Traditional Foods

Spring Vinegars

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Spring Vinegars.

Recently I found two vulture feathers. I saw them as a message to be more resourceful and to utilize the abundance that surrounds us. Vultures are scavenger birds who patiently soar above until the deceased offer their bodies back to the earth. Death offers life to these creatures. A symbol of transformation and a great lesson for us to use the gifts that the wild world offers us.

I am so lucky to be living on the coast of Northern California with clean air, fresh water, and an incredible amount of wild medicinal and edible plants. Every day I discover a new creature or green being that I didn’t know before. I can walk to the beach, to the river, or just cook a meal and hear the birds chirp outside my window.

Over the past month or two the nettles on the trail to the Russian River have gone from sprouts to a forest. I started cutting them back so folks could actually walk down the path without being stung, and I got to use all the greens for this herbal vinegar!

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One of my teachers, David Hoffman, once said to my class at The California School of Herbal Studies, that “when in doubt, give nettles.” Nettles are traditionally used for an array of different ailments. These greens have been used for arthritis, allergies, skin issues, and more. In Western Herbalism nettles are used in spring and often preserved in vinegar- which does an excellent job of extracting the calcium rich spring greens. Once nettles are processed through a blender, are given a light saute, or left to macerate in a vinegar, they lose their lively sting.

I am crazy about this plant because it is packed with a high amount of vitamins and minerals. In this spicy vinegar recipe I also included some herbs that happened to be laying around my kitchen…

Burdock root as well as nettles, is a diuretic and alterative. These actions gently help the body flush out toxins. In folk traditions it is also known as a “blood purifier”. This is a great root to add to teas, broths, or just eaten in a stir fry. It can be a powerful ally for those who suffer from acne, eczema, and other skin issues.

Ginger root is warming and increases circulation in the body. It is great for those with digestive cramping because it is a “carminative” – which basically means it helps to relieve gas. I like to add it into formulas because I feel works well synergistically with other herbs.

And garlic cloves. Garlic is one of the best medicinal foods we have. The cloves are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and help the immune system ward of the bugs (just to name a few of it’s many properties).

INGREDIENTS.

1 burdock root

2 handfuls of nettles

2 thumb size pieces of ginger

3 garlic cloves

and apple cider vinegar.

MATERIALS.

quart sized mason jar

lid with wax paper (or plastic lid)

METHOD.

Chop up whatever herbs you want to use and place them into your mason jar. The more chopping you do, the more surface area will be covered by the vinegar, thus more medicine will be extracted. Some other great spring herbs can be found here on a guest post I did last spring for one of my favorite blogs Witchin’ in the Kitchen.

Then add your vinegar. I like to use apple cider vinegar. I find that it is packed full of nutrients and makes a great base for salad dressings, which is how I normally use these herbal vinegars. This vinegar would also taste great in rice and beans!

Cover your mason jar with wax paper and then the lid to prevent rusting or use a plastic lid. Not usually a huge fan of plastic but in the scenario I would recommend it.

And there you have it! Store it in a cool place, shake often, and the medicinal vinegar (also known as an acetum in herbalisim) can be strained in one months time. I find it best to store the vinegar in a cool place or a refrigerator so that this taste of spring can be enjoyed for seasons to come!

With love and gratitude,

Summer Ashley

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