Thursday, September 16, 2010

CSM share of Lemon Bee Balm, Calendula, and Catnip

Week Two CSM Share

It was fall of last year when Eli and I first came up with this whole idea of CSM and Lancaster Farmacy. It was at that time we were foraging for wild foods such as hickory nuts, butternuts, mushrooms, burdock root, spicebush berries, pawpaws and many more wonderful edibles from natures garden. We would spend many nights under the moon planning this endeavor. Owls were commonly heard hooting off in the distance as we excitedly came up with new ideas. One of the many things we enjoy is discovering and identifying the flora and fauna Mother Nature has to offer. On a very chilly late afternoon in December, we decided that we were going to identify winter wildflowers. This means mostly dried flowers that had bloomed their wonderful blossoms earlier and shot up varied seed heads that were held tightly in their brown capsules. There were many dried plants we identified. Many asters, two types of goldenrod, milkweed and dogbane, joe pye weed, ironweed and then one we got really excited about. There was a very tall lone flower that floated with the gentle breeze. This dried brown creation was held in place by its tight root system and teetered back and fourth as we started to identify it. “Hmmm” I said as Eli looked it over. We both noticed its very prominent cube like stem. This is one of the key characteristics for plants in the mint family. So another identifying feature for plants in the mint family is that usually they are very fragrant. Now this plant has been brown and dry for quite some time. We broke off the thimble shaped seed head and crushed it in our cold gloveless hands and to our surprise we smelled a fragrant minty smell in the air. Looking in a few of our field guides we discovered that this tall majestic plant is Wild Bergamont. We knew right then that we wanted to grow many types of this mint. We have seen its close relative Bee Balm in the wild and also love Earl Grey Tea from which this is one of the main ingredients.

Lemon Bee Balm:
(Monarda Citriodora)
We are growing over 4 varieties of bee balm and bergamont. We have included in your share this week a variety known as Lemon Bee Balm. Most members of the mint family have tiny hidden flowers, not bee balm… these flowers are very large and colorful wanting to attract the attention of hummingbirds and humans. Like the various mints that they are related to bee balm is used as a flavoring in food. There are many uses for this showy plant. The leaves and young plants were added to cold drinks, salads and made into jellies. Native Americans drank a tea made from the plant for headaches, sore throats and to treat chills and fevers. The crushed leaves were used to help reduce the pain and irritation of insect bites. The small tender leaves were also used to treat acne. Make your own Earl Grey by making some black tea and adding some lemon bee balm leaves or flowers to it. As with other members of the mint family this plant will help relieve stomach aches and is also good as a toothache and headache remedy.

To make tea:
Pour 6 cups of boiled water on about ½ bunch of fresh herbs, cover with lid, let stand for about 15 minutes, cool, strain, sweeten to your preference and drink. Adjust to your liking for strength by adding more water or more herbs.


Comments from Lancaster Farmacy:
Many people tell us that they feel intimated by using herbs and don’t know where to begin. This is one of the many reasons why we wanted to start our CSM, to have a chance to experience herbs first hand and read the information provided about the many actions they have. Drinking several cups of tea will not affect you in an adverse way, but more give your taste buds and body a chance to become familiar to the herbs. If you want to treat symptoms you may have, we would advise you to use the herbs that apply to you more regularly by making a tea to drink 3 cups a day from or in a tincture form.

(Calendula Officinalis)
Calendula has many uses. Many studies have shown Calendula to have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. Medicinally the flowers have been used to treat anything from scorpion bites to toothaches. It is used in many oral products like mouthwashes since it helps cure ulcers and gum issues. Tinctures of calendula flowers have been recommended in the treatment of a wide variety of ailments including cramps and stomachaches. Calendula increase urination, aids digestion and acts as a general tonic.
We are sending these fresh flowers to be enjoyed as an edible. Remember food is medicine. You can also dry them and use them for broths, tinctures or oils at a later time.  We will be offering some of these items in later shares.
Here is a recipe that we came up with for a recent story about Lancaster Farmacy in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Calendula Flower Gazpacho
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
4 large heirloom tomatoes, preferably Cherokee purple, roughly chopped
1/2 bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery rib, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 sweet candy onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh calendula petals
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt to taste
Pinch of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
Combine all ingredients except parsley and basil in a food processor and process until smooth. Stir in herbs, refrigerate until cool, and serve
- Courtesy of Lancaster Farmacy
Per serving (based on 6): 47 calories, 2 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams sugar, trace fat, no cholesterol, 21 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.
Catnip: (Nepeta Cataria)                  Most people automatically assume that Catnip is just for cats. Cats do love this plant. Some cats will bite, play, chew, or even roll all over the plant “going crazy” for it.
Most often referred to as "catmint" in Europe, the hardy perennial herb grows wild in Europe and the northern Mediterranean area. It was introduced to North America by early settlers who brought this valuable medicinal herb along with them as a part of their natural pharmacy. Since it spreads and propagates so readily, it is now growing wild throughout much of the northern hemisphere. Catnip is considered one of the oldest household remedies.

Catnip makes a soothing tea which is mild enough to give to small children.  In many cultures, it is thought to purify the blood, but it also has definite merit when used for its calming and sedative effects, both in adults and in small children.  Taken alone in a tea or combined with other herbs such as chamomile, skullcap, and/or lavender a half hour to one hour before bedtime will result in a natural drowsiness to promote a restful sleep. During times of stress or anxiety, the calmative properties of a cup of catnip tea will reduce tension that can lead to headaches and other negative physical responses.
Catnip is used for toothache relief by chewing a few leaves.  Herbal teas containing catnip can be helpful in treating or preventing muscle cramps due to its antispasmodic properties. For women it is helpful with menstrual cramps. For any type of cramping, it is most effective when combined with other herbs such as chamomile, red raspberry leaf, ginger root, or cinnamon. It has mild diuretic properties that help to reduce fluid retention.
The oils in Catnip are very volatile, so when you steep it make sure to cover the tea with some sort of lid to keep the medicinal effects intact longer.
Catnip is also used for enemas and is a quick way to get the herb in your system to reduce fevers and headaches.
To make Catnip tea:
(See directions above for making tea under Lemon Bee Balm)
Note: Your herbs are fresh like produce so they want to be refrigerated. If you do not see yourself trying them within a few days, you can dry them for later use by hanging them in a dark, warm, dry place. A brown paper bag or glass container is a great way to store your herbs once dried. 
*Products in your CSM have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease

If you want to access more of these herbs, you can buy them on the Four Season Harvest Buying Club Program on the Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop’s website:

check out our site: