Friday, 20 August 2010

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Elderberry fest (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry is a member of the honeysuckle family and has been used both as food and medicine for thousands of years. The dark berries make delicious wines, jams, and pies, but their primary value isn’t culinary. When taken throughout the cold and flu season, or even at the first sign of a viral infection, elderberries have the ability to prevent and even treat a virus.
They contain high amounts of potassium and vitamin C. These berries also have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties.
Back in early England, cordials were considered medicinal for their beneficial effects on the heart. In modern times, elderberry cordials and syrups are still popular as a ward against colds, or added to mixed drinks and liqueurs.

IMPORTANT:Raw elderberries containTOXINS and MUST be cooked before eating!!

History and folk remedies

Since the time of Hippocrates, elderberries have been relied on as a remedy for colds, flu, and upper-respiratory infections. In ancient Europe, elderberry trees were planted near cottages to protect the occupants from evil influences.
Today, herbalists recommend elderberry syrups and extracts for preventing and treating upper-respiratory viral infections, including coughs and bronchitis. The berries are a good source of phytonutrients and have cell-protective antioxidant properties.

How it works

Since the 1980s, Israeli virologist Madeleine Mumcuoglu, PhD, of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem has studied the antiviral properties of elderberry. In laboratory research, she discovered compounds in elderberry that bind to spikes on the surface of virus cells, preventing them from puncturing cell membranes. The high concentrations of flavonoids in elderberry inhibit the action of neuraminidase, the enzyme that helps the flu virus attach to and penetrate new cells. Mumcuoglu tested Sambucol, the proprietary elderberry extract she helped develop, against various strains of influenza A and B in the laboratory and found the herb effective against all types of flu.

In 1993, a flu epidemic at an Israeli kibbutz provided the opportunity to test elderberry on patients. In people with full-blown flu symptoms, half of the subjects were given 4 tablespoons of standardized elderberry extract daily and the other half were given a placebo. Within 24 hours, 20 percent of the patients receiving elderberry showed a dramatic reduction in flu symptoms such as fever, cough, and muscle pain. Within 48 hours, 75 percent were greatly improved, and within 72 hours, 90 percent had completely recovered from the flu. In contrast, only 8 percent of those taking the placebo began to improve after 24 hours; the remaining 92 percent took six days to improve (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 1995, vol. 1, no. 4).

In a more recent study, 60 patients age 18 to 54 suffering from the flu were given 15 ml of elderberry syrup or a placebo four times a day for five days. Those taking elderberry recovered an average of four days earlier than those given the placebo. The researchers concluded that elderberry extract offered “an efficient, safe, and cost-effective treatment for influenza” (Journal of International Medical Research, 2004, vol. 32, no. 2).

How to take it

Many elderberry products are available at natural products stores and pharmacies. Although research studies have focused on the proprietary extract mentioned above, it’s likely that other extracts of elderberry are also effective. To prevent colds and flu, take 1/2 teaspoon of liquid extract or 1 to 2 teaspoons of elderberry syrup twice daily throughout cold and flu season. If you come down with the symptoms of a cold or flu, increase your dosage to 1 teaspoon of extract or 2 teaspoons of syrup four times a day.

Side effects

No side effects are associated with the use of commercial elderberry extracts. Fresh elderberries can cause nausea in some people (drying or cooking the berries alleviates this problem). Never eat the unripe berries, roots, leaves, or stems of elderberry; they contain cyanide, which can cause elderberry toxicity.

This year i pledge to take it throughout the cold and flu season, and test the claim that elderberries have a unique ability to prevent and even stop a virus.
virus and MS...dont mix, so got to be a good one for the armory against MS.

Elderberry syrup is delicious on pancakes, and drizzled over ice cream ,and amazing with sparkling water or prosecco!!!


Make sure the cookware you’re using is non-reactive and your clothes are stain-friendly.
If you use an aluminum pot, it’ll get stained and the next batch of mashed potatoes you make may come out pink. Ditto for spatulas and anything else to plan to use to stir the syrup while it’s cooking.

2-pounds (1kg) elderberries woody stems removed and rinsed
4 cups (1l) water
2½ (500g) cups sugar
one nice-sized squirt of freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1. Put the elderberries in a large, non-reactive pot with the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, until tender and soft.

2. Pass through a sieve then discard the skins.

3. Pour the juice back into the pot ( you could use a finer-mesh strainer again at this point, but i dont usually bother), add sugar, and cook at a low boil over moderate heat for 15 minutes, until the syrup has thickened. Add a spritz of lemon juice. Cool completely.

4. Pour into a bottle or jar and store in the refrigerator.

Note: Some varieties of elderberries are not meant for consumption and none should be eaten raw, especially the leaves. I remove all of the hard, woody stems as well before cooking.
Storage: In the refrigerator, I’ve kept this syrup up to one year. If it shows any signs of mold, scrape it away, and bring the syrup back to a full boil again.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Elderflower and Lemon cordial

Elderflower and Lemon Cordial

Its that time again, the Elderflowers are just out and fresh. Time to get the step ladder out and pick them before they brown even slightly. I’ve just finished bottling a batch to take on holiday and to share with our friends.As usual i probably havent made quiet enough to see us throught the summer months, but i always have a tussle between harvesting the flowers and leaving enough to divide between us for berries for syrup and other recipies later in the year and the birds.
A zingy grown up cordial that balances tangy lemon with the fragrant buzz of elderflowers.Delicious with iced water and even better with a tot of vodka and a large splash of chilled fizzy water.


•300g of elderflower heads (all but the tiniest stems removed). This was 50 medium and small heads from our tree.
•750g of chunky lemons (I bought five)
•2 kilos of white granulated sugar
•3 litres of boiling water
•110g of citric acid


1.In a large heatproof bowl (or deep saucepan) pour the boiling water onto the sugar and stir. Leave to cool, stirring every now and then to dissolve the sugar.
2.When cool add the citric acid, the lemons (zested and sliced – not squeezed) and the elderflower heads.
3.Leave to steep for 48 hours in a fridge or a really cool place.
4.Strain twice through sterilised muslin
5.Using a jug and funnel carefully pour into hot sterilised bottles

Thursday, 18 June 2009

June at the bottom of the garden..New herb garden/ Potager

We have cleared another patch near our new raised vegetable beds for our Herb bed/potager.
Raspberries have been temporarily planted whilst we clear a little more under the trees as we hope to site them permanently following some forest gardening principles . The ear-marked spot gets dappled shade throughout most of the day and direct sun for a couple of hours . There are several mainly dappled spots with sun for a couple of hours that we are condsidering, and as raspberries are part of the "undergrowth" they should do well when fnally sited.

As for the Yurt, we are still awaiting a replacement canvas, but have it up again in its moldy state to enjoy until the new one arrives. It will probably mean sanding and re-oiling the poles and trellis again but we just dont want to be without this space. Now-a-days its become essential for me to collapse and rest in between gardening spurts and anyway its just too lovelier space to be without!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

creating the woodland area

Last year i had a huge success with foxglove seeds and as we hadn't cleared the soon to be woodland area from the worst of the brambles , i nurtured them through the summer til planting out in in autumn. Now we are keeping on top of the brambles, hopefully the swath of beautiful foxgloves will be even better next year when i have planted out this years generation and the multitude of seedlings from last naturalise.

These beauties were joined by lots of cowslips ..... so we are on our way , next year blue bells and wood Anemones !

Monday, 4 May 2009

The Hawk

In Native American cultures the hawk represents a messenger.

It often appears in our life when we need to pay attention to the subtle messages found in our surroundings and from those we come in contact with.

As with all messages received it is important to recognize its underlying truth. Because their are so many varieties of hawk its messages vary and can affect all levels of our psyche.

One thing that all hawks have in common is the skill to move between the seen and unseen realms gracefully connecting both worlds together. Their acute vision compliments this ability and their discriminating nature keeps them out of harms way. The broader vision of the hawk allows them to see what the future holds. In man this symbolizes prophetic insight. If this medicine is underdeveloped a tendency towards over analyzing everything is common. In so doing, clear vision is lost. Those who hold this totem should remember to keep their analytical mind under control and not allow it to run wild.

The hawk has many foraging techniques. The most typical in their pursuit of prey is swiftly following the animal's efforts to escape. Once the hawk has secured the prey with its powerful talons, the bird dismembers it with its sharply pointed, strong beak. In man, this suggests that we can run but we cannot hid from our destiny. Sooner of later it will catch up with us. The destiny of all humankind is to awaken from their spiritual amnesia and realign with the original intention of their soul. When the hawk flies into our life we will be asked to evaluate who we have become and rip out the threads of our self created illusions. This enables our inner truth to surface. Hawk signifies union with Great Spirit. A bird of the heavens the hawk orchestrates the changes necessary for our spiritual growth.
Having this totem can be bitter sweet. If we accept its presence in our life we will be asked to surrender anything that doesn't honor the integrity of all life. Be it an idea, a feeling or an action.
Although hard work is involved the rewards the hawk offers us are great. Hawk Wisdom:Clear-sightedness , Being observant , Far-memory ,Messages from spirit , Guardianship ,Recalling past lives , Courage ,Wisdom ,Illumination ,Seeing the larger picture ,Creativity, Truth, Experience , Wise use of opportunities , Overcoming problems

Friday, 1 May 2009

Beltane Blessings- Herne the hunter and the sacred goddess

Beltane is upon us once again....... I love this time of year, everything in the natural world is in growth and this is the time to celebrate union, fertility, love and sexuality. Time to celebrate the sacred union between Horned God and the fertile Goddess.

In days gone by, it was re-enacted by men and women to ensure the fertility of the land.

People made love in the woods and forest, slept outdoors and watched the sunrise.

They walked the labyrinths and mazes and dressed in green to honour the Earth at this time.

The Horned God is usually known as Herne the Hunter, the wild man of the forests.

Herne is transformed into a white stag, and legend has it that he chased the Goddess who turned into a white deer. The Horned God has also been depicted as Pan, the Goat God, Zeus the Bull and Amen the Ram.
Over time, these depictions of the Horned Lord were turned into the Christian version of the Devil, whose lustful nature gave birth to the slang word “horny”, although the old German word for “lust” actually meant “religious joy”.
The God and Goddess become spiritually transformed through their union and the combination of their energies brings fertility to the land.

Celebrations included dancing the Maypole, a symbolic dance showing the entwining of male and female energies. Garlands of May blossom were used to decorate houses.

A Beltane fire was lit at this time, all other fires in village having been extinguished.

The participants jumped the Beltane fire to symbolise cleansing and purification.

A couple jumping the fire together were pledging themselves to each other.

Cattle would be driven through the smoke for protection and fertility.

At the end of the evening, villages each took a burning stick from the fire to re-ignite their fires at home.

Another common celebration at this time of year was (and still is!) Handfasting.

Handfasting is a form of sacred marriage which originally lasted for a year and a day, and would be renewed at the end of this time if the couple both wished it. These days, a Handfasting can be for the traditional year and a day, or for as long as the couple wish, and it is popular to leave the time open, so that the union can continue for as long as it works.

At Beltane the trees are in flower. Apple blossoms, cherry blossoms and hawthorn blossoms lift the heart with the delicate beauty of their soft petals, symbolically promising life’s light, renewal and joy.

And so with the blossom laden trees so heavy, may with the goddess's blessing there be a plentiful bounty of fruit to come.New projects - new goals - new endeavors, new ideas!...New Home??!!
Missed the jack in the green festival at Hastings this year , but hope to see you all next year:)