THYME OXYMEL RECIPE

By Marc Richute

What do you get when you combine a typical garden spice like thyme (a beautiful, aromatic, antiseptic herb), with organic honey (natures sweet antibacterial gift), and some raw apple cider vinegar (the Mother of all things sour tasting)?

You have a thyme oxymel- a notorious immune booster!

In my opinion, this pungent, yet sweet elixir is a great alternative to commercial sore throat relievers.

It is simple and inexpensive to make. Here is what you will need:

  • A mason jar with plastic lid*
  • Fresh thyme
  • Organic honey
  • Raw apple cider vinegar (ACV)

ingredients for thyme oxymel

First, fill your mason jar with about ¼ thyme.

Next, fill the rest of the jar with ACV and honey. Note: the amounts of ACV and honey are discretionary. You might choose more honey and less ACV, or more ACV and less honey. I prefer more honey!

Then, place the lid on the jar and shake it daily for 6-8 weeks.

thyme oxymel

After 6-8 weeks, strain out the contents with a tea press or cheese cloth into its final storage container.

Finally, your oxymel is done!

Personally, when I have a sore throat, I reach for my thyme oxymel. A one ounce glass three times a day usually does the trick.

1 ounce thyme oxymel

*Plastic lids are preferred when using vinegar. Vinegar will corrode metal and ruin your oxymel. You can use metal lids, however put wax paper over the jar before you tighten the metal lid.

Dandelion Microgreens. Easy to grow and fun to eat.

Dandelion microgreens are easy to grow and they make a delicious addition to any salad, pesto, or bitter snack.

For starters you will need some soil, water, dandelion seeds, and a tray (these seeds were foraged from a local field).

Step 1: Mix the soil with water (3 cups soil/2 cups water) and place in the tray.

Step 2: Sprinkle the dandelion seeds on top of the tray.

Step 3: Place tray on shelf with light source- or on the windowsill.

Step 4: Water daily, be patient, and watch them grow.

Step 5: Cut the dandelions from the tray- and eat up!

 

Dandelion Microgreen Kit: Soil and Water.
Dandelion Microgreen Kit: Soil and Water.

 

Dandelion Microgreen Kit: seeds and tray.
Dandelion Microgreen Kit: seeds and tray.

 

Dandelion Microgreens: Day 1.
Dandelion Microgreens: Day 1.

 

Dandelion Microgreens: Day 10.
Dandelion Microgreens: Day 10.

 

dandelion microgreens: Day 21
Dandelion Microgreens: Day 21.

 

Dandelion Microgreens: Day 28. Eat Up!
Dandelion Microgreens: Day 28. Eat Up!

 

 

 

Just walk already. No more excuses!

by Marc Richute

To be clear, I enjoy many methods of moving around; running, biking, roller blading, snow shoeing, even using a Pogo stick. I’ll volunteer to be the recipient of a piggy back ride if necessary. However, I find the most satisfying way to get around is by walking. A leisurely walk is more than just advancing one foot in front of the other. For example, the expression “stop and smell the roses” roughly translates to “slow down and appreciate things before life passes you by”. It’s no surprise that as a foraging herbalist I view this phrase as a way of life. In my opinion it is much easier to walk by a field and patiently identify your foraging surroundings versus biking along at an exceptional speed and missing the field entirely.

I recognize there are countless studies about the benefits of walking; personally I will never have the time to read any of them.  I will most likely be out walking, and I see absolutely no need in clicking a link or opening a page telling me I have to walk (except this one).  Like most humans I learned to walk at an early age and never looked back.  The more walking is integrated into a daily lifestyle, the more routine and easier it will become. However, we all share the same excuses for not taking a peaceful stroll around the block; long hours at the job, kiddie carpool, fatigue, and so on. But at the end of the day the word that sticks out is “excuses”. We all must find the time to walk.

The idea of walking is simplistic, yet the ways in which people can achieve it is different. If you live in a city you may have to spend more time walking to get to work (to and from the bus, train, transfers, more buses, etc.…). Conversely if you live in the suburbs your morning step count may only be walking to your car. Then of course there is the amount of time each individual spends moving around at work. After work, if you live in an area that has sidewalks you are probably more likely to hit the cement then someone who lives near a road with no shoulder.

The power to walk is an often overlooked attribute of humans. Clearly some walk more than others, and others want to walk more. Somewhere in between lies the balance. Personally I feel better after walking several miles a day, contrasted with the days when it’s raining and I’m (almost) stagnant. Ultimately the objective should be to accomplish as much walking as possible daily. Obviously the total mileage will vary from day to day, so pay close attention to the weekly results. You may be amazed at how much you completed. A successful path that leads to achievement is often filled with barriers of excuses.  Minimize the roadblocks along the way, feel better, and lessen your dependence on others to make you move. Walk on!

Foraging is fun

by Marc Richute

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You meander endlessly through the aisles of a market looking for sustenance. Holding a green pepper in each hand to see which one looks better and tossing back the cucumber with a dent in it, you now make your way to the deli staring aimlessly at the selections waiting for a number to be called. Hours later the shopping list is finally complete. After all your items are secure in the cart it’s time to swipe some plastic currency and head home. Oh, did you remember that wretched store card so you can get the discount? Congratulations, you just (sort of) foraged.

Foraging is simply defined as searching for food. We have all heard stories about our great grandparents scouring the woods for mushrooms, acorns, blueberries, and so on. It appears from most accounts that life was rough and food was scarce. So why the recent longing to get back to that? For starters, foraging is in our DNA. There has always been an intrinsic need to find food and provide it to our families.  In addition, there is a distrust in the quality of food we purchase and the folks providing it to us. Some no longer want to put their faith in others to provide the most basic building block of life.

The modern supermarket has certainly transformed the way humans obtain nutrition. It’s no surprise why a large majority of people find it easier to hit the market after an eight hour workday, rather than search the woods for morsels. However, it was not long ago when it was ordinary that everyone had to find solace in acquiring their food outdoors. We (humans) have complicated our lives so much with busy hectic days that we have no other choice but to opt for convenience.

But wait, there is still hope. You do not need to forage your entire diet. Begin your journey with small incremental steps and set realistic achievable goals.  Do some research and pick one item to study.  For instance, if you choose dandelion, familiarize yourself with its appearance, growing patterns, practical uses, and the best time to forage it. I expect you will not have to walk far to find some.

Responsible foraging can be summarized in four stages: observing, inspecting, gathering, and consuming. Ideally in a perfect world, you would spend a year observing the item you desire to forage. You need to fully recognize the yearly life cycle to appreciate and understand when to collect your findings. Next you are ready to inspect your discoveries. The inspection process is straightforward and perfect for those who have great attention to detail. Be sure to check and recheck your field guides for accuracy. At this point you can gather what you need. Don’t be greedy; the plants need to grow back and others (humans and animals) may want some too. Please practice responsible foraging. Now you are ready to consume your bounty and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Foraging may seem like the latest trend, but it is much more than that. It is generations of people feeling nostalgic for a time they only read about and did not get the opportunity to experience directly. There is an imminent sense of adventure, as well as a reflective return to our basic aspirations of living with foraging. This scavenging wisdom has always been with all of us, and will hopefully remain with all of us.

Skip the Shower…Take a Forest Bath Instead (The beauty of shinrin-yoku)

by Marc Richute

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Humans have been forest bathing for years. Although it wasn’t called that; it was called living. However with the shrinking of the forest and the expansion of the cities, accompanied by demanding jobs which keep us indoors most of the day, we forgot about our need to experience nature. There are plenty of scientific studies that demonstrate the health benefits of forest bathing; reducing stress, boosting immune systems, and improving blood pressure. Yet I invite you to just try it simply for pleasure.

So what is forest bathing? The term forest bathing was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in the early 1980’s. In Japanese, shinrin means forest and yoku translates to bathing (or to take in).  The concept of forest bathing is simple: find a park, trail, or any greenspace… and walk (20-30 minutes is sufficient). As you wander embrace everything your senses allow. There is no set method on how and when your senses will accept forest bathing, but it will happen. For instance, sight may be one of your first senses to experience the value of shinrin-yoku, or it may be smell. Additionally, it may be all of your senses simultaneously.

When I forest bathe in the woods my senses are first captivated by the superb scenery. I am delighted with the sight of lush green trees, mushrooms growing on fallen limbs, insects flying, and animals scampering around. All of my typical mundane life stresses disappear. The aromatic smells of pine, wildflowers, and the crisp, clean air are remarkable. I briefly stop to thoroughly identify and enjoy the smells; then it’s back to walking and bathing. The sounds of birds chirping in the distance, branches falling, and streams flowing takes my breath away. Touching the trees, weeds, pine sap, and feeling the mossy earth with my feet is transcendent. Taking a drink of water tastes better in the forest than it does in a cubicle. Better yet, if you have a water filtration system, drink from the stream. Refreshing!

As stated earlier, shinrin-yoku is an enduring straightforward idea, though vastly essential to our everyday well-being. Therefore I challenge everyone to go out and give it a try for a week; maybe a month or more. Jot down your observations and make note of all the progress. For example, you may feel less stress at work after a scenic stroll the night before, or perhaps that demanding meeting seems more manageable after a walk through the park during your lunch break. Whatever your job or schedule is, make time to forest bathe…it will cleanse your soul and keep you closer to nature.

 

Happy News About SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

by Marc Richute

Seasonal affective disorder is a condition that can affect an individual’s mood, sleep, diet, energy, relationships, and work. SAD typically occurs during the fall/winter months in northern regions when the daylight hours are shorter. Treatment can come from outside professional help, or from within the individual themselves. I found natural solutions worked best for me.

I allowed SAD to consume my well-being for many years. Ashamed and naive at the time, I was not aware that millions of Americans experienced this sensation. The first sign of my SAD began with the early sunsets in late September. The second wave was the bizarre daylight saving time change in November. It felt like Mother Nature came and stole that hour from me (it still does). Finally, when the snow blanketed the ground that’s when it really set in. I have always enjoyed walking and feeling little separation between the dirt and my feet. The snow-covered ground took that away from me and made it more difficult to get around. Okay, so the last part may be a tad dramatic, but here in New England we get a lot of snow.

After years of letting the winter doldrums get the better of me, I needed a strategy. Here are some ideas that have worked for me:

Keep active: Winter does not have to feel stressful. Shoveling your driveway, digging your car out, and possibly helping a neighbor shovel should keep you active for a few hours after it snows. Additionally, you could bring out your inner child by building a snowman, or something that resembles a snowman. It also helps to keep moving; wander your neighborhood in boots, snowshoes, cross-country skis, or other winter gear. It may look odd, but this helps maximize your amount of sun exposure for some natural vitamin D.

Stay healthy: Winter is cold and flu season. Your immune system needs to be on high alert for viral intrusions. It’s so disheartening to experience SAD and also have to stay in bed sick for a week. To combat this, have lots of nourishing herbs and hot tea blends ready; stinging nettles, red clover, and linden are a good start. Also, incorporate herbs and spices into your meals. A few of my favorites are: garlic, rosemary, ginger, and cinnamon. Garlic has been reported to lower cholesterol and blood sugar. Rosemary, ginger, and cinnamon are great stimulants for your heart. These should keep you going; especially if you skip your morning coffee.

Strain your brain: Keeping your body active is a must. Yet, it is also important to keep your mind sharp during the winter months. Catch up on the latest novel, start a project, begin a difficult hobby, learn to play an instrument, join another social meeting group, and associate with more people. Your brain will thank you for the much needed invigorating attention.

Abstain from too much alcohol: Grabbing the bottle may seem like a great idea in the winter, however, alcohol is a depressant. If you’re feeling down and then reach for a depressant you may end up feeling worse the next day. If you do drink excessively, be aware of the consequences. Better yet, hoist a hot tea.

Vacation: If you can coordinate with your job and wallet, take a trip somewhere sunny and warm. A long weekend may be all you need. If an extended weekend does not seem like enough time, take a week or two. A good boost of sun energy in early January may be enough momentum you need to cruise into spring. Some people have tried light therapy boxes to mimic the outdoor light (this is when you acquire brighter light than your indoor lights from a special light box). I have not tried this method so I can’t personally comment on its success.

Seasonal affective disorder is not an insurmountable obstacle. I have stated a few things that worked for me, but the true way to win your own battle is to understand how and why you feel the way you do during the winter months. I strongly encourage you to challenge and surprise yourself by staying active, stimulating your mind, taking time off, and monitoring your health. Before you know it spring will be here. You can begin to enjoy the increasing amount of sunlight and begin foraging for new herbs and flowers. The happy news about your SAD is that you potentially identify the causes of your hindrance and discover techniques to manage it. Your next winter should be awesome!