On May 1, we celebrate Beltane, the festival of spring.
Mother Earth is donning her lushest gown of flowers and blossoms, and birds are singing from the trees. The heart rejoices as the spirit soars!
At Beltane, we celebrate the magical powers of creativity, fertility and abundance – the sheer miraculous beauty of life.
The God and the Goddess who preside over the undying force of life are in love, turning the land green and lush wherever they go. Every fragrant flower – a kiss and a blessing of their adoration.
Let’s share in their passion and celebrate the miracle of life! Beauty, love and merry-making are their rituals. Taste the zest of life!
If you have a garden, you witness and partake in this magic as you nurture your young seedlings. Pouring energy into your budding projects produces a similar experience of participating in this magic of creating. The magic of manifestation lies in the nurture and love that nurtures the seed ideas.
Take time to reflect on nature’s generosity and practice gratitude and mindfulness to attune to every nuance of this blessed time of the year.
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Foraging Daisy (Bellis perennis)
The dainty Daisy is a picture of innocence: it seems to have been made for adorning children’s heads. But there is a lot more to these lovely little flowers than meets the eye.
The English name ‘Daisy’ means ‘Day’s Eye’ because the Daisy opens its flower head in the morning and closes it at night.
But the origin of its Latin name is a lot more surprising and somewhat controversial. Bellis means ‘pretty’ – an obvious choice for this little herb. But Mrs Grieves thinks it may have been named after a dryad known as Belidis. Another common name is ‘Baldur’s Brow’, linking the Daisy to the Norse Sun God Baldur. Another association links it to Bellona, a Goddess of war. Judging only by its appearance, this suggestion seems improbable, but its traditional medicinal uses give a deeper insight.
Properties of Daisy
Daisies first appear around the Spring Equinox, when the Sun enters Aries, which is ruled by Mars. The ancient herbalists used Daisy as a vulnerary – an herb to treat wounds, and as an anti-inflammatory and diaphoretic, for treating fevers. Inflammation, fever, and wounds all suggest a ‘Martian’ connection.
Mars also leaves its signature on the taste sensation. The leaves and roots are quite astringent, almost hot, but very unlike the heat of chillies. Instead, it is a spreading, radiating warmth, not a blistering burn.
The leaves are a little rough and moist, and have a demulcent quality. The old herbalists found Daisy’s heat suitable for treating conditions characterized by retracted, cold phlegm. Daisies loosen congestive conditions caused by an excess of cold moisture -as the ancient herbalists would put it.
Modern clinical herbalists have all but forgotten the pretty English Daisy. They use her sister, the Ox-Eyed Daisy, instead. Both can be used for similar complaints. Ox-Eyed Daisies are an excellent remedy for chronic bronchial conditions, asthma, and whooping cough. It is also used to treat nervous excitability and, prepared as a lotion or ointment, as a wound herb.
Wild herbs are not only nutritious but also therapeutic – and none more so than the early spring herbs. They often provide just what our bodies need to restore vitality after fending off winter bugs.
Daisy as Wild Food
Daisy in the Salad:
Daisy leaves and flowers can be added to spring salads. The young, tender leaves are rich in vitamin C, and their heat produces a diaphoretic effect.
Conventional Capers are made from the unopened flower buds of the caper tree (Capparis spinosa.) But inventive foragers use the same method on other flower buds, such as Daisies or Dandelions (only use edible flowers!)
The basic recipe is quite simple:
Pick about one cup of Daisy buds, wash, and cover them with about 500 ml of salted water. Quickly bring to a boil and strain through a cheesecloth or finely meshed strainer.
Place the buds into a stone jar and pour 500 ml of boiling vinegar over them.
Make sure they are completely covered.
After about 4-5 days, pour the buds and vinegar into a pan and, making sure the buds are covered, bring to a boil.
Let them cool, jar and cover with jam cling film to prevent the buds from coming into direct contact with the air and turning mouldy.
Daisy soup is quick and easy to prepare and can be made at almost any time of the year. Use all parts of the plant: roots, leaves and flowers. (Only use the roots if Daisies are prolific in your area.) Picking the plants is easy, but if you have heavy clay soil, be prepared for clots of dirt to cling to the roots, making cleaning them tedious.
Pick about 6-8oz of flowers (roots, leaves and tops), clean well and chop them up (not too small).
Quickly sauté them in a heavy pan with a few drops of olive oil.
Add half a cup of white wine or apple cider, let the alcohol fly off, and stir in 1 litre of vegetable broth. Season to taste and finish off with a dash of cream. Serve with croutons.
In the past, there has been a lot of organic waste from the Cacao harvest. Research has been focused on alternative uses for all the discarded pods and fruit pulp produced during the Cacao bean harvest.
CACAO BUTTER :
A white /yellowish oil, expressed from the crushed seeds
Palmitic, Stearic-, Oleic-, Linoleic Acid, traces of Isoleic acid
Emollient and nutrient
Non-chocolate uses of Theobroma Cacao
Economically, the most important use of Cacao is for making chocolate and cocoa for all our favourite sweet stuff. Cacao fat, pressed from roasted Cacao beans, is a by-product that has its own uses.
Cacao Butter for Cosmetic and Pharmaceutical uses
The cosmetic industry uses Cacao butter as a nutritionally rich, moisturizing, and emollient fat in numerous skin-care products.
Cacao butter is solid at room temperature but melts at body temperature. Suppositories, meant to dissolve inside the body, are often made with Cacao butter. Lotions for haemorrhoids, vaginal and uterine lesions, or dry, chapped skin, lip balm and wound dressings also frequently contain Cacao butter.
Internally, Cacao butter can help soothe bronchial and intestinal irritations. In fact, even high quality, high percentage Cocoa and Chocolate has some amazing superfood properties.
New uses from waste products
During processing, the beans and some fruit pulp are left to ‘sweat’ for a few days, which changes the beans’ chemistry, reducing their bitterness and creating the right conditions for their characteristic chocolate flavour to develop. Although the pulp is an essential part of this process, only small amounts are. About 60% of the pulp goes to waste.
Cacao smoothies and juices
But it doesn’t have to. In Brazil, farmers remove much of the pulp to modify the acidity and obtain smoother-tasting beans. The fruit pulp is sold at the local market and turned into various delicious products. Cocoa fruit-pulp jelly is a local delicacy. It serves as an ingredient in juices or shakes. But it could also be frozen and used to flavour ice cream, yoghurt or sold as a fruit juice concentrate. Unfortunately, so far, preserving large amounts of pulp has proved difficult and costly.
To find ways to make more of the harvest, besides the beans, would be highly desirable, since Cacao prices on the global market are fickle, putting the small subsistence farmers at risk.
New uses for discarded pods
Traditionally, a certain proportion of discarded pods is fed to animals, but the pods are not very digestible. In West Africa, the discarded pods are burnt to yield potassium-rich ash, used for making soap. But composting them, or making bio-char which in turn could be used to return valuable nutrients to the soil, would reduce farmers’ dependence on chemical fertilizers and reduce their costs. (1)
In recent years, research has focused on other alternative products that could be obtained from Cacao without decreasing pod yields. (Antonio Figueira, Jules Janick, and James N. BeMiller, 1993)
One such product is gum, present in both the stem and, to a larger extent, in the pods. This gum has a similar composition as Karaya Gum, which is typically extracted from various Sterculia species.
The food- and pharmaceutical industries use it as an emulsifying agent and fixative. Studies show that Cacao pod gum compares favourably with Gum Karaya. Both contain the same monosaccharides, but Cacao pod gum also contains arabinose and has a higher proportion of rhamnose, making it better suited as a binder for pharmaceutical pills. In this respect, it is even superior to Gum Tragacanth. (Figueira et al. 1992).
Due to supply inconsistencies, the demand for Karaya gum has diminished. But Cacao pod gum could provide a superior and readily available alternative that could also provide a secondary source of income for subsistence farmers.
Figueira, A., J. Janick, and J.N. BeMiller. 1993. New products from Theobroma cacao: Seed pulp and pod gum. p. 475-478. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), New crops. Wiley, New York.
Figueira, A., J. Janick, M. Yadav, and J.N. BeMiller. 1992. Cacao gum: a potential new economic product. In: Proc. Int. Cocoa Conf. Challenges in the 90s (in press).
Unten, S., H. Ushijima, H. Shimizu, H. Tsuchie, T. Kitamura, N. Moritome, and H. Sakagami. 1991. Effect of cacao husk extract on human immunodeficiency virus infection. Letters Appl. Microbiol. 14:251-254.
What gardening jobs are there to do in May? Actually, there are plenty. May is one of the busiest gardening months. Sowing, planting, weeding, maintenance and more – there is plenty to do.
The main gardening jobs in April are going to be planting, sowing, and weeding. Hopefully, all your plots are ready to go.
What gardening jobs are there to do in March? This is a quick guide to what to do and sow in the garden in March.
This article is about unknown uses of Theobroma cacao. This remarkable tree can offer even more than chocolate – as if that wasn’t enough.
This article is about the amazing nutritional superfood benefits of Cacao and high Cacao content chocolate.
This article is a short introduction to one of my favourite plants: Cocoa – Theobroma cacao, the food of the gods.
Even as early as February, there are things you can do to kick off the gardening season and get a nice head start.
I never heard of Lion’s Mane mushroom until I found one in the woods. I am so glad it came into my life – and changed it for good!
Growing a garden starts with knowing your environment and creating a map that fits the territory. There are a few basic perimeters.
Chickweed is a little sprawling herb with heart-shaped leaves and star-shaped flowers that belongs to the Pink family. Gardeners hate it.
Frankincense is well-known as that stuff that is burnt in church. But what exactly is it, and where does it come from?
What gardening jobs could there possibly be in December? More than you think! Harvesting, pruning, even sowing! And of course, planning!
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