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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Pansy: curiosities and insights

In these days, as the persistence of the sun in the sky increases, the days are getting longer and the air is warm and fragrant, the pansies are blooming in my garden.

The spectacle of their bloom and their colors, all different and equally amazing, are adding a touch of grace and joy throughout the whole garden. It is a joy to watch them bloom every year, so I could not avoid writing an article for praise them, telling their botanical characteristics, their origin in ancient legends and myths and their various and great medicinal properties .

It is an herbaceous plant, annual, and it has a small root. The stem can reach 40 cm in height and is very simple, covered by tiny hairs, almost invisibles. The leaves are oval in shape. The flowers are brought individually by a thin stem. The corolla has five petals, their color is highly variable, it can go from blue to purple (all combinations are indeed possible: yellow, gold, orange, purple, violet, red, white, and even black very dark purple, many with large showy face markings. A large number of bicoloured flowers have also been produced). These aren't small blossoms you have to strain to see. Pansy flowers are huge and held high above the plant, like colorful little faces looking at you.

Finally, the fruit is an oval-shaped capsule, and when it reaches maturity, it opens in three parts that contain many brown seeds. It grows naturally in meadows and cultivated fields. It is often cultivated for its beautiful and striking colors. When cultivated, one must choose a limestone and clay ground, well fertilized and exposed to the sun only for few hours in a day, because this flower prefers the shadows.
It should be watered abundantly in spring and scatter the watering in summer to suspend almost all in the autumn and winter. Growing pansies could be very successfully during fall and winter. Experts recommend to sow seed indoors in mid-summer, six to eight weeks before transplanting. The pansies can be transplanted into the garden once the summer heat has been broken and cooler weather arrives. It does not fear the frost of the winter, for this reason it is a plant that is also widespread in the wild. Protect your pansies during cold weather by temporarily allowing them to wilt. The dry leaves are not damaged by cold; they recover nicely when warmer temperatures appear. But if the soil is frozen while dry, with frigid winds howling across the leaves, the roots of the pansy plants will be unable to transport water back to the leaves. For this reason, keep beds thoroughly mulched with at least two inches of a living organic mulch during the winter. In fact, that's the real secret of pansies: the only time they won't grow well is in the hottest months of summer, generally July and August. So if you plant them early in September, you have a chance of enjoying an amazing ten months of bloom, especially if we have a mild winter.
A Passion for Pansies.(fall flower gardening): An article from: Mississippi Magazine

Pansies, Violas and Violettas: The Complete Guide (Crowood Gardening Guide Series)

The Book of the Pansy, Viola, & Violet;


It is a classic flower of the spring, because it blooms from late March until August (in climates where summers are not too dry and hot).

Chalon Giant Pansy 100 Seeds/Seed -Heirloom SALE*

The pansy must be harvested when blooming in spring; the parts used for medicinal purposes are the flowers. When harvested, it must be cut close to the ground, removing any leaves and woody parts. The flowers must be provided to dry in the shade, in thin layers. The dried flowers should be stored in paper or canvas bags.
The pansies are used as an expectorant and emollient in respiratory diseases, especially those due to phlegm, but the most important property of these flowers is that of purifying the skin. Some researchers have reported the utility in case of acne, eczema and pimples, and even the milk crust of childrens. I read that the pansy has also a diuretic and slightly laxative property. The better exploitation of its virtues need a contemporary interior and exterior treatment with infusions and skin applications. 

Here are the most common prescriptions for dual-use, internal and external, for the treatment of skin diseases, with cleansing and diuretic:
-Internal use: make an infusion of four grams of flowers in 100 milliliters of water. You should drink a cup in the morning, fasting.
-External use: Make a decoction of flowers of six grams in 100 milliliters of water. Do washing and wet on the parts of the skin that are irritated.
A very old and popular use of this flower is cosmetic: take a cup, filled to three quarters of violet flowers (fresh or dried), and pour over them the boiling milk until cover all the flowers with milk. Then allow to cool, stirring the mixture. Once ready, use this milk to soften the skin of the hands and face. 

The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Magical Plants [COMP ILLUS ENCY OF MAGICAL]

The Complete Herbal Guide: A Natural Approach to Healing the Body

Tells the myth that the young Attis, Prince of Asia Minor, dying, gave birth to the pansies from his blood. Desperate for his death, his betrothed, Atta took her own life and also from her blood sprang other pansies; those born from the blood of Attis are the pansies with reddish petals, while all other varieties grew from blood Atta. In the imperial Rome it was celebrated the cult of Attis, and his feast day, March 22, was called "dies violae" the day of the Pansy.

 Classical Myths and Legends in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: A Dictionary of Allegorical Meanings

In greek, the pansy is called "ion". Ion was the founder of the ancestry of the Ions; one day after the hunt, he came on the river Alpheus where the Ioniades, the nymphs of pansies, offered him a crown of yellow pansies as a symbol of human and divine kingship. These flowers, among the Greeks, were always called "flowers of Ionia". The Athenians, the Ionian race, had a particular fondness for the pansy, Pindar also called Athens "City crowned with violets", crowned by the sacred flower which gives kingship and power.
Even in England this flower has always been loved, by the Celts and even during the Middle Ages: it is said that the Knights of the Round Table consulted the pansy to know their fate by interpreting the number and arrangement of rays from the center of the flower: seven lines (a lucky amount) meant constancy in love, while more meant fickleness and even disappointment in affairs of the heart.
The legend of the pansy says the flower was originally white but turned bright purple where it was pierced by Cupid's arrow. It's said that you can see a loved one in the face of a pansy. Even the flower's named is derived from the French pensee, meaning thought, reflecting the flower's reputation for bringing thoughts of loved ones. Shakespeare clearly understood the meaning of the flower when, in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" , he wrote that the sleeping Titania will fall in love with the first creature she will see when she will awake, thanks to the pansy juice on her eyes ("the juice of it, on sleeping eyelids laid, will make a man or woman madly dote (fall in love) upon the next live creature that it sees.". The pansy is also known as Heart's Ease, for it was believed that carrying the flower would ensure the love of your sweetheart.  
The pansy was one of the ingredients in a Celtic love potion, because the pansy was supposed to have magical love powers. The petals, being heart-shaped, were thought to cure the broken hearts of the lovers.
According to a german legend, the pancy once had a wonderful and strong scent. People came from miles to smell the flowers. By doing this, the people destroy the grass around the pansies. The pansy prayed to the Gods for help because the feed for the cattle was being destroyed. So the Gods took away its loveable scent, but gave it great beauty instead. The pansy is associated with the St. Valentine's Day and has long been exchanged by lovers. According to a legend, the pansies should not be picked while the dew is upon them, for that would cause the death of a loved one. The pansy should never be picked in the middle of a spell of fine weather, or it is said that the rain will surely soon return. Oddly enough, to dream of this otherwise delightful little flower is said to forecast an unpleasant experience or misunderstanding with someone of the slumberer's own sex.

Dorothea Lynde Dix proclaims that “Perhaps no flower (not excepting even the queenly rose) claims to be so universal a favorite, as the viola tricolor; none currently has been honored with so rich a variety of names, at once expressive of grace, delicacy and tenderness.”
The pansy was said to be Jove’s flower, as Rapin contemplates about “…all the beauties in the vallies bred,/See Jove’s own flower, that shared/The violet’s pride; - its want of scent/With triple charm supplied.”

The Language of Flowers: Symbols And Myths

A Contemplation upon Flowers: Garden Plants in Myth and Literature

Myths And Legends Of Flowers, Trees, Fruits And Plants

De Carmine Pastorali (1684)

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. Berkeley Square by John Balderston. (Noble's comparative classics)

Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend & Folklore: Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry

Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions

Meaning of Flowers Myth Language & Love

Language of Flowers Symbols And Myths

Pansies are edible and they taste good in certain recipes. Be sure to wash them well before adding to recipes especially if you have used an insecticide on them.

Edible Flowers: A Recipe Collection

-Herb and Pansy Salad            
•4 cups mixed salad greens
•¼ cup fresh dill springs
•¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves
•¼ cup basil leaves, rolled and thinly sliced crosswise.
•1 large lemon, halves
•pinch of salt
•fresh ground pepper to taste
•1 cup toasted pecans
•¾ cup feta, crumbled
•1 cup pansies or violas
1.In a salad bowl combine greens and herbs.
2.Squeeze lemon juice (remove seeds) over and season with salt and pepper. Toss.
3.Right before serving add walnuts and feta and toss.
4.Sprinkle flowers on top and serve.

-Melon Salad with Pansies or Violas      
•¼ cup vegetable oil
•2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
•dash of salt
•dash of fresh ground pepper
•3 cups assorted melon cut in ¾ inch pieces
•2 small cucumbers, sliced thin
•Salad greens
•Pansy or viola flowers
1.In a tightly covered container combine vegetable oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper.
2.Shake to combine well. In a bowl combine melon pieces, greens, cucumber, and pansies or violas.
3.Right before serving pour on dressing and toss to combine well.

-Candied Flower Petals Recipe
•1/4 cup egg white, beaten                       
•1/2 cup caster sugar
•2 cups of pansies (if you use the entire blossom make sure to remove the stamens).
1.Preheat oven to 350F for 30 minutes while preparing petals, then turn off the oven.
2.Clean and dry blossoms or petals.
3.Use a fine brush to paint a thin layer of egg white on each side of the flower petals or blossoms.
4.Gently place them into a shallow bowl of caster sugar and sprinkle sugar over them to coat each side.
5.Remove from bowl and place them on a piece of waxed paper, or place them on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.
6.Sprinkle more sugar over the petals.
7.Allow them to dry until stiff, about 8 hours, or place them in the oven (preheated, but with the heat turned off and oven still very warm) for about 4 hours or until petals are stiff.
8.Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

The Edible Flower Garden

The Edible Flower Garden (Edible Garden Series)

Edible Flowers: From garden to kitchen: growing flowers you can eat, with a directory of 40 edible varieties and 25 recipes, with 350 glorious colour photographs.

AeroGarden 800551-0300 6-Pod Seed Kit Incredible Edibles Flowers

The Gourmet's Garden: Cooking With Edible Flowers, Herbs and Berries

Edible Flowers 25 Recipes and an A-Z Pictorial Directory of Culinary Flora

An Herbalist's Guide to Growing and Using Violets (Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin A. 239): A Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin

Good Enough to Eat: Growing and Cooking Edible Flowers

Rosalind Creasy's Recipes from the Garden: 200 Exciting Recipes from the Author of the Complete Book of Edible Landscaping

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The grandmother's medicative recipes with medical herbs


In my family, we have always used these recipes based on herbs, but despite this, I have also done several searches and found that they do not vary and are always the same, intact, and this because, probably, they are part of an ancient knowledge, ancient as the world. These recipes are very simple, even those without extensive experience in the use of herbs may groped without any danger as long as you follow the instructions and do not ever change the quantity, and dosage recommendations. The herbs used are to be collected according to their balsamic time, so that they have the highest degree of force, all the characteristics and their unique properties. These herbs should also be harvested in safe and clean places, away from harmful influences such as busy roads or industrial sites, certainly the best thing is to have a small vegetable garden or to have the luck to find in the wild in the unspoiled woods. In the absence of these two options, you can order the herbs dried by specialized herbalists. They must be stored by the rules and used as recommended.
Finally, we must keep in mind that these herbs are rare and precious gifts and as such should be treated with respect and love, so the preparations will grow in goodness and curative strength.

Your Backyard Herb Garden: A Gardener's Guide to Growing Over 50 Herbs Plus How to Use Them in Cooking, Crafts, Companion Planting and More

Growing 101 Herbs That Heal Gardening Techniques,Recipes,and Remedies

Fruit jams 

The jams, also called marmalades, are saccharic derivatives of soft consistency, rarely solid, resulting from the union of fruits with the sugar; the sugar has the aim of preventing their alteration and make them more palatable. To get a jam from fresh produce, the sugar is added to the fruits, previously reduced to a pulp. Then you must heat the mixture to double boiler, over moderate heat, to facilitate the melting of the sugar and the jam to obtain the necessary consistency.
Herbs/ fruits can be used for preparing the jams, or fresh or dried, you can use the fresh plant or its first derivatives (infusions, decoctions, extracts, etc..), following the prescribed information in different pharmacotherapeutic documents on syrups and with the same daily dosing.
Here are a couple of recipes for the preparation of medicative jams.

-Peppermint jam
150g of fresh leaves of peppermint; 1kg apples, peeled and chopped, 700g of sugar, 2 lemons
This jam has the digestive and refreshing properties of the mint.
This recipe is prepared peeling the apples and cutting them into pieces, then you must put the chopped apples in cold water mixed with lemon juice and leave to soak for a while. Then the apples, having drained the water, are to be placed in a pot of tinned copper. To these you must add the grated rind of one lemon and fresh mint leaves, finely chopped. You must boil all this mixture, stirring constantly, until the apples are cooked. Then, you must remove the pan from the heat and you must pass the whole through a sieve: it produces a bright green puree. You must then add the purea and the remaining sugar and lemon juice. This should be boiled again, stirring carefully, until the jam reaches the right consistency.Only then will you remove the jam from heat and pour, still hot, into glass jars, the jars must be sealed and kept in a cool place.
-raspberry jam
1kg of ripe raspberries, 600g of sugar, 1 lemon
The raspberries are to be harvested early in the morning and never during the hottest hours of the day, and must be chosen the more mature and the perfectly well.
You have to wash them in abundant cold water. After they are well dried, are to be placed in a glass container with sugar and lemon juice. They are left to macerate in the bowl for at least two hours. Then, the juice formed must be dried and this juice must be put to stagnation in a pan of copper tinned. When this sauce has reduced by half, add the raspberries and put the mixture on the stove, stirring carefully.When it reaches the desired consistency, it is removed from the heat and it is poured, still hot, in glass jars, hermetically sealed, so that the scent of fresh raspberries is preserved intact.
-blueberry jam
1kg of wild blueberries, 500 grams of sugar, 1 lemon
The wild blueberries are, without doubt, the most fragrant and flavorful, and therefore the most suitable for the preparation of jams. The blueberries should be washed with great delicacy, under cold running water.
After drying them, they must be placed into an earthenware bowl, and you need to pour over the sugar andgrated rind of the lemon and you need to mix thoroughly. You must cover the bowl and soak the blueberries for half a day. Then, you have to put it in a pot (not aluminum) and it must be boiled over a fire, stirring constantly, because it can often happens that the jam will stick to the bottom of the pot. When the jam has thickened and has the right density, you must remove it from heat and pour, still hot, in glass jars, closing them tightly and kept them in a cool, dark place.
-orange jam
7 / 8 oranges, rich in juice, 200g of peeled and sliced apples, 600g of sugar
You must remove the rind of two oranges (only the superficial part and not the bitter white rind), and then you must cut the rind very finely. Then all you have to do is to peel the remaining oranges, removing even the white rind. You must cut the pulp of the oranges into small pieces, discarding the seeds and stringy parts. You must collect all the pulp and juice in a saucepan (not aluminum).
You must add the apples and the sugar, putting the pot on a medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for about ten minutes. When the apples are cooked, the pot must be removed from the heat and you must pass the mixture to get a thick puree. You must make this puree and put it in the pot again, adding the rind of the two oranges and cook again, bringing the mixture to a boil again. When the jam will become thick like honey, then you must remove from heat and pour it, still hot, in glass jars, closing them tightly.

Ball Simple Creations No Cook Freezer Jam, Fruit Pectin

Confitures a l'Ancienne Andresy Luxury All Fruit Jams Assortment- Apple Pear Walnut, Peach Vanilla and Apricot Almonds

Fruits of the Earth: 100 Recipes for Jams, Jellies, Pickles, and Preserves (The Green Home)

Sensational Preserves: 250 Recipes for Jams, Jellies, Chutneys and Sauces and How

The medicative honeys

Premise the abundance of honey plants, including medicinal ones, one must say that there are at least thirty varieties of honey from herbs (gentian honey, thyme honey, lavender honey, etc...). Medicative honeys or mellitus, are obtained by mixing an aqueous solution of one or more drugs with the honey. Medicative honeys an be prepared with either fluid extracts or infusions or decoctions concentrated, adjusting for doses as for the syrup. In some cases, simply add to the honey the medicinal herbs, finely chopped, fresh, or half the amount for the dry ones.

Here are a couple of recipes for the preparation of medicated honeys. (The same operation can be made with many other plants as well).
-Mellitus of roses (or violets)
You must prepare an infusion with 60g of rose petals, collected in May (the petals must first be crushed gently) with 150 grams of water. You must then pass the infusion through a cloth and then add it to 450gr of honey. You will get a very thick syrup with the medicinal properties of the flowers used. If you used the violets, the syrup will have pectoral property, if you used the rose it will have soothing, emollient and slightly astringent properties.
-Mellitus of linden
You must prepare a concentrate infusion with 60gr of linden flowers and 150g of water. After boiling it, you must filter the infusion through a cloth and then add it to 900 grams of honey, making sure to mix very well.You get a syrup to be taken, by spoons, as perspiratory and antispasmodic.

The medicative wines

The medicinal wines are now almost forgotten and abandoned, but these medicinal wines were once much used for a large number of species, both aromatic or medicinal plants.
It is simply the transfer to the wine of the characteristics of medicinal substances in order to use the solvent properties of the wine (well above that of the water, for alcohol it contains and for its slight acidity).These wines can be prepared or by the maceration of herbs or through dilution of the corresponding fluid extracts. In this way you can get wine digestives, tonics, laxatives etc.

Here are some simple examples:
-wine of wormwood
You have to soak 30gr of flowering tops of wormwood in 60g of alcohol (50 °). Then you must add 1l of excellent white wine and allow to rest for a day. You must then filter all the liquid through a cloth and pour it in a glass bottle. You get a wine to take by small glasses, as a digestive.
-wine of cinnamon
You have to soak 30g of cinnamon bark powder in 500gr of wine from Pantelleria and this compound should remain at rest for six days. Then you have to filter all the liquid through a cloth. This is the famous wine of Hippocrates, well known to the ancients. This wine has great tonic and digestive properties.
Similarly prepare the wines of juniper, ginger and cardamom.
-rhubarb wine, composed
You have to soak 30g of rhubarb root powder, 30g marsh mallow root powder, 8gr dried peel of bitter orange, 4g cardamom in 480 g of wine of Pantelleria or in Marsala , and this compound should remain in soak for a fortnight. Every two days, you must shake the bottle. Finally you have to filter all the liquid through a paper. This medicinal wine is also known as "Elixir of health," because of its property on liver and its digestive and tonic properties.

Home-made wines: How to make them (The Do it yourself series)

The New Age Herbalist: How to Use Herbs for Healing, Nutrition, Body Care, and Relaxation

Basic Herbs for Health and Healing

Herbal Prescriptions for Health & Healing: Your Everyday Guide to Using Herbs Safely and Effectively

Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition

Liqueurs and herbal elixir    Prescription for Herbal Healing An Easy - to - Use A - Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders &Their Herbal Remedies - 2002 publication

These compounds are obtained by first soaking the herb in alcohol, and then mixing the aqueous solution obtained in the aqueous solution of sugar.
Instead of soaking, you can also use the infusion of herbs bruised or powdered extracts and finally the essences of aromatic species.
Here are some simple recipes to prepare at home for some liquors based on herbs.
-Lemon liqueur
You have to soak, for 15 days in the dark in a closed vessel, the peels of twelve lemons, (the peels must not have the white peel) and 36 fresh leaves of lemon, all in one liter of alcohol. Then add a quart of water, in which were dissolved 800gr of sugar. Let stand briefly, then stir and filter through a sheet of paper. It can be drunk as a digestive after meals.
-Peppermint liqueur
You have to macerate, for fifteen days, 50g of peppermint leaves, fresh, in 500 grams of alcohol (50 °). Then add 150g of water in which were dissolved 150 grams of sugar. Finally filter through a sheet of paper. You can drink it as refreshing and digestive.
In the same way, are to be prepared the liqueurs of Melissa and Cedar.
-Elixir of Coffee
Make infusion with 100gr of coffee powder and 500 grams of water, dissolve in it 500 grams of sugar. When it has cooled, add 200g of alcohol, in which were previously left to soak two vanilla bean. Mix and filter everything through a sheet of paper. You can drink as appetizer and invigorating.
-Elixir of anise
You have to macerate, for fifteen days, 50g of bruised anise seeds in 800dl alcohol, then add a quart of water in which were dissolved 800gr of sugar. Filter the whole through a sheet of paper. It can be drunk as a digestive and tonic.
-Liquor of Alpine juniper
You have to macerate for fifteen days, 30gr of Achillea moschata (or dry Artemisia glacialis) and ten bruised juniper berries in 300g of alcohol. Then add 350g of water in which were dissolved 300g of sugar. Finally filter everything through a sheet of paper. The result is a great mountain liquor to be taken as a digestive.

Medicative syrups   

These syrups are solutions of two parts of sugar with one of water (or of the medicative solution). They are an important form of practical use of medicinal herbs.
Medicinal syrups can be prepared or starting from extracts or from tinctures of the select species or even from tea concentrates. It is very important to remain always within the limits of the doses recommended or prescribed.
Here are some simple examples.
-Blackberry syrup (or currants, or raspberries)
You must heat the mixture to double boiler, of 335gr of juice obtained by their fruits and 670gr of sugar. A refreshing and tasty syrup.
-Chamomile syrup
Make an infusion with 10gr of chamomile flowers in 50g of boiling water, then add to the infusion obtained, 65gr of sugar. Calming and soothing syrup, very good for young children.
-Mint syrup (or melissa)
Prepared with 10gr of mint leaves, 5g of alcohol, 50g of water in which have already been dissolved 60g of sugar. Finally, filter everything through a sheet of paper. Refreshing and digestive syrup .

Tinctures of medicinal plants

The tinctures are obtained by employing as a solvent the alcohol at different dilutions with water. The best known are those obtained, for example, from aloe, hive, belladonna, cardamom, eucalyptus, gentian, thrush, rhubarb, scylla, and from saffron.
There are also composite tinctures, here there are some examples.
-"Elixir of Life"
50g of aloe, and 5g for each of the following herbs: gentian, rhubarb, zedoaria, saffron and white agaric. Soak the herbs in 2l of alcohol (60 °). Filter through. Take 10/20 drops dissolved in half cup of water. It has properties invigorating the stomach and it is also a powerful tonic.
-Tincture of wormwood in Venice
50g of wormwood, 20g of bitter orange bark, 10gr calamus root, 10gr of gentian root, 5g of cinnamon. Soak it in 1/2l alcohol for a week. Take 10 drops in half glass of water, in case of dyspepsia and as a digestive.
-Toothpaste tincture of Muller
250gr tincture of lemon balm, 20gr tincture of vanilla, 10gr of tincture of myrrh, 50g of essence of peppermint. Mix all the different, simple tinctures. A few drops in a glass of water serve as a mouthwash for cleaning the teeth.
-Composite tincture against injuries
25gr of arnica flowers, and 25gr of lavender, rosemary and sage. Macerate all herbs in alcohol (80 °) for a week, then press and filter thoroughly. Apply on gauze pads, after having cleaned the wounds, to promote a rapid healing and to prevent the infections.

Easy To Make Fruit Sauces And Syrups

The Herbal Home Remedy Book: Simple Recipes for Tinctures, Teas, Salves, Tonics, and Syrups (Herbal Body)

Herbal Tinctures in Clinical Practice: A brief manual for the physician and health care professional

Spagyrics: The Alchemical Preparation of Medicinal Essences, Tinctures, and Elixirs

The Creative Herbal Home (Living with Herbs)

The Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy: An Herbalist's Guide to Preparing Medicinal Essences, Tinctures, and Elixirs