Blackberry Delights & Unexpected Encounters or Becoming Addicted To Foraging!

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It was a gorgeous day today, so after doing some errands in town, I decided to come home the long way along Lough Atalia [Galway city] and through the wild meadow beside it. The sun was shining, there was a brisk breeze and the air seemed alive with sound.

I recommend always being prepared, if you think there is any possibility you might end up foraging. Gloves and a heavy duty scissors are handy as are the below.

YOU WILL NEED

A park, backyard or wilderness area near you
A basket & some bags, such as the handy totes I made earlier in the year
A foraging guide
A Hawk’s eye
A taste for adventure

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***Important!***

Never eat any wild plant unless you are 100% sure that you have identified an edible species.

Always cross-reference the information you find on the internet with an expert, a foraging group, or several reference books.

Make sure you are harvesting from non-polluted sources, away from roads, and where no pesticides or other contaminants may have been used.

Have fun, but be responsible. Identification is entirely your responsibility. . . and it can also mean your life!

Urban foraging

Within a 15 minute walk from the city, I was beside the water, up to my hips in grasses and I could feel my breathing slow down and the usual stresses leaving me.

Going foraging is like going on a mini-adventure, you don’t know who you will meet and what you will find. It’s one of the most satisfying experiences you can ever have.

The pleasure of being outside, that sense of exploration, one’s senses being open and focused…there is nothing like that.

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One little guy you might come across is the field mouse, they are shy gentle creatures, so best to just leave them be.

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A large thrush followed me around for a while, when I was picking blackberries, no doubt hoping I would drop some. Thrushes love berries of all sorts.

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If you are out early enough in the morning and/or near the countryside, you might catch a glimpse of the Irish Hare, a beautiful and sacred creature.

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One of my favourite creatures is the endangered and very rare Dormouse. If you come across one, leave it be, unless its in a dangerous place or if you see a predator nearby. In that case, very carefully lift up the little guy and move him to a safe place.

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I was delighted to find a large Rowan tree with goblets of fruit hanging down and have since washed and frozen them and plan to make Rowan flour, once I have more berries.

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Although its only the end of August, there are already Hawthorn berries on the trees, so I gathered a full bag of these. I will be making them into a tincture and possibly a wine.

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I found a fantastic patch of wild blackberries in a sunny semi-sheltered part of the meadow bursting with goodness and black sweetness.

Although I suffered some scrapes and thorns along the way, I collected three pounds of fruit, which I intend to make into wine and other tasty delights for the winter. For now, I washed, sorted and froze them.

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I also found some plantain, rose petals and dandelion leaves.

One of the best parts of foraging is when you get home and then can make delicious foods and drinks with the bounty of your endeavors!

I find that when I am eating or drinking something I foraged, I don’t just enjoy the taste, or the knowledge that its packed full of nutrients, that it was free or just something unusual, but also the memory of the happy hours spent foraging across woods and dales…

Below are two recipes for you to enjoy 🙂

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Wild Green’s Quiche

INGREDIENTS

  • Pastry dough for a 9-inch pan
  • ½ cup chopped edible greens (dandelion, wood sorrel, very young nettles, bittercress, wild watercress or whatever is available)
  • 1 cup of Mushrooms, sliced very thin
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • ⅓ cup minced onion
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp sugar

Method

Heat oven to 250c.

Blanch the greens for 30 seconds, then plunge into ice water and wring out in a dry dishtowel. Sprinkle cheese, blanched greens, mushrooms and onion into a pastry-lined pie pan. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs slightly, then beat in whipping cream, salt and sugar.

Pour egg mixture into pie pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 250c, then reduce heat to 150c and bake an additional 30 minutes.

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You can garnish cakes and tarts with edible wild flowers such as roses, violas and borage for a stunning desert to serve after dinner.

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Blackberry Cocktail

Ingredients

• Blackberry – infused vodka
• Wild mint
• Blackberries
• Apple juice
• Tonic Water
• Ice cubes

Method

  • Infuse quality vodka with Blackberries.
  • Pour a measure into a glass filled with ice.
  • Top with apple juice and tonic Water.
  • Add Viola flowers and wild mint to enhance the flavour.

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Coming Soon

I will be foraging at the Beach, deep in the countryside and in the woods, so will let you know how that goes 🙂

I will also be talking about making various recipes from lavender flowers and how to harvest and store herbs for the winter.

Xx

 

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13 Ways to Grow Your Hair Long Faster Naturally

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So I don’t know about you but in the last four years, I’ve being having a lot of bad hair days, not just every other day or once in a while but like everyday, all the time.

Unfortunately, I’m not Rapunzel, no matter how hard I wish, quite the opposite alas.

Four years ago this September, I had a near fatal anaphylactic shock to kiwis in a smoothie [ah, the irony, trying to eat more healthy almost killed me!], which caused both physical and psychological trauma, which had a dramatic effect on my hair. To cut a long story short, on that day, my hair stopped growing.

Not just growing quickly or healthily but point blank, stopped growing at all.

In the last four years, I have tried diet, vitamins, fancy expensive hair treatments and even more expensive trips to hairdressers for professional advice.

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I changed my supermarket hair colours to health shop natural more gentle plant based hair colours.

I have tried alternatives such as energy healing, reflexology, aromatherapy, meditation and even affirmations and listening to metaphysical healing videos at night.

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I have soaked my hair in oils, creams, mud masks..practically half the contents of my fridge!

In the last year, I have been trying DIY methods to grow my hair, here are 13 of the things I’ve tried and how they worked out.

1) Rice Water

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I heard that in Japan, Rice water is all the rage and is in everything from skin creams to hair tonics, so I decided to try it for myself.

I cooked my rice as usual, then took the cloudy water left behind in the saucepan, put it in a jug and let it cool. After washing my hair as usual, I poured the rice water over my hair and wrapped a towel around it and left it on for a hour as recommended.

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I went to rinse it out and my hair was a matted mess. It took two rounds of shampoo and conditioner to finally detangle it. So, not one I shall be trying again.

2) Coconut Milk & Coconut Oil

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I love the scent of coconuts and have became a BIG fan of Coconut oil and use it all the time. I have tried several variations of the above hair mask using coconut as the key ingredient and have had very mixed reactions.

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My hair looks all glossy and satiny soft for a few hours after but by the next day, it looks like I haven’t washed it in weeks.

My hair does feel better but so far, using coconut milk or oil once a week hasn’t made any difference to my total lack of hair growth.

3) Bread Soda

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I have grown to love Bread soda and use it for cleaning the house, stains on clothes and brushing my teeth, so it sounded like a good idea to use it for my hair.

If you use a lot of products, its good to detox or clarify your hair every few weeks and bread soda is supposed to be super for that. Some people love it so much, they have stopped using shampoo and only use bread soda day in, day out.

So, I found the simple recipe above and gave it a go. After rinsing out, my hair is bizarrely frizz central and I resemble someone who has stuck their hand into a live socket! Epic Disaster!

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4) Henna

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I have used Henna for years off and on but decided to go back to it, in the hopes it might help.

I applied the henna paste as usual and washed out and then conditioned as usual.

Result? Thick matted hair that took several washes to detangle, many hours of painful combing out and brittle ends the full length of my hair 😦

Totally bizzare as in the past, Henna used to make my hair look and feel awesome but not anymore I guess…

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5) Red Onion

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I keep coming across articles from fellow bloggers raving about using onion juice to stimulate hair growth and how amazing it, so although I don’t like onions in general, I decided to give it a go.

I peeled the top layer of my two red onions and then washed and roughly chopped them. I put them in the blender with some water and blended until it was a smooth texture.

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The first thing I noticed putting it on my hair was that it reeked to the point of making my eyes water.

After only 15 minutes, my scalp started burning and I had to wash it off.

It took several washes to get the smell out of my hair and any benefit from the onion must have been well washed off!

I tried mixing it with coconut oil, I put essential oils in it…but it still reeked and still burned so that was that.

6) Eggs

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I have only two words for this – Epic Fail!

I whisked up the 2 eggs and rubbed it into my scalp. Left it on for twenty minutes and then tried washing it out and washed and washed…and washed!

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***Rookie DIY Tip: Only use very cool water to rinse your hair after using a egg mask, or else you will literally end up with cooked egg on your head!***

 7) Apple Cider Vinegar

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Using my own scrap apple cider vinegar recipe, after shampooing my hair as normal, I rinsed my hair with the vinegar and towel dried.

It was quite refreshing and my hair felt cleaner and softer, while my scalp felt pleasantly cool.

I didn’t like the scent but some essential oils helped with that and I have to say, I use this rinse once or twice a week and quite like it. My hair isn’t growing but it feels better.

Hopefully one day, my hair will be like this:

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The Dream

8) Yoghurt

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I know yogurt is packed full of protein and other good things so I tried the above as masks for my hair but again, really didn’t like the smell and found it very drying, so not for me alas.

9) Banana

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Bananas always sound like a good idea, yummy to eat and packed full of nutrients but oh my word, they are a total nightmare to wash out of your hair!

They smell fabulous and they are easy to make it onto a diy hair mask but after many washes to get it out of my hair, I ended up looking like this:

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10) Honey

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So honey, seemed a good idea but apart from turning my hair into something resembling a birds nest, it didn’t help at all, which was very disappointing as I had high hopes for it.

11) Rosemary Oil

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One essential oil I have been using a lot for my hair is Rosemary. It smells nice and is super easy to use, I simply put a few drops into my usual shampoo, conditioner and hair masks or for extra benefit, occasionally, mix coconut oil and rosemary oil and rub it into my scalp, leave on overnight and then rinse in the morning.

Hopefully with time, my hair will look like this girl’s mane:

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12) Aloe Vera Gel

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Aloe vera is supposed to be really moisturising for your hair so since I usually have some in the fridge, I tried it one evening. It felt very sticky but washed out easily enough. I didn’t see any difference, good or bad, so will maybe try this one again and see how it works out.

 

13) Horsetail

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I have become a passionate forager for horsetail and out of everything I’ve tried, it is the best. It grows near water or marshy areas and is instantly recognisable.

Its so easy to use, wash under the tap, twist the stems and place in a glass bowl. Pour boiling water over it and then use as a simple rinse when cool. Don’t throw your horsetail away, as you can usually get a second bowl from it.

I’m not sure if it has helped my hair grow at all but it’s gorgeous verdant green colour and fresh clean scent make using it a delight.

Conclusion

I still have many things to try yet for my hair, herbs like Amla, Beer, Fenugreek seeds, Castor Oil, Garlic juice…maybe I need to take a page out of John and Yoko’s book and have a ‘Bed In’ for Peace and maybe just maybe, if I get enough sleep, my hair might start to grow again…

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And one day, my hair will be like this:

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Foraging on the Banks of Lough Atalia in Galway, How to make Honeysuckle Ice Cream and other Nectar of the Gods

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Last Sunday, I went foraging in the lush wild meadow that runs along the side of Lough Atalia, the small lake that runs to the sea in Galway harbour. It was a stunning day, I felt almost light headed with the scent of wild flowers, fresh running water and the earth warmed by the heat of the midday sun.

Two swans followed me for a while and the meadow hummed with the sound of happy bees drinking nectar. A ladybird landed near me on a patch of clover and small wild birds called and flew overhead. 

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Everywhere I looked, I was overwhelmed by the incredible bounty of nature, I felt like how a child must feel in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I didn’t know where to start, so many colours, scents, textures called to me. My attention was snagged by the most magnificent bush of Wild Roses and braving the thorns, I gathered some petals to make Rosewater, a recipe which I will include in my next post.

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The flowers were as big as a child’s hand and the petals as soft as pure silk and the scent, oh my word, the scent, if only I could breathe in that scent all of my days…

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The heart of the meadow was a sea of colour composed of every shade of red and pink and green and all the colours in between. Red Clover was all around me, as far as the eye could see. I gathered several stems and the flower heads.

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I will be using Red Clover to make a healing tea, cream, salve, syrup…So many things, it is such a remarkable herb.

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There was also White Clover, not as profuse and much more delicate then its red cousin but also beautiful. It has a subtle sweet taste that makes for a lovely syrup for use in a cordial.

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Its late in the year for Dandelion but I found some clumps in the more shady areas of the meadow and harvested the young leaves for smoothies, salads and the flowers to make honey. Once autumn is here, I’m going to dig up as many dandelion roots as possible for making coffee.

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I found Plantain along the waters edge, its distinctive narrow leaves and long seed laden heads nodding in the breeze coming off the lake. I have started a mason jar infusion of Plantain and Oil for healing creams but Plantain has so many other uses as well. I will talk more about this next week.

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I was lucky to come across a patch of Horsetail, which often grows near water and has been around since the time of the Dinosaurs. It has many uses but one of its most well known is its wonderful ability to stimulate hair growth. A simple hair rinse can be made by washing the stems of horsetail to get rid of any soil or insects, place in a large glass bowl and pour boiling water over the plant. Leave overnight,compost the stems and then after washing your hair, pour over your head and dry hair as usual.

Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet otherwise known as the Queen of the Meadow was scattered here and there. I made a syrup from the flowers to use to create a sorbet or simply to pour over ice cream or pancakes as a delicious treat.

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One of my most favourite wild flower are Daisies. They can be found everywhere, in all shapes and sizes and colours but their purity and innocence instantly transport me back to my childhood and memories of making daisy chains as crowns and garlands. Daisies make a lovely addition to any homemade skin creams.

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I found several sprays of Milk Thistle and am currently drying these and some of the other herbs I gathered for use. I am looking forward to finding ways to use Milk Thistle to heal both myself and those I care for.

Smiling Mouse on YarrowThe next herb I came across was Yarrow, one of the most ancient and sacred of all plants in the lore of herbs, a plant with many fascinating abilities. I have dried the small amount I found and will be keeping a keen eye out for more to stock up before the winter.

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Another lovely herb I across was Self Heal, a plant long used for healing wounds and infections, as well as sore throats.

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I spent three wondrous hours beside the lake and by the time I returned home, I was suntanned and windswept, all my cobwebs blown away. I laid my herbs out in the sun on my balcony to dry and for any insects to flee.

In the end, I found over thirteen different herbs in the space of an afternoon in just one of the meadows on the banks of Lough Atalia. I was awed by how only a short walk from my apartment in Galway city, I was able to find so many remarkable healing plants. I think, living in a city, many people forget to look, to seek out the wilderness that grows up from between the cracks and finds itself a home in even the most starkly urban of places.

It is truly amazing what you can find and all this goodness, beauty and healing is free. I love to go foraging but always remember to only take what you need and to give thanks for its blessings.

Its late and I grow weary but let me finish this feast of the senses with all things Honeysuckle.

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I will leave you with two divine recipes I found online using this most exotic flower with its otherworldly nectar and golden blossoms.

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Honeysuckle Ice Cream

From the website: https://theviewfromgreatisland.com/

Ingredients

  • 1 and a half cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups honeysuckle blossoms (this is approximate)
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean

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Method

  • Put the cream, milk and sugar into a saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  • Add the honeysuckle flowers into the pan and and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • Turn off the heat and let the mixture come to room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • In the morning, strain the blossoms out and add the vanilla bean seeds. Mix well to break apart any clumped seeds.
  • Process the cold mixture in your ice cream machine according to its directions.
  • Put the soft ice cream in the freezer to firm up before serving.

 

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Honeysuckle Sorbet

Ingredients

5 cups cool water

4 cups honeysuckle blossoms, tightly packed but not smashed

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

Few drops lemon juice

Dusting of cinnamon

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Add cool tap water to flowers. Place in a glass bowl and leave overnight.

The next day, make a simple syrup by heating sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over low heat until the mixture is clear, then boiling it for a minute or so, until the syrup begins to appear lustrous and slightly thick.

Remove from heat and add a few drops of lemon juice to prevent the sugar from recrystallizing. Cool the syrup.

Strain the honeysuckles, gently pressing the blossoms so as not to waste any of your efforts.

Combine the honeysuckle and the simple syrup and add just the merest dusting of ground cinnamon — a hint will enhance the honeysuckle flavor; even a bit more will overpower it.

Put the mix in a glass baking dish, let it freeze a little, stir and smash with a fork. Wait another couple of hours and do the same thing until it’s almost frozen through, then put it all in a blender. It needs to be taken out of the freezer a few minutes before you serve.

Bon Appetit! 🙂

Xx

Foraging in the City: How to make Herb & Flower Infused Oils at home, as well as Uplifting Eucalyptus & Mint Shaving Cream

l1.jpg.galleryForaging in the city can be truly enjoyable, challenging and always rewarding. The joy and satisfaction of making your own remedies, cosmetics and food from herbs and flowers you gathered yourself  is immeasurable.

The heart of summer is an excellent time to gather your herbs for making creams, balms, salves, oils, tinctures, tonics, teas and other necessities for the winter ahead.

I recommend going out at midday when the sun is at the highest point, as this is when the flowers will be fully open and at their most potent. Living in the city, foraging is a bit more difficult but parks, small patches of wilderness and river sides are all good places to search. Make sure to only pick flowers away from traffic fumes.

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How to make St. John’s Wort Oil

Ingredients

  • Two to three handfuls of fresh St.John’s Wort Flowers
  • Olive Oil or Rapeseed Oil

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Equipment

  • Glass Mason Jar
  • Muslin Cloth for straining
  • Sieve
  • Glass Jug
  • Glass Bottle to store Finished Oil

Method

  • Gather two to three handfuls of Fresh St.John’s Wort Flowers
  • Wash throughly
  • Leave to dry overnight on a Tea Towel
  • Fill your clean Mason Jar with the flowers
  • Pour enough oil to completely submerge the flowers
  • Close lid and place on a sunny windowsill for a month
  • Clean the lid every second day to prevent mould
  • After a month has passed and your oil has turned a bright cherry red, it is time to filter
  • Place muslin cloth over a sieve over a glass jug or bowl
  • Pour the oil in
  • Squeeze out any oil left from the flowers using the muslin cloth
  • Pour into Clean Sterilized Glass bottles and label with the date bottled.
  • Store in a cool dry place.

Uses

  • Use the oil directly on skin for inflamed painful joints
  • Use the oil as the base for healing creams, salves and ointments

 

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How to make Plantain Oil

Ingredients

  • One to three handfuls of Wild Fresh Plantain Leaves
  • Olive Oil

Equipment

  • Glass Mason Jar
  • Muslin Cloth for straining
  • Sieve
  • Glass Jug
  • Glass Bottle to store Finished Oil

 

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Method

  • Gather two to three handfuls of Fresh Plantain Leaves
  • Wash throughly
  • Leave to dry overnight on a Tea Towel
  • Fill your clean Mason Jar with the leaves
  • Pour enough oil to completely submerge the leaves
  • Close lid and place on a sunny windowsill for a month
  • Clean the lid every second day to prevent mould
  • After a month has passed and your oil has turned a dark green,  it is time to filter
  • Place muslin cloth over a sieve over a glass jug or bowl
  • Pour the oil in
  • Squeeze out any oil left from the flowers using the muslin cloth
  • Pour into Clean Sterilized Glass bottles and label with the date bottled.
  • Store in a cool dry place.

 

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Uses

  • Use as a healing First Aid cream and salve
  • Use as base for own homemade Soaps
  • Use as base for lotions and body butters
  • Use in Body Scrubs

 

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Eucalyptus and Mint Shaving Cream

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Ingredients

  • Half a cup of Organic Shea Butter
  • Half a cup of Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Half a cup of Olive Oil
  • One Tablespoon of Witch Hazel
  • One Tablespoon of Aloe Vera Gel
  • Ten drops of Eucalyptus essential Oil
  • Ten drops of Mint essential Oil

 

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Method

  • Place the Shea Butter, Coconut oil and Olive oil in a glass bowl over a saucepan of water
  • Stir gently until it is fully melted
  • Allow to cool for half a hour
  • Stir in the Aloe Vera Gel, Witch Hazel and essential oils
  • Place in your fridge until solid
  • Using an electric whisk, beat until light and fluffy
  • Spoon into a clean glass jar and label
  • Use as needed as you would any shaving cream and enjoy clean fresh and moistened skin! 🙂

 

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Next Time

I will be going foraging again tomorrow, weather permitting along the lake and will be talking about all the wonderful plants I’m sure I will find! 🙂

 

Beauty from Nature: How to make Witch Hazel & Rose Facial Cleanser & Wild Strawberry Leaf Toner

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Witch Hazel & Rose Facial Cleanser

Ingredients:

  • Purified Water
  • Witch Hazel
  • Rose Water
  • Aloe Vera
  • Coconut Oil
  • Organic Reusable Cotton Rounds

 

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Method:

  • Pour 500ml of Distilled Purified water into a large glass jug with a tight lid
  • Add Three Tablespoons of Witch Hazel Water
  • Add Two Tablespoons of Rose Water
  • Add a heaped Tablespoon of Pure Aloe Vera Gel
  • Lastly, add one flat Tablespoon of liquid Coconut Oil
  • Using a spoon, mix the ingredients well
  • Place the cotton rounds into a glass mason jar
  • Carefully pour the toner over the rounds until the jar is full
  • Place the lid on top, label and store on your bathroom shelf.
  • Use in the evening before going to bed for clear clean skin.

 

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The next thing I made today was an astringent toner, as this will help keep your pores clear and your skin refreshed before you put your cream and makeup on.

 

Wild Strawberry Leaf Toner

 

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Ingredients:

  • Two Handfuls of Washed Strawberry Leaves, either collected wild as I did or from a garden
  • Witch Hazel
  • Rose Water
  • Purified Water

 

image-500x500Method: 

  • Wash the Strawberry Leaves well
  • Place the leaves in a mason jar
  • Fill the jar with purified water and leave overnight
  • Filter the leaves from the water the next day
  • Add Three Tablespoons of Witch Hazel
  • Add Two Tablespoons of Rose Water
  • Stir well and bottle
  • Keep in the fridge for extra refreshing coolness after a hot summers day

 

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Next Time:

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I will be making Soothing Calendula Face Cream from Calendula Oil I made last month and Coconut & Beet Lip Balm.

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Also soon to come in the next few days, a exotic Spice & White Willow Bark Cream to take pain away and for the long weekend soak in the bath TLC time, totally natural Rose & Lavender Bath Bombs! 🙂

Xx

 

 

Marmalade Madness!

10I discovered in a local shop last week that they had gorgeous juicy spanish oranges for the incredible price of 45c for 1lb so I bought 15lbs in total with the plan of making enough marmalade for the year!

Its actually incredible easy to make marmalade and costs very little.All you need is time and patience.

To make marmalade, you need 1bag of sugar for every lb of fruit, 3 lemons and 250ml of flitered water. You also need of course clean sterlised jam jars, covers and  a large saucepan.Its really important you get the fruit/sugar ratio right so make sure to weigh the fruit before adding it to the sugar.  This makes you about 12 small pots or ten medium.

To make fine cut marmalade, simple pop your oranges into a bowl, pour bowling water over them and leave for five minutes. This makes them really easy to peel by hand and the scent of the warm fruit is heavenly.

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Weigh the fruit and if making thick cut marmalade,cut roughly by hand and place in the saucepan with the sugar, lemon juice and water.If making fine cut, place in a blender until smooth.

Put the heat on full, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Heat until bowl, then bowl for 20-30minutes. Place some saucers in the fridge and when the surface of the liquid takes on a glossy sheen, test a little on the cold saucer.If it doesnt run, the marmalade has reached setting point. Pour into jars immediately and cover. Your marmalade should keep for up to a year if kept in a cool dark place. Volia! Easy homemade marmalade!:)

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I also made some orange sauce for cooking, as there is nothing quite like the scent and taste of orange for making a simple dish like chicken or fish exciting and tasty. I made the sauce the same way as the fine cut marmalade but only let it boil for 5-7 minutes and then bottled into empty wine bottles I had sterlised earlier.

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The wonderful thing about making something like marmalade is the alchemy of taking four simple ingredients and transforming them into something you will enjoy everyday that is also good for you.My kitchen still has a scent  of an orange grove in spain, of sunshine and summer…