Herbal Tinctures- What Are They & How To Make One

An Herbal Tincture is a method of preserving the medicinal attributes of an herb in such a way will allow you to use the herbs long after their season is gone.  As I have said before, the more herbs you eat, the healthier you will be.  However, at certain times of the year, certain herbs are not available.  So, by making tinctures you can use herbs all year round.  Typically, to make a tincture you steep the herb of choice in vodka or brandy for four to six weeks.  Once the herb matter is strained out and the liquid re-bottled, the tincture will keep indefinitely.

The essential oils and herbal essences are soluble in alcohol making alcohol a better solvent than vinegar for making tinctures.  Once the menstruum (plant material and solvent) has steeped, all the herbal goodness and health benefits of the herbs will be suspended and concentrated in the alcohol.  This concentration is why so little of the tincture is needed in an individual dose.

There are many combinations of herbs that can be used- select the herbs based on your needs.  Dandelion is an all around great herb with so many medicinal qualities.  I use this herb alone to make a tincture that is taken by anyone feeling “under the weather” to boost the immune system and ward off the colds and flues that tend to go around in the winter.

A small amount- 1/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon per day is all that is taken by adults around our house.  When the children were toddlers a few drops in their sippy cups helped battle the snotty noses and colds that came with childhood.

There are many resources on the internet for recipes and several good herbal books that give instruction as to preparation of tinctures.  I like to use Growing 101 Herbs That Heal, by Tammi Hartung.

A basic recipe is:

1 clean 1 pint glass jar with a fitting lid

Approx. 1 cup chopped fresh herb or 1/4 cup dried herb, coarsely chopped.

1 pint of brandy or vodka.

 

Creating an herbal tincture

Place the chopped herb matter into the jar.

herbal tincturesPour in Vodka or Brandi, let steep for 4-6 weeks, shake weekly, then strain.

herbal tincture

Herbal tincture steeping and waiting to be strained.  Be certain to label with contents and date- the only way to be certain you will remember what is in the jar.

Once strained, pour liquid into a bottle and cap

There you go, it is that easy!

This is what I use for my family.  Research for yourself and decide what is best for your family and yourself.  This is not meant as medical advice or to diagnose illness.

Please Help The Small Farmer- The FDA has a new law that will put many out of business.

What follows below is an overview of the Food Safety Modernization Act- what congress passed left room for the small organic farmer.  The name seems harmless enough and our food should be safe, but there is so much more to it.  In the regulations the FDA is trying to implement All producers, both big and small are being lumped together an will have very expensive regulations saddled on their businesses.  There is a small farm exemption but what constitutes a small farm is very unclear and the FDA is given the authority to revoke a small farms exemption without any proof of a public health concern.  Once the exemption is revoked, the exemption is gone for good.  This huge expense placed on small farms will force many out of business- as stated by the FDA, a fact with which the agency seems to be unconcerned.  Loosing the small organic farmers from your local farmer’s markets will not make your food supply more safe- it will be devastating to your food supply.

In addition to all of this, most of the food contamination cases we have seen in the past have been traced back to the super large industrial farms shipping produce in from foreign countries including Mexico.  These safety regulations will not apply to them.  Therefore, those companies can offer cheap produce and food that is largely unchecked upon entry to our country and our local farmers will have to increase their prices to cover the cost of the regulations and unnecessary testing.  Therefore, the local small farmers will have an even harder time competing.

After reading the overview, please follow the link at the bottom to a site that will allow you to comment directly to the FDA with your concerns.  This site even has letters typed up that you can  copy and paste into the comment section at the FDA’s website.  It will take a bit of your time, but all of us have to stand up for our food supplies and the endangered species called the American small farmer.  Please help.  The comment deadline is November 15th.  We can change the fact that the law is in place at this time, but we can have a voice to make certain that the guidelines adopted are clear and helpful to the small farmers.

What is the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)?

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the first major update of federal food safety laws since 1938. FSMA gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad new powers to prevent food safety problems, detect and respond to food safety issues, and improve the safety of imported foods. FSMA does not change food safety regulations for meat, poultry, and egg products, which are under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s jurisdiction.

FSMA authorizes new regulations at the farm level for producers and certain facilities. Specifically, FSMA mandates the establishment of:

FSMA includes key provisions to make these new regulations scale-appropriate, conservation-friendly, and accessible to certified organic producers and value-added producers. The regulations focus on addressing food safety risks from microbial pathogen contamination (e.g., Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Shigella). FSMA does not address food safety risks from genetically engineered crops, pesticide use, or antibiotic resistance.

FDA has released its proposed (draft) Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule and is seeking public comments on both! 

Why Does it Matter?

Everyone has a role in ensuring safe food from field to fork. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) includes new regulations of practices on produce farms and in facilities that process food for people to eat. This means it represents some big changes to our food system – and it is extremely important for the Food and Drug Administration to get these regulations right so that they improve food safety without placing an unfair burden on family farms.

The risk of foodborne illness — that is, the risk of getting sick or dying from food contaminated with pathogens like E. coli — is largely preventable by good food safety measures applied at every stage of the food supply chain. Examples of good measures include hand washing and keeping foods at the right temperature. However, it’s not as simple as requiring all farms and facilities to meet identical safety requirements. Depending on the complexity of the supply chain, types of food, and practices implemented from farm to table, different kinds of farms and facilities face different types of risks when it comes to contamination that could cause illness.

With the right approach, we will be able to help ensure good food safety practices across the nation without placing an unfair burden on family farmers.

Ultimately, we want to ensure a safe food supply, strong on-farm conservation of natural resources, and thriving family farms and small value-added farm and food businesses. With regulations and requirements that are tailored to different types and sizes of operations, we can achieve these objectives.

Where Did FSMA Come From?

Due to a rise in major outbreaks of foodborne illnesses and increasing bioterrorism concerns after 9/11, both Congress and the Administration proposed new food safety measures in 2009 that expanded food safety regulations to the farm level. Previously, food safety regulatory oversight was focused mainly on the processing, food handling, and manufacturing sectors – areas shown to be of highest risk for foodborne pathogen contamination.

In 2009 and 2010, Congress debated a number of food safety proposals that directly and indirectly affected farms and on-farm processing. These proposals extended regulatory authorities to farms and made some on-farm safety standards mandatory. Concurrently, the Obama Administration created an inter-agency Food Safety Working Group through which the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture started adopting new food safety standards and oversight.

Given the potential impacts of these new food safety proposals on sustainable food production, NSAC created a task force and engaged in the legislative debate. NSAC’s priority was to make sure that the new food safety measures worked for sustainable and organic farmers, and for consumers who wanted access to fresh, local food. Due to NSAC’s leadership and the actions of thousands of farmers and concerned consumers, the new food safety law that Congress passed and that President Obama signed – the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – included the following critical provisions:

What Happens Next?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has started the lengthy process of implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). FDA is currently in what is known as the rulemaking stage – meaning they are turning the bill – FSMA – passed by Congress into actual rules and regulations. They have released their proposed (draft) regulations for public comment as part of this process. These proposed regulations show FDA’s thinking on how to implement the provisions in FSMA and are not yet final. Currently, FDA is requesting comments on two proposed regulations:

After FDA has received and reviewed the comments, the agency will prepare to publish final rules (with rules as big as these, the agency might opt to release another draft set of rules before finalizing them). All of the positive provisions listed above that Congress passed as part of FSMA must make it into the final rules published by FDA to become part of the new regulations.

NSAC is carefully analyzing the proposed rules to ensure this happens, and we need your help – it is critical for sustainable farmers and consumers who care about where their food comes from to write comments to FDA about the proposed regulations to ensure that FDA correctly implements FSMA! Check out the links below to learn more about the two rules – and then submit your own comments to FDA!

 

Click HERE for the page to enable you to leave your comment with the FDA.  There is a button for producers and a button for consumers.

Thank you for you time.

Just another note- the FDA that is charged with inspection, regulation, and enforcing the exemption rule is staffed with many big Monsanto boys appointed by the President- going back several terms.  Is it any wonder that this act is damaging to small farmers?  Monsanto has been suing and bulling small farmers for years and putting them out of business.

Divorce & The Holidays

christmas

As the holidays approach, life can really get complicated.  Add in blended families and divorced parents and it can be a real mine field.

So I am going to offer something that, I hope will make your holiday what you hope for.  Sit quietly and think about what memories you would like to make with your children and what you want them to remember when they are grown and look back on the holidays that they shared with you.  Frankly, this applies to any facet of life- what do you want your kids to remember when they look back and make that happen.

In regards to the holidays, don’t let all the voices pulling at you influence your dreams.  Just take a few minutes to dream about what you would like and what would be best for your children.  Now go do that.

I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a friend.  Her children were all little and she was married to her original husband who was the father of all four kids.  The stress she was feeling was that both his and her parents were divorced and remarried- and all wanted them at their respective homes for the holidays.  She was exhausted and didn’t really want to make 5-6 stops in a 48 hour period with four small children in tow.  This was not what she thought was best for her kids or herself.  When asked what I thought I offered this:

“You did not create the problem.  It was not your decision or your husband’s for either of your parent’s to get a divorce.  The adults at the time made that decision.  Now, they have to live with the consequences.  Because they chose divorce, they now have to understand that they will not have all the children and grandchildren at every holiday.  And that is not your fault or your problem to fix.”

Now, will people get mad when you choose to stay home or only visit one or two homes?  Yes.

Will they get their feelings hurt?  Probably.

Will they be harmed? No.

The main thing is that you live and establish YOUR family in the way that is best for you and them.  Your  children are only little once, don’t let it pass by missing out on what you dream of by trying to make everyone else happy.

I hope this helps someone have a less stressful holiday.  The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration- but we have to be purposeful for that to happen.

 

just passed: the law against common sense

Small farmers need your help, if you eat this law matters to you but you probably don’t even know is just got passed. Please take the time to click a link and help out the small farms

Auburn Meadow Farm

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Okay eagle eyes, I know 37¢ stamps are a little behind the times

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What? A law against common sense? You didn’t know?

I’m pretty sure it was.  Of course it’s secret. Voted in a closed-door session, announced quickly late on a Friday afternoon then completely ignored by mainstream media.

I’m talking about the Food Safety Modernization Act, but you can probably insert your own business or industry since there is so much crazy flying around who can be in the know about all of it?

Like all common sensical infrastructure we depend on for our very lives,  we know frightfully little about food AND food safety. But it must involve lots of plastic, right?  

I’m a little smitten with a phrase I read recently in the Small Farmer’s Journal: Civilian Agriculture. That’s right, Civilian Agriculture. Let that sink in for a minute. I’ve been chewing on…

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Pumpkin Pickin' and Memory Makin'

This past July I sweated profusely as I put 30 pumpkin seedlings in the ground.  I didn’t mind the heat or the sweat because in my mind I could see my children, my nieces, and little cousins picking pumpkins from a pumpkin patch not from a bin or pile at the store, but from a real live pumpkin patch.  Never mind that I had never grown a pumpkin before nor had I seen anyone around me do it, this was my goal.  I wasn’t shooting for Halloween as my target date, I was shooting for November- Thanksgiving.  That part turned out just about right, we did have pumpkins but we needed to pick them early as the cool wet rains we kept having were causing a problem with the powdery mildew.  As it happened, my nieces and my cousin, Luke -a preschooler, were around on Sunday so I hauled them all out and we picked pumpkins!  What fun!!

If you have never heard a child giggle or squeal with delight at the discovery in a garden- you, my friend, have not experienced one of the finer things in life.

new pumpkin patchThe pumpkin patch about a month old.  Growing strong and beautiful.

Searching for pumpkinsLooking for pumpkins amid all the large leaves.  These pumpkins did not turn orange as they should have.  Instead we had lovely molted green pumpkins with an orange splash.  No bother, it was still fun and the unusual pumpkins were pretty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKatie found a baby, the kids all like the babies just as well as the big ones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARylie has found one, with a nice orange splotch.  She is twisting it to break the stem off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALuke has just discovered that the stem of a pumpkin is prickly!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJonathan totes the large pumpkin for Rylie, he was waiting with his trusty knife if the twisting did not work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUncle Tony and Katie.  Tony requested that we pick pumpkins when he could be around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALuke took to wrestling the pumpkins free and Sierra tried to help.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKitchen shears to the rescue, Sierra helps Luke get his prize

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuccess!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA pile of cute kids and pumpkins!  We will do this again next year.  However, I plant to set a date and invite all the other cousins.  We will watch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and eat something – maybe roasted pumpkin seeds that we harvest and roast ourselves.  I also plan to plant some “Mighty Max” pumpkins that reach weights of over 100 lbs as well as smaller pumpkins that can be handled by smaller pickers.  The seed order will be placed this Friday.  I just can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basil- For A Moment More & How To Make An Herbal Vinegar

As I left out on my morning run, for the first time this year I wore a hooded sweatshirt over my t-shirt and wind-pants with a cap on my head.  For us here in East Texas, that is just almost cold.  I could see my breath but there was no frost on the ground, just a heavy dew.  Oh, but how brilliantly the dew shone in the early morning sun with the reds and golds of the leaves finally beginning to show.  I was not the only one feeling invigorated by this Autumn morning, as I ran by the field across from our place, the resident horse came galloping up to the fence and ran along with me until she ran out of field.  Some days, it is an effort to choose to run but not today.

purple basil and kale

One thing the morning did tell me was that basil and it’s other hot weather friends are not long for this world.  So, in preparation for the influx of herbs & peppers that are about to line my drying racks and the hall (I have to make use of the space I have so I have fishing line strung down the hall to hang herbs on) I am getting the jars and vinegar’s ready to go.  Making herbal vinegar is an easy process, they make wonderful gifts and they add so much to your kitchen prowess.  A pork loin marinated in basil vinegar tastes like something from a five star restaurant.

purple basil and vinegar

For the most part, which herb you use and which vinegar to use are completely up to you and your taste buds.  A good place to start is with white wine vinegar and basil.  This will make a wonderful vinaigrette or marinade.  If you have purple basil, you will have the most beautiful purple/pink vinegar you ever laid your eyes on as seen in the above picture.  The purple basil is Dark Opal and the green is Sweet Genovese- both of these are the standard type basil flavor with which you would make pesto or spaghetti sauce.  Health food stores will generally have better prices on large quantities of vinegar in its various forms.

The recipe below calls for chives, if you don’t have any you can leave that off.  If you have not been growing herbs long enough to have this much material to cut from, you can purchase fresh herbs at your local farmer’s market.  Remember, any flavors you like together will go together in the vinegar such as rosemary and garlic, oregano, basil, and sun/oven roasted tomatoes.  While learning the way, start with small batches this way if it tastes bad, you didn’t lose much.  However, every mistake is a lesson learned and experience is the best teacher.

For sterilizing your jars, wash them with hot soapy water, rinse and dry in a 225′ oven for 15 minutes or use a dishwasher.

 

Basil, Chive, & Lemon Vinegar

Zest of ½ lemon

5 Basil Leaves

10 stalks of chives

1 cup white vinegar ( any type such as rice or wine)

 

Zest lemon, crush or chop basil and chives, place in a clean dry jar.  Pour vinegar in and cap- vinegar should cover all the herbs completely add more if needed. After 24 hours add more vinegar if the herbs have soaked up the vinegar.  Vinegar is ready to go after 24 hours, but the flavor will develop the longer it sits so 10 -14 days is fine too.  Strain herbs out and compost them.  Store  vinegar in a cool dark place, it will keep indefinitely.

Making these things at home is a safe activity- it has been being done since ancient times.  Use good sense, clean and dry utensils and jars- moisture is your enemy- and all will be well.  Remember- if it is growing funny things, bubbling like it is boiling but there is no heat or it smells raunchy- throw it out.  Please consult your county extension office if you would like more detailed information on canning.

herbal vinegars

 

The choices are endless, just make certain that you label and date all your creations at the time to place them in the jars.  Trust me, you won’t be able to remember it later!