Our Mother's Little Helpers

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Our Mother's Little Helpers

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by Morrigan Benton-Floyd

Hello. The rain has finally abated, allowing us to get in our gardens. Summer is well underway and harvest time is quickly approaching. I hope you are enjoying these warm, fertile months.

I recently had a request from a reader to address herbal treatment of hives. Hives is a skin condition that brings itchy lumps (whitish with a red inflamed area around them). Also known as urticaria or nettle rash, hives are often triggered by an allergic reaction to food, food additives, drugs (particularly aspirin), insect bites or stress. Unfortunately, I found very little that did not just treat symptoms. The best bet is to find the trigger and avoid it. There are some herbal/natural ways to ease the discomfort though. For hives brought on by stress, use an infusion of any of the nervines. My favorites are valerian, skullcap, chamomile and hops. I mix these together and drink as a hot infusion, I also find using a tincture is helpful. Use this during times of stress. Aloe vera gel eases the rash. In your bath water, use any of the following: add 3 tablespoons of sodium bicarbonate, this will relieve the itching. Add 5 tablespoons of oatmeal to the bath to soothe the rash. Add 1 cup of vinegar to the bath water to restore the skin's pH balance. Alternatively, apply diluted vinegar solution to affected areas with a sterile cotton ball.

The use of edible flowers in cooking has a long history. Odysseus encountered Sybarites eating lotus flowers when on his way home from Troy. Charlemagne had his wine flavored with garden carnations. The Chinese have used day lilies, lotus and chrysanthemums in their woks for centuries. Elizabethan cooks made "stewed primroses" and "gilly flower fondant." The American colonists made violet vinegar, Oswego tea with bergamot flowers and mutton broth with marigolds.

The best time to pick edible flowers is in the early morning when the blossoms are fresh and moist. Remove any part of the stem. Be careful using the stamen, sepal and calyx, for they may be bitter. Often just the petals are used. Gently wash the blossoms in cool water. Wrap them in paper towels and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until mealtime. It's best to use them fresh, but the flowers will keep for a few days and may be "crisped" in ice water.

The flowers of all culinary herbs are safe to use. If the leaf of the herb is safe to use, then so is its flower. What follows is a short list of safe herbs/flowers so that you can start. Before you start experimenting with all the pretty blossoms in your yard, become familiar with lists of flowers that are safe for human consumption. Be sure your children know the difference between safe and unsafe plants, too. Be certain that the flowers you use are pesticide free.

Safe edible flowers include: all culinary herbs, bachelor button, begonia, calendula (petals), carnation (dianthus pinks - petals), chrysanthemums (petals), citrus tree blossoms, cornflower, dandelion. (petals), English daisy (petals), fuschia, gladiola, hibiscus, hollyhock, honeysuckle, johnny jumpup, nasturtium, purslane, rose (petals), scented geraniums, snapdragons, squash (especially male zucchini blossoms), tulip, viola, violet, watercress and yucca.

Hollyhock, calendula and bachelor button blossoms are compatible in salads of tossed greens. Float edible blossoms on soup; toss them in salads; crystallize them to decorate desserts; freeze them in ice cubes or rings for punch or cold drinks; combine into stir-fry dishes or marinades; mix into cream cheese or use as a garnish.

It is a pleasure for me to write this column for Access. I appreciate all of your kind words and encouragement given. Have a good month, bathe yourself in light and I'll see you in September.

Love and Light, Morrigan

Sentient Press.

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By Morrigan Benton-Floyd

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