The Fukushima Diet

By Christine Payne-Towler
from Tarot ArkLetters –
ArkLetter 106, January 1, 2014

The Fukushima Diet

Since I am a grandmother living on the West Coast of North America , with plans for more grandchildren on the way, I am concerned for how we can protect our children and ourselves from the industrial-military fallout that is increasingly polluting our Earth. There’s plenty of news that anyone can find if they want to look for it, relating to the ever-increasing exposure of our biosphere to mutagenic substances from humanity’s fascination with exotic energy sources, new chemicals, engineered diseases and innovative new weapons. I can’t do anything to change our past choices, but I can at least share what I have learned about how we can eat and take care of ourselves in ways that will lighten our toxic burden from all sources, day to day.

Awareness of our food choices is going to become more and more important every month that goes by, from now into the foreseeable future. This investigation has ranged from a study of indigenous human diets around the world, to the common denominators that produce inflammation and allergy across blood types and racial groups, to the principles of permaculture, to folk herbalism via the teapot and the spice rack. There is never a final word on such an open-ended topic, but at this point I have some ideas that might help serve as a skeletal structure for further contemplation.

First principles for the following stem from the need for instant implementation. We are already 50 years or more into humanity’s “better living through chemistry” experiment, and humanity’s cancer rate is soaring. Metabolic diseases afflict nearly every third person on the planet. I also don’t know anybody who is getting any younger; everybody born after World War II  carries a huge load of unnatural substances burdening our inner organs and lacing our body fat. But nobody has time to go to a treatment center or take months out of our lives to cleanse all that out and restore ourselves to normalcy. How can we start towards these changes from right where we stand,  from whatever shape we find ourselves today?

Any strategy we take up has to also be easily embedded into our daily lifestyle,  easily remembered and implemented.  It also has to be inexpensive, accessible via the normal kitchen routines, and tasty enough to keep up with. The ingredients for it have to be close at hand through our current channels, to allowing no excuse for falling back into bad old habits after the first flush of enthusiasm has passed.

Here’s a set of suggestions to us ourselves accomplish this detoxification function easily, gradually, inexpensively and deliciously, without stepping too far out of our habit-bodies.  There are six or seven easy avenues we can take to fire up our bodies’ detoxifying functions, depending on our tastes. Those avenues are: horta, blender drinks, sprouts, pestos,  salads, soups, vegetable flours and coffees/teas. By redesigning these aspects of our overall food and beverage consumption, we can go a long way towards helping our bodies outrun the bad guys coming at us from all directions. If we further include small-plot food growing, dehydration and freezer storage into our methods, we can provision ourselves with the widest variety of ingredients right through the winter, a season when it might otherwise be hard to procure the volume of greens needed for this approach to human nutrition.

Most of these foods are easily visualized and fairly well-represented in the cookbooks and supermarkets of the big cities. I recognize in pesto a kissing cousin to the vast array of salsas and relishes consumed around the world. Blender drinks and juice combinations are now common in the West, while flavored herbal teas and coffees are firmly established and greatly loved everywhere. Everybody understands simple concepts like soup or stew (another variation on mush), and most people enjoy a spicy, herbally-enhanced relish with their meal from time to time. The concept of horta, however, was a mystery to me the first time I heard the word.

One definition of horta comes from the gardening book One Magic Square; The Easy, Organic Way to Grow Your  Own Food on a 3-Foot Square, by Lolo Houbein. I love this lady’s approach to gardening, to food, and to life! Houbein defines horta thusly:  “Since ancient times, the Greeks have gathered horta by climbing rocky mountains after autumn rains to pick a multitude of edible wild greens for the pot…. Greek cooks put it all in a pot of boiling water to simmer for five minutes before they drain and fry it. A lot of the goodness remains in the water, which women take as a health drink. I prefer to wash, drain, and roughly cut the lot and throw it half wet into the wok to quickly stir-fry with a dash of oil, and onion and garlic to taste.  Or steam the horta. The volume goes down rapidly.….  [From a large bowl heaped with greens] You get two small heaps of dark greens with a powerful yet velvety, spicy taste….The Greeks also serve horta cold. Boil greens a few minutes in water with salt, tough ones first, tender ones last. Drain, then rinse in cold water.  Swing them dry in a tea towel before chopping finely and serve in a flat dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Or go Greek-Korean, using oil, chili salt, rice vinegar and toasted sesame seeds.”  (Pp. 198-199.)

Did you see what Houbein did there?  She just gave us permission to eat all the weedy greens, the more the merrier. By extension, those with little garden plots or suburban yards of our own can begin to look at our pruning, thinning and weeding tasks in a whole new light!  Houbein’s list of suitable greens is excitingly wide, including multiple veggies and herbs, cultivated and wild (see below).  I have added plants from other author’s lists which meet the detoxification and health promoting goals I am seeking.

Interestingly, Houbein doesn’t mention the green vegetable flour option, even though it’s a natural outgrowth of drying and storing some of your greens for later. “Vegetable flour” is simply the dust at the bottom of the bottle when you’ve used up the larger pieces of your dried herbs and veggies. Sometimes you could use more of this powder than a teaspoon here or there to bolster your stews. In that case, the flour is easily made with an electric coffee grinder, and can consist of as many herbs as you enjoy in your horta,  pesto, or bouquet garnis.

The good news is, almost every cuisine from around the world has a segment of traditional foods that have detoxifying and immune-strengthening properties. As you read the ingredient lists below, consider how your favorite dishes can be “strengthened” with judicious increases of these particular ingredients.

Remember there is food value in tender stems and veins, flower buds and flowering bracts as well. The plants that are good for horta offer more than just leaf matter —  there will be fine twigs and succulent stems, flowers and buds that get into the mix as well.  Did you know, for example, that calendula flower-heads were  traditionally dried in summer to add to the stew in winter, and petals were thrown in salad and dried to color the winter butter? In some parts of Africa the leaves and growing tips pinched out of pumpkin vines and bean plants would be included in this description of horta. For those in Central and South America, all members of the chenopodium family qualify as horta, from lamb’s quarters, beets and chard through huazantle, orach, amaranth and quinoa. In fact, many of us have food all around us though we don’t even realize what it is, much less what to do with it.

I have a dear friend who religiously collects the horta from all the root veggies she buys on her weekly shopping trip — beets, turnips, rutabagas, radishes, kohlrabi, parsley root, salsify  — and steams the lot, freezing the greens and the resulting very concentrated broth in 1-cup and ice cube sizes. By performing this one little weekend ritual after she visits the farmer’s market, she enhances every subsequent meal with the recaptured vitamins and minerals, thereby effectively doubling the value she gets out of her grocery dollar.  Even busy people can do this, and it’s virtually free if you buy your veggies untrimmed.

Once you have made it, the drained horta then easily becomes a layer in your sandwich, an addition to stew, or the green matter for sagwalla, paella, colcannon or an omelet. These greens can alternately be dried from their fresh state and reconstituted in olive oil for pesto (salsa, relish), or included in meatloaf or meatballs as a binder. It seems to be fairly common to use powdered dried greens either as a flour, or as a partial replacement for flour, in baked goods, chapati, dumplings, and griddle cakes. Dried greens and green flour will also unobtrusively add body and substance to a soup or stew, in combination with or replacement for grain flour. In Africa the high-protein dried and powdered leaves of the Moringa tree (a perennial legume) are given to starving children with miraculous results. Others use the greens from sprouted Black-eyed Peas for the same purpose, swearing they have found a miracle manna. Indeed they have, but the benefits aren’t tied to any one single plant or plant family. Those benefits are liberally spread around, manifesting across the whole spectrum of plant families that humans have discovered to be delicious and nutritious.

In the busy modern world people often don’t eat at home as much as we should, nor do we have the time and access to healthy soils required to grow our own.  Nevertheless,  it is possible to  make more informed choices in our grocery shopping, our menu planning, and our restaurant eating.  If nothing else, I hope this article will inspire you to re-evaluate the handsome greens and fresh herb bundles that we see at the grocery store and farmer’s markets, especially offerings like parsley, cilantro, basil, chives, ginger, turmeric, scallions, spring onions, and fresh marjoram. This group of veggies and herbs are as valuable as Inca gold! Get used to either growing them or buying them habitually, whether to wash, sort, and add to your daily horta, or to dry or freeze for the future.

To flesh out the lists you find here, investigate what your local natives grow and gather. In general, open your mind to what Nature willingly and easily provides for human needs in every climate. One man’s weed is another man’s meat, right?  These are just suggestions of plants to add to one’s daily nutrition, prepared in ways that are most likely to retain the broadest profile of healing properties. The more you can include these plants in your daily fare, especially raw, the more you foster a detoxifying, alkalinizing and anti-inflammatory lifestyle within your daily habits.  I’m not being systematic to defend every vegetable I mention here, but suffice it to say that if you just pick up on this trend and take advantage of the parts that appeal to you, a life of health will become easier going forward.

Ultimately, imagination is the “sauce” that makes these foods move from mere ingredients to nutritional standouts across the ages. Many of these foods have been traditionally consigned to the background, as spices, flavorings, garnishes or just plain weeds  A slight shift of focus lets us see them as the real stars in our self-help and recovery program. No two people will have the same tastes, so don’t assume you will like every option equally. Just find ways to include your favorites in your garden, your shopping and your daily eating habits, then reap the benefits as they mount up over time.  As often as possible look for ways to use these things raw, but don’t neglect adding them in generous quantities to your cooked foods too. Also remember that nutritionists agree; fresh and locally-sourced food is more desirable than food that’s organic but weeks old, picked unripe to be trucked a thousand miles. Get into the spirit of your local environment and see how well you can provision yourself with seasonal foods from sources close at hand.

Cultivated Greens used fresh for pesto, salads, blender drinks;  stir-fry or steam and freeze for horta;  used dried for pesto and stew, or dry and grind as flour for baked or fried breads.

  • Amaranth — Eat the tender leaves in salads and the tougher ones in soup. Add seeds to baked goods and grain mush for protein.
  • Arugula – Also known as “rocket”, it is one of the traditional spring bitters for dredging the liver.
  • Anise Hyssop – Dry leaves for tea and use them to flavor your soups and stews. Use fresh in pesto and blender drinks. I’ve heard it said that in a seed mix with different flower colors, the leaves from each plant will taste different.
  • Basil – An anti-stress wonder herb, and a powerful antihistamine as well. Use the big spoon-leaved varieties for finger-food roll ups around nuts, dried fruits, pate’, rice salads or niblets of reheated leftovers. Tulsi Basil is considered an adaptogen and is beloved in tea. There are many flavors, most of which are used for culinary applications somewhere in the world. If leaves are large, don’t cut with a knife, but tear them by hand. Crushed fresh leaves will pull the poison out of an insect sting.
  • Bean and pea tendrils, leaves and growing tips. For horta and stir-fry, or to flavor a broth.
  • Beet – All beets have edible greens, some are particularly good for overwintering.
  • Bergamot – Leaves dried for tea, flowers are edible too, plants are handsome and aromatic in the garden. A favorite in bouquets and aromatherapy blends.
  • Borage – A very early spring vegetable , one of the first in spring. Include greens in spring horta, dry for the tea or soup pot, or powder for veggie-flour. Flowers are edible, the whole plant is decorative and large.
  • Brassica Juncea (and Asian greens in general; rapa  mizuna, tatsoi, pak choy, bok choy). Most of these are leaf veggies, small leaves eaten raw in salads, larger leaves in horta and stir-frys, or dried.
  • Calendula –  Flower heads are dried for inclusion in a winter stew (use like artichoke hearts).
  • Celery – Can be grown in colors of red, green and gold. There’s also a plant called “Homberg celery root” that makes a sturdy, celery flavored ball underground like a turnip or rutabaga.
  • Chard — A cousin of beets that makes no root bulb. Can be found in separate colors or a mix.
  • Chicory, the red variety especially. Another popular “bitter” herb for spring cleaning of the liver. Tender new plants eaten raw in salad, fully developed heads for horta and stir-fry.
  • Cilantro – Important herb for clearing out heavy metals! Use often in pesto, salads and cooked foods. Some varieties are specialized to bolt right to seed, which provides the spice Coriander.
  • Endive – Salad, horta, green flour.
  • Florence Fennel bulb –  Eat baked, fried or in stew; the greens chopped for salads and in horta.
  • Hemp – This plant has it all; food and fiber, healing and pleasure, brain stimulation and protection,  other properties as well. This is another wonder-plant we should make better use of.
  • Grape leaves – Avoid wild grape! Use smaller leaves of cultivated varieties in horta, use larger eaves  for wrappers around pockets of rice, fruit &/or nuts (as in dolmas).
  • Kale – There are multiple kinds, suitable for different seasons or regions, but they are all super-nutritious whether eaten raw (baby leaves), as horta (on the young side of full-grown), steamed & frozen or dried for soups and stews.
  • Lemon Balm – Dried for important anti-radiation tea. Tender tips and new branches in horta. Fruits are stewed in lemon balm tea.
  • Marjoram – Gem of the Mediterranean Diet. One teaspoon of chopped fresh or dried Marjoram over your meal will magnify the anti-oxygenation power of all the other foods on your plate. Marjoram’s essential oils and antioxidants address issues all through the body, adding up to a one-herb anti-aging protocol. Grow it in a pot so you are never without this perennial friend to humanity. The ancient herbalist Gerard said “Marjoram cureth them who have drunk opium”.
  • Mustard greens – These vegetables are increasing in popularity for their ease of cultivation, their welcome presence in a winter salad or stir-fry, and their vitamin profile.
  • Mints of all kinds, whatever you find delicious for horta, pesto, salads, tea. Use like parsley.
  • Orach – Another member of the chenopodium family, a high protein green used fresh or dried.
  • Parsley – A major potentizer of whatever meal it appears in. Parsley’s unique antioxidant profile helps other antioxidants work better. it’s anti-aging and healing powers have been noted in multiple herbal traditions. Use fresh or dry, alone or in combination with garlic, it permeates American, European and Middle Eastern culinary traditions. Only the Asian cuisines ignore it (but they use Cilantro in Parsley’s place.)
  • Pomegranate — Aruvedic medicine says pomegranate is “a pharmacy in itself”. It is super-supportive for the heart and circulatory system. It also has significant anti-cancer properties. The Indians dry the seeds and use it as a spice called anardana, employed either whole or ground. There’s even a molasses made from crushed, concentrated pomegranate seeds.
  • Radicchio -Another variety of winter/spring “bitters”, eaten in salad or horta.
  • Radish Leaf – Grow the long carrot-shaped mild-weather radishes or winter daikon for two vegetables in one. Greens and roots are both delicious cooked in various ways, some people find the greens too coarse to eat raw.
  • Salad burnet – Eaten fresh for its cucumber flavor and vitamins.
  • Scallions – A powerhouse of vitamins and immune-boosting properties, scallions and bunching onions add zest and sweet heat to all your fresh and lightly cooked foods. The Japanese cultivate them as big as leeks, roast them whole or chop them, greens and all, into the soup bowl.
  • Shingiku – A succulent edible chrysanthemum that is decidedly alkalinizing and restorative. Young stems, all leaves and flowers are edible. Fall-sown plants that haven’t become woody yet can survive surprisingly low temperatures.
  • Spinach – Classic leafy greens for salads and horta, it’s vitality is illustrated by its tolerance to cold.
  • Sweet Marjoram — highly esteemed for culinary and healing powers. Use raw in pesto and salad, add to horta, dry for the spice cabinet.  Even a single teaspoon of this fresh herb in a salad instantly doubles the antioxidant power of the whole meal! This is an herb you don’t want to be without.
  • Sweet Mace (Tagetes lucida) aka Mexican Tarragon, Spanish Tarragon, Mexican Mint Marigold. Use in horta and pesto, dry leaves and flowers for tea. Very ornamental and “gladdening” in effect.
  • Thyme – Antiseptic, antimicrobial, protects the teeth and eases respiration, soothes coughs,  fights disease of aging and alcoholism, anti-herpes, anti-cancer. Thyme grows in many different flavors.
  • Turnip greens – Even more nutritious than the roots! The one I grow is called “Seven Top”, meaning it will tolerate being ‘nicked’ numerous times in the course of a winter.
  • Watercress – A nasturtium cousin, with pungent flavor and crisp bite. Salads, blender drinks, horta.

Seeds for adding to baked goods and stir fries. Add whole or ground to frying onions when making soups and stews, or just toss them in the pot; some are good for sprouting to add to blender drinks, salads and other foods:

  • Jamaican Allspice – A powerful antioxidant. Used across the world’s cuisines.
  • Almond – A major player against Metabolic Syndrome —  consider using it as a part of the flour component of baked goods and loaves. Use ground, slivered or whole in cooked foods, sauces, salads and desserts. Both Egyptian and Ayurvedic medicine consider almond a cure-all. Simmer or soak them out of their skins to avoid the anti-digestive properties.
  • Aniseed – Calms the whole body from the inside out, prevents ulcers, anti-spasmodic for the intestines. Anise soaking water cures constipation, also helps prevent dehydration. Anise cookies and liquors are a favorite after-dinner digestif.
  • Bean sprouts of all types.
  • Broccoli and other brassicas – These sprouts have super powers against cancer!
  • Celery seed – What is sold in spice racks and “celery salt” is most often flavored with ground Lovage seed (or close cousin Smallage, aka Wild Celery). These seeds grant an unusually satisfying savor to stews and soups. The plant is perennial and thrives in moist half-shade. Seeds are massively anti-inflammatory! Good either whole or ground, raw or toasted.
  • Caraway – Used to flavor soup, sausage, breads.Works better than an antacid for digestive woes. It fights colds and cancer, lowers blood lipids, suppresses E.coli, the food poisoning bacterial. It balances the starches and fats in a typical meat-and-potatoes diet. Dry-roast until you smell their volatile oils, then stop immediately and add to the food.
  • Chicory – Young leaves raw in winter salads, larger leaves in horta or dried. Roots dried, roasted and chipped for coffee.
  • Chinese greens – All the mustard and cabbage family greens have tasty seeds that make great sprouts.
  • Clove – This spice is powerful so start with a pinch. Suck the whole seed for help with dental pain. Fights bacteria throughout the body, keeps herpes dormant, anti-cancer, antii-ulcer, anti-hepatic.
  • Cardamom —  A digestive aid,  heart healer,  asthma tamer and sinus infection remedy, it cleans the teeth and freshens the breath. Flavors Arabic coffees. Provides the characteristic flavor of a Danish pastry. Northern Europeans use it most in sweet breads, spiced wine and candies.
  • Cumin — Fights diabetes, protects bones,  combats cancer,  blocks the bacteria that cause food poisoning. Dry-roast (toast) seeds before grinding to intensify the flavor.
  • Coriander – The seed of the cilantro plant, which blends well with both savory and sweet flavors. Classic companion with cumin in bean and meat dishes. A powerful soother of inflammation all through the body, helping with pain in the joints,  inflammatory skin diseases, cholesterol problems, diabetes, anti-cancer, fights yeast infections, stops constipation and intestinal spasms.
  • Curry leaf – A gift from South Indian cooking to the world, Curry Leaf brings a team of antioxidants that are unique to this plant.
  • Dill – These seeds are often used to flavor condiments, pickles, seed cakes and bread.  They have proven to be antioxidant, chemoprotective (like parsley they help neutralize particles of carcinogens in smoke),  a potent antibacterial (like garlic), helps prevent bone loss. It’s name marks it from ancient times as a stomach-soother and insomnia reliever. Eat the greens and bulb too!
  • Fennel – The ground-level bulb is a vegetable (eat fresh), the celery-like fronds are an herb (can be dried), and the seeds are a spice! Fennel extract relieves menstrual cramps as well as an NSAID. The whole plant is antioxidant, antispasmodic, anti inflammatory, so it helps with the pain of arthritis and griping intestines. It helps prevent clotting disorders and digestive upsets.  Seeds don’t have to be toasted, but doing so intensifies their flavor. Be careful not to burn them, their flavor goes off easily into bitterness. Great crushed in tea. Tasty in marinades, fruit salads, breads, eggs or sauces.
  • Fenugreek – These little seeds are actually legumes, traditionally used as a hormone balancer, thus increasing libido, hair growth and bust size (says folk medicine.) Regulates menstrual cycles, soothes labor pains, encourages milk flow. Battles asthma, allergies, and other respiratory ills. Controls blood sugar. Helps with weight loss, digestion of starchy vegetables and beans. Fights cancer, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, kidney and gall stones, cataracts,  and infections. Pregnant women should stay away from Fenugreek, it can cause a miscarriage! Sprout the seeds, or soak overnight to soften. Dry-roast or sizzle in hot oil a minute before adding to soups and stews. Grind into spice mixes and sprinkle over stews.
  • Juniper Berry – Ministers directly to the kidneys and urinary tract, but it also supports the stomach, heart, liver and blood sugar balance. Anti-inflammatory and anti-infectious, showing “remarkable” pain-relieving activity equal to some NSAIDs in rheumatoid arthritis.  Inhibits cold sores.
  • Mustard seeds – White, yellow, brown or black, these come to us from ancient civilizations who had long ago discovered their anti-cancer, detoxifying, heart-protecting, COPD fighting powers. South Indian cooking teaches us to fry the seed in hot oil until it pops to temper the heat and release the flavors. One can also find mustard seed oil for a seasoning.
  • Nigella sativa, aka Kalonji, “black cumin” or “black seed”- A pretty garden flower with potent benefits! Improves immune response,  protects the heart, battles cancer, calms asthma and allergies. Dry-roast to use like pepper, in a grinder at the table, or as a topping on breads, like poppy seeds.
  • Nutmeg – This herb is a mild narcotic, because of its anticonvulsant, antidepressive and anti-anxiety properties. Nutmet is also anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-aging. It even fights wrinkles! Grind it fresh or it cook into  savory foods (like the ‘pease porridge’ of nursery-rhyme fame), desserts and sweet dishes. It is used to cut the richness of white sauce, puddings, and chicken soup.
  • Onion and Scallion seeds – Ground as “pepper” or add to your spicy relish or sprout blend (with radish, mustard and grated horseradish & celantro or celery root).
  • Black Pepper — “The King of spices”, keeps the food moving right along through the intestines, esp. the freshly ground seeds. Pepper fights cancer, eases arthritis, supports the brain and nervous system.
  • Poppy – Traditionally used to decorate cakes and breads, even the amount you would find on the top of a bagel brings a measurable amount of important minerals into the body. Strengthens bones and teeth, increases energy, supports digestion, immune system, circulatory system.
  • Pumpkin – Considered a specific for the prostate,  these seeds are also  supportive of heart and circulatory health, and produce a remarkable reduction of swelling and inflammation in arthritis.
  • Radish – A spicy addition to sprouts. Grind in a pepper mill with other spicy seeds for a pepper substitute. Crush into grated horseradish or chicory-root relish.
  • Sesame – Another tiny legume that carries a super-nourishing and healing oil for all the “skins” of the body, inside and out. Opens arteries, lowers blood pressure, fights aging, lowers cholesterol. The seeds are also pressed for a cooking oil. Eat them every day!
  • Sunflower – High protein seeds eaten raw, roasted, as a nut butter, or sprouted. Often included in nut balls, stuffings, breads, either whole or ground. An excellent oil seed.

Weeds that provide green matter for horta and/or medicinal roots for the stew pot, soup or cup:

  • Amaranth – Entire plant good for horta or dried and ground for flour. Seeds added to mush.
  • Asters – Highly nutritious! Greens in horta, or entire plant dried, stripped and ground for flour.
  • Berries – Whole strawberry plant is good for horta, and young raspberry leaves are dried for tea.
  • Chamomile – Eat raw in salads or smoothies, use entire plant in horta or dried for tea.
  • Chickweed – Use entire plant for horta, or dry and pulverize for nutritious additive.
  • Chicory – Leaves for horta, roots dried and chipped for coffee. Liver-cleanse, clears the brain.
  • Cleavers – Best liver detox and anti-inflammatory going! Use fresh in horta or in the teapot, dry for winter use, add to greens to be steamed and frozen. This is a late-winter and early spring plant, don’t overlook any stands of this “weed” around your yard. Survives regular trimming.
  • Clover – Add whole plant to horta, or dry the flowers for tea. Seeds can be added to mush.
  • Dandelion – Leaves in horta, roots roasted and chipped as a coffee substitute. Helps clear the liver.
  • Daisy – Leaves used as horta. The cultivated garden variety is known as shingiku.
  • Dock – High in vegetable protein! Roots are cooked like carrot, leaves eaten in horta, seeds when dried can be ground for flour.
  • Fir, Balsam  – Bark, twigs and needles can be ground for flour, either raw or dried.
  • Fireweed – Highly nutritious! Boil split stems for soup broth or tea; unopened flower buds are an asparagus substitute. Steam and freeze.
  • Goldenrod  – Eat leaves fresh or dried, also dry and pulverize stems and roots for a tonic, energizing tea or powdered additive to soup or stew.
  • Lamb’s quarters -The whole pigweed family, whether green or red, short or tall, especially when in flower and making seed, is excellent to dry and powder for flour. High protien, high minerals.
  • Lettuce – In China lettuce is lightly cooked with the other greens. Include it in your horta.
  • Mallow – Wild relative of hollyhocks. Long used in salads and horta. Anti-inflammatory, sooths coughs and breathing, helps clear mucous, fights constipation, tea makes a good wound wash.
  • Maple leaves – Young leaves are good to eat raw or steam in horta.
  • Mints – Follow your tastes and your nose into the world of Mint, there are many scents and flavors, but all are cooling, refreshing, and awakening without caffeine. Use like a vegetable in pestos, and flavor blender drinks with the fresh herb, make teas and fruit-stewing waters with the dry herb.
  • Monarda – Leaves are used like oregano fresh or dried, flowers have a mint flavor.
  • Mullein  – Use sparingly, just a few leaves in a big mix of horta, or dry leaves for a lung-supporting tea. Some people crush dried mullein with other medicinal herbs for a healing smoke or incense.
  • Mustard, wild – The whole plant above-ground is edible. Seeds can be saved to use as a spice, or to sprout.
  • Nettle, stinging – wear gloves and snip into a bag with scissors. For horta and drying. It loses its sting when cooked and becomes like the most delicious spinach.
  • Pine needles – Steeped crushed fresh needles make a vitamin-C rich tea.
  • Plantain – Another weed that is a food in its season. Collect the leaves and stems before it flowers. Eat raw or in horta, dry or freeze for later.  Natives collected the seeds for a spice and to flavor mush.
  • Evening Primrose – A salad or horta plant. The whole plant, root and all, can go into the stew.
  • Purslane – Highly nutritious. For salad, horta, soup or stew, freeze, dry and powder for flour.
  • Queen Anne’s Lace – The whole plant from root to flower is edible. Seeds used as a salt substitute.
  • Shepherd’s Purse – Whole plant is nutritious for a full spectrum of uses.
  • Summer and Winter Savory – A longtime companion to humans, enhances satisfaction and supports digestion. Often used as a tea where it brings its antiseptic and anti-inflammitory qualities to the inner organs. antioxidant,  steam and then fill a tea sachet with the leaves to sooth dental pain.
  • Thistle – The whole plant top to bottom is highly nutritious, dry and powder for flour.
  • Thyme, wild  – Whole plant in horta, or dry for pepper substitute (put dried plant through a sifter to remove stems and twigs).
  • Yarrow – Strong stimulant, stems leaves & flowers used fresh or dried for tea.
  • Violet – Use entire plant for horta, or add fresh leaves and flowers to salad.

Medicinal herbs and additives that potentize your foods:

  • Bay leaves – At the top of the list of antioxidants, it tames diabetes alleviates pain and swelling of arthritis. It is anti- cancer,  fights infection, soothes stomach and digestive problems, speeds wound healing. Goes with any food simmered in liquid. Discard leaf before serving.
  • Chilies – Pain killers, burns up fat, supports the heart, prevents cancer.
  • Cinnamon – Balances blood sugar,  fights bacteria and fungi,  anti-cancer, protects brain from injury from stroke or liver failure, wound healer. Used in many way, including tea.
  • Cloves – Pain relief, defends teeth and gums, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. Kills the bacteria that cause ulcers, suppresses gentile herpes,  inhibits Hepatitis C. Anti cancer, fights platelet aggregation, repels mosquitos so they don’t bite. Beloved around the world, but use sparingly!
  • Cocoa – Use the pure black powder without milk, sugar, or other processing chemicals as a spice in your cooking. Provides all kinds of healing for the heart, feeds the brain, improves endurance, improves the skin. In the Americas it’s combined with cinnamon, vanilla and cloves in a hot beverage.
  • Coconut – Coconut spice is the dried shredded meat of the nut, but the solidified fat is a miracle food that helps you burn up adipose tissue in the body. The milk and meat are antibacterial, antifungal, anti inflammatory and anti-alzheimer’s. Coconut husk fibers taken in tea relieves pain as well as morphine, say the Brazilians who swear by it. Use coconut milk or cream to make extra-healthy hot cocoa drinks.
  • Celery Seed  – This is actually Lovage seed, from a perennial plant that grows in moist half-shade. Blind tests show it adds an amazing amount of substance and satisfaction to broths and soups.
  • Cilantro/Coriander – The leaves of this plant are the popular Cilantro, whereas the seeds constitute the spice Coriander. Make pesto and horta out of Cilantro, which helps to pull heavy metals out of your tissues and digestive tract.   Cilantro does not dry well, so try to grow it yourself if possible. The seeds contain powerful, cell-protecting antioxidants and are classically used to sooth digestive troubles, reduce inflammation,  improve cholesterol levels, relieve anxiety and insomnia, fight liver disease as well as both protecting from and reversing heavy metal exposure. Put the seeds in your pepper grinder in equal proportion to your peppercorns. Use only fat ripe seeds — unripe, angular or broken seeds taste like bedbugs!
  • Curry blends – All are wonderful, follow your tastes, you can’t go wrong!
  • Ginger – Anti-nausea remedy, whether from motion sickness, morning sickness, nausea after surgery or chemotherapy-induced nause.  fights fatigue, arthritis, cancer, migraine (with feverfew). Significant help with asthma, heartburn, cholesterol problems, and clotting disorders.
  • Horseradish – The grated root is the attraction here. It’s hot and aromatic, disinfecting the sinuses and digestive tract, a natural antibiotic.  A perennial plant that has been with humans for ages.
  • Lemongrass – Here’s another antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal that also cuts the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Fights cancer, anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy and fungal or yeast infections.
  • Nutritional Yeast – An old standby to add savory flavor and a blast of Vitamin B’s to whatever you   are making.
  • Onions, shallots, multipliers, chives, scallions, garlic, elephant garlic, leeks – Eat the whole family fresh and cooked, tops and bottoms. Onions are one of humanity’s most longstanding plant allies. Add the tender greens to the soup pot, finely chopped, just before turning off the heat. Don’t “over peel” your onions, or else use your peelings, with the straps of garlic and leeks, to make vegetable broth you can strain and freeze in ice trays for later. Among their many benefits, this family breaks down scar tissue, fights cancer, quells allergies, fights infection and protects the heart.
  • Oregano – The dry spice we shake over pizza is just the beginning. Oregano tea, oregano water, oregano oil, these are all Turkish essentials, used every day. It’s worth taking the time to research this healing herb, which fights everything from metabolic syndrome to high cholesterol, colon cancer to staph infections, age spots to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Paprika – This spice is actually a certain family of sweet, mildly hot red peppers that are roasted and dried, then powdered. They bring most of the vitamins and minerals of chiles with less of the heat.
  • Rosemary – A potent antioxidant that especially shines at the barbecue or in the roasting of meats. High-temperature cooking produces heterocyclic amines that are implicated in all kinds of cancers. This makes Rosemary an essential sprinkle or rub for burgers, roasts, and virtually all cuts of meat. It also reduces the pain of arthritis, fights cancer, liver damage, ulcers and stroke (blood clotting disorders). Interestingly, Rosemary extract  treats drepression-like symptoms in animals.
  • Sage – Food for the mood, the mind, the concentration and memory. Increases calm and contentment, prevents age-related memory loss, treats Alzheimer’s by reducing agitation.
  • Turmeric – Highly touted as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Clears infections, blocks cancer, antioxidant. Raw or lightly cooked is best.

Grains and seed grains that people don’t as often react allergically to (though please be aware of your unique sensitivities). Some of these can be grown at home, either in a 5-gallon pot or in a 10′ x 10′  plot. They can be ground for grain, cooked whole like rice, cracked for mush or grits, or roasted and added to thicken gravies. In Asia they are roasted to add their properties to the tea or coffee pot. Some of them will even pop when roasted in a dry pan (EG: corn, millet, sorghum). Having non-reactive carbohydrate foods around that you can turn to in times of stress can be a sanity saver.  (Also don’t overlook falafel mix and bean-based dry soup mixes for quick meals easily prepared) .

  • Amaranth
  • Barley, whole or flaked
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn, non-GMO native varieties (especially multicolored corns bred from heirloom sources)
  • Flax
  • Millet
  • Oats, whole, cut or rolled
  • Quinoa, whole or rolled
  • Rye
  • Sorghum
  • Teff

For ideas that are going unsaid in this article, check out

Much of the medical research to support these suggestions came from the excellent book Healing Spices, by Bharat B Aggarwal, PhD (with Deborah Yost).

Suggestions for what to do with edible weeds were mostly taken from the excellent and convenient Edible Wild Food Cards created by Linda Runyon.

Don’t forget all the antioxidant and pectin-rich fruits and veggies that can round out the lists above. The idea is not to give up any healthy sources of nutrition, but to expand and broaden our idea of food so we have the widest range of choices year round. By learning to stack the nutritional deck so it abounds with functional foods that support our needs, we put ourselves at advantage no matter what the outer circumstances might present. We can’t afford to be afraid of the world we live in, but we can stack the deck so that we have access to the best nutritional and lifestyle resources possible. The idea of this orientation is to bring the healing technology of the plant world closer to our daily lives, so we can more effectively adapt to whatever conditions become our new normal.

May vibrant health and well-being, our only true wealth, be yours this coming year! Blessings from Puget Island.

ArkLetter 106, January 2014 
copyright christine payne-towler

by Christine Payne-Towler and Noreah Press 

Categories: Health article by Christine Payne Towler

Tags: ,

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