Dandelion Flower Tempura

Dandelion Tempura
This is a springtime staff favorite at Avena Botanicals! When the hillsides are in bloom, we come together, baskets in hand, to harvest the fresh dandelion flowers. We gather under the old willow tree for lunch and toast these golden morsels to the arrival of spring in Maine.
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Biodymanic Training Program

Biodynamic Training Program
Sept. 28 - Oct. 1, 2017, May 24 - 27, 2018, July 5 - 8, 2018, Sept 27 - 30, 2018


Avena’s gardens are the first Demeter-certified Biodynamic Gardens in Maine. Topics will include Biodynamic philosophy and the anthroposophical roots of biodynamics, making and using biodynamic preparations, building compost, soil health, medicinal herbs, water research, cows, honeybees, elemental beings, using the BD calendar, Goethe’s plant observation method, and more. Guest teachers will include Thea Maria Carlson, Laura Riccardi Lyvers, Gunther Hauk, Sherry Wildfeuer, Claudia Ford, Bruno Follador, Jean David Derreumaux, Deb Soule, Tom Griffin, and more. Tuition includes nine organic, biodynamic meals per session, campsite with hot outdoor shower and bathroom access, a nearby swimming pond, & class supplies.
Outdoor camping is available. Please bring your own personal tent, ground cloth, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. We have a lovely outdoor shower, composting toilets, and plenty of drinking water from our well.

We will be providing fresh herbal tea, as well as breakfast (Fri, Sat & Sun), lunch (Fri, Sat & Sun) and dinner (Thurs, Fri & Sat). Breakfast is served buffet style in the Willow House and generally consists of eggs, whole grain bread, muesli, yogurt, fruit, nut butter, steamed greens and herbal tea. Feel free to bring your own coffee (we have a coffee maker and filters) and non-perishable snacks. Please also let us know by September 1st 2017 if you have any food allergies or sensitivities, including nuts, seeds, dairy, gluten or wheat so that our wonderful local cooks can meet your needs.

Please call 207-370-4775 or email info@herbalclassroom.org with any questions or needs you may have. We are looking forward to meeting each of you and sharing this special journey together!

In the spirit of healing,
Deb Soule

Nettles (Urtica dioica)

 Nettles: (Urtica diocia) 

Other common names: Stinging nettle, wild spinach

Parts used: Spring leaves are used most often, though the seeds and the root can also be utilized

Many people despise stinging nettles because the hairs on the stems and undersides of the leaves contain formic acid that stings some people. Many of us have probably had the experience or heard tales of people accidentally running into a nettle patch. Bruised plantain or yellow dock leaves rubbed onto a sting will act as an antidote to the formic acid. Nettles can be an ally, if you let yourself befriend this plant.

Habitat:

Nettles grow wild in wet, rich soil in various placed around the world. If you want to get a patch growing, the easiest way is to obtain a few cuttings and plant them in a shady area with plenty of compost and lots of room for them to spread.

Nettle leaves are a dull green color, serrated hairy, oval shaped, and grow opposite each other. Spring is the best time to gather the young leaves for eating, tincturing, or for drying for tea. 

 

Harvesting:

Take a pair of gloves and garden clippers, I cut the top three to four inches off the early spring plants. I am amused by the small greenish yellow flowers that hang down from the stems in early summer. The female and male flowers grow on separate plants or branches. The seeds can be collected in early fall when they turn brown.

To dry the leaves, pick them in the spring before the flowers form and before the plants reach three feet high. Carefully lay them onto nylon screens. Once dry, the hairs may feel prickly if you handle the leaves with your bare hands, but the formic acid is gone. Store the leaves in glass jars in a dark place.

 

Nourishment:

Nettles are high in iron and safe enough to drink as a daily tea or several times a week. Nettle tincture, taken internally over several weeks, supports the kidneys and adrenal glands, nourishes the liver, and improves the elasticity of the veins.

The most effective way I know of extracting the various minerals nettle contains is by placing the dried or fresh leaves in a glass pot of cool water and letting it sit overnight. The tea water will be brownish in the morning. Sometimes I drink this tea cool, or I warm it up slowly and then let it steep for five to fifteen minutes.

Another delicious way to eat nettles is to use them in place of spinach in lasagna, stir-fry, quiche or create an old Italian favorite, Malfatti.

 

Nettles and our Pets:

Powdered nettle leaves combined with powdered alfalfa, rosemary and kelp are an excellent dietary supplement for dogs, cats, horses, goats, llamas, chickens, cows and sheep. The skin, hair and bones of any animal will look vastly improved with the addition of these herbal supplements to their diet. 

 

 

Nettle Malfatti - A delicious way to enjoy tender spring nettles!

Nettle Malfatti with Parmesan and Lemon
From The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes by Connie Green and Sarah Scott

Wild Nettle Malfatti
The word means “badly made,” and though malfatti are used for an odd dish or two in Italy, our wine-country malfatti are unique. Local legend says that the dish was invented during the Depression by an elderly local Italian-American woman faced with feeding a football team and having no pasta on hand. This traditional and economical mixture is composed of old bread, eggs, cheese and Swiss chard or spinach. Our use of wild nettles would probably have made this frugal woman happy. The blue-green color and richer flavor of the nettles really enhance these malfatti. A few cooks add ricotta, but we’re sticking with the old way. This wonderful dish survives in just a couple of little delis in Napa. This pleasure deserves preservation. Make the malfatti a day or two ahead for the best texture, then roll the malfatti mixture into the traditional tiny link shapes.

 

For the Malfatti:
1/2 pound wild nettle leaves, cleaned (wear gloves at all times during handling until cooked)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced 
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs, well beaten
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 3/4 cup for topping malfatti
1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Wearing gloves or using tongs, plunge the nettles into the water and cook for 3 minutes, pushing the nettles down as needed. Drain the nettles through a colander, then spread them out on a rack placed inside a baking sheet to cool to room temperature. Squeeze out any excess moisture, then chop them coarsely.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic, stirring to coat with the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the nettles, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper and stir together. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes. Uncover and cool to room temperature.
Place the nettle mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Add another 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Process until the mixture is very finely chopped. Place in a large mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs into the nettle mixture to loosen
it. Add the Parmesan and bread crumbs and work them in evenly, using a wooden spoon or your hands. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
Lightly flour a cutting board and have a bowl of flour nearby to use for shaping the malfatti. With floured hands, pinch off a rounded teaspoon of the malfatti mixture. Gently roll it between the palms of your hands to form a small torpedo shape, about 1 1/2 inches long, with slightly tapered ends. The mixture will be moist, so keep your hands lightly floured to prevent sticking. Line up the malfatti on a floured baking sheet, close to but not touching one another. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (At this point, the malfatti can be frozen on a tray, then put into resealable plastic freezer bags for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator on a baking sheet before cooking.)

Place the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat

Cook until foaming and starting to turn golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. You will see little bits of golden brown milk solids in the bottom of the pan, and the foam will begin to turn golden brown. Remove from the heat before the color gets too dark, because the butter continues to cook for a few minutes off the heat. Hold in a warm place while the malfatti cook.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Drop in enough malfatti to fit comfortably in the pot without touching. When the water comes back to a boil, turn down the heat slightly, cook the malfatti until they bob to the surface, then cook for 3 to 4 more minutes. Lift the malfatti out of the water with a flat strainer, give them a gentle shake, then place them on a baking sheet and hold them in a warm place while you cook the rest. Bring the water back to a boil before adding the next batch.

To serve, reheat the butter over low heat. Stir in the lemon juice and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the warm malfatti to the pan in a single layer and roll them around to coat with the butter. Sprinkle with the lemon zest and the remaining Parmesan. Serve immediately. Makes 5 dozen.


TIPS AND TECHNIQUES 
The nettles lose their sting after cooking, so handle them with gloves before they are blanched. After that, they can be touched safely.
If you don’t have a large enough sauté pan to hold all the malfatti in a single layer, divide the butter between two pans to heat them all at the same time.

Substitutions and variations:
Swiss chard or spinach leaves or a combination can be substituted for the nettles.

A WORD ON NETTLES
Harvesting nettles is a delicate spring dance requiring long gloves and, ideally, your thickest pants. At the base of these angled needles is a sac of formic acid, which is quickly injected into the clumsy harvester. The burning from the acid can last from thirty minutes to a more dastardly twelve hours.

Cleaning and Preparation: Wear gloves at all times when handling stinging nettles. Rinse the nettles, although tidy harvesting into a clean container can making washing a nonissue.The tiny flowers likely to be on the plant belong there and are excellent cooked with the leaves.

Cooking Methods:
Never eat nettles raw. Cook them very quickly with just the water clinging to the rinsed leaves- as you would for spinach or swiss chard- to hold their color, flavor and, nutritional content.

Ideal Stinging Nettles: Each should have a short, tender stem, look bright green, and have four tender leaves.

Alert: Wear gloves during all stages of handling: harvesting, washing, and, preparation until disarmed after cooking.  

  bon appetito!



 

 

 

 

NEW- Goddess Boxes

NEW RELEASE!
Gardening Goddess Gift Boxes
Just in time for Mother's Day!
Herbs from the garden make the best gift for gardeners! 
Give the gardener in your life these pampering
gems to honor and soothe their bodies and
lift their spirits!

OUR GODDESS BOXES           
                                                            
                      
 
GARDENING GODDESS BOX
This gift set comes delicately arranged in a kraft cardboard box that’s filled with our gardeners’ tissue paper and a sprinkling of dried calendula petals, then wrapped in lovely white satin ribbon. Includes a jar of Avena's Fairy Flower Crème scented with lavender
(2 oz), a bottle of Calendula Oil (1 oz), a bar of Wandering Goat Aloe Comfrey Soap, and a package of Calendula seeds from Avena’s Gardens.

ETERNAL SUNSHINE GODDESS BOX
This is the perfect box for the Goddess who brings eternal sunshine to your life. Wandering Goat’s luscious Calendula soap is a treat for any gardener’s hands. Crafted with goat’s milk, this delicately-scented sweet orange soap will moisturize as it gently washes away a job well done. Soothe sun-kissed skin with our Calendula Oil and restore your hands with our Heal-All Salve. Connect with the spirit of Avena’s garden with our hand-harvested calendula seeds. Perfect for container gardening, it will bring a ray of sunshine to your patio, deck, or bright windowsill.

Carrot and Yam Soup with Citrus and Spices (with Immune Broth)

Carrot and Yam Soup with Citrus and Spices
Adapted From Love Soup, By Anna Thomas - Deb Soule's Favorite Soup Book

Ingredients
1 or 2 large organic yams (1.25 to 2 pounds)
1 large onion
1 pinch of salt
1 pound of organic carrots
½ pound of organic parsnips
¼ pound peeled and sliced organic celeriac root
3 cups of water (or homemade soup stock)
1 tsp sea salt
1 inch stick of cinnamon
½ tsp of coriander seeds (lightly toasted & ground)
¼ tsp of nutmeg
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
1 organic orange rind (grated)
3 TBL of fresh organic lemon juice
1 ice cube of Immune Broth (added to each bowl)
Olive oil to saute with

Directions
Preheat oven to 375F. Roast the organic yams. Pierce them a few times with a fork and bake until totally soft - 45 minutes. Allow to cool, and peel. Chop and saute onion in olive oil with a pinch of salt until soft and lightly brown. Slice the organic carrots, parsnips and celeriac root and combine in a soup pot with 3 cups of water (or homemade soup stock), sea salt, stick of cinnamon, ground coriander seeds, nutmeg and pinch of cayenne pepper. Simmer together, covered, until tender - about ½ hour. Add roasted yam and onion, grated orange rind, fresh organic lemon juice, and salt. Add a bit more water if needed. Blend in small batches until totally smooth. Readjust seasonings. When serving hot, place one ice cube of Immune Broth in each person’s bowl, ladle in hot steaming soup. The ice cube will melt and the benefits of the Immune Broth will be imparted to all eaters!

Fortify Your Soups with Immune Broth

 

For over 20 years, Avena Botanicals has combined certified organic roots and mushrooms into a blend for making your own immune broth at home. Unlike many competing products in the marketplace, 100% of the mushrooms we use are grown in the USA. Our Immune Broth contains certified organic Astragalus root, organic Burdock root, organic Eleuthero root bark, sustainably wild-crafted Red Reishi mushroom, and organic Shiitake mushroom.


I recommend that you cook the herbs and mushrooms for a minimum of 8-24 hours, adding water as needed, and then strain and pour the cooled concentrated liquid into ice cube trays. Once frozen, store the ice cubes in a sealed bag in your freezer (approximately 6 weeks of ice cubes per person when taken daily). The ice cubes are ready to use on a regular basis, daily or several times a week, by placing into a warm bowl of your favorite soup or into a cup of warm miso soup (my favorite miso is made by South River Miso Company). Winter is the season for soups with an added cube of Immune Broth! I recommend an ice cube a day, or three times a week, per person, to strengthen the immune system, digestion, and the respiratory system and to protect the body from exposure to inclement weather and environmental toxins.

Below is information about the fortifying ingredients in Avena Botanicals' Immune Broth.


Astragalus root (Astragalus membranaceus)
Astragalus is an essential herb for the time in which we are living as it gives us the nourishment and strength to think clearly, to stand up, and be our authentic selves, to be informed by inspiration, to digest both our food and life experiences fully, and to strengthen our lungs and immune system. Astragalus when taken regularly in soup (Immune Broth), or as tea or tincture, helps us be less “thin-skinned” and stronger in our ability to stand upright, emotionally and physically, and to receive the breath qi (chi)-inspiration in all its forms. To be guided by inspiration, and to receive inspiration from the beauty of the natural world (and from music, literature, theater, art, children, Elders, and healing dances and songs), can help humans be kinder, more caring, and compassionate towards ourselves, each other, and our planet.

Burdock root (Arctium lappa)
Burdock’s mildly sweet and bitter taste stimulates digestive activity, clears toxins from the gut, lessens sweet cravings and relieves gas, indigestion and constipation. Its sweet and oily properties benefit the endocrine system and nourish people who feel tired and run down. Burdock improves liver function and supports women’s hormonal shifts throughout their menstruating and menopausal years and even beyond menopause. Burdock root contains inulin, a rich source of fructo-oliogosaccharides (FOS), which enhances the growth of healthy bowel flora. Burdock root has long been revered for its ability to remove accumulated waste from the tissues and bring the body back into a balanced state of health.

Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus, also known as Siberian ginseng)
Eleuthero has been one my most favorite herbs for many years. When I take it consistently over several months, I feel like I am standing on solid ground. This deeply rebuilding and restorative tonic increases overall vitality, physical strength, and endurance. It strengthens the immune system’s reservoir, improves digestion and absorption of nutrients, supports healthy liver function and maintains healthy blood flow through the arteries to the brain-improving memory, concentration and overall mental clarity. During my recent trip to study in Ecuador, I used tinctures of Avena Botanicals' Eleuthero and Hawthorn Plus, starting a month before my travels, to support my immunity and ability to be at higher altitudes (10,000 feet). Eleuthero is far less stimulating than American or Chinese ginseng. See below for more information about our Eleuthero tincture, which is also now back in stock.

Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma tsugae)
This red shelf mushroom is found growing in hemlock groves on old stumps and fallen down trees in Maine and throughout New England. I enjoy cross country skiing and hiking through hemlock groves-pausing to deeply infuse with their spirit and beauty. Reishi has become a popular mushroom for enhancing the immune system, improving adrenal function, easing stress, and reducing allergic reactions and inflammation.

Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes)
Shiitake is a commonly cultivated mushroom, usually grown on hardwood logs such as oak. It strengthens the immune system, improves overall circulation and cardiovascular health, assists people who feel chronically tired and run down, supports healthy cholesterol levels, and enhances an overall feeling of well-being. It has long been used in Asia as a food and medicine.

~Deb

 

Give Your Immune System a Boost with Echinacea

For over 33 years, I have been cultivating hundreds of Echinacea purpurea plants in Avena’s garden. There are nine different Echinacea species native to the prairies, Appalachia, and the Midwest. Echinacea purpurea is the more eastern species and the one I have found easiest to grow in Maine. I call Echinacea the bridging herb because, for many people, it is the first healing herb they have ever tried as a tincture or tea to support their immune system. 

During my teenage years, I was taught by a few old and wise herbalists that the care and respect offered to an herb while growing, gathering, and preparing it into an herbal remedy is essential for the herb to be truly healing. This is one of the most valuable teachings I received over forty years ago and one that has stayed in my heart, and hands, all these years.  

Gathering Echinacea purpurea flowers, commonly called purple cone flowers, is a garden task I look forward to every summer. The top of each cone flower has a spiral pattern that is surrounded by tiny yellow florets with pollen. There is something special about the spiral pattern on these flowers that year after year beckons me to pause and spend time gazing into these magnificent flowers. Beloved by bees, butterflies, herbalists and gardeners alike, this perennial is worthy of growing, sitting near, and smelling when flowering.

Echinacea root, leaf, and flower tincture is a favorite of mine (and many gardeners) to use orally and topically if any of us get stung by bees, hornets, ticks, or black flies as it supports the body’s immune response and helps take down the swelling at the site of the bite. It is my go-to herb, taken orally and as a topical wash, when boils or abscesses appear or any of us in the garden have cut or wounded ourselves. 

In the winter, Echinacea is my go-to herb for quickly supporting the respiratory system, for boosting the immune system, and for soothing sore throats and tender oral tissue that has been chewed - ouch! When I get a winter chill, I combine Echinacea tincture with ginger glycerite (yummy!) to warm my body and support my immune system. I use this combination 4-5 times a day until the feeling of the chill has dissipated. Echinacea tincture is one of the most important remedies to have in our homes during the winter and summer months, and to keep in our travel first aid kits. It is safe and reliable for children and adults.

From now until January 31, get 15% OFF our Echinacea Root Liquid Extract, and Extra Echinacea by ordering online with the coupon code ECHINACEA15. Retail sales only. Cannot be combined with other coupon codes. Valid until 1/31/2017.

Applesauce Spice Cake - A Yummy Winter Treat!

Applesauce Spice Cake

Adapted from Beyond the Moon Cookbook by Ginny Callan

¾ cup (1½ sticks) organic butter, softened
1 cup honey or maple syrup
2 large eggs
2 cups unsweetened applesauce (use homemade if you have it)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 and ½ cups whole spelt flour
1 and ½ cups white spelt flour
½ cup rolled oats
1 TBL baking soda
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp freshly ground cardamom seeds
¼ tsp ground clover

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9 or 10 inch cake pans.
In a medium-size bowl, cream the butter with honey until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, applesauce and vanilla. In another bowl, stir together the flours, oats, baking soda and spices.

Beat the dry ingredients into the wet. Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let pans cool for 10 minutes and then turn them out onto cake racks.

Glaze: Heat 1 cup maple syrup, ½ cup organic cream or half and half, and 2 Tbl flour in a saucepan over low heat, whisking until it begins to simmer and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Cool the glaze. Pour between cake layers and over the cake once the cake is cool.