I hope you and yours are safe and secure in these uncertain times.
In the early days of the pandemic I had the news running on a never-ending loop with the latest dire predictions, tragic world scenes, hoarding shoppers, and political mismanagement. After three days of increasing worry and insomnia, I turned off the screens, took a nap on the porch in the sun, did some garden clean up, and sat and read while enjoying a pot of herb tea. I felt remarkably better.
It’s important to stay informed but I find that spending hours a day with the headlines does nothing to resolve feelings of helplessness and fear. I now listen to PBS news hour every evening for reliable news and do a quick skim of the headlines each morning after my yoga, coffee, and journaling. Don’t start your day with a dose of anxiety.
Instead of spending wasted hours on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook consider using this time to catch up on unfinished projects, read that novel, clean out the garage, or acquire a new skill. Not all of us are stuck at home with the kids, medical personnel are overwhelmed. How can you help? Check out HelpColoradoNow.org or local opportunities to see if anything appeals to you on a volunteer level, reach out to a neighbor or friend in need.
I find this sequestered time a rare gift to take stock of what’s really important. Is it more, more, more as we have been trained to accept? Are we ruining our planet, future, and society with endless consumerism? What do you really need? And how much of what you think you need is habit or societal programming? Time for us all to wake up and change direction.
You know the basics of avoiding the virus. Wash hands regularly with lots of lather, wash surfaces, cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, stay away from each other.
Eliminate sugar and processed food as much as possible. Sugar depresses the immune system and plays havoc with your blood sugar levels.
Watch your stress levels. Get outside and away from the news and screens. Stay away from the doomsayers, Debbie Downers, and pessimists in your circle. They are hard enough to take when times are good.
Stay active. There are many free yoga, dance, and workout segments on youtube. You’ll boost your immunity, longevity, mood and sleep potential. Not to mention that feeling of accomplishment.
Take 250 mg of vitamin C every couple of hours during the day, 50 mg of zinc, and a good, food-based multivitamin/mineral to keep your bases covered.
Eat lots of garlic and onions, dark leafy greens, and colorful veggies. Mushrooms and fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut are great for digestion and boosting immunity.
Get enough rest and sleep. Watch alcohol and drug consumption. A glass of wine with dinner is fine, a bottle a night is not.
I love my herb teas. Elderberry and lemon/sage teas are my top choice for anti-virals. Ginger and green teas are also nice. Just be sure to hydrate. Throw some orange, cucumber, lemon/lime slices and/or berries in a pitcher if you need a more visual motivation to drink your water. Works for my Mom.
Be thankful for all the comforts you do have. Get some fresh flowers and be sure to experience joy every day.
Some things to keep you occupied during Shelter in Place.
Reading – Favorite Nonfiction books:
The Year of Less – Cait Flanders
Daring Greatly - Brene Brown
Callings – Greg Levoy
The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**K – Sarah Knight
On Becoming Fearless – Arianna Huffington
Sabbath – Wayne Muller
Plan B – Anne Lamott
The Herbalist's Happy Hour - Susan Evans (me)
Duolingo – free, fun lessons on learning a new language
Ted Talks – fascinating experts on a variety of topics
Utube – free classes on yoga, Zumba, cooking, gardening, wild foraging, writing, and much more. Pursue a new interest! https://www.youtube.
Don’t waste this rare period of free time doing what you always do to waste your time. Put all that on pause and re-evaluate what you want your life to look like once this is all over.
Upcoming Classes –canceled. I’ll let you know when things re-open.
Having been a former garden center manager the pandemic has got to be extremely challenging for the gardening industry. Some garden centers have temporarily closed, most have online shopping, a few have curbside pickup. You can order seeds and plants online, but be patient. I prefer to buy my plants, like my shoes, in person.
The most crucial item for a successful garden? Soil. I add compost to the garden beds every spring and fall. You can find lots of ideas on how to start your own compost pile on the internet from youtube to https://www.dummies.com/
Now is the time to divide your overgrown perennials and get all those weed seedlings out. Some can make a tasty addition to dinner, see above.
I like a garden that features fragrance, herbs, veggies, and edible and cut flowers for the house. Drought tolerance, long bloom, and easy maintenance are also essential. Check out your local county extension service for information on the best varieties for your area.
You can put in your cool weather crops now including kale, Swiss chard, spinach, salad greens, peas, onion sets, strawberries and more. If you have seed starts from inside, make sure your plants are hardened off before planting out in the unpredictable spring weather. Cut back grasses, roses, perennials and dead wood in shrubs.
The pandemic is a great time to start gardening. No yard? Start out with a couple of pots and go from there. Gardens provide beauty, food, medicine, and the ultimate joy of coaxing new life into the world.
Herbs of the Month
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
April is the month for dandelions. Dandelions are plentiful and at their peak flavor right now. Dandelion happens to be one of the top five most nutritious vegetables, ahead of broccoli and spinach. It contains Vitamin A, calcium, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, and trace minerals. Europeans have been eating dandelions for centuries and you can find them here in upscale markets and restaurants, not to mention the backyard.
Medicinal plant properties include its use as a liver tonic and mild diuretic. All parts of the plant are edible. Dandelion leaves are tastiest when young and collected before setting their flower bud, after that they become quite bitter. Dandelion leaves can be used in salads, egg dishes, casseroles, soups, pastas, and vegetable dishes. Basically, anywhere you would use spinach. Make sure they are not growing in contaminated soil or have been sprayed with pesticides. The roots can be chopped, roasted and used as a healthy coffee substitute. Just substitute 1/3 of your coffee beans with roasted dandelion roots.
The flowers, steeped in water, make a fine face wash, herbal bath, or steam. You can also use flowers for vinegar and wine. Pull out the flower petals and blend into butter and cheese spreads, or as a bright garnish for salads and other dishes. The flowers are a source of a natural yellow dye and are an important pollen source for honeybees.
So don’t scorn this generous, sunny little plant. Pick it and use it to give yourself a healthy spring boost.
Violets – Viola sp.
Violets are some of the first flowers of spring and are both edible and medicinal along with being lovely. There are many varieties, from pansies to perennial violets to the wild violets that like to infiltrate lawns and stream beds.
Violets will grow in sun to light shade and prefer a rich garden loam and moderate watering. Purchase dense, sturdy-looking plants with lots of healthy, green leaves and buds. If they have been in a greenhouse, harden them off by putting them outside for a few nights tucked up close to the house. Don't forget to remove the stems of faded blooms, to keep them bushy and full of flowers.
Violet and pansy syrup has been used to ease sore throats and as a digestive tonic. A poultice of pansy or violet leaves, made by mashing leaves with aloe vera to make a paste can be applied to inflamed skin to soothe irritation and reduce inflammation. Violets have an affinity for the breast and are used to soothe mastitis, infections, pain, and cysts.
Unsprayed leaves and blooms are edible and can be used in teas, salads, smoothies, soups, stews, butter, vinegar and more. Leaves are rich in Vitamin A, C, and trace minerals. You can candy them for beautiful, delicious garnishes.
Recipes of the Month
What better time to explore cooking? There is still plenty of food choices in the stores and fresh produce is just beginning the spring surge. Shop early in the day to find the best choices.
Mango, Beet, and Avocado Salad – serves 2 generously
- 3 cups baby greens
- 1 mango, cut and cubed (check youtube.com for some easy tutorials)
- 1-2 radishes, diced small
- ½ bell pepper, sliced into thin strips, I like red or orange for color
- 1 avocado cut diced into chunks
- ¼ cup crumbled or shredded cheese of choice, I like blue or goat cheese (optional)
- vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Dress greens lightly with vinaigrette. Put on a plate. Arrange the rest of the ingredients on the greens and top with the cheese. You can also add cooked shrimp, hard-boiled egg, chicken or beef for the full meal deal.
- 1/3 cup good balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup olive or avocado oil
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
Combine in a small covered glass container and shake well to blend.
Always dress your greens before plating, add additional ingredients on top for a visually pleasing appearance and then drizzle with additional dressing if needed.
Stir-Fried Vegetables with Toasted Cashews - serves 4-6
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
- cooking oil
- 2/3 cup roasted cashews or nuts of choice, chopped or smashed with a rolling pin or bottom of a small, heavy pan.
- ½ tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1cup mushrooms, sliced thin
- ½ cup bell pepper, sliced thin
- 4 scallions sliced thin
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
- 2 cups broccoli, thick stems removed, tops cut into small pieces
- 2 small carrots, shredded or julienned
- 2 ½ cups Napa (Chinese) cabbage cored and chopped fine (can substitute red cabbage)
- 2 tbs soy or shoyu sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste, soy sauce is very salty so you may not need the salt.
- 1 tbs nut butter, (optional)
- honey or agave
- chopped cilantro and toasted sesame oil
In a small bowl, combine the broth with the cornstarch, soy sauce, and nut butter if using.
Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a large sauté pan and heat the oil until it shimmers but does not smoke. Add the broccoli, carrots, bell pepper, ginger, pepper flakes, and mushrooms. Sauté until softened over medium heat, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, scallions, cabbage and broth mixture and continue sautéing until cabbage is wilted and the sauce coats the veggies. Serve topped with cashews, lime slices, and cilantro if desired. Serve over rice or udon noodles.
*Add cooked shrimp, chicken, beef or tofu if desired and heat through before serving.