Tag Archives | Herbs

How to Make Fresh Tulsi Tea

Even though 2017 isn’t over yet — and it’s been a pretty big year already — I know I’ll remember it as the year I met tulsi.

I was introduced to this mesmerizing plant through the yearlong monthly herbal medicine class I’m taking with a clinical herbalist and teacher here in West Philly, Kelly McCarthy of Attic Apothecary.

I meet with her and around 15 other students one full Sunday per month at historic Bartram’s Garden, where we also maintain raised beds and learn to grow herbs from wilderness gardener (and herbalist) Mandy Katz from seed to harvest.

I think it was the second class, sitting outside with our notebooks on a balmy day this April when we studied the nervous system. We learned about adaptogens, plants that contain compounds that can help the body and mind deal with stress.

There are several, like ashwagandha root, as well as some fungi, like prized reishi mushrooms. But tulsi — also known as holy basil — piqued my interest, since I already dry and brew my own blend of culinary basil varieties for tea.

Kelly has said that if she could recommend one herb to everyone, it would be tulsi — that if everyone just got their daily dose of heady, stress-relieving tea, we’d all feel a little better.

And after taking it daily as a tea made from the dried herb (purchased through Mountain Rose herbs), I have to agree with her: during difficult, stressful times, my regular tulsi habit did seem to help make life a little brighter, a little easier to deal with.

However, tea made from dried tulsi, while pleasant to drink, is somewhat unremarkable: dark in color, earthy and tannic, and only slightly reminiscent of the pungent, bubblegum-sweet essence of the fresh herb.

It wasn’t until I was regularly harvesting it from my garden this summer that I really got to know this herb — and I had to learn to remake my daily tea all over again.

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How to Make Your Own Tonic Water

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here to with a how-to post designed to help you make tonic water syrup! A fun DIY project for an August weekend. – Marisa

When hot weather comes to Philadelphia, that’s my cue to pick up a bottle of gin — because there’s no better quencher at the end of a long, hot bike commute or gardening session than a bright, herbaceous gin and tonic.

In recent years, I’ve started investing in better, locally produced gins to make my favorite summertime cocktail: bottles of Philadelphia Distilling’s Bluecoat and Palmer Distilling’s Liberty Gin are made in the city; Manatawny Still Works’ Odd Fellows Gin is produced about an hour outside Philly in Pottstown. All three are delicious in a crisp G&T.

With quality craft gin, homemade seltzer (thanks to my secondhand SodaStream), and fresh-squeezed lime juice, I found myself just one ingredient away from a truly bespoke cocktail: homemade tonic water.

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Giveaway: Mountain Rose Herbs

Mountain Rose Herbs

My father builds shelves. It’s not something he does professionally and he is rarely paid for his services. However, at least once a year, he finds himself measuring, designing and buying wood to construct bookcases, kitchen storage and in-set shelves that take advantage of every inch of space. His stints as a builder always coincide with his visits to either my sister or me.

Many years ago, when I was still relatively new to apartment living, he came and created an elaborate system of shelves that still exists in my kitchen (in a move that I consider both quirky and sturdy, we shimmed the final shelf that’s perched over the existing cabinetry with a #2 pencil).

He spent the time before my sister gave birth last fall designing shelving for her tiny, storage-less bathroom. And in the days before my wedding, he bought a small saw, cut a giant hole in a wall and inserted the most wonderful spice storage I’ve ever known. We used jars to determine the shelf spacing. It brings me great joy.

star anise pods

I use a lot of spices in my kitchen. Despite the fact that my recipes typically yield small amounts, I still have a fairly massive total output as a canner, thanks to recipe testing, cookbook writing and multiple freelance projects. There’s also the general, life-sustaining cooking that I do every single day.

In the past, I’ve been sort of lazy about buying spices. Sometimes I order them from Amazon. Other times, when I need something immediately, I hop in the car and drive to my nearest Penzeys. I used to shop at the Spice Terminal in Reading Terminal Market, but they’re now closed (and honestly, their goods weren’t always as fresh as I hoped). However, my loyalties have recently been won by a new company. Mountain Rose Herbs.

dill seed

Based in Oregon, Mountain Rose Herbs sells organic herbs, spices, teas, oils and many other things. As someone who seeks out organic produce for canning when possible (I’m not militant about it, but I do what I’m able), it’s nice to know that the spices I’m adding are just as virtuous as the fruits and vegetables I’ve started out with. What’s more, the prices at Mountain Rose are really good (four ounces of their dill seed costs $2.50, the same amount from Penzeys is $3.45). Finally, the spices I’ve tried so far have been incredibly fresh, fragrant and flavorful. It’s just good stuff.

pepper trio

I will confess right now that while I’d heard of Mountain Rose Herbs for years, it took them sending me some samples for me to give them a shot. I’d always assumed that because they were organic, they’d be more expensive than my other sources. I am so happy to have been proven wrong.

Mountain Rose Herbs is offering a $50 gift certificate to one of my readers, good for anything on their website. If you want to enter for a chance to win, here’s what you do.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me what your most used herb or spice is.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Friday, August 10. Winner will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted to the blog on Saturday, August 11, 2012.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: Mountain Rose Herbs sent me a sample pack of their spices for trial and review. My opinions, as always, remain entirely my own. 

April Can Jam: Herbs!

Wedding favors

T.S. Elliot wrote, “April is the cruellest month.” I believe him to be correct, particularly when it comes to seasonal fruits and vegetables. It’s the month in which we (particularly the more northerly ones of us) plant and hope, dreaming of asparagus, strawberries, peaches and corn, but without any measurable (or at least, edible) yield.

And so, as the Tigress and I considered our April Can Jam options, we settled on herbs as the month’s ingredient. They’re widely available even in this time of seasonal anticipation, work in both sweet and savory applications and will be particularly terrific for those of you in warmer climates who already have some lovely fruits and spring vegetables to play with.

Do remember that whatever you make has to be suitable for water bath processing. This means no infused oils or pestos, as they can’t be processed and have a fairly limited refrigerator life.

April posts must go live between Sunday, April 18th and midnight on Friday, April 23rd.

I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

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