Comfrey

When the goldenrod starts to flower then summer is igoin out and autumn is icumen in.  I am sure we will have lots more lovely sunny and warm days like today, in fact my birthday in early October has been a sunny day for as long as I can remember.  However, now is the time to start preserving and drying to ensure the natural medicine cabinet can see us through until next summer. Today I have been out in the garden harvesting comfrey, lavender, rosehips and chamomile

Let’s start with the comfrey.  Comfrey goes by many names Knitbone, Boneset, Bruise wort.  You get the gist, it’s a healer.  There is much discussion about the safety of comfrey due to its very high content of hepatotoxic pyrrolizideine alkaloids (PAs) wh rapich as you can guess from the name can lead to liver disease in high doses and it has been implicated in one death.  Consequently I only use it topically, in a salve, tincture or fresh compress.  See here to see it in action.

First collect your comfrey.  This is remarkably easy around us as the Boss planted it some 10 years ago and it is very hardy!  I collect both leaves and the root, there is a higher level of allantoin, which stimulates cell growth (and thus healing) and reduces inflammation in the root, but also a higher level of PAs.  Again I only use comfrey products externally and would caution anyone who wishes to take it internally to seek the advice of a professional herbalist first.

I made two types of salve and a tincture.

Salve one was  made using the oldest and most traditional  method.  Chop up your leaves and add them melted lard.  I used 125g lard and four handfuls of leaves.  Bring to a simmer, cover and leave to seep for a couple of hours and pour into a sterilised jar (you may need to warm it slightly to melt it sufficiently to pour into the jar.

IMG_3009Looks a bit poisonous doesn’t it?!

Salve two is the process I first learned when making salves.  Instead of using lard I used coconut oil and cold pressed rapeseed oil.  The first stage is the same as making salve one.  125ml of rapeseed oil and three tablespoons of coconut oil, four handfuls of leaves, chopped.  Bring to simmer, leave to seep.  What you have now is comfrey oil and you can leave it like that.  It is a good massage oil for those broken bones that cannot be set (such as toes and shoulders).  If you want to make a m ore solid salve you will need approximately 30g of beeswax (the amount you use will determine the solidity of your salve).  Grate the wax and place with the comfrey oil in a bowl over a pan of boiling water and heat gently until the wax and oil are combined.  Pour into sterilised jars.

Comfrey Tincture is the easiest recipe of all.  Wash and chop 100g of comfrey root and place in a clean jar with 150ml of vodka (the highest proof you can find, I am kicking myself for not buying the 96% vodka I saw on sale in Romania for about £15/litre!)  Leave it for 2-3 weeks and transfer to clean amber dropper bottles.

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Finally I put the leftover root in the dehydrator and will grind it up to make tincture or salve later on in the year if we run out.

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Next up rosehips.

Love Gillie x

 

wonderful weeds

I’m sorry if you are a fast reader,  I am having to type very slowly due to the fact that the Devil himself has taken up residence in my right shoulder and is drilling away with a red hot poker.  He has been there for almost two weeks and I was rather hoping he would be bored by now and have moved on to another victim but it would seem that he has settled in for the duration.  Codeine and hot wheat packs are making a small dent in the pain.  I shall pause briefly for you to say “Ahhh” and share some sympathy before moving on to the subject of the day………..

I promised recipes and those you shall have.  All in good time.  We have had a couple of days of sudden and heavy rain and we were rather hoping that there might be some mushrooms in the woods.  There were not.  Not to be defeated we picked our first rowan berries

 

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and some pineappleweed.

 

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It is still quite early for the rowan berries and I will pick more later in the year when they are a richer red.  In the meantime they are simmering away on the stove ready to be made into rowan jelly.

The pineappleweed you will know, and quite possibly hate.  It grows rampantly on driveways and similar hard stoney ground.  If you crush the little yellow buds you will release a beautiful pineapple fragrance.  You can dry it and make tea, but as the only teas I like are builders and apple I won’t be bothering with that.  Instead I whizzed up a cup of buds with two cups of sugar.  The oil in the buds makes the sugar rather wet so you have to leave it out to dry.  It also makes it rather green.

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But it makes delicious cakes and biscuits.

 

Now the salve recipes

Comfrey

  1. Collect and dry the comfrey leaves (I use the dehydrator)
  2. Crush and weigh leaves.
  3. Mix 1oz of leaves to 1 cup of olive oil
  4. Either leave to infuse for 4-6 weeks or heat gently (do not let boil) and leave to infuse for 24 hours.  No prizes guessing which method I use.
  5. Strain through muslin.
  6. Add 1oz of beeswax (grated or use pellets or granules)  to every cup of oil.
  7. Heat gently until wax fully melted.
  8. Pour into prepared jars to set.

Lavender

Pretty much the same method but using dried lavender flowers.

Moisturiser

I used this recipe from Quirky Cooking  I don’t have the specialist cooker/mixer she uses but it worked just fine with a heavy bottomed pan and a whisk.  I used 6tbsp of rosewater rather than rosewater and water, and I added a couple of drops of pure rose essential oil.  Divine.

salve

Part of the decluttering process is finding alternative ways to meet essential needs.  I have always been fascinated by herbal medicine and though I know a bit about the basics I would like to learn more.  I have played around with making lotions and potions and soaps but the driving force, the one that says “this is for real not for fun” wasn’t there before.

Now I’m not just making face creams for presents but because I don’t want to buy them.  I have a field full of comfrey full of lavender.  I don’t need to buy comfrey salve I can make it myself.

So today I did.  Three jars of comfrey salve, one of lavender salve and three of rosewater moisturiser.DSC_1657

 

Recipes tomorrow, because I have a family to feed and potatoes to dig up and salad to pick for supper 🙂

from vodka to seaweed

I’m not the world’s greatest vodka fan.  I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between Grey Goose and Aldi.  On the other hand it is a wonderful preservative for things like chillis (which are dripping off the plants in my greenhouse) and even I quite like a vodka and tonic when the vodka has had a little help.

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From left to right, lavender vodka, raspberry brandy (the interloper) and raspberry vodka.  It is harvest time and if I don’t get down to making cordials, jellies and infusing spirits soon there will be little left.  There are plenty of recipes for fruit spirits I don’t follow any of them.  I take the flower or fruit and add them to the spirit.  My personal choices are brandy and vodka although when the brambles come out later in the year I will make bramble whisky, the strong flavour of the brambles complements the whisky, it goes well with brandy as well but is pointless to waste vodka on them.  Vodka is best for the subtler flavours such as flowers and raspberries.  I don’t add any sugar.  If you want to make a liqueur then I prefer to add sugar syrup to taste once the infusion is complete.  Personally I prefer to leave it as pure spirit, if somebody wants a liqueur I can always add the sugar syrup later.

The rosehips need to mature a little more before they are ready but the meadowsweet

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is everywhere and I want to get plenty of syrup made before it fades.

There is so much in the garden, and not just that which I planted which needs to be harvested.  Today I will collect and dry comfrey and lavender.   Comfrey is no longer considered safe to eat due to its high levels of alkaloids   but it is a great healer.  You can use the leaves direct on a wound during the summer months and I shall make a salve for the winter.  It also makes a terrific fertiliser.

I like to have a good store of culinary quality lavender and what better way than to grow your own?  It’s great in baking, and its soothing properties makes it good in salves as well.

Finally I must dry out the seaweed we collected at the weekend.  The lavender smells better but needs must!