Archive for the ‘Rhizome’ Category

Carrots – Daucus carota ssp. sativus

Baby Carrots fresh from the garden
Baby Carrots fresh from the garden

“There was an Old Person in gray,
Whose feelings were tinged with dismay;
She purchased two parrots,
     and fed them with carrots,
Which pleased that Old Person in gray.”

Edward Lear, English artist, writer;

 known for his ‘literary nonsense’ & limericks  (1812-1888)

Who among us hasn’t heard the old adage that eating carrots improves vision? This biennial root veggie is native to Europe and SW Asia, and has been known for ages to help the eyesight, especially night vision. The beta-carotene in carrots is the beneficial ingredient in this mix! It also helps preserve the eyesight of the elderly by reducing macular degeneration.

In times past it was not the root of this vegetable that was considered valuable, but rather the aromatic leaves and seeds. An essential oil is steam distilled from the seeds. The aroma is earthy, woody and warm, but not at all like the scent of carrots. This EO is often used in perfumery and is considered a middle not, blending well with bergamot, juniper, lavender, lemon, lime, cedarwood, geranium as well as all citrus and spicy oils.

The root of this vegetable is the traditional carrot used in cooking, but the greens are also edible and safe for consumption. Most humans though do not eat anything but the roots. The roots can be used in numerous ways in many styles of cooking. Add them to soups, stews, and stir fries; they are an integral part of the traditional Sunday pot roast dinner, and an invaluable part of the broth making. They can be grated and used to make carrot cake, and bread. In the early 1800’s in England they began using grated carrots to make a pudding also! Lastly the roots can be fermented to produce alcohol.

In the past carrots were used to give color to butter; and a dye can be obtained from the leaves that resembles woad. The roots give an orange dye, which you will see when cooking with it!

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Beets – Beta vulgaris

Beets
Beets

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables.

The radish, admittedly, is more feverish,

but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion.

Tomatoes are lusty enough,

yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity.

Beets are deadly serious.”

Tom Robbins

Aphrodite (Greek goddess of love and beauty) ate beets to retain her beauty, interesting! Back in the time when Aphrodite was worshiped most strongly people ate the greens not the root. It took the Romans to first cultivate the beet for its root. It took until the 19th century and Napoleon declaring that the beet be the primary source of sugar, for beets to truly become popular. Today beets are grown commercially in the United States, Russia, France, Poland, France and Germany.

 

Today the leaves and the roots are eaten; they are included in soup, juice, salads, and can be pickled, as well as baked. Eaten raw they can be grated and put in salads. When braising greens, such as chard and mustard greens, just add beets at the same time, for a healthy lift. Beets have 3.2 g Protein, 0.4 g Fat, 8.1 g Carbohydrates, and 3.8 g Dietary Fiber. Since the greens are high in magnesium they make a valuable addition to the compost pile also!

 

Beets have also been used in folk medicine. Since it is a potent blood and liver cleanser it can help the body in overcoming many blood problems, acting as a wonderful tonic. To help build blood in anemia or help in controlling cholesterol levels juice beets and carrots together. In ancient times, Hippocrates used dried beet leaf to stop bleeding in wounds. The Romans used the juice as an aphrodisiac.

Lizard Tail – Saururus cernuus

Lizard Tail flowers and leaves
Lizard Tail flowers and leaves

This native of eastern North America is also known as water-dragon and American swamp lily. It is considered Endangered in Connecticut and Rhode Island. It prefers to be in light shade or dappled sun with its feet wet in mucky soil. It can reproduce through spreading runners below ground or by germination of its seeds!

 

The roots and leaves have been used in medicine in the past. The roots used as infusion was used as a treatment for rheumatism by washing the area with the infusion. The Cherokee roasted the root and then mashed it into a poultice to treat sore breasts. An infusion of the leaves was drunk for the treatment of back and breast pain! …The flowers, leaves and roots have a pleasant citrus smell; yet others refer to the scent as sassafras like.

Ginger – Zingiber officinale

Ginger root
Ginger root

Hot, moist, lightly shady…those are the basic conditions one must have to grow Ginger…much like that found in Southeastern Asia, India, West Africa and in the Caribbean. Other plants that like similar conditions are bee balm (Monarda didyma), mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica), and angelica (Angelica archangelica).

 

Ginger is one of the oldest spices found in the records. Found in all the early medical texts, found as early as 3000 BC in the Greek. The Greeks and Romans used a lot of ginger. European records show it dating to the 11th century. It appears to have arrived in England and was reported on by the 11th century herbalists there. The primary holy book of Islam, the Koran (Arabic, al-Quran) contains text which indicates that ginger is considered both a spiritual and a heavenly herb.

 

Ginger has a range of actions in the body, cholagogue (stimulates the release of bile from the gall bladder) and hepato-protective (protects the liver), possible stimulation of peristalsis and stomach secretions, a reduction in fevers, coughing, spasms, and reduction of the prostaglandins that increase smooth muscle contractions. Topically it is rubefacient (increases circulation to the area).

One of the ways my daughters used ginger as teenagers was for menstrual cramps, whether in capsule form or a warm cup of tea, ginger sooths the long muscle cramping. It has also helped with motion sickness issues on more than one occasion.

Ginger has also been a very popular addition to cooking as well. It can be made into candy, tea, Ginger beer, and in Chinese and Indian cuisines seasoning dishes made of seafood, mutton and vegetarian. It can also be used as a flavoring in cookies, crackers and cakes.

 

In magic Ginger has been used to attract money and also in success spells. If a spell is cast after eating ginger it has more power, since the ginger has heated you up. This is especially true of love spells!

Common Cattails – Typha latifolia

Common Cattail in bloom
Common Cattail in bloom

 

…She is dropping a rose
frozen forever in time
it cascades from her hand.
Around her, the pond,
the cat-tails, the bird song,
all captured deliciously…

By Daniel James Burt

 

This common plant of wetland areas is native to most of North America, Europe. Asia, and Africa. Across most of America the bladelike leaves sway in the gentle breezes set up by passing road traffic, while the telltale tall stalk with the brown sausage flowering heads stand as sentinels.

 

Prior to the roads being paved as they are today, they showed the course of every wet area, from ditch to river making it simpler to survive. All parts of this precious survival plant are useful in some way. The leaves can be used in weaving flexible mats, of all sizes, for uses ranging from sleeping, sitting, providing shade, to creating doorways, and more….your imagination is the limit. Some of the Native American tribes used the leaves and the sheath base for caulk material. The pollen was used in ceremony, and as an addition to flour for making a delicious flat bread. The fluff of the seeds could be used to line a baby’s diaper for absorbency, as tinder in starting a fire, and as insulation.

 

Beyond the everyday useful, the cattail was used in medicine. The rhizomes were crushed and poultices on sores and inflamed wounds. The stem (with the flower head) was mad into an infusion used to treat coughs. And the fluff from the seeds was used to stop bleeding, and to cover wounds (specifically burns).