Monday, October 25, 2010

Fertility and Trees

Fertility Tree Pictures, Images and Photos
Where does life come from and whence does it go? Even modern science does not know the answer for sure. To our ancestors the mysteries of life and death were solely in the hands of the Gods and the gift of life and fertility was their blessing to grant or to withhold. The Earth's power of regeneration, a woman's ability to give birth and the fruitfulness in all of nature was regarded as a divine gift.
fertility Pictures, Images and Photos
Fertility is the basis of life, the foundation of the health and wealth of a community. An abundant harvest provides sustenance throughout the year, nourishing people and animals and giving them health and strength to fortify them against the physical challenges of daily life. Healthy children are the future of a society and the seeds of survival for the whole clan. The fertility of the animals was equally important, as a strong herd of cattle with healthy offspring provides not only a variety of foods and different material resources, but also stock for trade and barter.

The fertility and health of all life, whether cultivated or wild, animal, human or plant are integral and equally important to the harmonious and sustained well-being of the whole web of life. Our ancestors regarded the earth as the living body of the Earth Goddess that continuously gave birth to existence; the source of life itself. Yet, life lives on life, the cycle of existence is a continuous self-devouring and self-recreating process of transformation and regeneration. All life must die and yet, death is a sacrifice to life that ultimately ensures its continuity. Thus, to our ancestors life and death were not so much seen as opposing forces, but rather as two aspects of the same inexplicable mystery.
Fertilitree Pictures, Images and Photos

In many mythologies trees were regarded as the very embodiment of the immortal life force. Their recurrent seasonal cycle of flowering, leafing, fruiting and seeming decay during the winter months, followed by renewal and apparent rebirth each spring provided a living metaphor for the seasons of human life. As spring turns to summer and summer to autumn and autumn to winter, so does youth turn to adulthood, adulthood to old age and old age eventually to death, which in turn imparts its regenerative power to the soul so it can be reborn and return to the land of the living once more.

Many cultures still believe in a life after death, in a world populated by spirits and disembodied souls, which is often simply known as 'the Other world'. The threshold to this spirit realm is frequently depicted as a tree, usually a conifer since their evergreen cloak reveals a special affinity with the immortal life force, as only they are able to sustain their green foliage through the dark of winter. While most of nature apparently dies, these serene needle trees carry on the flame of hope for life's eventual return. Thus, it is not surprising that they should be regarded as a suitable refuge for disembodied souls awaiting a new incarnation. Their inherent life force was thought by extension to nurture and sustain the souls of the departed during their respective 'dark season' of death. For this reason graveyards are planted with evergreens and wreaths of pine are laid on graves even to this day. In some regions it was customary to plant a tree directly on a person's grave, which henceforth was thought to 'embody' the soul of the deceased. Surviving relatives could thus communicate with their departed ancestors by addressing the tree.

These ancient concepts are widespread throughout the world and are particularly deep-rooted in animistic cultures that still adhere to a form of ancestor worship. Certain trees, often those growing around a burial ground or guarding the entrance of a village, are associated with the tribal ancestor, who watches over the affairs of the living. These trees are honored and protected by the whole community, for any damage done to them would spell the demise of the whole community. At other times particular trees were thought closely related to a particular family or tribe. The modern image of the family tree is but an ancient relic echoing these traditions of the past.
mother earth Pictures, Images and Photos

Some mythologies trace the very origin of the human race to trees. Variously, stories are told of Gods who carved the first couple from different species of trees, or how the first man and woman emerged from the seeds or fruits of certain trees, or how the first humans emerged from the trunk of a tree. In Norse mythology we are told that Odin and his brothers were walking by the seashore when they came across two trees. They changed them into the first man and a woman and named the man 'Ask' and the woman 'Embla'. Each of the brothers bestowed some special gifts on them: the first gave them soul and life, the second wit and motivation and the third speech, sight and hearing.

In Europe the image of the immortal tree of life was often associated with a sacred spring, a symbolic river of life, which flowed from beneath its roots. In Britain for example, where many Christian churches were simply built on top of previously sacred sites, an ancient Yew tree is frequently found growing in the churchyard in close proximity to a sacred spring. It was thought that the holy waters would eventually return the disembodied souls to a new earthly incarnation. Hence, the belief that a woman could become pregnant simply by resting under certain trees or bathing in a sacred spring.

In Australia some tribes believe that the souls of babies dwell in trees and that women who want to conceive have to shake them out of the branches, much as one would when harvesting ripe fruit. When a baby was born it was customary to bury its umbilical chord along with the placenta beneath a young sapling, and thus the two souls were spiritually connected throughout their lives. The welfare of one was thought to affect or indicate the well-being of the other; if the tree was harmed the person likewise would suffer, if the person was harmed or killed surely the tree would soon also perish.

Similarly, it was customary in many European countries to plant a tree for each baby that was born. In Germany and Austria an apple tree was planted for a boy and a pear tree for a girl. Native American tribes followed a similar tradition. When a baby was born a tree was dedicated to the young soul and henceforth served as its personal tree ally and natural 'altar'. In Africa and Asia special effigies were carved to serve as protectors for newborns and it was hoped that the particular properties of the tree would be transferred to the child.
The Healing Tree Pictures, Images and Photos

Similar beliefs and practices are known in many cultures across the globe. Particularly in India tree worship associated with fertility rites are common. Offerings are made to particular trees to ask their blessing and aid for conception. Different trees respectively are asked for either a boy or a girl. Sometimes different parts of the same tree are symbolically associated with either male or female fertility. Frequently certain trees are ritually 'married' to each other in order to stimulate fertility in a household. Big feasts are held for the wedding celebration and their future fruitfulness is hoped to rub off on their patrons. Even more curious is the custom of people getting married to a tree, a custom, which applies particularly to a second marriage, since the second marriage between humans is thought to be unlucky. Thus a tree stands in for the second marriage. Both men and women may take a tree in marriage before getting remarried to a person.

Some trees evidently embody the immortal life force more than others, as they are endowed with attributes that suggest a symbolic link with the life giving powers. Hazel bushes for example burst in to a lush abundance of catkins, worm like inflorescence's, that with a bit of imagination could be likened to male sexual organs. Their early flowering time too suggests a special life-giving power - not to mention their highly suggestive nuts, which, depending on the interpretation of the observer could be either likened to male or female sexual characteristics. Thus, Hazel rods often played a role in fertility rites as they were thought to transfer their life giving energies to other forms of life.

Another widespread belief suggests that trees are inhabited by guardian spirits, which control the natural forces responsible for weather conditions, that can cause the crops to flourish or to fail. Since fertilizing rain is paramount to ensuring the fruitfulness of the earth, fertility festivals centered on trees were usually held in the spring or prior to the rainy season. Even in Europe, until quite recently such festivities were quite common and can still be found today as folkloric remnants in many rural areas. The most commonly celebrated fertility festival is known as Beltain or May Day.
fantasy Pictures, Images and Photos

When the sap is rising and the buds are swelling and nature is awakening from her winter sleep, the air is humming with energy and activity. It is as though the Goddess Flora twirls and whirls through the countryside and where she dances her footprints turn to flowers, and bees, birds and butterflies buzz about her like twinkling stars. This sensual season culminates in May, when all of nature seems to be intoxicated with the spirit of love: birds and animals are mating, and bees and butterflies are getting drunk on nectarous flower juice. The exuberance and joy of life is tangibly permeating the air and even humans are touched by the juicy flow of nature's libido.
May Day Celebrations

In pre-Christian times this season was celebrated with wild parties and festivities on Beltain Eve, the 1st of May. This festival marked the wedding day of the Earth Goddess and her consort, who were represented by a young couple, the King and Queen of May. The whole community joined in the celebration, often a wild and lewd affair. In the morning a band of youngsters would take to the woods 'to fetch the May', usually a young birch tree, which was brought back into the village with much fanfare. The May tree served as the quintessential symbol of the Earth Goddess herself and her innate powers of regeneration and fertility.
May pole Pictures, Images and Photos
Back in the village the tree would be decorated with colorful threads and ribbons and fixed to the top of a pole, with long flowing ribbons in alternating colors attached beneath it. The May tree was treated as an honored guest and was erected in the most central spot of the village square. Parades and festivities ensued, as the May king and queen strode through town followed by a jeering crowd, accompanied by music, dancing, laughing and singing. Flowers and confetti were strewn all over as tokens of health, wealth and fertility.

Contemporary May Pole Dance, The highlight of the ceremony was the dance around the Maypole. Young boys and girls in succession each grabbed a ribbon from the May tree and twirled around the pole to the wild and cheerful music in an interweaving dance of life - male and female powers woven together to create the very fabric of existence in an act of symbolic co-creation.

Later the Beltain fires were lit to celebrate the return of the sun. Offerings and sacrifices were made to the earth spirits and Gods, and to the animals and plants in the hope that they would return the blessing when harvest came and meanwhile protect cattle and crops from dangerous daemons and diseases throughout the year. The drinking, dancing and feasting continued all night with raucous behavior, rude jokes and lewd innuendos - this was thought to rouse the passion of the vegetation spirit and make it more virile. Youngsters jumped over the Beltain fires to show the corn how high to grow and perhaps to be blessed by the fertilizing powers of this symbolic sun.

Green ManLater in the evening unmarried youth would take to the woods to partake in the libido energy of nature as each couple united as god and goddess to become co-creators in the dance of life and partake in nature's magnificent power. (note: The spirit of vegetation was often personified as Robin Greenwood, the Green Man, etc., nine months after Beltain, a crop of 'illegitimate' children were born, who were generally referred to as 'Robin's sons' - Robinson is still a common family name in Britain.)
may pole thing Pictures, Images and Photos
The next morning the Maytree was paraded through town. All the dancing and partying had charged it up with spiritual power and it was now used to bless all the inhabitants of the village so everybody could partake in the abundant gifts of Mother Nature. Sometimes this custom mutated into a ritual of 'quickening' to stimulate the fertility of all females, girls, animals and even (fruit)trees. Special hazel rods were cut for this purpose, which were thought to confer their power of fertility to anything they touched.

These are just a few examples to illustrate the point that at one time all of mankind felt a very close link indeed with the natural environment and with trees and plants in particular. But over time our sense of spirituality has become more and more distanced from nature and divorced from the source of life that sustains us. Neither forests nor individual trees nor herbs or grains are perceived to convey a link to the spiritual realm anymore. Our Gods, as far as we still believe in them are remote and impersonal, inhabiting realms far beyond the sky. Our earthly affairs are reduced to mere mechanical operations designed to exploit natural resources for maximum profit. Not gratitude but dominance characterizes our attitude to nature while reverence and respect for life is diminishing - along with the integrity of the web of life that supports us, and the socio-spiritual web of our communities that once provided a holistic perspective on all of life.

When the mysteries of life are reduced to chemical formulae and the natural world including our own bodies are rationalized and explained as mere chance assortments of matter following mechanical laws that can be manipulated at will, we are loosing touch with the very spiritual essence that gives meaning to existence. We may think ourselves Gods, but it seems that our species is possessed by demons intent on disintegrating the innate connectedness of all life and on poisoning the very source from whence all life springs and to which it must eventually return.

But where can we go from here? How can we heal the dichotomy between matter and spirit and restore that sense of connectedness in this world that is becoming increasingly defragmented? We cannot go back in time and simply do as our ancestors did. Rather, it is a matter of fostering personal relationships with nature and the life-giving powers that sustain us all. It is a personal quest rather than a matter of dogma, of developing an attitude of gratitude and caring towards all life, not as theoretical constructs, but in terms of practical action.
goddess Pictures, Images and Photos

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Late Fall and Winter Foraging

As the winter storms are beginning to blow in the foragers year is definitely coming to a close, unless you are a hunter of course, but that is another path altogether... The plant energy has turned inwards now, withdrawn into the roots. Here it will slumber until reawakened in the spring when the first birds begin to sing the wake up call and the sun begins to thaw the frozen earth.
foraging for mushrooms Pictures, Images and Photos
Those who live in a cold climate might be snowed under already, while those blessed with milder weather might enjoy the last warm days and still find nuts and mushrooms to add to a hearty autumn feast. Sitting around an open fire with one's friends and roasting sweet chestnuts (make sure the bottoms are slit or else they will explode on you) and sharing some home made elderberry wine with stories and laughter is a wonderful winter pastime. Walnuts are also still good for picking - lest the squirrels beat you to them. If you don't mind a more 'unusual' flavour, acorns might be worth a try, though they definitely need 'watering' in order to leech out the bitterness. Boil them with several changes of water and then roast them in the oven. Grind them to the consistency you like and try adding them to bread or cake mixes. They impart a very nutty flavour and a tasty little crunch.

In the milder regions mushrooms might still be popping up in the fields and woods until they are killed by the frost. Though before attempting to add wild mushroom species to your foraged dishes make absolutely certain that you have picked only the ones that are good to eat. Ask an expert. In some countries you can go to the pharmacy and ask for help with identification. Or try the local botanical gardens, agricultural extension service or botany department of your university. Join a mushroom foray to get expert instruction on identification and most importantly, how to recognize the poisonous species.

One mushroom that is easily identified even by the novice, is the common inkcap. Use the tall ones as a guide to the colony - while the older ones are not good to eat once their lamella turn pink, the babies are usually never far. Because of the high water content mushrooms often don't cook very well; instead, they simply melt away. However, a great way to prepare them is as fritters. Roll the mushrooms in flour, dip them in beaten egg, then roll them in bread crumbs and drop them into a hot frying pan with sizzling vegetable oil. This way their consistency remains largely intact and the crust adds a nice crunchiness to the experience.
Rose Hips (Rosa) Pictures, Images and Photos
Also, now after the first frost has bitten it is a good time to pick rosehips, sloes, hawthorn berries and certain sorbus species. These fruits need to be bitten by the frost before they become really palatable. The rosehip fruits are soft now and can thus be processed much easier than in their early autumn rock-hard condition. Rosehips are very rich in vitamin C and are a great preventive remedy for winter ails. Process them quickly though, as they contain an enzyme, which will destroy the vitamin C as soon as the cut surfaces are exposed to the air.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cedar Of Lebanon

Cedar of Lebanon Pictures, Images and Photos
Myths of the Cedar of Lebanon

"If in the end I should conquer, glorious will be the victory; but I shall owe it to the Queen of Angels, under whose protection I place myself. She is my refuge & my defense; the tower of the house of David, on whose walls hang innumerable shields & the armor of many valiant champions; the cedar of Lebanon, which puts the serpent to flight."

-Juan Valera
1824-1905


Long before the Cedar of Lebanon was introduced to European gardens (in the late 1700s) it was already legendary & proverbial. It is the most impressive tree mentioned in the Bible, veritably personified as a monarch [2 Ki 14:9], akin to giant people [Amos 2:9], to whom even God sings praises of honor [Ezek 27:5]. But when the Cedars of Lebanon (& the Oaks of Bashan) become haughty & begin to regard themseves as true divinities, Yahweh rises against them [Isa 2:13; 37:24; etc].

Yahweh turns against the cedars? Now there's a mystery for starters.

Well might the Cedar regard itself as a divinity, & Yahweh regard the Cedar one of those Other Gods of which He confesses jealousy in the Decalog. The usual Hebrew word for cedar, erez, is of mysterious origin, derived most likely from some Arabic dialect. It probably means "Mighty," & used with this meaning at Ezek 27:24. It is thus a synonym for El, "Strength," the husband of the Goddess Asherah & head of an extensive Semitic pantheon. El's name was coopted as a name of Yahweh. Every member of Israel was destined to share the traits of happiness & mightiness of the Cedars of Lebanon [Nm 24:6]. It is nearly homonymous with Eretz, normatively "Earth", but a feminine word hence literally "Earthmother" which sense is often preserved in Torah, personifying the Earth as a motherly figure alternatingly by the names Eretz, & Adamah (Red Earthmother) who gave birth to Adam.

Cedar mythology was ancient long before the Bible was written. In it's full range Cedrus has four primary species, & was associated with a Goddess in each species' native location, either as consort of the Goddess, or personified as itself female, or as a uniting (perhaps phallic) connector between the Earthmother & God. In Anatolia (Turkey) the Cedar of Lebanon was associated with a particularly violent form of Artemis. In the Himalayas the Deodor Cedar was associated with the equally violent Kali Durga, called the Root of the Tree of the Universe of Wisdom. And the Cyprus Cedar, from the island of Cyprus, was identified with Aphrodite Urania who killed or castrated her lovers & was much more like the violent Artemis & Kali than the Goddess of Love we today associate with the name Aphrodite.

The Cedar of Lebanon also figures in an early episode of the oldest of religious tales, The Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh encountered a horrifying monster amidst the cedars. He was protected from this beast by the Sun-god Shamash (for whom the biblical Samson is named) & by his mother's amulet (as Samson's power resulted mainly from his mother's instruction). When Gilgamesh destroyed the monster he believed himself ready to become the husband of the Great Mother, Ishtar Inanna, though Ishtar didn't quite agree with that; & he meets thereafter a Wine-goddess. Parallels to Samson & Delilah are imbedded in this, if Delilah is regarded as a reflex of Inanna or of the Wine-giving goddess Gilgamesh encounters.

Psalm 29 was originally a hymn to Baal Hadad. Descriptions of Yahweh as master of the sea, his appearance on a mountain in the midst of storm, & his temple made of Cedar are repeated from Ugaritic descriptions of Baal. In the Poem of Baal, which actually stars his sister Anath, the Artemis-like Huntress Goddess built Her brother a temple out of cedar because the other gods made fun of Baal for being the only god who had no house. This may allude to his worship having formerly been exclusively out of doors in the sacred oak groves of his mother Asherah Who Trods the Sea. Asherah poles which were set up in the oak groves were made of cedar, as the sacred oaks themselves could not be cut down, & cedar poles were resistant to rot. Yahweh, like Baal, was first worshipped in the open air in Asherah's groves. Abraham planted such a grove, possibly a tamarisk grove rather than oaks, but in midrash, & among many biblical scholars, the trees Abraham planted are called the Cedars of Beersheba [Gn 21:33] & he must have brought the seeds with him when he left Uruk in Mesopotamia. In that city the Cedar was a Mother Goddess who gave birth to the fertility god Ningishzida, a reflex of Dumuzi.

Because Yahweh displaced Asherah's favorite son Baal Hadad, it was natural to suppose Yahweh's eventual Temple was, like Baal's, made of cedar [1 Chron 14:1; 22:4; etc]. David said to Nathan the prophet that it was unjust that he, David, should live in a house of cedar, while the Ark of the Covenant was covered only by a tent [17:1, 6]. This is David's sense that it was presumptuous that the sacred tree covered his head but not God's. This echoes the Poem of Baal when Baal Hadad is lamented as the only god who has no house. When Torah speaks of "Hiram's mother" involved in bringing the components of the Jerusalem Temple out of Tyre, the faint echo of feminine importance lingers from the earlier myth when the Goddess Anath herself built God's house, & when the richest of Asherah's cult centers was in Tyre.

The name of Lebanon is the same as the semitic Moon-goddess Lebanah, "She That Is White." It is no coincidence that the word for Cedar, Erez, is nearly homonymous with Hebrew words meaning heat, or sun, so that we also find the Cedar associated with Sun-gods & weather-gods throughout the biblical world. In ancient Egypt the ceremonial barge of the god Amon-Re was made of cedars, & an ancient record states specifically that the cedar wood came from Lebanon. The idea of a Moon-goddess connected with a Sun-god via the highest cedar is not merely suggestive of Artemis & Apollo, Anath & Baal, Delilah & Samson, David & Bathsheba, but is still of signal importance in medieval & modern Kabbalah. The sephirotic emanation of god known as Tiphereth (Beauty) dwells at the center of the Sephiroth Tree & is the sephirah most closely identified with Yahweh. Tiphereth is united weekly on the Sabbath with the lowermost or most earthly sephirah, Malkhuth the Lower Shekhinah or female emanation of God. Tiphereth & Malkhuth are united weekly in cunubial bliss [Zohar II:2b, 3a, 51b] which is why the Sabbath is the day kabbalists regard most erotic & fertile. Malkhuth means "Kingdom" & represents Israel as the Bride of God; the word is a very close pun for "Queen," Malka, & the Queen of Heaven whom the women of Israel spoke of to Jeremiah is by later kabbalists considered to be one & the same with the Divine Shekhinah (though of course in Jeremiah's day it meant Anath, who was Yahweh's bride at Bethel, & remained so among the Jews of Elephantine well into the Christian era).

According to the kabbalistic understanding, it was Tiphereth who called out from Mount Sinai to the Shekhinah, "Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, come with me from Lebanon" [Song 4:8], while in the same erotic Song, Solomon identifies Lebanah (the Moon) as the ideal of feminine beauty [6:10].

Isaiah uses the name Lebanah when personifying the Moon as confounded by God [Isa 2:23], & again in the allegory of a heavenly future where Lebanah will be made to be as bright as the Sun, & the Sun made seven times as bright. A nearly feminist Jewish myth, founded upon Isaiah 30:26, recounts how Queen Lebanah, made on the fourth day of creation (one day after the Cedars were brought forth), was originally the equal of King Sun (Shemesh). But she sought to rule the sky, & to rule the Sun, thus God punished her, making the Sun master. Such Goddess usurpation myths occurred wherever goddess culture was supplanted by a preference for Her consort. The nostalgic myth further asserts that Israel's Golden Age, under Solomon, was the only time when the Sun & Moon regained their former equal brightness, when the Father & the Mother were in perfect accord receiving equal honors. In Kabbalah, the clearly non-monotheistic biblical verses that incite such myths are explained by making the Many Emanations of God our limited way of comprehending aspects of a One too vast for humanity to perceive in the entirety; & that is also why God has so many names that are plural, as is the case with Elohim ("gods") & Adonai ("Adonises"), or which are feminine plurals, as with Sabaoth or otherwise feminine like the preferred Aramaic name Shekhinah, God being thus simultaneously Earthmother. In ancient times it probably was just understood as a pantheon, period, though the notion of the process of emanation is very old in Sanskrit literature & not necessarily unknown to very ancient Semitic peoples.

A Cedar-goddess is alluded to in the Song of Songs. Of Her it is said, "If she is a Gate, we will enclose her with boards of cedar" [Song 8:9], from whence the midrash that presumes Paradise is enclosed in cedar. The cedar doors of a gate symbolized the vagina or entryway to the Earthmother's womb, & by extension any woman's womb, hence the phrases "the Gate of my mother's womb" [Job 2:10]; the Gate that seals the womb of the Sea [38:8]; or even the Gate of heaven [Psalm 78:23] — this last elaborating a very archaic belief that death is not permanent, because the spirits of the dead do not fully expire, they re-enter the womb of the Divine Mother, returning to the Source.

And it appears this gate was commonly associated with cedars. The word for "Gate" may be the same as the root-word in the name of Delilah. Delilah meant something akin to "She Is Written Things," relating to a later Greek word deltos, "writing tablet." It is no concidence that Dumuzi's sister Geshtinanna was scribe to the Hecate-like goddess Ereskigal; no more than it is coincidental that Geshtinanna was guardian of the gate of paradise called "the land of cedars" in the distant East, where the Sun dwelt at night. This eastern Land of Cedars has been identified with historical Elam, & as the original Garden of Eden, but it may also have been a place of the Underworld, where cedars of paradise are also said to grow in Jewish midrash.

A similar word found its way into Hebrew usage relating to sacred writings, as the tablet on which Baruch took Jeremiah's dictation was called delet [Jr 36:23], evidently a tablet that could be closed with two wooden flaps, as the usual meaning of delet is in fact "gate," through which the phallic writing utensil penetrates. Hence a name like Delilah was apropos of a kedeshah or Sacred Harlot; & the River of Kedesha ran through the largest & most famous of Cedar forests in ancient Lebanon. Delilah & the doomed Samson do resemble Anath & the doomed Baal, who was slain by the Death-god Mot & taken away to the land of death until Anath resurrected him. That Samson bears the name of a Sun-god is frequently noted. The episode in which Samson runs off with the bronze Gate of Geza symbolizes his conquest of the Sacred Harlot, though Samson's metal gate is called shaar, & Shahar was the Canaanite God of the Rising Sun, with rays of bronze, the same as Samson's magic hair. The cedar flaps of the writing tablet turned on a bronze pin, as the Gaza gates turned on bronze pillars, & the Cedar Gate is Delilah or Anath, & the Bronze Pillar is Samson or Gilgamesh or Baal. Or, among kabbalists, the active Divine Shekhinah & the restful Tiphereth.

Zephaniah alludes to this type of mythology of the cedar gate as vagina of the Great Mother when referring to the city of Ninevah in the hypostatic form of a great female. The name Ninevah is merely a rendering out of the Hebrew for Ninuah, Great Goddess of Assyria; the capitol city bore Her name exactly. When speaking of all the cruel acts God will impose on Her, including the laying bare of her cedars, the full context clearly indicates that God sexually rapes His enemy & leaves Her bereft & reviled by all who pass by & see Her in the extremes of Her disaster [Zeph 2:14-15]. And from Her unruly sex life, She that dwelleth in Lebanon is shamed, hiding among cedars screaming as She gives birth to illicit children [Jr 22:23]. For Yahweh, the breaking of cedars is the defeat of rivals of all sorts — nations, or rival divinities. Zechariah similarly personifies Lebanon as a wailing-woman (a role signal to the Goddess Anath who wailed over the death of Baal) whose cedar is devoured in fire — the other wailing-women included personified cypress trees that wailed for the destruction of this hypostatic goddess-like Lebanon cedar [Zech 11:2-3]. That Zechariah assumes this ruin of Lebanon is done through fire is a typical Yahwist cursing method of reversing the sacred things of rival deities to become their destruction; the Cedar-mother's brother-consort being a Fire-god, Storm-god, or the Sun, she must be destroyed by the very power She thought could protect her.

Other biblical lore asserts that Joshua annointed a book of prophesies with cedar oil; the throne of Nimrod was carved of a great cedar, later becoming the throne of Solomon; a cedar grew from Jacob's grave; & Noah's Ark was made of cedar. Jehoiachin believed that to "nest among cedars" would protect him against harsh judgement, perhaps again relating the Cedar to the Babylonian Sun-god Shamash who decided the punishment of the dead, & his bride Ah who spoke in defense of the soul. Psalm 92:12 says that because the Cedars of Lebanon were the most upright of trees, they symbolize all of Israel as the most upright of nations. This is why Ezekiel 17:22-23 speaks of God moving the Israelites into the promised land as though He had plucked cedars from the mountains to transplant them elsewhere.

Expanding on Psalm 104:16 which notes that God personally planted the first Cedars of Lebanon, & the "Cedar Gate" mythology cited above, midrash asserts God brought forth the Cedars on the third day of Creation. Those first cedars still stand, forming a living barrier between our world & that of Paradise; or, the walls of Paradise are made of glass & shingled with cedar planks; or the cedars God made on the third day were in a troubled time transplanted in Paradise, where they grew to such extravagant height their former enormity was by comparison the size of the legs of locusts. Philo of Alexandria said the Earth had long been pregnant with these cedars, & God caused them to be brought forth in their full glory, as from a mother in labor. This is reminiscent of Gaea bringing forth giants in their full maturity.

There are more myths still. Behemoth is a mighty land-animal grazing upon cedars, as cattle graze on grass, daily rendering bald another mountain in Lebanon. The Messiah dwells in Paradise upon a pallanquin made of cedar, lounging upon a purple seat (the cloth of which was woven by Eve) large enough for two, & Elijah sits with him.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Yellow Birch

birch tree Pictures, Images and Photos
Food: Broken twigs of the Yellow birch (B. alleghaniensis) and Black or Sweet birch (B. Nigra) have a wintergreen fragrance. A sap can be collected and boiled down from Yellow birch. From Black birch harvest the twigs, red inner bark and larger roots. The inner bark can be boiled or ground into a flour. Twigs and inner bark can be steeped into a tea. Wintergreen flavor is stronger in Black birch.

Medicine: Chippewa made a medicine from Black and White birch (B. papyrifera) for stomach pain.
birch leaf Pictures, Images and Photos

Technology: New England tribes used the bark of White or Paper Birch for many purposes. Large bark sheets were stripped from the tree in late spring to use as house coverings or to build canoes. Smaller pieces of bark were cut into patterns and used to make dishes and utensils, including seamless maple sap collecting dishes and maple sugar storage containers (makaks). The bark was also cut and folded to make baskets, fans and even tinder to fish by torchlight from canoes. Folding and biting single thin layers of the paper produced dental pictographs, or birch bark transparencies, that could be used for beadwork designs and patterns for other decorations.

Note: Indian legend surround the distinctive markings of the birch tree. The bark of this tree was never taken without acknowledgement its importance to Native Americans and without offering and thanks to the spirits that provide it. Read the Ojibwe story of Winnebojo & the Birch Tree. For additional information browse NativeTech's Uses of Birchbark.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Edible Wild Plants in Wisconsin

Wisconsin holds a vast variety of edible wild plants. From the uplands to the bottom lands and surrounding lake areas, edible plants thrive. Everything from berries, tubers, roots, nuts and greens flourish in Wisconsin. Before eating any type of wild plant, you will want to make sure it is edible. There are a bunch of plants that look just like their edible cousins but can make you ill if not kill you. Always carry a field guide of wild edibles when venturing into the wilds of Wisconsin.
Berries
Currants
Wild Currants Pictures, Images and Photos
Currants

There is a wealth of various berries growing in Wisconsin that you can eat. Gooseberry is a bush that grows 2- to 4-feet tall and has prickly branches with short clusters of flowers and fruits. They are found in the bottom lands, slopes and openings in the forest. The fruits can either be eaten raw or cooked. Currants grow on a bush that is 2- to 4-feet tall and is somewhat similar to the gooseberry bush but it lacks prickles. The fruits and flowers grow in elongated clusters and can be eaten raw or cooked. Elderberry is a bush that can grow to a height of 10 feet. The plant has broad clusters of flowers that are white and the fruits are purple to black in colorization. These plants can be found growing on the edges of swamps and along roadsides. The fruits can be eaten raw or cooked. The American cranberry grows on a bush that is just 8 to 12 inches in height. It has wiry, trailing stems that hold pink flowers and red berries. Blooming between June and October, it can be found in moist meadows and bogs. The berries can be eaten raw or cooked.
Green and Potherbs

wild lettuce Pictures, Images and Photos
Wild Lettuce grows anywhere from one to 10 feet in height with lance like leaves and yellow flowers. It blooms between July and September and can be found in open woods and meadows. The tender young leaves can be used just like lettuce. Dandelions can reach a height of 20 inches and have fluffy leaves and yellow flowers. This plant can be found almost anywhere within the state and blooms all year long. The flowers and leaves are edible raw or cooked. Spring Beauties grow to 10 inches tall. The plant has slightly succulent leaves and pink to white flowers on it. It can be found in meadows and woodlands. The corms resemble sweet potatoes and when boiled are said to taste like chestnuts. Curly Dock is a plant that can reach a height of 5 feet and has curled green and red flowers on it. It blooms from May through September and be found in fields and along roadsides. The leaves can be boiled like greens and the seeds can be ground and used like flour.
Trees
hazel tree Pictures, Images and Photos
The Hazel tree is prized for its sweet nuts. The tree can grow to 9 feet tall and has sharply toothed leaves and hairless fruits that are encased in tubular husks. The trees can be found in old fields and woodland clearings. Black Cherry trees can reach a height of 60 feet and are found on the edges of streams and fields. The flowers are malodorous and the fruits are bright red when ripe. They can be eaten raw or cooked. The American Plum tree can reach a height of 30 feet with leaves that are coarsely toothed. The fruits are dark red to purple in color and can be eaten raw or cooked. These trees can be found along the edges of streams or in fields.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Natural Beauty

Natural Beauty Pictures, Images and Photos
Exactly when, where and our human obsession with 'beauty' started is hard to say. Fact is, it has been around for a very, very long time. Remains of ancient perfumes, potions and make up have been found in Egyptian tombs and uses of beauty products in classical Greek and Roman times are well documented. But even 'tribal societies' have a well established tradition of skin care and cosmetic uses, though they may be less apparent, when viewed from our modern perspective.

In modern society the aim and purpose of using such products seem primarily to consist of making our appearance more attractive to the opposite sex. In ancient times however, people sought to make themselves more appealing to beneficial Gods and spirits, or attempted to ward off nasty demons.

Beauty is an ephemeral quality and since its inception it has always been a moot point. Culture and fashion greatly influence what we perceive as beautiful. In ancient Greece for example an un-oiled body was thought to be offensive to Gods and humans alike and olive oil was extensively used to make the body smooth and shiny. In other societies animal grease, such as bear fat was used to achieve a similar effect, but on a spiritual level, it was also thought to transfer some of the animal's perceived powers.

perfume testing (22K)All over the world good smells were believed to attract the benevolence of helpful deities, while bad smells were always associated with the Gods of the underworld, harmful demons, or later, the devil. Thus, people soon adopted the many wonderful fragrances of herbs and flowers to serve their own purposes. Flower garlands, head wreaths and armbands were not only meant to look pretty but also send fragrant messages to the spirit world. Likewise, 'make up' and body paint was not only used to enhance physical beauty, but also to protect against the much feared evil eye and other harmful influences. The same thinking motivates indigenous tribal people, who use face and body paints to ward of natural and supernatural enemies. Originally, such paints often really had protective qualities as they were made from herbs, roots and clays with anti-bacterial or anti-fungal properties, but even in ancient times minerals were discovered and utilized for cosmetic purposes which actually caused more harm than good for those who wore them.

perfumebottles (16K)Today cosmetics, perfumes and skin care products constitute multimillion dollar industries, presenting a staggering array of choices to confuse the customer. Whether you are looking for shampoo, lotion, make up or perfume, the variety is overwhelming. Much of it is full of synthetic chemicals, mineral oils, preservatives, artificial fragrances and other junk food for the skin. Latest arrival on the high-end of this dazzling range of products are the 'natural skin care products', although on closer inspection one will actually find relatively few ingredients that resemble anything that you or I would deem natural. This is due to the fact that mass produced cosmetics need to be relatively sterile in order to extend their otherwise short-lived shelf-life - which can only be achieved by using certain preservatives or mineral oils.

The best natural cosmetics are home-made, using high quality vegetable oils and butters, such as coconut, avocado or almond oil, in combination with organic flower waters (hydrosols) and essential oils. They should always be produced in small batches to ensure freshness and purity. Making home-made cosmetics, tailored exactly to your own needs is fun and not all that difficult.

In the case of lotions and crèmes, the idea is to combine a proportion of oil with a proportion of liquid, with the help of an emulsifying agent. In the old days this emulsifying wax was derived from whales, but nowadays animals no longer have to suffer for our vanity. Jojoba oil has excellent emulsifying properties and other plant based emulsifiers can be produced in the laboratory.

egyptian (51K)Just which oils, waxes and other ingredients are chosen to create a specific crème or lotion, will determine its nutritional properties for the skin (see previous article on oils). Some oils are 'drying' while others are moisturizing. Combining these with humectants such as vegetable glycerine or aloe Vera gel produces varying consistencies and benefits for the skin. The trick, when blending crèmes is to have all ingredients at a similar temperature so as to avoid curdling, and to combine them slowly. If you have ever made mayonnaise from scratch you know what it takes to make lotion or crème. Apart from the emulsifying wax, which blends the watery and oily components together, you will also need a stabilizer, such as stearic acid, which is added in very small quantities, to give you product a stable consistency. However, use it sparingly or else your crème will become chalky instead of smooth.

For those who don't want to mess with oils and waxes there are now ready made base crèmes on the market. These generic crème bases can be enhanced by adding special ingredients such as essential oils, infused oils or Aloe Vera gel. However, they can only absorb a limited amount of additional ingredients before they become unstable, so experiment carefully. The quality of such crème bases varies widely and most contain preservatives or alcohol, which increases their shelf-life and makes them less vulnerable to turning into a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. However, these chemicals are not all that great for the skin, so read the ingredients label carefully, and do your research. Making your own is definitely the best way to ensure highest quality. Producing only small batches means that you don't have to worry as much about shelf-life or bacteria, since your crème will probably be used up before it has had a chance to go rancid or mouldy.

Here is a basic recipe for a nice, light textured crème that is easy to make:
Base Crème

* 60 ml Rose Flower Water (hydrosol)
* 10 ml Apricot Oil
* 8 ml Jojoba Oil
* 8 ml Evening Primrose Oil
* 10g Shea Butter
* 8g Emulsifying Wax
* 2g Stearic Acid

Melt the Shea butter and oils at a low temperature in a double boiler. Pour into a bowl. Using a stick blender (alsoknown as 'magic wands') set at the highest speed, slowly add in the rosewater as you stir. The mixture will turn white and gooey. Add the emulsifying wax and stearic acid and keep beating until all is smooth and creamy. Finally, add essential oils of your choice (1-3% of total volume - but be sure to follow essential oil safety guidelines).

Often the emulsifying wax and stearic acid are of a consistency that requires you to return the mixture to the doubleboiler in order to melt them so they blend in. If you have to do this, do it before you add any essential oils. It is best to add the essential oils right at the end, when the crème base has cooled down to body temperatures, in order to avoid them 'flying off' with the heat - they are rather volatile, after all.

Which oils you'll want to use depends on your specific skin type. Some oils, particularly those that are high in unsaturated fatty acids (e.g. Evening Primrose, Hemp, Borage Seed oil) are usually only used in small quantities (10% of total amount), as nutritive additions, rather than as the main ingredient for your crème base. For a crème base stable oils, such as coconut, olive, almond or apricot oil are good. Some oils have a richer, thicker consistency than others. Experiment with different blends to find a combination that suits your skin type. You can also use infused oils, such as calendula infused oil, or St. John's Wort oil to add extra healing qualities. For the liquid portion plain distilled water will do, but hydrosols are nicer. Rosewater is slightly astringent, while Elderflower water is emollient and soothing and Orangewater is refreshing. Instead of shea butter you can also use cocoa butter for example. You can also add floral waxes, which are a by-product of essential oil production. However, they may contain traces of solvents.
Bath Salts

The cheapest and easiest method to create a home-made bath preparation is to use coarse salts, such as Epsom or Sea Salt. Crush to a grainy size (dissolves easier) and add a few drops of a gentle essential oil, such as rose, lavender or jasmine. Stir and blend well, fill in a jar and allow to macerate for a few days before use. Some people like to add food colouring to make it look more like the stuff you can buy at the store, but this is purely for looks. If you don't mind 'bits' floating in your bathtub you can add a handful of fresh fragrant rose petals or lavender flowers to the salt blend. The salt will dehydrate them and absorb their scent.
Bath Oil

Soaking in water for any length of times dehydrates the skin. Normally, the skin's natural oil secretions keep it from drying out, but frequent bathing and showering washes our natural protective layer off. You can replenish the lost oils by applying skin oils or lotions after each bath or shower, or you can use bathoils. Almond or coconut oil are good choices. Add some drops of essential oil for a beautiful scent and also add a little Turkey Red oil, which facilitates dispersion of the oil in your bath water.

If you don't like bath oils because they feel too greasy, but still want to add essential oils for the smell or for a specific therapeutic effect, you could try using plain milk (some people prefer goats milk), or cream as a dispersing carrier agent for your essential oils. A tiny blob of honey mixed in is also very nice and softening for the skin.
Hair Care

Making shampoo from scratch may be a bit ambitious, but there are certainly hair care products that can be made easily. These would better fit into the category of 'conditioner' though. A quick and easy conditioning can be made with Rosemary (dark hair) or Chamomile (blond hair). Just make an herbal infusion as if you were making a strong tea, steep until cooled off, strain and use as a rinse.

To nourish brittle and stressed hair, an oil pack is good, but be warned - this is a greasy affair. Jojoba oil or coconut oil is excellent for this treatment. Take a little oil and massage well into the hair. Cover with a plastic bag and leave in place for a while to allow the oils to really penetrate the hair. Wash out and rinse as usual. Don't overdo it with the oils though as it can be quite tricky to get all the oil out. Aloe Vera gel also makes a good conditioner. It can be diluted with a hydrosol or used neat. It has the added benefit of aiding skin conditions such as dandruff.

These are just a few suggestions. The scope for making your own natural skin and hair care products is only limited by your imagination. From simple to elaborate, anything is possible and you can be sure that whatever you make at home is much better for your skin than whatever you could buy at a store - and compared price-wise, high quality home made cosmetics, although requiring a certain minimum investment for equipment and materials, still work out much less expensive than top of the line commercially available natural cosmetics. And better still - if you make a little extra you'll always have beautiful gifts to share with your friends.

Note: Be aware that some essential oils can be highly irritating or cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Always investigate essential oils thoroughly before using them on your skin and only use them in dilution. It is best to test a dilution on a small area of the inner arm first, before applying them more generally. Furthermore, some essential oils (e.g. oils of the Citrus family) can increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun's rays, making it prone to burn more easily. Thus they should not be used on exposed skin during the summer months. Also, be especially cautious with essential oils during pregnancy.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jimsonweed



Jimsonweed, a k a Jamestown weed, mad apple, devil’s trumpet, locoweed, stinkwort or thorn apple, is a strikingly gothic-looking plant with seedpods that could have inspired the creator of “Little Shop of Horrors.” It has toothed leaves, stems that are reddish-to-dark eggplant in color and lovely trumpet-shape white or lavender blossoms, as long as a finger, that open at dusk. Found along roadsides, ditches and open fields in most states, including New York, where it grows as far south as Staten Island, it’s listed as a noxious weed in Pennsylvania and banned in Connecticut. An informal poll of writers from the Writhing Society at Proteus Gowanus described the plant as smelling like peanut butter, skunk cabbage and someone’s childhood cottage, but the first time I sniffed it, I thought of tahini.
Jimsonweed has trumpet-shaped white or lavender blossoms that open at dusk.
JimsonWeed Pictures, Images and Photos

Much of the literature and testimony surrounding Datura stramonium and related species, including D. meteloides, D. wrightii and D. innoxia, point to its psychotropic, hallucinogenic and narcotic properties, where it is inextricably linked to shamanism (in Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan”) and even zombies (from Wade Davis’s “Passage of Darkness” and “The Serpent and the Rainbow”).

Some of the no-joke side effects from ingesting jimsonweed read like a 1970s public service announcement warning against angel dust and PCP: dilated pupils, racing heartbeat, hallucination, delirium, combative behavior and in severe cases, coma and seizures.

In 1676, British soldiers sent to Virginia to quell Bacon’s Rebellion ingested Datura stramonium in a boiled salad and remained in a stupor for 11 days. More recently, in 2008, a family in Maryland was poisoned when they mistook it for an edible garden green and ate it in a stew.

Written testimonials for Datura on the Erowid Web site , under titles like “Truly the Devil’s Weed,” “Nightmares in Flux” and “This is Madness,” include delusions of phantom cigarettes, conversations with imaginary friends, amnesia, blurred vision, a desire for cold showers and other irrational behavior. It’s no wonder that Amy Stewart devoted an entire chapter to it in her book “Wicked Plants.”
Farm (2007 07 22) - Jimson Weed Pictures, Images and Photos

According to Daniel E. Moerman’s “Native American Medicinal Plants,” some American Indians use jimsonweed topically for wounds and inflammation, and there are reports of it being used as a treatment for asthma. But because of the plant’s more negative plant-human interactions, most folks are understandably wary of it, and many parents have been advised to root it out of backyards and gardens.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Apple

It is apple harvest time here in Maine...Here you have it .
Apple Blossoms Pictures, Images and Photos
Description:

A mature apple tree looks like a grandmother of a tree: small in stature,writhing limbs and with grey, crinkly bark. this tree does not impress with its habitus, yet we learn to love it from an early age, not just for its wonderful fruits, but because it is perhaps the most ideal climbing tree found in the temperate climate zone and just about every child will sooner or later become intimately acquainted it. Despite its humble posture, we can't help but notice the apple tree when spring arrives. Before the leaves are showing it is covered all over in a glorious beautiful dress of pinkish white flowers, abuzz with delirious bees. Once the flowers have dropped off we again pass it by without paying it much attention, but come September it is laden with shining, golden red apples that are impossible to resist. Even crab apples, whose fruit are much smaller (and tarter), look tempting.

It is estimated that there may be as many as 20000 cultivated varieties, each with their own distinct flavour, shape, smell, crunchiness or succulence, though nobody knows the exact number. Sadly, most of them are endangered as they tend to be heirloom species, confined to just a few gardens. The average supermarket only carries about 5 varieties.
apple tree Pictures, Images and Photos
Crab Apple
Ecology:

The apple tree is an important source of nectar for bees. Later, its fruit provide much nurishment to all sorts of small wildlife.
Distribution:

The apple tree is so widespread that it is almost impossible to pin down its origin. Charred remains of prehistoric crab apples found at archaeological sites throughout Europe bear witness to the fact that wild apples, or crab apple, as it is also known, has been at home throughout central Europe since Neolithic times. The first cultivated varieties probably reached northern parts of Europe with the Romans. Today apples are grown in all temperate regions of the globe.
History & Mythology
Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden

The apple tree is perhaps the most mythical of all trees - is it not supposed to have been the demise of all mankind, way back at the beginning of time? Actually, it is highly unlikely that the forbidden fruit that gave us knowledge of good and evil was in fact an apple, since this fruit was unknown in Egypt and Palestine at that time and early Bibles merely mention 'a fruit'. However, long before the Christianity was born the apple tree was already widely adored as a symbol of immortality and the apple was regarded as the sacred heart of the Goddess of eternal life. In Cletic tradition the western paradise, where the souls of the Blessed go, was known as Avalon, the isle of Apples, guarded by Morgan, the Queen of the Dead.

Although the Neolithic lake villagers of central Switzerland already feasted on Crab apples, it appears that the Romans popularised the cultivated varieties in central and northern Europe. The Romans too, associated eternity with the apple - alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the two symbols that encapsulate existence, were represented by an egg, symbolic of the origin of life (alpha), and an apple, the symbol of eternal life and resurrection (omega). And thus, each of their feasts would start with an egg and be finished with an apple. Wild boars (pigs and boars are sacred animals of the Great Goddess,) were roasted with an apple in their snout to represent eternal life and resurrection.

The apple is a fruit of Venus/Aphrodite and it bears her signature, the five pointed star. Among gypsies it is an ancient tradition to cut the apple horizontally to reveal this mystical sign of the Goddess. In Greek mythology we are told the fateful story of Paris, who was given the impossible task to settle a dispute between three Goddesses by choosing one above the others whom to present with a golden apple, inscribed 'to the most deserving'. In the end it was Aphrodite who won him over, if only with a bribe, as she promised him the hand of Helen, the most beautiful mortal woman alive on earth at that time. Unfortunately that beautiful young woman was already married to another and when Paris ran away with her he inadvertently started a chain of events that lead to the Trojan War.

In China, by contrast, the pictogram for apple has the synonymous meaning of peace. Thus presenting someone with an apple is to say: 'peace be with you'.

Botanical Drawing, Malus ssp.In time, apples became associated with erotic love and for many centuries artists used them metaphorically in their works. However, when Christian tempers started to run rampant, the apple became a symbol of the devil, of temptation and evil, a symbol of sinful love of the flesh. Thus, apple became 'malus', which means bad, and the apple tree became a tree of witches. Apple trees are also the most common host trees of Mistletoe, the sacred plant of the Druids, although the Druids favoured Mistletoe that grew on Oak.

Once upon a time Halloween was more than a spooky fun day for kids. It was celebrated as the pagan New Year, to mark the time when the life force retreats into the womb of the earth, to regenerate and restore its powers, only to be reborn again the following spring. How fitting then that this festival should be associated most of all with apples, the sacred fruit of eternal life and resurrection. Apple bopping games and other customs are remnants of ancient pagan traditions that allude to gaining eternal life of the soul.

During the time of the apple harvest apple farmers traditionally engaged in the custom of 'wassailing', a kind of tree blessing that invoked the fruitfulness of their trees, chased off any evil spirits or demons that might have liked to steal their fruit, and gave thanks for the harvest. This was celebrated with good quantities of cider and apple cookies as well as with fireworks or gunfire.

Apples have also sometimes been used as a form of divination, to tell the probable fortunes of young hopefuls in their pursuit of love and happiness. The procedure requires the person to cut the apple horizontally. The fortunes are told by interpreting the numbers of seeds that are visible and whether or how many of them were cut in the process.

Cider, hot spiced apple wine and baked apples or apple crumble all featured strongly among our seasonal favourites at this time of year.

But apple traditions are not all as old as 'ye old heathen times'. The greatest 'apple hero' of all times was born in the American legendary figure of Johnny Appleseed. Johnny Appleseed is said to have spent his life planting apple trees across the land, to pursue his vision of a country filled with these glorious trees. He is also said to have talked to animals and never carried arms, even when walking alone in unknown territory. He was accepted by the Indians and respected by settlers and managed to mediate various conflicts between the two sides. He certainly lived an eccentric life, but in the end his dream was fulfilled.

Apples are very healthy fruits and the English adage 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away' still carries a lot of merit. But more about that below.
Medicinal uses;

Parts used:


Flowers, Fruit, Peel

Harvest:


Flowers in spring, when they are fully open and free of dew,
fruit in September/October, when they are ripe.
Traditionally, farmers will harvest apples in the last quarter of the moon - otherwise they won't keep as well.
This old farmer's wisdom makes sense, since water levels within organisms are highest at full moon and lowest at the new moon, making fruit less likely to rot.

Uses:

Apple Blossom (26K)Apples are a wonderful, healing food, easy for the body to digest and able to correct over-acidity of the stomach. They are particularly rich in pectin, a soluble fibre that forms a jelly-like substance, as any jam-maker will know. Pectin, available in its purified form, is used to help set marmalades and jams. In the body it helps to regulate digestion, forms a protective coating in the intestines and soothes inflamed tissues. Thus, apples can be used to treat both diarrhoea and constipation. They are also highly recommended for balancing blood sugar levels, as they prevent those dangerous spikes and lows. Apples are cooling and anti-inflammatory. They are wonderfully refreshing and thirst quenching during convalescence, especially when suffering from feverish conditions, coughs and colds. Apple tea, usually prepared by infusing minced fruit or peels (organic, please!) in hot water, is not only a delicious drink, but also increases uric acid elimination and is helpful as a supportive remedy in the treatment of arthritic and rheumatic conditions as well as rheumatoid kidney and liver disease. An apple diet is recommended for gout, constipation, haemorrhoids, bladder and kidney disease. An apple at bed time improves the quality of sleep and helps to control night sweat.

Bees love the nectar rich apple blossoms in spring. The petals can be infused as a tea to treat feverish conditions, especially those that affect the upper respiratory tract. Apple blossom tea also soothes and calms the nerves.

Apples cider vinegar is also excellent, not just for salads, but for a whole host of health conditions. It is very rich in calcium and can help to improve calcium deficiency related problems such as loss of concentration and memory, weak muscle tone, poor circulation, badly healing wounds, general itchiness, aching joints and lack of appetite. Apple cider vinegar detoxifies by supporting the eliminative function of the kidneys. Thus, it is a helpful supportive aid for arthritis, gout, rheumatism and skin conditions. It is also beneficial for sinusitis, high blood pressure, migraine, chronic exhaustion and night sweats. To make use of this healthful elixir, dilute one tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 6-8 oz of water. This may be sweetened with honey.
recipes (1K)

There are endless numbers of delicious recipes that turn apples into any number of sweat or savoury dishes or drinks. But even plain they are simply delicious.
Baked Apples:

A simple way to enjoy a quick apple treat is to bake them whole. Cut out the centre that contains the seeds and fill it with musli. Sprinkle a little Cinnamon on top and dribble some honey into the hole. Place on a baking sheet and bake until soft enough to spoon. Serve with plain yoghurt.
Grated Apple

A wonderful side salad: grate an apple and a couple of carrots. Squeeze a lemon over it and add some currents to the mix. Simply divine.
Spiced Crab Apples

* 3lb good crab apples
* 2lb sugar
* 1 pint vinegar
* 1 root ginger, grated or bruised
* Pared rind of ½ lemon
* 2 inch cinnamon stick
* 2-3 cloves
* 1 tablespoon pimento (allspice) berries, whole

Wash the crab apples well. Place the vinegar and sugar into a saucepan Heat while stirring, taking care not to burn the sugar. Add the fruit. Place spices into a muslin bag and tie well- add to the fruit. Cover the saucepan and cook on low heat until just tender. Remove fruit with a siphoning spoon and pack into sterilized jars, leaving a little space at the top. Remove the muslin bag from the vinegar and strain the liquid. Return to the heat and continue to simmer, uncovered, until it has the consistency of syrup. Pour hot over the fruit in the jars so it covers them by ½ inch. Seal tightly and store in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks before use.
Ginger and Apple Chutney

* 2 dozen large tart apples such as Bramleys or Boscopp
* 1lb sultanas or raisins
* 2 lb brown sugar
* 3oz mustard seed
* 1 fresh chilli
* 1 level dessertspoon turmeric pdr
* 1½ oz ground ginger
* 1lb Spanish onions, cut in half and sliced thinly
* 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with a little salt
* 1½ pints vinegar

Peel, core and slice the apples and slice the chilli. Put all ingredients together into a saucepan and simmer on a low heat for 11/2- 2 hours until well cooked to a pulp. Allow to set overnight.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Solomon's Seal

Solomons Seal Pictures, Images and Photos
Variegated Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum falcatum 'Variegatum' formerly P. odoratum 'Variegatum' or P. odoratum var. thunbergii 'Variegatum') loves shade to deep shade, & moist humusy soil.

The species ranges from Europe to Asia; the variegated form is of garden origin, from Japan.

Though the root has been used as a potato-like food source, & shoots prepared as a kind of asparagus, the whole plant but especially its roots & berries are sufficiently toxic that it can be dangerous to prepare, though harmless if properly & entirely well cooked.

Solomon's Seal If a rhizome is disturbed, divided, or separated from the parent plant in autumn for propogation purposes, it can be slow to recover, producing only a little foliage for the first year or two. When it has finally readied itself to take off, it becomes a stunning clump of graceful arching maroon stems lined with white-edged foliage.

The variegated form can be a little smaller than the regular species, often remaining in the fifteen to twenty inch range of height, but larger is possible in time. Once the rhizome has reached its way all about the area, the clump will erupt in spring three or four feet wide.

By then it will be too aggressive for anything nearby that is small to coexist, though hostas hold their own perfectly well, & Solomon's Seal does not displace anything larger, having evolved to live in the shelter of larger shrubs & trees.

It is grown primarily for the foliage, since the cream-colored flowers are small dangling bells mostly hidden on the underside of the long arches of large leaves. These graceful two-foot stems of leaves are useful in flower arranging.

Despite that the flowers are not as showy as the foliage, they are even so very pleasant in May, small bells hanging in pairs under the arching stems at each leaf axil. A bit of green speckles the tip of each bell.

Solomon's SealIn England Solomon's Seal is sometimes known as David's Harp, after medieval religious art which portrayed David with an instrument hung with metal bells (similar to the plant's dangling blossoms) struck with hammers. This is not the usual image evoked of David's biblical instrument, but it is seen on such monks' art as in the Plock Biblio parchment of 1148.

So too a Psalter in the Arundel collection has an illumination for the Eighty-first Psalm (which speaks of the harp) showing David striking a row of silver bells with hammers, this having been a Saxon influence of what David played. Wind chimes are likewise sometimes called King David's Harps.

In authentic Jewish sources, as well as most Christian, the harp really is a harp & not a belled instrument. But reproduced here is an illumination from the Gallican Psalter of 1470 showing David playing the bells (but with his harp leaning on a stool behind him, & lutes on the wall) & enclosed in vines.

The reason for its more common name is not entirely certain, because assigned to the plant a great long while ago. The predominant theory regards the starchy rhizome which grows each year another branching segment, with a "scar" left between each segment.

This root-scar is thought to be the reason for the name "Solomon's Seal," the plant sealing itself at each juncture leaving a mark some have likened to a Star of David. Additionally, it was once believed that juice from Solomon Seal roots possessed this same capacity to seal wounds of battle, just as it sealed its own wounds.


Solomon's SealPart II:
King Solomon & His Signet Ring
A tale of King Solomon & his seal is worth retelling, drawn in part from Mirkhound's Rouzat-us-Safa, & Tabari's History.

Djarada, the daughter of the legendary King Nubara of India, raised an army against Israel, & was killed in battle by King Solomon. King Nubara's daughter was forced into King Solomon's harem. She so despised her father's slayer that she wept constantly over her fate.

To appease her, Solomon allowed her to keep an idol of her father & worship it in her chambers. Public criticism caused him to change his mind. He broke Djarada's idol, punished her for idolatry, & underwent pennance for his own weakness in catering to his wife's sorrows & whims.

Leningrad CodexFrom Djarada's point of view, the slayer of her father could not even keep a promise to permit her her own faith. But Solomon adored her for her beauty &, hoping finally to win Djarada's affection, loaned her the signet ring by which he ruled, upon which was emblazened the six-pointed star of his & King David's realm, shown together with the Tetragramaton which spelled out the secret name of God.

Or according to others, Djarada held the ring for Solomon whenever he went to the privy. Still others ascribe this incident to a handmaiden, Aminah, who was given the ring to hold whenever Solomon was in his bath. For whatever the reason, she was at times entrusted with the very ring that permitted Solomon to rule Israel & even to command demons & demonesses to do his bidding.

It transpired that a demon named Ashmodai or Asmodius, or a djinn called Sakhur or Haritsu, took notice of this transaction. Taking on Solomon's form, he asked Djarada for the ring. When the real Solomon returned to Djarada's chamber, asking where she had put the ring, she immediately suspected him of being a demon & cast him out of the palace. But it is possible that Djarada conspired with the djinn from the beginning, to avenge her slain father.

Solomon went from house to house claiming to be the king of Israel, but people laughed at him. One housewife took pity on his delusion & gave him a plate of parched barley, but no one else paid him any attention [Ruth Rabbah 5:6; Eccl-Rabbah 2:2]. As he ate the barley, he wept at such irony, saying, "This is my portion from all my labor" [Eccl 2:10] when formerly his provisions for a single day consisted of thirty measures of fine flour, sixty of meal, ten fat oxen, twenty cattle, a hundred sheep, besides harts, gazelles, roebucks & fatted foul [1 Ki 4:22-23].

In those better days, so much was made for him to eat because all is wives prepared him meals, each hoping it was she that would receive him in the evening [Eccl-R 9:11.1]. But now here he had only a plate of mashed beans or barley, from a housewife who had wacked him on the head for claiming to be king of Israel.

Ashmodai threw Solomon's seal into the ocean, for the name of God upon it burned the fingers. While he was pretending to be king, he never removed his stockings, for he could not disguise his demonic feet, which were either hairy, or like a chicken's.

He would go to Solomon's wives, wearing stockings, & lay with them when they were menstruant. He even called for Bathsheba, but she would not lay with him, but set before him the name of God, so that he fled from Bathsheba's radiance [b. Gittin 68b].

Solomon and ShulamitAccording to the Midrash Tanumah, the first of Solomon's wives to uncover Ashmodai's masquerade was Topos. The majority of Solomon's court was continuously fooled.

The Jerusalem Talmud, however, says it was an angel of heaven, & not a demon, who took Solomon's throne, while Solomon wandered in chastized circumstance. It had been angels of God who gave Solomon his power over demons & demonesses. So when he worshipped foreign gods for the sake of his wives, it was angels of God who took away his power to command demons & demonesses.

In his misery, Solomon fled to the land of Amon, where he served as chief cook & bottlewasher for the Amonite king & queen, seething whenever he thought of his riches "lost in a bad venture"Ý[Eccl 5:14] or whenever he pondered the demon who usurped his wealth, possessions, & honor [6:2].

While he struggled for no further gain than to eat [5:12], Princess Naamah noticed his suffering, & fell in love with him. Her mother & father were outraged that their daughter desired to marry a kitchen worker. They exiled her from Amon, along with Solomon. Yet they were happy, & Solomon said, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil" [4:12] & "If two lie together, they are warm" [4:13].

After numerous shared adventures, Naamah found Solomon's signet ring in the belly of a fish she was preparing for their repast (an almost identical legend occurs also in Indic mythology). By the seal on the ring, Solomon was restored to his throne. He cast out Djarada as a betrayer or a fool, & made Naamah his co-ruler seated beside him in her own throne [Bet ha-Midrash II:86-87; Midrash Tehillim 78:12].

However, Solomon never entirely overcame his fear of the demons & demonesses that had once been his to command by the power of the Seal. He worried that creatures of darkness would come against him as he slept, & so built a special bed, stationing three-score armed men around it [Song of Solomon 3:7], convinced as he was that he would be attacked by "the Dread (Pahad) of the night" [3:8]. Pahad of the Night was a title for the fierce charioteer & night-demoness Agrath, who is called "the Terror (Pahad) that walketh by night" [Ps 91:5; Numbers Rabbah 12:3].


Part III:
Origin: Emblem of the Mother Goddess
Solomon's Seal or the Star of David originally signified a Goddess akin to Ishtar or Anath. She may have been worshipped by the name Megiddo, which means "Her Eminance" or "Fruitful Lady" or "Mountain Mistress" or "Towering Lady." In Palmyrene inscriptions, Iddo, "Mistress" or "Lovely," occurs as a personal name, which is the feminine counterpart of the Syria God Haddu (Adu) known to the Hebrews as Hadad (Adon), "Lord." Baal Hadad's sister-consort was Anath, the Syriac Athena, & Megiddo must have greatly resembled Anath.

AnathIsaiah said that Megiddo's mountain was the "mount of congregation" ruled by "the son of the Morning Star" [Isa 14:12-14], this star being the same as the Star of David or Solomon's Seal.

Pagan divinities gathered at Megiddo's mountain in obeisance to Her, hence in rival cults Megiddo's mountain was called Armageddon, where the armies of the Antichrist gather in preparation for their battle with the armies of the Christ [Rv 16:16].

Among ivory carvings found by archeologists at the ruins of Megiddo was one of a slender nude woman with queenly headdress, & another of a robed woman. The robed woman carries an oversized staff of authority. Her large eyes are inset with glass & she is distinctly smiling, as though blessing those who gaze on her. She shows an Egyptian influence, somewhat resembling Isis. This would seem to be the original Megiddo, before she became a symbol of Doom & Armageddon at the end of time; although, like Kali, she may always have been as much the mark of the end of time as she had been the mark of the beginning of time.

The earliest Star of Davids discovered by archeologiests have come from Megiddo & Gibeon, where unique temple configurations were found to be held in common. The Gibeon Star of David occurs on a woman's cook-pot, & within it is a pictograph of a hen, while the Megiddo example is on a monument. This star, as a symbol of Megiddo's presence, may for the most part have been drawn with red paint as a devotional offering. This would explain why so few Star of Davids survive from greater antiquity, the paint having washed away with time. Indeed, until these two stars were discovered, it was commonly believed not to have been an ancient symbol.

It is easy to imagine that these painted stars, in a later age when Megiddo was no longer widely known as a Goddess, were reinterpreted as Solomon Seals, painted in pagan places by Solomon himself in order to seal in the demons that had once been the gods & goddesses symbolized by just such star-symbols.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Puffballs

Puffballs at Mequon Nature Center Pictures, Images and Photos
Puffball (or Puff Ball) funguses are examples of "gastromycetes" (literally "stomach fungi") which completely enclose their spores. These start out as dense flattened mushrooms with no stem visible above ground. When they are ripe, the outer skin becomes papery, the interior dries out so that the whole round fungus is lighter than paper, & it lets go of its rooting so that it can blow about releasing spores from the hole that bursts open at the top and secondarily at the bottom where it was formerly attached to the ground.
puffballs 07 Pictures, Images and Photos

The species name means "pear-shaped." The genus name translates "Wolf" (Lyco) & "burst of wind" (perdon), so that Nancy Smith Weber's mushroom field guide says it means, "Wind of the Wolf." A better translation is "Wolf Fart Pears," & some people do indeed call any fungus of the Lycoperdon genus "wolf-farts."

Shown above in an August photo are young Lycoperdon pyriforme Wolf-fart Pears underneath a Pin Oak. A larger species occasionally encountered is L. gigantea which ripen into puffballs as big as footballs. But most often seen in Pacific Northwest gardens is L. pyriforme, usually only an inch or two round at maturity.

Puffballs will spew a cloud of spores if tramped by animals or picked up & squeezed by curious & delighted children. A childrens' myth holds that if you breathe the spores of a puffball, you'll turn into one, or mushrooms will grow inside you. Kids' instincts are correct in assuming danger, as the spores are indeed potentially harmful. The spores in the lungs can cause respiratory distress & even germinate as far as the hypae stage, fortunately treatable with fungicidal medication. Also, if they are eaten once they begin to reach the spore stage, they can be very mildly poisonous. The additional child belief that getting spores in your eyes causes blindness is untrue, but it wouldn't be very comfortable either.

Horror-story mushroom myths shared between smaller children has the benefit of protecting them from accidents, but the myths teenagers come up with put them in the way of harm. The same sorts of young adults naive enough to believe baked banana skins are a good substitute for marijuana are also naive enough to believe the spores of puffballs are hallucinogenic if breathed into the lungs, a notion that has no basis in reality. An incident from Wisconsin involved kids breathing so many spores so deeply that they indeed germinated in the lungs, requiring hospitalization.

Puffballs are edible when young & when still fleshy-white within, though inedible once they've darkened & begun to go to spoor. When cut open, the gleba (interior) must not have any sign of yellow, brown, purple, or anything but fleshy whiteness. It should be regarded as toxic if it is any other color than white. The Giant Puffball can be sliced, breaded, & fried. Smaller species can be used like any other edible mushroom for any number of purposes. Unlike other mushrooms, however, they are nearly impossible to keep fresh longer than a day, as the toxic spoors will quickly develop inside them, & freezing destroys their taste. This is why they have no commercial marketability, but they are quite the delicacy when used immediately. Freeze-drying is the only way they might be kept any length of time.
Puffballs, Peeled and Sliced Pictures, Images and Photos

They are considered among the safest choices for beginner mushroom hunters as nothing looks exactly like them that is poisonous. The major proviso is they must be used while still white within, though even when they go to spore they are only mildly toxic increasing their safety factor for beginners. At such a stage they are the closest thing one can have to French truffles without the great expense of true truffles. However, the thick-skinned varieties of puffballs called Sclerodermas are outright poisonous once they begin to change color, & have been implicated at least in the death of small pigs.

Although us amateurs would be taking very few risks in selecting white-fleshed puffballs for feast, I regard myself as a bit too amateur & not certain I would never mistake a Scleroderma for a Puffball. I would only harvest them to eat if a friend well versed in mycology was with me that day, but I've heard enough of "the horror stories" to be paranoid about gathering fungus for the table. Paranoia aside, puffballs are an extremely safe choice just so long as one uses nothing puffball-like that is thickskinned, stemmed, or any color within other than white.

Puffballs can appear in the same place year after year, usually under a tree, with oaks a favorite. There is a mycelial mass underground which is the main body of this fungus, which goes unseen; the fungus is only visible in late summer or early autumn when it produces the above-ground fruiting bodies which are the part known as puffballs or wolf-farts. The mycelial mass can reach downward several feet, & sometimes grows into a wide circle many feet around, which causes seasonal "fairy rings" to erupt in woodland areas & sometimes in lawns.

Although the puffballs can persist in a given location for several years running, as a rule the underground mass uses up the decaying matter & will need to migrate into a new area or else die out. When they form fairy rings, the ring can appear to be moving further away from a central point each year, as it uses up the decayed matter in the center of the ring then moves outward.

Puffballs are one of the least worrisome mushrooms to pop up around the bases of oaks or other trees. If one sees fan-shaped mushrooms or stringy funguses or little golden toadstools at the base of trees, one might be more concerned with the possibility of a pathogenic root fungus, but puffballs are harmless to a living host tree. Indeed, its presence often means that the array of beneficial mycorrhizae is extremely healthy for that tree, turning decaying matter into nutrients useful to trees & shrubs.

PUFFBALL RECIPES

Puffball Escargots

From the Oregon Mycological Society’ 1987 edition of Wild Mushroom Cookery

1 dozen Lycoperdon perlatum or pyriforme
cup butter, softened
2 TBSP minced shallots
2 Cloves garlic, crushed
1 TBSP bread crumbs
1 TBSP minced fresh parsley
tsp. salt
tsp. rosemary
Fresh ground pepper
Dry sherry

Slice off bottom of each mushroom and scoop out the center. Chop and blend with butter. Mix in remaining ingredients and stuff mixture into the hollowed out shells, drizzling a few drops of sherry onto the top of each. Place in a baking pan in one layer and bake at 400 or broil until browned and sizzling. Serve hot as an appetizer.

Stuffed Giant Puffball Mushrooms

Ingredients

* 1 white giant puffball
* 1 or 2 courgettes, depending on size, chopped
* 2 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
* 1 handful parsley, chopped
* 1 slice ham, chopped
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 6 tomatoes, chopped
* 1 handful basil, torn up
* 1 tsp thyme leaves
* 1 clove garlic, crushed
* 1 tbsp oatmeal

Method

1. Cut one end off the puffball and scrap the inside, carefully. Chop up the scrapings.
2. Mix all the ingredients together with the scrappings and stuff the mixture back into the puffball. Cover the puffball with the cut end and wrap it in foil. Place in a roasting tray.
3. Place the stuffed puffball mushroom in the oven at 180 degrees and bake for about 2 hours.
4. Slice and serve with vegetables.
Puffballs Pictures, Images and Photos

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fall Foraging



As always, summer seems to be coming to an end far too quickly. Already the turning point of the year is upon us. Though we might welcome the cooling down of summer's heat, and while still being blessed with warm pleasant days, that cool whiff of autumn is unquestionably in the air. With it comes just a twinge of melancholy, after the rupture of vital summer energy, the flowers are setting seeds, the fruits are ripening and the leaves are beginning to turn colors. I love this time of the year. It always seems to me as though the leaves and fruit had soaked up all that sun-power, and now the light and warmth has turned to sweetness and color, painted on all the colorful leaves and stored in the sweet delicious juices of the ripening fruits.

From the foraging point of view it is another season of lavish pickings before the harvesting year is coming pretty much to an end. A couple more months and we'll be at those jars of canned and pickled goodies or forage around in the ice-box for frozen goodies preserved from the summers gifts. But for now there is still more picking to do.
mushrooms Pictures, Images and Photos

Right now the greatest foraging treasure are mushrooms. And, for those who hunt, the game season has started, too. I prefer the mushrooms. It is difficult to generalize about these incredibly varied creatures though, as they are very ecosystem specific. Also, positive identification is absolutely crucial when it comes to fungi, as many species are inedible or worse, deadly poisonous. If you don't know them well yourself, it is best to get acquainted with them under the guidance of a knowledgeable mushroom connoisseur.

nuts and seeds Pictures, Images and Photos
The other mainstays of the season are nuts and seeds. Seeds come in many different shades and sizes and offer a surprising variety of culinary experiences. The seeds of the mustard family herbs for example, such as shepherds purse, garlic mustard, horseradish etc. can be collected and used as a kind of home-grown pepper. They add a nice little twang to any dish without being too overpowering.

Fennel and Dill seeds can be collected and dried for a sweet aromatic flavoring that goes well with fish. The seeds of the umbellifer family tend to be rich in essential oils and often make very tasty spices that can be added to flavored vinegars and oils or pickles.

nuts (12K)Acorns and sweet chestnuts are also getting ready. Acorns are an acquired taste though. Most people find them too bitter. There are techniques for leeching out the bitter component by boiling them with a couple of changes of water. Acorn flour is quite nutritious and can be good when mixed with other flours to add a peculiar nutty flavor to muffins or pancake mixes. There are tons of different species of oak though, and some are definitely more palatable than others. Before loading your bags, you might want to experiment with just a few to see if you like the taste.

As for the sweet chestnuts - don't mistake them with horse chestnuts, which are not edible. Sweet chestnuts have a very prickly coat that protects them quite effectively. Though they look tempting on the forest floor it is best to wait for another month before actually picking them. The first nuts tend to be small and unripe. Their prickly skins don't come off easily and they can be painful to pick. For sweet chestnuts and walnuts I always wait until their outer skins come off by themselves and I just have to pick the nuts. This also avoids black stained hands and finger nails which usually result from picking off green walnut skins.

You might be lucky enough to have edible pine nuts in your area. They are delightful when gathered fresh - and more so when considering their price at the store! However, picking and shelling them makes one realize why they are so expensive. Often birds and squirrels get to the booty quicker and all that is left are the rotten ones - which however is not obvious until one takes the trouble of cracking them, and cracking them IS tedious! (If anybody has come up with a simple method, please let me know)
Elderberry Pictures, Images and Photos

Elderberries and Blackberries are definitely ripe and ready now and these late berries tend to be sweeter than the early ones. Their high sugar content makes them ideal for making home made wine. Also, if you haven't done so already, stock up with Elderberry cordial - you will be glad you did when the season for colds comes round and this vitamin boost is there to help you through those sniffly times.

Autumn is also the time for harvesting roots. Make sure you only pick those whose supply is plentiful and whose survival will not be threatened by your pickings. Dandelion is a pretty safe pick. It usually grows abundantly and can regenerate even from small pieces of roots left in the ground. Horseradish is also often rather abundant, though digging up the root can be hard work. Other species that might be locally abundant are Parsnip, Inula, Burdock, Evening Primrose and Chichory. Roasted Dandelion roots make a good coffee. The autumn roots tend to be a little sweeter than the spring ones due to their higher inulin content. These can be used in stews and stir fries. The more experimentally minded forager might also try their hand at making Dandelion and Burdock cordial, or brew a beer or wine with them. These types of beverages cannot be compared to what we normally associate with these terms, but they certainly make interesting and unusual nips that, in moderation, can even be regarded as healthy tonics.
friday Pictures, Images and Photos

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Stinging Nettle"

Nettle Pictures, Images and Photos
A surprising feature of herbal research is that it is seldom the rare, exotic, and beautiful plant that proves the most interesting; more often it is some common, familiar, and despised weed that it discovered to have undreamed of virtues. The common nettle is a good illustration.

Nearly everyone who has ever run barefoot as a child knows and hates this plant, but it is only a stinging acquaintance.

Nettles are common along roadsides, in waste places, and on vacant lots where barefoot children like to play, and when contacted by a bare ankle it causes a painful smarting followed by a red rash.

"All some want to know about nettles is how to get rid of them." This is the attitude that most people have toward this herb.

And yet, this detested weed is one of the finest and most nutritious foods in the whole plant kingdom. Unlike many health foods, nettle greens are really good, as well as being good for you.

In addition to their good taste, nettles are rich in vitamins A and C, amazingly high in protein, filled with chlorophyll, and probably exceedingly rich in many of the essential trace minerals.

No grazing animal will eat a live nettle, but when nettles are mowed and dried, all kinds of livestock eat them avidly and thrive on them. Horses get shinier coats and improve in health when fed dried nettles. Cows give more and richer milk when fed on nettle hay. Hens lay more eggs when powdered nettle leaves are added to their mash, and these eggs actually have a higher food value. Even the manure from nettle-fed animals is improved, and makes better fertilizer.
Stinging Nettle Pictures, Images and Photos

Nettles furnish one of the most valuable of all plant substances to use as a mulch in your garden, or to add to your compost pile. Having approximately seven percent nitrogen, figured on a dry-weight basis, this plant is richer in this essential nutrient than many commercial fertilizers.
Nettles are covered with tiny, nearly invisible stinging hairs that produce an intense, stinging pain, followed redness and skin irritation. The generic name comes from the Latin word, "uro," which means "I burn." Nevertheless, they're superb, non-stinging, cooked vegetables.

Nettles usually appear in the same places year after year. Look for them in rich soil, disturbed habitats, moist woodlands, thickets, along rivers, and along partially shaded trails.

They grow throughout most of the United States Here are a few of the most common species: Stinging nettle's (Urtica dioica) rather stout, ribbed, hollow stem grows 2-4 feet tall. The somewhat oval, long-stalked, dark green, opposite leaves are a few inches long, with a rough, papery texture, and very coarse teeth. The leaf tip is pointed, and its base is heart-shaped.
stinging nettle Pictures, Images and Photos

This is a dioecious plant, with male and female flowers growing on separate plants. The species name, dioica, means "two households" in Greek: By late spring, some plants have clusters of tiny, green female flowers, hanging from the leaf axils in paired strands.
You can eat the stems as well as the leaves of the very young plant.Collect nettle leaves before they flower in spring. They may be bad for the kidneys after they flower. New nettles come up in the fall, and you can pick them before they're killed by frost.

People have been using nettles for food, medicine, fiber, and dyes since the Bronze Age. Collect them using work gloves, and wear a long-sleeved shirt. If you happen upon nettles when you have no gloves, put your hand inside a bag. The young leaves are the best part of the plant. They come off most easily if you strip them counter-intuitively, from the top down.


Clean and chop nettles wearing rubber gloves. Once youíve cooked them a little, the stingers are deactivated, and the plant becomes wonderfully edible.

Nettles have a bad reputation as an unpleasant-tasting survival food in some circles. That's because people don't know how to prepare them. They often boil them, which is awful. Nettle leaves are good simmered in soups 5-10 minutes, but my favorite method is the waterless steaming method, recommended for spinach in a 1699 cookbook by John Evelyn, and described in the cooking section.
Enjoy nettles as a vegetable side-dish with rice and beans. Sometimes I make creamed nettlesómuch more satisfying than creamed spinach. Because nettles have the richest, hardiest taste of any green,you can combine them with lighter ingredients, such as celery, zucchini, lemon juice, or tomato sauce.
Dry nettles for winter use and tea.

As food, this tonic is good for rebuilding the system of chronically ill people. Nineteenth century literature is full of so-called constitutionally weak people, who usually die on the last page. In Russia, they were given freshly squeezed nettle juiceóa tonic loaded with iron and other nutrientsófor iron-deficiency anemia. This often worked.

Many of the benefits are due to the plant's very high levels of minerals, especially, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulfur. They also provide chlorophyll and tannin, and they're a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and B complex vitamins. Nettles also have high levels of easily absorbable amino acids. They're ten percent protein, more than any other vegetable.

The substances in the stingers have medicinal uses: In the late 1980s, scientists studying the differences between dried and freeze-dried herbs accidentally discovered that freeze-dried nettles cured one of the researcher's hay-fever. Subsequently, a randomized double-blind study at the National College of naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon showed that 58 percent of hay-fever sufferers given freeze-dried nettles rated it moderately to highly effective. Nettles are a traditional food for people with allergies.
Velika kopriva - Stinging nettle - Brennnessel - Ortiga (Urtica dioica) Pictures, Images and Photos

Nettles sting you because the hairs are filled with formic acid, histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine), plus unknown compounds. Some of these substances are destroyed by cooking, steeping, or drying, but not by freeze-drying or juicing. Unfortunately, you need a vacuum chamber to freeze-dry herbs. However, you can purchase freeze-dried nettles in capsules for hay-fever.

As an expectorant, it's recommended for asthma, mucus conditions of the lungs, and chronic coughs. Nettle tincture is also used for flu, colds, bronchitis and pneumonia.

Nettle infusion is a safe, gentle diureticóconsidered a restorative for the kidneys and bladder, and used for cystitis and nephritis. It ís also recommended for weight loss, but you may shed more pounds of water than fat.
Nettle Tea Blue Pot Pictures, Images and Photos

Nettle tea compress or finely powdered dried nettles are also good for wounds, cuts, stings, and burns. The infusion was also used internally to stop excessive menstruation, bleeding from hemorrhages, bloody coughs, nose bleeds, and bloody urine. It helps blood clot, but major bleeding is dangerousóindicative of a serious underlying condition. Consult a competent practitioner in such cases. Use for minor cuts.

Other uses include treating gout, glandular diseases, poor circulation, enlarged spleen, diarrhea, and dysentery, worms, intestinal and colon disorders, and hemorrhoids. Nettles are usually used along with other herbs that target the affected organs.

German researchers are using nettle root extracts for prostate cancer, and Russian scientists are experimenting with nettle leaf tincture for hepatitis and gall bladder inflammation.

Eating nettles or drinking the tea makes your hair brighter, thicker and shinier, and makes your skin clearer and healthierógood for eczema and other skin conditions. Commercial hair- and skin care products in health food stores often list stinging nettle as an ingredient. Nettles have cleansing and antiseptic properties, so the tea is also good in facial steams and rinses.

Nettles' long, fibrous stems were important in Europe for weaving, cloth-making, cordage, and even paper. Native Americans used them for embroidery, fish nets, and other crafts. You can even extract a yellow die from the roots.

Nettle Tea Pictures, Images and Photos
Nettle tea is given to house plants to help them grow, but the strangest use I've ever heard is for severe arthritis. You must whip the victim over most of the body until an extensive rash develops. This flagellation or "urtication" may stimulate the weak organs, muscles, nerves and lymphatic system, and increase circulation. Or it may cause so much pain, the victim forgets about the arthritis.



Old-Time Herbal Remedy

All this would seem enough to ask of one common weed, but in addition to these virtues, nettles have also long been used in home remedies and herbal medicines to treat mankind's ills. Any efficacy the nettle may have in this area is probably due to its high content of vitamins and minerals.

A lively soft drink can be made of nettles that is reputed to cure the aches and pains of the aged, but it also makes a pleasant beverage for people of all ages. Eating nettles is not at all the unpleasant experience you might expect it to be, for this plant, when gathered at the right stage and properly prepared, is a very palatable vegetable. It is said that a good French cook can make seven delicious dishes of nettle tops. You can do as well, once the general principles of nettle-cookery are known.



Nettle Greens: Gather Only Early in Season

Like asparagus, peas, and many other vegetables, nettles must be gathered at just the right stage to be good. The common nettle has perennial underground rhizomes, and from these the tender shoots spring up as soon as the weather is warm. It is only these first nettles, gathered when less than a foot high, that are good to eat.

Take only the tender tops of young, first-growth nettles, before they begin to bloom. Wear leather or plastic-coated work gloves while gathering nettles. Wash the greens by stirring them in water with a long-handled spoon, then use a pair of kitchen-tongs to put them directly into a large saucepan with a tight cover. The moisture that clings to the leaves will furnish ample cooking water. Cover and cook gently for twenty minutes; drain, but save that juice.

You can chop the greens right in the cooking pot by using a pair of kitchen shears. Season the vegetable with butter and salt to taste, and it is ready to serve. A more wholesome vegetable never came to the table. Cooking completely destroys the nettles' stinging properties, and actually converts the venom into wholesome food.

Creamed or Pureed Nettles

Mix the cooked and chopped greens, 2 cupfuls, with a small can of cream of mushroom soup (or cream of celery, or cheese soup) and 1/2 cup of light cream for a superior creamed vegetable, wonderful over toast.

For pureed nettles, rub the cooked nettles, juice and all, through a sieve; return this puree to the heat, add 2 tablespoons of butter, salt to taste, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in a few tablespoons of light cream, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, and serve immediately.

Nettle Pudding

An old English recipe is nettle pudding, which is not a dessert but a hearty main dish. To 2 cups of cooked and chopped nettle greens add 1 cup chopped leek or onion, 1 cup chopped broccoli, 1 cup raw rice, 1 cup ground beef, and 1/2 cup fine-chopped beef suet. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and a little freshly ground black pepper, mix well, then tie the mixture up in a muslin cloth that has been wrung out in cold water. Drop into boiling water and boil for 1 hour, or hang over boiling water and steam for 3 hours. When you remove the pudding cloth, you will have a round cannonball of a pudding that is delicious when served with a good gravy or melted butter.

Nettle Soup, Juice & Beer

Let's return to that juice we drained from the cooked nettles. Just seasoned with a little salt and pepper and a little vinegar, it makes a tasty soup that is supposed to be very efficacious in removing unwanted pounds. Mixed with a little honey it is said to relieve asthma, allay a cough, and help cure bronchitis. Taken as hot as you can take it, after exposure, this juice has a reputation of helping to prevent colds.

This same juice, cooled, is said to be a fine hair tonic. Applied twice a day it is reputed to prevent falling hair, eliminate dandruff, promote a healthy scalp, and help keep the hair neatly combed.

In some parts of England the country people still make a pleasant summer drink called nettle beer. To 4 quarts of freshly picked nettle tops add 2 gallons of water, 2 lemons cut in thin slices, rind and all, and 2 ounces of crushed, dried gingerroot. Boil gently for forty minutes, then strain and stir in 2 cups of brown sugar. When cooled to barely lukewarm, dissolve a cake of yeast in a cup of the liquid and then stir it into the brew. Bottle immediately and cap tightly, and in a few days it is ready to drink. It should be refrigerated until ice-cold before opening, for this is a lively drink and will foam wildly if opened while warm. Since it has no detectable alcoholic content it can be given to the whole family.
Urtica dioica Pictures, Images and Photos