Deborah J. "DJ" Martin

A Witch and a Bitch with an Herbal Itch - and an overactive imagination

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Month: November 2010

Wicked Plants

I decided to take today off and gnaw down part of my ‘to read’ pile. (I swear it’s a living thing, growing ever taller!) I just finished the most delightful little book.

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2009, ISBN 978-1-56512-683-1) is full of interesting tidbits.

I was taught about dangerous, illegal & poisonous plants in school but none of my courses were entitled, “Duck & Cover” (for plants that shoot seeds), or “Social Misfits” (for plants that like fire; exude a “slobber”; or stink). Ms. Stewart covers plants from around the world, including those now cultivated as houseplants. Included as well are some current scientific explanations for antique assumptions. She’s done her research and includes both Latin binomials and common names of the plants she references so you know exactly what plant she’s talking about.

If you’ve got a wicked streak, or just an interest in interesting plants, pick this book up. It’s a fast read and one you’ll want to refer back to if you’re a budding Jessica Fletcher.

PS  I won’t spoil the surprise but the answer to “which weed killed Lincoln’s mother”  can be found on page 213.

Zingy Zingiber

I’m leaving tomorrow to work a fair in Cincinnati this weekend. Sitting at my desk, I’m trying to remember all the things I need to take with me (one of the reasons I always pack the car up the day before – there’s always a last minute addition or two). I’m also thinking about how pretty the first part of the trip is going to be.  To get northbound from our house, we need to go through the Ocoee Gorge – where “Deliverance” was filmed and the site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater competition.  Although kind of a pain to drive, it has some gorgeous views.  That led me to thinking I’m really glad Mother’s not coming with. She gets motion sickness easily and even Ginger doesn’t help her nausea.

Ginger Zingiber officinalis is one of my favorite herbs. Its taste and smell remind me of Gramma’s kitchen – pumpkin pie, gingerbread, and ginger snap cookies. Little did I know back then that the sweets had something healthy in them (if you discount all the white sugar, that is).

Ginger is a good winter herb but I like it year-round. It has therapeutic properties for colds, coughs, sore throat, nausea, appetite loss and some women’s monthly problems. Don’t eat/take Ginger if you have gallstones and severely limit your intake if you’re on anti-diabetes or anti-coagulant drugs (the small amounts in cookies shouldn’t pose a problem but ask your doctor).

Ginger is very yummy and warming after being outside in winter. Since it’s a root, you want to make a decoction instead of an infusion. Take one teaspoon dried Ginger (used the dried root – the powdered stuff you cook with works but will leave a mud at the bottom of your cup), put it in 1½ cups cold water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down a bit and simmer until 1/3 of the water has evaporated (leaving you with 1 cup). Strain and add honey if you like it a little sweeter.

If you see Ginger fresh & sliced on a buffet at an Asian restaurant, be sure to eat a couple of slices for their healthful benefits. A friend (in Philadelphia) gave me some ginger beer years ago that was really good but I haven’t been able to find it in Georgia. (My attempt at making my own failed miserably, too.) Candied Ginger, while a pain to make, keeps well and is great to have on hand to fight a cold or the flu. Most good grocery stores will carry fresh Ginger root in with the more exotic vegetables like shiitake mushrooms.

Peel ½ pound of fresh Ginger root and slice 1/4″ thick. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 2½ hours. Drain, simmer in fresh water for another hour or so until tender and drain again. Boil 1½ cups sugar, 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup for 2 minutes. Add the Ginger slices. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool. Bring to a boil again; reduce heat & simmer 1-3 hours until the Ginger begins to clear. If it thickens too much, add a little hot water. Remove from heat and dry the slices on a wire rack for a few hours. Lightly coat the slices with a little granulated or confectioner’s sugar and store in an airtight container, preferably glass. Depending on how fat your root was to begin with, which will determine how big your final candy pieces are, 1-2 pieces 3 times a day is a pretty good dosage if you’re sick, or 1-2 pieces once a day for preventive measures. It’s so tasty you can even get most kids to eat a piece – they won’t know you’re giving them “medicine”.

I won’t be posting a blog next week. Instead I’ll be overeating and then taking a nap to take my mind off the stuffed feeling. (If you don’t have time for a nap, a couple of drops of Peppermint essential oil in a full glass of water will help.) Have a wonderful holiday!

Practice Random Acts of Kindness

November 8-14 is World Kindness Week.  The phrase, “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” may have been coined by a peace activist in the early 80’s but whoever and whenever, it’s a great sentiment.

It’s appropriate that our Veterans’ Day falls within this week. Since the founding of our country, the members of our armed services have fought not only abroad but on our own soil to preserve our independence and way of life. I love living where and how I do and for that, I thank them and their families. Their sacrifice is one of the greatest acts of kindness toward a stranger there is.

There’s a song, the one I remember was recorded by Glen Campbell (I believe other artists have covered it), with the refrain:

You’ve gotta try a little kindness, show a little kindness,
Just shine your light for everyone to see
And if you try a little kindness, then you’ll overlook the blindness
Of narrow-minded people, on their narrow-minded streets

If everyone (and I do mean worldwide) would practice random acts of kindness I’d be willing to wager that troops all over the world would be back at home with their families instead of somewhere else, possibly shooting and being shot at.

For my part, I’ll light two candles – one for peace (worldwide) and one for protection (for our troops). If the energy I send out touches just one person maybe it’ll have a ripple effect and spread from there.

Missing: Common Sense. Report if Found.

In looking at a holiday calendar to get an idea of what to write today, I noticed a couple of things: for one, November is “National Diabetic Eye Disease Month”. Today is also “Common Sense Day”. Wow. Can I put ’em together or what?

I’ve said it before and you’ve more than likely read it in a thousand other blogs, news articles, etc., but Type II Diabetes (once called adult-onset diabetes) is on the rise … especially in the Western world. Obesity is also on the rise, both in adults and children. Why? Our lousy diet and laziness are the main culprits. Obesity is a contributing factor to Type II diabetes. The eye disease they’re talking about is just one of the myriad complications from diabetes.

When I’m doing fairs/shows/expos – whatever you want to call ’em – people ask me what they can take to bring down their high blood pressure, lower their blood sugar, help their gastric reflux, etc. They’re looking for a magic pill to make it all better and get really PO’d when I tell them losing 20-50 pounds (or more) is one of the best “magic pills” there is.  Despite all the evidence to the contrary their weight or eating habits aren’t the problem so they want someone else to fix it. (Some even ask me for a magic spell! Mundane methods first, people.)

I’ll admit – I hate to cook and rely on frozen meals most of the time. And honestly, it’s cheaper than buying all the ingredients for a home-cooked meal for just two people. Really healthy? No. But I read ingredients on what I buy to try to ameliorate the problem somewhat. I don’t buy all “meat” dinners. I serve fish of one kind or another at least two days per week and we eat veggie at least one other. We also both get off our butts and exercise … not the structured kind like sit-ups or running or what-have-you, but the old-fashioned kind: house and yard work.  Think housework isn’t exercise? C’mon over and mop my floors & stairs or thoroughly vacuum the cat hair from the rugs. I guarantee you’ll work up a sweat. Do that once or twice a week. Add in mowing, raking, etc., outside a couple of times a week and you’ve got yourself a good exercise routine going.

I have two grandkids with another on the way. When they’re old enough to come to visit, they’ll probably be very disappointed in Grandma’s house because there are no video games; television and computer access will be severely limited.  There’s too much to explore outside! And yes, I can cook and do so when people visit. The kids can help. We’ll even bake cookies from scratch. Sugar’s not that bad – in moderation.

I’m really tired of people not using common sense when it comes to their health and then complaining when common-sense approaches are mentioned. Of course, knowing the type of people that would read my blog, I’m probably preaching to the choir.

On a brighter note, today is also “National Men Make Dinner Day”. Somehow I don’t think that one will get celebrated in this house. 😉