Fire Tonic Cider

Semi-functional immune systems are no fun, let me tell you. The past two weeks of my life have consisted of a cold, travel and an out of state doctor’s appointment (which involved sitting on two planes full of coughing, sneezing, hacking people), and a different cold that I got while traveling. Cold number two is particularly nasty and had me bed/couch-bound for days, so needless to say I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of how to support my immune system.

My current batch of Fire Cider
My current batch of Fire Cider

As soon as I was semi-functional (read: could put a coherent sentence together) I asked my mother to run to the store and pick up the fixings for fire cider. Fire cider is an herbal remedy consisting of apple cider vinegar infused with immune supporting herbs or other foods that is sweetened with honey and taken to prevent colds and the like. Since it has to sit for a month it’ll be ready just around Spring Break when everyone will be traveling and bringing back all sorts of nasty crap. Had I had any foresight, I would have made this wonderful herbal concoction a month ago so it would have been ready when I returned from my travels. Guess I learned my lesson.

Because there are so many options for ingredients, there are a ton of recipes available for Fire Cider on the internet. I decided to start off with the basic recipe from the woman who made it as popular as it is today, Rosemary Gladstar. In the video below she walks you through the benefits and how to make it. The only change I made was doubling the amount of ginger I used because I LOVE ginger.

Basic Fire Tonic Cider

Based on: Rosemary Gladstar’s Fire Cider

1 part Horseradish (fresh, diced)
1 part Garlic (fresh, diced)
1 part Onion (fresh, diced)
1 part Ginger (fresh, diced)
Cayenne Powder (to taste, I didn’t add a lot)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw Honey (to taste)

Put first four ingredients in a wide mouth quart jar (you’ll want the jar to be about half full). Add enough vinegar so there is two to three inches above the herbs. Add cayenne to taste and let sit for four weeks. Strain and discard spent herbs (I’ve seen people make a chutney out of them or dehydrate them to make a seasoning). Add honey to taste.

There are infinite variations on this theme. Some people add jalapeños or citrus or use fresh cayenne peppers, some leave out the onion, some do a sort of hybrid recipe of fire cider four thieves vinegar and use the herbs thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender, and mint. I’ve seen gorgeous fire cider that has been colored red by the addition of hibiscus or elderberries. Some people choose not to add the honey. It is really a very customizable recipe which is why I think it is so popular, that and that people swear it works.


A note about the Fire Cider name: Recently there have been a group of herbalists trying to trademark “Fire Cider” claiming that they came up with the recipe and the name all on their own. They have been attacking small sellers and other herbalists telling them that they can’t use the name. This is like trying to trademark something like “vanilla ice-cream” or “granola bar”. Something similar has happened with “thieves oil”, another common herbal remedy.

If you want to learn more about how to make Fire Cider, its history, and the whole trademark thing, Herbal Roots zine has a wonderful FREE PDF that I highly recommend.

Changes

This month I’ve been in the process of renovating the blog, so to speak. I realized that I hadn’t really looked at the themes or layouts for a few years and I thought it was time for an update. Some new things include an updated profile, the Instagram widget, and most obviously a new theme. I’m still in the process of revising the pages so you may notice some subtle changes there later in the month. If you notice any links that no longer work or pictures that don’t show up, please let me know. Thanks!

Herb of the Month: Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Part 1

Sweet basil, (Ocimum basilicum) is the most common variety of basil sold in the United States. While there are many other basil varieties, some closely related and some not, I chose to focus on sweet basil since I’m the most familiar with it.

basil cuttings in water

Sweet Basil Information 

Size: Sweet basil can range from 24 – 38 inches (61 – 97 cm) in height depending on conditions.

Water Requirements: A lot of water is required to grow basil. Soil should be kept damp, but not soaked.

Soil Requirements: The soil that sweet basil is planted in should be fertile and well drained. Basil prefers a soil that is very slightly acidic (pH 6.4) but can tolerate a wide pH range.

Light Requirements: Sweet basil likes to be grown in full sun (at least 4-6 hours of direct sun).

Temperature Requirements: Sweet basil does not tolerate cold temperatures well and should be kept above 40°F (4.4°C).

Nutrient Requirements: A fertilizer with equal amounts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium with additional nitrogen supplementation later in the growing season is recommended for sweet basil.

Pruning: Many people who grow basil cut off flower buds, as they believe it causes leaves to become bitter. Nipping off the top set of leaves can encourage the basil plant to become bushier. Regular pruning is recommended.

Pests: Although sweet basil is relatively insect repellent, it can still be bothered by pests such as whiteflies, cutworms, and nematodes as well as fungal and bacterial diseases.

Companion Planting: Basil is often planted along side tomatoes.

Growing Indoors: Basil is well suited to growth in containers, both indoors and outdoors. Pots need to be at least 8 inches (20 cm). The best growing medium is a soilless mix and the light, water, and nutrient requirements are similar to those of an outdoor plant.

 

Sources

Bonnie Plants – A good basic introduction to Sweet Basil. The plant I took the cuttings from was a Bonnie Sweet Basil plant.
National Gardening Association – Basil Plant care guide
Herb Society of America Guide – Basil  In addition to basil, the Herb Society of America has good guides to many other herbs.

Garden Journal

** Warning, this is a photo heavy post. **

FoxyFix wanderlust

Today I want to talk a little bit about garden journals. Keeping a garden journal is something I try to do every year, and somehow by the middle of the growing season I completely forget about it. This has left me with a bunch of partially started notebooks and horrible records of what I’ve grown. Clearly the old system wasn’t working for me, so this year I decided to try something new.

Enter the traveler’s notebook. It’s essentially a cover (mine is a Wide Wanderlust Butterscotch from Foxy Fix) with elastics which hold notebook inserts. It’s highly customizable and has a huge fan base. I stumbled across them while looking for ideas for setting up my grad school Filofax (a post for another day) and though that maybe, just maybe, here was a system that would work. So I thought about it for a few months, came up with a plan, got some inserts to try out, and ordered my notebook.

It arrived a few weeks ago, and so far I’m definitely a fan. It feels like a nice cohesive book, but the inserts seem to give me the flexibility I’ve been craving. Here’s how it’s set up right now.

Insert 1: Calendar
Purpose: Mostly for recording weather and planting dates, but other garden events like classes are included too.

Calendar (Midori brand)
Calendar (Midori brand)

Insert 2: Garden Log
Purpose: To record what goes on in the garden (planting dates, harvest quantities, pest problems)

Grid insert (Midori brand)
Grid insert (Midori brand)

Insert 3: Orchard Log
Purpose: Essentially the same as the Garden Log, only for the orchard: To record what goes on in the orchard (tasks, harvest quantities, pest problems)

Grid insert (Midori brand)
Grid insert (Midori brand)

Insert 4: Garden Resources/Ideas
Purpose: This insert gives me a place to write down helpful books and websites as well as any ideas/information I come across that seems useful.

Lined insert (Midori brand)
Ruled insert (Midori brand)

And lastly…

Insert 5: Orchard Resources/Ideas
Purpose: In addition to being a place to record similar stuff to the Garden Resources insert, I’ll also use this to keep my notes from the steward training classes for the orchard.

Lined insert (Midori brand)
Ruled insert (Midori brand)

And there you have it! Five inserts in total, and hopefully enough space to record everything I want to. Again, right now I think this system will work, but then again I’ve thought that about the other notebooks too. Here’s hoping.

Do you have a garden notebook/journal? How do you keep from forgetting about it halfway through the season?

Herb of the Month: Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) Part 2

[Please note that this page is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians.]

Bay leaves in a mason jar with oil being poured over them
Image source: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1479642/infused-bay-oil

Today we’re going to take a brief look at the culinary and medicinal uses of Bay Laurel leaves. 

Medicinally Bay Laurel can be taken as a tea to soothe stomaches and relieve gas. The leaves also have diaphoretic properties and can induce vomiting when taken in large quantities. The oil of bay laurel can al be applied externally as an antiseptic and to treat sprains, bruises, and arthritis.

In the kitchen, bay leaves are typically used dry as fresh leaves contain bitter tasting compounds that drying removes. Leaves are added to soups and stews to flavor the broth and are removed before eating. Leaves may also be used in pickling, marinades, and baking.

Around the home bay leaves are used to make fragrant wreaths and garlands, and to repel insects from the pantry.

Recipes*

Infused Bay Oil 

Bay Leaf Tea–  It’s a little unclear what type of bay she uses, but it looks like any variety will work.

Bay Leaf Tea/ Gripe Water

Braised Bay Leaf Chicken

Filipino Chicken Adobo

Fresh Bites Daily has recipes for bay leaf custard drinks and desserts. I can’t try these because of my food allergies, but they look interesting.

Bay Laurel Pound Cake

Gluten-free Dairy-free Bay Leaf Pound Cake

Blueberry Bay Leaf Quick Jam

* I have not had a chance to try any of these recipes yet. If you do try them, let me know how they go!

Sources

Flower Power: Bay Laurel by Jacqueline Soule on Rodale’s Organic Life

Garden Plant of the Month of October – Bay laurel (Bay Tree) on Agora

Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra

A Modern Herbal Volume II by Mrs. M. Grieve

Herb of the Month: Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) Part 1

Bay Laurel Leaves
Image Source: http://www.fuf.net/tree/grecian-laurel/

As stated in last week’s introduction, January’s herb of the month is Bay. While there are several plants that are used as the “bay leaf” spice in cooking I’m going to focus on bay laurel (Laurus nobilis). This type of bay is also known as sweet bay. Laurus nobilis originates from the Mediterranean and can be grown outdoors in warmer climates or indoors as a houseplant in colder ones. 

Size: Bay Laurel can grow up to 23 ft (7.5m) tall if not pruned.

Water Requirements: Bay laurel has moderate water requirements. As with most plants overwatering can cause root damage.

Soil Requirements: Bay Laurel prefers well-drained soil

Light Requirements: Bay Laurel grows best in full sun to part shade.

Temperature Requirements: Bay Laurel can be grown outside in USDA Zones 8 to 11.

Nutrient Requirements: Bay Laurel grown in containers can benefit from controlled-release fertilizer or a liquid feed every two weeks from mid-spring through late summer.

Pruning: Bay Laurel is well suited to being pruned as a topiary or shrub but they are slow growing and can be slow to recover.

Pests and Problems: Bay is susceptible to bay sucker and both soft and horse chestnut scale. Waterlogged roots can cause leaf spots or yellowing of leaves. Yellowing of leaves can also indicate a nutrient deficiency.

Container Growing: If you want to grow bay laurel as a container plant it is important to use well draining soil. Plants grown in container are also susceptible to freezing when it’s cold outside so make sure to insulate the pot. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends that bay be repotted every two years.

Bay Laurel Bush in a terra cotta pot
Bay Laurel in a pot (Image Source: http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/1774/sweet-bay/)

Part two, the culinary and medicinal uses of bay laurel and some recipes, will be coming next week so be on the look out for that.

Sources

Flower Power: Bay Laurel on Rodale’s Organic Life

Bay Tree (Laurus nobilis) on Royal Horticultural Society


As an aside, my classes start back up again this week, so while I have the best intentions to post weekly, we all know how that went last semester. If I disappear for a bit, it’s probably because of schoolwork.