Monday, April 23, 2012

Food is Medicine : On Making Beet Soup

My FB friend Larry asked the other day if i would share my recipe for the beet soup i mentioned in my status update. I would be happy to share it with him but the problem is that i do not use recipes. I plan our meals based on what we purchased at our farmers market and what vegetables we did not sell. I come up with an idea for the meal during the day and put it together on the fly, pulling from our pantry and garden various complementary herbs and spices, deciding on a cooking technique. Sometimes I have a plan the day before when i want to use a technique such as brining a cut of meat or preparing a soup.
My herbal medicine teacher recommended a book to us at our last class called Food As Medicine: The Theory and Practice of Food by Todd Caldecott. As soon as i got it i read it from cover to cover. It is based on Ayurvedic principles. I do not know much about Ayurveda yet but i do believe food is indeed medicine and using food is the best way to restore and maintain optimum health. Since i have begun my journey back to optimal health I have started creating vegetable soup stocks that are based on concepts i have learned in my classes on herbal medicines. My goals for my stock are as follows:
  1. Provide the full complement of mineral nutrients we need. The food most of us eat today does not necessarily do that as a result of major the depletion of minerals in the soils in which it is grown. Of course here at The Funny Farm we go to great lengths to make sure our food is nutrient dense.
  2. Promote good digestion. If our digestive system is not functioning properly then we are not able to fully extract the nutrients we consume. I learned from the multitude of tests i had done at Progressive Medical Center that my digestive system was not working optimally so i want to enhance that.
  3. Promote detoxification in our bodies. We constantly intake toxins, chlorine and who knows what else in the water, particulates in the air, harmful chemicals such as BPA in packaging and crap from many other sources. While we are working on eliminating those sources from our lives as much as possible, poisons are pretty much unavoidable in today's world. We have to insure that our excretory systems, the liver, kidneys, lungs, bowels and skin are working well.
  4. Counter the mostly inevitable effects of aging. As we age, the physiological functions of our bodies slow down as a result of life long stresses and oxidation. Many of the ingredients in this stock, while acting on specific organs and or systems, also act as adaptogens.  Adaptogens help to restore balance to all the systems and help us adapt to stress.
  5. Taste good. If the stock tasted like crap we would not use it making all of the above irrelevent.
Here is the formula for my medicinal stock.

Vegetable Stock Ingredients
3 Qt. water
2 Tbs. turmeric
2 Tbs. cumin seed
6 fresh bay leaves
1 4x4 sheet kombu seaweed- torn into small pieces
1 handful wakame seaweed
1 whole organic onion w/ skin- quartered
1 whole head organic garlic broken into cloves- skin intact
1 fresh dandelion root- chopped
3 - thumb sized pieces ginger- chopped
3 - 6" sprigs fresh rosemary
½ C. fresh oregano
¼ cup live (Braggs) apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. black pepper
3 tsp. sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a stock pot. Heat until the water just starts to simmer. DO NOT BOIL. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 12-24 hours. Allow to cool. Strain and pour into glass  containers. I use quart canning jars. Use immediately, freeze or refrigerate for later use (within a few days).

Benefits of each ingredient
turmeric - anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, reputed to lower bad cholesterol
cumin seed - anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, stimulates digestion, anti-congestive
bay leaves - promotes digestion, anti- congestive, increases good cholesterol
seaweeds - over 60 micronutrients our bodies need that we might not be getting from our food due to soil de-mineralization. Anti-inflammatory, boosts circulation, detoxifying, enhances thyroid function.
onion - anti-oxidant, thins blood, lowers blood pressure
garlic - anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, expectorant, lowers blood pressure, stimulates digestion
dandelion root - promotes liver and gallbladder function, detoxifying, stimulates digestion
ginger - stimulates digestion, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, circulatory stimulant, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial
rosemary - circulatory stimulant, anti-depressant, anti-microbial, stimulates digestion, anti-oxidant, strengthens memory, promotes liver and gallbladder function
oregano -  anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, expectorant, anti-oxidant, blood thinner
live apple cider vinegar - adds beneficial gut flora, anti-microbial, kidney stimulant, balances pH in the body
black pepper - anti-oxidant, digestive stimulant, diuretic
sea salt - adds many essential minerals

How i use the stock:
Soup or stew. I use 1 quart as the base for soups. I dilute it with another quart of water and add what ever ingredients i have available i.e. sausages or left over chicken, legumes such as lentils or beans, grains such as brown rice or quinoa and vegetables such as beets, carrots, turnips, onions and greens.

I also put a quart in the refrigerator and i drink a cup in the mornings as a daily tonic. Sometimes i add some mushrooms if i have them and/or miso which adds beneficial gut bacteria and lots of additional nutrients.

So Larry, here is my recipe for Beet soup :)

1 large onion diced and sauteed in olive oil. I do this in the soup pot before adding the other ingredients
5-6 small beets and their greens, washed and chopped
1 bunch turnips and their greens, washed and chopped
2 breakfast sausages chopped
1 qt. vegetable stock
1 qt. water

After saute´ing the onion add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the the roots are tender. A couple of hours ought to do it. This soup only gets better with age. We eat it for dinner, lunch the next day and finish it off for breakfast the 3rd day.
Deellliiissshhuuusssss! and nutttriiiishhhuuuuss too!

Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief by David Winston and Steven Maimes
Herbal Therapy and Supplements by Merrily A. Kuhn and David Winston
Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffman
The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook by James Green

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blessed More Than Usual Today

Each morning i wake up i feel blessed because, you know, one morning i will not wake up. Then i walk out onto the back screen porch and there is Robin drinking her coffee while she checks out the goings on in what she refers to as Cinderellaland. A myriad birds are flitting about chirping and singing, chipmunks, squirrels, bunnies and an occasional neighbor cat are cavorting in the garden. I am pretty sure this picture is the one she had in her head when she named it Cinderellaland. Well, she does claim to have the memory of a rhinoceros. Having the honor of being married to Robin for 38 years is the greatest blessing of my life, of course, but not the point of this story.

After she left for work, I made my rounds, watering the seedlings, checking on my little friends i planted yesterday and making a plan for today's work. I always love this third week of April when the garden gets transformed from horizontal to vertical. I pounded in a bunch more stakes in the front garden and planted more tomatoes, anticipating the delicious mater sandwiches in my future. (oh, crap, I recently found out i have a gluten allergy. Oh, well i have plenty of time to find a good gluten free bread recipe. Anyone have one to share?)

I moved on to planting more zucchini and yellow squash, trying to get ahead of the daggone squash vine borers. As i was planting i heard voices on the street. It sounded like they were talking about oregano. I looked up and saw 2 women walking by. The shorter one had long grey hair pulled back in a pony tail, wearing a long white dress. The taller one had salt and pepper hair pulled into a bun, wearing a long dark skirt. Both were carrying nice rustic looking walking sticks. Most people who walk around here carry sticks of some kind. I assume they are protection against the dogs that run loose from time to time.

As i looked at them they noticed me and the shorter one immediately turned around and headed towards the driveway. The taller one waved and asked if they could see the garden. By the time I waved them in the shorter one was already halfway down the drive. We introduced ourselves and the shorter one started asking questions? Is that okra? no it's beets going to seed. Do you grow comfrey? No not yet, but i want to. Well. i have some i can give you she said. Then she asked, did i know comfrey will shrink cancerous tumors? She said she had breast cancer and she cured herself with comfrey.

We walked through the garden, sampling the arugula, their favorite they said. They pointed to some greens and asked what they were. I said they were komatsuna greens. Oh, Japanese, my friend here is Japanese. Then she told me a story about a man she new who has stomach ulcers so bad that the doctor recommended he have his stomach removed. She said she told him if he did that he would be dead in a year and that he would live longer if he did nothing. Then she told him to collect violet flowers and leaves, blend them with water and drink as much of it as he could every day. She said he was a truck driver and she did not see him again for a long time. Then one night around 11:30 he knocked on her door. She opened it and her told her he wanted to thank her for saving his life. He said the violet juice cured his stomach ulcers and he was fine now.

It was the that i realized that this woman was a skilled herbal healer. We continued our tour of the garden, pointing out the newly planted valerian and calendula. She told her friend that calendula was a very potent herb. She expressed her love for clover saying it was a good tonic for the liver. I told her about the herbal medicine class i am taking with Patricia Howell. She asked did she live nearby because she wanted to meet her. I told her i would try to arrange a meeting. We continued our walk as she pointed out plants to her friend, stating their uses, lemon balm, bee balm, yarrow, yellow dock.

I told them about our farmers market and they were really excited because the were both vegan and were looking for a source for fresh organic vegetables. I wrote down the directions to the market along with my contact information. They said they would come to the market tomorrow.
We exchanged names again. The Japanese lady is Tomika. The shorter lady said her name is Dulce. She said she was hispanic and her name means "sweet" in Spanish. I told them they were welcome to visit any time and to feel free to stop by and look around even if i am not there. I really look forward to seeing them both again. Nothing like being able to learn the wisdom of our elders.
Sweet :)