Fermented Beetroot Kraut

So after one month of eating healthily, adding lots of raw dark green leaves to every meal, and not a drop of alcohol I feel fabulous, really clear and productive. At the turn of the year I promised a kind of post festive excess, liver repair entry – and suddenly we are the other side of Imbolc already! I am pleased to see the light staying incrementally longer each day and a few very hardy plants bursting forth with new life. It reminds me spring is not so far away.

My original plan had been to talk about dandelion, burdock and milk thistle a trio of real powerful allies for your liver. But in light of my latest spurt of productivity I wanted to share with you my recipe for Beetroot Kraut – not only good for cleansing and supporting the liver but also supportive of the entire digestive system due to all the probiotics (friendly bacteria) it contains.

Even if you have never made a ferment before I think you will become a convert once you discover how simple it can be!

To be honest I only came up with this idea as I still had a large number of beetroot lingering at my allotment and rather than let them go woody and unpleasant to eat I hatched this plan to turn them into a real liver cleansing digestive tonic.

beetroot and red cabbage

So here goes. Firstly you will need fresh raw beetroot, make sure you trim the tops and bottoms and really scrub hard or peel before you weight them. Making a kraut with beetroot alone is hard going. I know that because the week before I made what follows I made a simple beetroot only kraut. To be fair it fermented perfectly and tastes great but to ferment correctly you will need to massage the ingredients until lots of juice runs from them, enough to cover all the ingredients; and with beetroot alone that was a big job. So for my second attempt I combined with red cabbage as I know from making traditional sauerkraut that cabbage is much much easier to get the required quantity of liquids to flow from.

So the quantities I used were 300g beetroot, 600g red cabbage (remembering to discard the thick bit at the base and outer leaves before weighing), 4 teaspoons sea salt. That is it. If you want to make less just halve all the quantities.

2017-01-29-11-10-29

I used a julienne slicer to get my beetroot to the right size and I sliced the cabbage thinly as if I was making coleslaw. The next stage can get a bit messy – with clean hands massage the mixture of salt, cabbage and beetroot in a large mixing bowl. Actually although my hands went bright red at the time the stain didn’t last – so don’t panic! Also don’t worry if it looks like a ridiculous quantity to begin with, the volume will have reduced by half by the time you are ready to bottle it.

massaging beetroot kraut

Just keep going handful after handful squeeze and massage. After a few minutes you will notice the mixture becoming quite wet, a few more moments and when you squeeze liquid will drip from your hands back into the bowl. This is perfect. Just keep going until there is enough liquid to cover the cabbage beet mix.

2017-01-29-11-49-31

Then spoon the mix into sterilised jars, I prefer to use wide necked Kilner style jars. Push it down in the jar to eliminate any air gaps. Finish up by pouring the liquid over the mix. The liquid should fully cover the kraut. If the kraut is not properly covered the top layer will probably not ferment properly and could potentially spoil the whole batch. You may have heard in many fermenting recipes that you need to have a weight pushing the kraut down under the liquid – I have never found this necessary – as long as you have enough liquid you won’t need one.

The next stage is just to leave it somewhere away from direct sunlight but in a position where you will see it and not forget about it, then just leave it to do its thing. You can start tasting at about 5 days. If it still tastes salty then the process is not yet complete. The longer you leave it to ferment the softer it will get and the flavour will develop. Keep checking every couple of days until you like the texture and taste. That is it!! Told you it was going to be simple.

Things to look out for are a discoloured top layer, or mould. If you see mould I would discard the lot as just scraping off the bad bits wont get rid of all the mould spores, it is just not worth risking it. If the top layer is discoloured just remove that and discard (compost is fine – it is still raw after all), underneath it should be fine.

That is medicine in a jar. No need for supplements, tinctures, powders that you forget to take after day two! Just keep eating the kraut regularly. It goes with most meals and I think it is properly yummy. The benefits you will receive will be vast and your only investment is half an hour massaging and a pair of slightly pink hands 🙂

If you are interested in taking things a bit further; having a cleanse and embarking on a Spring Renewal Journey I have prepared a four week e-course that you can join at any point and work through in your own time. You can find full details and a chance to sign up here…

 

December ~ Remedies For Overindulgence ;)

It’s that time of year again where healthy eating habits tend to go out the window and alcohol consumption, despite best intentions, increases. From personal experience I have found that the cleaner I am for the most part, those moments when I do fall off the wagon seem to hurt just that much more. So if like me you have become a light weight the following remedies may just ease the pain in the coming weeks – alternatively, like one of my dearest friends, you could go to a meditation centre half way through December for a 21 day silent meditation – personally I am not ready for that quite yet!

Overindulgence comes in many forms and for many of us it will involve eating over the coming weeks. For me it is not so much over eating, but eating foods I would usually avoid, alongside eating at strange times of day and night. Starting any meal with “bitters” whether that is a plate of dark green raw leaves, drops of bitter tinctures (such as wormwood or yarrow), or a cup of a bitter herbal tea, will help stimulate the secretion of bile and digestive juices. Bitters also slow the entry of sugars into the blood stream, make us more sensitive to insulin and curb our appetite, so as you can see it is a great idea to consume them all the time but especially when being presented with a big roast or snacking on finger food.

a serving of raw bitter leaves

a serving of raw bitter leaves

Mint and chamomile are two teas that would work well as a pre dinner bitter drink. If you miss the bitters before you eat all is not lost as mint, chamomile and ginger can all help with the post dinner bloat. Chewing on a piece of fresh ginger or simmering gently to make a tea can help with nausea, indigestion, flatulence and will improve liver function and help weak digestion. Chamomile eases heartburn and nausea and will calm inflammation of the gastro-intestinal lining. Mint can also ease indigestion, flatulence and nausea. Fresh mint leaves crushed and rubbed on the temples can help with a headache – which brings me to the next overindulgence – alcohol…

 

100_2539

fresh young coconuts

 

Water is so obvious – not just drinking a pint before bed and first thing on rising but also drinking a small glass of water between each alcoholic beverage will slow your drinking down and keep you hydrated as you go. Failing that I find that drinking coconut water, naturally rich in electrolytes, goes a long way to help with rehydration and is somehow easier to drink if you are feeling a bit rough the morning after. I am not a big fan of eating out of season but a handful of strawberries the morning after (and preferably also the night before) can really help your body bounce back – as an antioxidant they have a cleansing effect on the body, are a tonic for the liver and blood, and they help protect the stomach lining.

Another thing you can do to ease a hangover is to take a lovely soothing warm bath with a handful of Epsom salts in. The Epsom salts will help draw out toxins and metabolic waste that the liver has converted into water-soluble compounds and relax your tired achy muscles.

wild dandelion finding an urban niche

wild dandelion finding an urban niche

I don’t tend to use herbs to intensively clear my blood or liver if I am about to abuse them all over again the next night. However, once the silly season is over I like to put a lot of love back in to my liver and give my system a herbal mini cleanse – with a course of milk thistle, dandelion root, burdock root and wheat grass shots  – more about that in January…

If you are interested in learning more about using simple remedies, or are wondering what to buy your plant loving friend for Christmas then check out a copy of The Medicine Garden.

Don’t forget that going outside taking a deep breath of fresh air and if possible taking a walk in the woods are all deeply restorative to both body and spirit. Keep well and be happy 🙂

dscn0944

 

 

Tumeric & Black Pepper Oil

I was first introduced to the wonders of turmeric by a friend of mine several years ago. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and had begun to use it on a daily basis finding it relieved her condition. She recommended that I try making golden milk where you first make a paste with black pepper that you can store in the fridge and just use a little a day heating it up with your favourite nut milk and drinking it as the name suggests, as a golden milk. The recipe had too many stages for a lazy bones like me, so I never did try it. It did however spark my interest in turmeric (curcuma longa).

fresh turmeric root

fresh turmeric root

Tumeric contains phytochemicals called curcuminoids. Tumeric has been used since ancients times in India as a tonic for cardiovascular and liver health and for its anti-inflammatory properties which can aid in joint comfort and mobility. Curcumin and the other curcuminoids that turmeric contains have been found to be powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antifungal and anti-bacterial agents.

Piperine is the key chemical constituent in black pepper (Piper nigrum) and when combined with turmeric enhances the bioavailability of the curcumin. This simply means that using black pepper alongside turmeric allows more of the curcumin to be absorbed before it is metabolized by the body. In addition piperine has analgesic properties when applied topically, so it can be used to help reduce pain.

black pepper

black pepper

Curcumin is fat-soluble which means it needs to be dissolved in oil to make it to your intestines where it is then absorbed into the blood stream. This of course is why my friend was dissolving her paste in fatty milk, so that her body could effectively absorb the turmeric and black pepper as medicine.

With this information in hand I began more regularly adding the sacred trio of turmeric, black pepper and oil, to much of my food. Olive oil has its own properties including being antioxidant and so alongside the fact that I find it delicious it became the obvious choice of oil for the necessary combination. I even began occasionally adding it to my morning smoothies, as I am well aware of my less than perfect health, and the fact that inflammation is at the root of many conditions that seem to set in for many modern people as we age. This combination has even been recommended as a remedy for people managing certain cancers, or to help protect oneself from developing cancer in the first place, pretty powerful stuff.

On a trip to Asia last year I was visiting a market in Myanmar and spotted a huge sack of dried turmeric, it was the first time I had come across the root, always having only found it in powdered form in the UK. The man selling it saw my excitement and so when I tried to buy some he instead insisted I take a bag and refused payment. It seemed a little silly as he could have charged me 10x the regular rate and I would still have been happy not realising how much it should have cost. But his kind old eyes refused my offerings of money, so on my return to the UK I gave several of my herb sistas a handful each to use. The dried root grated easily, with an incredible smell and rich orange colour. It felt so much more vibrant and alive than the yellow powder I had been using.

dried herbs at market in Myanmar

dried herbs at market in Myanmar

Earlier this year not only my local health store, but also my local supermarket both started to sell the fresh root, happy days! The taste is amazing and so I continued its use, now with even greater enjoyment.

A few weeks ago I had a dream. In the dream I was told to make an infused oil of fresh ground black pepper, fresh turmeric root and olive oil. So upon waking that is what I did. I first crushed the peppercorns, then sliced the root and finally covered the combination with olive oil. I left the colourful jar to infuse, knowing that my medicinal infusion would be ready in 2-3 weeks.

infusing turmeric & black pepper in olive oil

infusing turmeric & black pepper in olive oil

About a week after the dream I began to have a peculiar problem with my little finger. It kept getting stuck in a bent position, especially during the night and long periods of inactivity. After a bit of self diagnosis I worked out that I had developed trigger finger! A ridiculous sounding condition where the finger tendon becomes inflamed and keeps catching in the tendon sheath. Unfortunately having type I diabetes and being female combined with my current age all put me in the category of people most likely to develop trigger finger :/

Now I know why I was being guided to make the sacred trio elixir (or with less grandiosity: black pepper and turmeric infused oil). I can not only drizzle it over my food, or add a dash into smoothies, but I can also use it topically, to rub at the base of my little finger where I have located the painful and inflamed area leading to my fingers peculiar symptoms.

Hedge-witches always say that the remedy you need will appear to you before you realise you need it, this time for sure that wisdom is true.

 

Cautions: Do not use this oil internally if pregnant, breast feeding or have had gall bladder problems. Discontinue use if on using you experience gastro-intestinal discomfort.

2016-09-12-14-52-47

Tropical Fruit on the Branch

As much as possible I love to grow my own food, that which I do not manage to grow myself I like to at least source from local producers. This leaves me eating fresh fruit and veggies grown within my local climatic conditions. So when I take a trip I always delight in the different fruits that are available and that I never buy at home.

Last year ended for me with a few weeks in Cambodia and I was very happy to not only eat some delicious tropical fruit but also to see many fruits actually growing. Seeing a plant grow gives me an opportunity to learn more, to deepen my relationship with the food it produces. If I get the chance I like to sit with the plants, to talk to them, to listen to them and maybe fall in love with them, even just a little bit.

The following are a few of the tropical fruit plants that I saw growing for the very first time on this trip…

star fruit (Averrhoa carambola)

Star Fruit (Averrhoa carambola). A waxy fruit that is not particularly tasty, in my opinion, but I had to add it as it looks so cool, especially when sliced giving a bright yellow star on your plate

Star fruits are high in fibre, vitamins B complex & C, minerals including potassium, phosphorus, zinc & iron. When vitamin C appears alongside iron the iron is more easily absorbed and so can help treat or prevent the occurrence of anaemia.

 

Jack fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)

Jack Fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus). This is a bit of a crazy looking fruit and huge in size, you certainly wouldn’t want one to fall and land on your head. The yellow flesh inside the rough outer skin is easy to separate into smaller chunks as each piece of flesh covers a stone sized seed. It is very tasty and not as rich or creamy as durian so can be easier to eat in quantity.

Jack fruits are high in fibre, vitamins A, B complex & C, minerals including magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, manganese & selenium. The magnesium helps with the absorption of calcium to keep bones strong and healthy.

 

fresh green peppercorns (Piper nigrum)Fresh Green Peppercorns (Piper Nigrum). These pea sized round green fruits when fully mature are left to dry and become the more familiar black peppercorns that sit in pepper mills across the planet. Eaten fresh they are delicious with a much more delicate spicy bite than their older dried brothers. Are they really a fruit? I don’t actually know but I had to add them in here as for one it was great to see some growing on the vine but also because these ones in particular are renowned worldwide for being the best and most tasty peppercorns available, Kampot pepper, they did not disappoint.

Black pepper is well known for it’s medicinal qualities but even these young fruits prove high in vitamin K and iron. In addition they aid digestion and help fight bacterial growth in the intestines.

papaya (Carica papaya)

Papaya (Carica papaya). I enjoy papaya both when it is still green, especially as part of the spicy raw Thai dish som tam, but also when the flesh is soft and ripe and orange. When ripe they are delicious with a little squirt of fresh lime, a perfect start to a day in the tropics.

Papayas are high in fibre, vitamins A, B complex, C & E, minerals including calcium and iron. Eating fresh raw papaya helps replenish the good bacteria in your intestines, helps with digestion, helps maintain the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties.

 

passion fruit (Passiflora edulis)
Passion Fruit (Passiflora edulis).  I go crazy for the tart insides of this fruit. The little slime covered seeds can be eaten with a spoon straight from the skin or as I discovered on this latest trip blended with a bit of ice to make a somewhat crunchy fresh fruit shake.

Passion fruit is high in fibre, vitamins A & E, minerals including potassium, iron, copper, magnesium & phosphorus. Vitamin E is essential for eye health while potassium helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

 

Each one of these fruits will help your body maintain a healthy immune system, keep you fit and strong whilst protecting you against a variety of conditions. Of course each one is unique in its composition and thus its role in your health but as you eat fresh, raw, local fruits (wherever you are) you set your body up with the nutrients it needs to stay strong and avoid the development of many diseases and conditions that are becoming all too familiar to those following a more heavily processed diet.

And now one for fun! Does anyone know what the following “fruit” is? It is not eaten in Cambodia and although it grows there no one I approached seemed to know what it was, even its name – do you? Either way, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a plant of great beauty 🙂

2015-12-02 17.13.44.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herbal Medicine from an Evolutionary Perspective

As you may already know I am running an apprenticeship programme which begins in May. It is called Sacred Ecology: A Rewilding Apprenticeship. To help me deliver the most amazing material on this journey I have gathered a wonderful and inspiring group of experts to join me. Over the coming weeks and months I am intending to introduce you to each of them with a guest post. The first of which appears below and was written by Kamaldeep Sidhu who will be sharing about the magical, amazing and influential world of bacteria, or more specifically gut health, during the course of the apprenticeship. She is a great friend with an immense depth of knowledge, and this is what inspires her…

kam 2

Kamaldeep Sidhu, Medical Herbalist

 

I’m a Medical Herbalist currently working at the Urban Fringe Dispensary in Bristol, and am developing my practice in Stroud. I met a Herbalist in Bristol 7 years ago while I was doing a Permaculture course. At the time, I was also applying to do Medicine. This Herbalist, called Max Drake, convinced me to do his herb course over the summer. I did it, and found it fascinating. I completely changed my mind about doing medicine. I wanted to help people but I didn’t want to be a slave to the pharmaceutical industry. Learning about the power of plants completely changed the way I thought about health and disease. So I did a BSc in Herbal Medicine at the University of East London.

 

After a six year slog, I finally graduated and realised I knew nothing! I had a foundation upon which to build my knowledge of human and plant physiology, and since then, I have become passionate about the role of nutrition in health, and how we can use plants to enhance our performance and recovery.

100_1492I am interested in the role of the gut microbiome and how we can manipulate it through the foods we eat. This is a relatively new area of research, but its impact will be huge. We are understanding more and more about the importance of having a healthy gut – it affects our physical and mental wellbeing. I have been treating patients in the clinic with many different health conditions, and a lot of them seem to respond favourably to a change in diet. I use herbal medicine to enhance health or to complement a treatment strategy. Ultimately, the most powerful tool we have to look after our bodies is our diet. Yet, it’s the hardest thing to change. Our diet here in the West, which is based on the laughable food pyramid, is directly contributing to the diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions – hypertension, diabetes, obesity, infertility, cardiovascular disease to name but a few.

What’s going on? We have been given prescriptive nutritional guidelines that do not reflect the individual. We have been taught that when you get sick, you go and see your doctor and they will give you some medicine to make you feel better. We are disempowered when it comes to our health. Every day there are more and more conflicting ideas about what we should eat, what we shouldn’t eat, what gives you cancer and how much alcohol you should drink.

The fact is that nobody really knows. We are all acting on the information we receive. Think about major nutritional advisory boards being funded by sugar manufacturing companies. Think about the truth about statins and their relative inefficacy. Think about the diet-heart hypothesis and how saturated fat might not be so bad for you. Think about pharmaceutical companies pushing through drug trials without any evidence for long term effects.

The world of medicine in the West is a marketplace and disease is the currency. By keeping us sick, pharmaceutical companies make money.

100_1212So why not take control of your health? My priority is to work hard to research clinical evidence and continuously learn so that I can give my patients the best information to help them make informed decisions about their health. I practice Herbal Medicine from an evolutionary perspective. We function best when we eat foods that we are adapted to eat. Plants have evolved beautifully alongside us and provide powerful healing properties but also highly potent toxins. By understanding adaptation and genetic variation, we can prevent disease by nourishing our bodies with the appropriate food and medicine that is right for us as individuals. That is my vision

I am so looking forward to what Kamaldeep will bring to the apprenticeship, my tummy is rumbling at the thought!

If you would like to book a consultation with Kamaldeep she is available in both Stroud and Bristol. To see her in Stroud please contact her directly kamaldeepsidhu@outlook.com. If you are more Bristol based you can make an appointment to see her at the Urban Fringe Dispensary 01179 276527.

Sacred Ecology: A Rewilding Apprenticeship

former student communicating with plants

former student communicating with plants

The teaching year for me is almost at an end after a flurry of workshops that has been ongoing since the beginning of September. Next Tuesday evening is the final installment of a four part series and then I am done for 2015. For that reason the workshop page on my website is looking a little empty for the moment; until I get some ideas and dates fixed for next year.

The only event currently listed for 2016 is Sacred Ecology: A Rewilding Apprenticeship.

So what is it? Well firstly I guess I should explain what I mean by apprenticeship, as here in the UK it has a kind of industrial feel. According to the Merriam-Webster online entry the definition of apprentice is: 1b :  one who is learning by practical experience under skilled workers a trade, art, or calling

So my apprenticeship is all about learning by practical experience the art of living more wildly. It is a calling. It is about unlearning the ways of domestication and rewilding. It is about learning to live more in line with natures ways.

It won’t just be me; I have also invited Kamaldeep Sidhu and Poh Eng San to share their wisdom and knowledge in the ways of the wild. read more about them and their areas of expertise.

And the content? We will take time to develop sensory acuity and visceral wakefulness. To work with our bodies through eating cleansing foods and self-massage. We will forage for wild foods and medicines making ferments and remedies from our quarry. We will learn about the livingness of the world and how it feels to inhabit a place where everything is alive! We will talk to plants; and they will talk to us. We will learn from the trees and the rivers. We will shapeshift into wilder, more robust, more aware and awake, versions of ourselves.

lake where we stay in Wales

lake where we stay in Wales

When and where? Our journey into Sacred Ecology, into the rewilding of ourselves will be spread over five months; from early May until mid September. During that period we will meet four times in all. Three of them in Somerset, the other in South Wales.

view from compost loo,somerset

view from compost loo, Somerset

At all stages of this Sacred Ecology journey so far I have been drawn to pray and to celebrate the magic and the sacredness. I was delighted a couple of weeks ago to receive the first deposit payment. I have my first apprentice 🙂 ❤

The question is would you like to join us? To co-create with us? To share and explore with us?

I can promise it will be a deeply magical and life-affirming process.

For more background on my style and the content of the apprenticeship read a copy of my latest book Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature, upon which the apprenticeship is loosely based.

Join me!

Bangkok: City of Medicine

I mentioned in my previous post that I recently spent 36 hours in Bangkok, capital city of Thailand. The translation of the Thai name for the city (which is a huge long unpronounceable to foreigners word) is “City of Angels”, and yes I believe it is (not forgetting that there are both light and dark angels!).

Bangkok as seen from the Chao Phraya River

Bangkok as seen from the Chao Phraya River

There are many reasons why I love this city. Friendly people, 24 hour attitude, great bars, amazing food, amazing street food, great markets, abundance of fresh fruit, Buddhist monks on every corner, general vibe and 101 other reasons aside it is, in part, because it is a city of medicine. How can it be with all those people, all that trash, all that pollution I imagine you are wondering. Well for a start massage parlours are ubiquitous, and no I am not talking about happy endings here. Of course there is the seedy side to Thailand, to Bangkok, but Thai massage is an ancient art and healing system that originated over 2500 years ago in India. Massage is a part of the culture and is used as a preventative medicine as much if not more so than for remedial purposes. It is so accessible and at around £5 for an hour or £2 for 1/2 an hour you would be crazy to not set aside time every day you are in the city to be stretched and have your circulation and lymphatic system given a wee boost. In my 36 hours I plumped for a 1 hour full body traditional massage, and just before I left for the airport at midnight a 1/2 hour foot massage (as I said it is truly a 24 hour city).

typical shopping street in Banglampu, Bangkok

typical shopping street in Banglampu, Bangkok

What I came back from my short stay with was a bag full of amazing shopping. Not fake designer handbags, or pirate DVDs, not shoes or jeans, HERBS! Yep my favourite thing.

So just to show off some of my best buys and inspire you in case you are heading out that way any time soon…

Kaffir lime leaves

Kaffir lime leaves

These kaffir lime leaves are exceptionally fragrant, you will never get anything like this at home. This small sized Kilner jar was over filled with the bag I purchased for about 70p.

 

 

 

 

Dried lemongrass

Dried lemongrass

This huge bag (180g) of dried lemongrass came in at 38Baht, approximately 80p. Despite how much I love it in my home blended herbal teas this will be enough to last more than a year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

gogi berries

gogi berries

For gogi berries I usually jump on a ferry to take me up the Chao Phraya river to China Town, however I was lucky enough to find a supplier in Banglampu where I usually stay. I propbably paid over the odds but still I got 350g for 100Baht, or around £2. I think you would be looking at double the quantity for that price in China town, unfortunately time was against me this trip. Incidentally the Thai name for gogi is very similar, just say it slowly and with a few hand gesticulations you will get there.

So on top of the Kampot red pepper and dried mango I had purchased in Cambodia and all the different seaweeds and dried mushrooms I brought in the supermarket in Bangkok I came back to the UK a very happy shopper; feeling both kissed and blessed by my micro-mini break in the city of angels and medicine 🙂

 

If you want to know more about Thai massage, or live in the Stroud (Gloucestershire, UK) area and fancy giving it a try click here…

 

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: