Maitake & Burdock Immune-Boosting Soup

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Lately, this soup has been saving my life! So much so that I just had to share the recipe. During seasonal transitions, especially our current one from late summer to fall (and the on-coming fall to winter), our immune systems need some extra support. And it seems like just about everyone I know is either navigating through or has already dealt with their first cold of the season, myself included! Twice over the past two weeks I’ve caught a small cold. Both times I made a big pot of this soup, had 2-3 hearty-sized bowls of it in the afternoon and evening, and woke-up the following morning with my cold completely gone. Like magic. Only its not magic, it’s food as medicine at its finest! Soups lend themselves incredibly well to healing spices, nourishing roots, regenerative seaweeds, and immune-modulating mushrooms. Read-on for my recipe for the perfect fall soup to nourish your immune system and tend to your health during this seasonal transition.


Maitake, Burdock & Daikon Soup

1 lb (3-4 cups) Maitake Mushroom/Hen of the Woods* (Grifola frondosa), shredded into bite-sized pieces (*use Shiitake if Maitake aren’t available!)
1 c Burdock Rt (also known as Gobo), chopped
1 1/2 c Daikon Radish, chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 Onion, chopped
3 tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
4 cloves Garlic
3 tbsp Tamari
8 cups water, chicken broth, bone broth, or veggie broth
6 inch strip Kombu or Kelp
1 bunch Scallions
Sea Salt and Black Pepper (to taste)
Lemon (optional)

NOTE: If some of these ingredients are new to you don't worry! They are available at most co-ops, health food stores, and grocery stores with good produce sections. Burdock is also often readily available at many Asian food stores under the name Gobo. Maitake is often available dried and you can use this form of it- simply re-hydrate by soaking in water for about 1/2 hr and then cook it as specified in the directions. And you can also use dried burdock for this recipe, just cook it longer than the directions specify to be sure it's nice and soft when you eat it, and use 1/4 cup dried instead of a full cup of fresh!

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Directions
Start by sauteing the garlic, onion, ginger, and maitake in olive oil or ghee until soft.  Next add the burdock, daikon, tamari, kombu or kelp, and water and/or broth. Bring to a low simmer and cook about 10 minutes until the daikon and burdock are cooked. Garnish with 2-3 tbsp of chopped scallions. This soup has a rich, earthy flavor and the addition of a squeeze of lemon will brighten it up a bit, if desired, but it's not necessary. For folks who don't like to eat mushrooms, simply simmer the maitake whole in the broth and remove before serving (best to cook it all for longer-30-45 minutes). It doesn't make the broth "mushroomy," just rich and delicious!

Medicinal Use
This soup is building and supportive to your immune system. Turn to it when you feel like you're coming down with something or when you're already sick and need some strong immune support. I also love making it when I'm at the tail-end of a cold or flu and want a strong final boost to my immune system to really get the remnants of that virus or bacteria totally out of my system. It can also be relied on as a powerful preventative during the fall and winter months to keep the immune system ready and primed. Try making it once a week for this use.  Maitake mushroom has a long tradition of use as an immune-stimulating and modulating herb, and has even been shown to have some cancer-fighting effects. Burdock Rt (Arcticum lappa) is another "food as medicine" from herbalism that can be eaten or taken in the tea to help support all the eliminatory pathways in the body, especially the liver, kidneys, and skin. It’s also extremely nourishing, rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, and many trace minerals. Daikon radish is pungent in nature, aiding digestion, and is also extremely rich in vitamin c, providing still more of an immune system boost! Garlic, onions, and ginger add immune-boosting essential oils, anti-bacterial and anti-viral support, and in combination this soup makes a delicious and medicinal brew. Enjoy!


If you’re interested in learning more about kitchen medicine our winter of 2019 online course, Spice Rack Medicine, will be open for registration soon! Topics will cover all the same subjects in our in-person course (currently full for 2019), including the medicinal uses of the culinary herbs, medicinal mushrooms, seaweeds, food and herbal energetics, cooking with the tonic herbs, eating with the seasons, medicine-making, and more.

Learn more about Spice Rack Medicine Online here!

Autumn Olive & Apple Fruit Leather

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Have you met Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellata) yet? I absolutely love this plant. It’s abundant, easy to harvest, is insanely good for you, and is wild plant we can harvest without concern of overharvest since it’slisted as “invasive” in many states (I prefer to call it “opportunistic”). Also called Autumn Berry and Japanese Silver Berry, this northeast superfood was introduced to the US in the 1830's. It’s endemic to eastern and central Asia, including parts of the Himalayas where it is a traditional food, and has now thoroughly made itself a part of the northeast ecosystem. But they’re not just in New England! Autumn Olives can be found growing south to Florida, in the Great Lakes Region, and west to the Mississippi River. The Pacific Northwest also is home to these prolific shrubs.

Identification: ID is easy- the medium to large shrubs have alternate leaves that are silver on their undersides, sometimes have thorns, and bear small, fragrant, cream-colored, 4-petaled flowers in the spring. The berries are red with silver speckles- one of our favorite nicknames for them is “Sparkle Berries”! One poisonous look-alike is Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp)- but those shrubs don't have silver leaves and the berries don't have the silver speckles, plus Honeysuckle berries ripen in the summer not the fall. If you find a bush with silver, alternate leaves with silver-seckled berries, you’ve got Autumn Olive.

Harvest: Autumn Olives ripen in the fall-Sept through Oct here in New England. They are sour and sweet (like most berries) and get sweeter with cool nights and a frost. Flavor can vary quite a lot from bush to bush, so taste each one to see which is to your liking and harvest from that one. You will find them growing everywhere! But they especially like hedgerows, old fields and farms, and any area that was disturbed in the past. They are an early successional species and are especially abundant in fields in my area that are transitioning from meadow to forest. Be sure you’re harvesting from an area free of chemicals and remember to practice reciprocity in your harvest. For more on this look to my article “Wildcrafting, Wildtending, and Reciprocity” on this blog.

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Nutritional Value: Nutritionally, these berries are just awesome. Amazingly, they are the highest known source of the potent antioxidant lycopene, which is cancer protective, anti-inflammatory and promotes longevity. The primary way the average American gets lycopene in their diet in by eating tomatoes, however Autumn Olives have been shown to contain up to 17x more lycopene than tomatoes! The berries are also rich in vitamins A, C and E, flavonoids and essential fatty acids. And they're free.

What to Do With Them: There are sooooo many ways to preserve the abundant Autumn. I’ve made jams, added them to applesauce, made into and incredible sweet and warming fall cordial, frozen for smoothies and baking, and of course they’re also just super yummy and safe to eat raw. They also make a great substitute for tomatoes for folks with Nightshade sensitivities. But one of my favorite ways to preserve them is in fruit leather and I’ve found that their sour flavor profile combines especially well with the sweetness of apples, which also happen to be in season the same time as Autumn Olives, making an amazing bioregional, localvore treat!


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Autumn Olive & Apple Fruit Leather

Ingredients:
Autumn Olives 2 cups
Chopped Apple 1 cup

Supplies:
Food Mill (optional, but will make your job easier if you want to remove the Autumn Olive seeds- see details below)
Parchment Paper
Baking Sheet or Pyrex Baking Dish
Blender or Food Processor

Step 1: Start by combining your Autumn Olives and Apples in a pan with just a tiny bit of water. Chop the apples into small 1-2 inch pieces. It’s ok if some of your Autumn Olives have stems attached to the berries but be sure not to include larger twigs or leaves. If you have more than 2 cups of Autumn Olives, then use a ratio of roughly 2/3rds Autumn Olive and 1/3rd Apple. Cook it all down on low with a little water, stirring often to make sure there's no burning happening on the bottom.

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Step 2: Once it’s all cooked put the entire mixture through a food mill to remove the apple seeds and Autumn Olive seeds. NOTE: You don’t have to do this part. If you don’t have a food mill then be sure not to include any apple cores since otherwise you won’t be able to easily remove the seeds. And having the seeds of the Autumn Olives is simply a matter of preference. They likely have some nutritional value and are not at all harmful. For some folks they just like the texture better with or without. The picture here of my fruit leather contains the seeds- if you look close you can see them!

Step 3: Put the entire mix (whether or not you used a food mill) into a blender or food processor and puree well

Step 4: Line a baking tray or oven safe pyrex dish with parchment paper and spread your pureed Autumn Olive and Apple mix thinly (1/2-1 inch thick) onto the paper. Bake at 170 degrees for about 6 to 7 hours, being sure to check it often, since sometimes the edges burn a little bit...if the edges are burning and the center is still moist keep cooking it, knowing that you’ll just have to trim off the edges but the majority of your fruit leather will be perfect. Try it as you go, since it’s "to taste" in terms of how leathery you want your fruit leather to be. I like mine still pliable and not crisp. Basically you’re going for the consistency of fruit roll-ups! NOTE: if you have a food dehydrator you could use that for this recipe instead of the oven!

Store it between wax paper in the fridge where it will stay fresh for weeks, or freeze and take-out as needed. Enjoy your local, free, nutrient-dense, antioxidant rich super- food fruit leather!

And if you want to learn more about food as medicine, the medicinal use of the culinary herbs, medicinal mushrooms and soooooo much more, check-out my Spice Rack Medicine Winter Series. Class meets 1 sunday/mo January- March and registration is OPEN! It will fill-up so sign-up soon if you’d like to join us!


 Autumn Olive & Sassafrass Lf Cordial

Autumn Olive & Sassafrass Lf Cordial

And One More Thing!

If you’re super-psyched on Autumn Olives and want to learn how to make them into a sweet and amazing fall cordial for sipping on in the cool fall and winter months, check-out our guide to making your own D.I.Y Sweet Fall Cordials!

GET YOUR FREE GUIDE HERE


Tulsi Wild Soda

 Left to Right: Lemon Balm Kombucha, Wild Rose Soda, Rose Simple Syrup

Left to Right: Lemon Balm Kombucha, Wild Rose Soda, Rose Simple Syrup

Wild Sodas are a fun and easy way to make living, medicinal, naturally probiotic beverages. They can be made with 100% local ingredients, making them a wonderful example of “localvore medicine” that reflects the true terroir of the land while having a super small carbon footprint. I mostly make them in the warmer months, but they can be made year-round.  They can be made purely for taste preferences and pleasure, or the herbs can be selected based on desired medicinal effects- the choice is yours! Below I've shared a recipe for beloved Tulsi Wild Soda, but this same recipe will work for any aromatic herb like Anise Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, and so on.

Tulsi Wild Soda

12 tbsp fresh Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) Flowering Tops- Leaves, Flowers, and non-woody Stems
1/2 cup Raw Honey (preferably local)
1/2 Gallon un-chlorinated water (well/spring water best).

Put your herbs in a half-gallon mason jar and fill the jar with cold or room-temperature water. If you are on city water and you aren't sure if it's chlorinated, it's worth a call to the town as not all town water supplies are chlorinated. Next add the 1⁄2 cup raw honey and mix well. It’s ok if it doesn’t all dissolve right away if your honey is crystallized, as it will dissolve on its own in a day or two. Cover with cheesecloth or a bandana or thin cloth so it can still breathe but bugs can’t get in, like fruit flies. Now you wait for it to start fermenting! The wild yeasts found in the air, on your plant material, and in the raw honey are working now to turn the sugars in the honey into CO2 (this is what makes it fizzy) and ethyl alcohol, but don't worry- this fermentation will be strained and refrigerated well before it reaches a high alcohol percentage. It’s important to stir it a few times a day during this time, and when it starts fizzing/bubbling when I stir it I know it’s started fermenting. Time to initial fermentation can be a few days to over a week depending on temperature. Once it starts bubbling, I usually let it ferment for another 8- 12 hours, and sometimes longer. It’s best to taste a little bit every day once it starts fermenting as a litmus test for when it’s time to strain. I like it start to taste sparkling and effervescent before I strain. Then I strain out the herbs, cap it, and let it sit out at room temperature to build carbonation. This timing can vary, but often 12-24 hrs is a good amount of time to build-up good carbonation. Then I put it in the fridge where it will last for months!

 Tulsi and Echinacea Flowers

Tulsi and Echinacea Flowers

Tulsi is a calming nervous system tonic, digestive aid, and uplifting, mood-enhancing herb. While a Wild Soda isn't the most medicinally-concentrated way to prepare medicinal herbs, it certainly captures the essential oils and essence of the herb and in my mind is a way to enjoy your herbs as food as medicine. I consider 1 cup to be a medicinal dose. When I drink Wild Sodas I often add flowers to make a what I call a "fairy cocktail."  I also often add a dose of tincture or elixir to it give it a medicinal boost and enjoy as a fermented herbal mocktail. Some Wild Rose Elixir added to Tulsi Soda is divine!

I make Wild Sodas the same way I cook- I rarely follow a recipe and things never come-out quite the same way twice! I encourage you to approach wild sodas similarly. This recipe is meant to get you started. The water: honey ratio should always be followed but you can play around with herbal amounts to your liking! It’s fine to use a combo of fresh and dried herb too. Experiment and keep notes as you develop your favorite combinations. Keeping a kitchen journal of your fermentation adventures is highly recommended. Happy fermenting!


 Elderberry & Tulsi Wild Soda

Elderberry & Tulsi Wild Soda

If you're interested in learning more about Kitchen Medicine my winter class series, Spice Rack Medicine, is OPEN for registration! Class meets 1 Sunday/month January-March. Topics include medicinal uses of the culinary herbs, food and herbal energetics and eating for your personal constitution, medicinal mushrooms, cooking with the tonic herbs, food as medicine, and more!

Learn More Here