Archive for the ‘Properties’ Category

I absolutely love spring because it ushers in new beginnings.   Fresh and vibrant plants which lay dormant all winter are now poking their little heads up to feel the warm air and greet the sun.  This is about the time of the year when our Southern Dewberries (Rubus trivialis) start to bloom.  The berries won’t come in until sometime in late April or early May, but the blossoms are just a reminder that soon we will be gorging ourselves on their juicy ripe berries.

The Dewberry is often confused with the Blackberry as they look quite similar.  However, Dewberries fruit earlier and grow close to the ground like a vine, while the Blackberry grows on upright stems or canes.

Like the Blackberry the Dewberries are edible and are a great treat on a warm spring day.  Dewberries like Blackberries can also be used medicinally (more…)

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Opuntia humifusa 3A couple of weekends ago I went on a pecan picking expedition in Live Oak Florida with some friends. Out in one of the fields amongst the cows and pecan trees I found quite a number of Opuntia spp. or Prickly Pear as they are commonly known.  Other common names include Devils Tongue, nopales and Indian Fig.  Despite their harsh and abravisive appearance I find something oddly beautiful about them.  I also love the fact that the Prickly Pear can be used both as food and as medicine.  It is so cool to me to just walk out on my property and gather wild food or medicine for my family.

Description:  Cactus with jointed pad and sharp spines.  Fruits are normally a puplish-red when the are ripe and the flowers a bright yellow.

Location:  Found in dry sandy soils from Mass. to Florida and Texas to Minn.

Properties:  Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, galactogogue and anti-viral

Historical Medicinal Uses:  Native americans would remove the spines from the pads and split them open and use the pulp as a poultice for wounds, abrasions, burns and fractures.  The peeled pads have been applied to the breast to encourage milk flow or applied to other areas for rheumatic pain.  The juice from the plant applied topically has been used historically to remove warts or taken internally for kidney stones.  Baked pads have been used for gout and  Native Americans once used a tea made from the pads for lung ailments.  Recently research has been conducted which showed that Opuntia may be beneficial in hypoglycemia, benign prostatic hyperplasia and a number of conditions affecting the urinary system.

Food Uses:  The plant is quiet nutritious and a good source of potassium, calcium, vitamin A and fiber.  The fruits can be used to make a tea which can be turned into jelly, a syrup or candy.  The pad can be cut up eaten raw in salads.  The seed from the plant can be ground up and used to make flour.  Sliced pads with the skin removed can be cut up like green beans and either steamed or sauteed.


Nopales on The Grill

Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, they are ready for the grill. Cook each pad for approximately 10 to 12 minutes on each side. While grilling, brush each side of the cactus pad with olive oil or a flavored oil of your choice. Pepper or garlic-flavored oil are often used on grilled Nopales.

Scrambled Nopales

1 or 2 cactus pads

8 Eggs

1/4 lb. of cheese (your choice)

salt & pepper to taste

Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, slice into bite-size pieces. Sauté the sliced pads in a small amount of butter for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl; add shredded cheese and the sautéed cactus pieces. Pour the egg mixture into a skillet and scramble. Serve warm with salt and pepper to taste.

Nopales Rellenos (Stuffed Cactus Pads)

12 tender cactus pads

3 cups of water

6 slices of Machego or Panela cheese

1/4 onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

1 clove of garlic

Salt to taste

1/2 cup of flour

4 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups vegetable or olive oil

1 can of tomato sauce (12 ounces)

Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the ads, boil in 3 cups of water with the garlic, onion, and salt. Drain.

On each of 6 cactus pads place a slice of cheese and 3 to 4 pieces of onion. Top with another cactus pad, secure with wooden toothpicks and coat with flour.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then add the yolks and beat for 1 to 2 minutes more to create a batter.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, dip the stuffed cactus pads into the egg batter and fry until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Serve drenched with cooked tomato sauce.

Nopales Salsa

1 lb. cleaned cactus pads

1/2 lb. tomatillos

1 small white onion

2 garlic cloves

2 poblano peppers

1/2 tsp. of salt

2 tsp.of fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp.of cumin

2 Tbs. cilantro

Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, grill for about 7 minutes on each side. Slice the grilled pads into strips. Place tomatillos, cubed onions and garlic in a baking dish, then cook in a 450-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Roast poblanos on grill or under the broiler, then peel them and remove the seeds. Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until well chopped. A little water may be needed to moisten the salsa. Serve chilled with chips or use to season tacos, burritos or other Mexican dishes.

Nopales Salad

2.2 lbs. Nopales (cactus pads)

1 onion, halved

4 cups water

2 Tbs. salt

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

4 green chiles – serrano or jalapeno – chopped

Prepare the cactus pads as described in the preparation section above. Once you have removed the needles, nodules and thoroughly washed the pads, chop into bite-size pieces. Place the chopped Nopales into a pan with the 4 cups of water, halved onion and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes or until tender. Drain Nopales and combine with remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. This dish gets better if you let is sit a few hours in the refrigerator before serving. Serves 4 or more.

(Courtesy of Desert USA )


Prickly pear

3 c. vinegar

3 c. water

6 tbsp. salt


Garlic cloves (1 for each jar)

Jalapeno peppers (1 for each jar)

Cut needles off prickly pear, slice and pack into sterilized jars. Put one clove garlic, 1 jalapeno pepper and sprigs of dill into jar. Boil water, vinegar and salt until salt is dissolved. Fill jars with boiling brine to within 1/2″ of top. Put on cap and screw band firmly. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Tastes best if let cure for at least 6 months.


Pick prickly pears with leather gloves on your hands. Take off spines. Rinse the fruit and place in kettle, adding enough water to cover. Boil until quite tender, squeeze through jelly bag or jelly press. To every 2 1/2 cups of juice add 1 (1 3/4 oz.) package powdered pectin and boil for a couple minutes. Then add 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 3 1/2 cups sugar. Stir often and boil hard for 5 minutes. Pour in jelly glass and seal with paraffin.

(Courtesy:  Cooks.com)



Steven Foster and James Duke, Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs

Richard Deuerling and Peggy S. Lantz, Florida’s Incredible Wild Edibles

Michael Wilson, Medicinal Plant Fact Sheet:  Opuntia: prickly pear cactus;  http://www.pollinator.org/Resources/Opuntia.draft.pdf

Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses;  University of Florida

University of Florida School of Forest Resources and Conservation:  Florida Forrest Plants:  http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/Prickly_pear/pricpear.htm




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GarlicToday there is a bit of a chill in the air and I’m thinking about soups and stews.  One thing I love to put into my soups and stews is Garlic.  What a phenominal herb it is.  Not only does Garlic add a wonderful flavor to hundreds of dishes, but it also has a list of health benefits and uses that is almost endless.  Garlic is best eaten raw, but still contains some beneficial properties when lightly cooked.

Sometimes refered to as Poor Man’s Penicillin, Garlic is a premiere substitute for antibotics without the harsh side effects.  When my son was really young and it was apparent he was coming down with something I would mash up several cloves of garlic and pour enough olive oil over the cloves to cover them.  I would then let the mixture sit for as long as I could, at least 30 mins or more, and then I would strain it.  I would then take the olive oil and apply it to the bottom of his feet and put him on a pair of socks.  Off to bed he would go and in the morning you would never know he had been sick.  The fever would be gone and he would be feeling fine.

Garlic is a mild blood thinner, can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and increase circulation.  Some research indicates that Garlic may help to lower blood sugar levels in some people making it beneficial for diabetics.  Because of Garlics antimicrobial,  and anti-bacterial properties it may be beneficial with any number of infections and may help to rid the body of parasites.  Garlic is also a wonder antifungal and may be used both internally or applied externally for conditions such as nail fungus and athletes foot.

So when dinner rolls around tonight don’t forget the Garlic.  Bon appetit!

P.S…another bonus to eating a lot of garlic is that it will not only keep people away such as salesmen, but you won’t have to worry about those pesky vampires this Halloween.

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Although I don’t claim to be a poet, I have really been enjoying writing my herbal rhymes. I have written quite a number of them and may eventually compile them for who knows why….Perhaps someone out there may find them fun, interesting, irrelevant, helpful, goofy….something. So, today I’m going to share with you one for Oatstraw.

Ode to Avena sativa (Oats)

Your sleepless and your restless
Your mind is not at ease
You do for others all the time
Trying hard to please

Your hair has lost it’s luster
and feels like horses straw
Your nails they break,
for goodness sakes,
and your one last nerve is raw

Feeling quite lethargic
your energy it did wane
Your head it hurts on down your spine
And is causing you such pain

Sweet and moist,
the milky seed,
a tonic for the nerves
Kick on back,
and just relax,
its just what you deserve.

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Ode to Achillea millefolium (Yarrow)

Lacerations and bruises, bleeding and chills, a fever and fibroids yarrow it heals.

Though bitter and pungent, cold and dry this herb will cool and tonify.

The tongue it is red and cracked down the middle, the veins they are blue and fast like a fiddle.

When you are irritated and tissue depressed, the veins it will cool along with the chest.

Dyspepsia, colitis, arthritis and gout Yarrow’s not an herb you want to rule out.

When the maidens flow comes to her late, yarrow’s an herb which will promote and stimulate.

Her loins they will cramp, her flow in excess, yarrow will slow the bleed and make it less.

When the pressure is high and the head it aches, a tea of the flowers for goodness sakes.

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A number of people around me have had some sort of crud which starts in the upper respiratory system and moves down into the lungs developing into a cough. Because of the severity of the coughs and congestion they have experienced I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about some of the herbs that are used for the respiratory system.

Pleurisy Root (Asclepia tuberosa) – Is considered a lung tonic which has been traditionally used for conditions such as bronchitis, pleurisy, fevers, dry cough, pneumonia and asthma. Pleurisy root is considered and expectorant and helps to break up phlegm and reduces inflammation.

Marshmallow Root (Althea officinalis)- Traditionally used for dry irritable coughs, pleurisy, bronchial asthma, whooping-cough and congestion.

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) – Mullein was traditionally smoked as an aid in certain respiratory conditions. Indicated for use when there is a dry irritable cough as it will help to moisten and lubricate. May also be beneficial for conditions including asthma, pleurisy, croup, emphysema and bronchitis which often reoccurs.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) – Coltsfoot is also an herb that has been traditionally smoked to help reduce respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, general congestion and spastic coughs.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – This is an herb which is commonly found in most peoples spice cabinets. Thyme is a great herb to have around the house. Not only does it have antiseptic properties, but Thyme is also an antispasmodic and an expectorant making it beneficial for breaking up mucous and clearing congestion.

Elecampane (Inula helenium) – Elecampane is indicated for asthma, wheezing, shortness of breath, pneumonia and helps to increase expectoration as opposed to suppressing the cough.

There are a number of other fabulous herbs for the respiratory system which have not been covered here. However, being familiar with some of the herbs listed here that can benefit your family and help relieve their respiratory issues is indispensable.

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Ginger RootI would like to introduce you my friend Ginger. What a shapely gal she is. The aroma of the inner flesh to me is just so soothing yet the flavor excites and stimulates. This week has been all about Ginger. She has been center stage for me this week playing a role in my homemade ginger ale and my crystallized ginger. The crystallized ginger turned out yummy. The process took some time but it was definitely worth it. I’m still waiting on the verdict on the ginger ale. I just put it into the refrigerator to stop the yeast from working. I will keep you posted on the outcome.

While we are on the subject of ginger I thought I would tell you a little about her:

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Energetics: Pungent, sweet, warming/drying

Organ/Meridian affected: heart, lung, spleen, kidneys and stomach

Properties: anti-inflammatory, warming, aperitif, carminative, stimulant, stomachic, diaphoretic, antidepressant, expectorant, antiemetic, analgesic, rubefacient, counter-irritant, analgesic, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, and tonic.

Parts used: root

Ginger has a long history as a tonic herb used for various ailments. This native to Southeast Asia has an affinity for the digestive system and may help to relieve nausea as well as diminishing gas and to quell motion sickness. Ginger is a mover and helps to improve blood circulation while it’s warmth moves throughout the periphery. Ginger root acts as an anti-inflammatory and can be applied topically to benefit sore muscles and some forms of arthritis. Ginger also acts as an expectorant and can help move mucus out of the lungs.

During cold and flu season Ginger is a wonderful ally. A tea can be made with 1/2 teaspoon of the root to 8 ounces of water. Allow the tea to steep for 20 minutes and strain. Honey and lemon may be added for additional benefits.

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