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Posts Tagged ‘article

04
Jan
12

12 Medicinal Herbs I Grow and Use Often

Images left to right from top: comfrey leaf; thyme; dill flowers; dried hops flowers; St John’s wort flowers; potted kawakawa; broad-leaved plantain; yarrow flowers; yarrow leaves; lemon balm; feverfew; aloe vera; peppermint. 

There are masses of websites with info on medicinal herbs and quite frankly most of them are rubbish. Written by writers, not by doers they run of a list of ‘facts’, historical details, and an dizzying list of healing properties. What they don’t do is offer actual, real walk-out-into-the-garden-and-use details.

Here are a list of herbs I grow and use the most that don’t need a medical, herbal or botany degree to use or recognise. All have scientific backing. All are super easy. I’m not a herbalist, just a very keen gardener. I believe you should see a herbalist for the proper internal use of herbs (lots of active ingredients in plants can cause all sorts of issues).

Comfrey

I had monumental back and hip problems having a baby. My doctor suggested using comfrey poultices because my tailbone ached for months after. For me, it was a miracle cure. I scrunched up a couple of leaves, put them in a cloth and poured hot water of it and sat with it on the sore bit for 15 minutes a night. I was cured–could walk properly, carry my child and wasn’t constantly in pain. Sore knees, sprains, strains? Go find yourself some comfrey.

Thyme

For sore throats and mouth ulcers I boil the jug and pick a handful of thyme, or use the dried thyme I’ve collected. I let the thyme steep for 30 minutes and add a spoonful of salt. Tastes much better than store bought alternatives and works just as well.

Dill

I collect the seeds of my dill each year and they’ve been a godsend with a windy baby. After the first couple of months I stopped using gripe water (active ingredient is dill), and made herbal teas with crushed dill seeds and gave her tiny sips.

Hops

I have a tin next to my bed of hops, rose petals and lavender. When I’m having trouble getting to sleep I open it up and waft away with the delicious scents.

St John’s wort

St John’s wort is mostly associated with depression, but that’s a whole medical aspect I’m not prepared to get into here. But looking at those brilliant sunshiney flowers will definitely lift your mood. I use St John’s wort for burns and bruises by making a tincture which you can read about here. Warning! Weed alert: grow St John’s wort in a container.

Kawakawa

I battle winter colds with a kawakawa, lemongrass and ginger tea. Kawakawa is a native of New Zealand with a peppery bite. I collect and dry the ingredients and store them in an airtight container. I also chew on the leaves if I’ve got a toothache. Use the kawakawa leaves with lots of holes, the insects are showing you which leaves contain the most medicinal compounds.

Plantain

Insects love to bite me. Luckily I have lots of plantain growing everywhere. I grab a leaf and rub the underside on bites and it takes the itch right out of it.

Yarrow

There tends to be lots of cut fingers in my household–bloody DIYers. Beautiful white yarrow grows as a weed in my garden and wrapping a furry green leaf around the afflicted digit stops the bleeding.

Lemon balm

Brewed into a tea, lemon balm is marvellous for headaches, anxiety or when friends arrive feeling a bit down. It’s also said to be helpful to drink if you have a coldsore. I haven’t had a chance to test that yet.

Feverfew

I used to eat a leaf a day to ward off migraines. They taste pretty awful so I’d roll them into a ball and cover them with honey or mashed potato or peanut butter or just about anything to cover the bitterness. This is a longterm strategy, it will take about a month of continual use before the active compounds start kicking in. I haven’t taken it while pregnant or breastfeeding and suggest you don’t either.

Aloe vera

Sunburn, skin irritations, after-waxing redness? Aloe vera is my summer go-to plant. Grab an aloe vera spear, slice off the spikes, slit in half and rub juicy, refreshing aloe vera innards all over the skin. Instantly cooling, really soothing.

Peppermint

Nausea is the mindkiller-when you’ve got it, it’s very hard to think of anything else. Use peppermint for a zesty herbal tea to ease the quease.

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23
Nov
11

Becoming New Fonterraland: GE, TPPA and BS


Holstein Freisian dairy cow – there’s 4.4 million of them in New Zealand. Image from Wikipedia. This is not a diatribe against cows, as previously stated I really do like the beasties.

So news is out that National seek to allow the introduction of genetically engineered organisms into New Zealand. You know New Zealand–that previous bastion of 100% Pure; that primary exporting country that has so, so much to loose from lax biosecurity, resource-depletion, dirty dairying, environmental degradation and/or GE-contamination? Are we still a nation or are we quickly becoming a corporation? Should we be renaming ourselves New Fonterraland?

Government ministeries don’t do things with huge policy implications off their own backs. Especially during a period of public service restructure and redundancy. But Dr Nick Smith, Minister for the Environment, apparently had no idea that his Ministry was compiling a study into how much money can be made by changing genetic engineering laws. The reason anyone found out about it? MfE put out to tender the study that looks at promoting greater use of novel organisms  in the open environment.

“They are working against a brand strategy for ethical applications of new organisms in containment. They have forgotten gorse, and possums, and the refusal by the Insurance industry to cover GM organisms,” says Jon Carapiet from GE-Free NZ in food and environment.

So why is NZ’s GE-free status at risk? Well, lobbying from two major power players–Fonterra and the US-backed biotech industry.

Fonterra: Dairying with GE–dropping quality, going for quantity

Fonterra wants GE pastures. This year it dropped it’s support for organic dairy production by 50% at a time when organic markets continue to rise. Organic dairy exports from New Zealand grew 400% between 2005-2009. Organic product sales in the USA grew 7.7% compared with total food sales increase of less than 1% in 2010. So why drop support for a ever-growing value-driven niche? Because organic production has been identified as the main obstacle to introducing GE grasses and crops into NZ.

But in this report, GE lobbyists “fail to mention the significant GE contamination of non-GE farms, the loss of markets, the massive increase in herbicide use, the new resistant weeds and disease problems, higher seed and production costs, loss of biodiversity, or the human and animal health problems associated with genetic engineering (GE),” says Soil & Health – Organic NZ spokesperson Steffan Browning.

Fonterra are ready to overlook all of this hoping to see 20% higher production over the next couple of years. Fonterra apparently is only interested in returning higher profits to investors, shafting the rest of the country in the process. They’ve managed to do it with milk prices, now they’re stepping it up a notch.

Biotech businesses want more billions

The US biotech industry isn’t happy with it’s $50.7 billion a year revenue. It wants to weaken GE laws as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) allowing companies like Monsanto to sell it’s genetically modified organisms to a farming nation.

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement should have been the main political issue this election. Loss of sovereignty and backroom deals by National for the TPPA will complete the introduction of GE crops into NZ . To have Pharmac, tobacco regulation, intellectual property, pro-corporate regulatory biases, finance, foreign investment, mining, water rights and GE straight-jacketed by a mega-treaty done in secret (All documents except the final text will be kept secret for four years after the agreement comes into force), is an astounding affront to New Zealand as a nation.  And why is the government pursuing it? What does New Zealand hope to gain from this? Helping Fonterra gain access to the lucrative US market. Feel sick yet?

New Zealand: Value-driven?

Our point of difference as a nation, our brand, our selling point, how we can add-value to New Zealand products–is being sold out to open up room for the big boys of the industry to rape and pillage? Our world-renowned environment, our precious birds, our native flora, our health and welfare all put at risk by organisms that aren’t fully understood.  There is no going back. Once they are here they are here

Threats of future enviro-degradation, monopolisation and health concerns from novel organisms don’t seem to scare most people.The incredible lack of knowledge and apathy on these issues is because people live more in the day to day, the future can be worried about in the future, we’ve still got to get through today. But New Zealand consumers are going to have to very quickly face up to decisions about eating GE. Feeding GE grass to cows that we then eat and get dairy products from (and NZers eat a lot of beef and dairy), is a very close relationship with novel GE organisms. Do we trust our scientists and the corporations that fund them enough to bypass all evolutionary safeguards, test all possible permutations and be concerned enough about the consequences to let those organisms loose into our environment and our bodies?

And no we don’t know the full ramifications of GE in our food supply–it simply hasn’t been around long enough. We’re only just finding out that plants you eat can affect the regulation of some of your genes through the effects of plant-derived miRNAs.

Vote this Saturday

It seems almost certain that National will returned to power this election. But please consider voting for the Greens–the only party willing to stand up on this issue. With clear environmental, child poverty and economic policies, the Green Party are important players in New Zealand politics. Hopefully a strong Green presence in parliament will mean that these issues are addressed and don’t turn into policy pushed through under urgency.

References

‘Super-grass’ aims to boost milk production (02 Mar 2010)

BioTechnology Learning Hub: Amazing Ryegrass

GM grass may not be so green (18 Jun 2011)

Something smells bad (15 Jun 2011)

Warning on GM laws from the NZ Sustainability Council (10 Nov 2011)

GE law probe a big surprise (20 Nov 2011)

GE Free New Zealand in Food and Environment

Soil & Health / Organic NZ

Trans Pacific Partnership Watch

New Zealand Green Party

19
Sep
10

Let us speak now of lettuce…

Lettuce is by far the world’s favourite salad green. The Egyptians were growing it way back in 4500 BC and it’s been the darling of the salad and the sandwich ever since. There is an incredible array of lettuce available for the discerning gardener – colour, style, leaf-form and grace. Only a disappointing sample can be found on supermarket shelves, selected primarily because they keep better. But the delights of fresh-picked leaves straight from the garden can’t be beaten.

I’m an avid fan of the rosette forms of the loose leaf lettuce. Loose leaf is ready to pick in just a couple of weeks and is heat tolerant. Sow more every two weeks for a constant salad supply. I don’t mulch around my lettuce as slugs just love the taste of little leaves and like to hide in mulch.

Keep your favourite lettuce going from year to year by saving the seed

If you are new to seed-saving, lettuce is an easy place to start. There is very little crossing in lettuce, so your plants next year will almost certainly be just like your favourite lettuce this year.

Start by choosing the healthiest lettuce plants in your garden – you’re looking for strong, healthy growth. Make sure they taste great by picking a few of the outside leaves, you wouldn’t want to save something that tasted yuck. Once you’ve made your selection, put a stake next to it labelled ‘save for seed’. Many of my best seed-saving intentions have blown away when a hungry husband has eyed a particularly good looking plant.

Hopefully, your lettuce will escape predation and make it through to late summer, when it will flower. If your lettuce has bolted too early it’s not the best one to save seed from as this is not a trait you want to select for.

Seeds will be ready for collecting 12–24 days after flowering. Each day grab a clean bucket and shake the lettuce tops into it. Be careful not to damage the stem. Put the contents into a paper bag and leave to dry somewhere cool and airy. Label the bag with the type of lettuce, a description, when it was grown and where the seed came from. While this may not be so important if you keep the seed to grow each year – it may matter to people you wish to swap seed with. With a single lettuce able to produce 30,000 seeds, you’ll have plenty to swap.

Don’t plant try to plant your lettuce seed straight away – store for at least 6 months. The seed has a coating on it that will stop your fresh seed from germinating..

You’ll want to remove a lot of the fluff and chaff that was collected with it. When the seed is completely dry, rub it over a fine mesh. Gently blow on the seed and most of the detritus will blow away leaving small oblong seeds. Don’t blow too hard or you may lose it all! Now store it away safely and package some up to bring along to Seedy Sunday.

Lettuce varieties currently available as seed to New Zealand gardeners

 

Koanga

Devil’s ear, Finger, Four seasons (Quatre de saisons), Heritage lettuce mix, Joes, Lightheart (Ruawai), Mignonette, Odell’s, Tree lettuce, Webb’s wonderful, Winter.

Ecoseeds

Buttercrunch, Great lakes, Green oak leaf, Red oak leaf, Triumph, Webb’s wonderful.

Kings Seeds

Buttercrunch, Tom Thumb, Freckles, Little gem, Rouge d’hiver, Vivian, Great lakes, Grenoble, Apache, Cocarde, Canasta, Drunken woman fringed head, Lolita, Lollo blonda, Dark lollo rossa, Royal oak leaf, Salad trim, Perella rougette montpellier, Tango.

Franchi

Degli ortolani, Lingua di canario, Misticanza, Rossa di trento, Testa di burro D’Inverno, Misticanza quattro stagioni, La Resistente sel. “Franchi”, Burro d’Inverno, Parella rossa.

Egmont Seeds

Bug off, Cisco, Cos red majestic, Dover, Gourmet salad blend, Great lakes, Kaiser, Legacy, Onyx green frill, Red butterhead, Red fire, Solsun red frill, Tin tin cos, Tom Thumb, Veredes green oakleaf, Vesuvius, Xanthia red oakleaf.

Yates

Buttercrunch, Cos, Great lakes, Greenway, Webb’s wonderful, Winter triumph.

McGregor

Buttercrunch, Great lakes, Mixed gourmet blend, Lollo rosso, Mesclun mix

This article appeared in the September edition of Kapiti’s  On To It.

08
Jan
10

Phytoph-Tora: the plant destroyer – Lessons in early childhood gardening for a non-parent

Ever ready to take up the challenge of getting someone excited about gardening and growing food, I offered to look after my neighbour’s sweet little one-year-old, Tora while I was planting my green garden the other day. The kid was hanging out, looking for a good time while all her mum really wanted to do was the dishes. I thought it would be a great chance to play in the dirt, instill that garden-love early sorta thing. Plant some celery and some spinach – it’ll be fun. And it was. Just not very productive.

Sunscreened up, hat on, escaping mum, Tora was ready for action. Dirt was fun, playing with worms was fun, pulling plants out of the ground was fun. She picked up the seedlings and popped them in the holes for me, but when all pressed down wanted to pull them back out and plant them again. That was fine, I thought my celery could cope with it.

Continue reading ‘Phytoph-Tora: the plant destroyer – Lessons in early childhood gardening for a non-parent’

15
Mar
09

Growing food: How long do I have to wait?

Borlotti beans: wonderfully tasty and homegrownGrow your own food! But be patient – this is how long it will take. The chart looks at how long you can expect to wait for your vegetables to grow from seed. These are estimated times – climate, soil conditions, water supply, different cultivars, farming methods can all give different results.

There’s no time like the present to start growing food, especially when you see how long it takes for veges to grow. The economy is going insane, nobody knows what’s going to happen… you need a little security in your life. Being able to grow food to feed your family is really the best security you can get. Then you know that if you lose your job, or the supermarkets run out, or your country goes bankrupt you can eat.

It’s a baseline to work from – you need to eat. If you grow your own food (or even just some of it) :

—  it will save you money;
—  it will give you mana, strength, self-worth;
—  it will give you better health, keep you active, help you lose weight.

Continue reading ‘Growing food: How long do I have to wait?’

29
Dec
08

St John’s Wort

St John's WortIt’s a beautiful sunny, summer day and my garden is rocking right now. I’ve been in a fairly lazy mood pottering around, taking some photos, pulling some weeds. It’s been a great day. My St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is looking fantastic . The bright yellow flowers are looking resplendent. Today I’m going to bottle some of that golden goodness and make a tincture.

St John’s wort has been used centuries as a healing and magical herb. It’s been talked about a lot over the last decade due to it’s use as a treatment for depression. St John’s wort is also incredibly effective as an antibiotic and to heal neuralgic headaches and external injuries, burns and bruises. And that’s what I’ll be using my tincture for.

More on St John’s wort, how to grow, harvest, infuse and use it with lots of pretty pictures after the jump….

Continue reading ‘St John’s Wort’

10
Dec
08

Another Glorious Red New Zealand Summer

Pohutukawa Metrosideras excelsaYou can tell that summer and the festive season are here. It’s difficult to miss with the tell-tale red lights of the pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) signalling the way. The pohutukawa is also known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree because of the beautiful crimson display that flares at the end of November and right through January.

The red flower heads look like balls of fluff thanks to their petals being inconspicuous. The mass is made of long red stamens, lightly tipped with golden pollen sacks. And they light up the tree as if covered in red tinsel.

The pohutukawa is a New Zealand native but comes from the Myrtaceae or Myrtle family that also gives us clove, guava, feijoa and eucalyptus. It’s less fragrant than the other relatives but is so well loved that we can’t get enough of it.

More on the beauty, the symbolism and the protection of New Zealand pohutukawa with plenty of links, after the jump Continue reading ‘Another Glorious Red New Zealand Summer’




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