The plants have no idea of the virus that looms over us. They are simply carrying on, pushing onward and upward. Their presence, the delight they bring, is helping to calm our souls, give us something other than hand washing and mask wearing ( we are doing both!) and ‘mission accomplished’ trips to the store from being, always, in the very forefront of our minds. The woodland landscape here at the nursery is filled with bird chatter and bee activity and new blooms and texture. A feast. A bounty. A world enchanted. Here are a few quick snaps of plants catching our eye at the moment…be well and safe dear friends!
Black chokeberry is a North American native shrub that is very useful to both wildlife and as a healthy food for humans. The berries are a favorite of grouse, turkeys and other birds. Though quite tart, when sweetened the fruit is very tasty and good for you, being a strong antioxidant. Many medicinal benefits are claimed and practiced from using the extracts. They have extremely high antioxidative activity, are used as an anti- inflammatory, and are super high in vitamins ( A, C, D, B9, B2 and vitamin E) and beta-carotene. Growing from 3 to 10 feet tall, depending on the cultivar, chokeberry is an easy keeper being not fussy about moist or dry soils, PH, and light conditions from full sun to part shade. It can develop into small colonies that are simple to manage with minimal pruning and thinning if so desired. Along with the fruit is an amazing display of orange and red foliage in the fall. Several forms are available to suit the size of your garden or landscape.
We tincture the berries and keep them on the pantry shelf for use through the winter.
Here is a more thorough list of their incredible health benefits:
Alleged Health Benefits:
Cancer (brain, lung, colon, liver)
Cardiovascular ailments: lowers blood pressure, lowers bad and improves good cholesterol, promotes heart and arterial health, improves elasticity of blood vessels and prevents their clogging, reduces discomfort due to varicose veins and inflammation (flavonoids, proanthocyanidin, biophenols, vitamin P)
Accelerates recovery from heart/brain stroke (anthocyanins, phenols, vitamin P).
Stops arteriosclerosis, prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s, helps with headaches and migraines through improved circulation (anthocyanin, vitamin P)
Eyes: cures macular degeneration, prevents cataract, protects from UV radiation, improves vision (anthocyanin, vitamin P, beta-Carotene).
Diabetes: regulates hemoglobin and blood sugar level, regulates pancreas, and cures diabetes (sorbitol, anthocyanin)
Liver and gallbladder: improves the function of both organs, regenerates liver even in major diseases and cleanses it from fatty deposits; gallstones, inflammation, jaundice (phenols, flavonoids)
Regulates thyroid and other hormones.
Gastrointestinal: reduces inflammation, pain, cramping, stomach ulcers (anthocyanins) and stops diarrhea.
Urinary tract infections(5-10 times more effective than cranberry),some prostate problems
Increases immune function, so helps with colds and influenza (flu) (biophenols and vitamin C)
Cleansing: Aronia binds heavy metals and radioactive materials and helps their excretions (beneficial in post-radiation therapy or accidental exposure to radiation).
Disinfects wounds and dramatically accelerates healing time (helpful post-operatively) (biophenols, vitamins P, C and E).
Skin: Improves elasticity, reduced wrinkles, stretch marks, sun spots, and broken capillaries; freshens skin and slows down the aging process (vitamin E, beta-Carotene, flavonoids)
Aging: slows down aging (antioxidative function)
There is quite a range of activity here at the nursery right now. Every day food is being brought in to be processed…..canned, pickled, or frozen. We’ve just harvested our first large crop of broccoli to be put into the freezer. Kale, chard, and snow peas are going in along with it. The summer squash and green beans are producing faster than we can pick them. Herbs and foraged plants are being collected for tea, or tinctures, and salves.Chamomile blossoms are set aside to dry, and St. John’s Wort flowers have been picked to make a tincture with. Our WWOOFer Hannah has been enjoying our foraging excursions, she is quickly learning the botanical names of plants here at the nursery and the ones we collect from the fields and woods to make tinctures and salves with. I think she likes learning about the medicinal uses of the plants we grow and collect. Rick has been collecting seed from the display beds, and plants like Adlumia fungosa, Corydalis lutea, and Myrrhis odorata are being potted up and put into the sales area. The sheep are being moved every two weeks or so for rotational grazing methods.Hannah has been spending a bit of time picking through this spring’s fleeces readying them for the next step…..washing.
And then there is the weeding, mowing, and daily maintenance around the place. We continue to advance on the studio project, the second floor being nailed in place soon. Boy, oh boy, our days are full! We do love every bit of it though and feel thankful for this good life we live. And as I’ve mentioned before, there’s always plenty of food!
The elderberries ( Sambucus canadensis) are ripe, so yesterday I picked enough berries to make the first batch of tincture. Elderberry has a long history in herbal medicine. It is used as a super immune booster, and as a cure for colds, coughs, and the flu. Because it is full of antioxidants, as well as flavonoids, it can be very useful in fighting off bacterial and viral infections. The presence of flavonoids help to protect against cell damage. Elderberry is high in vitamins A and B, and contains lots of vitamin C. We use elderberry in two ways. We either make a tincture or we make elderberry cough syrup. We make a tincture using fresh berries and alcohol. A tincture is a heavily concentrated extract made from steeping ( but not boiling) medicinal herbs or plants in either alcohol or glycerin. To make an elderberry tincture, I fill a mason jar with half of the picked berries. I then fill the rest of the jar by pouring 100% vodka over the berries, leaving about an inch or so of head room. I close the jar and shake it up. The jars get labled and put in a cool, dark place for about 4-6 weeks. Our pantry stays pretty cool and it is rather dark, so this is a good place to store any of our tinctures. After 6 weeks, we strain the contents of the jar through a fine cloth, and discard the berries. We then pour the remaining tincture ( just liquid) into another (sterilized) mason jar. Again, we label the jar and store it in the pantry. When we feel a cold or flu symptoms coming on, we take about a teaspoon of the elderberry tincture three times a day. It definitely helps. To make cough syrup, we put 1 cup of the elderberries into a pot with 4 cups of water, a couple of cinnamon sticks and 1-2 piecies of raw ginger. We bring this to a boil and then turn the heat down to simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the liquid has been reduced by one half. We strain this through a fine cloth, discarding the berries and cinnamon stick and what is left of the ginger. Once it has cooled a bit, we mix the liquid with 1 cup of honey. This goes into a mason jar and is stored in the fridge. When we have a cough, it’s what we go for. Keep in mind that Sambucus Canadensis, the American elderberry, is the edible variety. There are red elderberries, Sambucus racemose, which are poisonous. If you are planning to make a tincture or a cough syrup from elderberries….be sure you have the right variety. Ours are growing wild here on the property, but you can purchase elderberry at various nurseries. I am happy to say that this year, unlike some others, we got to the elderberries before the birds did. We are still waiting for some of the berries to ripen, and these will be picked for cough syrup. However, I just want everyone to know….I’m not planning on getting any colds or the flu this winter. Wish me luck!