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Putting it kindly, I’m a girl of fair complexion – i.e. I don’t tan, I simply go from white to red when I spend any length of time in the sun. But I HATE wearing sunblock. It’s greasy and weird-smelling and filled with ingredients I can’t pronounce.
A quick search this morning yielded the following results. I can’t wait to try to make my own!
Please note, I haven’t tried any of these yet, so I cannot vouch for them. If you’ve done your own experimenting, please share in the comments – I’d love to hear from you.
Actually, “salt free” isn’t entirely true. More accurate would be to say that this seasoning blend only contains the naturally-occurring salts found in the herbs—no salt is added.
A gomasio is a traditional Japanese seasoning blend made of unhulled sesame seeds and salt. My challenge was to come up with an herbal gomasio that was “salt free” and highly nutritive. Many of us eat far too much salt in our diets, but we still crave the flavor, and especially now in the grand season of a fresh food bounty—farmer’s booths at the market overflowing with greens and reds and yellows and purples—it’s simply divine to be able to put raw greens and veggies on a platter, drizzle on some oil and a sprinkling of this gomasio. I don’t know about you, but this time of year I have trouble keeping salad dressing around, we go through it so fast.
My other challenge is that I don’t particularly like the taste of seaweeds, which are a major component in most other saltless seasonings.
You may also be aware that much of the salt we get at the store is “iodized,” that is to say iodine is added as a supplement to ensure that we get enough of it in our diet. Well, both sesame seeds and nettles are good natural sources of iodine. On the whole, this blend boasts myriad beneficial vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It’s good medicine for the whole body.
And my favorite way of taking my medicine is always by eating it in ridiculously tasty dishes. Hands down. Food is good.
Salt-free Herbal Gomasio
1 part nettle leaf
1 part celery seed
1 part sesame seed
1/2 part milk thistle seed
1/2 part fennel seed
1/2 part onion or garlic
Mix all the above in a small bowl. Place in an herb mill (or an empty salt or pepper grinder).
Other variations: try some dry citrus rind, pepper, or a small amount of mustard seeds. If you like seaweed, give it a whirl.
Feel free to post your own variations and ideas in the comments!
Mary Poppins had it right when she said, “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Not that I advocate eating sugar by the spoonful, but a bit of sweetness does make it easier for children and those adults with pickier palates to take the often-bitter herb. Syrups generally use a strong tea decoction as a base, mixing in honey for sweetness and its innate preservative action. When kept in the refrigerator, this simple medicine will last a long while. If you add a touch of brandy, it’ll last even longer.
So make your own cough syrups or immune boosting syrups! Not only are they easy to take by the spoonful, I frequently mix the tastier syrups like elderberry into mineral water or drizzle over oatmeal.
Here are the general guidelines for making a syrup for your home apothecary:
2 oz. herb (eleuthero root is shown in the pictures)
1 quart (4 cups) water
1 cup honey (or less)
Brandy – optional
- Start with a decoction: place your herb and water in a saucepan and measure the water level with a chopstick. Use a pencil to mark on the chopstick so you’ll know when the liquid is reduced by half, as shown in the picture below – the top mark is the starting level, the lower level is the halfway mark for the finished level.
- Bring water and herb to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer till liquid is reduced by half, according to your handy dandy chopstick. Remove from heat.
- Strain herb out of the menstruum, squeezing it to get all the liquid out. Compost the strained herb.
- Return the decoction to low heat and add honey – generally 1 cup raw organic honey per pint of tea, although I usually use less. If you started with a quart (4 cups) of water, reducing by half should give you about a pint (2 cups) of tea. Stir honey into the tea till completely dissolved. Remove from heat.
- Pour syrup into jars and allow to cool to room temperature, then label and refrigerate. Enjoy!
How is it possible that I’ve been blogging on herbs for 4 months now and I’m only just now getting around to writing about tea preparations? Goodness gracious, myriad apologies, herbal friends! Well, no time like the present.
First off, let’s tackle the basic vocabulary so we’re all on the same page, and then we’ll get into the more general how-to.
Teas—brewed from tea leaves and contain caffeine, but ***also regularly used to describe tea-free herbal brews…
Tisanes—brewed with herbs, generally caffeine-free
Infusion—tea in which the herbs are steeped in (usually hot) water
Decoction—tea in which the herbs are boiled in water until, reducing the volume of the menstruum and resulting in a very strong brew
For the sake of this blog, “tea” will be used for its more general umbrella meaning***, since this is the most common usage. Also, the following instructions and pointers are, once again, non-standardized and for home apothecary use. Listen to your body, and your tastebuds, and make adjustments as you see fit.
Both infusions and decoctions use water as the menstruum with which to draw the desired constituents out of the herbs. Which method is used depends largely on what herbs or parts of the plant are being used and what constituents or properties you want to be predominant—it’s always wise to research this on your own per herb, action, desired and undesired properties—but generally you will use an infusion for leaves and flowers and “softer” plant parts and use a decoction for woodier roots, bark, stems, or hard berries. If you want to use a root in an infusion instead, you will need to make sure that it is finely chopped for higher surface area.
There are a couple different methods of infusions, but this is the home wise woman method as I learned it from my teacher, plus a couple of my own notes.
- For fresh plant material, use approximately 3 Tablespoons herb per cup of water
- For dry plant material, use 1 Tablespoon herb per cup of water
- Place herb in your container (mason jar or French press—you want to be able to seal it off so volatile oils don’t evaporate off)
- Fill your jar with boiling water and seal the jar, allowing it to steep for 1 to four hours
My personal favorite is to put a handful of fresh herb in a mason jar, cover with boiling water, seal it, and then let it steep, turning the jar occasionally, until it has cooled to room temperature.
This is also the first step in making any syrup, but it’s especially good when you want a strong medicinal brew. In Chinese Medicine, decoctions are a common application for herbal therapies.
- Use 2 ounces herb per quart of water
- Place herb and water in a saucepan and bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low until reduced by half. A good method of checking your reduction is to use a chopstick – mark your starting water level on the chopstick, then make a second mark showing a halfway reduction. Use this as your guide to know when you’re done
This past Tuesday, my herbalism class spent the afternoon hiking, talking, learning, laughing, and being generally blissed out by the bounty of a beautiful day and a beautiful place. Water tumbling over spills of rocks, clambering over boulders, and green growing in impossible crannies, up through last year’s fallen leaves, practically scrambling over each other trying to get our attention.
We made a lot of herb friends. Don’t believe me? Allow me to take you on a tour. In order of appearance…
Poison Ivy. Toxicodendron radicans.
This plant has been used medicinally, though I wouldn’t advise it. I’m more including it because it is very helpful to be able to identify this plant before it identifies you *grin*
Quelle belle journee.