Fire Cider for the Cold and Flu Season

Fire Cider for the Cold and Flu Season

Fire Cider Vinegar November 2021

Fire Cider Vinegar November 2021

It’s cold and flu season and lots of people swear by fire cider vinegar for getting themselves and their families and friends through the sniffly time.

You can buy fire cider vinegar at the farmers market or some stores, but if you are so inclined, you can make your won and customize it your taste or what you have available (though I think with its heat flavor isn’t as much of a consideration). Making your own is also much cheaper if costs are a consideration. and ingredients can be purchased with SNAP benefits!

Fire cider (often with “vinegar” left off the name) is an old way of infusing cold-and-flu-bug-busting herbs and making them palatable and easy to take. It was named over Fire Cider Vinegar over 30 years ago by Rosemary Gladstar, who began sharing her version of the recipe; it now has almost as many variation as people who make it.

You can take fire cider vinegar to help your immune system fight off what’s around, at the start of cold or flu symptoms (and sometimes it seems to stop them, though no guarantees), or it seems to lessen the severity of the cold or flu, though again no promises.

 How to take Fire Cider Vinegar (FCV): Most people don’t take it straight, but diluted in some way. Take a tablespoon or two (or a glug or two from the bottle is it in) and put it in a glass of water, juice, or a cup of tea–you decide how much it needs to be diluted. You can take it every couple of hours, or, when you are feeling better, a 2 or 3 times a day.

You can also use FCV in a mixed drink, or use it in salad dressing–for some or all of the vinegar portion.

Below are two recipes, one from my friend Charles Garcia (, a wonderful Hispanic herbalist, and one from me with interesting choices and no particular measurements.

Fire Cider Recipe from Charles Garcia

Ingredients (makes about 2 quarts):
2 glass quart jars
1 heaping teaspoon of black pepper for each jar
1 lemon in 4 slices (2 for each jar)
3 small slices of apple
1/2 diced red onions
16 garlic cloves (8 for each jar)
Approximately 2 ounces sliced fresh ginger
Approximately 2 1/4 ounces horse radish in 1 inch chunks
1 Anaheim or Serrano pepper sliced into 1/4 inch slices,
separate them into equal amounts for each jar
20 Allspice seeds split evenly for each jar
2 heaping Tablespoons of honey for each jar

Pack everything tightly in each jar. Fill with apple cider vinegar. Allow bubbles to escape and add more vinegar.

Seal and shake. Keep in fridge. Shake every day. After three weeks remove all solid material and keep the liquid in the jars and use as needed.

Fire Cider Vinegar ingredients, waiting for vinegar

Fire Cider Vinegar ingredients, waiting for vinegar

A Recipe for Fire Cider Vinegar by Iris Weaver

Take some garlic, onions, hot peppers, horseradish or garlic mustard root, any herbs that are anti-microbial or anti-inflammatory, etc., that are in your garden or cupboard, whatever else appeals to you. Use whatever amounts you like or have on hand. Warning: go easy with the horse radish; from experience too much makes the fire cider tooo firey!

Chop the herbs, put in a jar, top with ACV (organic and local if possible) and let sit at least 6 weeks. When you strain it out, add local raw honey if you like (some people add honey in with the vinegar while it is steeping). To me this is easy–no fussy measuring or worrying about having just the “right” herbs! Oh, and if you have someone who can’t do alliums, just eliminate the garlic and onions.

The usual herbs that seem to be the base of any fire cider recipe are garlic, horseradish, ginger, and hot peppers. But, again, use what you’ve got.

Dose: 1 to 3 teaspoons in water, juice, tea, several times a day. This is also great added to soups, stir-fries, and salad dressings (but be careful how much you use–hot, hot, hot!).

Suggested herbs and other ingredients (fresh or dried; organic if possible):

  • Hot peppers/chilis
  • Ginger
  • Horseradish, or wasabi radish, or garlic mustard roots
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Astragalus root
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Lemon Balm
  • Bee Balm
  • Peppermint/Spearmint
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Turmeric
  • Organic, raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Decide whether you want to make a quart, a half-gallon, or a gallon, and have appropriately sized jars, or use what you have!

Use organic citrus and ginger, and herbs if you buy them. Chop up your fresh herbs, onions, garlic, horse radish, etc. and slice your citrus if using (don’t worry about peeling it).

Fill your jar between 1/4 to 3/4 full with chopped ingredients, and then fill with apple cider vinegar to bottom of where lid sits. You can also add a bit of honey, you decide how much, in place of the vinegar and let it all infuse together. Put on lid and let infuse.

Make note of what herbs and ingredients you used and the date, Helpful for labeling and if anyone wants to know what’s in there.

Let it sit for 6 weeks or longer and then strain out the solids and bottle and use. Enjoy!


Chickweed, Stellaria media

Chickweed, Stellaria media

Chickweed is a dainty, shy, yet incredibly persistent plant, called chickweed in part because it is eaten by—you guessed it—chickens.

Chickweed is an annual that can grow several generations in a year, and is found all over the world. Though it has a surprising number of chemical constituents for such a small, innocuous-seeming plant, it is also a marvelous and nutritious salad plant.

 As with so many of our most ubiquitous plants, the name is shared by several common species. The plant I am talking about here is Stellaria media. There are several other plants in this genus that share the name chickweed, and several other genuses as well, but today I am talking about Ms S. media. You may be surprised to find that I don’t capitalize her second name, but in botanical nomenclature, the species name is always lower case.

It took me a long time to get to know chickweed, though I had been seeing her around for years. Pictures in books and on weed-killer charts in the hardware store just didn’t seem to relate to what I finally found was a very low-growing, teeny-flowered plant. And by low-growing, I mean only rising a few inches above the ground. And her taste was nothing to write home about, just kind of green.

But, despite her somewhat shy nature, I did start to pay attention and found her everywhere! What really amazes me about chickweed is her ability to grow year-round, even in the seeming dead of winter. I have gone outside in January and looked at a clear spot on the ground, and there is chickweed growing happily, surrounded by snow! It just amazes me. The time when chickweed is nowhere to be found is in the heat of summer. She is a complete no-show in mid-summer, and doesn’t start popping up again until the cooler temperatures return sometime in September.

So what can we do with chickweed, besides admiring her starry flowers and her unwavering determination to grow anywhere she can get a root in? (Boy, do perfect-lawn-lovers hate her!) Chickweed is nutritious to eat, and a great medicine plant both internally and externally.

Chickweed has a great array of minerals, vitamins, proteins, and more. You get such a good boost of nutrition by eating even a handful of the plant. You also get the benefits of her medicinal properties this way.

But chickweed can also be used as medicine by making tinctures, vinegars, and infused oils. She has cooling properties, helping with fevers, infections, and wounds. She also helps with weight loss. How cool is that!

This excerpt by Susun Weed on chickweed gives an idea of how wonderful the physical and energetic medicine of this plant is:

            [Steroidal] saponins [contained in chickweed] are soap-like; they emulsify and increase the permeability of all membranes. By creating permeability chickweed encourages shifting boundaries on all levels, from cellular to cosmic. Chickweed saponins increase the absorption of nutrients, especially minerals, from the digestive mucosa [digestive tract]. Her saponins gently dissolve thickened throat and lung membranes, emulsify and thus neutralize toxins, and weaken bacterial cell walls, making them vulnerable to disruption of their activities. (Weed 119)

 It is these saponins that in part give chickweed her ability to help with weight loss.

Take a bit of time while chickweed is still enjoying the relative cool of late spring to meet her and get acquainted. She is a true friend for anyone who takes the time to know her.

To learn more from human sources, I suggest these (though of course there are many others):

Wise Woman Herbal: Healing Wise by Susun S. Weed; Ash Tree Publishing; 1989

 A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve, Dover Publishing

Plant Allies: Garden Sage

Many people find that they are strongly attracted to certain plants. These plants feel like friends to them and often these are the plants they’ll turn to (or can turn to) when they have a need to be filled. These are plant allies.

One of my favorite plant allies is garden sage (Salvia officinalis). It is strong and hardy, and nothing seems to faze it.
SageIts leaves are grey-green which I find soothing and deeply satisfying. Some of the leaves look leathery and are textured like the surface of your tongue. The leaves and leaf-stem are faintly velvety when new.

Sage has a pungent scent when fresh, and also when the dry leaves are burned for purifying rituals.

I’ve observed how it grows–even branches that seem to be dead will put out leaves and continue to live.

If a stem is left touching the ground it will eventually take root. Cut off the end of a leafy twig or branch, and it will soon grow more.

A sage twig came off of one of the plants I was transplanting, and I stuck it in some soil.
A few weeks later, its green leaves telling me it was still alive, I dug it up with its fledgling roots to put in the garden.

With leaves from one of my sage plants I made a wreath: wired bunches of fresh sage onto a grapevine base and left it lying flat so that the leaves wouldn’t all droop towards the floor. The leaves dried into wonderful forms, twisting and turning and becoming a deeper shade of sage greeny-grey. It is exquisite, and stands alone as an art object.

One of the reasons that I like sage so much is that it is used for purification and protection. I feel, when I have sage in the house, that simply by its presence there it is providing spiritual protection.

My sage wreath especially seems to be blessing my house by being in it.

Sage is also an ingredient in the dream pillows I make that are intended for lucid dreaming and trance-work. And it is one of my spirit allies.

February 2004


Flower Salad

I love using flowers and herbs in salads and cooking.

They give me an involvement with the dish I’m making that is different – more intimate, more interesting, more exciting.

Making salads in the summer involves a little routine.Nasturtium
I take the flat basket I use for gathering herbs and go into the backyard.
In late spring there are chive blossoms, violet flowers, dandelion flowers. In summer there are nasturtium blossoms and leaves, lemon gem and tangerine gem marigold flowers, chives, wood sorrel, violet leaves, and purslane. Chickweed grows where it’s shady and cool and is unobtrusive in salads.

And there are more weeds to eat, flourishing where I let them grow in my garden.
A few years ago I discovered the tasty pleasure of adding a few leaves of herbs like lemon balm, bee balm, thyme, and basil. And oh yes! the johnny jumpups! They don’t have a lot of taste, but the flowers sure are pretty in with the other colors in the salad.

I’m not always a big fan of salads, but adding in these flowers and herbs makes the salad more appealing and flavorful, so I eat it much more readily.


Learning From Plants

I’ve learned a lot from plants over the years.

I’ve learned really basic, simple stuff, that you’d think would be obvious, like that plants need to fed and watered. Who knew? That plants in our care need us to do these things for them?

patio garden 1

Some of my plant friends

As I’ve worked with plants and gotten to know them as complex beings, I’ve started thinking about the similarities between us humans and plants, and what plants teach us about ourselves and what it is to be human. Sometimes when I think of myself or other people, I think in terms of an analogy to plants.

For instance, one book I read talked about how some people are like spring flowers, early bloomers who give their gifts to the world at an early age. I think of Jimmy Hendrix and other musical prodigies, and the tennis-playing Williams sisters.

There are people who are remarkable and able to make contributions during their young adulthood and middle age, maybe petering out by the time they become senior citizens. Then there are people who don’t come into their own and discover what gifts they have or start sharing them until they’re in their fifties, sixties, even their seventies or eighties. These are the late bloomers, the plants that don’t bloom until the end of the summer or fall, or sometimes even early winter. The folk painter Grandma Moses is an example – she didn’t start painting until she was in her seventies!

When I get discouraged about how long it’s taken me to get to where I want o be in this life, I find it comforting to think about late bloomers and how important it is for there to be flowers that bloom at different times of the year, and equally, how important it is for there to be people whose gifts ripen into maturity at different ages.

When we look at plants and what it takes for each of them to bloom, we realize that what we see is only little bit of what the plant is and what it goes through to give us that blossom. How long has the plant been preparing for its blooming? How much growth has it had to achieve, how many nutrients stored and used, how many changes has it had to endure? All of these take time. For some plants they happen in a very short period of time, other plants take longer, and some plants take an extraordinary amount of time. There is an agave (a relative of yucca plants) that is blooming in Boston, for the first time in its life, I think about 60 years.

I feel I am finally starting to bloom, at age 52. It feels good!

September 2006

Before Weeds


Before I ever think of plants as weeds, I think of them as friends, companions. When I go into my backyard or out walking, I greet different plants that are my friends. So many plants that grow wild, or should I say “naturally” (i.e. not cultivated), that many people consider to be just weeds, I see as helpers, friends, allies. I use the term “weed” only because it’s convenient, but I think to call a plant a weed, meaning it’s worthless or useless, is an insult, inaccurate and untrue.

garden bouquet 5-25-13

Bouquet–Geum, Kale, Comfrey

When I see a plant, I always have to identify it to myself, which can get to be annoying when I’m walking and passing one plant after another. It’s sort of like a Firesign Theater sketch where the character is driving on the freeway and speaking, but behind him you hear a constant verbal litany of the signs that he’s passing on the road.

This mental plant identification is a constant, sometimes distracting, undercurrent. I do think of an occasional plant as a weed, when it is where I don’t want it or has no use that I can think of. (My boyfriend Al says to me: “What about poison ivy? Do you think it’s a weed?” And I ask myself, do I consider poison ivy a weed? What use does it have? I seem to remember something about birds eating the berries, but I’m not sure.)

Some plants I get annoyed at for being aggressive or invasive or (I’ll admit it) ugly, and I may refer to them as weeds. But even then, I don’t believe that those plants are of no use. Some of my plants I grow in the yard and some in pots on my porch. Certainly some of my favorites are the ones I’ve chosen to cultivate, even digging them up from where they grow wild. Others I’ve gotten to know grow where they grow wild and a few have come into my yard on their own to be with me. They surround my house and my life.

I get help from plants and use them for many things.
Beauty for my yard and my home, healing work, protection, flavoring food, eating them, making things with dried plants, dyeing fabrics and yarns. They are an integral part of my world.

Spring 1994

Autumn Herbs—Teas, Infusions, and Mixes

herb cupboard

Some of my dried herbs

Last month I talked about gathering and drying or otherwise preserving the herbs from your garden, the farmer’s market, or the woods and fields around you (Herbs in Autumn).

This month we’ll see what you can do with those wonderful herbs, now that they are neatly put away and labeled. Or maybe still hanging in bunches in your kitchen? Maybe sitting in baskets here and there, already dry, but not out sight yet. My herbs are in all of these stages. Sometimes a bunch or three of herbs will hang on my drying rack through the whole winter!

One of my favorite ways of using herbs is to make teas and infusions for myself and guests. Infusions are, to me, much stronger versions of teas, and the herbal “teas” I make for guests usually fall somewhere between what I call a tea and an infusion.

Teas: Making herbal teas is fun! Don’t be afraid to experiment with combinations of various herbs you like and try different amounts mixed together. When it comes to taste, there is no right or wrong, only what delights your mouth and your senses.

In my experience, using a good quantity of herbs for your tea makes for a better tasting brew. If you think herb teas are insipid and weak, then you probably have not been using nearly enough herb matter for a cup of tea. Use more! The taste will be surprisingly robust and may truly change your mind (or your friends’) about what an herbal tea can be.

Generally, the proportion of herb to water for tea is to use about a tablespoon of dry herb to a cup of boiling water. Pour the freshly boiled water over the herb, cover (to keep in the essential oils and other good stuff) let steep for 15 minutes, then uncover and sip. You can add sugar, honey, maple syrup, or stevia for sweetening, and/or milk of your choice. Enjoy!

Here are 3 recipes I have come up with:

Restorative Tea

1 part sage

1 part rosemary

4 parts lemon balm

1 part bee balm

1 part lavender flowers (optional)

Black Tea Mimicry

5 parts raspberry and/or blackberry leaves

1 part sage

Don’t let this steep for more than 5 or 10 minutes, as the tannins can become too bitter.

Lemon Delight

2 parts lemon balm

2 parts lemon verbena

1 part lemon grass

1 part orange mint (optional)

Infusions: An infusion is made by soaking plant material (usually dried) in water that has been brought to a boil. The infusion steeps anywhere from ½ hour to 8 hours, depending on the plant material being infused. Boiling water must be used to break open the cell walls of the plant to allow them to release their constituents.

Amounts: For all parts of a plant, except roots and bark, the proportion is 1 ounce of dried plant material to 1 quart of boiling water. For roots and bark, it is 1 ounce of plant material to one pint of boiling water.

Steeping  times: General guidelines for how long to let your infusions steep is: roots and barks—8 hours, leaves and stems—4 hours, flowers—2 hours maximum, seeds and berries—1/2 hour maximum. The point of the long soakings is to get as much as you can from the plant material. The point of the short soakings is to prevent constituents that you don’t want in your infusion from getting drawn out.

If you don’t have a scale, don’t worry about it, approximate amounts are fine. A handful or so will equal sort-of an ounce.

Containers for steeping in: It is easiest to use a quart jar or pint jar, such as a canning or spaghetti jar, with a lid. Put the plant material into the jar, fill it with boiling water, put the lid on loosely, and allow to steep. The lid needs to be kept on to keep volatile constituents from escaping. You can also use a cooking pot or pan that has a lid.

Usually it’s best to infuse one herb at a time. If infusing an herb blend, infuse for the time needed for the ingredient that gets infused for the shortest time. For instance, if you’re infusing a blend that includes anise seeds or hawthorn berries, even if it includes roots, you will only let it sit for ½ hour. If you’re using a blend that includes chamomile flowers, you’ll only let it sit for 2 hours, and so forth.

However, I don’t worry too much about being exact when I am steeping an infusion, and often mine sit for hours before I get to them.

Infusions can be drunk warm or cold. If you’ve let it steep for several hours, you can warm it up on the stove or (shudder) in the microwave.

Infusions are easy to take with you in their jars, strained or not. They only last about 24 to 36 hours, even with refrigeration, so plan on making fresh infusions every day or two. If it starts smelling or tasting off, let it go—give it the plants, indoors or out.

Herbal Blends for Seasoning:  What is better in fall and winter than recently dried herbs with their rich goodness still intact to add to stews and soups, casseroles, and all sorts of dishes?!

You can use one herb, or several; follow a recipe to make an herbal blend or make your own. If, like me, you’ve always liked Bell’s Seasoning on your turkey or in your lentil soup, then look at the box and make up your own version.

Here is a recipe from an unknown source, one version of making the classic “herbes de Provence”:

Herbes de Provence (this is just one variation of many for herbes de Provence)

1 ¼ cup dried thyme

1 ¼  cup dried basil

¼ cup dried summer savory

1 cup dried rosemary

¼ cup dried lavender flowers (organic if possible)

¼  cup fennel seeds

Combine all herbs in a large bowl and stir well to blend. Store in a tightly-capped jar, or divide into ½ cup portions and store in sealed plastic baggies—these make great gifts placed in small clay flowerpots and tied with a ribbon.

This herb blend is good for sprinkling over vegetables or meats prior to roasting. They also are a flavorful addition to soups and stews.

Herb Salts Herb salts are fun and easy. All you have to do is mix your herb or herbs with some delicious salt, for instance, a good sea salt.

You can mix in the herbs fairly whole, which will you give you a rather coarse seasoning. Or you can grind up your herb/s in a coffee grinder and have them mix more smoothly with the salt.

Either way, play around with proportions. Go half-and-half with salt and herb, or ¾ herb and ¼ salt, or the reverse. Just remember to have fun and that if you like the taste, you’ll use it! It’s a great way to get luscious taste and good nutrition in one easy bite.

Herbs in Autumn

Echinacea (Echinacea sp)

Echinacea (Echinacea sp)

Yummy herbal teas! Intensely flavored herbal additions to your stews and breads, and maybe the Thanksgiving turkey! Oh yeah, sounds soooo good.

 Well, the place to look is your own or a friend’s garden or the local farmer’s market. Drying and storing herbs for your use is simple and gives you a wonderful feeling when you’re using them in your teas and your cooking, plus they taste tons better than anything you buy in the store!

At this time of year, as summer ends and autumn starts the count-down to winter, our herb plants are starting to go into their last hurrah for the season. If they’re annuals, they are blooming and setting seed, making sure they’ll have babies before they kick off. If they’re perennials, they may just now be blooming, setting seed for a new batch of plants beyond where they already live, or they may be thinking about tucking up their roots for the winter and slowing down their growth, getting ready to shed their leaves.

So before those plants bite the dust, it’s time to harvest them and have them ready for winter use.

If you have your own garden, you can pick what you like and put it to dry. Basil is great to dry, and its flowers are edible. You can take a whole plant out by its roots, chop them and any ugly leaves off, and hang it to dry.

Perennial herbs like sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and mints can also be harvested. If they are blooming, the flowers are also edible and can be included in what you dry.

If you’ve been growing nasturtiums, not only do you want to save a few seeds for next year, but you can dry the buds, flowers, and leaves for teas and soups, or put the flowers and/or seed into vinegar.

If you don’t have access to a garden, many vendors at farmers markets are selling herbs. A big bunch of basil will make marvelous pesto, but maybe more than you need right now, so dry the rest. Any other herbs you can find, grab them and dry them.

There are, however, 2 exceptions to the drying rule. Parsley and chives lose much of their “oomph” and taste when they dry, so the best way to retain their goodness is to freeze them. Snip your parsley or chives into small pieces, spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and put them in the freezer. When they are all frozen, simply put the frozen herb pieces into a jar, plastic container, or plastic baggie, label!, and keep in the freezer. You’ll be ale to scoop out what you want when you need it.

Now you may be wondering how to dry your herbs. Over the years I have found many ways to let them air dry, here are a couple:

  • Put your herbs on a plate, a wicker paper plate holder (I found mine at yard sales), or a basket. Make sure that your herbs are in fairly single layer, or spread apart. If they hunch on top of each other, they will mold or dry unattractively brown. You can leave the leaves on the stems and strip them off when they are dry, or take the leaves off first, and spread to dry.
  • Hang your herbs in small bunches to dry. You can gather a few stems of herb together and tie them together with a piece of string, or use a rubber band wrapped around them a few times. You can hang your bunches from pegs, like coat hook pegs, from pegs on a peg board, from beams in the attack, or from a clothes hanger. The clothes hanger can be hung anywhere you can find, and the herb bunches can be hooked on using unbent paper clips.

When your herbs are thoroughly dry, you can strip them off the stems, if you didn’t do this previously, and store them in a glass jar (my favorite way) or in paper bags. Some people use plastic bags, which is fine, but I prefer to avoid plastic when I can. I try not to crumble them too much when storing, preferring to do the crumbling just before I use them. They retain more of their flavor and goodness that way.

Label you herbs! You may think you will remember what they are, but they can look really different dried than fresh, and one dry herb can look remarkably like another. I am speaking from long experience here!

For the herbs you will use in cooking, get some pretty bottles or small jars, attach pretty labels, and keep with your herbs and spices. You will be amazed at how good they taste in your cooking, salad dressings, and more.

Next month we’ll look at some of the other ways you can use your freshly, deliciously  dried herbs.

Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Stock/Broth

Do you have bouillon cubes sitting in your kitchen cupboards? Do you actually use them? When you do, are they all gooey and sticking to the foil, and looking a little icky?

You should know that there is usually a lot of salt and unfermented soy in those cubes, as well as artificial flavors and maybe even colors (sorry, I haven’t looked at them in a long while). I stopped using them several years ago, and now make my own stock or broth to use in soups and for cooking grains, beans, and so on. Sure, it takes some work, but I love the results of what I make and have enough to last a couple weeks or more, depending on how much I’ve made and how quickly I use it up.

This all started with Bone Broth, well-loved by many people who are eating more traditional, nutrient-dense and nutritious diets. Bone broth is made with a couple pounds of bones and whatever vegetable bits you have saved, and is very wonderful.

My version has evolved as I never seem to be able to afford a really large quantity of bones, and I always seem to have a lot plant matter around, courtesy of my herb and plant work. I also have egg shells from my farm-raised eggs and save them to include in the broth. So now my broth includes a few bones, some shells, and a goodly amount of plants. The recipe is below, along with a couple of ideas about collecting the materials for your stock/broth.

To begin with—the bones. You don’t have to include them if you’re vegetarian or vegan. But if you are omnivorous, like me, then it’s great to include some. Any bones that you have, either saved from what you’ve already cooked, or bought at the store for this purpose. If you have to accumulate them over a few days or weeks, toss them in a bag or jar in the freezer until you need them.

The eggshells. These should be from organic eggs, if possible. Farm-raised is even better. You can save your shells in a basket or pot somewhere to one side of your kitchen. Don’t worry about rinsing them, they dry just fine without any smell or rotting. Crush them up to save room.

Here’s the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink part—all the veggie, herb, and plant bits and pieces and handfuls and bagfuls that you’ve been saving for your wonderful stock!

When you are chopping, trimming, etc. vegetables, all the end parts that you’d normally throw in the trash or compost are put in a bag or jar in the freezer till later. Carrot ends, onion skins, dried out garlic bulbs, celery stubs, asparagus butts, kale stalks, etc. Too tough to eat, but not too tough to stew!

You can add herbs and healthy, ingestible plants as well. If you’re stripping herbs off of stems, save the stems. Have some extra herbs from the farmer’s market or a neighbor? Toss ‘em in.

Include your “weedings” from when you’re weeding your garden and hate to throw out all those dandelions and plantain and other “weeds” that threaten to take over. You can also wildcraft them or ask a neighbor if you can have theirs, or go to a farm or a farmers market to find some of these plants. The point is to find them and use them. They will add new levels of taste and nutrition to your stock.

Here are some suggestions: dandelions leaves and roots, burdock leaves and roots, goosefoot or lamb’s quarters leaves and stems, amaranth leaves and stems, yellow dock leaves and roots, plantain (the weedy plant, not the banana) leaves and seed stalks, evening primrose leaves and roots, nettles, wild lettuce leaves, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), the tough stalks from flowering onions, garlic, and chives.

Play around to see what you like the taste of and what you don’t. I am finding that a lot of plantain makes for a more bitter stock, and also is slightly laxative, so probably it should be kept to ¼ cup or so. Yellow dock roots can also be slightly laxative, so use just a few small pieces.

If you are unsure if a plant is safe or not, err on the side of caution. Especially if you are not really familiar with your weeds, it is better not to take chances. A good motto is: When in doubt—don’t!

You also add vinegar. The acidic vinegar will pull out calcium from the bones and eggshells and help pull out minerals from the plants as well. Combined with the fat from bones, if you use them, this will make the minerals and fat soluble vitamins very available and easily absorbed for excellent nutrition.

Use this stock for cooking rice, beans, veggies, or as the starting point for soup. You can also heat it up, add a bit of salt (and cream if you like) and have a lovely, nutritious tonic drink.

So here’s the recipe, with approximate measurements. Don’t worry if you use more or less of anything, it will work!

Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Stock/Broth

1 to 2 gallons water (filtered if possible)
1 to 2 lbs. bones (chicken, beef, marrow, etc.)
As many eggshells as you’ve got
1 to 4 or 5 cups veggie trimmings, herbs, wild plants—fresh or dried or frozen
¼ cup vinegar—apple cider, red wine, home-made, etc.

Put all your ingredients in a large pot, bring to a simmer, and let simmer for 24 to 48 hours. When it is done, or you can’t stand having that large pot on your stove anymore, you can put the stock in spaghetti or canning jars and the stock will stay good in the fridge for several weeks. Or you can freeze your stock, and pull it out as you need it. Make sure to keep the wonderful fat in your stock. Your body needs it!