Podcast 148: 5 Herbs We Got At The Grocery Store This Week
When you think about where to find excellent herbs, where does your mind go first – the forest? The farmer’s market? Ye Olde Herbe Shoppe, perhaps? Let us make a suggestion: you can find a bunch of great herbs at the supermarket! Grocery store herbs are nothing to sneeze at (but if you can’t stop sneezing, consider a basil steam). You can find herbs in the produce section, the tea aisle, and the spice rack – not just among the supplements.
This week alone, we brought home fresh basil leaves for pesto & cranberry relish; fresh ginger root for meals, tea, and poultices; mandarin oranges to collect and dry the peels for tea and bitters blends; blueberries for syrup and hot cereal; and shiitake mushrooms for broth.
Keep an eye on the seasonal items and you’ll have different herbs to play with in every season. Knowing your grocery store herbs will serve you well, no matter where you travel or how far away you are from your home apothecary!
Mentioned in this episode:
- The Holistic Herbalism Podcast, episode 1: I’ll Have What They’re Having + Apples & Oranges – (discussion of orange peel starts around 20:00)
- The Holistic Herbalism Podcast, episode 142: 4 Medicinal Mushrooms: Shiitake, Maitake, Reishi, Lion’s Mane
- Herbal Community Care Toolkit – Chock-full of grocery store herbs & common “weeds”, this course is about making herbalism accessible for everyone.
Not sure what to do with your herbs once you’ve got them home? Our Herbal Medicine-Making course has dozens of methods for you to explore! Learn to make teas, tinctures, poultices, salves, liniments, spice blends, and much more. This self-paced online video course includes access to twice-weekly live Q&A sessions so you can connect with us directly!
As always, please subscribe, rate, & review our podcast wherever you listen, so others can find it more easily. Thank you!!
Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.
Hi! I’m Katja.
And I’m Ryn:
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.
And on the internet everywhere, thanks to the power of the podcast. Thanks podcasts.
You know, not for that to sound too pretentious, we’re actually sitting on the floor in the office.
Right. Yes. I mean, you know.
And honestly after we do this, we should probably vacuum.
The Holistic Herbalism podcast brought to you by we haven’t vacuumed recently.
No, we vacuumed last week. We will do it again today.
That’s the plan, folks.
It’s good. You know how like on Instagram, when people post beautiful pictures. And then they post like a picture of all the dirty dishes in their sink, just to like keep it real and make it like, no, no, it’s not all perfect. Well, there you go. That was the podcast version of that.
Yeah. Right, right.
Lest you we’re picturing everything being clean and shiny over here.
I mean, there’s some shiny.
Whatever. We were going to talk about herbs.
We were. We’re going to talk about grocery store herbs this time.
Yeah. So we went to the grocery store because you know, like you do. And we got some herbs. And we wanted to tell you about it, because I think that a lot of times people, when they get into herbalism, they kind of have this idea that herbs come from faraway places or they come from places that are very specialized.
Or even you’re only a real herbalist if you gather everything yourself.
Yeah. Well, you know, there can be a place for that if you want to gather everything yourself. But I just want to be clear that the grocery store is an appropriate place to gather some herbs. And you can gather a lot of fantastic herbs there. So we want to talk about literally, just like we didn’t go to the grocery store to get herbs. We went to the grocery store because we ran out of food. And we came back and we’re like, look at all these herbs in our bags. And so we went to tell you about them.
Yeah. Before we jump in, we’re just going to remind you that we’re not doctors. We’re herbalists and holistic health educators and grocery store shoppers.
That’s right. The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States. So these discussions are for educational purposes only. Everybody’s body is different. So the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but we hope that they’ll give you some good information to think about and some ideas to research further.
And we want to remind you that good health is your own right and your own personal responsibility. And this means that the final decision when you’re considering any course of therapy, whether that’s been discussed on the internet or prescribed your physician, is always yours. Okay. So the grocery store.
Five herbs we got at the grocery store.
Yeah. We can just jump right in.
Yeah. Well the first one was basil.
Yeah. And I’d say basil is one of those things that we get at the grocery store almost every time.
Pretty much every single time. Yeah. Every single time. Especially through the winter, honestly, all the time, but especially through the winter. And it’s funny because there does often come up point in the winter where like, we start getting more basil. Instead of just one thing of basil there’s like multiple things of basil or like the larger box of basil.
Right. You’ve got your little, I don’t know what the ounces weight are. But you get the little tiny, you know, one person amount of basil.
Yeah, right. And then you have this big box, and you’re like, yeah, this is good. We’re going to make pesto. We’re going to make all kinds of stuff.
Well, the reason that I think our basil consumption increases as the winter goes on is because…We’re just talking about garden basil, like the kind of basil you put into spaghetti sauce. But it is absolutely, you know, like the cousin or the half-sister or the whatever of holy basil, of tulsi.
Yeah. Don’t underestimate garden basil.
Right. Like tulsi is not the only plant that has those uplifting qualities. And it maybe has it stronger, but there are lots of different types of basil. And garden basil absolutely shares those qualities. And really when we get into the doldrums of gray, and we’re just like, is spring ever coming? And things just sort of, you know, like we’re so tired of the sun setting at 4:45. That as that time wears on, like basil consumption increases directly, like proportionately to how long it’s been gray.
Yeah. So, you know, when you’re talking about comparing it to tulsi, you’re thinking about like the aromatic qualities are really similar. It has this kind of uplifting aromatics. These ones that just, I don’t know, they chase cobwebs out of your brain. They kind of lighten your mood. But they have that definite upward moving quality to them.
Like a brightness.
It’s occurring to me in this moment that I can’t recall ever, maybe once, taking dried basil and making a tea blend with it.
Of course we do that with tulsi like all the time.
But when it’s garden basil like we grow it. We go to the grocery store to get it fresh. We’ve made it into tea a few times from the fresh plant material. But it’s not one that we’re like, oh yeah, I’ve got to get that dried basil in our order.
Yeah. I don’t know why.
Or pick it up at the shop. Yeah.
I have this kind of internalized whatever that dried basil isn’t good. Like that you really can’t dry basil. And I don’t know if that’s true. So now I guess we should try it.
I don’t think so. I think it’ll come out just as well as the others, but I don’t know why. It’s just been a habit.
It’s just like this bias. Yeah. Well, anyway, fresh basil. So we like to just put it in salad or like coarsely chopped up on top of whatever. In German they have a word. The word is eintopf, it’s one pot. And we don’t really have a word that means one pot. Like, I don’t know, skillet meal or whatever. But whatever skillet dinner we’re making, it gets chopped up and put on top of that. But our two favorite things to do with it recently is that I really love to get fresh cranberries. Or if it’s not fresh cranberry season, then just get them frozen where they have the frozen berries in the frozen section.
By the freezer or something?
Yeah. So, just the whole cranberries. Run them through a food chopper. I used to chop them by hand. And then finally we got a tiny little food chopper, and I love it.
The food processor y’all. It took me years to understand this. And it wasn’t really until we got one that I really understood the difference. But it’s not at all like a blender. It’s like a whole different thing. It somehow has the power to chop the stuff right. It’s just great
Yeah. This is not actually a food processor. It is a tiny food chopper. A food processor is like larger. It has like multiple blades you interchange and like all this. It dices, it slices, it juliennes. It, like, whatever.
It’s like a miniature version of those traps that they have in the castle for the adventurer, right, with all the different blades going on.
Yeah, no. This is just a little chopper.
Well, it’s great.
And it doesn’t take up any space. It’s fantastic. Anyway, so I take the cranberries. And if they’re frozen, I just let them thaw. I just let them sit on the counter for a while. Toss them in their whole. Toss in a whole thing of basil, and put in some honey. Usually it’s some kind of herb infused honey. It can be basil infused, honey. It could be whatever. Lately it’s been ginger infused honey. And then just like, turn it on for, I don’t know, 15 seconds. And presto. You have this amazing cranberry relish with basil in it, like basil cranberry relish. And it’s so good. And it’s like eating sunshine off of a spoon.
Yeah. The sourness and then the sweetness of the basil. The aromatics of it, the honey in there. Oh, it’s so good.
It’s so good. And then you’ve been really obsessed with making your own pesto.
Yeah. I even still don’t feel like I do it as often as I would really like. I’ll put pesto on everything. I put it on hamburger. We roasted a turkey a while back. And I’ve had turkey sandwiches a couple of times lately and put the pesto right onto there.
You literally, anything that’s cooked. Like our dinner is always whatever went into the skillet, basically. It’s nothing fancy. Just put some stuff in the skillet and then apply heat. And then it’s dinner. And you basically put pesto on top of all of it.
Yeah. It’s just wonderful. I also really like to take pesto and to put it onto a salad. And I love it if the salad can have like some dandelion greens, which you might also find at your grocery store if you’re fortunate, right? And then yeah, some basil leaves can be right on there. And you know, we can have some radicchio. And if it’s springtime, you know, we’ll have like lambs quarters and other kind of wild greens that we get a few handfuls of. But all of that, and then some tinned fish. Some salmon or some sardines even we’ll kind of mix up into there. And some walnuts and some raisins and a whole bunch of pesto, and just kind of put it all together. And if you don’t like fish, then this is one way to eat fish and not even really notice, honestly.
Or you can just leave the fish out, or you could turn the fish into tuna salad.
Yeah. that’s what you do most of the time.
Yeah. Apply mayonnaise and everything gets better.
Yeah. You put the mayonnaise on everything. I put the pesto on everything. That’s how it works out.
That’s how that works out.
And pesto is super easy, you know? I have not really learned how to measure stuff. My cooking instructor didn’t really have much interest in measurements.
So Ryn really didn’t know how to cook anything before we were together.
Ramen. I could cook ramen. That was good. I was trying to learn how to make dirty rice when I met you, I think.
Yeah. I don’t know.
But anyway, with pesto yeah.
Well that’s the thing like you’ve really learned to make a lot of things. And even things that I don’t normally, I mean, I like pesto, but you really love pesto.
I love it so much.
And it’s even, it’s a way that you will consume fat also, which you don’t do easily.
Yeah, right. No, I much prefer to add that as like an oil or whatever to my food, rather than just like pouring olive oil on it or putting ghee on it or whatever.
Right, like pesto is your fat contribution to whatever you’re eating.
Yeah. It digests better for me, for sure. But I mean, you know, you basically grab a handful of the leaves. You chop them up a little bit. You put them into the little chopper machine. A handful of pine nuts, maybe some walnuts can go in there as well. Pour on a bit of oil and run it. And then also, oftentimes nowadays, especially if I know you’re not going to have too much of it, I’ll put in a bunch of spices too. I’ll put in some cinnamon, put in some ginger, put in a little touch of cayenne powder, salt, black pepper. And just run it all in there and just let it all soak in.
Yeah. We have very different tastes around food. So, like I would never put cinnamon and ginger into pesto. Although aspirationally, I think that sounds like a fantastic idea. But like in my mouth, that sounds like a terrible idea. For me it would be like, I would put garlic and mustard powder and maybe some cayenne in there.
I do like mustard powder in there. Yeah. Mustard powder I feel like I’m always trying to redeem it for myself. I’m always like, no, no mustard is totally cool. Mustard is a real herb.
Mustard is a real herb. Yeah. I think it’s funny how we have very different taste spectrums with regard to spice blends. And also how we’ve learned to cross our pallets over. Like that I have really learned. Okay, I wouldn’t do it in pesto. But I have really learned to love things like cinnamon in meat, that I would never have done before. And you have really learned to appreciate garlic and mustard and cayenne and caraway.
Caraway. Yeah. That one, that one took a minute, but what was it? There was something where you put it in. And I was like, okay. This is the first thing I’ve ever had that had caraway in it, but wasn’t just like chewing on rye bread with a weird texture.
I was really obsessed with putting caraway in rice for a long time. So it might’ve been that. I’m not sure.
Yeah. You would put it in there.
I like to put it in pork.
I’m trying to remember. Because you would put it with the rice, and sometimes the rice would also have goji berries and other things in there.
Yeah. Some black seed and I like those yellow raisins. And then garlic powder would go in there also. But I like to put caraway in pork with juniper berries.
Yes. That’s the one. With the juniper berries. That’s really, really good.
None of those things were on the list this week at the grocery store, but they are all really good. Like every single one of those things is herbs. Well, except for the pork. Yeah. Okay. But anyway, pesto.
Yeah. Super easy. Endlessly variable. We’re a fan.
You can also, it doesn’t have to be only basil. You can put basically any green leaves in there. And so this is where you get that nettle pesto idea. You can put garlic mustard in when it’s time for that. You can put dandelions leaves. Really anything at all that is leafy can go into your pesto.
Yeah. Garlic mustard is awesome. And that’s like a plant unto itself, right? Alliaria petiolata is the botanical on that one. But that’s a really excellent plant for this kind of thing, in no small part because it does spread really rapidly. And you often have more of it than you know what to do with, so…
Yeah, it’s super abundant. And people tend to want to get it out of their gardens. And so they want to pick it before it goes to seed, so it doesn’t reproduce. Because it really does spread quite assertively. And so they’ll pull it all up and put it in black bags, and throw it away. And I’m like, wait, you could eat that. It’s chock full of goodness and also flavor. So yeah. Garlic mustard pesto.
Yeah. All right. Shall we move on and let’s talk about ginger?
Yeah. So we got a bunch of ginger at the grocery store.
That’s another recurring item in the cart.
Yes. Well lately every morning when I get up, I’ve been slicing up a few slices of lemon and a thumb or so of ginger sliced up and some fennel and some catnip and sometimes some licorice. And putting all that into a teapot. And then when it’s just a minute before I know Ryn is going to wake up, then I put in the boiling water. And then he has this morning tea that he’s been really enjoying lately. And that’s been really cool.
It is kind of wonderful to wake up, and then there’s hot tea right there. And that just feels great.
It’s really wonderful to be like, ha ha. He’s going to wake up, and there’s hot tea right here.
Yeah. And this blend, you know, so we’ve got like a warming, digestive blend. There’s a number of different carminative herbs in there. We’ve got a little bit of liver stimulation going on. It’s kind of like help you to wake up from the inside first. And I find that to be extremely helpful in the mornings.
Yeah. Lately in the mornings your guts weren’t feeling fantastic.
I had a bad run for a while there.
Yeah, it wasn’t great. Well, I mean, it was pretty stressful there for a few weeks. And that makes it hard for you to sleep. And then that makes your gut sort of uncomfortable. And to just sort of wake up and have something very settling to start off with, warm and settling to just kind of like soothe right off the bat.
Yeah. It’s been so nice. It’s been so, so nice. Honestly, this is a kind of odd memory, but it’s surfacing and saying, I have to tell people about it. So, when I was in high school, I was involved with this group called operation friendship. And that involved hosting and then traveling over to various countries to do like student exchange, you know, but in the summer instead of the school year. So one of those trips, I went up to Scotland. And I lived there with a family for a few weeks. And every morning the mother of the household would get up before everybody. And make tea for everybody. And like, bring it into you. And be like, okay, time to wake up. Here’s your tea. And you know, like when you first get there they’re like, how do you like your tea? And I’m like, I have no idea. I’m 15 years old, and I’ve never drunk tea in my life. And they’re like, well, you can try it strong and you can try it with milk and sweetness and this and that. But just like barely being awake, and it’s not like a screeching alarm clock. Remember the alarm clocks we had in the nineties? But that sound…you can hear the sound, right?
I can hear the sound. Yeah. Yeah. I’m not going to make the sound, but I can hear the sound.
You know what we’re talking about. Yeah. But instead of that…
With that like brown fake wood. Yeah.
Yeah. But just like a friendly, nice person who says, okay. Time to get up. And then there’s a warm cup by your bed. And you kind of smell it and sort of like reach over and take a sip. And you’re like, I’m becoming alive again. So yeah, it’s been reminding me of that.
I did not know this, and now I love it even more. No, but it is. It’s really fun to be like – because I typically get up earlier – to be padding around the house, doing the early morning things. And then like, oop, it’s about time for him to wake up. And like I’ve already had probably several pints of notCoffee by that point. And then be like making the tea. Yeah, it’s really fun.
So that’s been a ginger thing lately.
And then I would say that also, because you mentioned that ginger is a staple all the time. Through the summer, a thing that you really love to do with ginger that is another reason that you like to have it in the house all the time, is when you run it through the blender.
Yeah. So I don’t object to pulpy drinks. Like I used to intentionally buy the really pulpy orange juice, which was not apparently a bestseller at the grocery store. I don’t know. Anyway. So like what I’ll do is grab the ginger fresh roots. Slice them up a little bit, but throw them into a little blender thing. And put in either some water or some other tea that we’ve already got made up. I’ll also put in with that, sometimes some lemon will go in or other citrus, you know. Some lime, I might just squeeze some lime juice in there. Sometimes I put turmeric in there as well.
Sometimes you put like half of a green apple.
Yeah. Yep. Bit of green apple into the mix as well. And just blend everything up real good. And there will be a lot of fiber in there. But again, I don’t really mind the feeling of that, and it doesn’t hurt you to eat the ginger fiber.
No, it’s good.
You know, it’s like any other kind of fiber. It’s great. So between that, and then like some apple, you’ve got pectin in there. It’s a nice probiotic. You’ve got a little bit of citrus for some sourness and some liver stimulation going on. But that’s a really nice drink. And what I would sometimes do is make that with like minimal amount of water. And then take all of that and mix it with a little sparkling water. Which you could strain everything. Like you could strain it through a cheese cloth. You’d probably want to squeeze it out really good.
Yeah, but then you’d miss all that fiber.
You could even use a press or something. Yeah. I don’t know. So it’s a little weird. You know, especially with the fizzy water, and then there’s like fiber floating in it. It’s not for everybody, but I actually kind of like it a lot. So, I’m probably not the only one. Yeah. Really tasty though.
So then, you know, of course we put ginger in the dinner and whatever. Although often I’m in a rush, and so I will just put powdered ginger into dinner if I don’t have time to like sit there and grate it.
Yeah. It still counts. I mean, while we’re talking about grocery store herbs, you know, think about your whole spice rack. Those herbs count. Sometimes people wonder like, okay, well, if it’s a spice bottle, is it still actually good? And yeah, you’re never entirely sure how old it is or this or that. But your senses can tell you, right? So if it has strong flavor. If it has strong whatever the thing it’s supposed to be taste…
Yeah. Then then that’s still giving you what you need. That’s giving you the stimulation. It’s giving you the warmth. It’s giving you the digestive relaxation. It’s all there. So remember you can trust your senses. Oh, and then another thing with ginger that I’ve been really doing a lot, and I think recommending a lot…
Kind of obsessed with.
Yeah. Kind of obsessed with lately is ginger as a poultice. So just taking fresh ginger, and grating it with a cheese grater situation until you have a big pile of shreddy ginger bits.
Shreddy ginger bits, which you could just put in the dinner, but instead…
You can put right onto you. You could warm it a bit if you want to, just to make it be pleasant and heat it up and everything. But you could just put that right onto spots where you have tension, where you have pain with constriction or pain with limited circulation or blood flow. So, especially for things like I threw my back out, something like that. This is a very helpful preparation, and it can often relieve pain quite substantially and fairly rapidly as well once you’ve got it on there. So, it’s just a great way to go from ginger that was sitting in your fridge or sitting on the countertop to a really soothing preparation very rapidly. You know, it doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare. You’re not soaking things in oil for two weeks or whatever else. It’s just ready for you right there. So, that’s something to think about if you, like, I don’t know, you had to fly on a plane for a really long way. And you get somewhere and now your back hurts from being in the weird curly chairs and all of this. And you arrive somewhere and you don’t have your favorite go-to joint liniment with you, because you left it at home.
Like you couldn’t get it on into your one, one quart size Ziploc bag.
Sure. Yeah. So, you know, you arrive where you’re going. You find a corner store. You find some place with some fresh ginger in it and bring it home. Prepare it like that. You’re going to feel good soon. Yeah.
Okay. So also something that we got at the grocery store was a couple of pounds of tiny oranges. Because it is the season for organic Mandarin oranges and organic clementines. And those are my favorites.
You love the tiny little oranges with the thin skins.
Yeah. And I like them because I like to eat the insides. And I like them because I love orange peel. I just love it. I love it so much. And so I don’t buy orange peel. I mean, I do. But I buy my orange peel with oranges inside. And then I just peel it off and put it in a basket. I don’t even use the dehydrator to dry it. I just put it in a basket, and it dries out in a couple of days. It’s very easy. If you’ve never dehydrated your own herbs, or like never kind of gone through the whole process of like, okay. I have a live plant here, and now I’m going to create dried herbs to put into tea. If you’ve never done that before, and maybe it feels a little intimidating, then orange peels are a very good place to start. And especially with those thinner clementine peels, they dry very easily. They’re thin so they dry quickly. And you’ll know for sure that they’re dry when you bend it and it snaps. There is no real way to mess it up. If you bend it and it snaps, it’s ready to put in a jar and put the lid on. That’s great.
Yeah. You can use a dehydrator if you feel like it. If you have like very large oranges with a thicker flesh on it, that might be necessary. It’s going to depend. If your house is super dry, then you might get away with it. But in our house that wouldn’t really dry very well.
Yeah, that wouldn’t dry very well. But so orange peel I like to put in basically every single tea. I’m really pretty obsessed with orange peel. I think that I am far more obsessed with the orange peel than you are. And I didn’t really realize that for a long time, because I was putting so much in every single pot of tea. And then recently you were kind of like maybe a little less orange peel.
Yeah. Don’t feel like you have to do that every time. It’s okay to have some very orangey tea on a day here and there. There was just a week or two where it was like orange, orange, orange. And then like in parentheses (catnip). Or like (mint), just a little something else.
Yeah. That’s really true. So one of my favorite things to blend together is orange peel and juniper and mugwort and pine, and then like, whatever else, maybe some cardamom or something. But that sort of a pairing makes me super happy.
Orange has a uplifting quality to it. Yeah.
It really does. And it has a bitter action. You’re getting all the benefits of the bitter, but it is a very friendly bitter.
Yeah. You know, somebody, I think you had a post recently about the orange peels. And I saw a comment from someone asking if you peel off all the white stuff before you dry it.
Yeah, no. You want that.
No, no, not at all. Yeah. That’s where a lot of the good antioxidant power from the orange peels coming in. That’s definitely where the bitter taste is coming in. So we do want to include that.
And I also, I remember when I was young if I ate an orange, I would like painstakingly pick off every little piece of white. And now I’m like leave it on, you know, which is good. But yeah, that bitterness. Honestly, the bitterness itself contributes to the uplifting aspect. Because when your guts are slow and sluggish, you feel slow and sluggish. And when your guts are moving along, then you also feel like, ah, I’m moving along through my day. Like this is going great. So but they’re also really is, I mean, a little Mandarin orange is literally like a miniature sun. You’re just holding it right there in January, this miniature sun in your hand. And there’s that too.
Yeah, for sure. You know, our very first podcast episode included a little talk about orange. Wow. So, yeah, I’ll put that in.
How do you always remember 148 episodes ago we talked about oranges. How do you do it?
Yeah. I mean that one, a large part of it was also your thing you were doing for a minute there of I’ll have what they’re having. Remember when you would have client sessions and you’d mix a blend for them, and like keep a small portion. And take it home and have that, and get a little symmetry going on. So, I’ll put a link to that in the show notes. But the discussion of orange peel starts around like 20 minutes into that one. And we were talking there a little bit about the difference between sweet orange and bitter orange. And like, well, how am I going to know which one I’ve got? Well, guess what? Trust your senses. It’s a theme today and every day, honestly with us.
Yes, trust your senses.
You know, in this moment I’m wondering maybe we should make a tea that has orange peel and basil in it. I think that might be really great.
That would be great. And, you know, I noticed on the notes that we’re about to talk about blueberry. And one of the best meads that we ever made – It was so good we’ve had to reproduce – is blueberry and orange peel mead.
And it’s so…this is a, like, we don’t swear on it podcast. So I’m having to really think about how I can say this., But oh my gosh, y’all. It’s so good.
Yeah. That was an excellent one.
Whatever the most emphatic word you can think is, it’s that good.
Right. Before we move to blueberry though, one last thing I wanted to say about orange that we’ll often do with the peals is eat a few oranges. And instead of drying them this time, we would infuse them fresh into alcohol along with something bitter.
Like centaury. This is a time when I wouldn’t mind centaury. I actually like it, or mugwort.
Yeah. Centaury, mugwort, something bitter like that. And then something in the sort of ginger range. So it could be, ginger, it could be galangal, could be a little turmeric even. Or, you know, it could be like grains of paradise or some kind of pungent, warming spice situation like that. You could even go as far as cayenne if you want to, you know, just a little touch. But this combination of something pungent and carminative, like warming to the digestion plus something bitter – and again, that’s going to stimulate digestive activity and movement – plus the sour note from your citrus here. That makes a really excellent bitters blend, whether it’s for a digestive bitter or a cocktail bitter. Yeah. That’s kind of a classic trick that Western herbalists have been using for quite a while to make your bitter herbs much more palatable, so that you’re enthusiastic about taking them before you eat. You know, honestly a lot of bitter liqueurs and things like that will include something along this kind of profile of a bitter, a pungent, a sour, and then a touch a sweetness in the mix. Get all of those together, and you have something really delightful that is still going to have all of that medicinal effect and digestive activation. So, you don’t need to take straight gentian tincture to have bitter effects in your life. And adding in those orange peels or some other kinds of citrus into the mix is a really great way to make it much more pleasant.
It’s okay if your herbs tastes good. It’s okay. You’re allowed.
Blood Sugar Regulating Blueberry
So speaking of things that taste good, should we talk about the blueberry syrup?
Yes. So I love blueberries. I love them. I love them. I love them. I’m blueberry powered. Honestly, I could just eat blueberries all day.
It’s always been your favorite thing. I think when I first met you, you were eating a lot of blueberries.
I do. I love blueberries. So one thing that we really enjoy is waffles. And I have, you know, I can’t even call anything a recipe. I have a list of ingredients that I mix together to make waffles. Like a recipe implies numbers and stuff, and I just don’t have, I don’t measure anything.
You have muscle memory with your recipes. You have like, well, this, a little more of that. And this, okay. That’s enough.
Yeah, that’s definitely. So I make waffles with almond meal and a little baking soda and egg and almond milk. Sometimes maybe some arrowroot can go in there. And then I like to put in nutmeg and cardamom and a little vanilla and just a smidge of ghee and salt. And mix it all together really, really good.
And sometimes a lot of cinnamon and sometimes a little cinnamon. Yeah.
Yes. And then toss that into the waffle iron and presto. You have reasonably low carb deliciousness.
They are waffle-acious.
They’re waffle-acious. Okay. It’s not the same as a gluteny waffle, but I can’t eat a gluteny waffle. So this is amazing, and it is really, really delicious. And then I like to take blueberries and mix them with honey and make blueberry syrup. So if I can get fresh blueberries, then I do. And if not, then I just get the frozen blueberries. I like to get the frozen blueberries that are wild, the ones from Maine. And so they’re like the small, tiny ones.
I like those tiny ones. They’re really great.
I like the tiny ones too. Yeah. And then I just put them in a pot while the waffles are cooking. And put a little honey in there or a little bit of maple syrup and a little ghee and melt them in the pot basically. And then they have like some juice that blends with the honey or maple, and that like turns it all into syrup. And it’s really good.
It is really good.
It’s really good.
Yeah. Enjoy that. Blueberries of course you can just eat them. You can just have them as a snack, and they’re fantastic. And one of the things to know about blueberries, and really a lot of berries, is that even though they taste really quite sweet, they don’t really raise your blood sugar very much. With blueberry in particular, the plant has some compounds that actually help to improve your blood sugar regulation and keep your blood sugar from spiking too much. Now a lot of that is living in the leaves. And if that’s really our therapeutic intention or our goal, then we would want to be drinking blueberry leaf tea on a consistent basis.
Which, incidentally, is quite tasty.
Yeah, it’s really good. It’s mild, but it is really tasty. But anyway, yeah, so blueberries or other berries, you know. If somebody is trying to cut down on sugar and wanting to reduce their intake there, one key thing is to make sure you still have delight in your life. Just grinding through on willpower will only get you so far and is really prone to breaking down when other stressors peak for you. So, having some things that are delightful, but meet all your needs and serve your goals, is really critical. So, a handful of berries, a little mix of berries, maybe some coconut cream on top, something like that. That can be really delightful and hit a lot of the kind of tastes and mouth feel sensations that you’re going to associate consciously and unconsciously with indulgence, but be medium chain, fatty acids, and a whole pile of polyphenolic antioxidants and like all this other good stuff, if you want to think about it that way. So all of your needs can be satisfied simultaneously.
Lately, speaking of blood sugar regulation, I’ve been really working on getting sugar out of my diet, and just reducing my dependence on carby comfort foods. And I honestly do feel like the easiest way to do that is that is to make it as little about willpower as possible. Because when it’s all about willpower first off, like that takes a lot of energy. But second off, if it fails then you feel like you’re a bad person, and I’m just not into that. So, if I really want to eat hot cereal and I’m trying to change what I’m eating, then my approach is, well, is there a way that I can make hot cereal that will meet my dietary goals? And in this case, my dietary goal is getting rid of sugar and refined carbohydrates. So I made hot cereal that is chia seeds, chopped up pumpkin seeds – like I ran them through that chopper machine thing – and coconut flour, and also chopped up almonds. Oh, and that’s the other thing, and fine shredded coconut, a lot of shreddy coconut. And you can put like cinnamon in there. You can put marshmallow root in there. Today I chopped up apples and also some raisins in there and nutmeg and cardamom and cinnamon. And then I just mix it with almond milk. And I do just heat it up in whatever way serves you right now. Right now, heating it up means putting it in the microwave, and that’s just what life is right now. So, you know, we all do the best that we can. It’d be great if I could be like, and now I’m going to take the time to calmly cook this on the stove. But right now we’re really busy, so it goes in the microwave. That’s fine. And stir it and stir it. And then when it’s good and hot, it thickens up beautifully. And it has texture, because it’s got the coconut in there and like some bits of nuts and stuff like that. And then I just put a little ghee and salt on top and blueberries. And delicious. So delicious. So, yeah. So if you’ve been looking for a hot cereal replacement, because you’re trying to get gluteny things out of your life, or because you’re trying to get carbs out of your life or whatever, then I would definitely recommend trying that. And there’s no real recipe there, because really I just tried to think about, you know, well, what things would thicken up if I add water and heat. And so you just sort of put it all together in a ratio that ends up with what you like. So if you want it to be a little on the pastier side, put in more coconut flour. And if you want it to be much more on the chunkier side, then put in more of the chunky things.
Yeah. Cool. Well maybe moving from sweet to a savory kind of direction, the last herb we wanted to highlight today is shiitake mushrooms. Yeah. So, you know, we did do a pod episode a couple months ago, episode 142. And that was about four medicinal mushrooms. So there we talked about shiitake, also maitake, reishi, and lion’s mane. So check that one out for a little more exploration on the medicine with shiitake. Really briefly you could say, Oh, I mean, it’s hard to be brief with shiitake. There’s so many different things going on.
Well, but I think that we can kind of emphasize maybe the two things that are most important to us in our own personal bodies. And for me, that would be that shiitake mushrooms are very nutritive, but also nurturing for the digestive tract. And so that’s very important in your body. I mean, it’s very important in every body actually. And then the other thing…
Yeah, it’s interesting because mushrooms like, depending on how you cook them and everything, they can have a little bit of a rubberiness to them, or a little bit of a resistance to the chewing. But at the same time, they’re not hard to digest. They’re not…
If you cook them.
They’re not like, yeah, well, when they’re cooked. Yeah. For sure. Don’t eat them raw. But if they’re cooked, then they don’t cause irritation. They don’t have that kind of rough feeling.
No, they’re very soothing.
Yeah. So they work really well. And especially, I’d say, if you’re somebody who does have difficulty digesting a higher fat meal, I always find the ones that have mushroom in it to be a lot easier than the ones that don’t.
Yeah. And I’ll often put almost as much mushroom into a skillet meal as I do meat, or even or more so.
Yeah. And especially because when you start, when you first put it in, before they’ve cooked down, then it looks like twice as much mushroom.
It looks like twice as much, yeah. And so I start off by putting in the onion and the mushrooms and whatever fat I’m going to add and like some spices. And let that cook for a while. Like let that sauté slowly before I put in the meat and whatever else. Because I do want to give the mushrooms a longer time to cook, just because the longer that you cook them, the better digestible that they’ll be. Mushrooms, they’re gentle on the digestive tract on one hand, but on the other hand they are complex. So, cooking them longer does help us to get more from them while we’re digesting. It makes our bodies more efficient in being able to break them down. So then I’ll put, like, after I’ve let them go for 10 or 15 minutes or so, like, because I’m getting all the rest of the stuff. Like I’ll just put in the onions and the mushrooms and not even get the rest of the stuff out yet. And then I’ll be like, okay, now I need to figure out what else is going in this thing. And get everything out of the refrigerator, and then I’m ready to put stuff in.
Yeah. And, you know, they’re in there on moderate heat. It’s not like super hot.
Yeah. They’re not going to burn in there. Yeah. And then the other thing about mushrooms is their immune support. And here, I really mean the ability to rebuild the immune system after you’ve needed to employ it, or deploy it maybe is the word I’m looking for. But so that kind of rebuilding aspect is really important for us. You know, maybe it’s important for every single person right now in these times. But in that regard, I really like to have the mushrooms in broth as much as possible. Just because there’s also so much else going on in the broth that is very helpful for immune health and the body in general, but also honestly, digestive health. These two things are very intertwined in my thinking when I’m thinking about my personal motivation for working with mushrooms. Also besides the fact that I find them quite delicious. But those are the two ways that we work with them most.
A (Bonus) Apple A Day
There we go. You know, weren’t you looking at something about apples earlier today too? Because we never think about apples as an herb. But we’ll just have like the tiniest of bonuses here, because we never leave the grocery store without apples every time.
Yeah, that’s for sure.
And you were talking about the pectin content. And since we’re talking about digestive health, apples really do support your probiotic health so, so much. And I think that’s a big part of the place where like an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Which, oh, a while back I had been doing research on that statement. Like who started that?
Where’d that come from?
Like where’d that come from? And I was reading different articles and even a scientific study and this and that. And people were like, well, there’s no scientific evidence that an apple a day makes you healthier or whatever. But then it was like, but wait, there’s also all this information about the beneficial effects of apples on probiotic health, and then this other entire pile of research about your probiotic health and your mental health, and your probiotic health and your digestive health, and probiotic health and your immune system health. And I’m like, hold on a second. Maybe these things are related.
Yeah. You have those links there. And that’s going on with apple, and then there’s all these interesting polyphenols mainly in the skin. But yeah, it’s great. They’re so good for you.
Yeah. So even things that we maybe don’t think about as herbs.
Yeah. And in podcast episode number one we did talk about apple a little bit there. I think the main thing was that there are flavor variations in apples. And they are going to vary in their impact on you a little bit. A real simple aspect here is just that the more sour the apple is, the more it’s going to have a little astringency on your intestines. So, if you’re prone to diarrhea, then maybe you pick the green apples more often, and that should help.
Excellent. All right. Well ,now it’s time for you to go to the grocery store, or maybe not right now. But the next time that you go to the grocery store, look around and think about what are you picking up that is just already on your grocery list. That you’re like oh, wait a minute. This is an herb. I do this every week and it’s an herb. I’m doing this.
And especially if your experience with herbalism so far has been more like from the supplement aisle.
Yeah. Or like mail order.
Right. Yeah. Explore the spice rack. Explore the aisle with the tea in it. Explore the produce section. There’s a lot of good stuff in there. So yeah. Give it a little wander. Do some hunting and gathering in your local market, and see what you discover.
Yes. Well, you know, I also wanted to say, because we’re talking about herbs at the grocery store, that the herbal community care toolkit is a project that we did all of last year, like starting in March and went through the whole summer and into the fall. And that is community-based herbalism that is very specifically geared towards herbs that you can find at the grocery store, herbs that are really accessible to a wide variety of people in locations. And that you don’t have to find online or that are expensive or whatever, but things that are just really easy to find. And the reason that we did that was because we wanted to share strategies for improving community health and building community resilience that are accessible and inexpensive, and that are available to everybody just right there. So, you can check that out. That entire course is the assembly of work that we did. We released it through the podcast, because we wanted to get it out into the world as fast as we could. But now we have it all together with a bunch of other resources bundled up in a course with printable materials. And that is available by donation, or free if a donation isn’t in your capacity right now. There’s no problem. You choose the amount that you can donate, or if you can’t donate also fine. And you can find that at online.commonwealthherbs.com, and it’s called the Herbal Community Care Toolkit.
Yeah. We’ll put a direct link in the show notes so you can bounce right over there.
All right. Well, that about does it for us this week on the Holistic Herbalism Podcast.
We’ll be back next time with some more herby goodness for you. Until then take care of yourselves. Take care of each other.
Drink some tea.
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