Here in the dead of Winter, our year-round Herbal Allies in the evergreen family are a perfect way to entice yourself to get out into the cold, fresh air! With so many members & so many edible & medicinal ways to use them, it is hard to know where to start. They have been used in traditional Nordic & Indigenous Peoples cooking for centuries. Loaded with Vitamins C & A, as well as healing & pain-soothing properties, evergreens are main staple plants, especially for winter foraging.
Easy to identify & available in nearly every climate, evergreens are a great place to start if you’re new to foraging as well.
Most conifer needles are edible, with the exception of the toxic yew [Taxus spp.] tree. Spruce, pine, fir, & redwood all have wonderful herbal & edible uses. Conifer needles are particularly useful in teas & steams, but are also used in applications varying from healing-salves to flavoring infusions. In order to protect the Vitamin C, these needles are often cold-infused. Boiling, or heat infusion will result in less Vitamin C, but a deeper, more intense flavor. Both methods of extraction are used depending on the desired result. I love to add spruce tips to my daily tea where flavor, not vitamins, are my main focus.
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Set the pot on your stovetop on high heat & bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a slow simmer as long as desired, adding more water if needed, as you diffuse the fresh scent through your home & add moisture to the dry Winter air. Heavenly!
Bring the scent of evergreen's into your home
combine. Allow to infuse for at least an hour before use--but this mixture will keep for a couple of months. If you have them, crushed juniper berries are a lovely addition to this soak, or even a few drops of cypress, orange, &/or cedarwood essential oils [up to 12 drops total per 3 cups of salt.] Incredibly soothing for the mind & the body, this soak is a Wintertime must! Be sure to place a small strainer or piece of cheesecloth over your drain at the end to catch the plant material when draining, or place your salts in a bath infuser or muslin bath-bag to start with.
In the Winter, I tend to favor teas with spruce, adding tiny cuttings to my herbal tea blends almost daily. I have also been playing around with them in a zero-proof ‘gin’ alternative with very positive results, but that is also a post for another time.
I hope you have enjoyed this post & that it has encouraged you to get out & enjoy the outdoors during this slower-paced time of year. There is always something to learn & something to do in the Herbal World. If you are just beginning to explore foraging, evergreens are a wonderful [& delicious] starting point.
Let me know what you are foraging & how you are using it-- I love to hear from you!
Until next time--Stay safe & remember to #StopAndEatTheFlowers
cardiovascular health. They are also traditionally used cosmetically to stimulate hair growth, & to support glowing skin & graceful ageing.
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BUT, as butterfly pea flowers are most often used for drinks, I decided to present you with a non-beverage recipe in this post, instead sharing a recipe for a wild-looking rice custard pie with rose & cardamom. It is super-easy to make, absolutely delicious, & outrageously colored! Seriously, you will not believe it is achieved with a natural colorant when you see it-- the color is not properly captured by my pictures!
will shift your color to a vivid pink, SO there are endless ways to play with this. Finally, this rice custard pie is a sliceable dessert, served more like brownies than traditional pie. When baked, the rice settles to the bottom with the custard layer forming the top. It is delicious served warm, but many people prefer to chill it in the fridge before serving. The custard top, like all puddings & custard, will form a ‘skin’ which will oxidize & darken. Personally, I prefer to peel it off before serving to better enjoy the color effect of the butterfly pea in it. Here we go!
Winter Blues Pie
3 TBS Dried Butterfly Pea Flowers
2 Cups Milk [whole, skim, your choice]
1 Cup Half & Half
1 Cup White Rice 6 Large Eggs
¾ Cup Sugar
1 TBS Vanilla Extract
½ Teaspoon Cardamom Extract [or 1 tsp ground cardamom]
½ - 1 Teaspoon Rosewater [to your taste]
Pinch of Sea Salt
DAY BEFORE: Add 2 tablespoons of dried butterfly pea flowers to a quart jar & add the milk & half & half. Pop it in the fridge to steep overnight. Swirling/shaking occasionally.
DAY OF BAKING: I like to cook my rice in a rice-cooker, but stovetop is just fine as well. Measure out 1 ½ cups boiling water into a liquid measuring cup, add 1 TBS butterfly pea flowers & stir. Allow it to steep to develop the desired shade of deep blue. I let mine go about 5 minutes to give you an idea. Strain out the flowers & throw them in your compost. Use your blue water to cook your cup of rice, then set it aside to cool. Meanwhile, strain your milk/half & half combo, & prepare your other ingredients. Preheat your oven to 350. Grease an 8” x 8” pan. Beat your eggs with the sugar. Add your blue milk & flavorings mixing until smooth & completely combined. Stir in the rice, breaking up any clumps. Pour into the prepared baking pan. Bake until a butter knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 - 40 minutes. It is easy to scorch the bottom, so do the knife check even if it still looks loose! Remove from oven. Slice into squares & enjoy! You can serve it warm or allow to cool & chill it in the fridge before serving. Again, I like to remove the top skin before serving.
More than just the sheer strangeness of the colors, remember you are getting the herbal benefits of the butterfly pea flowers. This Herbal Ally provides so many benefits for mind & body. It is definitely worth adding to your own tea selection or Herbal Apothecary.
I hope you enjoyed this look at these amazing flowers & this silly-fun recipe. It is likely I will post some drink recipes made with this herb in the future too. Let me know how you like to use Butterfly Pea & what color combo you create! Check out our very special skin & hair care products crafted with this Herbal Ally.
Until next time--Stay safe & #StopAndEatTheFlowers