"Kami McBride provides everything you need to amaze your friends and family with a seasonal bounty of delicious herbal drinks, smoothies, cordials, pestos and more." -- Rosalee de la Forêt, author of Alchemy of Herbs
Herbs are a gift from nature. They not only help to create aromatic and delicious food, they also support overall health and wellness on a daily basis. Using dried and fresh herbs in your cooking boosts your intake of vitamins and minerals, improves digestion, strengthens immunity, and increases energy. Using plants as medicine is an ancient and powerful tradition that connects you to the earth, helps treat common ailments, promote restful sleep, relaxation, and more.
The Herbal Kitchen will help you recognize the extraordinary pharmacy that probably already exists in your own kitchen. With 50 easy-to-find herbs and spices, information and tips for preparing, storing, and using them, and over 250 simple, flavorful recipes, it will empower you to care for your health.
Whether you are already familiar with herbs or are just starting out on the herbal path, Kami McBride offers recipes for everyone. Mix up refreshing drinks, infuse oil, vinegar and honey, learn how to make tinctures and cordials, salts, sprinkles, and more.
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About the Author
Kami McBride has helped thousands of people learn to use herbal remedies as the centerpiece of their pro-active health care plan. She has taught herbal medicine at the University of California School of Nursing and the California Institute of Integral Studies. Kami teaches online courses that help people bring the healing power of herbs into their daily lives to create self-reliance and revitalize our relationship with the plant world. Visit her at www.kamimcbride.com.
Rosemary Gladstar is the author of Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide.
Read an Excerpt
Kitchen Medicine and Culinary Culture
Many people use herbs and spices in their cooking, often because these food combinations are what they grew up with, because a recipe calls for herbs and spices, or because it is just in the ether that you can't make spaghetti sauce without oregano. Awareness of the health benefits is not in the forefront of why we use spices. Often people serve food combinations without realizing the medicinal value of what they are cooking with. Whether we appreciate it or not, the use of herbs to support optimum digestion is embedded in garnishes, sauces, dressings, and condiments. It is common to serve chicken with curry sauce, garlic with eggs, and mint jelly with lamb. You will find cinnamon applesauce with pork chops, dill pickles with lunchmeat sandwiches, juniper berries with cabbage, and ginger with fish. Mustard seed would sit in my mom's cupboard all year. She didn't often use mustard seed, but she always pulled it out for the special occasion of preparing corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. She is of Irish heritage, and that is the dish that her mother and grandmother had prepared in celebration of the holiday. It is a good thing she used the mustard seed, otherwise that corned beef would sit like a wet log in the stomach.
Herbs and spices are a gift from nature. We are nature, and plants have an affinity with our bodies. They are our allies, not only enlivening the taste of our food but also working in hundreds of ways to keep our bodies healthy. When I add thyme to spaghetti sauce, I think about how it is helping to keep my family from catching a cold or getting a stomach bug from something in the food.
We all have to eat, and we need whole, seasonal foods to be healthy. We need herbs and spices not only for flavor, but also to help us digest and assimilate what we eat. If you look through old cookbooks, you'll see that each food is paired with specific spices. Sage goes with turkey, pepper spices cheese sauces, fennel accompanies sausage, celery seed garnishes root vegetables, mustard and horseradish are served with beef, and the list goes on. As we have come to rely on packaged foods preserved with salt, sugar, and chemicals, we use fewer herbs and spices to flavor and preserve our food. This book is about reclaiming the art of using herbs in our daily food routines and developing a deeper understanding of the relationship between what we eat and our wellness.
As an herbalist, I talk to many people about health. The conversation eventually leads to questions about what to do for a sick child, friend, or family member or how to prevent them from becoming ill. Since food is one of our primary medicines, I always begin with exploring what a family eats that either invites or deters illness. What I have noticed is that today fewer women cook, and especially many younger women possess less comprehensive cooking skills than women their age fifteen years ago. It is surprising how many women begin our sessions by saying "I don't cook." The pervasiveness of convenience meals has contributed to a way of life that continually erodes our food and body knowledge base.
As more and more of our meals come neatly wrapped in neon-colored packages, the meat and vegetables are watered down with cheap oils, and the spices are replaced by chemicals. The imposter spice additives deceive our taste buds into craving fraudulent foods that are an assault to our physical strength and intelligence. Food becomes a burden to our body instead of a source of vitality. We lose our sense of taste for what nourishes a strong body. We disassociate with where our food comes from or what it takes to prepare it. I have heard children say that their food comes from a vault under the grocery store.
One of the many advantages of increasing your herb quotient in meal preparations is the vitamin and mineral content of herbs and spices. The spice cabinet and garden are abundant in mineral-rich herbs. Chemical farming practices have depleted the soil of nutrients that would normally transfer into our vegetables. The breadth of flavor in a vegetable is an indicator of its mineral content. Mineral-rich vegetables have a full, sweet taste. Vegetables devoid of minerals taste like nothing; I refer to them as cardboard vegetables. Many chronic diseases develop from nutrient deficiency. With the widespread consumption of prepackaged and conventionally farmed foods, we are experiencing the phenomenon of being overfed yet undernourished. Eat fresh, whole, organic, and locally grown food and add herbs to as many meals as possible.
I spend a significant amount of time with students and clients exploring strategies for how, when, and what to eat. This basic knowledge of nourishing ourselves is absent from so many people's lives. If you weren't raised with the appreciation of homemade, well-spiced, whole foods, it can be an overwhelming task to learn from scratch.
The recipes in this book are simple and for everyone, both seasoned healthy eaters and those who are looking to make a change for the better in their dietary habits. You can begin by choosing one or two herbs or spices to work with and make as many things as you can with them. You can also choose one medium to work with; obsessions with herb-infused oils have been known to happen. Make as many varieties of herbed oils as you can stand and then just let them have their way in your kitchen.
The herbal crafting that is abundant in my food preparation is an embodied art of asking, "How do I better understand the food and medicine that the earth provides? How do I better know and care for my body?" This book is a piece of the lifelong inquiry of exploring these questions and how the answers manifest in my home and kitchen environment. The culture of our kitchen environment is the space we create to nurture and care for ourselves and our family.
The food culture that I grew up with held a vein of richness that is still with me. My dad's garden never failed to produce an overflow of fresh zucchini/courgette and squash. We lived in a town that was known for its rich history of fruit production. There were always trees to pick from, and the farm stands were brimming with each seasonal bounty. We purchased fruit by the box and made pies, cobbler, ice cream, and jam. My grandfather was a fisherman, and my father was an ocean diver. We always had a freezer full of fish and abalone, and many times throughout the year we had fresh seafood feasts, feeding loads of people the most delicious fruits of the sea.
My grandparents kept an annual tradition of harvesting wild mushrooms after the first spring and fall rains. I can still smell the mounds of garlic, onions, and mushrooms cooking in the enormous cast-iron frying pan on their stove. I remember them talking in amazement about how many helpings I could eat. I loved our family mushroom feasts. This celebration was a high point in our culinary culture, and everything about it is vivid in my mind as if it were yesterday. I can hear the sound of the knives on the wooden chopping board. I see the smiles on my grandparents' faces and hear the conversation and laughter of family and friends that came out of the woodwork for our holy day of mushroom gluttony. I was so awake and present for this vivacious celebration that centered on the pleasure and excitement of a single wild food.
When I was about fifteen years old, this tradition stopped. Development and overgrazing laid waste to the mushroom patches, and there just weren't as many mushrooms anymore. Even during the final years of my grandfather's life, he was still searching for mushroom patches to reappear. In the months before he died, we found a small patch of mushrooms together. We brought them home, and I watched him carefully, almost ceremoniously clean them so as not to waste a single piece. I remember sitting at his table, just he and I, humbly savoring our mushroom side dish. They were as delectable as ever, but what an impoverished relic of the fungal feasts of days gone by.
My mother went to work when I was in grade school. Prepackaged meals and processed snacks shared equal space at the table with food from the garden and the wild. Chocolate Pop-Tarts and Cap'n Crunch for breakfast, bologna on Wonder bread for lunch, and hot dog TV dinners for which my brother and I would beg. I can still picture the snack cupboard that we raided after school; it was full of Space Food Sticks, Cheez-Its, Fruit Loops, Ho Hos, and Ding Dongs.
Even though the junk food was plentiful, I was lucky to have had so much local fruit and wild foods to supplement the packaged meals. I grew up surrounded by seasonal food harvest traditions, which at specific times of the year shaped some of the culture of our household. My grandfather was a master ice cream maker and would concoct a batch to honor the onset of each seasonal fruit. It was most definitely the best ice cream on the planet. In the summer, there was always a cobbler or special jam from the peaches and apricots. Something had to be done with all the summer squash, and late summer meant filling the freezer with zucchini/courgette bread. Fall brought walnuts, which we gathered by the bucketful and candied for Christmas presents. Each food had a spice that went with it: nutmeg with peaches, orange zest with the zucchini/courgette breads, allspice with apricots, and cinnamon with apples. The turning of the seasons was clearly marked with flavors and aromas specific to each time of year.
What we create from the earth's harvest helps shape who we are and what we love. It sets the scope of our taste buds, priming our palate for which foods we crave and find comfort in. It provides our basic nourishment for a strong body and vibrant mind. For me, it also provided something that I can't really name. What was I fed as I sat in front of giant bags of walnuts, cracking and eating them with my grandparents? More than food was given to me at the table where we dined on fish that my dad taught me how to clean and cook. The need to harvest, create, and give away was embedded in my being. The ritual of picking blackberries in August is etched in my cells. I get a little cranky if the summer is coming to an end and I haven't made my annual pilgrimage to gorge at the blackberry patch and make blackberry pies. Each season holds a craving to honor what has ripened. Harvesting the abundance and sharing it brings me such joy.
When we don't grow up with seasonal food rituals, then it can be a challenge to know what to eat when. It is easy to fall into the trap of eating all foods all year around just because they are available in the grocery store. The strawberry festival is in April; what are the health and environmental implications of having access to a plateful of strawberries in December? Tomato tasting day is in August; do I really need fresh tomatoes on my sandwich in February? The perpetual deluge of advertisements tranquilizes any concern we may have about the chemicals and pollution involved in providing all fruits and vegetables during all seasons. We slip into eating what the media tells us to, not knowing what healthful, seasonal food really feels like in our body.
My grandparents still hunted and fished for wild foods. I got a taste of what it meant to harvest and eat wild, seasonal foods; but these were marginal events, and most of our food came from the store. How do those of us who grew up in households with a microwave and canned food make the change?
Wherever you live, there is or was a river of wild or cultivated local food and herb harvest for you to dive into. Get into the kitchen with your family and reclaim your food culture. When the apples are ripe, make apple cinnamon pie. When it is almond season, make herb-salted almonds. If you live in the heart of a city, befriend someone with a fruit tree or a planter box full of so much sage that one family can't possibly use it all, frequent local farmers' markets, or grow your own herbs in a window box or community garden. You will be inspired by the wonder of nature and how its gifts manifest in your kitchen as a way of life. It won't be long before the recipes on these pages evolve into the expression of your personal spice preferences and neighborhood gardens.
To this day, I love to find the trees that no one has harvested, glean the fruit that litters the ground, and transform this abundance of free food into jams and dried fruit for the lunch box. Summer's magnificence fills my shelf with a dozen herbal vinegars, and wild bay leaves gathered in autumn unfold their flavor into soups all year long. These small rituals guide our lives. I keep a watchful eye for what the earth has to offer, paying my respects by nourishing my body and soul with the harvest.
The knowledge of how to enjoy the earth's generosity to fortify ourselves and our loved ones is the inheritance of being human. If this tradition was lost in your family, you are in luck, because the harvest is still on. The earth hasn't stopped giving; we have just forgotten how to receive. Start by finding one local food or growing one herb in your backyard or window, see what you can make with it, and go from there. Interview some of the old-timers where you live. What local foods and herbs do they have stories about?
I try to grow as many of my own herbs and spices as the weather will permit. Herbal gardening has sculpted my life in so many ways. From the garden, I learn how to work in harmony with the seasons and seasonal transitions, the moon, and daily weather. It teaches me about life, death, decay, and regeneration, and it is the master teacher of change, the one thing that is certain in life. Working with the abundance of herbs and spices that come from the garden has deepened my ability to really feel gratitude. I am always so thankful and happy when the fertility of the garden allows me to give away a portion of the fortune to everyone who walks through my door.
Learning to garden, cook, and craft with herbs has been a very empowering process. The garden makes me work to find nonchemical solutions for weeds and pests. It is deeply fulfilling to use herbs and foods that help reduce reliance on chemicals, pesticides, and prescription and over-the-counter medications. Growing my own herbs and spices is my day-to-day way of increasing my health and well-being and living more harmoniously with and in right relationship to what is around me. As I write this book, I am forty-seven years old. I am just now beginning to feel that I have some assemblage of what it means to live in awareness of the natural systems that nurture and support my life. Each season, each year, nature's manifestation in my kitchen teaches me more.
The joyful journey of cooking with herbs is more than creating delicious and nutritious food; it is my pathway toward awareness of how to live in integrity on this earth. What does it mean to use whole foods and whole herbs as a lifestyle practice dedicated to healing? From the garden to the kitchen, we nurture life. We amass the health and wealth that benefits us for now and what is to come. The level of health we cultivate before we have babies is passed on to our children. What we eat and how well we digest contribute to the wellness and vitality of future generations. When you don't pollute your food and soil, then the actual place where the food is grown and used is in a more whole state. When you eat whole foods and herbs, you are accumulating health within your own body that is pledged to the unborn.
During the past century, our love affair with chemicals has shaped much of our lives. The food we eat, the medicine we take and the beverages we drink are processed and made with thousands of man-made chemicals. Our use of chemicals has come with many advantages and advancements, but our extended exposure to them has affected us in ways that we can't even begin to comprehend. The use of chemicals in our food production is not going to disappear, but let's just slow down a little. Let's use less, ban the chemicals that we already know are carcinogenic, look for nonchemical solutions, and err on the side of caution instead of limitless experimentation. Stop adding them to new products as if they have a right to be in every corner of our existence. We introduce new chemicals at the drop of a hat with very little understanding of their long-term effects on human and environmental health.
By indulging in chemicals this way, we have disrespected ourselves and the plants. The damage done by chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and genetically engineered seeds is reflective of the loss of integrity in our relationship with the plants. We poison the plants and denature them to the point where we have not only shattered our covenant with the plant world but also our promise of the right to health for our children. We have polluted the air, soil, and water and all life that is sustained by these elements. The chemical methods of food production are degenerative in nature, wreaking havoc on our health and vitality. The rampant chemical waste poisons our body, our children's bodies, and the environment of those not yet conceived. I could get depressed if I dwell on the problem for too long, so I have learned to remain steadfast and focused on solutions: simple solutions that are attainable within our home and daily lives. The commitment to a lifestyle of using sustainable foods, healing herbs, and seasonal harvests is a choice that has broad-reaching implications in every aspect of our lives.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Herbal Kitchen"
Copyright © 2019 Kami McBride.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Your Herbal Kitchen
Chapter 1 Kitchen Medicine and Culinary Culture 29
Part 2 Fifty Healing Herbs and Spices
Chapter 2 Herbal Kitchen Materia Medica 45
Part 3 Herbal Recipes
Chapter 3 Herbal Waters 129
Chapter 4 Herbal Drinks 132
Chapter 5 Herbal Smoothies 147
Chapter 6 Herbal Honey 157
Chapter 7 Herbal Vinegar 171
Chapter 8 Herbal Cordials 187
Chapter 9 Herbal Oils 204
Chapter 10 Herbal Ghee 216
Chapter 11 Herbal Pesto 226
Chapter 12 Herbal Sprinkles and Salts 237
Chapter 13 Herbal Kitchen Meals 250
Chapter 14 Herbal Baths and Foot Soaks 275