Summer flavor – Wild Thyme

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A violet, fragrant field appears as I walk along the gravel road along the coast of Gotland. The air is filled with the smell of ocean, wild strawberries and Wild Thyme, Thymus Serpyllum. Bees, butterflies and bumblebees are humming in extacy, thrilled by the nectar of the violet flowers. Their scent is warm, spicy, aromatic and earthy. I tend to hum along with the bees from sheer happiness.

 

As opposed to cultivated thyme, Thymus vulgaris, which can grow up to 15-20 centimeters tall, this wild one stays close to the ground. The stems rarely grow taller than ten centimeters. They get purple/violet flowers that grow like a wreath around the stem. Leaves are egg-shaped, small and almost hairy on the bottom.

Wild Thyme
Wild Thyme
Happy Bumble Bee
Happy Bumble Bee

Wild thyme grows abundantly here in Gotland, which is a rocky island with lots of lime in the soil .It’s actually rather common all over Sweden, and thrives where the ground is dry and rocky.

If you find it, bring home a handful to put in a salad, make an infusion or why not an aromatic herbal salt that goes with anything.

Today I was inspired to make a salad from fresh strawberries (that I fried with a little butter!), just harvested lettuce from a nearby organic farm, fresh basil and feta cheese, sprinkled with Wild Thyme flowers. I love summer food.

Goes very nicely with Wild Strawberries too…

Todays dessert.
Todays dessert.

More uses:

– Infusion – just bring water to boil with a few sprigs of Wild Thyme. Turn off the heat. Drink hot or cold.

– Put some flowers in a jug of water and serve as a tasty beverage with food.

– Make strawberry jam spiced with Thyme flowers.

– Let strawberries and peaches soak in a syrup made from Wild Thyme flowers.

– Sprinkle flowers over a salad or any other dish.

– Mix flowers with warm lentils. Serve with olive oil.

– Grilling a whole fish? Fill it with lemon and Thyme flowers.

Mix Thyme Flowers with butter and eat on fresh corn on the cob. Or any other vegetable for that matter.

Add some flowers in the pan when stirfrying veggies or meat.

Put a bunch of flowers in a jar together with fine seasalt to use as an aromatic salt in hte winter.

Thyme is not just delicious, it also has medicinal properties: antibacterial, warming, stimulates blood cirkulation, calming, and good to treat a cold with.

 

That’s all folks,

Lisen

 

Chicory, great for the liver!

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Chicory, (Cicorium Intybus)

It pops up among the tall grass like a beautiful, coboltblue eye. Maybe it is an eye that watches over its companions in meadows and roadsides where it lokes to grow. Chicory can stretch its stem up to one meter high, and has blue flowers attached here and there directly to the stem.

Ängens öga
The eye of the field

Chicory is known for its bitter flavor. An aquired taste that I cannot recommend enough. In the West we eat WAY too much salt and sugar, and what good does that do us? Nothing! Eat bitters! Your digestion and liver will thank you with standing ovations and better health. Chicory is a great start if you’re not used to it. Blanch the leaves and serve with shallots and chili for example – as a side dish, with pasta, lentils or with whatever you feel appropriate.

 

Cikoria
Chicory

The most common use through the ages is to prepare a bitter beverage from the root, often used as a coffee substitute. The powder can be bought commercially or you make your own. Just dig up the roots in the fall, clean and chop them. Roast on low heat in oven until dry, mix them to a powder in a blender and there you are: Chicory coffee. It’s got a nice, earthy flavor and a worthy substitute for coffee and so much better for your health.

 

 

Bambu, god Cikoria dryck
Bambu, instant Chicory beverage

Speaking of health: Chikory is mostly used to tone the liver and digestion, and is known to be an efficient laxative and diuretic.

Make a tincture (alchohol extract) from the root, or drink the beverage mentioned above on a daily basis.

I’m in Gotland, an Island in Sweden known for its pebbled beaches, RAUKAR and sunshine. So I stop writing here – the ocean is waiting!

 

Lisen

 

 

Hav
Hav

Lisen

Roses are red

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Roses. A rose is a rose is a rose and yet…so much more than just a rose. There is something over-wordly about this Queen of Flowers. They awaken our lust, passion, greed for more. Our senses become alert to touch, scent, flavor… They just make us want more. If we have one rose in the garden we want more, if we love somebody, we don’t just give them ONE rose – a whole bunch says more. if we smell one rose we are eager to move forward to the next, abandoning all else. We love the scent, shape and colors. I was reminded of this when I was in Gothenburg, invited as a guest speaker at Trädgårdsföreningen, http://www.tradgardsforeningen.se/wps/portal/tradgardsf/rosariet They have one of the greatest Rose collections in Europe. Waching the crowds (7 000 people in one day!) sniffing, enjoying, buying and devouring roses.

My job here was to speak about how we can use roses in our every day lives for food, health and beauty. Here are the recipes I shared.

 

Ros Foto Lisen SundgrenRos Foto Lisen Sundgren
Ros 4

The most common question I get is whether you can use all roses. Yes, you can, with the exception of stem roses that are so heavily sprayed that they’d be considered toxic! Also don’t pick roses in parks where they may be sprayed.  My favorites are the wild roses.

So, recipes, here we go.

Roses for the skin. This Queen of Flowers has many healing properties, such as: cooling, astringent, rehydrating, antibacterial, antiinflammatory, rejuvenating and softening. Suitable for most skin types.

Facial water                                                                                                                                                                                                                You can buy Rosewater and use as it is as a facial water that is cleansing and cooling. Or make your own, it’s very simple. You put a handful of Rose petals in a pot with water. Bring to boil, turn off the heat, put on a lid and leave until the water has cooled. Remove flowers and use to moisten the face. Or make a large batch and pour it in the bathtub for a fragrant bath.

Facial mask

A cooling, astringent and rejuvenating facial mask that feels great after a day in the sun.

1 eggwhite

1 dl brown rice flour or white clay (or both, mixed)

1 handful fresh or dried Rose petals

Rosewater – buy or make your own, see recipe above

Mix the egg white, flour and the roses in a blender. Add more liquid if to desired texture. The paste should be easy to apply on the skin. Apply on face and neck. Leave for 20 minuter. Rinse off.

rosenmask copy
Rose facial mask Photo: Anna Emilia Lundgren

Rosy Body Scrub

A pink salt scrub that will make the skin on your body as soft as a Rose petal. Not recommended for the face.

5 deciliters fine seasalt

2,5 deciliter organic, coldpressed vegetable oil. I like almond or sunflower.

2 handfuls of fresh Rose petals

1 teaspoon lemon zest

For extra luxury: add 3-4 strawberries

Mix all ingredients. Put the scrub in a dry, clean glass jar. The scrub is great to soften skin, remove dead skincells, increas cirkulation and to soften hands and feet.

Use: take a shower or a bath, massage the scrub into your body. Rinse off. No need to use body lotion after since the skin will have absorbed the lovely oils.The scrub will hold at least 6 months in room temperature.

Facial Rose Oil

1 deciliter almond-, or jojobaoil

5 drops essential rose oil (organic)

Pour the oil in a bottle, add the essential oil.

Use: shake the bottle and pour a few drops on your fingers. Massage inte face and neck.

Eating roses

Roses are in the West most commonly used for sweets, but let yourself be inspired by the Middle Eastern kitchen and enjoy them in savory dishes and beverages too! Just sprinkle a few petals over a salad, on a sandwich or mix them in a smoothie. The flavor is sweet, acrid and a bit bitter. To reduce the bitterness, remove the white area at the bottom of the petal.

Add Rose petals to the dough when baking, use them dried in porridge or muesli. Boil rice or potatoes in Rosewater, make a Rose Ice Cream…the Roses know no boundaries…

Other flavors that go with Rose to get you going: Cardamon, lemon, basil, almond, chicken, fish, chocolate, coffee, cucumber, orange, saffron, pistachio and hazelnuts.

Varsågoda, här kommer recepten:

Rose salt

Mix fine seasalt with a handful of fresh Rose petals. Put the salt in a dry, clean glass jar. Store the salt in a dark, cool space and it will maintain flavor and color at least a year. Great with fish, chicken, eggs and any green vegetables.

Rose salt with water melon and rosewater is nothing less than outstanding. I invented this dish on stage, where I happened to have water melon within reach: slice a water melon, add Rosewater over it and sprinkle som Rose salt. If you’re hungry, add feta cheese, strawberries, cherry tomatoes and basil.

 

Ros, rosenvatten, vattenmelon och rosensalt

Rose lassi

1 handful fresh Rosepetals

1,5 dl Rosewater

2 deciliters Turkish yoghurt

a pinch of cardamon OR saffron

a few ice cubes

Rosensmoothie i görningen.
Making Rose Smoothie

Mix, drink, enjoy.

Roosensmoothie svalkar en varm dag.
Very cooling on a hot day. Remember it is an aphrodisiac : )
Rosenlassi är bra för kärleken Foto Lisen Sundgren
Rose lassi is good for you, cheers!

Some kind of Rose pesto

2 deciliters roasted almonds (also members of the Rose family))

1 handful of fresh Rose petals

1 deciliters grated coconut

A mild vegetable oil – like almond, sesame or sunflower oil

Rosenpesto
Rose pesto on lettuce

Chop the almond and Rose petals. Mix in a bowl with oil and coconut. Add salt to taste. Mix all ingredients. Serve with fish, curries, veggies or…anywhere you find fitting.

Crazy Rose Candy

This recipe was invented for the occaion in Gothenburg – maken any variety you like.

1 jar almond paste

1- 2 deciliters honey

2-3 deciliter cocoa powder

4 deciliters grated coconut

a handful dried strawberries

a handful dried raspberries

2 deciliters buckwheat flakes

1 tablespoon ground coffee beans

½ deciliter Rosewater

Mix all ingredient (save half the coconut and rosepetals for later in a bowl to make a paste that is easy to shape. If it is too loose, just add more cocoa(never be shy about chocolate!) and buckwheat flakes.

Galna Rosbollar
Crazy rosecandy

On a tray, spread out the rest of the grated coconuts and chopped Rosepetals. Shape the paste into balls. Eat. Should there, for some reason, be some left, they will hold for at least a week. How long exactly I don’t know…I consume them too fast.

Hallon från Saltå Kvarn
Dried Raspberries

 

And finally – Roses for health: I am convinced, that indulgence, delight is the greatest medicine. And I mean the simple things, enjoying small things in everyday life. Finding beauty in every day life, using a nice scent to smell good, enjoying the hell out of your morning coffee. Roses are great for this – make a body oil with rose to brighten up the morning, drink a cup of Rose infusion to calm down the senses and become more present and appreciative, or just put a bunch of Rose petals in the bathtub and see how that affects your mood.

On top of this, the Rose is considered to be an antidepressant, aphrodisiac, harmonizing, strengthening for the nervous system, calming, good for the intestinal flora, a mild laxative, diuretic, nourishing, antibacterial and antiinflammatory. So there is every reason to enjoy a Rose infusion, bath or scent every single day.

Rose Infusion

All you need for this is a few Rose petals, hot water and a tea pot.

 

Put the petals in a teapot, add the hot water and wait a few minutes. Drink to your health.

 

Rose hips, the fruit of Rose, are wonderful, I will write more about them when they are in season.

Stay good, Lisen

Fotbad med Rosor Foto Anna Emilia Lundgren
Foot bath with roses Photo Anna Emilia Lundgren

 

Sweet Queen of the Meadow

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Filipendula ulmaria, Meadowsweet, the Queen of the Meadow, is now in full bloom, showing itself off in all its glory. You can’t miss it if it grows in your hood. Follow the trail of happy bees that aim for the fragrant flowers to enjoy their delicious nectar. The flowers are graceful, creamy white clusters and has a strong scent. They will flower from now until early autumn in meadows and on roadsides. It can grow up to 1,5 meters tall.

The taste and scent reminds a bit of bitter almond and salicylic acid. No wonder, because it contains just that, the acid, also known as spirea oil.

Another feature are the leaves – they are dark green on the upper side and more white and downy underneath. They are divided, interruptedly pinnate, with large serrate leaflets and small intermediate ones. The stem and young leaves can be reddish.

 

Älgört
Queen of the Meadow

In former days, Meadowsweet  was used to flavor beer and mead. Perhaps not something we do today but try making a lemonade (use a recipe for Elderflower lemonade and use the Meadowsweet instead). Use this lemonade as it is or to pirk up summer drinks, coctails or even to marinate strawberries. Yum.

Meadowsweet in cooking?

In “The wild kitchen” (“Det Vilda Köket” ), a book I wrote with chef Rune Kalf-Hansen, Rune made a recipe for Meadowweet mayo, which was delicious. It’s delicious. Just make a mayo (no, you don’t buy the ready made, it’s not the same thing!) and add flowers or, if it’s spring, use chopped tender leaves.

I use the flours to flavor water – just put a cluster of flowers in a jug of water and let it sit a couple of hours. Flowers also great for infusions – also great as ice-tea. Or just sprinkle flowers over food.

In the spring, use tender leaves.

Älgört 6 april 2015
MeadowSweet leaves in April 2015

As a medicinal plant, Meadowsweet has a thorough record of healing properties: both leaves and flowers contain salicylic acid that has an antiinflammatory, analgesic and febrifuge effekt. It is also a diuretic. You could say that Meadowsweet is the Grandfather of Aspirin: a German medical-company created a synthetical copy of salicylic acid – the

of Man kan nog säga att Älggräs är Aspirinets urfader – ett tyskt läkemedelsföretag kom på att använda sig av salicylsyran läkemedel och utvecklade en syntetisk variant, Acetylsalicylic acid, and BAM – Aspirin was invented.

Lycklig humla bland älgörten
Happy bumble bee in Meadowsweet

If you want to use flowers as remedies in your Green Pharmacy to treat fever, rheumatic pain and influensa, or need a diuretic, then dry a bunch of flowers for winter use. Use the flowers as a cold infusion: two teaspoons dried herb to one liter of cold water . Leave ot for 8 hours and sip during the day.

Meadowsweet can be confused with Dropwort (Fern-leaf Dropwort) , read more about it here to learn how to tell them apart.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filipendula_vulgaris

Ok, that’s it for today, on my way out to forage St Johnswort.

More soon, Lisen

 

Summer feast: Lamb’s Quarters

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It’s time for a Summer feast! Lamb’s quarters, Goosefoot or Fat-Hen, whatever you like to call them, they are in season. To be more correct, the name is Chenopodium album.

I like to call it the grandfather of spinach, being that it  has a similar flavor, use and nutritional value. But it tastes even better, and it grows abundantly all over Sweden. It’s actually related to quiona, the Amaranthaceae family.

It grows upright and can become anywhere from 10 cm -150 cm! I like it best when tender, or when it is starting to get tall, just the tops. Lamb’s quarters will grow happily in flower beds, vegetable fields and in piles of soil.

Svinmålla
Lamb’s quartes, or Fat hen

In India it is grown as a crop and used extensively for cooking. The Hindi name is Banthua.

In Sweden most people consider it a weed, but our ancestors knew better than to dismiss it as such – traces from the plant and its seeds have been found on among ancient remains from the Stone Age.

I really love to cook with this very nutritious herb, which contains Vitamins A-, B-, and C, as well as calcium, iron and potassium.

Today I made myself a “Wild Frittata” with Lamb’s quarters and Rose petals.  Here’s how to make it:

Soon-to-be-wild-frittata
Soon-to-be-wild-frittata

2 eggs

1 tbs water or milk

1 small fresh onion, chopped

a handful of Lamb’s quarters, well rinsed

a few Rose petals

Parmesan cheese, a small piece

salt

pepper

Put the oven on 175 degrees C. In a pan, fry the chopped onion,  add the Lamb’s quarters. Turn off the heat and add the roses. Crack the eggs in a bowl, add water and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Grate the parmesan cheese. Add some oil to a small ovenware and put the vegetables in it.

Vild Frittata in the making!
Wild Frittata in the making!

Pour the eggmix over the veggies, sprinkle parmesan over it and put in the oven. Leave 10-15 minutes. Eat! It will taste just as good served warm or cold.

Vild Frittata!
Wild frittata

Stay cool!

Lisen

 

Herbal summer pharmacy

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Summer comes with sun, warm weather and time to relax. And with mosquito bites, scrapes, wounds and sunburn. Symptoms that you can easily treat with wild or homegrown herbs and natural remedies. These treatments are efficient and easy to make. I doesn’t need years of herbal studies to be able to use herbs in your everyday life, no prior knowledge is needed. Just read this, find the herbs and you are on your way!

When I studied herbal medicine in the US, one of my teachers taught me that some herbs become your “allies”. Which they are is not something we decide. The herbs appear to us, show up in a dream, grow in our proximity or given to us. In my case, my allies are plants that have appeared to me on my foraging trips in nature, and called my attention, or like Plantain – appeared in a dream when I went through a tumultuous time in life. It gave me a feeling of giving me protection, focus and guidance. Since then, it has been an ally and helped me treat myself and many others. Who knows, nature works in mysterious ways.

Today I want to share a few of my allies with you, they are easy to find, easy to use and will surely help you through the summer!

Aloe vera, Plantain, Yarrow, Calendula and Chamomile.  And of course, honey and oats.

Groblad, Rölleka, Honung, Havregryn Foto Lisen Sundgren
Yarrow, plantain, honey and oats

 

Aloe vera: if you have an Aloe plant in your windowsill, help is never far away to treat sunburn, insect bites, infections, scrapes and cuts. Oh, it’s also great for dry skin and hair! Aloe is probably one of the most trusted and used healing plants in the world, and considered a panacea.

Aloe vera
Aloe vera

Aloe has its origins in Africa and is grown today in dry areas in the US. It’s not a cactus, but a succulent plant, filled with a cooling, moist gel. This gel consists of 95% water, it’s this gel we’re after in the Green Pharmacy. It’s rehydrating, cooling, antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory and speeds up healing. The Aloe gel, which contains over 400 known active ingredients as well as Vitamin A-, B-, C-, and E, as well as calcium, amoni acids and enzymes, is absorbed by the skin more quickly than water, which means it gives instant effect without making the skin feel sticky.

Use: Aloe is great for burns, dry skin, pimples, scrapes and wounds.  If you have an Aloe plant, cut a piece of it and slice it open. Scrape out the gel and apply where needed. Aloe gel can also be found commercially – if you buy it make sure it then contains 99 – 100 % Aloe.

Plantain, Plantago major Beloved Plantain. It grows where ever we put our feet down – on road sides, paths, parking lots…It’s known to grow in our foot path and to always make itself available to us at all times.

Groblad, Foto Lisen Sundgren
Plantain, Photo Lisen Sundgren

Plantain is used extensively to heal wounds, minor burns, inflammations, splinters and insect-bites. It’s antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. The leaf draws out from the skin what doesn’t belong there and improves healing of the skin.

Green bandage Photo Charlotte Gawell ur Lisens Gröna Värld
Green bandage Photo Charlotte Gawell / Lisens Green World

 

Use: For external use – use the leaf fresh on wounds and splinters – just apply the leaf on the injured area, secure it it with a bandage or bandaid, leave it on a few hours. If needed, replace and leave until the wound is healed.

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium I wrote a post about Yarrow a couple of days ago – http://lifebylisen.com/en/best-first-aid-ever-yarrow/ Read more there!

Rölleka
Rölleka

Yarrow is a common wild plant that blooms now in June-October. A flower that is the object of scientific research due to its healing properties. Yarrow deserves more space than what I give it here (as do all the other herbs) but today I will focus on external use, where it’s most common to treat open wounds, to stop bleedings, speed up healing of the skin and prevent infection. It’s even known as a beauty herb by making the skin youthful.

Use: The simplest way to use Yarrow is to make an infusion from the flowers, let it cool and use as a wound wash. You can also maken an herbal oil from it, and use that as it is or make a salve (see previous Yarrow blog post). If you’re out in the forest or anywhere far from oils and infusions, just pick the flowers, chew them to a paste and apply to the wound.

Honey A must in my Green Pharmacy. I love honey and choose it with great care – I want it organic, local, mild and creamy. Yum. It’s not that I eat a lot of honey really, but use it for my skin and hair: I use it as a facial wash, make hair-treatments with it, and use it for wound-healing. Honey is a true miracle worker with a long list of properties: anitbacterial, antiinflammatory, skinhealing, softening and cleansing. Did you get a sunburn? Apply honey. Dry hair? Apply honey, wrap a towel around your head, leave on 30 minutes, rinse off. Infections? Apply honey. Pimples? Apply honey. Dry feet or hands? Take a foot bath, massage your feet with honey, put a plastic bag over each foot, cover with a sock and leave 30 minutes. Rinse off, apply some Olive oil or Bees wax salve and your feet will be like new!

HOnung

That’s all for today, I’ll bring you the rest tomorrow. The beautiful summer weather is calling for my presence!

Lisen