KW Homestead

Pasture Raised Poultry from Our Family to Yours

Tag: herbs

Farm Food Friday: Jalapeño Jasmine Rice

Tired of having the same old kind of rice with your meals? Well, we certainly were, so we decided to do something about it! We spiced up our rice!

rice

Jalapeño Jasmine Rice!

This recipe came about because we had extra spices in our freezer. We’ve taken to putting different vegetables and herbs in the food processor and then putting the puréed concoction in ice cubes to freeze. Once they freeze, we take them out of the trays and store them in bags. It’s a great way to keep herbs on hand all throughout the year!

Here is the fun and easy recipe for Jalapeño Jasmine Rice (we made a huge pot!):

  • Put 4 cups of beef broth, 8 cups of water, 3 ice cubes of puréed jalapeño, 1 cube of puréed parsley, 1 cube of puréed cilantro, salt, garlic powder, and ground annatto in a large pot. Bring to a boil.
  • Once pot is boiling, add 8 cups of jasmine rice. Stir the pot and turn the temperature on low to medium-low so the pot simmers.
  • After about 20 minutes, check to see that the rice is done, and turn off the heat!

And that’s it! Enjoy!

Yummy!

Yummy!

.:.

4 Items in our Herbal Health and First Aid Kit

What do we turn to when dealing with minor, everyday cuts, scratches, injuries and ailments? Our herbal first aid kit!

We don’t really have a “kit”, but we do have  collection of things in our bathroom that are tried and true when it comes to homestead first aid. I’m not talking about wild plants like plantain or comfrey, which are a huge art of of our life, but rather packaged and shelf stable items that can be stored and relied upon at a moments notice.

1. Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil is probably our catchall for cuts, scratches and anything involving open wounds. We try to harness tea tree oil’s anti microbial powers to prevent infections whenever we find ourselves bleeding, which happens a lot. Whether its from a loose piece of fence, a rooster’s spurs, or an insect bite, if we see blood, it gets a dab of tea tree oil.

When tick season comes around, every tick removal “surgery” is finished up with a bit of tea tree oil, just in case.

2. Vitamin C Powder

Vitamin C is antioxidant essential to a healthy life. Our bodies don’t store it, so we constantly need to get more of it as we live our lives. While I prefer real nutrient dense foods vs. supplements, vitamin c powder is just too easy, and too effective not to have on hand.

We add powdered vitamin c to our water almost everyday during the winter to strengthen our immune systems. It’s also nice to know that vitamin c can help with mild allergic reactions and swellings as it acts as both an anti histimine and anti inflammatory. You can take some before and after particulalry strenous activities to make sure your bodies repairitvie and restorative functions are opperating at there best. I’ve even heard of old, arthritic dogs getting some relief from a sprinkling of vitamin c on their food.

There are a ton of other uses and benefits for vitamin c, and it is a well used item in our lives.

3.  Aloe

Aloe vera, a succulent plant with a long history of medicinal uses is another essential herbal remedy.

Whether you have a plant growing in a sunny window or a container of gel in the bathroom, if you work outside in the sun, you need some aloe. As a pain reliever and burn soother, nothing can compete. Fromm sunburns from hours of garden work, or real burns from cooking, a nice glob of aloe gel is the first thing I think of to in any situation where I want a “cooling” effect.

4. Raw Honey

Raw honey is not only an anti-microbial powerhouse, but it tastes good too. Raw Honey, as opposed to the heat pasteurized “dead” honey often found on shelves has a whole host of enzymes, antioxidants and minerals. Something in it helps to heal wounds and prevent infections, but make sure it’s raw or it won’t do the job.

It can also be used to soothe sore throats and as a natural cough syrup. It makes a great sweetener for tea too, how fitting. I’m sure there are more reasons to love raw honey (like making mead from it) but these few are enough to ensure it’s place in our pantry.

Plantain (Plantago): Herbal First Aid in Action!

Here’s a short  video on how I treated an insect sting on my knuckle at work with some plantain today. Plantain is a great medicinal herb that is both very conspicuous and very safe. It’s a well known herb, sometimes considered a weed, that is often found in lawns, nature strips, and parks.

The compounds in the leaves are extremely useful at pulling out toxins and poisons, and old timers have used this wonder plant to treat all sorts of cuts, bites, and envenomations. My sting today was on my knuckle! Ouch! But the plantain (genus plantago) worked it’s magic and after just a few hours I couldn’t even tell which finger had gotten stung! Check out the video for more!

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Some Herbal Remedies and First Aid in Action

In the past week, due to some minor accidents, I had a few chances to try out some herbal remedies. Herbs can provide gentle and effective healing and because they are often easy to grow, they deserve a place on any homestead.

The first incident was brought about by picking up a cast aluminium dutch oven that had been reheating food in the oven. Ouch. It was heavy, hot, and I didn’t drop right away. After running some water over my hand, I snipped off some aloe vera from the plant by our sink, squeezed out the juice, and rubbed it onto my palm. This instantly relieved the burning pain and helped me thin a little clearer.

Aloe is a great plant, it has many uses from sunburn relief to helping improve digestion, and is easily grown as a house plant in a sunny location.

I then went out and picked a large comfrey leaf. Comfrey is probably the best herb when it comes to bone, skin, and tissue regeneration and healing. The chemicals in comfrey are often added to skin care products, but nothing can replicate the healing power of whole leaves.

Emma chopped up the leaf in a small food processor, and then took the half paste, comfrey pesto and applied it to the burn before wrapping a bandage around my palm. I left this on for a few hours, and by morning my hand had no pain, no marks, and I had completely forgotten the burn because my hand was healed.

A few days later, I woke up with a sore and scratchy throat, probably brought on by dehydration. It was pretty uncomfortable, but I turned to our tried and true home cure for sore throats… vitamin c. I prefer vitamin c in powder form, but it also comes in a variety of capsules, pills, and tablets.

Dissolved in a glass of water, it helps to re-hydrate the body, soothe the throat, and increase immune function and healing. Vitamin c has been used for many different treatments, from helping to prevent soreness after strenuous exercise to fighting withdrawal symptoms in heroin addicts.

These 3 natural remedies, aloe, comfrey, and vitamin c, are just things that we have on hand. The aloe and vitamin c are in our kitchen, easily within reach on a day to day basis. The comfrey is growing in a few places on our property, some in the garden, some in the food forest, and soon we will have some growing everywhere as we propagate more.

While herbs are great as first aid, their best use comes from a more holistic approach. By using them daily in cooking and teas, they are able to help our bodies stay strong, and fight off problems before we, or a doctor, can diagnose them. This is the best use of herbs, and the reason we should all try to include them in our lives as many ways as possible.

Bolt’s Bush: A Dog’s Best Way to Beat the Heat

Now that summer is rolling in and temperatures are quickly rising into the 90’s during the afternoon, a dog needs a way to stay cool and keep from overheating. While Emma and I can hang out in the carport porch and sip on iced spearmint tea, Bolt, our 1 year old black lab/boxer/? dog has to find other ways to avoid the hot NC sun.

He is somewhat of a wuss when it comes to hot weather and can often be found hogging the floor fan, or nestling right up to the AC vent to stay cool without a second thought for those of us “downwind.” However, when he is outside with us none of these options exist. So he has to be creative…

Take this bush for instance. It sits smack dab in the middle of Bolt’s outdoor area.

A lone bush in our side yard, the area where bolt hangs outside.

A lone bush in our side yard, the area where Bolt hangs out outside.

Notice anything interesting about it? No? Let’s get a closer look…

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It’s Bolt! The shade of this bush is the perfect place to beat the NC heat!

Hahahahaha! This bush is Bolt’s preferred hideout from the summer sun, and where he can most often be found when the thermometer dips above 83 degrees. Here he can snooze in the shade, roll in the dirt, and quickly ambush anyone foolish enough to casually walk by his bush (and scare the pants off me as I walk by with headphones in).

This got me thinking about how to make his bush an even better summer getaway and design it specifically for a dog’s summertime needs. Number 1 is shade–and any shrub or bush will do the job–but maybe a plant like rosemary, with anti-insect properties would take this up a notch, not to mention provide great herbs for the kitchen. What about planting some nice geraniums around it to help repel mosquitoes, the vector of heartworms and annoying itchiness. Maybe some pennyroyal, or fleabane to combat fleas, and some chicory in case he feels the need to fight some internal parasites.

I think this would be a really cool permaculture design project, and is definitely something I am going to think more about. Let me know if you know of any other plants that would fit well in a dog’s play area. But for now, you can find Bolt enjoying the shade and solitude of his bush, waiting eagerly for the cooler temperatures of fall, or for us to turn the AC on and bring him inside.

from plant to pesto: basil and its promises

basil, basil, basil!

rare is the person who doesn’t use basil in their cooking! jason and i use basil in heavy quantities, especially in soups, beer breads, pesto pasta salads, and most especially fresh in stir fries during the summer and fall!

basil

photo courtesy of bethcoll

although we may think of basil as an italian herb, it originates from india! there are different sorts of basil, of course; the variety that we grow and that most people use in italian cooking is called “sweet basil.” the specific “sweet basil” variety that we planted in 2013 and plan to plant again this year is called genovese.

basil also has health benefits (of course!). the essential oils found in basil have been found to be antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, and might even fight cancer. exciting! it certainly is delicious, and basil and its sibling species are cultivated by people all over the world.

the time is nearing for us to plant another round of basil “bushes,” and we still have a good bit left of our harvest from last year! this is because our processing and storing of last year’s crop was simple and not time consuming. therefore we were able to store it all without wasting any.

my mother taught me how to make pesto many years ago, and making pesto can be a great way to store basil (she uses walnuts instead of pine nuts), but she also taught me an even simpler and more long-term versatile way to “keep” our basil for months and months. this way doesn’t require that you purchase parmesan, nuts, or other important pesto ingredients.

easy = basil + olive oil & put it in the freezer!

most of our basil is stored this way, with a few bags of dried basil (which is also super easy!) still left.

to freeze your basil, all you need to do is wash the leaves and pull them from the stems. jason and i prune our basil bushes periodically and process a little as we go through the growing season, but at the end we simply cut the entire basil bush and wash the whole bush with our shower’s spray nozzle. we have a huge colander (3 feet in diameter) that works great for when we are spraying the bushes down. then we set to pulling all of the leaves off by hand. the plus side: your fingers smell like delicious basil for days!

after we have gallons of loose basil leaves, we put them in our cuisinart food processor with some olive oil and blend away, making sure to add enough oil so that the mixture is a little bit slushy. this helps the basil freeze better and staves off any freezer burn that might happen after months in the ice box.

basil

last september’s frozen basil: bagged and jarred

last september, after the big, last harvest, we stored the basil paste in two different ways: in small glass jars and in small ziploc bags (rolled and sealed to be sure all of the air was pushed out). out of these two storage methods, i much prefer the ziploc bags. here’s why: when i’m making a soup, pasta, or stir fry, all i have to do is get one of the bags out of the freezer, break off as mush basil-paste-ice-cube as i want, and put the rest away. this means i don’t have to thaw the paste before use, as i do with the paste that’s in the little glass jars. so convenient!

currently, we are trying to consume all of our stored basil before the fresh basil comes in. because, one thing is for certain: no matter how easy and versatile frozen or dried basil may be, the best is always fresh!

.:.

Astragalus: A Perennial Herb for Perennial Health

Astragalus is a perennial and medicinal herb that has been used in both gardens and medicine cabinets for centuries. It is a very valuable and useful plant for a homestead, filling many roles, and providing many benefits.

A leguminous plant (related to beans and peas), astragalus, or milkvetch as it is commonly known, fixes nitrogen from the air with the help of colonies of bacteria that live in its root system. This allows it to feed itself and other nearby plants. Hardy to Zone 5, astragalus prefers full sun and good drainage, and would guild well on the southern side of fruit trees, or the edges of garden paths in a permaculture system.

astragalus, a great permaculture plant

Astragalus, a great permaculture pant. Courtesy Jason Hollinger

Medicinally, astragalus root has been touted as an immune boosting herb that stimulates and promotes general health and immune system strength. In 20,000 Secrets of Tea, Victoria Zak says that a tea made from astragalus root is traditionally thought by Chinese medicine to strengthen a body’s “protective energy” and acts as a catalyst for other herbal remedies by tonifying the immune system and enhancing the properties of other herbs.

Astragalus root tea

A warm cup of Astragalus and spearmint tea, sweetened with raw honey

I try to have a cup of astragalus root tea anytime I know I’ll be around sickness or sick people, especially during flu season or if someone I know is sick. I’m enjoying some right now, actually. I combined it with a pinch of our dried spearmint, and a touch of raw honey. Its flavor is good on its own, slightly spicy and nutty I think, maybe a little too earthy to be a delicacy, but not at all unpleasant. It blends really well with other herbs, and this mint combo is pretty tasty.

We will definitely be planting some astragalus this spring; its medicinal properties are more than enough reason to, but the added benefit of fixing nitrogen makes it a great addition to our food forest. From what I’ve read, it takes a few years before the roots are harvestable, so for now I’ll stick with the astragalus root powder we got this year. Like many herbs, it is available for purchase in many forms (capsules, extracts, etc.) but I prefer the powder for making delicious tea.

As always, this isn’t intended as medical advice, and you should always do your own research when looking into herbal remedies and alternative medicine. But in the meantime, I’ll have another sip of my astragalus and mint tea.

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