Wednesday, January 20, 2010

FL Herb Society Meeting: Herbal Soups & Stews

I didn't get to go to the FL Herb Society Meeting last month with the holiday crazies going on and I almost didn't make it this month either: my boss was trying to schedule a company dinner for after work (after work!) but luckily there were some of us that already had plans. In all honesty, I wasn't sure how interesting the meeting was going to be but I really wanted to go see my fellow herbies anyway!

The meeting was focused on a presentation of herbal soup and stock ideas by Emily Wenzel. Emily (FL Herb Society VP) is a Personal Trainer and Herbal Product creator from Body and Mind Enrichment (BMe). Not only is she a super nice chick and exudes friendliness, but her organic vegetable soup stock was really tasty. She highly encouraged us to be creative and use what we've got.

She prepared an easy stock at the meeting including ginger, carrots, leeks, celery, and garlic. All of these yummy veggies simmered for a few minutes before she added three parts water and one part vermouth. She took her time adding ingredients as she talked to give everything a chance to work it's magic. After a few minutes, she started adding her greens simply by breaking them apart with her fingers instead of chopping with a knife. Some greens that she recommended include collards, bok choy, mustard greens, kale, etc. One of the things that I loved about the way she was preparing things is how organic and earthy she did it. The fact that she used her fingers instead of a knife, she literally massaged her ingredients, she seemed very in tune to her cooking.

She added some rosemary, oregano, and juice from half a lemon. Some root herbs that she encouraged us to include are astragalus and ginger, but they should be removed when you're done cooking (nobody wants to gnaw on a root in their soup!). She also gave us the idea of using a broccoli stalk for flavoring, again removing it. Another option is to cut a piece of fennel very close to the bottom or even a nice long piece of lemongrass: tie them in a loose knot for easy removal. I was sitting toward the back of the room when she was doing her demonstration, but I could smell it even back there and it smelled amazing!

Another basic combination that she suggested was water and sherry with mushrooms, thyme, oregano, and rosemary. That sounds so delicious to me! If you like a thicker soup, she suggested using a small amount (maybe a tablespoon) of sesame oil or coconut oil; or if you have a submersion (or a stick) blender you can also use that to thicken it up.

Soups are good for you (tasty herbal medicine that fuels your soul!). The food is broken down so it's easy to digest and can include so many ingredients in them that are good for you. Here are some ideas:

Astragalus - supports & enhances the immune system
Bay - used to soothe stomach & gas, indigestion, heartburn
Fennel - good for digestion, gas, cramps
Garlic - anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxident
Ginger - calms upset stomach, minimizes colds and allergies, relieves arthritis due to it's anti-inflammatory properties
Lemongrass - good for nervous and digestive problems; anti-spasmodic; relieves headaches; helps acne; insect repellent (fly, flea, mosquito); muscular pain and stress related conditions; anti-depressant; astringent
Marjoram & Oregano - anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory; muscle relaxant; itchy skin. Oregano and wild marjoram include Thymol which helps loosen phlegm in lungs and releives spasms in bronchial passages, preserves food; can even use it in bath water
Rosemary - anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-oxident, brain & hair stimulant, increases circulation, reduces headaches, insect repellant, deoderant, food preserver; can also be used in bath
Sage - Burn to consecrate a ritual space, carry it as protection, use in ritual bath, absorbs negativity and misfortune; anti-oxident, throat, sores & stings, lifts spirits
Thyme - includes Thymol, anti-spasmodic, anti-septic that kills mildew and mold, treats coughs and congestion, mouthwash for sore throats and gums, muscle aches, poor circulation, gas colds, flu

During the hands on portion of the meeting, we each made a little cheesecloth with herbs for a stock to make at home. I included astragalus, bay, oregano, and sage. Here's a trick: keep one end of your string or hemp long so that you can tie it to the side of the pot for easy removal. I usually like to to keep my herbs in the soup so I may add some extra when I use this, but it's definitely a no brainer for herbs that must be removed.

There are refreshments served at every meeting based on the current month's focus herb. Last night the treats were focusing on sage. There was butternut squash soup, one of Emily's veggie herb soups, sage muffins, sage butter, and a salad of watermelon, goat's cheese, and mint. Everything was so delicious and I picked up some of the tea that was served, too.

I even treated myself to some yummy lip balm: I say yummy because it tastes like cinnamon. Its a lovely red color not from artificial dye, but from using alkenet root (it really only gives a hint of color on the lips which is perfect for me for everyday).

I'm glad I went. I had a really nice time.


Lonesome Road Studio said...

ooh, I love the part about how she tore the greens with her hands... sounds so hands-on, so "slow food."
Nice article!

mermaiden said...

great way to use the last bits from your herb garden, too- like when things go all stalky. and yeah, add in some immuno boosters for healing points!
glad you dragged your butt there and had a good time :D

Athena's Armoury said...

Thanks, Lonesome Road! I tend to be a more grab a knife kinda girl, but would love to be more earthy like she made her soup. It just seems like there's so much more of a connection with your food that way.

I'm glad, too, Julie. It was good to get out and do something.

Aquarian Bath said...


Athena's Armoury said...

Very yummy, indeed!

I just used the cheesecloth pouch of herbs from the meeting last week in a Peasant Soup. It was so good!