Pine Trees and their Medicinal Uses

 

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As a child growing up in California, I loved to hear the breeze through the Ponderosa pines. Because these trees are so tall (over 230 feet high), there is a distinct sound that I‚Äôve not heard in any other forest that I’ve walked through.¬†¬†That airy¬†sound of the breeze through the trees is what I miss most about my home state.¬† Then there is the smell of pine,¬†which makes me feel refreshed, calm and at peace.

Until recently I didn’t know that pine (all species) have medicinal properties which have been used for centuries by Native American tribes.

Native American’s have been using Pine Medicinally for Centuries

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Native American tribes in this region used all parts of the tree for medicinal purposes. A bark decoction for coughs and colds was used by the Abanaki, Iroquois, Micmac, Mohegan and Shinnecock tribes. Bark was also used as a poultice for colds by the Algonquin and for cuts and wounds by the Chippewa. A pitch pine drawing salve was made by the Delaware and Ontario people just to name a few of its many medicinal uses. (HANE: Herbarium, pinus strobus L.)

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Here in Connecticut we have White Pine which is a shorter scruffier tree than its cousin the Ponderosa. And, today, pine needles and bark are harvested and dried for use in teas, tinctures and infused oils. Pine resin is the golden jewel of the tree as it has incredible healing properties. White Pine has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, expectorant, diuretic, antibacterial, stimulant, antispasmodic and astringent properties.

Eating my first Pine Needles

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Have you ever tasted a pine needle? After our last big snow fall, the sun came out and it was a beautiful day to go out for a walk through our woods to harvest pine needles for my pine soap and salve.¬† I decided to try a needle.¬† Honestly, it was nothing to write home about.¬† It tasted like a pine needle.¬† I had read pine needles are high in Vitamin C and boosts the immune system.¬† I read that not every pine tree species tastes the same.¬† The author encouraged readers to try different trees and go with the one you liked best.¬† However, since I only have one species of trees on our property, what I tasted was what I tasted – pine and I’ll have to take her word that not all pine trees taste the same…

Making my First Batch of Infused Pine Oil

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This was the fun part ‚Äď after harvesting enough pine needles, I loaded up my crock pot¬†and added my oil. As I turned on my crock pot, I was struck by a thought!¬†How would a pine marinade work for chicken.¬† I decided to adapt¬†a recipe for pine needle salad dressing into a marinade.¬† My husband is such a good sport about this stuff ‚Äď I knew it wouldn‚Äôt faze him in the least.¬† I was right – after 20 years of eating¬†my “experiments” what’s a few¬†pine needles with¬†dinner.

The final results were OK ‚Äď I think I would prefer the chicken barbequed to add a little natural smoky flavor with the pine marinade rather than baked.¬† So I will try this recipe again when the weather gets warmer.¬† ¬†However, my husband thought the chicken tasted great.

White Pine makes wonderful Soaps and Salves

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I love working with pine.  I’ve perfected my drying technique so the pine needles keep their beautiful green color in my soap.  The needles also add a great natural exfoliatant, which is another plus.  All the benefits of pine, plus a four oil soap recipe make a well balanced soap.

The pine infused oil is another bonus as it can be used in many applications such as salves which is moisturizing for extremely dry skin.  The pine salve will also promote healing of small scratches, cuts, burns and other minor skin irritations. During these bitter cold winter months I need something like this as my hands take a beating. They get so dry and cracked (sometimes bleed) that the salve had been a perfect remedy.

I just love pine trees!

Why is Supporting Local Businesses so Important

 

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Today Thompson Street Farm is participating in Small Business Saturday at the Glastonbury Farmers Holiday Market (Market is open every Saturday through December 20th) at The Old Cider Mill 1287 Main Street Glastonbury 10 am – 1 pm.¬† So why is supporting small businesses so important?¬† Here¬†are 12 reasons why…

Why is shopping locally so important? 

  • You support local businesses.
  • You protect the character of our community.
  • You keep local dollars in the community.
  • You help protect the environment (factory farm food uses a lot of resources)
  • You help create jobs.
  • You increase your home value (yes, towns with independent local business districts tend to have higher home values).
  • You safeguard your families health, Fresh is best!
  • You protect New England’s beautiful scenery. Yup, buying from farms helps preserve land.
  • You discover amazing new and delicious food items you’ll never find at a big chain store.
  • You play a larger role in our community. Shake the hand that feeds you.
  • Have fun! Local farmers markets are more lively, creative, have beautifully decorated products and locally sourced compared to the big box stores.
  • Even if you just replace one of your holiday items with a local product you’ll be making a difference in our community.

Thompson Street Farm¬†is all about local, “Because Local is Best!” – we hope you will join us at the Old Cider Mill!

(adapted from Fresh New England 12 Great Reasons to Shop Locally this Holiday Season РBlog)

My Romance with Chocolate

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Yes, I admit it. I’ve been having a love affair with chocolate for a very long time.  My earliest memories are when I was a young girl sitting around the campfire somewhere in northern California burning my marshmallows into a charcoal stage and smashing it between a piece of Hershey’s chocolate bar and graham cracker squares.  Life didn’t get better than that!

At that time, I was na√Įve about all the things you can do with chocolate.¬† In our house, we had chocolate candy bars and other pure chocolate candies (kisses etc.).¬† On occasion when fondue became a big rage in the 1970‚Äôs, I stepped out of the ordinary and had my first chocolate dipped fruit and bread. ¬†It was a learning experience for me and opened a few new doors of possibilities.

Then, one day, I got a real education on the coolest use of chocolate when a new girl in my neighborhood who had just moved here from Sweden invited me home for lunch.  Her mother served me a chocolate sandwich!  Did I hit the jackpot on that lunch!  These Swedish kids certainly knew how to live!  What is a nine year old supposed to do but eat what’s served to her and compliment the cook by asking for seconds?  I thought it best not to tell my Mother what I ate for lunch that day and I never did.

Today, nothing surprises me anymore as everything is covered in chocolate.  I still consider myself a chocolate purest and haven’t yet jumped off that cliff to taste all the wacky things dipped, mixed or fried with chocolate.  Eating chocolate sandwiches is one thing but I draw the line at chocolate covered bugs!  No thank you.  I’m good with what I know and love…honestly.

Everyone has their ‚Äúgo to‚ÄĚ chocolate, whether it is the high-end stuff or shall I say the ‚Äúeconomically‚ÄĚ priced stuff.¬† Personally, I have no complaints with high-end chocolate. ¬†However, if I really need a hit of chocolate, a plain Hershey‚Äôs Kiss or a Hershey‚Äôs milk chocolate bar does the trick.¬† No fancy added stuff other than slipping in an almond.

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On the other hand, if you ask my Mother what her all-time ‚Äúgo to‚ÄĚ favorite brand of chocolate is, she will tell you its Sanders.¬† She grew up in Detroit and Sanders was a local chocolate and ice cream shop that was known for its unbelievably delicious chocolates.¬† ¬†If you mention any other brand, she will argue with you until the cows come home that Sanders IS THE ONLY CHOCOLATE WORTH EATING.¬† There is no other company in the world that meets her chocolate standards other than Sanders!

Sanders was founded by German-born Frederick Sanders Schmidt on June 17, 1875, when he opened a candy store on Woodward Avenue at Gratiot in downtown Detroit.  (For more information about the Sanders chocolate company click on this link.)

I agree that, for the most part, Sanders does make a wonderful milk chocolate fudge sauce.  It’s light years better than that canned liquid syrupy stuff that Hershey’s makes, which I refuse to touch.  However, while we waited for a few coveted jars of Sanders chocolate to arrive from our Detroit relatives, my Mother would often make a homemade chocolate sauce that was a lot better than any store bought version we could buy in our dusty high desert town.  In fact, I prefer this sauce over Sanders (shh, don’t let my Mother hear this).

Yes, I realize I’m talking heresy and could be disinherited.  Sander’s chocolate is close to a religion in my family.  But seriously, Grandma’s homemade recipe is pretty darn good.  It’s easy to make, the ingredients are simple.  I’ve even tried swapping out the evaporated milk for high quality heavy cream, and it’s not the same.  You can’t mess with perfection!  The evaporated milk just works for some reason.

So my gift to you is share with you my Grandmother’s Homemade Chocolate Sauce Recipe.  I think you will enjoy the simple taste of chocolate as much as I do.

Grandma’s Homemade Chocolate Sauce

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

3 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup or 1 small can of evaporated milk

Mix all ingredients together and cook over medium to low heat for about 2 ‚Äď 3 minutes.¬† Just to low boil and stir constantly.¬† It will burn if you let it boil too long.

Serve hot immediately or let it cool and it will set up to a nice thick spreadable fudge.

¬†A New Spin on Grandma‚Äôs Recipe ‚Äď Vegan Style

I have also created a vegan version of this recipe out of necessity.  I’m now allergic to dairy products and I’m sad to say I have to limit my consumption of grandma’s chocolate sauce.  I created the next best thing.  A coconut, chocolate, almond version which I think it tastes pretty good.

Brenda’s Vegan Chocolate Sauce     

¬Ĺ cup sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

3 tablespoons liquid coconut oil (see note below)

¬Ĺ cup Almond milk unsweetened

Mix all ingredients together and cook over medium to low heat for about 2 ‚Äď 3 minutes.¬† Just to low boil and stir constantly.¬† It will burn if you let it boil too long.

This sauce is not as thick as the other sauce but it still is pretty nice.

February 13, 2014 008  Note:  I purchase this oil from Amazon.com

Expanding Chocolate into an Out of Body Experience …

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Do you love to bathe in chocolate?  I do!  Well… not like the woman in the picture above.  To bathe in a tub of chocolate is more of a fantasy of mine.  However, the next best thing to being in a bath of chocolate is to wash with a nice decadent bar of chocolate soap!

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I worked hard on creating this chocolate soap¬†recipe.¬† It had to have that wonderful chocolate smell and feel, plus have the health benefits of leaving your skin moisturized.¬† I use a high quality organic fair trade cocoa powder (70% + cacao) along with fresh local goat‚Äôs milk and 3 different oils, which I call my Mediterranean recipe.¬† Nothing is more decadent than bathing with a bar of solid chocolate ‚Äď you won‚Äôt be disappointed!¬† Oh my! Oh my! The smell, the feel! Mmmm ‚Äď pure heaven.

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In addition to washing with a bar of chocolate, try giving yourself a chocolate moisturizing mask. According to Discovery Health and Fitness website they state chocolate is very healthy for your skin.

It may seem counterintuitive, but using a chocolate face mask can help keep skin clear and hydrated, according to Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. The key is using the right ingredients. “Since prepackaged face masks may contain salt or sugar particles with jagged edges that can scratch your skin, I recommend making your own chocolate face mask at home,” says Wu. “They’re cheap to make and all natural so if you accidentally lick your lips, you know its safe enough to eat.”

So here is their recipe for a chocolate face mask. However, I would recommend that you use locally produced honey and organic yogurt from a local farmer instead of using commercial brands.  Most large commercial brands contain additional ingredients to prolong shelf life, which may affect your desired results.  Check your local co-ops they always have these ingredients in stock.

Chocolate Face Mask

2 ‚Äď 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder (70% cacao or more)

2 ‚Äď 3 tablespoons of local organic yogurt (add more or less to get the right consistency of a brownie batter)

1 teaspoon of local honey (to keep skin hydrated)

1 teaspoon of olive oil (for really dry skin)

Apply with fingertips to clean, dry skin and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes; rinse with lukewarm water.

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Home Spa Day – Avocado and Olive Oil Hair Treatment

Winter is a time for me to regroup, do research and experiment with new ideas.¬† This winter is no exception.¬†¬†Since the first of the year, I’ve been¬†testing all kind of things for possible new product lines¬†and launching new projects (this blog is one of those projects!).

The biggest¬†project¬†is the renovation and conversion of my green house into a commercial aquaponic operation.¬† I’ve hired a start up company call Fresh Farm Aquaponics¬†¬†to¬†install the system and teach me¬†how to use it.¬† More on them¬†and the new¬†system in¬†upcoming posts.

My other projects include expanding my all natural herbal soap line and developing a new specialty line of spa soaps using minerals from around the world.¬†¬†I’m really excited about my new line and will be rolling that out soon.¬† Finally,¬†with the help of my friend Elyse, we are busy testing and developing¬†recipes using micro greens, herbs and other¬†produce that¬†I grown here on the farm with the hopes of publishing a cookbook¬†in the coming year.¬† Just make me another pot of coffee please, I need something to keep me afloat….AHHH!

 

Giada De Laurentiis

I recently purchased Giada De Laurentiis’ newest cookbook “Giada Feel Good: My healthy recipes and secrets”¬† While looking through her cookbook, I came across the section about¬†hair (page 198).¬† She talks about¬†home natural beauty treatments for her dry hair.¬† She discusses several of her treatments but one¬†caught my eye and I had to give it a try…on my daughter.

For those of you that don’t know,¬†my daughter Katie has severe Cerebral Palsy.¬† She suffered a stroke¬†the¬†last few weeks of¬†our pregnancy and no one knew it until 3 months later when her Pediatrician, on a hunch that something wasn’t right, referred us to a specialist for an evaluation – our world was changed forever.¬†¬†Needless to¬†say, the news¬†that our beautiful daughter¬†had significant brain damage was devastating for our family.

She is now¬†seventeen years old¬†and years of harsh medications and several major surgeries¬†have¬†taken¬†their toll on her body.¬† Katie is currently on a cocktail of seizure drugs and a few other medications for other organ problems¬†and it’s¬†affecting her hair.¬† Her hair is dry as a bone and she has serious split ends.¬† One drug side effect makes her hair thin out, which is a problem.¬† So when I saw Giada’s home recipes for dry hair I got excited and knew I had to try it on my Katie!

 

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Just two ingredients are needed – 1 small avocado and a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of olive oil.¬† Since Katie’s hair was so dry, I used 1/2 cup.

 

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I cut the avocado into pieces, added the olive oil into my blender…

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I blended it into a nice green paste.¬† It will be thick and I thought about adding more oil (or water) to thin it out but decided not to.¬† I didn’t want to change anything and follow Giada’s recipe as¬†written in her book.

 

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I started on the top of Katie’s head and scalp and worked it in all the way to the ends of her hair¬†using the entire mixture.

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Giada then¬†puts a¬†shower cap over her hair and leaves it in for 10 – 20 minutes.¬† I didn’t¬†have a shower cap so I used plastic wrap instead –¬†worked like a charm.¬† She also states that¬†you may¬†need to wash your hair more than once to get all the oil and avocado residue out.

So I set the timer for 10 minutes, put Katie in the bath tub and gave her a bath.¬† After 10 minutes,¬†I rinsed and washed her hair like I normally do, including adding conditioner.¬† I was surprised only 1 washing was needed – that told me Katie’s hair was really dry and¬†absorbed all¬†those good nutrients.¬† ¬†After the final rinse, I could tell right away Katie’s hair FELT¬†softer and healthier. I was getting excited but still¬†needed to hold my enthusiasm for the final test – combing out her hair (her hair is always full of tangles)¬†and seeing how it felt when¬†dry.¬† Would it feel greasy because I didn’t wash all the oily residue out?

 

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A few hours later, her hair was dry and what a difference!  It felt so soft, it felt moisturized and healthy and what a shine!  I also noticed her split ends looked pretty good.

Katie before after

Here is the¬†before and after pictures – the lighting¬†isn’t exactly the same but either way¬†you can definitely see a difference.¬†¬†Even combing her hair out a day later was easier and tangles were¬†easier to manage than before.

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I give this¬†natural home spa treatment my highest rating –¬†Three¬†Happy Faces!!!!!¬† It was easy to create and the¬†results were far beyond my expectations!¬† I will be giving Katie this treatment once a month going forward.¬† Thank you Giada for sharing your¬†hair secrets with us. This recipe really works!