequently aromatic in all parts and include many widely used culinary herbs, such as basil, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop and thyme. Many members of the family are widely cultivated, owing not only to their aromatic qualities but also their ease of cultivation: these plants are among the easiest plants to propagate by stem cuttings.  Why not have a go yourself – if you have friends, family or neighbours who have these herbs in their garden, why not ask if you could have a stem cutting?  You can place it in water to see if it roots, or use root hormone powder, or just place it in some mud/compost and leave it for several months to root itself.  Either way you could grow your own herbs for free due to kindness and sharing.

There are several plant characteristics which define the fact that a plant belongs to this family.  This is the botany of the plant families.

patterns in the mint family

The mint family have square stems, you will notice that the leaves are attached to flat edges not corners.  The leaves are often simple in shape (no lobes/edging etc), the leaves are also in opposite pairs at right angles to pairs above and below them on the plant stems.

leaf botany

 

There are no Stipules.

A close up of sage - Salvia officinalis

A close up of sage – Salvia officinalis

You will also notice (especially on closer inspection that the plants are hairy, this can include the leaves and other parts including flowers.  Can you see the hairs on the sage above?

Flowers from the lamiaceae family bloom in nodes with at least 4 different flowers; some form 2 dense opposite inflorescences like whorls; may form end spikes: sometimes with ‘a protective throat of hairs’  The petals of the flowers are irregular in shape generally with 5 united petals, two of which are usually lipped.  The petals can also be tubular.

On inspection of a member of the mint family in flower you will find 2 pairs of stamens at base of petals, 1 pair longer than the other.  Once the flower has been fertilized 4 distinct chambers develop containing four fruit/nutlets/seeds.  The style arises from the base of the ovary between the 4 chambers (the style is the male sex organ of the flower which is essential in reproductive pollination.

The constituents of the Lamiaceae Family

As with several of the herbs I grow in my garden, they are aromatic.  Hairy glandular trichomes produce and store essential oils also known as volatile oils.  These volatile oils are very light and therefore easy to evaporate, they can pass through the blood brain barrier and also through skin and are therefore used in the therapy aromatherapy. Essential oils probably work at least partially via stimulation of the sense of smell, and subsequent activation of the limbic system.

Volatile oils are made up of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes and the phenylpropanoids.

Because of their small molecular size, many monoterpenes are volatile and are the principal components of volatile (essential) oils, occurring to varying degrees in practically all essential oils.  Whilst they do have significant therapeutic effects on a phytochemical level they are not classed as aromatic and rarely contribute much to the odours and tastes of the volatile oils.  Hydrocarbon monoterpenes tend to be weakly antiseptic, bactericidal, stimulating, expectorant and slightly analgesic. They are often mild skin irritants.  Some are antiviral and others break down gallstones.  Monoterpenes provide the ‘high notes’ that dominate citrus and needle oils, such as eucalyptus.

In general, sesquiterpenes in essential oils are slightly antiseptic, bactericidal, slightly hypotensive, cooling, anti-allergy, and anti-inflammatory; calming some are analgesic and/or spasmolytic.  Their properties are less influenced by functional groups than with monoterpenes.  Sesquiterpenes are more viscous than monoterpenes, less volatile, often yellow or brown.  The total essential oil content of plants is generally less than 1%.

Within the plant, essential oils are stored in special plant cells, e.g. glands, glandular hairs, oil ducts and resin ducts.  They may be found in any part of the plant, including flowers, fruits, leaves, roots, wood, bark and saps.  Most oils are a complex mixture of compounds, which vary according to the season, time of day, growing conditions and even genetic factors. Therefore, different examples of the same botanical species may produce widely differing oils. These different oils are known as chemotypes.  Aromatherapy distilled the volatile oils out of plants using several methods including enfleurage and steam.

General Medicinal Uses of Essential oils include:

Antiseptic – this can be a local effect on the skin or internally in the digestive system, or systemically by a reflex action benefiting organs such as the lungs.  Sage is an example of a local antiseptic herb, and thyme a systemic antiseptic.

Carminative – mint, rosemary and lemon balm all have calming effects both physically and emotionally.

Anti-catarrhal – mint and hyssop both support the reduction of catarrh within the body.

Common medicinal uses of the lamiaceae plant family:

•Anti-spasmodic – Release muscle tension
•Sedatives – Reduce irritability and excitement.
•Relaxants – Release tension in the muscles.
•Anti-catarrhal- Enable the body to get rid of mucus.
•Febrifuge – Brings down a fever.
•Stomachics – Improves stomach function and appetite.
•Expectorants – Promotes the removal of phlegm from the chest.
•Endocrine regulators – Helps to regulate the endocrine system.
•Anti-microbial – Inhibits the growth of micro organisms such as bacteria.
Recipes which utilise plants within the Lamiaceae family:
I have given a link here to an amazing blogger who creates and shares recipes: https://botanistinthekitchen.wordpress.com/tag/lamiaceae/
Lavender Scones
(Makes about 12)
225g plain flour
15ml baking powder
50g butter
50g sugar
2 tsp fresh lavender flowers roughly chopped
150ml milk
  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7.  Sift the flour and baking powder together.  Run the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Stir in the sugar and lavender, reserving a pinch to sprinkle on the top of the scones before baking them.
  • Add enough milk to make a soft, sticky dough.  Bind the dough together, then turn it out on to a lightly floured surface.
  • Shape the dough into a round, gently patting down the top to give 2.5cm depth.  using a floured cutter, stamp out 12 scones.
  • Place on a baking sheet.  Brush the tops with a little milk and sprinkle over the reserved lavender.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.  Serve with warm jam and clotted cream.

Lemon Balm Syrup

Ingredients

200 grams sugar
237 ml water
24 grams lemon balm (loosely packed fresh, leaves)
Fresh lemon balm to garnish

  • Stir together first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil 1 minute or until sugar is dissolved.
  • Remove from heat, and let stand 30 minutes. Pour liquid through a wire-mesh strainer into a cruet or airtight container, discarding lemon balm leaves.
  • Cover and chill 4 hours. Garnish, if desired.
  • Syrup may be stored in refrigerator up to 1 month.

There are numerous recipes out there that incorporate the culinary herbs.  Peppermint is great for IBS and digestive issues.  Thyme is anti-viral and can help to shift a cold.  Sage can support and darken hair, improve memory and reduce infection.  I would love to know your favourite recipes using this plant family.

Asteraceae family – the Daisy Family

As I mentioned last week I will be exploring the different plant families and their benefits.  This week is one of my favourite family – the daisy family.  This was originally known as the composite family and contains the largest number of plants all over the world.  I am sure that there will be several members of this amazing family nearby – it is such a beautiful day why not go out and explore to see what is growing near you.

The Asteraceae family contains mainly herbs and is the most evolutionary advanced plant family.  A lot of the species within this family can be used as medicine, several species are cultivated for food such as chicory, lettuce and artichoke and sunflowers (for their nutritious seeds), plants are used economically too – did you know that the oil from marigolds is used in the cola making industry? and to top of their amazing versatility a lot of the species produce high quantities of nectar which benefit bees, various pollinators and wildlife in general

The name Asteraceae is derived from the type genus: “Aster”, though this family was also known as “Composite” which refers to the this family’s characteristic flowers.  The flower heads contain numerous individual sessile flowers which we see as a whole.  Examples of medicinal herbs in this family include:                    

Dandelion in full bloom. A great digestive herb to be avoided if you suffer from gallstones.

Dandelion in full bloom. A great digestive herb to be avoided if you suffer from gallstones.

 

Marigolds, seem as sunshine herbs are great for boosting both mind and body

Marigolds, seem as sunshine herbs are great for boosting both mind and body

Other examples include chamomile, echinacea, wormwood, mugwort, sunflower, goldenrod, yarrow, burdock and milk thistle.

The constituents of the Asteraceae Family

Prominent common active constituents include sesquiterpene lactones.  There are over 3000 sesquiterpene lactones which we know of so far and a large majority are from this plant family.  These constituents have anti inflammatory and anti microbial actions and they tend to concentrate in leaves and flowers.  The down side of sesquiterpene lactones is that they can cause contact dermatitis in humans and the most common plant allergen in contact dermatitis is plants within this family although scientific research is looking into their use as anti-cancer agents.

Other common constituents include the volatile oils – these are monoterpenes or sesquiterpenes and are commonly known as essential oil.  Fragrant flowers in the asteraceae family will contain these – chamomile is a great example of this.

Chamomile grows wild in Grimsby but can be commonly misidentified with pineapple weed - this is from the same family but has no scent.

Chamomile grows wild in Grimsby but can be commonly misidentified with pineapple weed – this is from the same family but has no scent.

Here are some recipes which utilise plants from this family:

Dandelion Burdock Early Spring Cleanser

You will need:

2 heaped dessert spoons of dandelion root

2 heaped dessert spoons of burdock root

2 large slices of lemon, chopped into strips

1 teaspoon of honey

1 pint of water

Just put all the ingredients except the honey into a pan and simmer for ten minutes, adding the sugar once you’ve taken the mixture off the hob.  You can drink this mixture hot or cold – its a really pleasant drink either way, but is certainly more refreshing drunk cold.  I’m going to try this with slices of fresh root ginger in the next batch, as well as some dandelion leaf!   The nice thing about this mix is that you can boil the ingredients back up with another pint of water for a slightly less punchy but just as refreshing mixture, then compost the remaining herbs.

The daisy has medicinal and culinary uses

The daisy has medicinal and culinary uses

The common daisy is considered to have astringent, demulcent, expectorant, digestive and tonic properties. Used internally, Daisy can be an effective herbal remedy against cold, cough and digestive complaints. In form of an infusion, Common Daisy is beneficial in cases of arthritis, catarrh, hepatic and renal disorders, diarrhoea and rheumatism. Its external use, as a poultice or addition to bath, can help in cases of wound healing, rashes, wounds and skin inflammations.

Use young daisy leaves raw in spring salads.  The leaves are excellent as a cooked spring vegetable, and in soups and sauces and as flavouring or seasoning.

Some countries use daisy leaves as a pot herb – a vegetable used to flavour dishes.

DAISY GREENS

Pick young daisy leaves and wash then quickly in slightly salted water.  Put a little water in a pan and add a pinch of salt.  When boiling put in the greens.  Cover and cook for about 7-10 minutes.  Serve with a dab of butter and freshly ground black pepper.

I hope that you are enjoying this series 🙂

Solanaceae family – Deadly Nightshade Family

Over the next few weeks I am going to look at the different plant families and their medicinal and culinary value.

This family of plants is known as the nightshade family and has been a source of food or spice, medicine, poison and pleasure to man throughout the ages.  The family includes herbs, shrubs, trees, vines and creepers – although this is commonly named the deadly nightshade family there are several family members which you may eat on a regular basis!!.  

Understanding the botany can help to identify members of the family when out and about.  If you have ever grown the edible ones you will have a good image of their common characteristics.  They have been described botanically having alternate leaves that are usually stalked, without stipules.  The flowers have five petals, shaped like a bell or a wheel with five stamens projecting in a column.  The fruits of the Solanaceae family have been described as berries or capsules with either two or four cells.  Family members of this family are very concentrated in Central and South America suggesting they may have originated from this continent.

Europe and Africa contain around 85 different genera within the family and 2,800 species.  As I mentioned earlier there are several which are edible and you may grow or have in your kitchen… Can you think of any?

Of the poisonous side of the family – well high in alkaloids so can be toxic… there is Mandrake (featured in the Harry Potter films, ironically I grew this in my garden and it was eaten by slugs… but not flesh eating slugs lol), Deadly Nightshade, Henbane, Tobacco, Thorn Apple/datura/jimsonweed, Bittersweet, and boxthorn.

And from the edible side of the family there is the humble potato, the delicious tomato, aubergines/eggplants, the spice paprika and the delicious superfood goji berry or Duke or Argyll’s Tea Plant 🙂

Did you guess any?  Do you have any of these in your kitchen or garden?

Phytochemically the Solanaceae family are characterized by the numerous alkaloids found in its constituents.  Modern medicine is highly interested in alkaloids because of the effect they have on the body.

The constituents of the Solanaceae family

Nicotina spp. contain alkaloids which are formed on the same biosynthetic pathway as the tropane alkaloids detailed in the table below.  The alkaloids are found in the leaves of the nicotine plant and in concentrated amounts can be fatal to a human being; the lethal dose is around 40-60mg!!  The alkaloid has a pharmacological effect on the human body within minutes of being inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin, stimulating blood pressure and the gastro intestinal organs or blocking the bodies functions causing respiratory paralysis or convulsions.  These herbs are dangerous and there are restrictions on their sale and use.  As a herbalist I am authorised to use them as medicine as I have been trained on the correct use and dose.  As you are aware the tobacco trade is highly regulated too!!

Name of Alkaloid Species containing Alkaloid Actions on the body

Ester Alkaloids of the Tropane Group

L-hyosoyamine Atropa

Datura

Hyosoyamus

Parasympathetic properties:

Restricts salivary, sweat and bronchiol glands.  Inhibits gastro intestinal motility.  Relaxes the gall-bladder, urinary blagger and uterus.  High doses stimulates the cerebral cortex.

L-scopolamine Mandragora

Duboisia

Scopolia

Parasympathetic properties:

Restricts salivary, sweat and bronchiol glands.  Inhibits gastro intestinal motility.  Relaxes the gall-bladder, urinary blagger and uterus.  In small doses acts as a motor depressant.  High doses cause twilight sleep.

 

This data has been extracted from: Frohne, D. Jürgen Pfander, H. (2005) Poisonous Plants Second Edition. Manson Publishing Limited.

“Knowledge of a plants botanical relationships can increase general awareness of the plant, its potential chemical profile, and possible similarities of pharmacological actions.”

I need to stress that the toxic member of this family are only for use by a qualified practitioner such as myself due to the small therapeutic window – the difference between it being a medicine or a poison!!

“Pharmacological interests in the automatic nervous system (ANS) revolves around the effects certain drugs have on the chemical receptors found at different synapses (nerve centres in the brain) in sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.  So that you can understand the ANS is a controlling factor of our body and depending which way it is ‘switched on’ (sympathetic=stress response and parasympathetic=relax response) determines how our organs are functioning.  This family is researched by modern medicine because of the effects it can have on the ANS.

Both systems (stress and relax) use the nicotine sensitive acetylcholine receptors at their first stage and thus nicotine has the effect of increasing general automatic activity – which is why most smokers say that their bowels are stimulated when they have a cigarette and why although nicotine is stimulating smokers state that they smoke to relax themselves.

The parasympathetic system (relax response) is mediated at its target sites by acetylcholine receptors that are stimulated by caffeine like noradrenaline (and) blocked by the atropine alkaloids from solanaceous plants like deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) and datura (Datura stramonium)…

The fact that these influences originate from the plant world is a result of the widespread use of these powerful herbs. (For example)  Therapeutically the bronco-spasm (tightening of the lungs) in asthma could be resolved by the therapeutic use datura or henbane.

 As a lot of these family members are restricted – for major health and safety reasons but alot are edible and have health benefits – food is medicine 🙂

Capsicum – Chilli: Helps to reduce Pain, Good for constipation (and tomatoes), May help with a heart attack and stimulates circulation

Tomatoes: A tomato a day may keep cancer at bay, Common trigger of allergies, especially eczema and mouth ulcers, Green tomatoes may cause migraine in some people, Red tomatoes have 3 times as much vitamin c than yellow tomatoes

Potatoes: The potato is a good for minor burns or sunburn.  If you have a minor burn, make sure you get cold running water on it immediately. If it is not clean, make sure you clean out the burn with cold running water. THEN, peel and slice or peel and grate a potato. Apply the potato onto the affected area. Keep replacing it as needed. At some point, you may need to hold it on with a bandage or gauze. Potato is excellent for drawing out the heat. Other uses for potatoes: Itch relief,(Bartrams mentions potato water is good for chicken pox) a poultice for sties.  Also potato water good for spasmodic pain of a peptic ulcer (but watch out for the atropine poisoning effect of enlargement of the pupils and dryness of the throat – taken in large amounts would result in flickering of the eyelids and poor vision)

Aubergines: In African folk medicine the aubergine has been used for epilepsy and convulsions, In south east Asia it is used for measles and stomach cancer

Here are some recipes of members of the deadly nightshade family which are safe to eat 🙂

Cherry tomato and wild rocket salad with mozzarella

 

Ingredients

1 x 50g/2oz bag wild rocket
250g/9oz cherry tomatoes, halved
125g/4oz boccinini (little mozzarellas) or one large 150g/5oz ball mozzarella
3 tbsp good quality olive oil
½ lemon, juice only (1 tbsp)
salt and black pepper
warm ciabatta, to serve

Method

1. Divide the rocket, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella between six serving plates.
2. Drizzle with olive oil, a little lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Serve with warm ciabatta.

Vodka-soaked cherry tomatoes

 

Ingredients

1 punnet cherry tomatoes
¼ pint/150ml chilli-flavoured vodka
½ lemon, juice of
1 tbsp dry sherry
6 drops Tabasco sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
celery salt, to taste

Method

1. Prick the tomatoes all over with a cocktail stick. Soak the tomatoes in a mixture of the next seven ingredients.
2. Chill until ready to eat. When eating, sprinkle with celery salt. The remaining liquid can be drunk as shots – or used as a base for an excellent Bloody Mary.Fresh tomato soup

Ingredients

900g/2lb vine-grown tomatoes with their stalks (but not the stems)
55ml/2fl oz extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
6 cloves of garlic, chopped very finely
¼ tsp chilli flakes
salt
basil, freshly shredded, to garnish

Method

Make the soup: coarsely chop the tomatoes and, for extra flavour, their little star-like stalks. Put the olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes into a large saucepan and set over a low heat for a few seconds until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add the tomatoes and turn over for just 2 minutes until the juices from the tomatoes begin to run.
Tip the mixture into a food processor and add 2 tbsp of the tapenade. Blitz until finely chopped but not completely smooth. Pass through a conical sieve into a clean pan, pressing out as much liquid as you can with the back of a small ladle.
Heat gently until warm but not hot – you want to retain the fresh flavour of the tomatoes. Season the soup to taste with some salt. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve garnished with a little more oil and the shredded basil.

Simple tomato and bacon sauce with penne

 

Ingredients

150ml/5fl oz extra virgin olive oil
100g/3½oz pancetta or smoked bacon cut into strips
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
a good pinch of chilli flakes, optional
a good pinch of sea salt
a good pinch of sugar
1 x 400g/14oz can tomatoes or 6 vine-ripened tomatoes
grated parmesan

Note: This recipe originally uses Australian measurements. Equivalent measurements are as accurate as possible.

Method

1. In a heavy based saucepan heat the oil and add the garlic, pancetta strips, chilli flakes, salt and sugar. Cook until soft but not coloured, approximately 3 minutes.
2. If using canned tomatoes put a knife into the open can and chop the tomatoes roughly. If using fresh tomatoes, blanch, peel and chop them. Add the tomatoes to the pan and simmer slowly for 15 minutes.

To serve
Serve with a quality durum wheat penne or other pasta, cooked al dente and shaved parmesan.Headache Herbal Recipe You can also use the roots and leaves of an herb called ashwagandha to get instant relief from the headache. Here is an herbal recipe prepared from ashwagandha that can act as an effective remedy for curing headaches:·                                 Pick up the entire plants of a ripe ashwagandha,·                                 Extract the juice by crushing the plant using a grinder,·                                 Boil 2 cups of juice, 1 cup of castor oil and three cups of water, till only the oil is left in the container. ·                                 Apply the resulting oil externally and massage every night for 10 days

Spanish-style tortilla

 

Ingredients

25g/1oz butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, finely sliced
750g/1½lb Pink Fir Apple potatoes, peeled, parboiled and sliced into 1cm/½in pieces
250g/8oz handful fresh spinach, cooked and roughly chopped
10 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

1. In a large, heavy-based frying pan, heat the butter and oil. Cook the onions slowly until transparent and soft.
2. Add the potato slices and fry gently for two minutes.
3. Stir in the spinach.
4. Season the eggs with salt and freshly ground black pepper and pour onto the contents of the frying pan.
5. Cook over a low to medium heat: it may take up to ten minutes until the egg is set enough to turn the tortilla over, and if the heat is too high, the bottom will burn before the middle is set.
6. Once the bottom is nicely browned and the centre has set, it is time to turn it over. This is done with a double flip: place a plate (or the bottom of a tart tin) over the pan and flip it over once, so that the cooked surface of the tortilla is on the bottom. Take another plate, and flip it again so the cooked surface is on the top. Then place the frying pan back over the tortilla plate and flip one more time, so the uncooked bit is now in contact with the base of the pan.
7. Replace the pan over low heat until the tortilla is cooked through.
8. Serve hot, warm or cold, cut into slices or cubes.

Purple potato gratin

 

Ingredients

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 garlic clove
225ml/7fl oz double cream
freshly grated nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
700g/1½lb purple potatoes (also known as Shetland black vintage)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/400F/Gas6.
2. With the flat side of a heavy knife lightly crush the garlic and rub over the bottom and sides of a gratin dish. Brush the bottom and sides of the dish generously with butter.
3. In a small bowl stir together the cream, nutmeg, sea salt and pepper to taste.
4. Peel the potatoes and slice thinly with a mandolin or food processor. Arrange the sliced potatoes in the gratin dish and pour the cream evenly over. Press gently on top of the potatoes to briefly submerge them in the cream.
5. Bake the gratin, covered with foil, in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes (15 minutes if fan-assisted). Remove the foil and bake the gratin until the potatoes are tender and lightly browned, about 25 minutes more (20 minutes if fan-assisted).

Warm potato salad with red wine sauce

 

Ingredients

For the potato salad
6 pink fir apple potatoes, cut into three and blanched for one minute in boiling water
2 tsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g/1oz fresh flatleaf parsley
25g/1oz fresh basil, chopped
15g/½oz fresh chives, chopped
1 lemon, juice only
1 tsp Dijon mustard
100ml/3½fl oz olive oil
pinch sugar
For the red wine sauce
50ml/2fl oz red wine
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp tepid water

Method

1.      Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
2. To make the potato salad, place the blanched potatoes with the olive oil into a large bowl. Toss to coat the potatoes in oil and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the potatoes onto a hot baking tray and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through and golden.
3. Place the herbs, lemon juice, mustard, oil and sugar into a food processor and blend to a paste. Spoon the mixture into a large bowl, add the roasted potatoes and toss together to coat well.
4. To make the red wine sauce, heat the red wine and sugar in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
5. Mix the tepid water with the cornflour in a small bowl then add this mixture to the wine, whisking well. Increase the heat and reduce the liquid by half.
6. To serve. place the potato salad onto a warm plate and drizzle some of the wine sauce around.Aubergine and Tomato Gratiningredientsserves 4 1 lb (450 g) medium aubergines
1 lb (450g) large ripe tomatoes
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh shredded oregano
2 tablespoons fresh shredded basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

h2>For the Sauce 1/2 pint (285ml) skimmed milk
1 small onion
6 black peppercorns
1 clove
2 sprigs fresh thyme or parsley
1 oz (25 g) butter
1 oz (25 g) plain flour
1 egg yolk and 2 egg whites
1/2 oz (15 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheesemethod1. Thinly slice the aubergines and tomatoes, peel and thinly slice both onions and peel and crush the garlic. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the oil and the garlic around the inside of a gratin or baking dish.

2. Arrange two layers of alternating aubergine and tomato slices over the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with half the oregano and basil and top with a layer of large onion slices. Season with salt and black pepper, then sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon of the oil. Repeat with the remaining vegetables, herbs and oil.

3. The dish may seem rather full, but the vegetables shrink during cooking. Cover the dish tightly with foil and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

4. Meanwhile, to prepare the sauce, pour the milk into a saucepan with the small onion, peppercorns, clove, thyme or parsley. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat, then cover and leave to stand.

5. At the end of the Cooking time, take the dish out of the Oven and remove the foil. Increase the Oven temperature to 220‚°C (425‚°F, gas mark 7).

6. Melt the butter for the sauce in a clean saucepan and slowly stir in the flour. Strain the infused milk into the pan a little at a time, stirring continuously, and bring to the boil until thickened.

7. Remove from the heat, beat in the egg yolk and season lightly with salt. Whisk the egg whites separately until stiff, then fold them slowly into the sauce.

8. Pour the sauce over the top of the vegetables, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown. Sicilian Ratatouilleingredientsserves 4 – 6 2 aubergines
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium red or yellow onion
1/2 green pepper
2 sticks celery
4 oz (115 g) mushrooms
1 -2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
14 oz (400 g) tin plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons capers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 oz (50 g) green olives
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
2 teaspoons caster sugar
2 oz (50 g) pine nutsmethod1. Peel and dice the aubergines into 1 in (25 mm) cubes. To extract any bitter juices, place the cubes in a colander, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and allow to drain for 20 minutes. Slice the onion, pepper, celery and mushrooms and finely chop the garlic. Rinse the drained aubergines and pat dry.

2. Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a casserole or frying pan. Saute the aubergines over medium heat. Stir constantly until softened and slightly coloured. Remove the aubergines and put to one side, then add the onions, garlic, pepper and celery. Cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until quite soft.

3. Chop and peel the tomatoes and add to the pan along with the mushrooms and capers. Turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until the tomato sauce has reduced and thickened. Stir in all the aubergines, oregano, olives, vinegar and sugar.

4. Simmer for another 15 minutes, adding a little water if it is too thick. Season with salt and black pepper, sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

Do you have dry and Cracked Heels?

I know that it is winter but I have had several people ask me if I knew how to resolve dry and cracked heels.  I have been doing some investigating and have come up with several solutions you can do at home.  The key is dedication and perseverance but with a little bit of work on a regular basis you can have your feet looking and feeling fantastic ready for the lighter months.

Did you know that the feet contain over 72,000 nerve endings?  They are the most used (and neglected) parts of our body, some of us are on our feet for hours on end.  One of the first steps towards having beautiful feet is to set aside a beauty regime for them similar to the ones we have for our face and hands, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time

Lemon, salt, glycerine, rosewater foot mask

This foot mask is absolutely perfect beauty regime for cracked heels.

Rose water is a by-product of making essential oils and contains a lot of the active constituents from the rose petals themselves and is not the smelly mushy mess you get from being a child and attempting to make perfume.  It would be worth investing in some which can be purchased from aromatherapists online or from amazon/eBay.  The glycerine can be purchased from your local Boots shop as can the Epsom salts

Take a basin of warm water in which you’ll be dipping your feet and add sea salt or Epsom salts, the fresh juice from a lemon and a couple of dessertspoons of glycerine and rose water.  Soak in your feet for about 15-20 minutes in this water.

Using a pumice stone and scrub your heels and sides of the feet.

Take 1tsp undiluted glycerine, 1 tsp rose water and 1tsp lemon juice and after mixing, apply over your cracked heels. Since this will be a sticky mixture, you can wear a pair of socks and leave on overnight.

Wash off with lukewarm water in the morning.

Repeat until heels are soft and healed.

Oil

Dry skin on the heels is one of the foremost reasons behind the cracking. This helps combat this dry skin.

After washing your feet and cleaning and drying them up completely, apply a layer of oil on the cracked parts of your feet.

Wear a pair of thick socks and leave overnight.

In the morning you may not have to wash this off as vegetable based oils can be fully absorbed by our skin.  If there is any reside left over wash off and repeat for a few days to get smooth feet.

You can do this with vegetable oil, olive oil or even sesame oil.  Virgin olive oil is one of the most natural ways to get smooth soft healthy heels.  Sesame oil is also a great cracked heels solution for feet.

Banana and avocado foot mask

Don’t throw away your bananas when they get too ripe.  Take the pulp of a ripe banana and apply over cracked parts of the heel and feet.

Keep on for about 10 minutes and wash off.

You can also create a foot mask at home using a ripe banana and avocado:

Take a ripe banana and half an avocado.  Blend everything in a blender together.

Apply this thick creamy paste over your heels and feet.

As avocados and coconut are rich in several essential oils and vitamins and fats, this paste will help to resolve cracked feet and keep them soft and moisturised.

Vaseline and lemon juice

Vaseline is petroleum based and therefore acts like a barrier cream/salve.

Clean and dry your heels. Once all the dirt is out, soak your feet in warm water for about 15-20 minutes. Rinse and pumice your feet, rinsing again afterwards.

Apply the juice of a lemon to your feet, then take 1tsp Vaseline and rub this mixture over your heels and other cracked parts of the foot. Rub this in nicely, till it gets absorbed in the skin.

Apply this mixture before going to bed and keep on overnight, wearing a pair of woollen socks, as these socks help trap body heat and increase the effectiveness of the mixture.

Wash off in the morning

Honey

Honey is great to moisturise your feet and has great antibacterial properties.

Mix one cup of honey to half a bucket of warm water.

Soak your feet for about 15-20 minutes.  Or even just cover your feet in honey as a foot mask, leave on for half an hour – put your feet up on a towel and you can enjoy a TV programme whilst you are pampering your feet.

Scrub off gently for soft and supple feet, repeat once a week until feet are lovely and smooth.

Rice Flour

Make this scrub that’s great for exfoliating your feet.

Take 2-3 tbsps of ground rice (you can grind you own rice using a food processor or pestle and mortar) and add a few spoons of honey and apple cider vinegar to make a thick paste.

If your heels are extremely dry and cracked, add a spoon of olive oil or sweet almond oil.

Soak your feet in warm water for 10 minutes and gently scrub it with this paste to remove dead skin from your feet – the rice flour acts as an exfoliator similar to a pumice stone.

Oatmeal

Take 1 tablespoon powdered oatmeal and some oil to make a thick paste.

Apply this over your feet, especially well over the heels and any cracked parts.

Leave this on your heels for about half an hour and rinse off with cold water. Pat dry.

Do this every alternate day to remove all cracks.

You don’t have to do these all at once.  Pick the option which will fit into your lifestyle the best and implement it.  You can always try the others if at first you don’t succeed, but the key is to show your feet the tender loving care they deserve J

Trotula of Salerno recipes

Trotula of Salerno was a female physician, alleged to have been the first female professor of medicine, teaching in the southern Italian port of Salerno, which was at that time the most important center of medical learning in Europe.  She is regarded as the world’s first gynecologist.

Her works on women’s health, collectively called The Trotula, served as the primary manuscripts on women’s health in Europe for more than 400 years, and set the course for the practice of women’s medicine for centuries.

Here are some recipes from her work which are still applicable today 🙂

Marigold ointment

500ml of infused marigold oil (Calendula officinalis)

40g cocoa butter

40g beeswax

Warm the oil gently, melt in the cocoa butter and beeswax and stir until melts, allow to cool where it will thicken into an ointment/salve.  You can store this in sterilised glass jars.

Use for wounds, infected grazes, athletes foot and burns 🙂

This next one is great for fighting off infections which are more prevalent as the weather changes:

25g coltsfoot leaves

25g fennel

10g fresh ginger root

225g honey

900ml boiling water.

Add the herbs to the water and simmer till the liquid has reduces to 300ml.  Once the liquid has cooled add the honey.  For people who have a cough, are feeling chills or are experiencing catarrh. Take 5ml three to four times a day.

Healing womb

10g ladies mantle

10g mugwort

Make a herbal infusion/tea with the herbs and take for up to 3 months to strengthen and repair the womb – do not take in pregnancy.

Infertility tea

15g marshmallow root

15g mugwort

600ml water

Decoct the root on a hob simmering for 10 minutes then add the mugwort and take off the heat to make a herbal infusion/tea.  Use 1 cup of the herbal infusion to douche twice a week having a nourishing and tonifying effect.

Improve Circulation

10g dried hawthorn flowers

10g dried lime flowers

15g lemon balm

Mix together the dried herbs and place a 5ml spoonful of the mixture in a cup of boiling water, allow to steep for 10 minutes.  Strain and drink one cup daily for 4 weeks, rest for 1 week then repeat the dose.

I hope you have found these recipes interesting – As a herbalist these are herbs which are still used today for similar conditions.  As a pioneering woman she was definitely ahead of her time and intelligent in her understanding of herbs and how they are used to support health and wellbeing.