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Monday, September 27, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Kachur, Curcuma zedoaria or white turmeric or zedoary is not very well known in the West. Apparently it was introduced into Europe by the Arabs in the 6th century and gained in popularity, if we are to believe manuscripts that were written prior to the 16th century. If these are indeed about white turmeric then it was a very popular spice which is rarely used in cooking these days. Either early writers mistook this root or rhizome for ginger root or turmeric or even salsify, or tastes have changed a lot over the centuries, as Kachur has a very bitter taste and smells of camphor. It is sometimes used finely grated in pickles in the Indian subcontinent, but is more often used in medicine. It is also used as medicine in China and Japan, but is native to northern India and Pakistan. In India its essential oil is used in perfumes and in alcoholic drinks. In Thailand the fresh young rhizome of white turmeric or Kachur is cooked and eaten as a vegetable. It might also be used in some curry pastes. It’s an ancient spice and related to turmeric. Kurkum in Arabic means saffron and it does make the saliva yellow when chewed, so perhaps there was a little confusion, as it is not related to the crocus from which we get saffron.
In India Zedoary is considered a weed, and it is believed that it grows in Panama and other parts of the South American continent where it is called the “Resurrection Plant.” It has been speculated that this is because it flowers at Easter, but we think it is more likely to have been given this name because of its many medicinal properties. This amazing root is still being subjected to medical trials and the medical researchers are being cagier than usual about its properties. They do say that kachur has anti-inflammatory properties, which has long been known in traditional medicine, and that it does have antiseptic qualities - it has been used for centuries to heal wounds on the Indian subcontinent. It can be made into a paste and applied directly onto the skin and is used for a wide variety of skin complaints. In India and Pakistan it is included in creams to prevent ageing and wrinkles. It is supposed to be extremely effective as an anti ageing agent.
No recipe as we don’t eat it. Try the recipes with ginger or turmeric instead.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Hareer is another “wonder drug” from Ayurvedic medicine. It’s the fruit of a tree and is used as a cure all. I’m told the English name for it is Black Myrobalan, or Chebulic Myrobalan, but have to confess that I am none the wiser for knowing that so I will continue to call it Hareer. I was first introduced to Hareer when I had had a very bad fever and possibly dysentery, so I was feeling weak and fairly awful. The doctor prescribed it for me as well as other high protein iron-rich foods. I was given hareer murabba, a preserve of this fruit to try and of course I really loved its flavour. I didn’t know what it was but determined to find out. This is the result of that research.
myrobalan) into Europe, having discovered its healing properties from the Indians. The medicinal properties of the fruit and only the bark of Terminalia arjuna or arjuna are known in other Asian countries including Thailand and Tibet, but the trees are native to the Indian subcontinent, and perhaps to the Himalayan regions.Hareer is related to Terminalia catappa or the Indian almond too.
The fruit has been used since ancient times as an anti inflammatory, analgesic, digestive, liver stimulant, diuretic, expectorant, antispasmodic and the list goes on. It has undergone clinical trials which seem to support these old treatments, but more trials are underway as most tests have been on rats. One test saw a higher volume of sperm and increased potency in male rats, so it may have benefits for males who have low sperm counts and other problems relating to erections. Another test carried out in vitro concluded that the extract of methanol from the fruit had the potential to halt the growth of cancerous cells in leukaemia.
It’s good to heal wounds by making a paste of 3 hareer fruit and 3 betel nuts and ghee or oil and placing it on the wound. It gets rid of any pus and thoroughly cleans the wound. The same paste can be applied to haemorrhoids.
In Hindu mythology it is said that the Terminalia chebula was created from drops of ambrosia which fell to earth while Indra (king of the gods) was drinking it.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Angelica has a number of names, but the one that grows commonly in Europe is Angelica sylvestris and Angelica archangelic. It is believed that it originated in Syria but spread to cooler climes where it flourished in Finland, Iceland and Greenland. There are over thirty varieties of angelica but the one that is recognized for its medicinal qualities in Germany, Switzerland and Austria is archangelic. There are many stories surrounding its name but it certainly was used in pagan festivals, as there is a festival in parts of Germany when villagers go into towns carrying angelica stems and singing in a long-forgotten language words learned in childhood, but not understood even by the singers any more. After the adoption of Christianity in Europe it was associated with the archangel Michael as it blooms on his day, May 8th in the old calendar.
Because of its association with the archangel it was also believed to be associated with the Annunciation when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and told her that she was pregnant. One legend says that an archangel revealed in someone’s dream that angelica was a cure for the plague. Because of these holy associations it was believed that it would rid places of evil spirits and protect against witchcraft and evil enchantments. The Iroquois in North America used it to wash their dwellings to cleanse them of ghosts and other malignant spirits, and the leaves have been burned in some exorcism rites. In some places it was known as “the Root of the Holy Ghost.” If you grow it in the garden it will protect your house from evil. You could make a necklace from the leaves or carry a root in your pocket to ward off evil spells and for general protection against malignancy.
The roots are fragrant and both dried leaves and roots can be used in pot pourris. It will also give a good yellow dye. The roots, seeds and leaves are used in folk and traditional medicines to cure just about everything. It’s said to be good for coughs and colds and to get rid of phlegm and lung congestion- in other words it’s a good expectorant. The stems are trimmed and candied and used in breads and cakes for garnish- angelica is the candied green confectionary so often seen on cakes. Angelica tastes vaguely of juniper berries and is sometimes combined with them in the making of gin. The stems can be used in jam to add flavour to other fruit, and in ‘confitures’. The seeds are used in Vermouth and Chartreuse. The tender young stalks can be used in salads instead of celery stalks. The chopped leaves can also be used in salads, and they neutralize the acidity of rhubarb if cooked with it. Some people in Northern Europe chew the raw stalks and think of them as a delicacy.
nutmeg, treacle and angelica water beaten together and boiled over a fire. Chinese angelica, or Angelica sinensis is used for stimulating the uterus muscles and it dilates blood vessels so is supposed to be good for a man’s erections and a woman’s vaginal lubrication. Infusions are to be taken two to five times a day and these help unblock blood flow during a woman’s periods and stop stomach cramps and Pre-Menstrual Tension.
The roots should be dried rapidly and then stored in airtight containers, so that they will retain their medicinal properties for years. The root stalk and leaves are carminative, stimulant, diaphoretic and are good for the digestive system. Using the tisane as a face wash will prevent acne, it is said, but use 1 pint of boiling water to 150 grams of fresh bruised root. Make the tisane with 1 pint of boiling water poured over 30 grams of the bruised root. Steep for 20 -30 minutes, strain and take 2 tablespoons 3 or 4 times a day to relieve just about anything. It’s supposed to be good for chronic bronchitis, and fevers. As it has stimulant properties and is a tonic it may also act as an aphrodisiac in that it will increase the libido. You can also make an infusion with the powdered root. On the mainland Europe this recipe was used as a remedy for typhus fever:-2 pints of boiling water poured over150 grams of the bruised root.120 grams of honey, the juice of 2 large lemons and 1 glass of brandy, left to steep for 30 minutes. Infusions made from the leaves are a tonic and generally beneficial, if used over a period of time. The effects will be felt after a few days. You can gargle with the root infusion, or that of the leaves to relieve sore throats and mouths. Chew the leaves for relief from indigestion and flatulence.
John Gerard said that it was good for “the bitings of mad dogs and all other venomous beasts.” Poultices of the pounded leaves can be put over the lungs and chest to ease congestion. The powdered root can cure athlete’s foot and act as an insecticide and pesticide. To help stop cystitis, you will need 1 tablespoon of the dried root powder to 1 cup of boiling water and steep for 15-20 minutes.
It is a cure-all, but pregnant women shouldn’t take it in large quantities, and as always it’s best to consult a doctor before taking natural medicine if you have a pre-existing medical condition as some herbs react badly with pharmaceuticals.
1 kilo Angelica stems
¾ kilo sugar
Cut the stems into 4 inch strips and blanch in boiling water for 10 minutes or until soft.
Drain and soak the stems in cold water for 12 hours.
Make the sugar into a syrup with a little water, then add the angelica. Cook until it’s soft and the liquid coats a metal spoon. Remove from the heat and put into jars as you would any other jam.
This has Taste and is a Treat.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
There are other savory herbs but these two, summer and winter savory are the two best known and most commonly used in cooking. The Romans believed that savory belonged to the Satyrs of the woods and forests and so called it Satureia. Summer savory is Satureia hortensis and the winter variety is Satureia montana. They are native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. They are good to grow near beehives as they say savory honey is delicious. The summer savory tastes a little like marjoram while the winter savory has a strong peppery taste, and has been described as being like a cross between thyme and mint.
Use summer savory when boiling broad beans and peas. It’s also good in a soup made from dried green peas. You can also use it as a garnish and in salads.
Winter savory (Satureia montana) has been grown in the UK since 1562 and recipes from these times suggest using it in a dressing for trout. The Romans used it in vinegar as a condiment. Culpepper thought it was good for colic. It has antiseptic properties and can be used as a tonic and expectorant as in the tisane above. It is also good as an antiseptic gargle for sore throats. The Romans believed that savory was an aphrodisiac and subsequently so did others because it was named after satyrs, the mythical half men and half goats.
Winter savory is good added to soups made from dried beans and lentils; it is also used in making salami.
The oil obtained from both types of savory contains thymol and carvacrol. Thymol has antiseptic and anti-fungal properties and carvacrol inhibits the growth of bacteria, protecting from diseases such as E.coli which can be caused by contaminated foodstuff. Savory is also rich in minerals and trace elements, containing as it does:-potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and selenium. It is also rich in vitamins, A, C and the B-complex group. It helps lower cholesterol levels and can be used both as a diuretic and a remedy for stomach problems, helping to stop diarrhoea and as a mild laxative.
HERB MIX FOR BEEF
Equal amounts of dried:-savory, basil, marjoram, parsley and chervil.
Fresh:- 6 sprigs winter savory (8 of Summer), 1 tbsp chopped basil leaves, the same of parsley,2 tsps chervil leaves chopped and 1 tsp chopped marjoram leaves.
HERB MIX FOR PORK
Dried:-1/2 tsp dried summer savory, or 1 tsp winter savory, 1 and a1/2 tsps basil, sage and rosemary.
Fresh:- 8 sprigs summer savory (6 of summer), 1 tbsp basil leaves, chopped, the same of sage and two sprigs of rosemary.
Use these mixtures in any meat dish in these quantities. You can make more of the dried mixes and keep them, labeling each jar for pork or beef.
These have Taste and are a Treat.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Date palms originated in countries in the Persian Gulf region it is generally believed. It has been claimed that they ranged from Senegal to the Indus River Basin on the subcontinent in prehistoric times, and there is archaeological evidence that they were cultivated in eastern Arabia around 4000BC.In ancient times they grew in abundance in the area between the River Nile and the Euphrates, and were a symbol of fertility, and depicted on bas relief and coins. Nomads planted them at oases, where they grew well in the sandy soil. The Latin name, Phoenix dactylifera means fingers of the phoenix, the legendary bird which dies in fire only to rise again from its own ashes (as in the Harry Potter books).
Dates grow in clusters of between 600 to 1700 fruit, which hang below the palm fronds. In Pakistan there is a large date, which grows to around 4 inches, and is orange in colour. There are hundreds of date cultivars, and in 1924, in his book “The Date Palm” published in 1973, Paul Pepenoe listed 1,500 types of date. The Arabs introduced them to Spain, and date palms with fruit of an inferior quality to that grown in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent have grown for centuries on the French Riviera, and in Italy, Sicily and Greece.
There is and Arabic legend which says that after God or Allah created Adam he had material left over so he fashioned it into a date palm and put it in the Garden of Eden (Paradise).
The palm fronds have many uses and in Italy and Greece are used to strew the streets for the Palm Sunday processions. They are used in this way in Portugal and Spain too. Palm leaves are also used to make fans, baskets, mats, screens, crates and a variety of other things. The tender young leaves can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable as can the heart of the tree, but when this is removed, the tree dies. In India the seeds from the dates are ground and added to flour to make bread in times of scarcity. Sometimes the seeds are roasted then ground and added to coffee in India too. The seeds, after being soaked in water, are used as animal feed and dried dates are also fed to horses, dogs and camels, which probably like them as much as they like carob. Oil from the seeds is used in making soap and some cosmetics too, while the charcoal obtained from the burnt seeds is used by silversmiths for polishing silver. They are also used as beads and threaded to make necklaces.
Dates are packed with vitamins, A1, B1, 2, 3,5and 6 (the B-complex vitamins), and minerals including iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, potassium, sulphur and amino acids. The amino acids help the digestive processes, the iron content helps anemia sufferers who should eat several every day, although not too many as they are a mild laxative. The American Cancer Society recommends eating 20-25 grams of daily fibre from dates, so put some chopped ones on your breakfast cereal. They can help allay the threat of stomach cancer. The nicotine content of dates checks cancerous growths and helps strengthen the muscles of the uterus and so helps women in a smooth delivery of their baby. They also contain fluorine which strengthens tooth enamel and so delays the ravages of tooth decay.
Dates also have a high tannin content so are good for intestinal problems and in an infusion, decoction, syrup or paste can be used to ease sore throats, colds, and bronchial catarrh. Such remedies are also used to cure cystitis, gonorrhea, edema and liver problems. A paste made from the seeds is said to be good to help bring down a temperature. A gum from the slit tree trunk is used in India to cure diarrhoea, as a diuretic and a remedy for genito-urinary diseases. A decoction of the roots can cure toothache.
cardamom seeds and honey. Apparently this works well for men and women who suffer from vaginal dryness.
In North Africa, Ghana and the Ivory Coast date palms are tapped for their sweet sap which is used to make palm sugar, molasses and alcoholic drinks. However the Phoenix sylvestris (Phoenix of the woods) is normally used for these purposes, as these palms are not valued highly for their fruit.
In cookery dates are used to garnish sweet dishes in salads and stuffed as appetizers. Try stuffing them with mascarpone and the rolling them I chopped pistachios or almonds.
1onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, sliced
1 tomato, peeled and finely chopped
4 lettuce leaves, shredded
1 carrot, grated
3 radishes, finely sliced
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsps mayonnaise
1 tbsp olive oil
4 walnuts, crushed
6 dates, stone removed and cut into quarters
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients except for the olive oil and mayonnaise into a large bowl and toss.
Mix the oil and mayonnaise in a cup and stir quickly of whisk in a small bowl. Pour this onto the salad and mix well.
Put in the fridge and serve chilled.
This has Taste and is a Treat.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Walnut trees are native to the Balkans, the regions around the Caspian Sea, northern India, Pakistan and the Himalayan region. There are many different types of walnut tree, but the common one is the Persian walnut which now grows in Britain, mainland Europe, Asia and North America. The black walnut is native to North America as is the white walnut.
The Latin name, Juglans regia derives form Jovis glans, or Jupiter (Jove)’s nut and regia meaning royal. It was believed that in “the Golden Age” of mythology, mortals ate acorns while the gods ate walnuts. The English name walnut comes from Teutonic roots, wallnuss or welsche nuss, meaning foreign nut.
It’s thought that the Romans introduced the walnut tree to Europe from Persia somewhere around 4 AD. Pliny writes about this and in the 1580’s John Gerard wrote that the walnut tree was a common sight in English orchards and fields. It is prized for its timber, and as well as being used to make strong furniture, it has been the favourite wood for gunsmiths for centuries; one example is the Lee Enfield rifle used in World War I. All walnut trees produce attractive timber which is hard, dense and tight-grained ranging in colour from the creamy white of the sapwood to the dark chocolate of the heartwood. The one most favoured for its timber is the common Persian walnut.
The walnut shells produce a strong dye, and you should take care of your hands and clothes if you handle walnut shells as the dye is very durable. The dye is used for cloth, although in ancient times the Goths used to punish miscreants by daubing them with the black dye obtained form walnut husks.
There are quite a few legends associated with the walnut tree, too many to relate here, but because it tends to kill any surrounding vegetation it was considered a sinister tree which harboured evil spirits. Paschal II cut down a walnut tree in Rome because he believed the evil soul of the Emperor Nero live in it. In Bologna (Italy) it is said that witches gathered under a walnut on Midsummer’s Eve to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Generally in Europe a large crop of walnuts was thought to be a sign that a bad winter could be expected. If you dream of walnuts, then your partner may be unfaithful, while in the language of Flowers the walnut signifies Intellect and Stratagem. In folklore it was said that carrying a spider in a walnut shell wherever you went would protect you from getting a fever. Finally there is an old Russian proverb which goes like this:-“A dog, a wife and a walnut tree; the more you beat them, the better they be.”
misri and ground walnuts to the faeries to appease them in their spring festival.
The walnut tree is a wonderful source of healing and health protection. In traditional Chinese medicine its parts are used as a kidney tonic, while in the subcontinent it is used to treat skin disease and as an aphrodisiac, (probably because it is rich in Omega-3). The leaves have astringent properties and are used to treat herpes, eczema, scrofula and syphilitic skin complaints.
Culpeper wrote that walnuts, onions, salt and honey could be missed to make an effective treatment for bites from any poisonous creatures and rabid dogs. However, if you make an infusion of 25 grams of dried bark or dried leaves (you need more if using fresh leaves) in 1 pint of boiling water and let it stand for 6 hours or longer, then strain it, you can apply it externally for skin complaints or drink a wineglass of the infusion three times a day to purify the body. The powdered dried bark of a walnut tree can be used as a laxative and purgative. The juice from the unripe (green) husks can be boiled with honey and used as a gargle to ease sore throats and mouth ulcers. The distilled water obtained after boiling the green husks can be used as a cooling drink for fever sufferers. The oil from the nuts is supposed to be good for colic, and can also be applied externally on skin diseases.
Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 and antioxidants and as most Westerners are lacking in Omega-3, doctors recommend 4 walnuts a day or a serving of walnuts a week to keep us healthy. Modern medical research has found the ellagic acid in the manganese and copper contained in walnuts blocks the metabolic pathways in our bodies which can lead to cancerous cell growth. This helps neutralize potential cancer-causing substances and helps prevent cancer cells from replicating. Walnuts are particularly effective in lessening the risk of prostate cancer, so if a man has a diet which contains tomatoes, walnuts and pomegranate juice, he can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Walnuts also contain melatonin which is a powerful antioxidant and helps you have a good night’s sleep.Omega-3 generally is good for inflammation of the joints, boosts energy levels and stimulates the brain. It also lowers cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Apart from the uses of walnuts already mentioned, they can be used in cooking; you can sprinkle chopped walnuts on green salads, or toss salads in walnut oil (it’s expensive but has a great taste) although is best used on salads, to make a nutty dish you can mix a little with olive oil to fry foods. Unripe or green walnuts can be pickled and sugar produced from the walnut tree sap can be made in the same way as maple syrup. You can make a really tasty walnut dip with cooked red lentils, pureed with walnuts and cinnamon, cloves, and grated nutmeg, along with fresh coriander leaves and a tsp of coriander seeds, with a little olive oil to get a consistency of a dip. You can add your favourite spices and herbs to get the taste you want.
If you dry the leaves they are a good brown colour and are fragrant enough to use in a pot pourris. An artist I know crushes the shells and uses the pieces to decorate the frames surrounding his pictures. In Pakistan, strips of the bark from the walnut tree are sold on the street as an alternative to toothbrushes and toothpaste. When you brush your teeth with a piece they become very white.
Try to make your own dip with cooked red or yellow lentils, walnuts, olive oil and your favourite herbs and spices. Keep experimenting until you get it just right.
If you want a main dish recipe for walnuts, try our Nutty Chicken recipe. This has Taste and is a Treat.
The Shisham or Indian Rosewood tree is the symbol of the Punjab province of Pakistan. It is not a native to this area, but native to the area around the Himalayas. It was brought into the Punjab to be cultivated for use as timber and for fuel for steam trains. It is a much-prized tree, but is susceptible to a disease called ‘Dieback’ which is caused by fungi which target particular species. At the moment this is a cause for concern in Pakistan.
It is second only to teak in the Punjab, as teak is more widely grown and more expensive. However the Shisham tree is also used in traditional medicine on the subcontinent, and it is believed that it can be beneficial to sufferers of many diverse illnesses.
The leaves, roots and bark can be used as a stimulant, and a decoction of the bark can be drunk to purify the blood, and if you put a paste made from the bark on boils and pimples, they will soon go.
Recent medical studies have shown that the Shisham tree has astringent qualities and can help to prevent heart diseases.
Unfortunately, you can’t eat it, like the other trees we’ve been writing about recently, the Neem tree and the banyan, for example. However why not try our Chicken Jal Frezi recipe?