Blog

Linden Lavender Honey Iced Tea

learning to love herbs

“Her hair was long, her limbs were white,
And fair she was and free;
And in the wind she went as light
As leaf of linden-tree.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

Linden3

I’ve always had a fondness for Linden trees. Overseas, they are also popularly called “lime trees,” although they have nothing to do with the citrus fruit. I prefer calling them “Linden trees” because some say that is where my name, Lindsay, comes from (not at all self-centered of me).

Tilia europaea is a fairly common tree, often found lining parks and avenues. It has clusters of small white flowers that smell sweet and fresh when in bloom. It is an unusual-looking tree in that its flowers spring directly from a specialized leaf called a “subtending bract.” These leaves look entirely different from the main leaves of the tree. Here, I will show you:

Linden2.jpg

See how the stem of the flowers is attached to the…

View original post 532 more words

Upcoming Show: Sugar Plum Bazaar 11/23-11/24

We will be at the Sugar Plum Bazaar this coming weekend! Come see us at the Denver Mart on Saturday and Sunday, 11/23-11/24, from 10 am to 5 pm! Visit Sugar Plum’s Instagram for more information on the over 150 vendors (including us!) that will be selling beautiful, homemade items that are sure to please everyone on your Christmas list. We will have all of our gorgeous products plus some NEW additions not currently featured in the online shop! Hope to see you there!

Stop by our table to get your beautiful herbal goodies before they sell out!

How-to: Harvesting Willow Bark for Tea and Tinctures

learning to love herbs

We had a snowstorm this week. Yes, you read that right: several inches of heavy, wet snow fell onto trees and flowers that were in full-bloom the day before. This resulted in tree branch carnage all over our neighborhood.

Luckily for me, my backyard neighbor has a white willow tree that leans over our fence. Several large branches fell right onto my grass. Being an opportunistic sort of girl, I grabbed a knife and went to cut some fresh willow bark.

Before we begin, let me give a quick re-cap on white willow and its uses. (Please feel free to skip ahead if you just want to know how to cut the dang bark).

The bark of all willow trees contains varying degrees of an active constituent called salicin, which is the precursor to salicylic acid. This is a compound that acts as an anti-inflammatory and is the active ingredient…

View original post 857 more words

Snow Candy: Herb-Infused Maple Lollies

Let me paint a picture: it’s 6 am on a quiet, snowy morning. You walk downstairs and make a cup of coffee. You go to the window to watch as the snowflakes fall peacefully and silently to the already-blanketed ground. As you go to take your first sip of coffee, a familiar sound fills the air.

“MOOOOOOOMMMMMMM!”

The peace is broken. Suddenly, you remember you have toddlers and you actually hate snowy days. Either the children will go crazy and destroy your home from being cooped up, or you will spend an hour dressing them for the Arctic so they can spend precisely seven minutes outside before their “hands are too cold.” Both options leave a parent wanting to hide under the covers.

Desperate for a project to pass the time and somehow placate the Child Who Can Talk (who will ask to go outside until one of you dies from exhaustion), you wrack your brain.

One of my favorite books as a child was about a little pioneer girl whose family built a cabin in the woods. Even though they didn’t have any money, they always seemed to come up with the most charming things to do when the weather was bad. (There was that one exception of making a balloon out of a pig’s bladder. Couldn’t really wrap my head around that one).

Suddenly: IDEA. There was a part of that book where they made “snow candy.” If you’ve never heard of it, it is exactly what it sounds like: boiled sugar hardened on the snow. In the case of the book to which I am referring, they used maple syrup.

Hang on! I have maple syrup! I have snow! I think I’m excited! These crazy kids and I are gonna make the best darn snow candy EVER.

To make it the “best darn snow candy ever,” though, I suppose we’d better do something unexpected, something MORE than the basic recipe; and round these parts, that means I’m gonna add some herbs.

Hmm. A certain Swiss throat lozenge comes to mind. Love those, (have even made them), but not really what I’m going for today.

The lozenges are made with herbs traditionally used for chest cold and sore throats, such as:

Osha Root (Lovage porterii)

White Horehound (Marubium vulgare)

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)

These are all fantastic, flavorful herbs that I, personally, like the taste of. And if you have a little one with the dreaded Winter Cough and want to kill two birds with one stone, by all means use these herbs in your candy.

For me, though, I’m going to go a spicier route. I have selected a mix of mainly warming herbs (for obvious reasons) with a dash of echinacea for an immunity boost. Think maple chai tea. How bad could that be?

I cheated a bit in this recipe, since I have found that the longer it takes to prepare something, the less likely the children will be willing to participate.

It may shock you, but we drink a lot of tea. There is a particular brand and flavor I love in the winter months that is essentially a caffeine-free chai. It contains cinnamon, chicory, black pepper, cloves, cardamom, ginger, and carob. I love the flavor and so I am going to infuse it in my candy.

Side note: “Carob” is a new one for me. It is a Mediterranean tree called Ceratonia siliqua, and the pods are what is typically used in food and drink. They are roasted and used as a chocolate substitute in many recipes. Sounds good to me!

I have also added a little fenugreek which, like most of the herbs in the tea bag, is warming and fantastic for digestion. It has the added bonus of imparting it’s own, maple-like flavor to the candy.

Let’s get to our recipe before the snow melts!

Herb-Infused Maple Snow Candy

Yield: about 6 lollies

Ingredients:

1 cup of pure maple syrup

1 bag of Bengal Spice©️ Tea

1 tsp echinacea (mine is from here)

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

Fresh snow

Cake or brownie pan

Popsicle sticks or Pretzel rods

Directions:

1. Place your herbs, tea bag, and maple syrup in a heat-safe container, such as a Pyrex measuring cup. Heat over low-medium heat in a water bath or double boiler for at least twenty minutes, preferably thirty. (You can do this step ahead of time, if you want. Just store the syrup in a clean jar and refrigerate.)

2. Strain herbs and tea bag from the syrup through cheesecloth

3. Pour strained syrup into small saucepan

4. Take your cake pan outside and pack it with fresh snow. Bring inside and place in freezer. (This is where the children can help)

5. Heat your syrup over medium-high heat to just boiling (just as you begin to see bubbles break the surface). Stir and boil for 10-12 minutes. If you like, you can use a candy thermometer. It should measure 240 degrees Fahrenheit, which is soft ball stage. But otherwise just boil it for 10 minutes or so.

6. Pour heaping spoonfuls in 6 long strips across your snow. Take a pretzel rod or popsicle stick and place at one end of the oval. Make sure it sticks, then roll the stick so that the candy coats it. (Careful, it’s HOT.) Do one at a time, as they will cool quickly. In between pours, return the pan to the oven burner on low to keep the syrup warm.

7) Pop the lollies candy-side down right back into the snow to let them harden fully (only takes a few minutes). Just a note, these are chewy and taffy-like, so they will start to melt a little at room temperature. Best to enjoy them right away.

8) That’s it! Enjoy, stay healthy, and may you look forward to snowy days a little more. ♥️

Summertime Freshness: Elderflower Cordial

IMG_1884

Now is the time when elderflowers bloom. The creamy, fragrant blossoms of sambucus nigra are famous for their medicinal uses in teas and cough syrups. The blue-black berries are also chock full of vitamins and anti-oxidants that have proven activity against bacteria and the viruses that cause influenza and common cold. For your reference, the following study demonstrates the effect of a standardized extract on gram positive and negative bacteria, as well as a strain of influenza (Krawitz et al, 2011, BMC Complement. Alt. Medicine).

But more on the berries later. And more on the medicines later. Today, we are making something good for the soul: elderflower cordial.

I am almost sure you have seen the elderflower bush at least once in your life. They are a garden staple, growing into large shrubs that can reach up to 20 feet tall. The leaves are a vibrant green with a pointed end. Flowers are a creamy white with a tiny yellow center and give off a warm, sweet scent. The flowers can be expected in late Spring to early Summer (ours came a bit later this year due to a very unexpected snowfall). Berries, which are nearly black in color (hence the name sambucus nigra), will usually begin to appear in the late fall.

800px-Sambucus_nigra_004
S. nigra in bloom. Picture courtesy of By Willow – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2643905

I should point out that there are many varieties of elder, but the specific strain of Sambucus nigra is the kind that is used both for medicine and for the gorgeous beverage I am about to introduce to you.

Elderflower cordial is a very traditional party drink in Europe. It was quite popular with Victorians, though evidence of its use has been found dating back to Ancient Rome! A “cordial,” more broadly,” is a soft drink. It typically starts with a syrup that is diluted with seltzer, champagne, or pure water. Our cordial uses the seltzter, but by ALL means try the champagne! Whatever you choose, it lends the liquid a beautiful, floral-citrus taste with a hint of sweetness.

 

ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL

Ingredients:IMG_1843

(makes six cups of syrup)

12-15 fresh elderflower heads

2.5 lbs of sugar (5 cups)

1 lemon

1.5 oz citric acid (3 tablespoons)

6.5 cups of filtered water

 

Directions:

First, trim the stems of your elderflower heads back as much as you can. You want mostly flower, and not too much stem. Next, gently rinse your elderflowers in some cold water to remove anyIMG_1856 dirt or little insects. Let them sit on a paper towel until ready to use. In a large pot, simmer the sugar and water on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. While this is happening, peel your lemon with a vegetable peeler (but don’t discard the peels!) and cut into slices. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the liquid to a boil. When it reaches a boil, remove the pot from the heat. Put your lemon slices, peels, and citric acid into the syrup and stir well. Now place the elderflower heads face down into the mixture. Cover the pot, and let influse for at least 8 hours (overnight) or up to 24 hours.

After it is done infusing, strain the syrup through a fine cloth into a sterilized jar or bottle. This will keep for up to six weeks refrigerated. You can also freeze the portion of the mixture you do not intend to use right away, and it will keep for several months.

To use: add 2-3 tsp of syrup (depending on how sweet you like it) to a glass filled with ice. Pour seltzer or club soda to the top. Garnish with sliced lemon. Enjoy!