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Archive for the ‘Home Remedy’ Category

Whoooosh…..And there goes another year. Three weeks ago, 2016 sauntered right in and made itself at home while my head is still entertaining 2015. Time is a strange thing. It has absolutely no regard for my preferred pace of life. Marching along steadily, refusing to wait for me as I ramble off-course. If Time were not so regimented and I not so easily distracted, we might make better friends. Meanwhile, we put up with each other’s shortcomings and carry on regardless. As with any fractious relationship, a little venting eases the irritation. And what better bugbear to start with, than this very blog.

At the beginning, Time left lots of room for blogging. But the novelty lost it’s sheen somewhat when everyday stuff demanded attention. Other activities got priority and Time refused to wait for me to catch up. Time does not tolerate excuses. He is well known for forging ahead regardless. I have noticed that the more activities I plan to cram into each day the more indifferent Time becomes. So perhaps I need to narrow my focus to only include the activities that mean the most to me and allocate a realistic amount of energy to them.

Blogging is most definitely among my favourite activities. I’ve selected a few favourite images from 2015. A look back through the year helps me mend my relationship with Time and be more forgiving. After all it has been a great year! It also helps me reflect on what activities are closest to my heart.

Foraging-making-exploring

I love the treasures that foraging brings, the act of gathering food from the hedgerows is such a delight. Thinking up new ways to use my bounty is so much fun! Home remedies, food, cosmetics…the list is endless. I’ll never tire of learning and exploring more about the natural world and as for making things by hand- it’s the perfect antidote for someone who spends too much time pushing pixels around a screen for a living.
Gardening

 

Our new veggie patch of raised beds was a great success this year and for a few months we just ate what came out of the garden. That gave us a great sense of satisfaction with the added bonus of great-tasting, chemical-free, fresh ingredients.

If there are any fitting subjects that you would like me to cover here on Green Jam Jar please let me know. I like to think there are folk getting something out of my monthly musings – other than the other end of therapeutic venting! (But therapeutic venting alone is good enough!)  So, with your help, and that of my old pal time, Time, let’s take Green Jam Jar into 2016!

Happy New Year to you all! Make it the year to follow your heart.

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Apple cider vinegar is full of beneficial properties. Most significantly if it’s raw, organic, unpasteurised and unfiltered. Unfiltered means it is bottled with the “mother”- a cloudy residue that sits at the bottom of the bottle. Apple cider vinegar, or ACV as it’s commonly referred to, comes packed with with health-enhancing enzymes, amino acids and minerals. When taken daily it regulated the body’s PH and is said to contribute to weight loss. It cleans up lactic acid, which can accumulate in the body and be a common cause of fatigue. ACV, with the help of its potassium and enzymes provides a much needed energy boost when reserves are low. Quite the wonder food. Several years ago I used to take a tablespoon every morning together with a tablespoon of honey in a cup of warm water. I did this for a number of months and the most (pleasantly) surprising outcome was silky soft skin.

You can imagine my enthusiasm then to recently learn that ACV can be made in the comfort of your own home (thanks Juli!). All you need are the apple scraps from your baking – cores and peelings, a bucket and some patience. Really, it’s that simple. After the bountiful apple harvest we’ve enjoyed this autumn it was an obvious go-to project. Here’s my progress to date.
Homemade Cider vinegar
Having used the actual apple flesh to make yummy desserts I placed the leftover skin and cores in a clean plastic bucket to turn brown. Following that, I covered it all with water and left the bucket in a warm place covered with a dishcloth. After five days I lifted the cloth for an inspection only to be faced with a thin layer of grey-green mould growing over the surface. Apparently this is fantastic, absolutely no need to panic. So after reinstating my cloth I returned the bucket to a shelf in the airing cupboard, where it still sits. The liquid needs to brew for at least a month. In another few weeks, if everything goes to plan, I will have my very own homemade ACV. I’ll strain the liquid into a sterilized bottle making sure not to discard the mother. I’m hoping this will become a routine in my kitchen. It not only makes best use an otherwise waste product, it also avails of local produce and means I’ll never have to buy another bottle of ACV again!
UPDATE #1
So a month has passed and to be honest the blanket of mould is not very appetising. And, as Keri (see comments) has rightly pointed out, mould is never good (unless it’s a chunk of Roquefort cheese…). Onto the compost heap with my appley slush and back to the drawing board for my homemade ACV recipe. All part of the learning process, folks! I have been advised to agitate the contents every day to avoid mould growth so I will be stirring the next batch at least daily. Loads of great vinegar making tutorials here.
Watch this space for round two!
UPDATE #2
I’m pleased to report that I’ve finally got to grips with my cider vinegar making. The secret is to make small batches, leaving it in accessible spot in the kitchen to be stirred at every available opportunity. After four weeks I’m rewarded with a mildly flavoured cider which I bottle to use for salad dressings, in cooking and to make herbal tinctures.

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I came across this recipe for compost tea on a tatty of piece of newspaper well past its prime. Obviously it had been in circulation for quite a while, waiting for me to put its instructions to good use. It floated out of a gardening book I had been flicking through. As I bent to pick it up, now, I decided was as good a time as any to put it to the test. The potatoes that I had planted in my polytunnel earlier in the year were long gone and the bare ground was looking dusty and barren. Crying out for a good feed. This is where my compost tea recipe was going to work its magic. My scrap of newspaper promised the stuff would regenerate spent and tired beds in a matter of days. Perfect.

Compost Tea

I bought a small, cheap water pump generally used for aquariums from our local pet shop. Its purpose- to pump air through my tea as it brewed. All the ingredients, topsoil, manure, compost, honey and water were assembled into a large bucket and left to sit for three days.

Compost Tea method

Sure enough on day three the liquid slurry was looking just like the head of a freshly poured beer. All frothy and alive with bubbles. Mixing 1 part tea to 9 part water I watered it onto my soil. I’m hoping to see spectacular results for my next batch of veggies. Has anyone else tried this? I’d love to hear how it worked for you.

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Last year I made a delicately flavoured cordial from the flowers of the elder. The delicious syrup was used liberally for all sorts of  sweet treats- in cakes, puddings (especially good in gooseberry crumble) and cocktails. As our hedges are once again heaving with the large fragrant blooms I’m inspired to find more uses for them. I have read about the skin toning and wound healing properties of elderflowers. Apparently they are rich in tannins which stimulate the epidermis and are said to be great for blemishes and dry skin. This sounds like just the ticket for my dodgy skin. And so, it brings me to a recipe of a topical kind: elderflower facial toner.

Harvesting elderflowers

  • Pick the flowers on a warm sunny day to ensure optimum nectar level.
  • Handle them gently so as not to shake off too much nectar.
  • Do not wash. Leave them sit for an hour or so to allow the creepies crawl away to safety.

Elderflower skin tonic

Homemade elderflower skin toner

Pick about 15 heads. Remove as many as the stems from the little florettes as possible and place in a heatproof jug. Pour over about 300ml of boiling water (preferably filtered) and let sit for half an hour. Strain with muslin (I used a coffee filter) and decant into a clean sterilised bottle. I found my filter trapped a lot of pollen some of which I placed back into the bottle. After all, I’m guessing this is where a lot of goodness is. To ward away any bacteria I put a few drops of citricide grapefruit seed extract in it. Again, I’m not sure this is necessary as it is best stored in the fridge anyhow.

Apply the toner after washing your face. It smells a bit potent, not in an totally offensive way, but leaves my face feeling nourished and ever so soft. As for banishing the blemishes…well, we’ll just have to wait and see! If anyone else has tried it- I’d love to hear about it.

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This morning on my customary bowl of porridge I enjoyed a glug of nettle syrup. I can assure you that it’s not as unappetising as it sounds. Like maple syrup it is caramely sweet but with just a tiny hint of nettle essence. If you weren’t aware of it’s pedigree you would never guess that nettle leaves were the main ingredient. It is both a treat and a tonic and so easy to make. I adapted the recipe from a beautiful and much cherished book that my sister bought me.

Nettle Syrup

Here’s how I went about it:

I picked about 1kg of fresh nettle tops and placed them in a large saucepan with 2 litres of water. A handful of lemon balm leaves also went into the pot. I brought the water to a boil and simmered for an hour. Then I strained the lot through a piece of muslin and placed back in the pot with 800g of unrefined caster sugar. The spent leaves went onto the compost heap. Carefully stirring in the sugar I brought the heat up to a gentle rolling simmer until the liquid began to thicken. This took about 30 minutes. Then, after cooling, I decanted it into sterilised bottles/jar. I ended up with about 1 litre of syrup.

You really have to taste it to believe how surprisingly lovely it is. I even went as far as making some snazzy labels to tempt my reluctant family into giving it a shot. After much cajoling it eventually got the thumbs up. I urge you to get out there and gather some nettle tops before they they flower and make the most of one of our hedgerow heros. Let me know how you get on!

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This is “Be nice to Nettles Week” in the UK. So, put down that strimmer and slowly step away from the nettle patch. Not only will you save yourself some strenuous labour you will doing you and your garden a great service. Nettles (Urtica dioica), you may be surprised to learn, are one of our native hedgerow superfoods prized for their detoxifying effects. A real Spring tonic to get the system back in gear after winter. They pack a powerful punch of of silica, have vitamins A, D, K and also a considerable amount of calcium. They are a rich source of iron and can be cooked and eaten in place of spinach. Ironically, nettle pollen is a major cause of hay fever but the root of the plant itself will relieve the symptoms due to its antihistamine properties.

Nettles support over 40 species of insects, most notably the small tortoiseshell and peacock butterfly larvae.  The nettle weevil feeds exclusively on the plant eating both roots and leaves helping to keep the patch in check. A plot of nettles will provide shelter for aphids over winter and the resulting springtime swarm is a welcome source of food for blue tits and ladybirds early in the season. Nettle-loving insects rely on the stinging hairs of the nettle leaf for protection from hungry livestock. Whereas insects can move about freely on the leaf between the stinging hairs, grazing cattle will avoid ingesting the plant for fear of painful stings. Even the nettle seeds produced in late summer attract many seed-eating birds. All in all it’s a year-round winner for biodiversity.

Nettle_Illo_Web

A useful Nettle Infusion
Infusion differs from a tisane in that it is brewed for a longer time. Take only the young light green growth at the top of the plant before it goes to flower. Steep a large bunch of freshly snipped nettle tops in 1 liter of boiled water that has been left to stand for a few minutes. Leave overnight. The following morning strain the liquid and drink throughout the day. I like to gently reheat it and sip from a thermos flask with a dollop of manuka honey to soften the earthiness. It is, without a doubt, an acquired taste. Until you grow to love it (and you will!) a sip can resemble a mouthful of dirty dish water. Any leftover liquid can be used as a hair rinse. The silica in the infusion adds shine and prevents dry, flaky scalp and is a terrific home-made conditioner for your locks.

I also make a nettle fertiliser every year by steeping swathes of nettles in buckets of water. I place a rock on top of the leaves and secure the bucket with a lid. The whole lot is left to stew for a few weeks. Be warned: when the lid comes off you’ll be met with a slightly offensive whiff- not for the faint-hearted. Like most good fertilisers it ain’t pretty, but your plants will love it.

So show a little compassion for the nettles in your garden- you’ll be well rewarded!

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The sound of a sick husband is reverberating throughout our house this week. August hasn’t yet gone and already the coughing and splurting has started. Poor Z has, what we would call ’round these parts, “a bad dose”. He has a sore throat and thumping head but, worst of all, a persistent cough that would put you in mind of a engine refusing to start. I went in search of remedies. Preferably ones of the natural kind that don’t involve pharmaceuticals. Anything with Vitamin C is a winner so the half a lemon that didn’t get used for last nights dinner was perfect. Only last week my bee-keeper (and bee-photographer) brother kindly left me jar of delicious raw honey from his Enfield hives. Honey fights bacteria and eases a sore throat. And finally, ginger. I always have a hefty lump of fresh root ginger in the fridge. As well as jazzing up my porridge every morning it happens to be an effective anti-inflammatory.

I sliced my lemon thinly into half moons. I grated a thumb sized section of root ginger and combined the two in a 125ml kilner jar, packing them in tightly. Next I filled up the jar with honey and closed the lid. The following morning the ingredients had settled so I topped up my jar with more honey and returned it to the fridge. The contents will be nice and liquidy so there’s no need to worry about it hardening up in the cold. In a day or so then I will be able to take a dollop and add boiling water to make a warming germ-busting drink to ward off winter bugs. Honey is a great preservative so it will easily last until springtime.

In the meanwhile I am making the patient a tea from freshly picked blackberry leaves – this relieves a sore throat and brings down inflammation. Otherwise known as the thuggish bramble, blackberry bushes are found growing in most hedgerows, easily recognised this time of year by ripening blackberries. With a spoon of honey added it’s a pleasant tasting drink so no complaints from the patient. Less coughing too, just the marginally more bearable sound of tea slurping.

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