Dog days slipped out of our hills this week, taking the heat and high humidity along with the peak of summertime. It is a delightfully cool day today, reminiscent of fall. The katydids sound louder each night -- could it be six weeks until frost? The gardens are going downhill now, with the bulk of the produce already harvested.
Some folks raised an abundance of vegetables this year, while others saw their gardens almost fail. We did have a lot of rainfall this summer, which played havoc with some gardens. Our son-in-law Bob raised a bountiful crop of vegetables, which he shared with friends and neighbors. It seems the more you give away, the more you have.
It is a perfect fall day here in the hills. A refreshing breeze ruffles through the boughs of the Rose of Sharon bush, bending the rose-like blossoms close to the ground. In the meadow and along the roadways, tall stalks of the spotted Joe-Pye weed sport their fuzzy lavender heads. Purple ironweed stands regally alongside. These are truly fall flowers and herald the coming of autumn.
While we admire these colorful flowers, they serve a useful purpose. Folklore tells us an Indian, "Joe-Pye," used this plant to cure fevers and that the early American colonists used it to treat an outbreak of typhus. It is also called "purple boneset" and "gravel-root" among other common names. It has been proven especially valuable as a diuretic and stimulant, as well as an astringent tonic. It proves useful in dropsy, strangury, gravel, hematuria, gout and rheumatism; seeming to exert a special influence upon renal and cystic trouble. (American Medicinal Plants; Charles Millspaugh)
I really believe that God created natural herbal remedies for every human ailment if we just knew what to use. Our good friend, Jim Good of Walton, has been drinking dandelion tea twice a day, and he reports he feels better than he has in a long time. They get the tea bags at a health food store, and his wife Brenda makes tea in her Mr. Coffee coffeepot.
Dandelion can be found almost everywhere and blooms from April to November; in fact, it is sometimes found in the dead of winter. In spring, the tender leaves make a tasty spring salad. The root is the official part of the plant and is used in many prescriptions for dropsical and urinary complaints. It is very effective for obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen. It combines well with other herbal preparations for the liver and is mild, wholesome and safe. To make your own dosage, fill a cup with the green leaves, add boiling water, and steep for half an hour or longer. Drink when cold, three or four times a day.
Dandelion root can be dried and used as coffee. Wash the roots, and allow to dry in a warm place. When it is shriveled, roast it slightly and grind it into a fine powder with your food processor, a nut grinder, or an old-fashioned hand grinder. To make the coffee, add a cup of boiling water to each teaspoon of the powder. This is a bitter drink, but one with no side effects and no acid. Dandelion is also an old folk remedy for gallstones.
Now that we have gathered the medicinal herbs, let us forage for wild foods that are good to eat. Purslane, or pursley as we call it, pops up in everyone's garden and is very, very good. It is slightly viscous, like okra, and makes a lovely gumbo. Wash the tips and stems well, as they tend to retain grit.
1 tablespoon oil
1 1/2 cups purslane tips
2 cups chopped, skinned tomatoes
1 pkg. frozen corn, or 1 1/2 cups fresh, cut from the cob
2 small green peppers
1/2 cup chopped wild onions (white parts only)
1/4 cup uncooked rice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups beef broth (or chicken broth)
1 bay leaf