Pineapple Sage … As delicious as it is healthy

Pineapple Sage in full bloom in my garden

I am rolling out the first of four seasonal CherryGal Organics Herbal Tea blends — Summertime Tea, a refreshing and soothing blend. One of the most special components of this blend is Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans), a member of the mint family but with a true pineapple scent and flavor and some extraordinary health benefits. As with many mints, it is an excellent digestive aid (and reduces flatulence and acts as a diuretic), but it is also calming and soothing. Some studies have indicated it has anti-depressive and anti-anxiety qualities. In addition, it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and contains Vitamins A and K (liver support).

Pineapple Sage’s expectorant component and astringency make it a good choice for combating sinus infections brought on by summer allergies. Since it also has estrogenic properties, it is not recommended for pregnant or nursing mothers, but may help alleviate hot flashes in menopausal women. Regular consumption reduces bad cholesterol levels and increases good cholesterol, as well as boosting your overall metabolism and contributing to weight loss.

Finally, studies indicate that Pineapple Sage shows promise for treating Alzheimer’s.  The essential oil from Pineapple Sage has been found to improve acetylcholinesterase (Ach) levels in the brain which improves concentration, boosts memory and information processing capabilities.

The best way to consume Pineapple Sage to extract all of its goodness, is in a tea. CherryGal Organics Summertime Tea, which contains organic pineapple sage, is best brewed using water brought to a boil, allowing it to steep for 15-20 minutes, then cooled and iced. A special treat is to serve with ice cubes made from pineapple juice. I will be offering this special blend at the Warren County Farmers Market and eventually in my online store. Enjoy!

— Deborah Phillips, a.k.a. CherryGal

The Original Flower Child

I am entering my 7th decade. I have been blessed to garden most of my life. In my youth, I was conscripted by my mother to weed her zinnia bed, and from that (believe it or not) developed an absolute love of the Zen of weeding (try it, you’ll like it). But we had a lot more growing in our garden and beyond … and when Euell Gibbons published his “Stalking The Wild Asparagus” in the early ’60’s, my Dad and I earnestly searched (and found) the elusive weed. This was an epiphany for me. It instantly married my Catholic upbringing and deep belief in God with my love of my natural surroundings. It demanded further research, which I delighted in.

My first serious textbook on herbs was an ancient one, found in Peabody’s Bookshop in Baltimore, Maryland. “Culpeper’s Herbal” first published in 1616 and my version  illustrated with botanical drawings and mysterious notations, fascinated me, though I understood about 25% of it. It was followed by dozens of serious tomes exploring herbal medicine, the fragility of our environment, and my own experimentation (most quite positive). When I began gardening in earnest in the early 70’s, herbs — culinary and medicinal — herbs were my focus.

That is why I am excited and delighted to finally be able to utilize my decades of experience and knowledge to bring safe and effective herbal blends to my Farmers Market and CherryGal customers. I will be rolling out these “teas” in the coming weeks and hope you will find them to your liking.

— Deborah Phillips, a.k.a. CherryGal

 

 

“Behold, I have given you every plant …” [Genesis 1:29]

Oswego Tea

CherryGal Organics is readying a new offering for the Farmer’s Market and beyond — Organic Teas. The Organic Teas that I will offer (starting next week) will be blends designed with a specific goal in mind:

Winter WonderTEA … to help prevent or overcome the colds, flu and other respiratory illnesses that are so prevalent in the winter, when close quarters means heightened exposure to viruses and bacteria that can make us sick. WWT will boost your immune system, and help resolve respiratory issues and fevers. An all-round good tea to keep on hand and drink daily from November to March.

Spring TonisiTEA … a gentle cleansing and healing tonic specifically targeting the liver, spleen, kidneys and digestive tract — in short, all the organs you have been abusing all winter with fatty foods and alcohol! Begin regular consumption March to April.

Summer SojourniTEA … Just as the season should be — refreshing, soothing and relaxing. Wonderful warm or iced. A welcome respite from the heat and activity of the season. Drink abundantly May to September.

Autumn SolemniTEA … will help you focus on preparations (think of the parable of the ant and the grasshopper), as well as warm and invigorate you during the change of seasons. Best consumed September – November.

BeauTEA From Within … supports healthy and glowing skin and hair, especially as we age. Aids in achieving restful sleep, so important to beauty, inside and out.

Although each package will show the specific herbs used in that particular blend, here is a listing of all the organic herbs and spices that I draw upon in composing the five unique blends:

  • Greek Mullein leaves & flowers
  • Oswego Tea (Monarda Didyma)
  • Holy Basil
  • American Ginseng
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Echinacea leaves and flowers
  • Bronze Fennel
  • Nutmeg shavings
  • Dandelion root
  • Cornflowers
  • Juniper Berries
  • Blueberry Leaf
  • Bronze Fennel
  • Nigella Sativa Seeds
  • Fig Leaf
  • Hyssop
  • Smooth Hydrangea root
  • Milk Thistle Seed
  • Blue Vervain
  • Peppermint
  • Rose Petals
  • Lavender Flower
  • Lemon Balm
  • Catnip
  • Vanilla Bean
  • Apple Mint
  • Dill
  • Calendula
  • Angelica (leaf/root)
  • Dried blueberries
  • Nutmeg
  • Orange Peel
  • American Ginseng
  • Evening Primrose Flower
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Lemon Balm
  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Thyme
  • Rose Petals
  • Holy Basil
  • Ginger root
  • German Chamomile
  • Peppermint Rose Hip

The teas that I offer will come in fold-over pouches that you can use to brew a whole pot, or open to extract a teaspoon for a cup. Guaranteed organic! Gathered and dehydrated with the greatest care. They not only promote health, they are delicious! I have carefully and extensively researched my herb garden to make sure the herbs and spices used are recognized as safe and effective, without adverse reactions. However, I always caution pregnant and lactating mothers, and those with known allergens to abstain unless approved by their physician. In coming weeks, I will write more extensively about individual herbs and spices used. I hope you will join me next week at the Warren County Farmers Market to avail yourself of these wonderful teas!

Best regards,

Deborah Phillips, CherryGal Organics

 

A Southern Tradition — Collards

Carolina Collards

Originally a wild and rather unpalatable green, the collards we know and love today have been developed over centuries to sweeten their flavor, breeding out the bitterness and rough qualities of the original “weed.”

Today, we enjoy the largess of such breeding and also the development of cuisine devoted to this green, Brassica oleracea. Traditionally, they are slow cooked with some type of pork, but vegetarian recipes abound as well.

There is a another reason for Collard Greens’ popularity. It is ranked as one of the most nutritious greens, second only to mache. High in protein, calcium, Vitamin A, B vitamins, iron, phosphorous, magnesium and potassium, nothing beats collards fresh from your own organic garden. And a recent study  at the University of East Anglia found that a compound in collards called sulforaphane can help prevent and slow cartilage damage and osteoarthritis.

Perhaps no other vegetable so represents the South as this one. It was relied on during the American Revolution and grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. It has historically been enjoyed cross-culturally, though we certainly owe a debt to the African Americans enslaved here for learning the best and most economical ways to prepare and store.

Easy to grow, and often seen in large family patches, you can grow just four collard plants in a 4 x 4 raised bed and harvest a leaf or two at a time from the bottom of the head over a very long growing period, or you can harvest the whole head leaving the stalk in the ground to sprout again.

Collards do require at least 4-5 hours of sun and a loose sandy soil for Spring crop or heavier loamy soil for Fall/Winter crop. They are extremely cold hardy and can survive frosts and light to medium freezes (which converts some of the carbs to sugar, making them sweeter) but will bolt in the heat of summer, so grow either very Early Spring or in the Fall/Winter. Starting seeds indoors or in the greenhouse will give you a jump on either season. They are heavy feeders and need nitrogen for consistent growth. They also need consistent water, 1.5 ” each week, either by rainfall or irrigation. Do not cultivate deeply. You can mulch for weed prevention.

Depending on the variety, collards may suffer munchers, though not as much as other brassicas. But in an organic home garden, especially in a raised bed situation, you can address by several organic methods including a strong spray of water, companion planting by nasturtiums and tomatoes as well as aromatic herbs, which will also improve flavor, and finally a homemade hot pepper spray really works (just be sure to wear gloves when applying and reapply after a rain).

Georgia Collard

I am pleased to be selling three different organic heirloom varieties this year each with its own regional interest.

  1. First introduced in 1879, and popularized by Burpee in 1944, the popular variety Georgia is a non-heading type that forms large rosettes 3′ high. It takes 80 days from early transplanting to harvest.
  2. Carolina Cabbage Collard, also known as Yellow Cabbage Collard, is a North Carolina heirloom variety for which it is very hard to acquire seeds as they are closely guarded by the Eastern NC families that grow for market stands. Many prefer the tender, silky texture and mild, non-bitter flavor of this variety. Not really yellow, but a lighter green than other varieties. A choice of the ‘Ark Of Taste’ which writes: “Making its appearance in the late 1880’s, Yellow Cabbage Collard continued to be prominent with readily available seeds for purchase in North Carolina until approximately 1975. Colonel Joe Branner, proprietor of the Asheville Greenhouses, began the production of the seed in eastern Carolina in 1887 by sowing full collard seed in his greenhouse, which responded to the local soil by growing a bit shorter and more cabbage-like, naturalizing over time to its new environment.” Non-heading it grows year round in full sun or partial shade with a 45+ day growing cycle. Plants grow to 2′ x 2′.
  3. Green Glazed Collard is a rare resurrected variety whose lineage dates back 200 years.It not only has a beautiful waxy appearance, it is more resistant to cabbage worm and cabbage looper, thus easier to grow organically. It is also heat and frost resistant and slow to bolt, making it a good choice for Southern gardens. The Cascade variety I offer was developed in the NW, and retains the recessive gene for the glossy appearance but occasionally kicks out a regular collard which should not be allowed to go to seed (to protect the strain). Non-heading and early. 60 days.

Green Glazed Collards

I hope you will give collards a try in your home garden this year … even if you are a “Nawthener” Happy gardening y’all!

The Importance of Organic Wines

Organic Wines For Your Health!

CherryGal.com is excited to be an Affiliate of The Organic Wine Company, which offers a range of excellent sulfite-free wines and champagnes. All of their wines are vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO and are made with organic grapes.

Science and Medicine increasingly agree about the benefits of a glass or two of wine a day to promote heart, brain and immune function as well as enhancing “joie de vivre.” The wines offered by The Organic Wine Company are made with certified organic grapes. Delightful to drink, the highest quality yet reasonably priced and can be enjoyed without an adverse reaction by most chemically sensitive people.

The Organic Wine Company is a family company started by Veronique Raskin in San Francisco thirty years ago.  Véronique is a French native, born and raised by generations of physicians and land-owners in the Languedoc region in southern France. Veronique was always passionate about the study and practice of health and well- being. When her 75-year-old grandfather, Professor of Medicine Pierre Fabre, started pioneering organic viticulture in the South of France, she decided to do the same here in the United States.

Why choose organic wines? To quote Dr. Andrew Weil, “Many people who buy and eat only organically grown fruits and vegetables often don’t consider that the grapes grown to make wine might be sprayed with the same pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides used on other conventionally grown crops. In fact, on February 13, 2013, the wine trade journal Decanter reported on a study showing that 90 percent of samples from 300 French wines contained traces of at least one pesticide. The wines were analyzed for 50 different compounds from a range of pesticides and fungicides. Those most commonly found were ‘anti-rot’ fungicides, which are often applied late in the growing season. At least some of these chemicals may pose health risks. In May 2012, the French government officially recognized a link between pesticides and Parkinson’s Disease in agricultural workers.”

So, in addition to growing your own organic garden with CherryGal Heirloom Organic Seeds and Plants, after a day in the garden you can now sit back and relax with a glass of exquisite organic wine! No membership required. You can buy what you want, when you want. And they offer Gift Certificates. So visit The Organic Wine Company today to get started!

— Deborah Phillips / CherryGal.com

Oswego Tea … Beautiful Native, Historical Herb, Useful Medicinal

Oswego Tea

I wait with anticipation for the appearance in Spring of my beautiful bed of Monarda Didyma, or Oswego Tea. Before the blooms, I can enjoy the fragrant and delicious foliage.

Also known as Scarlet Bee Balm, it is an ancient American native plant. The genus is named after Nicholas Monardes, a Spanish physician who wrote in the 16th Century about New World medicinal plants. The common name was bestowed by John Bartram (1699-1777), a Quaker farmer known as the “Father of American Botany”, who observed Oswego Indians using it for tea. It was used as a substitute for black tea during the American Revolution.

Monarda Didyma is less medicinal in taste that its cousin Monarda Citriodora (Lemon Mint). Like all members of the mint family it has a square-shaped stem. The large shaggy brilliant red flowers grow 30-36″ high and are aromatic and edible. Unlike other Bee Balms, it does not invite mildew — that unattractive “frosting” on the foliage so common on Purple Bee Balm in particular — in the garden. It is delightful and impressive to scatter the red petals over any entree or salad. An important bee forage plant it is also very attractive to hummingbirds. Here in North Carolina it fills out beautifully from early Spring and then blooms for weeks May-June and, if you deadhead the blooms, you will enjoy another burst of color again in August. Also a nice cut flower, wonderful tea and potpourri when dried.

Native Americans used this plant to cure flatulence and insomnia. The Blackfeet used poultices of this plant for skin infections and minor wounds. It is also used for mouth and throat infections since it is a natural source of the antiseptic Thymol, used in modern mouthwashes.

The seeds are somewhat difficult to harvest as they appeal to many birds. You can either bend the stem over a bowl gently, so you do not snap it and tap the base of the flower. If the light brown seeds fall out you are in luck! If you miss them, there’s always next year, as this wonderful flower WILL be back! An alternate method, and one which may yield a second bloom, is to cut the spent flower heads back to a leaf union and carefully place the head on paper for drying. If you do this properly, your plants will sprout new stems with flowers at the union, and once your harvested flower heads are dried, you can gently crush and shake them over a white paper plate until the seeds are ejected. Now — this is important — you will see many many more little black square irregular grains that look a bit like pepper. These are NOT seeds. But there are lots of them and you need to carefully search for the few seeds which are roundish, smooth and light brown.

Finally, a note about harvesting for tea or medicinal use. When gathering herbs for fresh use, pick early in the morning, when still kissed by dew. But when gathering herbs for drying, wait until the sun has dried the dew, to prevent mildew. Gather small bunches of the healthiest plants and tie at the ends with string with a tail. Then hang in a protected environment. For me, it is from the shutters of my interior kitchen window over my sink. No sunlight at this window but plenty of fresh air as an overhead fan circulates during warmer months. This is ideal. Otherwise, special drying racks work well. The idea is to dry quickly, without sunlight, but plenty of air circulation to keep mildew from forming. Turn if necessary to make sure the bunch dries completely. Once dry, crumple the leaves from the stems and store in airtight canisters.

CherryGal.com is offering this wonderful and special herb in two organically-grown forms, both in LIMITED SUPPLY — as Seed and as lifted Seedlings in Spring. Don’t wait until they are all gone! Get your seeds now, or reserve your seedlings for shipment at the appropriate time for your growing zone.

My established bed of Monarda Didyma

 

Bone Broth for Health

Want to reset your GI system or grow hair or treat joint degeneration or arthritis or fight wrinkles? Make natural bone broth! It is really so simple, especially with a crock pot. I have always been concerned about commercially produced beef broth, since the marrow, like the liver, accumulates toxins in the cow’s body. If a cow has been raised in unhealthy conditions, their marrow will not be healthy. That is why I was excited about our local https://www.fiveoaksbeef.com/ which raises healthy grass-fed cows and sells all natural marrow bones.

Bone broth is so easy, especially with a crock pot, and is a wonderfully aromatic choice to have cooking on a cold winter day. Start with healthy marrow bones, which you bake for a half hour at 350. Then put in your crock pot with onion, celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaf and parsley, and fresh filtered water and you are in business! (Doug & Linda Knudson of Five Oaks say that some add a little apple cider vinegar to the water to help draw out the minerals in the bone.)

And finally, though I never give other types of bones to my dogs, once your broth is done, the remainder marrow bones are excellent, non-splintering treats for your pooches.

The health benefits of bone broth are truly remarkable. Here is an excellent well-researched article by Mercola on the subject of bone broth with interesting history! Enjoy! https://articles.mercola.com/…/23/nourishing-bone-broth.aspx

New CherryGal.com is here!

My web guy has been telling me for months I had to do this, and being the frugal (i.e., poor) businesswoman that I am, I resisted. And resisted. AND resisted. But finally Google pushed the urgency because they changed their security viewpoint and I was forced to do this “update.” It’s more than an update. Its a totally NEW website, with all sorts of bells and whistles which I am just beginning to learn. But for the moment, it works quite well at processing orders and I am even able to offer a discount if you hurry and purchase $50 or more in CherryGal.com items, you will get $10 off. Just use coupon code at checkout NEWWEB. What could be simpler. Hope you do … this update cost me a LOT! 🙂

The “new” CherryGal.com is here!

For my Gourmet Artisan Gin Drinking Customers …

For anyone who does not imbibe, or for those who are struggling, please know that I do not want to encourage anyone to drink alcohol. But for those of my customers or followers who occasionally like a nice gin & tonic in the summertime (and you can put me in that column), this is for you.
Did you know that gin is just infused vodka? High end gins (and there are many) infuse their own special botanicals, spices and fruits before performing a final distillation. But the final distillation is only to remove the color and particulates. Before that is done it is “compound gin” as long as the primary infused ingredient is juniper berry. So you pay an exceptional price for this artistry or artisan flair.
But you can actually create your own compound gin by infusing these same selected botanicals at home. You will save money and create an incredibly delicious and fresh gin for mixing your cocktails.
Now, you can go and purchase or gather these infusion ingredients yourself — and it is fun to do — but CherryGal Heirloom Organics has done the research and put together a great little kit for infusing a 750ml bottle of neutral Vodka which you will purchase. It is a fallacy that inexpensive vodka is inferior vodka. There are very good and inexpensive neutral Vodkas available, including UV, Deep Eddy, Svedka, Luksusowa, Finlandia and Sobieski. Just be sure you choose a clear, neutral vodka, since flavored vodka is also on the shelves.
Another advantage to choosing a CherryGal Heirloom Organics Do It Yourself Artisan Gin Kit  — and an important one — is that the botanicals are all organic. When botanicals are infused in alcohol, the alcohol extracts everything from the botanicals — the flavor, the fragrance, the color and, unless it is organic, any pesticides or chemicals used in production. Yeck! Using my kit you will achieve a beautiful, clear gin with a golden botanical coloration.
So I hope you will give my new product a try. It is legal. It is fun. It is inexpensive (especially compared to Williams and Sonoma and others). And it takes about 5-10 minutes of your hands-on time and 36-48 hours waiting time. Available online at www.cherrygal.com or at the Warrenton Farmer’s Market each Saturday! Enjoy!

The Importance of Being Earnest(ly Organic): Cucumber Edition

I am embarking on a new Farmer’s Market initiative … organic produce! I will be bringing small lots of organic cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants to market beginning this weekend. Although I cannot compete with the larger market growers, I hope to provide some education to market customers on the importance of organics in produce.

For example, take the cucumber — that wondrous fruit grown 10,000 years ago in India and often overlooked in the vegetable aisle. It is remarkably healthy for you, providing so many benefits for digestion, skin and major bodily functions. But the Environmental Working Group, a respected public interest organization, ranked conventional cucumbers second for cancer risk and 9th most contaminated food. The USDA has identified 86 pesticide residues on commercially grown cucumbers:

  • 10 Known or Probable Carcinogens
  • 32 Suspected Hormone Disrupters
  • 17 Neurotoxins
  • 10 Developmental or Reproductive Toxins
  • 24 Honeybee Toxins

The only way to mitigate against the poisons both in the wax coating used to preserve moisture and the vegetable itself is to peel. However, doing so removes the most nutritious part of cucumbers! So much easier and healthier to just buy or grow organic!

My favorite ways to enjoy cucumbers are simply slicing and dressing with dill, a little sugar, and a little vinegar or slicing them into spears and eating with a good sour cream dip. And don’t forget, after a day in the sunny garden, that cucumber is great for restoring your skin to dewy freshness!

I’ll be doing a series of short posts as I add organic veggies to my Farmers Market offerings. For now, you can get some delicious ORGANIC slicing cucumbers from me this Saturday at the Warrenton NC Farmer’s Market, 8 am – Noon. See you there!